October 29, 2022


Sometimes you've got to treat yourself. For example, if you've hoarded your rewards points you should use them for something you really, really, really want but would never pay full price for. Like a Greenstalk. 

No way would I pay just under $160 for one of these planters. I simply would not. But getting it for a mere $55?? Oh, yeah. I clicked on the button to place my order. So what if I burned all my points? I'll accumulate more as I go along. Somehow.

The Greenstalk has thirty planting pockets and an internal watering system. The plan is to use it for herbs with a few red begonias scattered around for a bit of color. I'm not one hundred percent sure where I want to place it, but I'll figure that out this fall and not put soil in it until next spring. 

Planning ahead is one of the fun aspects of gardening. I remember my grandfather anxiously awaiting the arrival of the yearly seed catalogs from Burpees, Gurneys, and a few other companies. I have it easy. I just go to the Internet. I wonder what Pop would make of the Greenstalk? 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, Greenstalk, country living, gardening, herbs, rural lifestyle, a writer's life, homesteading, home food preservation

October 25, 2022

Autumn colors 2022

The Lord of the Manor and I have been out and about our county in the last two weeks. He's a Civil War buff and we live a short drive away from the Gettysburg, Antietam, South Mountain, and Monocacy battlefields. There is also a very long list of skirmishes in our area. It seems like fall is the time we make our yearly treks to these hallowed grounds. 

Going in the fall is a twofer. He gets to review and keep his knowledge fresh and I get to see the fall colors. 

It could be the longest drive to Gettysburg is in jeopardy. 

Who needs to drive anywhere to enjoy the autumn colors when your backyard looks like this? 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, fall colors, Civil War battlefields, country living, rural lifestyle, Antietam, Gettysburg,

October 19, 2022

I swear the elves have snuck in more!

 More wood splitting and stacking today.

We are not yet done. 

The pile of rounds seems to be the same size as before we started. 

There are now four pallets you can see in the picture, and two pallets on the other side you can't see.

We've started another stack between two more trees. 

It's been years since we had a stockpile this big! 

We knew the poplar we took down was massive, but we've gotten enough wood off that one tree for 2023 and 2024. We also took down two maples that were large enough to damage the house if they fell on their own. I must not have blogged about that here, but I did over at Deuce's Day.  We still have the big logs from those two trees to cut and split. 

We're still short on firewood for 2022, but you know what? We'll make it through. We purposefully left a few trees lay untouched that fell in 2021. Those are difficult to get to during the summer months, but now that the underbrush has died back for the year, we can take the John Deere and drag them out to be worked on. It's all good. 

It's all a lot of hard work, too, but the payoff is not having to worry if the power company can't keep up this winter. We'll stay warm. 

But it seems like the more we cut the more there is left to be cut. I think we've been targeted by elves and they're pranking us. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, country living, rural lifestyle, firewood, supplemental heat, log splitter, a writer's life, poplar tree, maple tree, John Deere subcompact tractor, yardwork, family

October 16, 2022

It used to be easier!

Let's take a little stroll in the Way Back Machine. 

Back in 1980, yes THAT 1980, my grandmother called me to her house for a "chat." It seemed she and Pop had rounded up my mother and uncle for a chat, and now it was my turn. The upshot of my conversation with my grandparents was that they wanted to gift me and my cousin three acres of land each. Being the older one, I got to pick which plot I wanted. It was an incredible gift. 

Later that fall, we began to clear an opening in the woods for a house. We cut trees, burned brush, pulled stumps, and stacked a lot of firewood. I can tell you right now, it was a helluva lot easier back in 1980! 

My cousin and I have lived side-by-side ever since. Now that we're both retired, we have time to enjoy working together and talking about the good old days. We've been cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood, and he agrees. It used to be easier! 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, firewood, homesteading, country lifestyle, rural living, a writer's life, woodstoves, family

October 15, 2022

Simple things

As I begin this blog entry, it's about five-thirty in the morning. Deuce and I have been outside so he could sneak off into the dark woods and do whatever he needed to do.  I could hear the leaves crunching under his paws as he searched for his spot. It was that quiet. Orion hung above me to the south, an early morning companion to warn me of the approaching winter. In the coming months, he'll be with me overhead late at night, telling me that spring is coming. He has always attracted my attention. 

Deuce doesn't linger in the early morning. He likes his creature comforts in much the same way his puppy parents do. He rejoined the lord of the manor in the bedroom while I brewed a cup of coffee and landed at my computer. 

I think there are many things that can be said of these still moments before daybreak. I appreciate my place in creation as I look into the moonlit woods. I am the tender of this place in this time. What it will become after I'm dust, I don't know. I ponder such things just before daybreak. 

Standing at the window in my office, I watched as the driveway lights popped on, one after another in sequence as something approached, finally coming near enough for me to see the young buck. He's headed for the other side of the hill, into the thickets, to rest for a while. We know he and his harem hide out there and so we have no plans to go into that section of the manor and clean out the underbrush. He may rest there undisturbed for as long as he's with us in this life. 

