During my absence…


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Last night I thought the title of this post would be: “Dying is Easy” yet with a new sunny day here at Swallowtail Cottage, I have a rested opinion.

Life is full of challenges. Sometimes minute-by-minute trials invade. Some trials last for years!

We can decide to deal, or to yield. To date, I have always chosen to deal. The last three years were the most challenging of all time. It was not COVID, although that drama was like living in the Twilight Zone, it was increased demand on my business. It seemed everyone wanted comfort food, and I took the challenge, doubling my production in a week’s time. This lasted for two years. The result was acute osteoarthritis presenting in both hips. Living with chronic pain is exhausting, yet I pushed on. Many days I thought my life was near its end. I fantasized about being non-physical.

After countless medical interventions over two years…injections, nerve ablations (a medieval process) and PT, I was out of options. I was faced with total hip replacement. The choices took center stage, and I interviewed six orthopedic surgeons, finally choosing a local surgeon who specializes in both anterior hip and knee replacements. My first hip surgery was scheduled for October 24, 2022.

At some point, one must yield to the challenge and just let go. That is what I felt the day of surgery. One must trust the system, right? Hospital staff poked and prodded me for four hours in the pre-op area. By hour four I nearly had a panic attack. That feeling promptly vanished as I was rolled into the OR and received the magical liquids through my IV. 1.5 hours later, I was a changed woman. After an overnight stay in hospital I was sent home to recover. For the first week I thought I had been hit by a train. While unconcious, my body was torqued this way and that and I was SORE! Five days later, I stopped the narcotic.

The next twenty-five days were a blur, as I coped with every move, first using a walker, then graduating to a cane. The hospital system sent a professional PT person to my home twice per week for four weeks. I could not have managed without her. She had personal experience with joint replacement, as both her knees and one hip were replaced by my surgeon. She kept me on track and encouraged my every progression. I was on my own for meals and personal care the rest of the time, and PT reminded me that this sped up my recovery.

The surgical result was so life affirming (NO more pain in the operative hip!), I decided to have the left hip replaced ASAP rather than waiting one year. 100 days following my first surgery, with the luck of a surgical cancellation, I was headed back to the OR. Both surgeries were very different. The first surgery took 1.5 hours, while the second took one hour flat! This was February 6, 2023. The same PT person came to me the day after I returned home, and while there were different issues, I was ahead of recovery schedule. By March 5, I mowed my 3000 SF of turf, which required bagging, since it had not been mowed since October.

Life goes on, and spring is here with all her glory. The dozens of garden daffodils provided appreciated arrangements for my caregivers. The peony buds survived three successive hard April frosts, and I hope to cheer those I know with fragrant bouquets during May.

Officially retired, I now have a new lease on this life. No more thoughts of taking a long walk off a short pier. Recently, having reviewed the costs of these surgeries, I now have the nickname of Ferrari…as each hip cost 50K. So what is my next chapter?

With recent news of the Bard Chat Bot, and Deep Mind AI, I hope to live to see much of this play out.

Life gets more interesting, yes?

Copyright 2023 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

What a summer ~ what a year!


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Despite the fact that I was forced into retirement last December due to severe osteoarthritis that gradually settled into both my hips, the needy house and garden projects prevailed.

A year ago, helpers removed three twenty-year old deciduous viburnums and three mature PJM rhododendrons from the front herbaceous borders. They were tired and were plagued annually by either thrips or thinning branches. This renovation also meant rethinking the front foundation bed, which never thrilled me.

Once I had a tabula rasa, with the fine, healthy choices at my local Southern States nursery, three Chindo viburnum, one Liberty holly, and two false cypress went in the front border, which is sloped and facing the road. As I age, I decided to change the landscape to evergreen shrubs that have handsome, glossy leaves, and showy texture. The Liberty holly promises to produce lovely clusters of red berries, but so far, nada. I also discovered “No Float” cypress mulch which, so far, has performed beautifully on the many slopes here.

With my back to the front door, this is the view of the bed along the road. Beginning at the left stands a young Green Giant arborvitae, three mature Prague viburnums, and the new plantings: one Liberty holly, three Chindo viburnums, one rogue Little Lime hydrangea that does not know it is little, one mature fringe tree, two false cypress (Gold mop), one young Northern arborvitae, and the three very mature O’Neil blueberry shrubs, that produced a whopping 39 pounds of berries this past May! Directly on the road stands a row of heavily pruned Leyland Cypress. The new plantings will build another layer of evergreen privacy between the road and the house. That white object in the foreground is the humidifier bucket that I did not remove before the shot. 😉 Since the basement humidifier produces two gallons of water per day during the summer months, that water is valuable for the gardens.

Two blogs back, I had marvelous help who replaced a 40-YO railroad tie retaining wall, and the nearby peony bed (on the slope from hell) was raked and sodded. Before humidity set in this year, I managed to get the new retaining wall stained with Benjamin Moore’s solid stain in Oxford Brown, and kept the new sod alive through another steamy central Virginia summer.

This was the state of the lower patio all summer. I considered power washing it, then painting, but as the summer humidity set in, I had time to reconsider my options. Twenty years ago, I applied concrete stain to this 300SF patio, and the results were a miserable fail. So why try again? For 15 years I had deck boards applied…another epic fail, so now I was faced with a new solution.
Voila! Outdoor carpet made from 100% recycled soda bottles…installed this week! I giggle at the name…Grizzly Brown, but it is really nice under foot, and required only a razor blade to cut. It is loose laid, and I am over the moon! Ratings were good, so I expect this install to perform 365/24/7 for years to come. Comments? I apologize for the foreground here, as the black buckets are rain catchers, due to the recent dry spell. The new cypress mulch is pretty, as are the old oriental poppies, that enjoy this place in the foundation bed.
View from the opposite end of the patio. Just think, it only took 21 years to come up with this concept. Young gardeners/homeowners who read this, take heart.

Just last week when summer finally released her grip, I applied a fresh coat of BM stain on the opposite end of the patio’s 6′ retaining wall and coated an aging 12′ section of privacy fence in the lower corner of the yard. Four additional new evergreen shrubs were added to the front foundation bed and three false cypress were planted in the dark border in the rear yard. All are now freshly mulched (the front with more No Float cypress) and the rear with pine.

Additionally, I washed the house, carport, and garden shed with E-Z House Wash (an annual DIY event) and returned to wash and squeegee all the exterior casement windows. Phew!!! My hips are screaming at me following each task, yet I am pushing to get chores done before my…wait for it…my right hip total replacement on October 24TH!!!!

Thank angels, the young man who installed my patio carpet, turns out to be local, and is willing to help me with remaining garden chores both before and after my surgery…and hopefully next year with mowing.

Just this morning on TV, I heard a woman lamenting the aging process at thirty. I had to laugh, and wanted to message her and say…just wait forty years!!!! I admit, aging is a challenge, and I am not aging gracefully. All my life, until two years ago, I enjoyed being spirited in any activity I chose and my body cooperated. Now it appears, I must pay the piper.

If any reader has experience with joint replacement, do comment and share. I am currently in denial, and push with projects. If I survive this process, at least I may gaze out into my winter landscape and enjoy what I see, and be hopeful for the years ahead. After all, I want to see my new landscape thrive.

Copyright 2022 By Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

Soon to be summer cooler


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This week temperatures will rise into the 90’s.
Alas, cool tender spring plants will become toast.
A brutal reminder that Virginia delivers months of hot, humid weather beginning now.
Since the turf requires weekly mowing, despite the weather, and invasives are robust, despite my efforts, I created a quick, refreshing cooler to soothe my post-garden body.
Made in seconds from pantry/fridge ingredients, and mostly Keto friendly, below is the recipe:

Easy to find ingredients either at Traders or AMZN, these items are always in my kitchen.

In a blender, ( I use a Vitamix ) add 4 OZ of RO water to the pitcher. Investing in a reverse osmosis system was one of the best house investments I ever made.
Add: 4 OZ half & half, a splash of heavy cream, a 1/2 t. of ceremonial Matcha, a heaping T. of TJ’s Fair Trade Cacao, a T. of raw Turbinado sugar (or sweetener of choice), a splash of avocado oil, and a scoop of ice cubes. The more ice, the more frosty it becomes.
Whirl all until thoroughly blended and enjoy.

