In the mood for shrimp this July 4th?

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With July fourth around the corner and summer heat and humidity present, I decided to pull out the stops and shop for festive seafood. Landlocked here in central Virginia, most of the ingredients for this recipe came from either Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Since I do not live in Maine, lobster is out of the question, although langostino is a fine substitute for lobster OR shrimp. Please enjoy this quick recipe inspired by the famous Lobster Roll…ah LaSauce.

This past winter I ate my weight in TJ’s Argentinian wild caught shrimp. Discovered in the frozen food section, I hoarded pounds at a time and feasted regularly. Meaty and tender and ready in four minutes, what could be better? Following a few month’s break from the binge, these beauties called out to me again today.

Are you ready for a simple, simple recipe?

At Trader Joe’s pick up a package of butter croissants, a pound of Argentinian Wild Caught shrimp, some organic bread & butter pickles, a bag of organic celery hearts, and a bag of organic blue corn chips…see photos below.

At Whole Foods, collect a jar of 365 organic mayo, a lemon, and Old Bay seasoning.

OK here is the simple:

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Bring water to a rapid boil and add one pound frozen shrimp. Bring back to the boil ( this takes about four minutes) stirring occasionally then drain once water returns to a boil…do not overcook and do not rinse!

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wash and finely slice organic celery…about two cups

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Trader Joe’s biggest secret…tender butter croissants…I do warm these babies for a few minutes in a toaster oven…slice first ~ never a microwave please!

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The label says it all…tender, plump, and they cook in four minutes

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What could be a better snack food? Organic, multi-grain, gluten free.

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Mix in a few simple ingredients: shrimp, mayo, lemon, celery, Old Bay to taste, and everyone is happy. The Milk Stout happens to be my fav adult beverage and I find it at WF.

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The presentation…in minutes this tasty treat will impress; just remember your favorite beverage. The pickles did not make this shot, as I snacked them.

Happy Independence Day to all Americans, and may peace prevail. Be safe.

PS: I do not receive any compensation for mentioning these products…just wanted to share my findings with my readers. Bon Appetit!

Copyright © 2016 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

gardening is all about change

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and hanging on and letting go…

As I flailed around during May, reeling from Mother Nature’s multiple challenges while wringing my hands as beloved plants took hit after hit, I reminded myself: #1 I have no control over Mother Nature, #2 all things are temporary, #3 a gardener must be resilient.

My love of the earth and passion for most things beautiful and fragrant, began decades ago. Before the age of seven I remember lying under the tall patch of blooming Persian lilacs at our Long Island home, content never to move again.

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in 2014 the hummers enjoyed sips from the pineapple sage…

At age eighteen, I left home for college, and was away from lush gardens. I quickly learned that a sunny park across from my dorm could fill my need for green. As a BFA graduate, my first job took me to Portland, Oregon where I was mesmerized by the artful Japanese Gardens and the historic Portland Rose Gardens. I could have stayed there forever.

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the narrow gravel path is embraced by tightly shorn boxwood hedges.

Alas, years later, with roaming days behind me, I found myself working on Capitol Hill. Whenever possible during lunch hour, I strolled the magnificent grounds of Congress designed by Frederick Olmstead, and frequently lunched on the edge of the marble fountains outside the Supreme Court. Those were the days.

Miss Kitty sighting?

Heirloom Tiger Lily provides nectar for this Swallowtail

In 2000 I departed the urbane, and put down roots at my first country house. The abode turns out to be a needy box, yet the half-acre provided me with a tabula rasa. No more containers on the postage stamp balcony.

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Fruits of my labor…homegrown blueberries…as the pan’s contents bubbled, the color deepened

Once the mistakes of former owners were obliterated, my gardening intuition prevailed, as it does today, sixteen years later. Following numerous consults with garden experts, I quickly surmised that my intuition was the light to follow. Recently, as I glanced at my archived plant tags, I removed 50% of my original purchases. Either the plant tags lied and specimens quickly outgrew their place, or plants failed to thrive without frequent spraying. As a master gardener who is intolerant of needy plants, garden edits are becoming an annual ritual.

