April brings flowers and…chores!

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If you are a homeowner, April not only brings spring flowers, but lots of chores…check out this link below…just click the photo:

 

Yesterday was the second time I mowed this month…and edged, and weeded.  Sadly, it appears that I will be fighting wild violets again this year in the turf…Boo! Although violets (not the edible violas or Johnny Jump Ups) are pretty, they will spread rampantly and kill all turf in its path. I learned the hard way…last season. I am not a fan of turf, yet since I own 3000SF, it must be cared for. Since the use of chemicals is taboo here, one must be extra clever to stay ahead of undesirables that blow in and take root.

idea for rear turf garden 2015

I dream that my gardens and turf look like this, yet alas.

My neighbor’s field is awash with wild violets and the explosion of seeds manages to permeate my stand of thick cypress trees and attempts to conquer my tidy gardens. Last year I resorted to drastic steps. Did this fix the problem? One stroll into the turf last week, showed a healthy stand of the dastardly plants…all abloom and happy. Oh how lawn care products lie!

Three years ago, I nicknamed my house “the needy box.” This month marks sixteen years here (where does the time go??) and always, always, there is something to do. Can one actually divorce one’s home? IF so, I want one…a divorce.

IF I continue to stay, most of my major improvements since 2001 will need a redo beginning in six years. I admit, I am not ready, willing, nor is my pocketbook. “I ain’t in love,” as some country song wails. With real estate currently a seller’s market, I regularly fantasize about moving, even catch myself steering the car into new parts of the county…looking for eureka! Yet the dilemma remains…where to? Little real estate remains affordable in the US (under 300K), and regional taxes or health care deficits can take a bite out of the relocation dream.

When I shop for converted warehouses around the country, they are there. But who wants to live in the snow belt? If the warehouses here in my area are ever converted, they will become, as most other real estate here, half-million dollar abodes.

So for now, I remain on my little half-acre, not far from town, where birds, flowers, quiet, and sunshine are regulars. Deep in my soul, I wish for continued inspiration and stamina. Today, the growing season begins again…in central Virginia, zone 7a.

Let it be gentle.

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A rare daffodil in my gardens…Thalia

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This is Honeymoon, a fringed tulip which customers fight over at market

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And this is a newbie to my gardens…Akebono, a Japanese double tulip. I had high hopes for this beauty, yet the stems don’t seem to support the peony-like blooms.

So I am off to open closets, vacuum velvet and linen draperies, wash cabinets, and polish silver whilst thinking of Cinderella when she “…wakes to find sunshine bright and all the meadows white…”

What does spring look like in your part of the world?

Copyright © 2017 By Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

Kudos, followers

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I see from my stats that my followers are reading through the thing about challenge…great! Remember to click “older posts” too as there are about a dozen thing posts…

Now that we are on the cusp of spring, I submit another blog post regarding how to shop farmer’s markets…enjoy! Mining older posts are a good thing, right?

https://dianelasauce.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/how-to-shop-at-your-local-farmers-market/

Posted early on Sunday, or it was early before the time changed…who likes time change???

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This tulip is called Honeymoon. Pretty fabulous, yes?

 

 

this week’s reading challenge…

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Ok dear followers. I have a reading list for you…simply type these three words into my search bar in the left hand column…ready? Type the thing about and press GO. Voila, numerous posts will appear and when you reach the bottom of each page, click “older posts” as there are about a dozen posts in this series.
Older posts are long-lost in this world of immediate and short attention spans…yet they still hold much fodder. Good fodder, not the kind that is chewed up and spat out. One can ponder these things…

Are you ready? This is the perfect reading assignment, especially if your weather continues to be a beast in your part of the world. Simply type the three words, click GO and gently scroll down (and click “older posts” when you reach the bottom.) Soon a rhythm will glide your finger and eyes…

I put a lot of effort into these the thing about posts and think that they need revisiting by readers, both old and new. Good as Silver & Gold, like friends.

So please, go find a sunny window, settle in, read and please comment. After all it is still winter in the US, and being a couch potato is fully permitted as long as we feed the brain, dream a bit, and sip warm beverages.

I await your comments. There will be a quiz next Thursday. 😉 Cheers, Diane

Posted on a sunny, cold winter day in central Virginia 2017.

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February dreaming…

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Take a few moments with your second cup of Monday morning beverage and dream of how a week or a lifetime would look/feel like here…

 

 

What do you like most about this slice of Italy? Would you have the patience to take on such a project?

As I ponder yet another house project here at Swallowtail Cottage, a visual pause permits contemplation and inspiration.

Happy February…I see signs of life in the gardens, and the wild birds continue to keep me company…77F here yesterday…much too warm. I also need to find out who is spying on me at night with their drone…I thought a plane was about to crash, then noticed the lights were hovering just above my privacy fence!

Posted February 2017

kitty love

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Have you ever had a cat touch it’s nose to your pencil as you write?

To gently push and force the page adjoining

Rattle ever so gently

In order to push aside, then rub her head on a corner

Stepping around in a tactful way

To lie down just aside the binding

Jolting as if to pounce

From your page it flies

Only to walk up your leg and

Chew on your eraser.

