Lots of Superheroes in Boston

Yesterday mister gardener and I decided to hop a chartered bus to the 2017 Boston Flower Show at the Seaport World Trade Center, a show that’s a harbinger of spring in these parts. Taking a comfortable chartered bus the hour and a half to door of the show was the wise thing to do. Boston traffic, Boston tunnels, parking…. yikes!

Tunnels and traffic, Boston Flower Show

 

The theme “Superheroes in the Garden,” those plants that we can depend on to bring color and staying power in the garden, met us at the entrance and carried up through all the exhibits. We tiptoed through tulips of various shapes and colors, a pale blue muscari, and tete-a-tete daffodils that seemed to dominate landscapes giving us that blast of color we love in the spring.

Tete-a-Tete, Boston Flower Show 2017

Oh how I love water in the garden and we saw plenty of exhibits featuring waterfalls, ponds, and goldfish… and stone paths galore!

Boston Flower Show 2017

The most whimiscal water feature was a fountain of cascading water from a garden table into a pool that would be perfect for soaking your feet after a long day working in the garden. I didn’t ask if the flip-flops came with the setting.

Boston Flower Show 2017

I’ve been looking at pergola designs for our property so it was fun to see the different exhibits featuring them. Attracting lots of attention under a pergola was this feature that simulated flames. Everyone, young and old, felt the ‘flames’ and I saw a few check to see if there was wine in the bottle.

Boston Flower Show 2017

The crème de la crème was a dry stone house by Maine Stonework, patterned after a miniature version of superhero Tinkerbell’s fairy neighborhood in Neverland. Nestled in a moss forest full of conifers, it was a creative work of art and deservedly won Best of Show plus several other awards. Want to see it being assembled in a time-lapse?

Maine Stoneworks, Boston Flower Show 2017

Maine Stoneworks, Boston Flower Show 2017

We saw a chicken coop with clucking chickens, a ‘she-shed,’ an actual tiny house that one could tour, lots of wonderful stonework, lots of lectures and demos, and plenty of plants, woody shrubs, and trees that would do well in our zone 5+ gardens. All good.

We meandered up and down the maze of commercial vendors, many not garden themed yet it was entertaining and business was brisk. We saw booths featuring jewelry, scarves, jams and preserves, soaps, moisturizing lotions, tea towels, sweaters, shoes. We sampled a variety of foods from nuts to honey and if we had worn boots, we could have them conditioned and sealed as we saw other do.

Boston Flower Show 2017

Garden themed vendors were numerous: flowers, fountains, garden seeds, bulbs, patio furniture, containers, pots, statuary, baskets, garden tools, and antiques for the garden. We especially enjoyed visiting Gardens Alive, Walpole Woodworkers, Fine Gardens magazine (a sponsor), and a variety of other garden related booths. We chatted with folks at the master gardener booth and those at the Mass Hort booth and were even serenaded by the Sweet Adelines… and they were sweet!

A tiny tree in the Bonsai Display caught my attention. I had young Cornus mas trees in my Virginia landscape and a son had a large and beautiful 25′ Cornus mas in his Ohio yard. So unique and beautiful a tree, I did not know what to think about this thick trunked mini-version. I certainly admire the skill and creativity involved in keeping this amazing Bonsai version healthy and in full bloom for the show!

Boston Flower Show 2017, Cornus mas

The judged floral arrangements featuring superheroes were impressive…. and had to smile at the “Brace Yourself” competition featuring bracelets of dried plant material designed for superhero and champion Wonder Woman.

Click photos to enlarge

Our day ended in late afternoon and we were ready to make the journey home. This wonderful Boston outing helped us flirt with spring… at least for a day until we returned home and were greeted by another day of snow and sleet.

 

 

 

 

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The pansies are here!

