Silent Sunday

Dogwood Horizontal

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April the Cruel


T.S. Eliot opined: “April is the cruelest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.”


But while certainly occasionally cruel, April has a gentle side as well, tempering thunderstorms and late frosts with soft rains and sunny warm days that coerce you outdoors with unspoken promises.


And April smells like no other month, tempting us with a green and fertile perfume as the ground warms and wakes, pushing forth a host of tender seedlings, both welcome (hello, peas!) and unwelcome (ugh, crabgrass!).

This April has been a weather rollercoaster for us, with 70 degree (F) days followed by snow squalls followed by thunderstorms. We pretend to be shocked by the whiplashing but April in our part of the Ohio River Valley behaves this way most years, a tantrum-throwing toddler of a month.

I like April. Despite the mud (and there’s a lot!), and the inability to dress properly for the capricious weather, it’s a blessing to get out and putter around in the garden, even if I’m not doing anything more productive than pulling up a wayward dandelion here and there. It feels so good to be outside in the April air and take stock of the yard and garden. Time to see what winter damage may have occurred to the various plants and shrubs . Oh, and pick up the hundreds (possibly thousands) of branches and twigs shrugged off from our trees during the winter gales. (Which gives us an excuse to build a cheery bonfire on a chilly spring day.)


Chores for April:

  • Add compost to the garden beds
  • Start even more seeds indoors (if I can find a horizontal space left uncovered)
  • Plant peas, spinach, kale, swiss chard, radishes and other hardy treats
  • Make a tentative plan for the annual beds
  • Turn the compost bins
  • Do battle with emerging chipmunks

How’s April treating you where you live? Are you itching’ to get gardening again?


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Vernal Equinox


Daffodils braving the cold!

We’ve had a good winter this year. For our family, that means a several good snows and temperatures low enough to merit wool sweaters and long underwear . The kids received a gift of snow days off from school and we took full advantage, sledding and drinking hot chocolate.

But enough is enough.

We’ve had a few whispers of spring, with  few days reaching into the sixties but a cold spell would snap us back into the reality that we were still tilted away from the sun.

And now here we are. Spring Equinox. And us Northern Hemispher-ites cant our faces back toward Ol’ Sol and the promises of warmer weather.


The forsythia branches are ripe with buds, the daffodils brave the cold and the garden waits patiently for an indoctrination of radish, spinach, sugar snap peas and any other seeds I think I can get away with planting early. You can almost hear the magnolia trees humming with the electric desire to send their blossoms bursting forth.

But this winter is particularly tenacious. He is hanging on with tooth and nail and promising us another four to six inches of snow and ice and freezing rain and any other tricks he has up his frosty sleeve. One more (we hope) big bad wintry mess is headed our way before spring’s gentle breezes coax us outside in short sleeves.


We’re become accustomed to a spring with a fickle nature in our patch of the Ohio River Valley. It’s not rare to see flower blossoms here looking shocked and more than a little indignant, peeking out from a blanket of snow. But being accustomed doesn’t ease our spring fever as we stare out the window at the garden patch while the spade and hoe recline slothfully in a dark corner of the shed.

But soon, very soon, we’ll all get to work!

How’s your winter been? Are you ready for spring? And what’s on your shortlist of spring chores?

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November’s Welcome


Sometimes, in our share of the Ohio River Valley, summer slams into winter without much autumn to buffer the shock. September and October days that seem more June-like keep us in shorts and flip-flops. Our sweaters pine away in the back of the wardrobe. Wearing t-shirts instead of flannel shirts to the pumpkin patch has become the new normal.

And then, BAM! Frost and chilly rains. Aa good hard freeze takes most of the garden down to the soil line. (And coaxes us to walk around wrapped in wool and fleece.)

Our blood hasn’t thickened up yet, as my grandmother would say. A 55 degree Fahrenheit day in October seems so much colder than a 55 degree day in March. 55 degrees in October make us want to light the fire and drink cocoa. But 55 degrees in March make us want to hie to the garden and start digging!

So we never know what October 31st will bring. Will the kids need their long johns under their Halloween costumes? Or will they be sweltering under the weight of their wizard’s cloak and princess skirts?

This year was chilly, but dry, just what we like in an All Hallow’s Eve. Build a cozy fire in the fire pit. Sip a little hot cider. Consume enough Halloween candy to put a hippo into a sugar coma. Now that makes for a pretty darn good night.

