All spring and summer we were serenaded by an Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe), a common flycatcher in these parts. “Fee-bee, Fee-bee…,” it called from backyard shrubbery as it defined its territory. Often described as dull or plain in coloration, this much loved bird’s personality is anything but. Flying insects make up most of the summer diet.  We were entertained all summer as it bobbed its tail on a nearby branch and made short flights to catch dragonflies, beetles, wasps, flies, moths, and more in mid-air.

The suburbs have helped this little bird. They often choose a man-made structure to build their mud, grass, moss nest. In our neighborhood, it’s always a ledge over a neighbor’s front door. If the nest isn’t removed, they come right back to the same nest the following year.  And it’s so easy to become attached to the little ones.

A true harbinger of spring, we know warmer weather can’t be far behind when we hear their sweet call in late winter. It’s October now, and we’ve enjoyed them for several months but, alas, migration can’t be far off. The weather is cooler, insects are scarce, and the birds have switched their diet to berries…. especially on our arrowood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum).


Nary a berry is left on the shrub after two weeks of its repeated diving for berries. It’s good to consider the ecological benefit of what’s added to a garden and our native viburnums are excellent for this very reason.  The berries are eaten by several species of birds… cardinals, robins and more but the phoebe ate a fair share. The shrub is also a larval plant food for the spring azure butterfly and hummingbird moth.

arrowood viburnum

This native species isn’t as fragrant as Asian viburnums but it makes up for it in spring flowers, fall leaf color, and abundant berries. It’s adaptable to a variety of growing conditions, growing quite well in full sun in our clay and rocky soil although not its preferred habitat.

Interesting tidbits: the common name arrowood, as you might have guessed, was because the long straight stems were once used to make arrows by indigenous peoples.
The Eastern Phoebe is said to be the first bird banded in North America by John James Audubon in the early 1800s. He attached a light silver thread to several fledgling phoebe legs and discovered they returned to the same nesting area the following year.

Hayride to the Pumpkin Patch

Climb aboard the wagon, find a good spot on a bale of hay, squeeze between your grandchildren, and let the tractor take you away…. over hills, through the cornfield, past the pond, beneath the murder of crows that were startled in the corn, to the tangled vines of a pumpkin patch…. acres of pumpkins and gourds.


Two tractors and four wagon loads from our grandchildren’s preschool were ready for the bumpy expedition that twisted and turned through the fields.


Parents and grandparents, siblings and more, all armed with cameras and smart phones fanned out across fields to help youngster find the perfect pumpkin, all shapes, sizes and colors, and to capture that moment with a photo.


Me included…

 perfect pumpkin


A perfect pumpkin for us and small enough for a little tyke to carry….

Room for all

Then the bumpy journey back up to Farmer Zach’s Farm to visit the cornfields in search of the best and most colorful ears of corn.


Ahhhh…. what an adventure!  Making fall memories with little people…

There’s nothing like a parade!

Small towns have the most amazing parades. The population of the small town of Stratham NH is less than 8,000, yet the community capped off their 300th anniversary year with a phenomenal and well-organized parade. Several marching bag pipe bands, a fife & drum band, Shriner clowns, ‘Extreme Air’ jump rope group, local selectmen, a pig, horses, cattle, a number of fire trucks from neighboring towns, old tractors, new tractors, Miss Stratham Fair, antique cars, politicians, and floats by a number of organizations, a church, library, Historic Society, local schools, and one garden club…. mine!

My awesome co-chair and I made about 50 large crepe paper flowers and with our straw hats and best smiles, we headed out on the 2-mile trek. Four members rode in a cart while about 10 of us made the walk, all waving our flowers… with one member telling the crowds lining the streets that these flowers are “perfect for our drought!” We pushed a wheelbarrow full of the flowers and all carried a garden rake.


Waiting our turn to join the parade…

Naturally, it’s always the children who are the most excited at parades. Every other group or float tossed or handed out candy to the almost frenzied youth all along our route. (Yes, we were able to snag a little bit of sugar and chocolate for ourselves…)

Before we knew it, we had reached the end. It was a good feeling to support the Stratham community and we were happy to hear the crowds call out thanks and clap in appreciation for all we do in this community.  All good…

this photo courtesy www.seacoastonline.com

Dark-eyed Junco

It’s bird migration time and things are happening in our little spit of land. According to Chris Bosak, Birds of New England, Labor Day weekend was a good time to fill the feeders again for the fall and winter birds. So I filled the feeder with hulled black oil sunflower seeds and the welcome mat was officially rolled out for the migratory songbirds.

Due to an invasion of breeding house sparrows this summer, I fed only the insect eaters, the robins, bluebirds, phoebes, and chipping sparrows nibbling on what fell beneath the feeder… no seeds at all, just meal worms.  Those pesky house sparrows turned their noses up at the meal worms and have exited the neighborhood, probably living inside Home Depot or around McDonalds for the winter. We are ready for the next wave!

Our first winter visitors arrived two mornings ago. The white-throated sparrow and their snowbird companions, the dark-eyed junco, are perhaps the best harbinger of winter. They arrived overnight and I spotted the newcomers at dawn cleaning up fallen seeds beneath the feeder.

junco (Junco hyemalis) female with sunflower kernel

Female junco with sunflower kernel

The junco is a fairly nondescript bird, gray above and a white belly. The female is generally paler with a mixture of brown in the plumage. Our flock should number 20 or more by the end of October.

Juncos are among my favorite little birds because they entertain me with their antics all winter. Their scientific name is hyemalis, Latin for ‘winter,’ an appropriate name for no snowstorm, blizzard, or arctic day can keep them away.  Their feisty interactions competing for seed under the feeder (and on the feeder) make me smile. They run, they hop, they flit, and they scratch as they battle each other for seed on the frozen ground or snow. Look for them to appear beneath your feeder around here very soon.

Cool Weather

I like Winter, Spring is Nice, Let’s Skip Summer, And do Fall Twice(Rusty Fischer)

Fall is my very favorite season. We have officially transitioned in New Hampshire. There is an invigorating crispness to the air so we’re wearing sweaters now, we sleep under down at night, it’s darker in the morning and in the evening, football is on the tube, leaves are changing, and it’s apple picking time!

Yesterday we spent the afternoon at our outdoor farmers’ market in Exeter, the 2nd largest in the state, where an abundance of fall crops, meats, sweets, meals, crafts and friendly faces greeted us. We didn’t have a shopping list but browsed from booth to booth stocking up on mostly vegetable goods but, oh, how to resist the flowers!

Exeter Farmers' Market 9/29/16

Browsing the booths with fall crops was a little like walking through a rainbow!

Click to see anything up close

That was yesterday. This morning I made the 4-mile drive to Applecrest Farms, New Hampshire’s oldest and largest apple orchard. They grow a variety of goods from peaches, berries, pumpkins and all the summer vegetables. A popular pastime is Pick-Your-Own. We’ve participated and ridden the wagon to the far fields for a variety of fruits.

Here is the ancient sign at Applecrest to help customers make good buying decisions. This week I’m making an apple crisp with cinnamon whipped cream topping so today I was seeking Macs, Courtland, Ida Red for cooking and Honey Crisp for eating.

Applecrest Farm

The Applecrest weekends are filled with autumn activities: music, Pick-Your-Own, hayrides, petting zoo, pie eating contests, fresh pressed cider, and fire roasted corn, sausage, dogs & burgers….. and a bit of clam chowder for me, please. On this Friday morning, they were abuzz setting up and getting ready. Mums..pumpkins…apples galore.

Oh yes, let’s do fall twice!


Going Home…

Richmond VA has always been dear to me. My mother grew up in Richmond so naturally we were there on a regular basis to visit our grandparents who lived in a suburb of the city developed in the early 1900’s.The neighborhood, now on the National Register of Historic Places, has 80-foot wide boulevards and tree-lined medians throughout. It was planned with a home setback of about 70 feet to be a garden environment with shade trees, hedges, good size lawns and the wonderful wide grassy medians. The area also had the first electric streetcar to operate successfully in an American city. Zipping into the city took minutes.

SCAN0009_009 copy

My older bro, younger sisters, mother, and grandmother-1950’s

It was a glorious adventure when the seven siblings visited and it wasn’t hard to develop an emotional attachment to the home where we spent so much time. Both grandparents have been gone for well over 40 years but their lovely home still stands. Late in her life, I would drive my mother by the home when in Richmond. We’d stop and look and she was pleased it was kept up so nicely.

On one visit, we saw the blinds separate a little, followed by a man opening the front door. We watched as the young man walked down the long brick walkway to our car and asked if he could be of help. I can imagine how it might have been uncomfortable for him to see strangers parked and staring at his home. I explained that my mother grew up here and we just stop by occasionally to share memories and see how it’s being maintained.

SCAN0022_022 – Version 2

mother age 14

How excited he was to meet my 90-year-old mother and insisted that we come in and see all the upgrades and changes he was so proud of. My mother looked at her hands, thought for a minute, then respectfully declined with a gentle smile. She explained she wanted it to remain as it was in her memories.

I understood her reluctance but didn’t have the same hesitation  when my Richmond brother was brave enough to approach the newest owners for visitation on a recent Richmond sibling gathering. We all jumped at the chance! It was where we spent a large part of our childhood, the home filled with grandparental love and fabulous adventures. And how brave of this family to say, “Come on over…”

The first thing we saw upon entering was the youngest resident hiding behind a chair. This is her house now and a perfect place to develop her own memories!


The basic architecture was the same… windows, doors, columns, chandeliers. The new kitchen was large and modern… thank goodness!  Some rooms were repurposed and I would do exactly the same thing if I lived there.

We all had different things we wanted to see. Here’s the one thing I longed to see… the secret stairway behind a mirror leading to the kitchen!


They were nice enough to give us free rein to wander.

They asked questions. We told them stories. One thing that pleased the family was my offer to send old photos… especially the one below of my brother sampling a wedding cake in the dining room. It shows the original stained glass window, now missing. We remembered the colors and they hope to reproduce it.

Version 3

So….if you’ve been thinking of visiting a home from your past, my advice is to just do it!

PS: We also visited our family home where I spent my childhood. What an adventure that was! Perhaps someday I’ll share.



The Great Spangled Fritillary

I learned something new yesterday. I’ve never been that great at identifying butterfly species but the butterfly I always thought was Great Spangled Fritillary may not be.


There are three species of greater fritillaries found in New England: Great Spangled, Atlantis, and Aphrodite.  All three are almost identical. I’ve probably seen them all and believed them to be one, the Great Spangled. Vermont naturalist Mary Holland blogged about the difference yesterday on Naturally Curious with Mary Holland.

It’s all in the eyes. If the eyes are amber, it’s a Great Spangled. If the eyes are blue-gray, it’s an Atlantis Fritillary, and if the eyes are yellow-green, it’s an Aphrodite Fritillary.

Armed with this new information, I was curious about the one (above) that visited my zinnias today so I inched as close as I could. Amber eyes!  Definitely a Great Spangled Fritillary!  What fun to learn something new.


Lawn Overseeding in the Fall

I’ve been weeding undesirable grass from one area of the lawn for a few weeks leaving the area bare in spots. With overnight rain almost a certainty a few days ago, I took a chance on grass seed. Crazy maybe. We’re in the middle of a massive drought but grass is a cool weather plant and at this time of year, the nights are cool and dew can be heavy overnight. I aerated the area very well and top dressed it with a compost + soil builder mix and worked that well into the area. I overseeded with a good seed and topped the area with straw. It’s doing well so far with established grass and straw giving some protection.

grass-seedDew is heaviest in the fall and with cool nights, we should have a healthy crop of grass that winters over and will be nice and thick next spring…. ready for what summer throws at us, I hope.

This morning I took my camera outdoors before the sun had fully cleared the tips of the tall trees in the east. This will give you an idea of how heavy the fall dew can be.


The insects were out early this morning, wet wings and all:

milkweed-bugsunflower-bumblebeeOther dew drops on this morning. Click to enlarge photos:

mahoniakarley rose fountain grassBaptisia Australisred-veined-sorrelChicago Luster Viburnum Berriesnandina domesticaShasta Daisy 'Becky'styrax japanicus drupesartemisia-beach-wormwood

NH Drought 2016 Update

Everyone’s favorite app in these parts seems to be weather related. When will we have rain?  Last night, all of my weather apps said, ‘maybe overnight.’  It didn’t happen.  ‘Early this morning.’  The clouds dripped for a few seconds. It’s mid-morning and a light rain is falling and may be giving us moisture for 110 minutes according to my AccuWeather app. It seems to be the most accurate so I’m putting my faith in it. I have a dozen containers under the drip line of our roof to catch enough rainwater to sustain 3 newly planted trees. They are stressed. I’m following a friend’s advice of two gallons of water twice a week per tree. Gray water from the showers and the basement dehumidifier give us barely that.


There are stages of drought:

  • Level 0: “Abnormally Dry:” This is the lightest level, which means the area is either “going into drought: short-term dryness slowing planting, growth of crops or pastures” or getting out of drought, which means some lingering water deficits; and pastures or crops not fully recovered,” according to the National Drought Monitor.
  • Level 1: “Moderate Drought:” This level of drought involves “some damage to crops, pastures; streams, reservoirs, or wells low, some water shortages developing or imminent; and voluntary water-use restrictions requested,” according to the monitor.
  • Level 2: “Severe Drought:” This level means that “crop or pasture losses likely; water shortages common; and water restrictions imposed,” the monitor states.
  • Level 3: “Extreme Drought:” This is the second-highest level of drought, with “major crop/pasture losses” and “widespread water shortages or restrictions.”
  • Level 4 “Exceptional Drought:” This is the most intense level of drought. This level involves “exceptional and widespread crop/pasture losses; shortages of water in reservoirs, rivers, and wells creating water emergencies.”

My home state of Virginia is in a drought and I hear from friends and family about it. They are Level 0: “Abnormally Dry.” My adopted state of New Hampshire is worse where we live in the Seacoast area. We have progressed through the stages to Level 3: “Extreme Drought.” There are mandatory water restrictions, no watering outdoors at all from municipal water or private wells. If residents don’t comply, they run the risk of a penalty.


The drought does not seem to be letting up anytime soon.  California’s problems are frightening with 100% of the state in drought trouble creating wildfires and water wars. Severe to exceptional drought extends over 43% of that state. Sorry to think this way, but a good soaking tropical storm may be our solution. Alas….

Royalty in my border…

The most striking plant that occupies space in my landscape is Aralia cordata ‘Sun King,’ the uncontested ruler of this small kingdom we call a garden. It called out to me for two summers at Rolling Green Nursery until I weakened and purchased a specimen last year. Right away, it declared itself king and after a winter die-down and reemergence in the spring, it became the uncontested emperor of all.


It is a golden Japanese spikenard with wonderful red stems and vivid golden-chartreuse leaves that dazzle with their color all summer long. I have it in a mostly shady location with a bit of sun to bring out the gold in the leaves.


The late summer racemes of white flowers are just beginning to burst upon the scene and insects are there for each that opens. Later in the fall, these blooms will be followed by lovely purple berries.

