December 31, 2022

New Year's Eve 2022

New Year's Eve. Again. 

The Lord and Lady of the Manor hope to be able to stay awake to see the Times Square ball drop. Do we want to watch it on network TV? Noooooooooooo. We do not. We detest all the chatter and the fake "joy." The hope is we can find a live stream without commentary. We do know how to talk with each other and be entertained for an evening. We may even make a list of the really big things we'd like to do in 2023. 

Some of those big things require outside contractors. We need a new well, a fact we've known for a while. Pandemic, anyone? Yeah, that put the brakes on a lot of things, but we're getting back to them. But a new well is at the top of my list. 

We hope to do more day trips in 2023. It was part of the plan when I retired, but we were enjoying being home together and doing not a whole lot that we didn't go on many. We'd like to get our little pool set up again this year. It's only shoulder deep when we sit, but that's what we wanted. We don't want to swim. We want to float and relax. Putting the pool up won't cancel out the day trips. It'll be great to arrive home, jump in, and chill out after a day behind the wheel. 

A list will also help us get a jump on some of the things we'd like to do. Not everything requires sunshine and temps in the 70s. Spring will come and it will get to the point where we look at the weather outside and determine if anything is possible, then go from there. 

Taking stock, doing a bit of planning, and some wishful thinking is a fine way to spend a quiet evening at home. A steak dinner, a glass or two of wine, and conversation. For us, it's the perfect way to usher in a new year. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, New Year's Eve, future planning, wine, conversation, rural lifestyle, country living, a writer's life 

December 30, 2022

My Grandmother's lamp

Before I was born, my mother gifted my grandmother with a lamp. My grandmother loved it! It was one of her treasures and it sat in a place of honor in her living room. I don't remember a time when it wasn't there - until it wasn't. It vanished one day when the daughters of my closest first cousin were small, back in the 80s.  My mother and I were afraid to ask, and my grandmother never divulged what happened. 

Mom and I feared the worst. Mom was angry. I was sad. Had the girls managed to break it? The answer turned out to be that they had not. 

My grandmother passed in 1997, and Mom had the task of helping my grandfather take some necessary steps at his house. The lamp was discovered, safe and sound, in a spare bedroom. My mother immediately brought it to me. Mom had purchased the lamp, and to her way of thinking, it now should be returned to her, and she wanted me to have it. 

My grandmother's lamp is one of the many treasures of hers that I've kept over the years. The lamp has been a fixture in my writing cave (office) since I made the dedicated space. Yesterday, I got a set of new lamps and switched them out in preparation for passing my grandmother's lamp to her eldest great-granddaughter, one of the very girls my mother had been convinced had broken it. 

My lovely second cousin will in a few weeks celebrate her fortieth birthday, and it seemed the appropriate time to pass the lamp to her. She does remember it from her childhood and so I'm happy she has the memory of it. She knows it's on the way to her and I know she will keep it safe, hopefully to pass it along to her eldest daughter. 

Will I miss having it? Will I miss that connection to my grandmother every time I step into my office? Yes, I will. Had I known how much I may have held off another year or five. No matter. It's a done deal and I've done exactly what my grandmother would have wanted. I've passed on a treasure to the next generation so that they can enjoy it. 

Thanks, Mam. I took care of it for you. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, family, cousins, lamp, heirloom, pass it on, rural lifestyle, country living, a writer's life, grandmothers, do the right thing

December 24, 2022

Christmas Eve 2022

Merry Christmas to you and yours from The Hideaway!

Always expect the unexpected they say. This year, I spent Christmas Eve processing vegetable soup. Yep. That's not a typo. I now have fourteen jars of veggie soup in the pantry. 

It's not what I planned to do today, but the mercury struggled to hit 14F today. We've had cold snaps before, but generally not over Christmas. 

With the work done, I think we're going to settle down in our respective chairs and find a movie to watch. Going to Christmas Eve church service is out. No way should the Lord of the Manor be out in this cold. Period.  

It was a good day's work. Fourteen meals in the jar. Can't beat that for an early Christmas present. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, vegetable soup, Christmas Eve, home food preservation, winter weather

December 23, 2022

Staying warm with a negative wind chill

It's cold outside! The Weather Channel, or what the hell ever entity, has dubbed this massive storm/cold front/artic blast Winter Storm Elliott. The snow and the cold don't bother me too much. We live in the country and we prepare for such things. Wind gusts are another matter. We don't much like the wind even though it delivers firewood to the ground. 

