March 27, 2023

Gardening 2023 - more progress

This week should bring more progress with the garden prep. Today is the day, once the sun comes up, that I will begin to "harden off" the begonias. I have four mother plants and two trays of young cuttings, and they will all spend a couple of hours on the sunroom porch this afternoon. The plan is to set them out each day this week and then move them to the greenhouse next weekend. I will keep a close eye on the weather forecast for our nighttime lows to make sure that can happen. The greenhouse isn't heated so I'll drape an extra sheet over them at night if necessary.

Getting the begonias moved out is really a necessity. I need the shelf space to get a few more seeds started. Yesterday, I transplanted the Beefsteak tomato seedlings into cups, keeping only the larger seedlings with true tomato leaves showing, which means I only kept half of what sprouted. It was painful to discard twelve little plants and keep only twelve. I'd love to grow them all, but this is not a big tomato year for me. If I change my mind and want to can more sauce, I'll go to the local farm markets and purchase tomatoes.   

One project that kept me garden prepping over these last few rainy days was finalizing the planting chart for the Greenstalk. I used the trusty old MS Publisher program to keep it neat and tidy. With the begonias moved to the greenhouse, I can start the seeds for a few things that will go in the Greenstalk such as the calendula. 

Getting the Greenstalk situated for the year was interesting. My garden spot is on a slight slope. Hell, everything here is on a slope! The Greenstalk needed to be level and none of the available bases for it would accomplish that, so I needed to get creative. An old galvanized washtub provided the solution. I put a couple shovelfuls of the clean crush run we keep on hand for the lane in the washtub and worked the bottom row of the Greenstalk until it set level in the gravel. I used a level to check it, too. I think that was a great way to use what I already had on hand to get the job done. 

Dawn is finally happening, and it's time to take Deuce for his second trip outside. I may go wander around my garden spot and build visions of how it may look in a few short weeks while he does what he needs to do. It's a fine warm dawning, so yeah. That's my plan.

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, gardening, begonias, black Labrador Retriever, rural living, country lifestyle, MS Publisher, garden diagrams, Greenstalk, repurposing, a writer's life, contemporary romance author

March 25, 2023

Rainy day views

daffodils in the rain

One would think that having reached this stage of my life, a truly rainy day wouldn't bother me. Usually, it doesn't, but this year I'm anxious to be outside working on gardening chores. There is still much to do. At least I can do a few things today, inside in the dry.

The Beefsteak tomato seedlings are ready to transplant from the sprouting tray to larger containers. I'm not fancy with this. I use plastic cups that are rinsed out each year and reused. Four-inch black plastic pots were more expensive, so NO. I didn't go that route. 

Our rain today is the kind that has settled in, complete with fog and distant thunder. From my desk, I can gaze out at the daffodils and marvel at how bright and cheery they are in the rain. I'll enjoy them today because this rain will beat the blooms and by tomorrow they will have faded. 

rainy day office view
Looking out the office door, I can watch the raindrops bounce on the deck boards and see them splatter on the window. The earth needs a good soaking rain and yet I wish it would come in showers that I could work between. We humans are never satisfied, and I should be. Where I live, this could easily have been a snow event, winter's last hurrah as it were. 

But there is hope! The weather radar map shows the actual rain passing in a few hours. I still won't be able to work outside because the ground will be too wet and squishy. I tell myself to stop fretting about it, that I'm retired now and am not constrained to getting everything done on the weekend, but a lifetime of habits and that worker-bee mindset are not always easy to set aside. 

I should console myself with working on the current manuscript, but my heart is outside, in my garden space, and writing prose when my heart isn't in it has never worked for me. It would be better if I take my cup of tea to my comfortable reading chair and just enjoy the sound of the rain on the roof. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, rural living, country lifestyle, rain, snow, weather, a writer's life, radar map, gardening, tomatoes, transplanting seedlings 

March 20, 2023

It was cookie day

The Lord of Manor is quite good at guilting me into doing a few, but not all, things. I've been busy working on a story so he's not been getting proper attention, and so he whines. 

About cookies. 

Cookies are in fact one of the major food groups, at least according to him. I keep store-bought cookies on hand because he whines louder if there are no cookies at all in the house. But he knows how to work me and he finally stopped whining and said that magic word - PLEASE. 

So yesterday I baked two batches of cookies for him. One batch is regular sugar cookies, which are very plain and go great with coffee. The other is your standard oatmeal cookie with a twist. Instead of raisins, I add white chocolate chips and cranberries. This combo really has become our favorite cookie and you won't find it in any store. 