Daybreak is slow, and yet it happens almost in the blink of an eye. One moment the trees are a blackness against the stars, and the next the stars are gone and the trees have individual silhouettes. Shades of gray give way to silver, which in turn gives way to blue hues and eventually, for today, rays of sunshine. 

Watching the woods wake is one of the many simple country pleasures in my life. I wouldn't trade it for love or money.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, simple country pleasures, daybreak, country living, rural lifestyle, Orion, changing seasons, quiet, black Labrador Retriever

October 13, 2022

Rainy autumn days

I should be writing or making split pea soup. I should be in the laundry room pairing up socks so I can toss them in the appropriate drawers (his and hers). I should be doing any number of things that need doing, but instead, I've been wasting time. 

It's a rainy, dreary, windy autumn day. The wind is showing me just how far along the trees are in changing color, so I guess it's not all bad. 

The view outside my window is different. With the poplar tree gone, a woodpile has taken its place. Loki has already discovered the squirrels that have taken to sitting on top of the woodpile. He's stalking them, but not having any success, I'm happy to report. 

Yesterday was the complete opposite of today. The sun was bright and the sky was clear and blue. The last blooms of the season, those the deer didn't find, are showing their colors. The deer are more interested in the acorn crop than blooms right now. 

Dreary days like today will become more frequent as the season turns toward winter. I must learn to change with them. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, autumn, winter, changing seasons, woodpile, squirrels, country lifestyle, rural living, simple country pleasures, a writer's life, rain, fall color

October 6, 2022

Firewood warms you three times, so they say

There's an old saying my grandfather used to repeat every year. Did I mention he said this every year? Like we hadn't heard it the first time. He always said firewood warmed a person three times: once when you cut down the tree, once when you split and stacked the wood, and lastly when you burned it. I suppose he was right. 

It's firewood season on the manor. It used to be a lot easier to split and stack firewood, but we were younger.

It has been several years since we had firewood in bulk. Having hundreds of trees, we rarely have needed to cut one down just for wood. Enough branches and the occasional entire tree fell that we simply cleaned up the debris and had enough to burn. Having the tree trimmer here this year means we have a lot of firewood to season for several following years and not much for this winter. 

As a general rule, firewood needs to dry out, or season, for a year. When a branch hits the ground on its own, it's generally been hanging dead on the tree for a while and can be used immediately. 

My cousin and I spent most of yesterday afternoon splitting poplar rounds. It's harder on him than on me. He has to move those big rounds to the splitter. I have to stack the pieces. He seems to be in more of a hurry to get it all done than I am. I know it will get done eventually, and with our weather, we have through November for outside work. He's probably coming back this morning to do more.

I'm grateful for his help. Without it, we would have had to pay a commercial company to take down the trees and remove the large trunks. It would probably cost $2000 a tree instead of $300 a tree. And we would not have ended up with a firewood surplus that will help both households over the next few winters. 

My cousin and I talk about our grandparents while we work. We were both given acreage to build our homes on, and I ended up with the woods. I know they would expect me to share the firewood with my cousin, and I'm happy to do that. 

Here on the manor, handling firewood is about more than keeping warm. It's about family.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, country lifestyle, rural living, firewood, log splitter, a writer's life, tree management, family, tree trimming. 

October 1, 2022

Another "I" storm: Hurricane Ian

The remnants of Hurricane Ian reached us last night at about seven o'clock. We've had a slow, soaking rain for over twelve hours, and now there is a bit of sunshine peeking through. I don't expect it to last long. What we're experiencing is a very different Ian from what hit the southern states. My prayer is for those who lost everything, or so much, that they will be able to either rebuild or relocate as they desire. 

We have family and friends in the south and we worried for them. A close friend is in Port St. Lucie, Florida. My stepson and his family are near Savannah. My one brother-in-law recently moved from Port New Ritchie, FL, to Charleston, SC. Oops. The other brother-in-law is outside of Norfolk, VA. Another friend is near Danville, VA. It seems all is well with them so we are thankful. 

The "I" named storms are the ones that seem to impact my area and so I'm quite relieved Ian fizzled when it hit the Smokey Mountains. Those peaks, and those of the Blue Ridge, protect us most of the time. 

Cousin D- and I had a laugh that the weather service has retired the name "Ida" as this was our grandmother's name. She, too, was a force of nature without the destruction. D- has a sister-in-law in Florida and I wonder how she and her family fared. 

And so today we watch it rain. It's a good time to catch up on some indoor chores and be grateful to be safe and secure when so many are not. 

People (especially the media folk) will scream the hurricane happened due to climate change, but there have always been hurricanes. We may measure them differently now, but we have not caused them. We may cause them in the future if we persist in erecting more and more wind turbines, so think about that for a moment. "Ponder on it a spell" as those of us living on the fringes of Appalachia often advise. 

The day awaits, as does the laundry, but first I'll finish my coffee and watch the leaves fall. That is one of autumn's simple country pleasures. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, Hurricane Ian, Hurricane Ida, country living, rural lifestyle, autumn, falling leaves, cutting firewood, wind turbines, Smokey Mountains, a writer's life