Now is the time all the hard work my cousin and I did scant months ago will pay dividends. Cutting and splitting firewood was a job that seemed to go on forever. Just yesterday, I burned off the brush pile from this year's work, but I can't say the job is finished. It never really is. 

Having a woodstove and firewood stockpiled is a blessing, especially during these cold snaps. We watch the weather forecast and know from experience whether or not to get a fire burning. Our winters are a mixed bag, and typically we burn from mid-December to mid-March. When the temps are in the forties and above, the heat pump works fine. We just need to remain aware of what's happening outside. 

That type of awareness may seem like a lot of hassle to some people, but it's not. I grew up with it, and the Lord of the Manor developed it once he moved here twenty-eight years ago. He was of another mindset at first, but the winter of 1995-96 brought him around to my way of doing things. 

The country way. Long may it thrive!

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, firewood, country living, rural lifestyle, woodstove, preparedness, winter weather, wind chill, a writer's life, cold fronts


December 22, 2022

Working in a wintry mix - in comfort!

Happy anniversary to Holly Tree Manor! The blog is three years old and has two hundred eighty-eight posts, and nineteen pages now. I like to look back and see what I was doing a year ago, and apparently, I was amused by finding a counterfeit bill someone had donated to where I worked. 

We woke to a wintry mix this morning. Snow, sleet, and rain all fell at the same time. I gave it an hour or so to cover the ground and headed to the west forty to burn a rather substantial brush pile. 

I say "brush" but it was a lot more than that. Taking down three large trees made quite a mess. A lot of the brush from those days was disposed of promptly, but as we got into the actual cutting and splitting of firewood, we created more. This pile had some large chunks in the middle and I knew from experience this pile would burn for hours and hours. I needed snow to be on the safe side, and this morning I got it. 

Experience has taught me a few other things, too. I drove the Colorado over and parked it at a safe distance. Once I lit the fire, I hopped back in the pickup and watched the fire in relative comfort. I had a heated seat, a good stereo, hot coffee in my fave travel cup, and my dog in the backseat. That was at nine o'clock this morning. 

It's after six and after dark, and a lot of hot coals are still blazing in the rain. And it's raining pretty hard. I'm not worried about any sparks given how wet it is outside. The rain will create a cold crust over the top of the ashes and the coals beneath will continue to smolder until they've gone to ash. What's left, the potash, can be used judiciously in the garden. 

I can check the brush pile off my To Do list, at least for now. It never takes long for a new one to get started. Some rainy summer day, I'll burn again. Burning in the rain is a safety measure. And yes, we'll sit in the pickup with the AC on and watch the fire. Work smart, not hard. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Chevy Colorado, Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, work smart not hard, rural lifestyle, country living, brush, coffee, splitting firewood, wintry mix

December 19, 2022

Parting with treasures

My family's Christmas gathering happened this past Saturday night, hosted by my young cousin who lives on the other side of the road. She's part of what I generally refer to as Gen 4.

Gen 1 was my grandparents, Gen 2 my parents, I and my first cousins Gen 3, the children of my first cousins comprise Gen 4, their children are Gen 5, and now we have reached Gen 6. It amazes me to see how once again my family has grown. 

I say "my family" but I am the outlier. The one with no offspring of my own. Was this by choice, design, or fate? It's a difficult question to answer. At the appropriate time in my life, I did nothing to prevent the possibility, and yet here I am. 

It's time to part with some of my grandmother's treasures. Forty years ago she gave me the set pictured. I remember the three-tiered dish laden with cookies and sitting just inside her front door every Christmas season. Everyone, even my father, walked through the door and snatched a cookie before even taking off their coat. The candy dish made an appearance around Easter, filled with jelly beans. I'm not sure I realized the two pieces were a set until she gave them to me. I don't remember seeing them side-by-side until then. 

My young cousin enjoys hosting get-togethers and was therefore the logical choice for the party pieces. I signed up to take cheesecake to the party so I purchased little individually wrapped cheesecake bites and arranged them on the tiers. I made sure to arrive a wee bit early so I could more privately tell her  the set was now hers. I got a big hug from her, too. 

Parting with this treasure from my hoard was easier than I imagined it would be. I suppose that means it's the timing was correct. Back in the days when we hosted parties, I used my grandmother's set and I got a lot of enjoyment from doing so. 