I don't mind making cookies, but the freezer is pretty full. I had to juggle some things around to fit multiple bags of cookies inside. I'll still bring home store-bought cookies but now I have my own on hand for emergencies. 

It will certainly keep the whining at a minimum.

The Lady of The Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, sugar cookies, oatmeal cookies, home-baked, rural living, country lifestyle, a writer's life, preparedness

March 18, 2023

Canning project: BBQ Pulled Pork

Yesterday I had an appointment for a haircut, and being in town decided to run a few errands. I discovered my local grocery had pork butt on sale along the way and my first thought was to make another batch of pulled pork. 

I think it was around last May when I made the test batch of a recipe I found in one of the canning books. It was really good and we used all six or seven pints. This time, I went for more and ended up with thirteen pints. Thirteen jars and thirteen seals!

I was a bit cautious with this recipe the first time because the sauce has brown sugar, molasses, and honey in it. Sugar doesn't always process well and can taste burnt, but that's not a problem with this recipe. A bit of smokiness is a plus for pulled pork. 

The best part of this is I have thirteen easy suppers for on the patio this year. We do enjoy eating outside when the weather is good. A covered and screened patio with a television makes relaxing after supper quite enjoyable. 

And the haircut? I think I finally convinced my younger cousin that layers are a good thing. I'm retired. The less I have to fuss with my hair on a daily basis, the better. This cut will definitely be a wash and go this summer. I like it. 

The Lady of the Hideaway

home food preservation, Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, pulled pork, haircuts, rural living, country lifestyle, canning, pork butt, a writer's life, grocery shopping, Presto canner, pint jars

March 16, 2023

Flying Geese

One of my earliest memories is of my great-grandmother working at her quilting frame. When I was very young, about four or so, my mother went back to work and Grandma Mary Ellen kept me during the day. It was certainly convenient as we lived next door to her. My family has lived on this plot of land for one hundred thirteen years now. 

Grandma was a worker and I "helped" her with her chores. With supervision, I learned how to feed the chickens and the rabbits, how to water the garden, how to make jelly and other things, and I learned how to quilt. 

I remember "hiding" under the quilt frame as Grandma worked. I had a doll or something to play with, but what she was doing was a lot more interesting. She started me off by having me thread her needles and learning to knot the thread. I learned really fast not to stick myself, too. My first projects were small, worthless squares, but Grandma was patient and I learned. 

Fast forward twenty-odd years and I took up quilting as a wintertime hobby. I eventually got pretty good at it and have made around thirty quilts. Friends and co-workers asked for them, and as long as they purchased all the material I was agreeable. 

It's been many years since I made a quilt although my love for them has not diminished. Circumstances change and a housemate that is too careless in his use of a quilt sent my best ones to the cedar chest. Now that I'm retired, it may be time to see if I still have the patience required to quilt. 

This time of the year, when it's too cold and miserable to be outside, is going to be hard on me. I've been writing, of course, but I can't make that my singular wintertime occupation. I'm too restless. I need to plan for something in addition to writing for next winter and I think making a quilt may be just the thing. 

I've always wanted to make a quilt using the Flying Geese pattern. There are myriad variations on this triangular theme but I think I'll stick to something close to the traditional. If I plan it out now, I have all summer to choose and purchase fabrics. 

I have Grandma's quilting frames, but I really don't have room to set them up. I'll use a hoop instead. A hoop is portable enough that it can be moved from room to room to take advantage of natural light. 

So I suppose that's the plan for next winter. I think I'll make a quilt. 

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, quilting, Flying Geese quilt pattern, rural living, country lifestyle, a writer's life, gardening, preparedness, heritage quilting

March 11, 2023

Little green sprouts 2023

The cabbage and Brussels spouts forced my hand. Yesterday, I transplanted some very tender and very leggy seedlings.  They seemed to shoot up overnight and then, of course, they began to fall over. I transplanted eight of each which is all I'm doing of them for this year. 

After that, I planted marigold seeds for the third time. I sure hope the old saying is correct and this time is "the charm." The two previous plantings both damped-off on me. I'm using a different approach this last time. If this batch of seeds doesn't produce, I'll just have to purchase marigolds from the nursery. 

Then I moved on to tomatoes. Last year I planted a lot of Roma tomatoes and they did really good. I canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and pizza sauce. Between what I canned and what was already in the pantry that is commercially produced, I doubt I'll need to can many tomatoes this year. I planted Beefsteak and Pink Belgium seeds and hope to get some nice slicing tomatoes to eat fresh from the garden. 