The pansies are here! The pansies are here! I love a blue pansy and a large bloom on a pansy and I was lucky enough to snatch up a flat at Churchill’s Garden yesterday. This is a popular shade of blue that always seems to be in short supply as the season marches on. Some years I miss out so I buy them when I see them no matter the weather. Later I’ll buy a solid large yellow bloom (a little easier to find) and plant a bed of blue and yellow pansies along a brick entry at the front door. I think the combination is a showstopper. The variety is Karma True Blue, a short, sturdy, and bushy plant that stays compact.

I’m thrilled to have them but it’s waaaaaay too early to plant them in New Hampshire.

This is the bed where they will eventually live, a border that won’t see the sun for a few weeks yet. For now they are living in a window in our garage. Pansies like cold weather but these just came from a greenhouse. It’s brisk in the garage, downright cold, but they will be well protected from the 12° temperatures we will experience tonight.

Hurry up spring!

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Spring at last!

Unless you have flowers growing in a greenhouse or visit a florist shop, this is as close you’ll get to seeing spring flowers in snow covered New Hampshire. Our local grocery tempted shoppers on this first day of spring. I watched customers for a few moments. No one passed by without stopping to admire or touch or smell. Yes, we are ready…

Shaws Grocery Store

Winter Walk-Off 2017

Les, over at A Tidewater Gardener, sponsors a Winter Walk-Off each year on his Blogger site. He’s a great horticulturist and I enjoy following his blog. You should check it out. I try to enter his walk-off each year but it’s hard when you look out the window and only see white. It’s still the dead of winter in New Hampshire!

There are rules… such as ‘On your own two feet, leave the house, and share what can be seen within walking (or biking) distance of your home.’ He’s relaxed those rules a lot but I’m sure my walk is beyond acceptable since it was an hour and thirty seven minutes from home today. However, I am supporting Les in a small way by walking down the main street in Keene NH before visiting a son in town.

It’s a funky, low-key college town (Keene State College and Antioch University) that has a nice hippy vive to it. There is a healthy vitality to the downtown and a community interest in preserving historic architecture.  And, of course, it was where Jumanji staring Robin Williams was filmed. Here’s the evidence painted on this brick wall.

Jumanji movie sign, Keene NH

I captured a little of the fun of Keene as I walked around the city on this cold, blustery day today, the last day of Les’ walk-off. Main Street is a beautiful tree-lined wide boulevard into downtown Keene. We always enjoyed this approach to the business section of the city.

We parked, zipped up our down jackets and hit the street. The popular coffee shop pictured below also has a barber’s pole…up the stairs for coffee and down steps for a haircut.

The Barbery is located beneath the coffee shop, beneath ground but not quite a full basement, almost an English basement. This is not the only business like that. Quite close is another that I think is a music store.  I love the sign.

Fixed objects take a licking in our New Hampshire snows. I saw evidence here and there of fixtures that were buried beneath a mountain of snow and not seen before it was too late.

Snow is mostly gone on this walkway but surely this must be snow removal damage, I would guess.

Restaurants and pubs are numerous, good, and supported by locals and visitors. I’m always happy to see lots of vegetarian options on the menus. We have enjoyed several ethnic restaurants in the area as well.

We have an old theater in Exeter that stands unused and almost abandoned, but Keene has a community theater on Main Street that is to be envied. First opened in 1924, declared a nonprofit in 1991, created a support group and mission statement, raised funds, restored it, and now it is the vibrant site of movies and live performances. Jealous….

 

Colonial Theatre

As mister gardener and I walked, I had to take a photo of our favorite coffee shop, Prime Roast…. the one we always frequent and take a bag or two of coffee home with us.