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March garden edits included a stump grinder. The rug junipers became a garden thug in many areas, yet hand removal was impossible. Thanks to my arborist and his great tools…

Hours in the garden provide solitude amongst the songs of wild birds, handsome toads, and the occasional reptile. When the sun rises above the cypress trees, I step indoors and enjoy views out every window. The passage of time in my gardens is what sustains me. The beauty of thriving plants inspire me. Ten thousand photographs later, I attempt to share moments of bliss.

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This handsome creature posed for me in the very hot sun for ten minutes! I adore moments like this when nature provides fleeting glimpses of my garden residents. 

Every garden reflects the gardener, and often inspires on well after the person who tends it; or for that brief moment in time, a place comes alive in this time, and perhaps lives on in memory.

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exhilarating moments

Planting and working the soil teaches us that there is hope despite adversity, that during the most difficult times, all things are temporary, and as in life, a gardener must learn to accept change, hang on to every fleeting moment when perfection finds its way, and to let go with grace.

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a telling proverb

Copyright © 2016 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

 

the May that floats

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Normally, May is one of my favorite months as a gardener. Normally, the gardens burst with color, texture, and fragrance. Normally, May is a time for celebration and a time to bid farewell to the cold of winter. To date friends, 2016 weather continues chafe the best of my patience and optimism. Is it time to throw in the towel?

First, late killing April frosts affected many precious plants. Early tender perennials became steamed lettuce mush. Can you imagine?

Relentless May rains saturate even the best soils, threatening bulb rot and setting the stage for massive fungal issues in coming weeks. Harvesting six-hundred stems of heirloom peonies while dodging rainfall is, at a bare minimum, unpleasant for both me and my flowers. So much for garden delight. Rain days at the farmers market greatly reduce revenue, as only the hardy shoppers appear, and they typically are not in the mood for delicate stems. So much for my May cash crop. Currently, my flower fridge is overflowing and another few hundred stems beg to be harvested. Do you feel my pain?

Typically, June brings relentless heat and humidity to my Virginia gardens, seasoned with biting midges, ticks, and mosquitoes…for months. May is normally the time before June’s wickedness — inviting blissful strolls, the discovery of transcending scents, and the ability to see the fruits of my labor. Ha! At least my automobile is not floating down some side street, as Texans endure the spring from hell.

Ok, enough misery.

Is it time for the “For Sale” sign? Or shall I persevere? My inner voice whispered many times recently, “if it ain’t fun, don’t do it.” Well, I ain’t havin any fun as a gardener so far this year. Yet I am not ready for a condo. Been there, done that.

Do I publish this or press delete?

How about some comments from my followers?

From a drenched blogger/gardener in central VA. 

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Is it time to hang it up?

 

this is why I grow daffs and tulips…

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These images show a glimpse of what is blooming now at Swallowtail Cottage. The real challenge remains with capturing the essence of each flower…

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Another face not seen in my inventory. I am thinking Thalia, based on the catalogue photograph, c. 1916

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These tulips have survived for fifteen years here. Moved numerous times, they were inexpensive, yet provide dramatic, elegant color in the late March gardens. Greigii Queen Ingrid.

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These two beauties are new to my gardens this spring. I must refer to Brent & Becky’s Bulbs catalogue to name names, as they quickly became a blur.

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Last fall I converted all five raised beds from veggies to heirloom daffs and tulips. These two are newbies to Swallowtail Cottage. The white is Erlicheer, a sweet smelling heirloom; circa 1934.

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Notice the cup of this miniature newbie…the delicate rounded edges…awesome! As I check my inventory, I do not see this one listed…can anyone identify?

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This daffodil is so old nobody can identify it…they are prolific here and I am delighted to admit I rescued them…Any ideas? The white daff is Mount Hood, c. 1937.

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This wild-child tulip’s name is Honeymoon. I may need to add more to my beds, as they sold immediately at market yesterday.

Although Mother Nature ruined the first day of the farmer’s market yesterday with cold and rain, these flowers brightened my day as I shivered in place. About one third of the stems came home, so sadly, what I don’t give away, will become compost…ah the life of a flower farmer…

Stay tuned for more images of my gardens. Afterall, home, garden, life is what it is all about.

Copyright © 2016 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

the first day of spring 2016

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Despite the 40F temperatures and overcast sky this morning at Swallowtail Cottage, here’s a glimpse of what is blooming in my half-acre gardens…enjoy!

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PJM rhododendrons show their stuff this chilly spring morning.

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O’Neal blueberry flowers…provide edible, delectable fruit come May, with the help of local pollinators.

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Two years ago, I collected 2000 heirloom daffodils, crocus, and lilies from around the property and added them to a 30′ ditch. A powerful early spring statement…with more blooms to follow in weeks to come.

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One deep rear shrub border is home to Japanese maples, hellebores, daffs, an adopted clump of old variety spirea, Green Velvet boxwood (raised from cuttings), assorted lilies, chindo viburnum, oakleaf hydrangea, one floribunda rose ‘Tiny’, hostas, phlox Davidii, clematis, red hot pokers, miscari, and three tuteurs.

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Buxus Green Mountain boxwoods never fail to impress. Easy care and sprinkled with tiny, delicate blossoms in late March. Have I confessed I adore this variety of boxwood?

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This herbaceous Euphorbia or garden spurge has survived fifteen years in the same northerly spot at the front door. Cut to the ground after bloom time, this plant is bullet proof, bouncing back year after year. Highly regarded for their brilliant chartreuse bracts, textural foliage, and elegant growth habit, places them among the elite plants with significant garden significance. Note: all euphorbias ooze a milky white sap, latex, when cut or broken, so wear gloves when pruning and avoid skin contact.

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The hellebores are stunning this time of year. Over twelve inches tall, they brighten the landscape. A winter/spring garden favorite…

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When the sapsuckers girdle my dogwoods or maple trunks, I dangle shiny CD disks from inner branches. Highly effective.

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Hard working raised bed area produced various veggies and herbs for over a decade. Now they are dedicated to heirloom daffodils and tulips.

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A new addition to my 2016 gardens…a mason bee or “solitary bee house” as the UK designers describe…was sent to me as a birthday present this month. Thanks again Barry!

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The resident Eastern bluebird pair chose my nestbox during late winter, and today the wee female adds finishing touches to her nest…built one pine needle at a time, in three days.

Has this post inspired your first day of spring? And please check out the related spring post links below…

Copyright © 2016 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

garden edits and spring delights

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March is a busy month at Swallowtail Cottage. P1050781Garden chores explode from zero to sixty overnight. This year major garden edits were necessary, as plant/shrub installations made in 2001 needed removal, requiring the assistance of my garden man, his assistant, and their chipper.

Our last snow lightly dusted the gardens earlier this month,P1050773 then quickly vanished into spring delights. The heirloom crocus arrived on time, showing healthy multiplication following last year’s installation.

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Cloth of Gold ‘Crocus angustifolius’ once known as the Turkey Crocus was grown in gardens as early as 1587

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A delightful feature of this crocus is the brown stripe on the underside of the petals…hence Turkey crocus?

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Snowbunting ‘Crocus chrysanthus’ c. 1914, pearly buds open in January

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This crocus variety was on the property when I purchased it in 2001. Although many were transplanted into a 12″ deep trench along with two-thousand daffodils, these wee flowers find their way to the surface and multiply every year. Thanks to the help from Old House Gardens, I identified this crocus as “Vanguard, 1934, a former Russian wildflower that opens its platinum outer petals to reveal and exciting contrast…inner petals of luscious amethyst. The earliest-blooming crocus, Crocus vernus “

Unusual warmth brought many of the early heirloom daffodils out of the ground in vast profusion. They definitely hear the call and continually remind me how I adore these easy care perennials.

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Adorable Tete a Tete daffs appear in profusion and multiply with abandon

The overgrown, tired, and disgruntled shrubs/groundcovers were tagged and the chipper made quick mulch while this gardener exhaled with relief. Gone were the four s.laurels, numerous mats of rug juniper, one chindo viburnum, and fifteen barberries. Gone.

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The plant tag stated these s. laurels would mature at 3X5. How often plant tags deceive…

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Gone in seconds are the s.laurels, leaving space for grand hostas and one Henry’s Garnet Virginia Sweetspire Itea virginica, while allowing improved light and air for the Green Velvet boxwood neighbors.

For six hours the chipper chipped, as I busied myself with pruning various shrubs, transplanted a smaller chindo and gifted hostas, and cleared up the deep shrub borders to add bulk to the chipper…have I mentioned how I adore chippers? Men with the right tools are worth their weight in gold..P1050799

P1050791Once the help departed, I gazed at a much opened landscape and raking chores, as the juniper required a stump grinder…for hours. Left were the fractured branches, requiring raking and pulling to bring closure to the wounded slopes. Gone.

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Newly transplanted fringe tree overlooking one peony bed…all in need of raking and fresh mulch.

Following the application of 48 bags of pine bark mulch and 10 bags of river rock, the landscape is somewhat calm, and areas of erosion are addressed. The fringe tree ‘Chionanthus virginicus’ was transplanted from the rear lawn to the new front slope, and one dwarf Gingko ‘Majestic Butterfly’ will be installed when located. When baled pine needles arrive, they will be spread as mulch to the lower front slope, behind the pine bark borders.

Two years ago, I began experimenting with pine needles, and find them highly satisfactory. They stay put during heavy rains, are attractive in the deep shrub borders, and are pleasant to walk on. I rake fresh needles in December from the local school, and only purchase the baled needles when necessary.

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Rock will slow down water during heavy rains and pine mulch will dress both the blueberries ‘O’neal‘ and the front of this sloped bed

I must share a winter discovery from the Dover Saddlery catalogue…a waterproof boot by Ariat, which I thought would make the perfect mowing/garden boot. Sans horse these days, I still love the smell of leather and often visit the local store, just to inhale. Following this week’s garden marathon, I attest these boots will serve me well. P1050801

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Retired are my 15YO cross trekkers ~ many a mile we walked together

So off am I into another gardening season in central Virginia. The raised veggie beds are converted into heirloom daffodil/tulip beds and the 2500 daffodils in residence will soon dazzle me and my market customers. Come May the rescued iris and heirloom peonies will follow suit, and will fill my soul with the meaning of the garden. The other 2016 garden chores of tackling the wild violet turf infestation and mowing schedule will keep me busy until year’s end.

I wish for you a healthy, happy spring. Even if you are hold up in an apartment, get out to your parks and fill a balcony container with your favorite something. Grand or small, plants give us humans hope and joy for today and tomorrow.

Old gardeners never die, they simply spade away…

Copyright © 2016 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

beware rubus pentalobus

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This winter will be one to forget. One week following Jonas’ departure, I was stricken with an UR infection that knocked me off my feet and took two antibiotics to cure. Bedridden for most of one full week rendered me weak as a kitten for another ten days; I just now feel remnants of my former self.

During my convalescence, I had plenty of time to gaze out the windows into the barren, winter landscape. This time of year, the bones of garden reveal the structure and textures rarely appreciated during the growing season. Allowing my eye to peruse spaces, I made mental notes of necessary edits to come.

During February, one annual garden chore includes removing the past season’s leaves of many hellebore, or Lenten Roses that happily reside here. P1000347P1040197.JPGA hand and knee or squatting proposition, this chore was a good test of my weakened stamina. Last week’s effort found me trembling after merely one hour of task.

The other necessary garden chore I faced this week was bolstered by an additional week bed rest. In August of 2014, I installed five 3″ pots of Rubus pentalobus, or Creeping Bramble. At the garden center, they appeared innocent enough sporting attractive, compact, deep green, evergreen foliage, small flowers, and tiny raspberry fruits. Additionally the tag boasted the benefit of being drought tolerant. Good candidate for the remaining slopes that tend to erode while providing tasty late fall food for the wee birds…I thought.

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Rubus pentalobus or Creeping Bramble

These plants settled well and then I noticed an aggressive growth pattern within the first year. Clearly this perfect groundcover was becoming a garden thug.

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This is one plant twelve months after installation…from a 3″ pot! The plant tag failed to mention that Rubus suckers…big time!

Following a hearty breakfast, I headed out in sunny 40F temps to begin the task. Armed with a wheelbarrow, digging fork, knee pads, and hatchet, I silently coached myself…I can do thisP1050765

One hour later, breathless, I had the wheelbarrow filled to overflowing. Pliers were necessary to yank out roots that were over a foot long, headed straight down. Where is my garden helper when I need him? P1050754

Rather than exhaust myself completely, I returned my tools to the shed, left the barrow sit, and headed indoors to recuperate. The next day I would return to complete the entire removal.

As it was, the next day was warmer and the winter sun felt delightful on my winter-pale face. 1.5 hours later, I successfully removed the last bits of this plant horridus. Now I must face the remaining three patches of Rubus on the front slope. One day at a time…

In the meantime, my heirloom daffodils are showing up in good stand.P1000299 I added 150 additional heirloom varieties last fall to my old veggie raised beds, and so look forward to my new life as a peony/daffodil/iris farmer! Out with the invasives, garden thugs, and insect infested plants. I will only permit a pleasant garden experience here. Life is too short to invest precious time with energy sucking plant material ~ this revelation has only taken thirty years to formulate…sharing is education.

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A newly acquired heirloom crocus…its tendency to multiply is welcomed here. A delight in this winter garden.

If you would like to see a preview of my spring gardens, please use the search bar in the left-hand column using the words spring or flowers or notice and click on the related posts at the bottom of this post.

Cheers to you and if you read this please click the “like” button, as I am taking a survey as to how many of my followers are actually reading my posts…thanks!

Copyright © 2016 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

Jonas ~ beauty or the beast

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At 10:30 AM last Friday, Jonas made his entry into central Virginia. First the flakes were fine and light. Then for thirty-six hours, snow fell continuously.

When Jonas finally departed, taking the 30 MPH winds with him, I measured 19″ in my backyard. Deeper drifts fill the front yard, so much so my tallest boots vanish in the stuff. Folks in the real snow belt may shrug at this, yet here in central Virginia, this storm broke all weather records.

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this is the view from my back door, over the herb garden.

Since my narrow driveway won’t allow a plow, snow must be moved by hand. With few behemoth snow storms over my fifteen year residency, I never felt it necessary to own a snow removal machine.

So with much optimism, every few hours on Friday, I dressed and shoveled my driveway down to the gravel. By nightfall, everything appeared manageable.

Saturday was another story. The snow continued all day.  I repeatedly shoveled a path around the terrace to the wild bird feeders and heated water bath. The temperatures were in the 20F, not counting the wind chill.

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by Sunday morning this is the view out my backdoor

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a view of the back yard, over the herb beds and terrace this morning

I was grateful that the power remained on throughout this blizzard, as my only alternative with this all-electric house, was to shove food into coolers and hike to a home down the road where there is a generator and wood stove. Once again, with few catastrophic storms, it is not cost effective to install either a generator or stove here.

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front yard cypress trees along the driveway

By Sunday I faced an overwhelming task of snow removal…

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view of the front walk and my new foundation planting completed in November

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following 1.5 hours of shoveling on Sunday, I made it to the deer fence near the mouth of my driveway. This view is looking from the road back up my drive.

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to give readers an idea of what I face at the mouth of my driveway, this is a road view of the snow wall left by VDOT

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this is the view of the highway connecting to my road; clear sailing for those who can get out of their driveways

Presently, VDOT has no idea when or if they will return with plows to make a second pass on my road. I hesitate to dig the wall, as one pass from that equipment will sock me in again with another wall. Quite the dilemma.

In the meantime this storm taught me a lot about my immediate neighbors. There are seven other houses on my road, and this morning all those driveways are open. As of this writing, nary a person offered to help me dig out. This speaks volumes.

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by adding an archival photo of more pleasant days, I end this post knowing that this too shall pass and perhaps there are new roads for me to travel, where I will find kinder, more thoughtful neighbors in a milder climate

How did Jonas affect your home? One thought frequently pops into mind: all things are temporary including this home, garden, life.

Copyright © 2016 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

~ strolling through history

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Surrounded by central Virginia’s unceasing beauty and history, yesterday’s outing is worth sharing.

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from Montpelier’s front porch, one feels as though she could take flight. This same view has inspired visitors since the early 18th century.

During unsettling times, strolling amongst history strengthens, grounds, and renews one’s spirit. The month of December, many historic homes in central Virginia open their doors to the public in celebration of the season.