I took a stroll to the garden this morning. In the herb bed, only the flat-leaf parsley seems to be holding on. I probably should’ve harvested the last of it. Maybe if I  find a parsley-forward recipe for supper, we can enjoy the last sprigs properly.

Elsewhere in the garden, I’ve left a a few Padron peppers on the plant in order to harvest the seeds for next year. They are a perfect shade of red. But these are  tricky peppers. When they’re young, they’re delicious when quick-sauteed in a little olive oil then sprinkled with sea salt. But among the gently spicy ones, a nuclear-fired one will lurk, waiting to surprise you by melting your face. An appetizer that’s not only delicious but a (sometimes) hilarious game.

As the peppers mature, we’ve found that some mellow with age and some do not. Sort of like people.

Padron Pepper

And so November begins cold and rainy for us. Some folks dislike Gray November, but i like the chilly days and cold nights, perfect for a hot cup of tea and my favorite woolly sweater. Look for Joy wherever you can find it and life is just a little easier.

How is your November dawning? Are all your Autumn tasks complete, gardening and otherwise?

And Happy Dia de los Muertos!

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September Means Sunflowers and Salsas

Scarlet Sunflower

Summer has slipped into September, which means cool weather will soon descend on our part of the Ohio River Valley. We still have 3 more weeks until the Autumnal Equinox, but (probably due to wishful thinking) I’m pretty sure I can feel the crisp air of fall, at least in the early mornings.

Heirloom Tomatoes

We had a lovely tomato crop this year despite cooler than average temperatures. Our compatriots just to the south of us had a surfeit of rain that was not overly friendly to the tomato plants and a little too friendly to the various fungi and blights that can plague the garden patch. We tried several new varieties of heirlooms this year, including Sunrise Bumblebee, Harvard Square, Black Cherry and Dragon’s Eye.

I ask you, Dear Reader, how can you not resist growing a tomato named Sunrise Bumblebee?

I was determined to keep good notes on how the tomato patch progressed, the successes, the failures, and what we’d want to bring back next year. But I learned a valuable lesson: Determination alone is sometimes not enough to accomplish one’s goals. I did managed to scratch down a few sporadic notes. With luck, those few cryptic passages will be enough to plan next years crop.

How did your garden fare this summer? Did you have any particular successes to recommend and that will become a regular in your plot?

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As Summer Slips Away


Summer loosens her grip on us reluctantly in our part of Kentucky, snug on the southern shores of the Ohio River Valley. The heat and humidity claw at us through the month of August and  well into zinnia

Occasionally, though, we are gifted with a day or two of lower temperatures. A cold front from the Northlands will wash away the hot, languid air, making mornings crisp and putting a spring in our step.

As the poet Ernest Dowson declares: “Summer’s loss seems little, Dear! On days like these.”sunflowers

If at all possible, these mornings must be spent out in the sunshine. And there’s plenty to do in the garden.


Tomato blight has swept through the patch, so there’s not much left to harvest, just a whole lot of sanitizing to do. Not my favorite exercise. But for a good tomato crop next year, well worth the effort.tomato basil

The cucumbers are about played out; they put on quite a show this year. I love the look of Lemon Cucumbers, but the ratio of seeds to flesh leave a little something to be desired. Pretty in a salad, though.lemon cucumbers

Young Madeline planted one Sugar Baby  plant (in a bale of straw) that resulted in one stunted (but still lovely) watermelon. We’re thinking straw bale gardening may not be the best method for watermelons.Melon

But as Eleanor Perenyi said “To garden is to let optimism get the better of judgement.”

So who knows, we may try it again.

How many times do you try a garden experiment before moving on? And isn’t experimenting with new plants and methods part of the fun? We think so!

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Summer Sweetness


There are lots of sensory delights this time of year

An icy cold beer after mowing the lawn.

Strawberry shortcake, not that manufactured spongy stuff, but real shortcake,

More like a Cat Head Biscuit, smothered with lots of real whipped cream.

But for my money, there’s little better than a perfectly ripe peach,

Eaten over the kitchen sink while looking out at the birds in the backyard,

Juices dripping down my chin, my wrist, my arm.

That is summer to me, summed up quite nicely,

And as my grandma always said,

I could eat them ‘til I founder.

 Happy First Day of Summer!

What are your favorite joys of Summer?



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