Prime Roast in Keene NH

And finally, we reached the Central Square of Keene, an area full of restaurants and unique shops. The focal point is the church, the white church and tall steeple of the United Church of Christ, a landmark that anchors one end of Main Street and gives the city a classic New England feel.
United Church of Christ, Keene NH
United Church of Christ, Keene NH
Across from the church on a grassy island inside the roundabout is a charming park that is used for a variety of events. We’ve attended the popular Pumpkin Festival (until it was moved out of town recently), Ice and Snow Festival, musical events in the bandstand, and even seen protests take place here. This is certainly the place for people watching in warmer months.
Gazebo, Keene NH
Keene is a relaxed city with a New England old town feel. We had a chilly but great stroll through town and good day with family in Keene NH. Thanks to Les for hosting this Winter Walk-Off again this year.

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Mystery plant amid the geraniums

I’ve been a compulsive caretaker, one who rescued or adopted kittens, taken in stray dogs, fed the neighborhood kids at lunchtime along with mine. Kids are grown and gone, but I still rescue animals…. and now I think I’ve rescued a weed.

Three weeks ago a small sprout became visible in the soil of my summer geraniums (Pelargonium) that are wintering indoors. I was curious so I let it grow. It lost its plump cotyledons and began to shoot upright through the geraniums looking for sunlight. What a funny looking little plant, I thought. Is it a weed or a maybe a sprout from last summer’s autumn clematis?

I thought the tiny fuzzy head might be a bloom but no, it just produces more leaves as it grows.

mystery plant

It’s healthy so I figure it’s a weed since weeds are the healthiest plants in my garden. Sigh…

The stem is woody and and hairy. The pubescent leaves have been opposite but the last three were whorled. I wonder what the next ones will be.

mystery plant

The tip is as tiny as a pencil eraser and full of miniature leaves. No bloom in sight.  I’m at a loss to identify what I’ve adopted but I think it’s cute.  As long as I don’t develop a rash from it or it doesn’t turn into Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors, I’ll nurture “Harry” till there is an possible ID.  If there’s a guess out there, let me know….

fuzzy plant

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Winter Walking in Exeter

I would define our community as a pedestrian town. Many people who live here forgo their dependence on vehicles in favor of the healthy alternative…. walking and biking.

This is my 3rd winter in Exeter and it still amazes me that the streets are cleared of snow in the morning in the worst of snowstorms. Not just the streets….the sidewalks are cleared, too. Where some communities threaten to fine citizens for not shoveling their sidewalks, folks here can step out of their homes and walk to town almost immediately following a storm. It’s nifty mini-tractors that do the trick in today, but clearing local sidewalks is nothing new.

Here’s an old film showing our walks being cleared by horse and plow:

Today it’s done by modern horsepower:

sidewalk tractors

Here and there in the downtown, there are small alleyways dug through snow mounds  providing parkers access to sidewalks and shops. I don’t know if the town shovels these paths or the shop owners, but it’s critical for business. Otherwise you’d take a hike to the end of the block… in the street!

Stella brought us perhaps our last real dump of snow two days ago. This morning under sunny skies, I bundled up, stepped outside and was greeted by piles of snow on the sides of dry roads and cleared sidewalks. I love this little community that keeps the streets and sidewalks clear and makes winter walking fun.  All of it is quite indicative of the value Exeter places on pedestrians and a healthier lifestyle.

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Blizzard on Election Day

What do folks in the ‘Live Free or Die’ state do when a blizzard warning interrupts local elections? It seems they do whatever they darn well please.

More than a dozen towns rescheduled today’s elections despite warnings from Governor Sununu that they do so at “their own risk.” Yesterday, the list of towns that postponed elections began to grow as the governor was strongly recommending that they stay open.

Our town of Exeter rescheduled elections after our Town Moderator Paul Scafidi consulted legal counsel. In our local newpaper, Exeter News-Letter, he stated, “We believe we’re correct that we can postpone it and that’s what I’m doing. For the safety of the voters, for the safety of the people that have to work, it’s the best thing for us to do.”

Snowstorm

The confusion lies in ambiguous statutes and laws whether postponing elections was a violation. NH Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlon told NH1 Newsy that, “The position from this office is that, RSA669:1, which is in the section of the statute that talks about town elections, says very clearly that town elections shall be held on the second Tuesday in March. From our perspective there is no provision that allows for the actual statutory date of the election officers to be moved and we cannot recall it ever happening for weather or any other reason.” It’s history in the making in New Hampshire.