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simple ornamentation prevails during the Christmas season at Montpelier

Yesterday I returned to Montpelier, the former home of James and Dolley Madison (James was our third US president, a leader in our first congress, who introduced the Bill of Rights, helping shape the new government.)

The home is sited perfectly with uplifting views from every window.  Merely thirty miles from my home, Montpelier transports every visitor to times when our forefathers worked the land, created our nation, and and left a profound legacy.

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the front of the historic home whose land was originally acquired by James’ grandfather in 1723

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the back lawn of Montpelier

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the south end of the main house; it’s elegant simplicity speaks volumes

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an exterior detail with copper gutters and handsome brick wall

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off in the distance, a glimpse of Mr. Madison’s temple…formerly used as an icehouse

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following recent, arduous archaeological digs in the South Yard, slaves quarters and other dependencies are being recreated near the main house.

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I could not resist capturing how the sun played with this timber frame structure; a “duplex” that shares a central chimney.

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the nearby walled garden invites the visitor to ponder and stroll, as perhaps President Madison once did

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the narrow gravel path is embraced by tightly shorn boxwood hedges

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Dawn cedar, Metasequoia sheds for the upcoming dormant season.

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one of a pair of magnificent marble lions added to the terraced gardens during William and Annie duPont’s ownership of Montpelier c. 1901

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inside the walled gardens, the season brings on a graceful dormancy where quiet prevails

Montpelier was also the home to generations of enslaved families who toiled to ensure that the house ran smoothly and the hundreds of acres remained profitable. As many as 110 slaves worked at Montpelier at any given time. We must not forget the profound sacrifices these families made during the shaping of the United States of America.

To learn much more please visit Montpelier’s web site at www.montpelier.org

As I prepare for my dormant season, I reflect on a productive year, and wish for a safe and warm holiday season to all my readers. As always, I look forward to your comments.

Copyright © 2015 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

 

 

~ share the love

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Fall arrived right on time, yet I did not want to let summer bounty slip by without sharing numerous market images, taken this month. Enjoy!

Attending a local farmer’s market as a vendor or as a customer, is a very special event. It is a community who follows the seasons with dedication and appreciation. It is a place for sharing and educating; coaxing the senses away from the routine — nudging compassion to full fruit.

outrageous mushrooms from our local schroom man

outrageous mushrooms from our local shroom man. Freshness like this is only found at your local farmer’s market!

First time I raised Lilliput melons this year...delicious, yet plant had mighty fungal issues

2015 was the first time I raised Sakata’s Lilliput melons…delicious beyond words, yet the plants had mighty fungal issues. The melons did not go to market, but I had to show them off here.

showstopping sunflowers

showstopper sunflowers

the first Crenshaw squash appears at market

the first Crenshaw squash appears at market in September

dazzling peppers!

dazzling peppers!

scallions anyone?

scallions anyone?

vibrant eggplant appears to glow in the morning light!

vibrant eggplant appear to glow in the morning light!

calories don't count on weekends!

calories don’t count on weekends!

this fabulous bread is baked in a outdoor wood oven!

this fabulous bread is baked in an outdoor wood oven!

coffee makes the world go round, and this vendor peddles his way to market

coffee makes the world go round, and this vendor peddles his way to market

I could not resist this image. An enviable braid.

I could not resist this image ~ an enviable braid

Toddlers make great subjects as they free flow through the market

toddlers make great subjects as they free-flow through the market

This young man may have a modeling career in his future

this young man may have a modeling career in his future

I could not resist capturing this tender moment between father and child

a tender moment between father and infant

of course I had to plug my famous key lime pie. The banner drove sales higher this season

lastly, I shamelessly plug my famous key lime pie. The banner drove sales higher this season, quoting what customers named my pie back in 2005. 

October’s end marks the culmination of my fifteenth season as a vendor at the largest farmer’s market in central Virginia. If I had an inkling of what I would become when I left a professional life in DC, and returned to my small hometown, I would have fallen over laughing. Life has a way of throwing curve balls, and one must dodge and roll to stay in the game. home, garden, life is my testament.

Happy fall, dear followers. I always enjoy hearing from you in the comments section.

Copyright © 2015 By Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved