Memorial Day musings

IMG_4737Happy Memorial Day America. To those who serve our country, and those who have served, Thank You.

IMG_4750These are the flowers on my comfrey plant, which is opening now. I bought it last year, and it shrugged off the nasty winter without any problems. I recommend this plant for several reasons. Pollinators love it, it is a medium-sized plant that adds a nice blue color to my perennial border, and although I will never explore its medicinal properties, it also has a ton of those. According to my cursory research, comfrey tea can be used to treat everything from digestive upsets to cancer. It can also help treat skin problems and even fractures.

IMG_4744Here it is, growing next to my very red azalea. You can see it is not at all diminutive or retiring. This plant can hold its own.

IMG_4749Here’s another view of it. It’s more impressive when the flowers are completely open.

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On a less positive note, this photo, taken through a window with my phone, depicts the quick and tragic end of my snap pea crop. We thought that maybe this year the rabbits would somehow overlook them, but no. They simply waited until they were about six inches tall, hopped over the fence, and devoured them. Then this big, plump lagomorph, (looks like a doe to me) stuffed with tender shoots, had a nice rest IN the bed. Where are those foxes that kept the rabbits in check? This is what happens when the predators go away.

I cannot conclude this post without saying, once again, for the record, that the new Mac photo application is without a doubt one of the most annoying I have ever had to use. I am still trying to figure out how to label my photos, and even the editing has been made more confusing and inefficient.

Why, why, why did they do this? To see how far they could push their customers before they went running back to the welcoming arms of Microsoft? Did they have some down time on a rainy afternoon, and someone suggested they screw around with iPhoto just to see what would happen? Did someone slip something into the Red Bull that day? And did they decide NOT to warn their users before springing this travesty on us because they wanted to watch us suffer? I guess we will never know.

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Into the woods – again

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It was a rough winter here in Rhode Island on many levels. I had an injury that kept me from skiing and hiking for a couple of months. I tried to be mature about it, but I really missed my time outdoors and I did get grumpy for a while.

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I’ve been getting back out recently, just in time for spring to spring, if you know what I mean. On this trail, it looks like it’s going to be another awesome year for Lady Slipper orchids. These cypripediums grow in the most unlikely places; in tiny soil pockets on rocks, and sometimes right in the middle of trails. But try growing them in your garden if they aren’t there already and you’ll see how demanding these orchids can be. Perhaps it’s better to leave them in the woods and just enjoy them there. (Of course, no plants should ever be collected in the wild…)

IMG_4605The woods are greening up in that special tender shade that only happens in the spring.

IMG_4616Every time we go out, something else is budding, blooming or leafing…like this pine putting out some impressive candles.

For those hikers with thick fur coats, spring is also a time to slip quietly into a secret pool.

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Rhode Island is an underrated hiking paradise. In every season.

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Quirky and fun

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This is the extensive collection of solar motion figures that resides in a post office somewhere in the boonies of RI. I think it is stunning, in a cute and whimsical way.

Here’s a tighter shot of some of them. I am partial to the elephant. His ears flap.

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If this post looks a little strange, it’s because I used my iPhone to write it. My Mac is down and I will now have to grit my teeth and bring it to the skinny jean- wearing hipsters at the Genius Bar to see whether it can be saved.

Please bear with me.

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Here’s the poop

Photo: Hestemoj

Photo: Hestemoj

We gardeners are well aware of the value of manure in enriching the soil. But did you know that there is a festival entirely dedicated to poop? Yes siree, it’s the North American Manure Expo, which takes place in Chambersberg, PA on July 15.

Despite my immature smirking, manure is very serious business, because in addition to boosting soil nutrients, it can also be a major threat to waterways by overloading them with nutrients and producing what are known as “dead zones.”

The show brings together government, scientists, intensive livestock producers, manure applicators and the companies that manufacture the equipment used to store it, stir it, and spread it all around.

OK let’s get back to the smirking. This festival does not take itself too seriously, thank goodness. In fact, organizers are holding a contest, open to the public, to choose a slogan for this year’s expo. Among the entries submitted so far:

  • Manure Expo: where nobody stands behind their product
  • You provide the creek, we provide the paddle
  • We do doo. Do you?

The contest closes on May 15.

There’s a lot going on in the world of manure. With so much of it to deal with, the agriculture industry is always looking for new ways to use it productively and dispose of it safely. The show will feature demonstrations of new pumps, recycling methods, and technology to remove nutrients such as phosphorus that causes algae blooms in fresh water.

The first Manure Expo was held in Wisconsin in 2001, and it seems to have gotten bigger every year. If I were in the Chambersberg area, I would go.

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Top dogs

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How about these women, with their arms full o’ shih tzus? I have never been into breeding or showing dogs, but I do take in the occasional dog show if it’s nearby. Just for the canine eye candy.

This weekend, I went to the South County Kennel Club’s American Kennel Club -sanctioned show in Richmond RI. And yes, I was interested in the corgis, because I have one. This isn’t a large show, but it is still serious for the breeders, whose dogs earn AKC points which add up to championships. I strolled around, searching for corgi breeders until I found Diane of Sandwynn Corgis in NH. Feast your eyes on “Big Papi,” being made as perfect as possible before he entered the ring.

IMG_4450Here’s a frontal view. Papi did well in the ring, coming away with several ribbons and lots of points. He is 1 1/2 years old, and really gets off on all the attention.

IMG_4423Then we have little 10-month-old Jazzy, from the same kennel, who was entered as a puppy. What a sweetheart, with kisses for everyone. Here she is waiting to go into the ring.

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The Cardigan Welsh corgis went in first, and there were just a couple of them. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Cardigans, they  are a completely different breed than Pembrokes. “Cardis,” as they are known, are descended from dachshunds, they have tails, and they are seen in different coats like brindle and blue merle. They’re bigger, too.

“Buba” from MA liked to de-stress by sitting up.

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And this is the lovely “Lark” from VT doing her thing in the ring.

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Here are some of the Pembrokes and their handlers, waiting for the judge’s decision.

IMG_4546Papi and Jazzy did well today, and their breeder went home happy. Here’s how they travel in the van. The dog on the left is 13-year-old Brigitte, who is retired from the show ring but still comes along, just to take it all in.

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A begonia to love

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I am not a big begonia fan, but I have had this one, Begonia ‘Richardsiana’ growing in my kitchen for about a year. Not only is this an easy houseplant to grow (mine is in a northeast facing window) but check out those cutleaf maple-type leaves and the bulbous trunk, or caudex, which looks very bonsai-like.

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This plant, a semi-tuberous begonia native to South Africa, is almost always in bloom. I grow it on the kitchen table so I can enjoy its strangeness.  I keep it pinched back to maintain its  shape.

I bought this one at Logee’s for less than $20. The plant was in an attractive but totally useless bonsai pot. I had to re-pot it after just a few weeks, because it was drying out so fast.

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Annoyances

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Let me begin on a positive note, by thanking fellow blogger Laurie Eno of The Daily Corgi for cross posting my last entry about my corgi’s shedding. I had a HUGE spike in readership, all thanks to her. Please take a minute to check out her well-written, funny and informative blog.

Annoyance #1: This post was a long time in the writing, all because I was a good little Mac user and obediently downloaded the latest update. When I went to upload photos, iPhoto was gone and in its place, a completely different platform called “photos.”

It would be nice if Apple warned its users of these sorts of changes BEFORE they downloaded updates. At the very least, they could have warned me that I would have to change the way I store, sort and post photos. But they do not give a shit, so they didn’t, and I am still trying to figure out how everything works.

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Annoyance#2: Ugly lawn ornaments are appearing everywhere, all made in China and designed to eclipse any natural feature with their gaudy colors and kitschy messages.

Here’s another sample:

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Annoyance #3: Poisonous chemicals like this, which are mass marketed to people who are too lazy to dig out their weeds. A veritable plague.

IMG_4286Thanks. I needed to get that off my chest.

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A fluff piece

IMG_4271She looks innocent enough, but, like all corgis, at this time of year, Fidgit  goes through a shed of gargantuan proportions.

Corgis have very thick double coats, designed to repel mud and water when the dogs are gainfully employed doing what they were originally bred to do: herd cattle. This design is an absolute marvel in many ways. It is a great insulator, and it sheds dry mud and grit on its own.

BUT, in late March and early April, and, to a lesser extent in the fall, this marvelous coat renews itself and the old hair falls out.

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This is what I live with at this time of year. I get so accustomed to having hair in everything that I sometimes arrive at work and suddenly notice that my clothes are covered with it. It is extremely inadvisable to shave or clip corgis, because their coats, which, after all, are that way for a reason, never grow back the same.

So, I brush. Behold the result of just a couple of minutes’ work. And believe it or not, it could be worse! For those readers unfamiliar with the corgi breed, some of these dogs are born with extra-fluffy coats and are called, appropriately, fluffs. The extra-fluffy coat (which makes for a corgi of extreme cuteness) is considered a fault, so those corgis go to pet homes and are not seen in the show ring. I cannot imagine what their shedding seasons are like.

IMG_4278Of course, I would never let this wonderful, soft material go to waste, so I put it out for the birds, which are building nests now. I like to think of all the little nests in my neighborhood, lined with Fidgit’s hair.

Happy Easter, my friends.

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Seeds and snow

IMG_4243I awoke to a surprise this morning. Just when most of the snow had melted, we had a few more inches. Ironically, my seeds arrived the day before. I always end up buying more stuff locally as I plan the garden, but I do order a few, peas and beans mostly.

IMG_4244I grow pole beans, because my garden is too small for bush varieties. New for me this year are a yellow type, pictured above, and an interesting purple bean.

IMG_4249These purple-podded beans are very different-looking, but I like to try something new every year. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

IMG_4251I grow scarlet runner beans every year, but this variety is new to me. It promises to produce a mass of hummingbird-attracting red flowers, AND if picked early, the pods are said to be delicious eating. Plants that do double duty are always at the top of my list.

I also saved beans from last year. Cherokee Trail of Tears is one of my favorites.

Here in RI, they say we should be planting our snap peas around St. Patrick’s Day. Not this year, that’s for sure.

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Zeppole!

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Quirky little state that it is, Rhode Island celebrates St. Joseph’s Day on March 19 with more zeal than St. Patrick’s Day two days earlier, because people of Italian decent outnumber those of Irish decent here. The celebration of the husband of the Virgin Mary is marked by one dominant activity: lining up for, buying and eating zeppole.

Zeppole are cream-filled pastries. I have had a few since I moved here 17 years ago, and I was underwhelmed by the sweetness of the filling and the often soggy pastry. This time, after reading that the BEST ZEPPOLE IN THE WORLD were made at a bakery very near where I work, I decided to buy a couple. These were certainly superior to any I had eaten before. The pastry was crispy and the filling seemed to consist primarily of riccota so it was not overly sweet. And if you look at the cherry in the above photo, you will notice that it is not one of those vile candied things.

Please contact me if your state or country celebrates this occasion, and if so, if you also eat zeppole. I doubt I’ll hear a peep from anyone.

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