Emergency legislation will be introduced this week to eliminate any confusion and make sure towns can postpone in the future. In the meantime, I’m having a second cup of coffee, watching the birds feed, and wondering about the possibility of ice dams.

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Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Philly

I was quite happy to see the announcement on Instagram and Facebook that the Philadelphia Flower Show named a hybrid daffodil created by Brent and Becky’s Bulbs as the “Best Hybrid” in the show. And there was a lovely photo of the winning blooms “Starlight Sensation” next to the ribbons. I was thrilled to see this but not surprised. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs is top notch.

The company wrote that it takes 5-7 years form pollination to 1st bloom and another 5 – 7 years until the bulb hit the market. When they added that this hybrid is ‘one of, if not THE best hybrid we’ve created to date,’ I was interested. I have tulips but have not really added daffodils to the garden and these would be perfect for my white garden, especially since the blooms are as tall or taller than the leaves.

I knew these bulbs would soon be in short supply so I ordered right away. And, no, they said, I wasn’t the first to call.  The bulbs will be shipped in September and I’ll see the blooms in the spring of 2018…. well worth waiting for, I think.

Photo: Brent and Becky’s Bulbs

Congratulations to Brent and Becky’s Bulbs of Gloucester VA, a Good company owned by Good folks from a Good town…. and, guess what. It was my own little neck of the woods in Virginia and Brent and Becky were my neighbors. Check out the online catalog and check out “Starlight Sensation.”

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There’s a New Garden Designer in Town

I consider myself somewhat of a gardener or maybe I’m just a kid at heart who likes to play in the dirt. The plants, the soil, and the animals that dine, live, or pass through these small gardens… animals with feathers, fur, scales, and those that hop, creep and crawl are all on my soft spot list. Mix that with a love of garden design and you’ve tapped into what makes me content in a small wildlife preserve.

It’s always stimulating to meet a garden designer and learn more about their style of landscaping. Last summer, I dropped a ticket in a box and won the opportunity to have a nice session with a newly established landscape designer at Wentworth Greenhouses in Rollinsford, NH. James Brewer is new to New Hampshire but not new to garden design. He and his wife, a native of this area, moved from England where his garden design business was booming.

James Brewer, Wentworth Greenhouse

I found him in his office surrounded by a greenhouse filled with summer annuals and accompanied by his ever friendly black lab, Billster, who slept at our feet (after a refreshing dunk in his wading pool) while James and I chatted about design, plants, and, of course….what led him to his life’s occupation.

James Brewer

James credits his folks for sparking his interest in gardening and design when he was a boy. He learned gardening, plants, and design through experience, slowly developing his skills, then began a small gardening business in the mid-90’s. From there it was all uphill, even twice interviewed on BBC live radio programs while he walked through finished projects and listeners phoned in with questions.

He took a look at my garden design sketch and said….. “You have a John Brooks feel to your design.”  Oh boy.  My garden is new, tiny, and FAR from being mellowed in….. quite removed from the large world of John Brooks, but I welcomed his suggestions and ideas for future growth.

James Brewer

Just glancing around the office and looking over some of the designs he was working on, I could tell that James has great talent. He certainly knows and loves landscape design. Being located in a large garden center benefits customers as trees, shrubs, perennials that he recommends can be seen onsite. We finished our chat about the time his ‘best friend’ was out the door to welcome new customers, both 2-footed and 4-footed…..

Since establishing himself with Wentworth, business is strong, he said. I do wish this young garden designer continued success. New England is such a nice place to put down “roots.”

For more information, visit James Brewer Garden Design

James Brewer

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Tiny Indoor Garden…

I’m itching to get outside. Our temperatures are falling into the single digits at night and, alas, the soil in the garden is frozen solid on this 6th day of March in New Hampshire.  But I found a way to bring a little rainforest indoors.

I have this wonderful handblown bell jar from Yorktown VA that usually stays in the garden. I pried it from the frozen ground, cleaned it well, and in 5 minutes I put together a simple woodland terrarium using plants, dried moss that I already had, and a wee turtle. The plate is a favorite…handmade by my talented potter daughter.

Churchill’s Gardens is just a hop-skip down the road and there I found 4 tiny ferns for this woodland setting beneath glass. It does the heart good to see a little green when the landscape is a frozen tundra.

ferns 2017

woodland terranium 2017

Turtle

 

Not my mama’s biscuits…

Maybe not so much anymore, but when I grew up, there were distinct regional differences in what folks ate. In Ohio, where mister gardener was a member of a large German farming community, sauerkraut was considered a staple. I had not tasted sauerkraut until I moved to Ohio in my mid-twenties. But I did like it on my first Reuben sandwich. mister gardener has become our main cook these days and there is always a head of cabbage in the refrigerator that he’ll use in a variety of recipes.

From my home state, biscuits were a staple, a food that mister gardener absolutely does not like. Rolls were his mainstay. Every now and then, I hunger for a good biscuit like my mother made but, alas, I don’t have her perfect recipe. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to duplicate it through the years. This morning I tried one that flashed up on my Facebook yesterday. The ingredients were simple: self-rising flour, frozen butter, buttermilk. Stir 15 times, roll out and fold 4 times, cut out and bake.

In Virginia, we always had a little country ham (Edward’s Ham) to accompany biscuits but bacon was my substitute this morning. First glimpse right out of the oven was promising, but the first bite was a DUD! Although flaky as promised, the biscuits were TASTELESS next to the memory of my mother’s. Another recipe in the trash, but I’ll keep trying. Sigh….

Not My Mama's Biscuits....

I remember my mother throwing ingredients together without measuring, rolling out, then cutting biscuit dough in squares to feed a family of 9. The result was always perfection. Who has a good old Virginia recipe to share?

Which one did I buy?

Toward the end of the growing season, I picked up a witch hazel plant on a mark down sale at a local nursery. The plant was labeled Hamamelis virginiana, the common witch hazel that blooms in late fall in eastern North America. This understory native tree flowers about mid-fall and may continue through December when no other flowers are in the landscape.

Several of these small trees grow along the wood line across the street and I love seeing the splash of color beneath the conifers as both the leaves and the flower turn a golden yellow. It’s a pretty smart plant to bloom when there isn’t any competition for pollination by insects. Bees are buzzing late in the season around these trees… and the fragrance? It can be intoxicating on a fall day.

Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginiana

My tiny witch hazel, planted late in the season, has just become visible after a big snow melt and it is beginning to bloom during the final days of February. I think the label was correct. It probably is a Hamamelis virginiana that is blooming late the first year. But could it be mislabeled?  There are some witch hazels that bloom in February, the Vernal witch hazel and hybrids…. one of which I grew in Virginia, Hamamelis vernalis, Diane’ with a bright red and beautiful bloom.

Secretly, I’m hoping the witch hazel is mislabeled and I have an early spring blooming Vernal witch hazel. Fingers crossed….but just maybe, someone who knows lots more than I do, can verify this plant’s identity.

witch hazel

Bluebirds in Winter

We have a family of Eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) that is staying with us through the winter. The blues have been expanding their range for the last 10 years or so, and it’s not really unusual to see them in New England during the winter.

Two springs ago, mister gardener made a bluebird house and installed it along the edge of our garden. It wasn’t long before a pair claimed the house, fighting off chickadees, house sparrows and swallows for this real estate. During the summer, the pair fed on a variety of foods that they found in the landscape and we supplemented with a little snack of meal worms.

They only had one nesting that summer and the family wintered over. In the spring, the young were off to find their own territories and our parents managed three nestings last summer. So we have our original pair and 4 of the offspring wintering over this year.

Bluebirds in Winter

We have planted shrubs and trees that also provide food… such as serviceberry, viburnum, crabapple… for the fall when insects become more scarce. To help them out during the winter, we feed them meal worms but make sure we offer a mixed and balanced diet by adding bits of suet, hulled sunflower, and some berries and raisins. Bluebirds love to bathe!  A heated birdbath in the winter is a plus for bathing and drinking.

Bluebird with ice on beak

The blues generally roost at night in nearby pine forests, but will huddle in their bluebird house for shelter from time to time.

Bluebird in House

When I look out on snowy mornings and there is hardly a place for them to land, I wonder what these birds might be thinking. Could they be questioning their decision not to migrate to warm climes?  Just maybe…..

Bluebirds 2017

Exeter River

Exeter River February 2017

Exeter has been upgraded from last summer’s Extreme Drought to a Severe Drought. And thanks to winter rain and snow, the Exeter River is flowing at near normal levels. It is a beautiful sight and still draws folks to marvel at the free flowing river after the removal of the dam.

Exeter River

Temperatures are beginning to rise and we hope it’s a slow warming trend. Exeter now needs the ground to thaw enough to absorb some of the snow melt as it takes longer for groundwater levels to recover. Water restrictions are still in place and residents are urged to monitor their water use.

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Great Backyard Bird Count 2017

Dove

We are blessed with a multitude and variety of birds that frequent the winter feeder but, alas… these unruly mourning doves, beautiful as they are, have overwhelmed the feeder during Great Backyard Bird Count this weekend. There are only 6 on the feeder pictured here but sometimes there are six more standing on the backs of those feeding…. all jostling and shouldering their way to a little sunflower seed. The rest of the mob is on the ground pushing and shoving for spillage. They are fast eaters and can clean the feeder in record time, fill their crops, and fly off to digest their meal.

Not all doves migrate and the ones I see could be sticking it out for the winter or they may be the males arriving way too early for the best breeding territory. Although New Hampshire is one state that does not allow hunting of doves, it’s still a tough life for the birds that stick around all winter. I have seen frostbitten and missing toes… and feathers on the snow tell me they are a link in the food chain for birds of prey.

The diversity of birds in our weekend count will not be as great this year, but we will continue to welcome these gentle birds to our feeders.

Snownormous!

That was then….

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This is now…

Feb 13 1017

I know bad things can happen during a major snowstorm but it does give you a boost to look out the window and see a blanket of pure white. We had a break in the snowstorm and decided to go for a short walk on our well-maintained street. The snow-laden branches of trees, dark against white beneath a heavy gray sky, were impressive. Soon the wind will pick up and that snow will be blown from the trees…. or limbs will fall beneath the weight. If that happens, we will keep our fingers crossed for no property damage, personal injury, or downed power lines!

Exeter Feb. 13 2017

February 13 2017

February 13 2017

February 13 2017

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Let it SNOW!

All I’ve been posting about lately is snow but what else is there in New England in the winter? Old Man Winter has a firm grip on us up here in Exeter while my family members in the mid-Atlantic area are experiencing spring-like mild weather. My daughter texted to say she was outdoors in a short sleeve shirt today and a sister reported daffodils in bloom. Their unseasonably warm temperatures combined with brisk winds from a weather low across the area will advance northward tomorrow, hit an Alberta Clipper and impact us with a potentially big snowfall Sunday evening…. and maybe a little thundersnow! What’s true in New England? They love a snowfall. They ski, snowshoe, snowboard, bike and have epic snowball parties.

Annual Portsmouth Snowball FightThat’s mostly for the young. We aren’t as adventuresome, but will be warm, safe, and well-fed as we watch from our windows. We have plenty of wood for the fireplace and we stocked up this morning with the freshest of foods at our local Winter Farmers’ Market.

We arrived early and you can see that many in Exeter had the same idea as we did. Unless you ski, snowshoe, or sled, where else can a person go and have winter fun?  Happy, socializing crowds were filling bags full of vegetables, breads, meats, baked goods, eggs, and whole meals…. plus much more. It was an event and great to see folks support their local farmers.

(click photo to enlarge)

Exeter Winter Farmers' MarketBusiness was brisk and mister gardener’s bag was weighted down with an assortment of everything he could carry.

We have all we need to weather the storm. Bring it on!

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For the People, By the People…

Exeter is currently soliciting community feedback for the town that will lead to an update of the Master Plan, an important process that reflects our vision for the future of the town. The Master Plan Steering Committee offered the first public workshop last week and several from our neighborhood carpooled to the event. I was encouraged to see the turnout of about 200 for this first public event, step one of a process to involve as many citizens as possible.

Exeter Master Plan Workshop 1/25/2017

The number of younger families attending was reassuring as they are the real future of this town. We broke up into small discussion groups, voicing concerns, dreams, naming what we liked about our community, where we thought improvement was needed, critical areas to be addressed, and our wish list. Each group had a large town map on the table and could circle areas using different colored markers for different functions. When we were finished, a moderator wrote each of our answers on an easel board and one by one we approached the list and marked 1, 2, 3 depending on our wish for priority.

How stimulating and educational it was to be at a table with some of Exeter’s Gen X citizens. We shared common views and some different opinions… a healthy sharing with different generations to make sure all voices are heard. Feedback will be used to guide revisions to the current Master Plan and eventually land on the desks of the Board of Selectmen in the fall.

Having previously lived in other parts of the country, this was the first time I have experienced a community coming together to discuss a master plan in this way. Not a lecture, not a survey, not a forum, but an informal and neighborly sharing of ideas…. a very good thing. 

 

 

Do you compost?

I love smart appliances. My Alexa is becoming a good friend as she turns lights off and on, regulates thermostats, tells me the news I ask for, updates sports scores for mister gardener, and so much more. Siri is still a part of my life…especially away from home and with Apple Play in the jitney. Nest helped protect our home while we were away… alerting me when a leaf fell from a plant.

A recently debuted smart appliance has caught my eye. It’s the ZERA. Have you heard of it? If you are a gardener or environmentalist, you will be interested. There are many ways to recycle food wastes both indoors and outdoors, but this is an indoor food recycler that turns food scraps into compost in 16-24 hours. Yes, that’s right. It’s that 16-24 hours that intrigued me. How could that be?

news-zera01

ZERA Food Recycler

The recycler is a Whirlpool Corp. appliance, a freestanding gizmo, about 34″ tall. It is hefty at 118.6 lbs but looks very ‘kitchenie,’ like a tall trash can. All that food that is regularly sent to a landfill, including meats, can be converted to fertilizer in a day, the company maintains. It is designed to hold 8 lb. of food, a week’s worth for the average family.

whirlpool zera

The process uses heat and airflow and a small bag of ‘brown’ composting stuff containing coconut shells pellets…that the company sells. It is supposed to work without the pellets but the quality of compost won’t be as good. It’s just like adding ‘brown’ matter to our outdoor compost. The appliance is said to be quiet and there is no food odor.

I found the online site where they offered the early bird special at $699. I missed out on that but they are still offering a small discount online. Beginning early summer 2017, the first appliances will be available in test markets and at select retailers online sites for $1,199.  Yes, I want one and wish they’d selected me as a tester of the product. Check it out at Whirlpool.

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A Tree House Vacay

Hilton Head is a small island, only 12 miles long and 5 miles wide, but full of championship golf courses, fine dining, tennis facilities, hotels, condos, and villas. It’s a busy place….lots of traffic and lots of visitors enjoying it all.  To fully unwind, we always gravitate toward the least traveled areas to relax within peaceful environs. In Sea Pines, we stayed at a unique hideaway, a virtual oasis, very secluded, yet amazingly close to civilization.

We felt like kids again as our oasis is a tree house overlooking Calibogue Sound. Called a Sea Loft, it’s perched high among the treetops of live oaks and majestic pines with a view across a salt marsh to the water.

our-sea-loft

Waiting for the sunset…

Each morning a variety of birds greet us at eye level, eating, chirping, and pecking away at berries and bark. There are cedar waxwings, brown headed nuthatches, bluebirds, hawks, an eagle, woodpeckers and others that have entertained us in the trees and sky from our breakfast table.

Beneath us, other visitors meander freely through the wooded area. We watched the tiniest deer resting in the wax myrtle and there are telltale signs of foraging raccoons beneath our tree house.

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Another visitor arrived on our doorstep and actually stepped indoors for a couple of minutes. Was he trying to sell a little Geico Insurance? Sorry, we weren’t buying….

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Really not a Geico gecko, but a Green Anole that came a’visiting…

We’re lucky that weather has cooperated enough to be graced with spectacular sunsets in the evenings.

img_3025Our location is just a four minute walk to Harbour Town where the well-known candy-striped lighthouse welcomes boats and visitors alike. We often pop into the little village on foot to enjoy delicious food, a variety of shops, late afternoon ice cream cones, and, of course, to climb the iconic lighthouse for a bird’s eye view, including one of the top ten golf courses in the states, Harbour Town Golf Links….

Click to enlarge:

Thanks to our hosts for allowing us to become eco-tourists in their Sea Loft for a short time. Time to pack up and head back to the land of ice and snow in New Hampshire. Sad to leave but fully refreshed.  Sigh…..

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Savannah 

One city on my life bucket list was Savannah and, happily, I was able to cross it off my list this week. We decided to take a day trip for a ‘hop on and hop off’ trolley adventure of the Historic District. One of our guides called the 15-stop trolley loop an ‘appetizer’ for all that Savannah offers.  That was very accurate. Our day trip did make us want to return for the full meal.

We were told it is America’s first planned city, ca. 1733, designed by General James Edward Oglethorpe. He designed neighborhoods around open squares that served as functional areas for communal activities. Today there are 24 park-like squares named after people or historical events with monuments and statues at the center.

Johnson Square, below, memorializes Revolutionary War hero, Major General Nathanael Greene. He and his son, George Washington Greene, were buried beneath the monument in 1902… after years of burial misplacement of the two in the Colonial Park Cemetery.

Johnson Square honoring Nathanial Green

Chippewa Square seems to be well visited, made very popular by the Forrest Gump film. The bench where he sat during the movie was filmed here and the site attracts tourists who want to be photographed standing where the bench once was. At the center of the square is a statue of Oglethorpe, by none other than Daniel Chester French who hailed from our Exeter NH.   Small, small world…

Statue of Oglethorpe

We did not physically visit any of the park squares on this trip but tailored this day to architecture and history…. and food, of course.

Old Savannah Cotton Exchange, Romanesque Revival style

Chart House, built before 1790 with ballast stones from sailing ships

There are two basic periods of architecture we were told, Colonial and Victorian, with many styles within these periods of history. We gawked and stared open-mouthed through the rich architectural neighborhoods and restored buildings of the city.

Sometimes we had to look harder to see a little humor in architecture, like these eyes gazing out at us.

Who's watching us???

An unforgettable building was St. John the Baptist Cathedral, the Mother Church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah, that I thought rivaled cathedrals I’ve seen anywhere. Click on photos for full size.

Walking through the old Market was interesting for a bit of shopping, food, and photographing things like this old ghost ad on a building.

Bayer Pills Ghost Ad

We ended our day very good note, happy to be among the 6 million who visit Savannah each year. Then….when we arrived home that evening, I turned on the telly only to see the Forest Gump movie was showing. Yes, I watched it from beginning to end and took special notice of the background scenery around Chippawa Square.

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