I'll continue to enjoy my grandmother's set, only now it will be on her great-granddaughter's table, not mine. I think that's the way it was always meant to be. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, Christmas, family, heirlooms, simple country pleasures, rural living, country lifestyle, generations, party pieces, a writer's life

December 14, 2022

"The weak winter sun"

The readers among us recognize the phrase, "The weak winter sun...."  It's a descriptive phrase often used because we all have an image of a winter day without a lot of sunshine. We all can relate to it. 

There's a winter storm approaching our area. Tonight, possibly around two to three hours after midnight, the forecasters say we'll get the wintery mix. This will be the first time since I retired I'll be able to avoid icy roads without any guilt. 

The weak winter sun isn't something I complain about. In winter, the earth needs to rest. The trees rest, as do the pines even though they are green. Bushes and shrubs, rest. The holly trees have set berries and the small birds carry those seeds far and wide to sprout in the spring in new places. 

The grass isn't resting yet, preferring the colder temps to rebuild its root system without competition from clover, dandelions, and the like. I know that below the ground, the daffodils and the crocus are preparing. 

I spent some time outside today, reveling in the cold and observing how the air slowly filled with moisture from the approaching storm. By late afternoon the clouds arrived to form a screen between me and the sun. I watched the changes from my perch on my sunroom porch until finally chilled I stepped back inside. I'd hoped to see deer in the meadow, but they were absent. 

Being home, and being able to be a living breathing participant with all the nature around me is a blessing. The weak winter sun is a blessing to the earth, and to me. Spring will come soon enough, but I'm joyful that I was able to see the world just as it is today, and marvel. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, winter sun, nature, winter storms, four seasons, deer, a writer's life, simple country pleasures, rural living, country lifestyle, clouds, road conditions

December 5, 2022

The 2023 seed order arrived!

Opening the mailbox and finding the 2023 seed packet from Burpees was a little Christmas present, a from me to me if you will. I know it's only the first week of December, but I believe in thinking ahead and preparing when and where you can. When it's time to plant seeds next spring, I'll be ready to have fun, not spend hours getting ready. Doing a little here, and a little there, keeps the "work" aspect of gardening to a minimum. 

What did I get for next year? 

Lemongrass - never grown before
Parisian Cucumber (hopefully to make gherkins)
Sunray Sunflowers
Parsley (plain)
Contender bush green beans
Beefsteak tomatoes
Chives (garlic geisha)
Sweetie cherry tomatoes
Cucumber, Supremo
Giant Pink Belgium tomato
Microgreens - they should be fun
Bunching onions (green onions, no bulbs)

This is by no means everything. I have seeds left from 2022 and while the germination rate may slip just a fraction, those seeds are still viable. I have witnessed the amazing longevity of seeds for myself when my grandmother's first garden came back to life

Will I plant every 2023 seed next spring? Probably not. I don't have that much space devoted to gardening, and I learned a few valuable lessons this season past. I over-planted in 2022 which actually hurt my harvest. I did things like plant cabbage all at once. No, no, no. I need to stagger plantings when for things like cabbage that I want to use fresh for Cole slaw and not ferment into sauerkraut. A week to ten days apart will do the trick, or so I hope. It seems logical. 

Today the Lord of the Manor has decided we need to go to town.  One of our stops will be the home improvement center to get a plywood base for the Greenstalk. I want to decide where I want to place the Greenstalk before next spring. I may even get a bag of potting soil and fill the bottom section so I can move it around to help me visualize how it will fit into the garden space. 

Winter is almost here. It might be cold outside, but that doesn't stop gardeners. Winter is valuable time for us - planning time. Half the battle is won before the first seed touches dirt. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, gardening, seeds, rural lifestyle, country living, a writer's life, Greenstalk, preparation, planning

December 3, 2022

Christmas on the patio 2022

It's true that some of the best things in life are simple things. Last year we did a little upgrade on the patio, which we have enjoyed immensely. Having extra storage, a large work surface, and an attractive corner added a lot to our "patio time."

We spend a good deal of time on our screened-in patio during the warmer months. We have morning coffee and cocktail hour out there. Some evenings it helps that there is an old television to stream some background music from YouTube. And not having to do battle with mosquitoes is priceless. 

I've been decorating with the seasons along the back of the countertop. I like having that seasonal greeting when folks come to visit. (Only people we don't know go to our front door - we're country!)

Yesterday, I set out the winter greenery. It's not overtly Christmas, so it will be out there until spring. It doesn't matter to me if I'm the only person who really enjoys it because I've learned it's important to please myself with such things. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, Christmas décor, simple country pleasures, rural living, patio