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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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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Games retailers play


This has absolutely nothing to do with gardening. It is a rant about how retailers sometimes feel the need to torment their customers with time-consuming nonsense such as surveys and games. Doesn’t it drive you crazy when you receive a “customer satisfaction survey” after you’ve placed an order? I’ve been getting a lot of those lately.

One particularly annoying time-waster is the current “Monopoly” game at Shaw’s supermarkets. I really like our local Shaw’s and shop there weekly, but my big mistake was getting started on Monopoly, which is a monumental time-suck and incredibly annoying.

Every time you shop at Shaw’s, they give you a little paper packet for each $10 you spend. When you first start “playing” they give you a paper game board, too (pictured above). I should have known I was headed for trouble when I opened the game board and saw all the niggly details on it.


Back to the packets. First you must fold each end and carefully tear the ends so the packet opens. Then you carefully peel open the packet. Next, you carefully separate the four tiny game pieces from the coupon or whatever is on the other half – usually a number for those who are playing the online version, or a coupon for something I would never in a million years EVER buy, like air freshener.

The real fun starts when you try to find the right place to stick your little game pieces. The pieces have numbers and each also has a letter from A to Z. But the corresponding place for each sticker is not  intuitively placed on the game board, so each placement is a search for the proper spot. You must collect and stick all game pieces in a category to win the prize in that category.

Did some MBA at corporate headquarters think that by making us search all over the board to find the spot for a game piece we would subconsciously desire the products whose names we were seeing during the course of our search? That certainly didn’t work with me.


I have been “playing” this for about three weeks, and I am now finding that after spending a half hour or more trying to place those little game pieces, the spots are almost all taken – except for the few remaining ones that I need to collect for the really good prizes like $1 million or a fabulous vacation home. I end up throwing away countless duplicate tickets.

I work full time. I have a life, with a family, a dog and hobbies. I do not have time to sit at my kitchen table looking for spots to place stickers on. WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?????

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Snow days

IMG_4153It’s been a rough week here in Rhode Island. We had two more significant snowfalls, and everyone is winter-weary. Meetings have been canceled, or even worse, they were held on snowy nights, meaning I had to make my way home late at night, on roads that had not been plowed. But enough about me.

The above photo was taken the morning after the latest storm. Everything was clean and white and glowing in the early sun, as if it had all been given a fresh coat of paint.


The egret ornament in my neighbor’s garden looked nice in the snow.

IMG_4159The path to the driveway is getting deeper and narrower.

IMG_4146The man who plows our driveway told me he was having trouble finding places to put all the snow.

IMG_4164I do believe that even I, the great Snow-lover, have had enough of this. I’m tired of preparing for it, talking about it, dressing for it, driving in it, working around it, clearing it, and writing about it.

As if I have any say in the matter.


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It’s tough out there


See the Canada goose in the center of the photo? It’s starving.

IMG_4100The migratory geese left long ago, and the resident population is now desperately searching for bare grass to eat. There isn’t much of that to be found, and they’re hanging out in people’s yards, many of them too weak to fly very far.

This is a tough time for many birds and animals. It’s also a beautiful time, if you make the effort to get outside. Mornings are particularly lovely.

IMG_4050This azalea, coated in fluffy snow, was stunning in the dawn sunlight.

IMG_4049As was Rudbeckia Henry Eilers.

IMG_4074The woods were bright and clean and quiet.

IMG_4059The rhododendrons were curled into themselves against the cold. Sometimes, I feel that way.

IMG_4066But not today.

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Why I grow orchids

IMG_4011Because during the darkest days of winter, they burst into flower.

IMG_3912Because they sit quietly on my desk while I’m working, and give me something beautiful to gaze at.

IMG_3998Because they add so much color to my living room, and they ask for so little.

IMG_3999That’s why I grow orchids.

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Looking at the bright side



I do love winter, and spend as much of it as I can outdoors. This photo was taken while we were hiking the Francis Carter Preserve. The snow was packed down, so we didn’t need snowshoes. It was an uplifting couple of hours.

It has been a wearing few weeks for us here in RI, and even more so in neighboring MA. Storm after storm, with strong winds, snow, frigid temperatures and constant cancellations. This post will focus on the bright side, my attempt to remain positive.

IMG_3895Another shot taken at Francis Carter. The stone walls are gorgeous.

IMG_3832_2And the downhill skiing – well this says it all. Some of those tracks are mine.


In recent years, the west has had all the snow, while we scraped by here in the east. Not so this year. The tables have turned.

IMG_3893Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody.

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IMG_3859This wintry scene is the view from my desk. Beautiful, but also potentially dangerous.

IMG_3851 There’s the culprit: a hard, slippery coating of ice.


Here’s where it becomes a problem. Just getting to the end of our driveway is now a major undertaking.


Walking on the snow doesn’t help, because that’s coated with ice, too.

I would rather not use sand on the driveway because it makes a horrible mess in the house. And we have so much ice that using ice melting products is not an environmentally sound option. So I brought out the heavy artillery: crampons.

IMG_3854My sister in Canada gave me these several years ago. I have used them often on icy hikes, and at times like this when everything is slippery. Not all crampons are created equal. Some don’t stay on and others aren’t grippy enough. At the time I received these, they were the ones used by letter carriers. They are easy to put on and they work really well.

IMG_3867Here’s what they look like on.

Problem solved. (Just don’t wear them inside your house. They’ll wreck your floors.)

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SnowMaster will now demonstrate proper powder navigation technique.


Step 1: Survey your surroundings.



Step 2: launch.



Step 3: get all crazy and weird. Corgi people call this behavior “derp.”


More derp. Notice the flattened ears and rolling eyes. Classic.


Step 4: run flat out. Give it all you’ve got.



Step 5: pause to enjoy the moment



Step 6: run back inside. Your work is done.




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All’s quiet on the blizzard front


The “blizzard of 2015″ continues here in coastal Rhode Island. It’s hard to know how much snow we have received, but the weather service says it’s between 1 1/2 to 2 feet. The wind is a big problem, blowing it all around into drifts.

My biggest fear was losing power, but so far we haven’t, thanks largely to the light, dry quality of the snow, which didn’t weigh down tree branches or power lines.


My second biggest worry was taking the dog out first thing this morning. I ended up shoveling a path through a drift at our steps, and once we got to the driveway, the man had come to plow so we just walked to the road. She didn’t like the stinging snowflakes blown into her eyes by the wind, but she performed like a trooper anyway.


Look at that face. No doubt what she’s thinking.

Once we got out onto the road, she was happier.


I was anticipating lots of hungry birds and put out food accordingly. Despite being buffeted by the wind, they stuffed their beaks. I even had a common redpoll feeding with the goldfinches, the first I have ever seen in RI. Here’s a shot of the birds taken through the window. Two juncoes on the left and a song sparrow on the right.


There’s still a total travel ban here, so I cannot go anywhere. Yay! As long as I am warm, I can deal with the rest.

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