These proportions may be increased to fit personal tastes, but this cool beverage hits the spot after steamy outdoor chores, and satisfies this chocolate lover’s daily needs. Makes two servings.
PS. I always choose organic, fair trade, and ceremonial grade ingredients.


Copyright by Diane LaSauce 2022 All Rights Reserved

Another blueberry spring


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This spring I aim to streamline my blueberry strategy. Although only three O’Neil highbush reside here in my central Virginia (zone 7A) garden, they have produced dozens of pounds of blueberries over the years…much to the delight of my blueberry customers. One year each shrub yielded ten pounds, yes each! This year two women already reserved as many pounds as I can harvest.

The biggest challenge to a successful blueberry harvest is running critter interference. Birds are the least of of my my concerns, and I learned years ago NOT to use traditional bird netting. Too many bird tangles and even one stuck hummingbird. Snakes can also die a horrible death when encountering standard bird netting. My advice…NEVER USE IT!! For two years, I used eleven yards of organza, stitched together by hand, a task never to be revisited. The nosey raccoons and squirrels made quick shreds of that material. SO, this year I found on AMZN a netting that fits my needs. Arriving in a tidy box, this 33’X33′ netting had its full reveal yesterday.

Below are assembly photographs of 2022’s strategy.

Step One: 8′ plant posts will stand in 12″ PVC pipes driven 6″ into the ground.
These 8′ stakes have lasted three seasons. The PVC shafts are an addition this year to help stabilize the stakes. The nice guy at Lowe’s cut 12″ sections from a 10′ pipe, as I waited. Easy peasy.

Many thanks to the hungry bumblebees who pollinated the blossoms. Despite ten freezing nights in April, when berries reach this stage it is time to protect them from birds and nocturnal four-leggers.

PVC shafts were pounded into the ground 6″ using a rubber mallet, then the 8′ stake stands at attention without wobbling. I will spray paint these shafts to match the ground, as I think they will remain in place year round.
Finished blueberry cover. Clips were used to secure the netting to the stakes. Old window sash weights were placed on the ground to keep the netting settled during breezy conditions. Access to the “tent” is at the lower end. Quart deli containers were placed, inverted, on the top of the stakes to prevent netting snags. With the help from a dear neighbor, we hoisted the netting over the stakes in merely a few minutes! The 7mm netting aperture is high tensile strength, UV stabilized, and reusable. No critter will get caught in this!
Cozy for the time being. Fingers crossed that this system will deter damage from wildlife. The PVC ground sleeves will stabilize the upright stakes.

Over the years, I looked at so many online ideas for protecting blueberries, and by far this is the best solution…my very own design. Since these shrubs are part of the landscape, I never wanted a permanent structure erected. This variety of blueberry has glorious fall color, so when berry harvest is complete off comes the netting, and both the stakes and the netting go into storage until next season.

In the weeks ahead, I expect these nickel-sized berries to delight.
O’Neil Highbush blueberry variety is my favorite by far. Before I planted any, I visited a nearby berry farm and tasted all the varieties. Now, this large, juicy fruit greets me every day for nearly one month in June.
Finally, a thought to garden by…did you learn anything?

Postscript: The ground shafts were tested with heavy rains and wind since installation, and while the netting is holding up beautifully, the shafts and poles were bent. The poles broke off at the top of the shaft and the shaft went off center in the wet ground. I adjust when needed. The berries are huge this season and plentiful and oh! so tasty. Well worth the exercise. 😉

Copyright 2022 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved.

Spring garden projects


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Old man winter finally moved out of my gardens, and two long-awaited updates took place this week. I invite you to sit back and enjoy the labors of others.

Despite manic weather, the months of March and April are always brightened by the smiling faces of my heirloom daffodils. These beauties that formerly went to market as revenue bouquets are now filling my home and herbaceous borders with color and scent. I retired the end of December and now wonder what life holds and whether the transition will be smooth. As long as I remain a homeowner, my “needy box” beckons.
The fifteen year old split rail fence developed issues last summer, when the center line post rotted off at the ground, causing a lean that had to go. Propped up for weeks this winter, I was glad to see my talented fence men arrive with a new post. Unfortunately, they brought the wrong post (a two-hole rather than a three-hole post) which required a return visit. While they were here, we examined the rails. We agreed that they also should be replaced. After they left, I spent some time on the phone with the West Virginia post manufacturer to file a claim under warranty. They did not warranty the rails, but the office approved a $50 credit towards the purchase of six new rails. That reduced my expense to $40. Good start!
Days later, while the two men removed the old post and rails, I enjoyed standing back with my camera. This same company built my “Great 90′ Privacy Wall” fence a few years back (see that blog), and they continue to make any effort look easy! The man on the right is the owner who has built fences since he was a boy, and now his son-in-law (seen left) is learning the ropes. Neither wear gloves, despite the rough, pressure treated timber.
The new line post and rails: Three of the six rails were not acceptable with obvious flaws for this highly visible location, and those will be replaced ASAP. At least the old, rotten timber is history. By the way, if you noticed the lichen covered privacy fence in the rear of this photo, it was built years ago by my neighbor who is a juggler not a fence builder…and it shows. The “Great Privacy Wall” fence you see in the background below, was built in 2015 by these professionals seen above.
Meanwhile, the “Slope from Hell”, is finally getting sod. For the past 22 years, I tried many plants and perennials here, and most failed to thrive. Mulch always ended up on the attached patio, and pea gravel failed to smother weeds. Therefore, both materials are being raked and removed, to expose clean dirt where the sod will lay. If you recall from recent posts, this “Slope from Hell” was home to a dozen peony plants that were dug/sold and relocated to another garden in November. No wonder my hips are toast.
Shifting a few border rocks, and much grooming, in an hour, the bed was prepared for sod.
The blessed sod, grown locally, and harvested recently.
These men constructed my lower patio retaining wall in December (see post), and they enjoy their work; smiling, joking, and talking in melodic Spanish as they labor. I am SO grateful to have this team for garden projects!!! Joy is so absent in much of life these days; anytime I witness a genuine smile my hope is restored.
Less than two hours later, the transformed “Slope from Hell” displays fresh sod. Regular watering on my part until established, will hopefully encourage healthy turf for years to come. The strimmer will keep it tidy and Virginia Green will zap it with their monthly brew, killing any weeds, while nitrogen will green it up to match the established turf. Rain before and after sod installation allows time for blogging today and eliminated the chore of linking/dragging hoses to water this patch by hand. Completing as many garden chores as possible early in the season is my goal, as spring too quickly fades into summer…delivering the good old unpredictable hot, humid central Virginia climate.

Next on my list of home chores for 2022 is the staining of the new patio retaining wall. The day after I purchased the stain the end of December wet, cold, icy winter weather set in. So again, Mother Nature dictates the timing for exterior projects. The 300SF concrete patio also needs restoration with a pressure wash and applications of Rescue It! by Olympic. I normally enjoy exterior painting/staining, yet weather conditions remain the challenge. Do you think I will get it all done this year?

I always enjoy your comments, so please take a moment to send a note.

Copyright 2022 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

Chocolate Ginger Molasses wafers


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This week is my birthday week. Yes, I indulge myself all week. Although I have stuck to my gluten free, Plant Paradox/Keto/Paleo/intermittent fasting diet for over a year (and lost ten pounds!), today I had a craving for ginger cookies and came up with this recipe. Gluten free, Paleo and Keto friendly, and while I am writing, I cannot stop eating them!! Recipe follows:

Formed dough rolled in Turbinado sugar (yes I splurged with the sugar!)
Close up of one dough ball…these were large and unmeasured as I was experimenting.
Right out of the oven…HUGE, larger than the palm of my hand. Next time I will measure with a 1″ ice cream scoop. More to enjoy!
Can you smell these beauties? When cooled they are chewy yet crispy. Enjoy with a beverage of your choice. I like organic half and half.

The Recipe:

Step One:

1 stick of unsalted butter
1/3 cup dark brown sugar (yes rule breaker!)
Put these into a stand mixer and beat until fluffy.

Step Two:

Mix together:

1.5 cup fine almond flour
2 T. cacao powder ~heaping (I use TJ’s organic, fair trade)
2 t. ground ginger ~ heaping
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. ground nutmeg

Step Three:

Dissolve 1 t. baking soda in 1.5 t. boiling water (set aside)
Measure out 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
With a fork, beat one large egg in a small bowl

Optional: Add 7 oz. of dark chocolate chips to the batter and/or 1/4 cup chopped crystalized ginger


When butter and sugar are fluffy, add the dry ingredients from Step Two.
With mixer on low, combine.
Add Step Three and mix everything well.
Remember almond flour contains no gluten, so thorough mixing does not toughen the dough.

Scrape the sides of the bowl and refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
While dough is chilling, preheat your oven to 325F. (I don’t use convection for these.)
When dough is chilled, line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

Using a scoop form the dough balls. (I used a large spoon and balls were too large).
I think a 1″ scoop or teaspoon would be perfect.
Drop each ball into a bowl of Turbinado sugar and swirl to coat (optional).
Place each ball on cookie sheet, leaving at least 2.5″ apart. (six balls per sheet)
Pop the sheet into the oven and bake 12-15 minutes. Check them at 12 minutes. They will be very puffed at this point. I baked these the full 16 minutes, but be warned, this dough will not tolerate overbaking! Scorched cacao and molasses are NOT good. So bake accordingly to your oven.

Remove the baked cookies and cool sheet pan 5 minutes on a rack.
At this point, if any cookie edges are bumping, just take a sharp paring knife and cut at the seam.
Continue to cool, then after 5 minutes, place cookies on the rack to cool completely.
Once completely cool, store cookies in an airtight tin container and keep in the fridge.

Confession: I could not resist eating four of these after the 5 minute cooling period. Now I sit writing with a very full cookie belly. Things could be much worse. After all, this is my week to spoil myself.

Next Day: These wafers, when stored in the fridge in a tin, are extra delicious and crispy. Smeared with fresh mascarpone they are extra yummy! Two smaller wafers could sandwich the mascarpone “filling” and would be so pretty at parties!
Warm cookies could be cut with a shaped cutter for “pretty” shapes. And if the sugar is too much of a shock for Keto-ers, hold off on rolling the dough in the crystals before baking. Keep in mind too, that this recipe is my birthday splurge. We cannot be good all the time, yes?

Happy spring to all who live in this hemisphere. Those down under are readying for seasonal change.
I am so happy to report that our Congress is voting to make Daylight Savings Time permanent. Mr. Biden, please sign the bill. Turning clocks back and forth has never been fun, and apparently the time change negatively affects humans. The birds never care.

Stay safe my followers and do let me know if you try this recipe.

PS: Do you know the difference between cacao and cocoa powders?

Copyright 2022 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved.

Winter warmer when we pause


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I write this on a January morning, with overcast skies and the temperature at 48F. At last I can boast that the interior temperature is now a blazing 68F! A far cry from last week!
There is still frozen snow about, making any yard work impossible. The broken crape myrtle branches are a sad sight, on the ground and many still hang from the crown. I have no way to trim/dispose of these, and must wait to hear from my reliable landscape crew. They are currently inundated with chain saw/chipping requests, so I must wait as I am a small property owner. Thousands of properties were damaged last week. Seven inches of wet snow delivered a wallop to everything in its path.

Still seeking a bit of storm recovery comfort, I decided it was time to create a new Keto/Paleo friendly winter warmer beverage. The perfect way to pause and reflect as we ready for the new year ahead.
So set those tax papers aside, and try this simple recipe.

On hand ingredients made for a quick concoction on this cold winter day…
Following a quick spin in the Vitamix, and brought to steaming on the stovetop, this is a comforting beverage that boosts the soul. This could also be a fine beverage during warmer months, spun with a few ice cubes.