November 1972

Miss Kitty-my muse for eleven years

Miss Kitty ~ my muse for eleven years

Copyright © 2017 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

the dormant season

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Winter is my dormant season when I have time to hibernate with good books, good movies, and good searches on the Internet…

here is a good garden find:

 

And if you are in the mood to root around your closets, here is another good project for the dormant season:

 

 

IF I lived in my perfect world, this is what my home would look like…
yes it would…

 

Finally, if you love your photos and are in a techy mood, try these ideas:

 

How are you spending your dormant season?

Soothing, quick comfort food for winter days

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And did I mention a one pot creation? This sinfully easy concoction suits both families and singles…Are you ready?

Shopping list:

  • 1 quart Imagine organic chicken broth (no substitutions)
  • one package boneless, skinless chicken thighs (Bell & Evans preferred)
  • one pound Red Garnet yam (usually one) peeled and diced (the only yam I eat)
  • one pound Carrots of Many Colors (organic found at Trader Joe’s), peeled and sliced
  • 1 T Herbes de Provence placed in a tea infuser
  • a few ribs of organic kale, rinsed, stem removed, and torn in small pieces
  • Himalayan salt to taste
  • Serves 4 and may be doubled

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Begin with a medium/large stew pot. Pour broth into pan along with the herbes tea ball…and bring to a boil. Add chicken thighs (do not rinse, just open package and add to boiling broth.)

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A classic herb seasoning…if not found in this fancy jar, find in the bulk department of WF.

Reduce heat to medium, cover pot and simmer 10 minutes. Add both yam and carrots to broth/chicken, cover, and continue simmering 10 additional minutes. In the final moment, add torn kale to the pot, cover, and cook 1 minute more and not any longer…overcooked kale is bitter! Remove the tea ball (allow to drain into the pot for full herb flavor)

Before serving, shred chicken thighs into reasonable pieces using two forks or your gloved hands…and remove any bits of fat that remain too.

gently steamed kale

Organic kale is a wonderful, tender, healthful leafy green if cooked properly. NEVER, EVER steam or simmer more than ONE MINUTE. Please.

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Have you found these sweet carrots at Trader Joe’s? Carrots of Many Colors are seasonal, so I stock up this time of year.

Have your bread, biscuits, or crackers ready, along with heated bowls (zapped in the microwave for one minute, empty.) Serve the soup steaming, drizzled with a little olive oil.

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Dessert can be a delightful pumpkin tart, made at home

This quick soup is colorful, healthy, and may be reheated in portion sizes throughout the week for smaller households or for trips to the office.

Bon Appetit!

And Happy Holidays to all my readers!

Copyright © 2016 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

ahh, November

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My central Virginia gardens endured one of the hottest, driest summers in recent history.P1050040

Since most of the fifteen-year-old landscape is well established, only the few new installations required weekly monitoring. The basement dehumidifier supplied a consistent 2-gallon supply of free water daily, greatly reducing the labor intensive task of hose dragging.

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Let me introduce you to Black Diamond crape myrtle, added to my front garden this summer. Notice the wonderful deep leaf hue and pleasant color of the flowers…this plant blooms multiple times per year and reaches 12′ high. I look forward to many years with this new variety…

I gave up raising home vegetables in 2014. Too many persistent insects prayed on tender leaves, leaving undesirable remnants. I fully support organic growing methods, yet for the effort involved, I would rather spend my time tending the heirloom daffodils, peonies, and lilies that reside here. These spring beauties bring endless joy to me and my market customers come April/May, and by the time June heat and humidity build, I am spending only minimal time outdoors.

2015 Peony city market May

abundant peony harvest 2015

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Early spring brings abundance

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dazzling organic peppers grown by young farmers. There is no need for me to fight veggie insects in my gardens…when I can support local efforts.

Gardening during cool temps from November-March soothes my soul. The tempo is slow. The air is crisp and clean. I add to my perennial collections, as fall is planting season. And above all, the dastardly biting insects are absent and I once again enjoy the outdoors.

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terrace wall refurbished with Muhly grass showing off on the other side…September is mighty showy here.

This month the arborist arrives with his bucket truck and helper. He annually sheers the 135 Leyland Cypress that border my property. This year I am tasking him with drastically reducing the elevation of the rows…tough love. Over the years, they slowly crept up to twenty feet, a height I no longer desire. Soon entire row at the back will be totally eliminated by the power company, as maintaining it is now unsustainable and my splendid privacy fence doing a fine job.

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photo of stained privacy fence. After a contractor’s estimate of 12 hours and $400 labor, I knew it was up to me to complete this job. Six hours over two days delivered one handsome fence to Swallowtail Cottage.

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I am in love with this chipper…perfect for the job at hand…

As of today the house and shed are washed/painted/caulked where needed. The roof chimney and vents are caulked and painted. The patio furniture has a fresh coat of paint (yes that DTM paint project two years ago was a miserable failure.) The windows are washed inside and out. 23′ of deer fencing is installed in the lower corner of the garden to close a gap. Three arborvitae and a Kousa dogwood will replace an ancient dogwood (Cornus florida) and an unimpressive japanese maple. Eventually this new installation will screen the deer wire.

THEN, on the fifteenth of November, I shall have knee surgery…just a repair for a torn meniscus.

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Baby 5 was my perfect companion during this gravel project. She held steadfast, despite my concerns that I would break her.

Yes, gardening does take a toll. Perhaps last November’s foundation planting did in my knee. That two tons of river rock did not seem that difficult, yet perhaps it was the eleven hours it took to prep/plant the seventeen shrubs. Ahh, November.

A time to complete chores, reflect, relax, and bask in the glow of a dreamy winter ahead.

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this is the view from my back door, over the herb garden during winter 2015

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Copyright ©2016 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

August garden

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There is one word that describes the month of August in central Virginia… steamy. Not unlike steam room cloying temperatures and humidity with dew points in the 70’s.

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August skies over Swallowtail Cottage

This year does not disappoint. Any Virginia gardener knows this month requires resolve and fortitude and multiple trips to the shower. If Mother Nature holds back quenching storms, this gardener must rise before dawn to drag hoses around for blooming plants, inviting nectaring insects and butterflies to have sweet tastes. Newly added plant material must be monitored for even moisture, if they are to survive and put down healthy root systems.

Despite these character-building conditions, I want to share with you the beauties that dot my landscape this month…

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The Chinese Lycoris squamigera, more commonly known as Naked Ladies, are plentiful around here (zone 7a) as summer beauties yet are extremely persnickety. They send up tall, flat leaves in the spring that die off, then tall spikes appear this month. With multiple flowers on plain or naked stalks reaching 36″ tall, they are quite the show stopper. They never need staking, yet when I transplant them to other garden areas, many never bloom. Go figure…

Formosa lily from Tufton

Formosa lilies are native to Formosa and grow easily in my gardens where they readily self sow… the original seed came from Tufton, a property once owned by Thomas Jefferson.

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The Formosa seed pods during winter, with actual seeds removed. Stunning, yes?

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This Honeybells fragrant hosta and nine sisters were gifted to me last year. Now blooming and 48″ high, the steamy August garden is blessed with visual cool and fragrance. PS: generous applications of spent coffee grounds around the base of early leaves completely stopped the onslaught of slugs…a Whole Foods Barista was happy to give me their dregs any time that I asked.

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A close up of this dreamy hosta Honeybells. Too bad the biting ants like the flowers too or I would cut stems for the house and market.

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The only phlox I grow here at Swallowtail Cottage, Davidii stands tall and does not succumb to any mildew. Incredible.

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Another gift from Kate. The Celadon poppy blooms early spring and again this month. I am told this poppy is invasive, yet tucked back in the rear garden, I invite a bit of delicate color and naughty.

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THIS is a thug. Rudbeckia triloba…I do not remember ever planting it, yet this year a huge area of the butterfly garden is filled with these 6′ tall bloomers! I took many bunches to market and will stuff the rest in the burn barrel, as they have needles along the stems and are as rough as a cob. OUT!!!

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Autumn Joy sedum attracts flutterbyes by the dozen and is an easy-care perennial. A classic in any garden. This was on the property when I bought it in 2001, and I have shared many clumps with neighbors.

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Ahhh, my summer delight. The Natchez crape myrtle. One double trunk grows in the front lawn, and a five-trunked specimen thrives on the west side of the house. These beauties provide dreamy shade during summer months, have refreshing blooms where honey bees bury themselves, and in fall, leaves change to a brilliant hue. Did I mention the peeling bark during August? This shed reminds me all is well with much visual interest.

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The shedding bark layer curls and twists, revealing the baby smooth leather-like under bark. I often find myself stroking the trunks as the sensation is like no other.

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I laugh every year when this silly PJM rhododendron blooms in August…All of its companions bloom in the spring, when they should, but here, no. I really do not like pink of any kind in the garden, yet planted PJM’s years ago for their winter bronze leaf color.

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Let me introduce you to a new variety… Black Diamond crape myrtle, added to my front garden this summer. Notice the wonderful deep leaf hue and pleasant color of the flowers…this plant blooms multiple times per year and the plant tag promises a mature height at 12′. I look forward to many years with this new variety…

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And Babe, the topic of my last post, survives despite its weird appendage in front of its right leg. After emailing photos to the Wildlife Center, they too are stumped and suggest that as long as Babe is eating well, to leave it in the wild. Although Babe continues to molt and look rather pathetic with its shabby coat, I eagerly wait to see what sex it is…can anyone guess?

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This plaque, found in a shop at Tryon Palace, reminds me that the garden teaches forever.

Twice per week this time of year I run errands and make deliveries very early, then confess to enjoying short afternoon naps in the air conditioning. Heat is hypnotic. Reclined on the loveseat, dozing between paragraphs of a Baldacci novel, I later rise and do indoor chores. Then around 7PM I dress for insects and head out weekly to mow and perspire. Soon. Soon. Very soon, there will be lower dew points and garden clean up, as the blooming show will be mostly over until next spring. And this gardener will sigh a large exhale.

Thanks for reading along. Your comments are always enjoyed.

Copyright © 2016 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved