Let me in! It’s cold outside….

With the season changing and evening temperatures dropping, there have been one or two visitors that have found their way indoors this fall. And we’ve seen a few wandering around on the outside of the house.  It’s the Tree Stink Bug, Brochymena spp., sometimes called Bark or Rough Stink Bug. They’re all looking for a warm place to spend the winter months. Most will hibernate in leaf litter or under the bark of a tree but they can feel the warmth of our man-made shelter and are drawn to it.

Tree Stink Bug

Tree or Rough Stink Bug

These true bugs have spent the summer gorging on flora with their piercing mouthpiece and now they are looking for a good hibernation spot. The one pictured above had hibernated in leaf litter and I uncovered it while putting my garden to bed for the winter.

The Tree Stink Bug is very similar in appearance to a more dangerous stink bug, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, Halyomorpha halys, that has swept into the USA after being  accidentally introduced in the late 90’s. Two characteristics that can tell these two stink bugs apart are the toothed or ridged shoulders and the lack of white banding on the antennae on the Tree Stink Bug.

Tree Stink Bug

The Tree Stink Bug has ridges along the shoulder.  The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug does not. Click the photo to see the ridges up close.

Most folks are aware of the invasion of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. In some areas of the country, the insects have invaded homes by the hundreds. And they are the cause of great damage to fruits and crops. Pesticides have limited effect on the insect and there is no natural enemy in our country. The insect has been spotted in one neighborhood in Portsmouth.  UNH Cooperative Extension Specialist, Alan Eaton, and State Entomologist Piera Siegert ask to be notified if you spot the Brown Marmorated Stinkbug (BMSB) anywhere in New Hampshire. Check out the Wikipedia photo of the BMSB below. There is white banding on the antennae and there are no ridges on the shoulders.

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug need to be reported if seen in NH. (Wikipedia photo)

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug needs to be reported if seen in NH.

Strawbery Banke…. forever

Once upon a time, the community of Portsmouth was known by other names. First known as Piscataqua, then Strawbery Banke for the wild strawberries along the riverbanks, and finally Portsmouth in 1653 in honor of the colony founder, John Mason, who was once the captain of Portsmouth, England in the county of Hampshire. Many original buildings survive in Portsmouth and much of the charm of the community is due to the wonderful and quaint New England architecture.

Within walking distance of the town is historic Strawbery Banke Museum, New Hampshire’s oldest settlement with restored Colonial, Georgian and Federal style buildings. On a chilly but sunny morning recently, we took a stroll around the grounds.

We visited before the museum was open for the season. Buildings were closed. But projects were happening. We saw mounds of topsoil being moved into place; we saw excavations and foundation work on the buildings; we watched earthmovers disappearing around corners; we spotted flats of flowers for planting and we even saw a few volunteers among the many workers, kneeling before gardens, digging and planting.This weekend, museum volunteers will arrive in mass to celebrate Earth Day by cleaning, raking, and planting all the gardens.

Most buildings looked completely restored but a few were waiting their turn.

This one had a new roof and foundation work was in progress.

This entire area was slated for demolition in the late 1950’s. It was city librarian Dorothy Vaughn who spurred on the local Rotary Club to save the homes. Local citizens were soon inspired as a community to rescue this historic riverfront area. When museum doors are unlocked on May 1 and the flowers are planted and all the soil is neatly spread where it belongs, we will again visit this 9.5 acre outdoor museum and be transported back almost 400 years through the 1950’s.

Wild about Stonewall Kitchen…

When my daughter led me on a shopping/sightseeing tour of Portsmouth in January, little did she know that one tiny store would have a major gastronomic impact my life. Stonewall Kitchen.  I had never purchased their products but with numerous samples in the store, I couldn’t get enough of everything they provided. Each morsel was an epicurean explosion of taste. And then I couldn’t stop buying….

I have purchased goods for me, for guests, and have had them shipped to friends. The dessert sauces over ice cream are wicked. I’ve bought more than I care to admit and declare the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Sauce tough to beat. It is bold and sweet with a hint of salt. How many of those jars have we emptied?

Ahhhhh… the jams. I want to eventually sample them all. The sour cherry and the Strawberry Peach are an explosion of flavor on toast (or on ANYTHING, for that matter!)

Since that fateful day, I have discovered the Home Office, Cafe, Cooking School and fabulous Country Store just across the Maine border in York. I’ve visited twice and brought home a trunk full of garden supplies, salad dressings, mustards, a cookbook, candy, more jams and sauces to sample. They have so many I’ll never taste them all. But being the inquisitive person I am, I am most assuredly going to try.

I’ve driven over to the cafe twice for a delicious breakfast cooked from scratch. It’s wonderful to order your meal, then be able to roam and explore every nook and cranny of the well-stocked shop, sampling new tastes and wander until you are called. Best of all, there’s a cooking school to boot. If I can interest mister gardener, we will certainly take advantage of that when the weather warms a bit.

I Don’t Miss the WEEDS!

Today feels like summer outside. It’s 62° and the sun is shinning. It’s time to venture outside to survey gardens and start the spring cleanup.

Two daughters, one in Kentucky, one in New Hampshire, have sent emails that they’re working in their yards today. The New Hampshire daughter has a huge job of raking and bagging leaves in her fenced-in backyard in Portsmouth. They do keep enough leaves for their compost but we’re talking about tons of leaves, folks. She has shrubs but no ornamental gardens… yet. Give her time. She’s only been living there 8 months.

Alas, the Kentucky daughter has a different garden mess to contend with in USDA Hardiness Zone 6b. An avid gardener, she has ornamental, vegetable and water gardens. Warming trends have brought her many more weed varieties that she did not have in her gardens 5 years ago. The problem is literally taking her to her knees… to pull weeds.

She asked me to identify some of her worst offenders. Her emails pictured the same weeds that were the bane of my existence in Virginia. She has henbit and purple dead nettle with their deceivingly lovely purple flowers, covered with bees in early spring.

purple dead nettle

Henbit

I warned her about getting too close to the dangerous hairy bittercress that she described with its spring-loaded seeds that can almost blind a gardener. Hope she eradicates this because a large one can spew up to a thousand seeds. Since she’s organic, she must dig and pull, bag and discard, mulch and mulch and mulch.

Bittercress

As for me, I’m walking around this New Hampshire yard (knock on wood) and I see no weeds… not a one…yet. It may be too early for weeds to show themselves around here, but I am hopeful and optimistic that the weeds of my wonderful Virginia in zone 7b will not find me in zone 5b.

Preparations for Moving…

It’s interesting how a few words revolving around moving are the same ones used in gardening: uprooting, transplanting, pull up stakes, putting down roots. Very soon we will be doing all that as we find new homes for potted plants, dividing and sharing poets laurel from the garden.  But then, we’re also busy interviewing moving companies, talking to real estate agents in Portsmouth, finding new homes for household items, and tying off  loose ends in the community.

Ware Neck

The tying off loose ends is the most difficult task. Although I’ve resided in Florida and Ohio where work took the family, then finally coming back to Virginia, where I was born and raised, the home of my ancestors and where much family lives, felt like fitting the last piece in the puzzle. It is Home. The importance of a physical place and relationships cannot be understated because it makes us who we are. But we will be taking it all with us, not leaving anything behind.  Family, friendship and experiences.

North River

All will be making the move to New Hampshire with us. They will be there on frosty winter mornings as I sip my coffee from the mug imprinted with the Virginia Creed, ” To be a Virginian either by Birth, Marriage, Adoption, or even on one’s Mother’s side, is an Introduction to any State in the Union, a Passport to any Foreign Country, and a Benediction from Above.”—Anonymous