There are many members of this genus Aralia, including Aralia spinosa, that spiky devils walking stick (that I’ve unfortunately encounted on occasion… ouch!). Right now, I’m not attracted to any of the others because I only have eyes for this one garden amour. Zone 4-8

Planting for Nostalgia

It’s warming up in New Hampshire. We’ve been informed that this area is decidely USDA Hardiness Zone 6, not 5 as my blog title states.  But when asked by customers at the nursery, some employees say to plant for Zone 5b because we can have those atypical winters. That sounded like good advice to me and I followed it.

That was before I spotted two shrubs for sale locally that flourished in my Virginia, Zone 7b garden. I’d never seen them for sale around here. Surprisingly, one was tagged Zone 5 and the other Zone 6. Huh?? I was intrigued but hesitated for a moment because I knew they are semi-invasive or invasive in warmer climes.  Probably because of the drought and low sales, the manager approached me…the only customer… and said “For you, everything is half price today.” Hesitation over. I packed my cart.

Forever and ever these shrubs have screamed Virginia as they’re seen in practically every garden, old and new. Nandina domestica and Leatherleaf mahonia. A slice of Old Virginia in my cart. Nostalgia!

#1. Nandina domestica, imported to England from China and Japan in 1804, is a care-free showy shrub, disease-resistant, pest-resistant, that is widely used for flower arranging both for the attractive lacy leaves that vary from red to green to copper and the clumps of bright red berries that follow clusters of tiny white blooms. The berries are fabulous for holiday arrangements! A common name for nandina is Heavenly Bamboo as the multi-stem plant bears a striking resemblance to the canes of bamboo plants. We will discover whether this Zone 6 plant survives as an evergreen as it does in Virginia. I fear it will die back to the ground each winter and never grow as a 5′ tall ornamental as it was in Zone 7b. Fingers crossed…

Nandina from my Zone 6 garden: flower buds not open; new copper growth:

nandina-bloom nandina-new-red-growth#2. Leatherleaf Mahonia, labeled Zone 5, has been grown for generations in the US since brought from China in 1800’s. Members of leatherleaf are labeled noxious and planting is prohibited in Alabama, Georgia, SC, and Tennessee. A stiff leaved multi-stemmed spiny evergreen shrub resembling a holly but in Zone 7b, it redeems itself with fragrant lemony clusters of flowers appearing in late winter giving a multitude of bees some very early nectar. Those attractive flowers then develop into interesting bunches of blue-ish berries that hang like fat grapes…thus giving its other name, grape holly.

Mahonia photos from my Zone 7b garden: winter blooms; blue berry clusters:

honeybee on mahoniamahoniaI love both of these plants and will probably tent them for winter protection until I discover how they get through our winters.  Ahhhh…. How divine!

Hermine fizzled out in New Hampshire

We certainly didn’t want the unfortunate and tragic flooding that Hermine dumped on other states but a little moisture would be welcome in our official Extreme Drought seacoast area of New Hampshire. We are 5 miles from the coast and Hermine brought us a drizzle and drip yesterday and today. Beneath the damp mulch in the garden, the soil is bone dry. Buckets are lined up catching all roof drips outside today with a mist so fine you can feel it but not see it.

 TomatoesBeing declared an Extreme Drought area means no watering of anything in the landscape from the city’s water supply or from private wells. In New Hampshire, there are more than 100 communities with mandatory water restrictions. 19% or more of New Hampshire is in a Severe Drought and we are part of the 4% in an Extreme Drought. Thankfully, growers in ten counties are eligible for natural disaster assistance. Yes, we are in a bad way. We’re using gray water from showers and water made by the basement dehumidifier to help keep our 3 new trees alive. And sad to say, there’s no relief in the immediate future…

That said, there are those who took advantage of Hermine’s big blow. New Hampshire was spared the extreme high winds of this tropical storm but we drove over to the coast to check out what effect the storm had on this part of the ocean. Hampton Beach was closed on Tuesday as winds were brisk enough to cause rip tides. The next day, on this Wednesday, mist from the sea hung in the air like a gray fog. We could taste the salt. All along the coast people were standing, sitting, walking and enjoying the view of the choppy Atlantic surf.

spectatorsIt was low tide but waves rolled in, crashing onto the rocky shores.

Atlantic wavesAnd, naturally, there were those who were thrilled to see high surf. We watched as a dozen or more brave surfers waited with their boards on the surface of the water, then standing to catch wave after wave after wave. Can they see all those rocks?  Yikes!

Atlantic Waves from HermineClick photos to enlarge




Flatlanders on Vacay

Up in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire and places north, they call folks from our area and beyond, Flatlanders or “flatlandahs,” as it is properly pronounced in New Hampshire. I was well aware of the label as we ventured into the beautiful Lakes Region for a little R&R last week, but, thankfully, locals were way too polite to use the term when they inquired where we were from. I know what they were probably thinking as we snapped photographs of every fern, mountain, shop window, and covered bridge. No moose though. Two black bears…. a live one crossing the road and a stuffed one at an area restaurant.

Stuffed Bear at a Restaurant

It was a great time to travel there. Crowds gone. The highways were navigable and only the locals in the shops and restaurants.  We were between summer tourist season and Leaf Peeper season. The camp where we stayed was practically unpeopled and so very natural. No motors… only the sound of paddles dipping in the water. Blue skies. Gorgeous sunsets.


Paddling out to meet the sunset

There were six of us and about 6,000 pickerel frogs, a resident snake, one noisy chipmunk scolding us during the day, the piercing rattle of the Belted Kingfisher giving us morning wakeup, and the echos across the pond of loons to lullaby us to sleep at night.

Pickerel Frog

A snake stalking two pickerel frogs on the beach (lower right)

More fun than anything was watching the little ones enjoy the ‘wilderness’ adventure.

Going Fishing

Floating to the raft again...

I want that one...

Meals were easy. Deserts were often over a fire.

Our lodging was beautifully rustic, yet modernized… thank goodness. The atmosphere gave me a sense that Katharine Hepburn or Henry Fonda could walk in the door and settle down in front of the towering stone fireplace. Family albums on the shelf, family pictures through umpteen years on refrigerator, walls, and tables. Scratched wide plank flooring most likely has withstood generations of canines that were captured in old photographs. Collection of hats for any occasion adored a wall. Great ambience!

We’re so glad we were made very welcome in our camp and in the numerous towns we visited. Without a doubt, we came home refreshed and already babbling about our next trip.

Dam! It’s gone!

The Exeter photograph in the header at the top of this blog shows water flowing on both sides of the small Kimball Island linked to the mainland on each side by the String Bridge. The rocky river beds form the Great Falls where the freshwater Exeter River meets the tidal saltwater Squamscott. Beyond that we have the Great Dam. Not Great in a Niagara Falls sense but Great for early citizens who saw the potential for industry using the water power. There were once paper mills, powder mills, fulling mill (cloth), oil mills, a sawmill, a grist mill, a starch mill (from potatoes), pottery works, sailcloth factory, tanneries, a saddlery works, hat factory, a woolen mill and more that depended on the power of water.


This section of map by Phineas Merrill (below) in 1802 shows some mills. It also shows the Great Dam (Mill Dam), believed to be built in the first half of the 1600s. On the map are dams on either side of Kimball Island as well that were removed in the early part of the 20th century.

map exeterThe Exeter Manufacturing Company (textile manufacturer) eventually bought out the mills in the early 1800’s, gained water rights, maintaining and eventually replacing the wooden dam with concrete in 1914. Water was fed through a penstock that snaked underground to the company for supplemental power production until the company was sold in the 1960s to the Miliken Manufacturing Company (synthetics for automobiles), who in turn sold the factory to no other than Nike for their first U.S. plant. Now those buildings are handsome brick condominiums.

With the stability of the dam in question and serving no purpose except as a reminder of the industrial history of the city, the townspeople voted in 2014, after a decade of planning and work, to remove the landmark dam. This will restore the Exeter River to its natural state, thus protecting the town from future flooding. The fish ladder installed in the 1950s was no longer needed as the free-flowing river will facilitate normal fish migration to their upstream habitat during spawning.

And so the earthmovers, excavators, surveyors, engineers, and a multitude of workers arrived this summer.

Great Dam RemovalThe dam is gone. The fish ladder is gone. The penstock (pictured unsealed in first photo) has been sealed but remain as a reminder of Exeter’s history. A temporary cofferdam allowed the water to flow on one side while rock clusters and boulders were strategically installed on the dry side.

Click on photo to enlarge…

That work finished, the riverbed side was reversed last week. Water is being lowered on the left, the cofferdam moved, and the river diverted to the right. Large rocks and boulders are delivered daily and precisely placed by excavator. The sealed penstock can be seen in the 3rd photo.

Finished with the the closest river bed, they’re continuing the work downstream. They will begin to stregthen the existing foundations and add riprap as was done upstream. Our extreme drought has slowed water flow to a mere trickle which makes work easier on this project but tragic for the whole seacoast area.

The removal and work below the Great Bridge on the dam and river has been one of Exeter’s well-attended spectator events. Along with other residents, we are among the regulars watching the action. Click photos:

Some struggle to watch and others never see a thing! But they still come…

In addition, the String Bridge is being repaired. There’s always a lot to bring folks downtown these days. Whether shopping, dining, running errands, many pause to see what’s going on around the Great Dam project. It’s a popular pastime in Exeter and will continue to be until mid-October.

String Bridge

The New Hampshire Dept. of Environmental Services printed on their website that there are more than 4,800 active and inactive dams in the state. Many were built in the 19th and 20th century for industry. To view a list of dams that have been removed and those that are planned, click HERE. I’m very happy that we’ll make the “Completed” list soon.

There’s no R in August…

… but we ate them anyway.

oystersThere was a time when oysters were eaten only in the 8 months that contained an R in the name. May, June, July, and August were times we did not consume them in Virginia. Oyster Farming has changed all that in most places, and there’s another fact to consider. New England oysters are grown in colder waters, therefore safer to eat year-round, especially when harvested by reputable sources.

So we found ourselves back at Garnet Hill Mobile Boutique for a community invited spectacular wine and seafood fest. Food was provided by The White Apron and Stonewall Kitchen, all compliments of Garnet Hill.

IMG_5342Lots of nibbles and drinks….

And lots of nice folks…

Today is Garnet Hill Mobile Boutique’s last day. They pack up and head out to the South Street Seaport in New York City for their next event. It’s been fun having them here for upscale retail therapy, art by local artist Jay Schadler, gorgeous florals, yoga, bocce ball, parties, refreshments, kids’ crafts, live music, live radio, and good fun. Thank you Garnet Hill.

I don’t feed the birds anymore…

…with seeds in the summer, that is. What I mean is I don’t invest in expensive sunflower seeds all summer as I’ve done for 100 years. But I do provide food. It’s more natural food in the garden. We don’t have the variety of birds that we had keeping suet and seeds year round but we are royally entertained by those that frequent the landscape for berries, caterpillars and other insects, seeds on sunflowers, and we are generous with water. In an extreme drought like we are experiencing, all the neighborhood birds frequent the birdbath. Some simply sit and soak.

goldfinch on sunflower

Alas, I haven’t gone cold turkey with birdfood though. Maybe someday but for now  we are supplying mealworms to keep bluebirds (and us) happy. They are waiting when I take the feeder outside in the morning to have my coffee. And they are waiting when we supply mealworms at the dinner hour. We dine on the deck every evening and share space with 5 or 6 bluebirds of different ages…. parents and this year’s offspring.

Shortly after moving here, mister gardener made a bluebird box. It was doubtful we’d attract the birds in our small yard.  But, yes, if you build it, they will come. Last year was the first year. The couple had one nesting and now they have just completed their third nesting. That’s it for this year.


This morning I sipped my coffee and watched as the last youngster looked eager to take flight. I waited with a second cup of coffee.  And then it did…. with the parents there to protect and guide it to the big viburnum where the other fledglings waited. The parents and older siblings slowly urged the newest fledglings to the old oak tree at edge of the forest as they always do. We can hear lots of excited calls welcoming the youngest to the family. There they keep them safe, feed them from a variety of sources, and when they are older, we’ll see them coming for mealworms twice a day with the others.

August 22 - Last Bluebird Fledgling





The Oliver Hazard Perry

Like so many others last weekend, we decided to check out the tall ship Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island docked at the Fish Pier on Pierce Island in Portsmouth. It is the first full-rigged ocean ready ship built in America in over 110 years. Measuring 207 feet, it’s a three-masted square-rigged vessel and the largest privately owned tall ship sailing school and an official Good Will Ambassador for the state of Rhode Island.

Oliver Hazard Perry

Oliver Hazard Perry young navigator

The ratlines or footings that make a ladder take the crew aloft to stow the sail. Not for the faint-hearted. The tallest part of the rig reaches more than 13 stories. There are 14,000 square feet of sails and 7 miles of rigging.

Oliver Hazard Perry

Oliver Hazard Perry


I learned from young trainees onboard there’s a name for every sail and every rope. Makes sense. Even though this is their first voyage, I touched a random rope and the young man told me the name and its purpose. Impressive!

Oliver Hazard Perry

Oliver Hazard Perry

Oliver Hazard Perry

Below deck, we found climate controlled modern accommodations for 49 people, everything immaculate and tidy, the galley and dining hall, a meeting room, a science lab, and much electronic equipment. Sleeping quarters or staterooms were not on tour but we got a full description from a young trainee.

Oliver Hazard Perry below deck

Oliver Hazard Perry Log Book

Oliver Hazard Perry sailing student

Oliver Hazard Perry Galley

Oliver Hazard Perry dining hall

Oliver Hazard Perry charts

Oliver Hazard Perry below deck view

Back above deck we completed the tour and left enlightened and much better educated about tall ships in general and the Oliver Hazard Perry in particular.

Oliver Hazard Perry

To view a video of the Parade of Sail 2016 welcoming the Oliver Hazard Perry and the light-hulled tall ship, the Harvey Gamage, to Portsmouth, click HERE.

Proceeds from Sail Portsmouth tour will go toward Portsmouth Maritime Commission’s partnership with Seacoast Youth Services and the Sea Challenge. Later this summer, the Sea Challenge will sponsor at-risk youth and take them out for a week at sea. To learn more about the organization, click HERE.



Freezing Basil and Dill

I freeze my favorite herbs in batches all summer and at season’s end, I have enough to last the entire winter. Two of my favorite herbs are basil and dill. Yesterday was Freeze a Batch day for these herbs. There are a slew of methods out there for preserving herbs… air drying, oven drying, blanching, freezing in oil or water, freezing whole, but I simply do it my way, always the same way. I find that herbs done this way stay flavorful and tasty until I can harvest from the garden next year.



I pinch down my basil plants before they can form blooms and that makes them nice and bushy for a while. When we have more basil that we can use, I take a few stems early in the day and remove the leaves. I rinse them, drain, then rough chop in a food processor.

basil/food processsor

Into a zip lock freezer bag they go with a bit of water. I spread the basil thin and squeeze out as much air possible and zip it shut. Freeze. To use, just squeeze out and break off as much as you need. That’s all, folks!


Some can’t tolerate the pungent taste of dill but it’s one of my favorite herbs. I love dill dip, dill with salmon, dill and cucumber salad and more. mister gardener has a hundred ways to use this herb in recipes.

Harvest early in the day, picking leaves from stems. Rinse, drain, and place between paper towels for about a half hour until completely dry.


Mince the dry dill and drop it into a zip lock bag and freeze.


When a recipe calls for dill, just sprinkle out the amount of frozen dill needed.


Easy peasy, yes?  Now we have chives, oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and sage to freeze..

It’s a POP-UP!

Or can we call it a tiny home? Take your pick. All I know is I’d like to move in today.  Garnet Hill’s Mobile Boutique, created from a converted shipping container, has arrived in Exeter to offer customers the opportunity to experience and/or purchase their products. Garnet Hill is celebrating its 40th year in New Hampshire.  Exeter was chosen for Stop #1. Stop #2 is NYC.

I poked in today for a closer view.  This 880 sq.ft. tiny home has a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom with closet, a deck outside and another on the roof, and it’s completely furnished with delicious clothes (my size) and decor (my tastes). I’ve always loved the natural fibers the company uses, have purchased blankets and kids’ apparel but to see, touch, and feel all products and those clothes (in my closet) were amazing. Cashmere sweaters…. sigh.

Garnet Hill Mobile Boutique


Erin of Garnet Hill

Erin, manager of the mobile boutique, greeted me and explained the story behind the event and the idea of showing people what Garnet Hill is all about during this celebratory 40th year of business.

Garnet Hill Mobile Boutique

Garnet Hill Mobile Boutique - Murphy Bed

Garnet Hill Mobile Boutique

Garnet Hill blankets

Last night the local community was invited to a Garnet Hill free cocktail party at The Gourmet Lounge. Matt Louis of Moxy restaurant (our fav restaurant!) of Portsmouth NH, served oysters on the half shell with music, beer, wine, on-air radio, crafts and ice cream for the kiddos…. a grand opening extravaganza!

As I was leaving today, chefs were setting up for another event under the tents. Boxes were arriving, flowers placed on tables, and, oh what fun… extracurricular activities must include bocce ball.

Bocce Ball

Game Time!

If you have a chance, stop by the boutique in Exeter. It is located at 1 Franklin Street, next to the restaurant Blue Moon Evolution, until August 24, 2016.


Taking Chances in the Garden

When I first started gardening, I bought any and all perennials that looked pretty at the nursery and plopped them in my new gardens. I learned the hard way about the pitfalls and shortcomings of different plants and I’ve grown pretty choosy through the years. Perennials that reseed like crazy, are prone to mildew, grow leggy, or otherwise need need constant care generally don’t make the cut. Experience with some naughty perennials while gardening in Zone 7b cause them to be forever banned from my gardens:  ajuga (just try to contain it!), creeping jenny (lives anywhere… even in water!), deadnettle (think kudzu!), phlox (think mildew!), and several more.

However, negative thoughts about some undesirable plants, perennials and annuals, were softened after caring for them at Rolling Green Nursery for two summers. And working there made me reach out and take a chance with some of those banned ones and a few others:

Here are a few plants I took a chance on:

Brass Buttons (Leptinella) A mat-like ground cover that grows about 2 inches high. It has a reputation of being a thug in the garden but that hasn’t happened to me….yet… but I don’t think I’d mind if it did step out-of-bounds. It could make a great grass substitute. Its fern-like foliage is so unusual and attractive that I fell in love with this tough little plant. I’m always questioned about this unique perennial that grows in a spot where grass struggles to grow. Thumbs up!

Brass Buttons

Calamint (Calamintha nepeta ‘Blue Cloud’): Never in a million years would I have wanted a mint in my garden until I cared for this one at the nursery. It forms plumes of miniature, tubular blue flowers on spikes. A pollinator magnet, it blooms continuously from June till frost. I see no signs of wilting or disease during our severe drought this summer. If blooms flag, it benefits from a good trim and will reward with a second flush of flowers. I would not call it invasive. Thumbs up!
Red-veined Sorrel (Rumex sanguineus): Also called bloody dock, this European native can grow in the herb or vegetable garden, around the pond, or as an ornamental garden accent. I fell in love with the prominent red veins on the lance shaped leaves. Edible for some folks, but grown here as decorative accents. No flowers have emerged as of mid-August but they’ll be nipped as soon as they appear to prevent self-seeding. Thumbs up!
Red-veined Sorrel

Campanula carpatica ‘White Clips’: I cared for this little perennial for almost two summers at the nursery until I weakened and purchased a few. The showy bell-shaped white blooms face upward covering small compact clumps of foliage about 8 -10 inches high. I have it at the edge of a border in moist soil. We will cut it back hard very soon and will be rewarded with a flush of new growth and blooms.  Thumbs up!


Defiant Hybrid Tomato: I took a chance on this tomato plant that boasted blight resistance. It’s a determinate bush tomato plant that produces medium-size tomatoes. Jungseed.com writes, “This is the first tomato to crack the genetic code for late blight resistance. It has high resistance to late blight, intermediate resistance to early blight and great flavor, all in one.” Knock on wood that I don’t jinx it but it’s been almost PERFECT. The grandchildren picked two lovely tomatoes on their lunch visit to Nana’s yesterday… and there are 15 – 20 more ripening on the plant. Thumbs up!

Tomato 'Defiant'



Reunion 2016

What’s round on the ends and HI in the middle?


The great state of O-HI-O!

Ohio is where my 4 children and 7 of my 8 (soon to be 9) grandchildren from 3 states gathered for our annual hiking vacation. With a son living in the east-central part of the state, 14 of us converged there to laugh and tell stories, plan outings, to cook, eat and sleep in a rural setting surrounded by woods and farmland where wheat and corn dominated every horizon.



We accomplished our annual hike perfectly while keeping up with a son’s rigorous itinerary. We visited the stables where his daughters’ ponies were put through their paces for us, met the barn cats, and shared in pony grooming complete with treats.

Click on photos to enlarge

We shopped the vibrant and beautiful Wooster, Ohio.


Meals were simple and delicious. We ate well.

Deserts were simple, too. Either s’mores over a fire pit or our annual blackberry dessert with hard sauce or Kentucky Derby Pie. Local blackberries weren’t available but black raspberries were sold from an Amish neighbor’s garden. This area is home to the world’s largest Amish community. Great neighbors!

Our hike took place at Wooster Memorial Park, also called Spangler Park, owned by the city of Wooster. Over  320 acres and 7 miles of foot trails up and down steep ravines, through lush woodland, scenic overlooks, and far stretching farm fields loaded with wildflowers.

Days slipped by quickly and before we knew it, it was time to pack up and return home… but not before one last celebration: a monumental firework display to celebrate our happy family gathering.


Here today, Gone by Noon: Mushrooms

Storms, flooding, heat waves, droughts are capturing headlines lately.  Where I live, the Seacoast of New Hampshire, we are surviving the ‘Drought of 2016’. Not good. Wells are running dry; there are water restrictions and serious monetary fines for non-compliance in communities. Storm clouds and rain seem to go north or they go south of us and out to sea.  But last week we experienced some pop-up showers/storms and higher humidity. For a few days afterwards, these tiny mushrooms appeared here and there in the wee hours of the morning. They were sparse but they dotted only my lawn and no other yard that I could see.



They are so fragile a mushroom that by noon, they had spread their spores and disappeared. Each morning the cycle repeated with a few tiny mushrooms appearing in the morning dew.

They are a fungus with living parts a foot or more under the soil. It’s not a bad thing and can actually be good for the lawn. They feed on decaying matter and release nutrients into the soil. In my case, the decaying matter is probably grass clippings. Although we live in a complex that provides a mowing service, I prefer to do my own. The mowing service roars through our complex in the hottest part of the day on fairway-type tractors spewing clippings into borders and scalping grass to 1″ in height. They weed & feed twice a summer and routinely spray pesticides.

I couldn’t accept any of that so here was my simple solution: No fertilizer, No weed killer, and No pesticides in my tiny stretch of lawn. After a soil sample by University of New Hampshire told me I need no more nitrogen and no more phosphorus, only potassium, I added just that.  In my small yard, I pull weeds by hand and I cut my own grass with the mower below.



I mow late in the day and I mow our grass  3″ high. The grass clippings stay on the lawn, and, yes, it does seem to be healthier.  Plus a bonus: I had these cute little mushrooms greeting me at dawn for a short time. It’s a very good thing….

Breaking Silence

Yes, it’s been a year away from this site. Not really a vacation though. One of my three sisters and BFF is no longer. Losing her, settling her affairs, and accepting the void has been a year’s adjustment. Garrison Keillor said it best when he expressed his loss of a sibling: “When your brother dies, your childhood fades, there being one less person to remember it with, and you are left disinherited, unarmed, semiliterate, an exile.”  Life goes on for the siblings left behind. Six of us now. All adjusting. Accepting. Closing ranks. Closer than ever. Carpe diem.

Life in our small landscape (following condominium removal of beautiful white pines, large lilacs and the recent severe pruning of odd-shaped rhododendrons) is in constant motion. Dig, dig, dig, plant, weed, mulch, pass-along, transplant, and repeat. We’ve gained a little more property with tree removal (good) and now have 100% sun (bad). We’ve awakened the inner-gardener in residents (good) and we wave to each other as we toil in the soil and perhaps share a glass of wine at day’s end (good).

In down time, we hover beneath an umbrella from the sun on our deck and move our chairs with the shade. We’ve planted three understory-sized trees… 2 Amelanchier trees and 1 Styrax japonicus.  Benefiting from their shade is not in our near future. However, they look fabulous in the barren ‘living wall’ of this condominium complex.

In a short time we went from a small shady landscape with no arranged borders….


… to a bit larger, all sun landscape where I developed more formal gardens:


Flowering shrubs have always tugged at my heartstrings with blooms for the bees and fall berries for the birds. In the curved borders above went Little Lime hydrangeas in the foreground with viburnum varieties, highbush blueberry, a variety of hollies, enkianthus, a couple of pearl bushes, a juniper, and three mid-size trees along the beds. Liriope, calamint ‘Blue Cloud’, and lavender fill in along the edged borders. How blue! How bees! How birds!



Three different climbing clementis plants now fill this metal trellis will color against a bare wall of the home. The birdbath has been replaced by an urn.


In another area, we nursed a tiny potager garden with herbs, lettuce and other edibles. A small boxwood garden was added this spring with a bubbling fountain. Condo life is a ‘mother may I?’ existence, so with fingers crossed we hope to be granted permission soon to remove our aged deck and replace it with a smart terrace protected from the sun by a pergola. Fabulous. Just have to convince the powers that be.