There is a lot more to come. I have herb seeds to plant in the Greenstalk, and some Kennebec seed potatoes to plant in the raised beds. I just need to be patient and wait on the weather. 

I hope that in three weeks, I can move the cabbage, Brussels, and begonias to the greenhouse and free up space on my shelves. We'll have to see how that goes. It all depends on the weather. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, gardening, tomatoes, herbs, Greenstalk, rural living, country lifestyle, a writer's life, pizza, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Burpee seeds, Roma tomatoes

March 8, 2023

Now I have to clean it up

We have over two hundred trees at Holly Tree Manor, which means Mother Nature throws a lot of firewood at us. Our decision late last year to harvest three trees was not the norm. Those trees posed a somewhat immediate threat to the house (the big poplar was very much a threat) which was why we made the decision to cut them down. If a tree dies naturally we harvest those and we don't lack for firewood. 

Last summer I gathered up bits and pieces of downed wood and such and piled it out by the little woodpile. That woodpile is one of Loki's favorite perches but it's really sort of community property for everyone's campfires and fire pits. Well....

Now I have to clean up those sticks. I'd hoped they'd get burned but it didn't happen. It's not a difficult task with the John Deere tractor but it's something I need to take the time to do when I'd rather be planting tomato seeds. 

Lesson learned. I won't stack anything in front of the woodpile again. 

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, woodpile, firewood, rural living, country lifestyle, John Deere 1023, a writer's life, gardening, homestead prepper

March 4, 2023

The things that shape us

Today marks one of those anniversaries it doesn't do well to revisit some years. I generally realize the date and then move on, but this year I have a few things that are well and truly bugging the hell out of me. 

March 4, 1975, fell on a Tuesday. I was seventeen years old at the time. I left school, driving my 1969 Camaro to a local department store in search of Elton John's upcoming release, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.  When I pulled into a parking space, a man opened my car door and put a gun to my head. 

Obviously, I'm here today. I came through the event better than my poor Camaro, which the man wrecked. 

I'm not that girl anymore. I grew up. 

What is bugging me is the segment of people who blame the gun for what happened to me. And to those who do, I say you're so far beyond stupid I don't have a word for it.  

The gun did nothing. It took no action on its own. But the MAN did. I WAS THERE and I tell you it was all on the criminal, not the gun. 

There is a segment of our government hell-bent on controlling guns when it is not the guns that hop up, sprout legs, and take action. It is criminals, like the man who yanked open my car door, who are at fault. 

I am a legal gun owner in the State of Maryland, but I can't carry a gun to protect myself even though the Constitution of the United States gives me that right. To carry my gun, I'd have to cough up several hundred dollars first. What does that say? It's about the money and not the rights of the people. 

"A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Shall NOT be infringed, but I'm being infringed, and I am part of the militia. We all are. 

As a victim of a violent crime involving a handgun, I assure you all those brainless parrots in the legislature have it completely wrong. All these people screaming we should ban guns are brainless parrots. Who is using you? 

I've been there. I've seen the truth up close and personal. The gun didn't open my car door. The gun didn't tie me up. The gun didn't abandon me along the side of the road. The gun didn't steal my car. A criminal did those things. 

If anyone really and truly believes a piece of paper upon which is typed a few words declaring it illegal to own a gun is going to stop a criminal then I feel sorry for your stupidity. Do you really believe a criminal is going to surrender his gun? It ain't gonna happen. 

As a law-abiding citizen of the United States, even though I don't want to carry my gun with me on a regular basis, I feel it is my right to do so, a right that the Founding Fathers set down in our Constitution and politicians today use as fodder to avoid actually doing their job. 

Let's not focus on solving the very real problem of homelessness, illegal aliens, illegal drugs, substandard education, corrupt officials, misappropriated funding, women's rights, inflation, food shortages, unemployment, unworkable energy "solutions," poisons in our food and water, and the criminals themselves. Let's not do any of that. Let's just shout about "gun control."

My gun is under my control, thank you. And as a law-abiding citizen, it will remain so. The only thing "gun control" will do is hurt me and millions of other Americans just like me. 

It's time to deal with the criminal, not the tools they use. A gun does not pull its own trigger.

The Lady of the Hideaway

Holly Tree Manor, The Hideaway, gun control is a farce, rural living, country lifestyle, Second Amendment,