Ingredients: Serves 1

8 oz. RO or spring water
1 T. organic CACAO powder (not cocoa)
2 T. MCT oil
2 T. JOI almond paste
1 t. Matcha powder (ceremonial grade from Japan)
Splash of organic heavy whipping cream
1 T. raw turbinado sugar (Fair Trade, organic), if desired

Spin all this in a blender pitcher until well blended.
Transfer liquid to a pan and heat over low heat just until steaming.
Pour into your favorite cup or mug.
Top with a sprinkle of organic cinnamon.

PS: I do not received compensation for mentioning/featuring ingredients. I just like to share good product information.

Copyright 2022 By Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

The twilight zone is real


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Following my rather blissful post in December, when temperatures ran into the 70’s, this week suddenly became the week from hell.

The heavy, wet stuff…crushing anything standing.

Temperatures in the teens arrived abruptly, heavy wet snow fell, 7″ of the stuff overnight, which not only snapped power lines like toothpicks, but broke numerous branches in my own gardens. Even my steel arbor toppled over.

My 40+ year old home is all electric and in the twenty-one years of ownership, this damaging weather never occurred in the winter. There were two consecutive years over July 4th weekend, where violent thunder strikes fried underground cables and entire swaths of county were without power/water/AC for nine days while humid temps rose into the 90’s. Yet, when temps are warm, hardships are more tolerable.

Mother Nature does as she pleases…no respect.

The problem here in central Virginia remains with Dominion Energy, a behemoth company who consistently ignores trees that grow near/on power lines. While living only a mere eight miles from town, this hamlet is the LAST area to have power restored. So I hunkered down. Surely this cannot last long, I told myself.

Quickly my home’s interior became a 40F box. I do not have a portable generator, as I cannot manage/handle/store such a contraption. Years ago one custom builder advised against spending the thousands for a whole house generator, as the few times one is required, the investment is never recoouped. Go to a hotel instead, were his words.

Pretty but deadly…the white stuff

IF the power company had not lied to customers, promising each day to have the power restored between 6-11 PM, I would have gone to a hotel. Instead as darkness fell, I headed to my bed, dressed in layers of down and covered in alpaca and mohair, hoping to fall asleep though the long, cold night.

Miserable days turned into nearly one week! Twice I drove to the library and warmed while my phone charged. No power also meant no home WI-FI. Since I get merely one bar of cell service at home, the first few texts to friends were either not delivered or painfully SLOOOOOW.

Every morsel of my being was tested.

To bide time when I was not reading, I went down to visit my pal Easy (a fine quarter horse), who was retired at thirty-two to a nearby farm this fall. Ten years ago I rode him for 1.5 years on blissful cross-country treks.

View taken from the back of Easy on a pleasant day a decade ago.

Thanks to my Swiss fondue stand and quart of denatured alcohol, I was able to heat tea water and cook eggs for breakfast. Most of my perishable food remained on the floor in a five-day cooler.

Easy over

I never liked camping even in good weather.

This week became a bizarre twilight zone, one I hope never to repeat. Last night’s temperatures again fell into the teens, while my newly restored power sent my HVAC unit into massive overdrive. Today I had a hot shower, smoothed rich body cream over my chapped flesh, washed two loads of laundry, and made a proper hot breakfast on the stove. At 2:30 PM, although the sun is shining, the outdoor temp is just 33F.

So the blasted white stuff is not going anywhere fast. And just before hell broke loose, I purchased the gallon of solid stain to finish off my new patio retaining wall project. So it goes.

One blogger pal referred to this week as little house on the prairie and me as a trooper. Forget survival skills, if I pay full price for electricity, I expect electricity. 7″ of snow should not put thousands of area residents in peril for a week. Dominion Energy does not give rebates nor discounts. They are a patronizing monopoly.

I think it is time to once again look for a smaller place closer to town.
Or better yet, ask Scottie to beam me up.

Copyright 2022 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

Projects keep coming…


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I am writing on Thanksgiving to give thanks to the men who made this week’s projects happen seamlessly. For years I have known that the decrepit railroad tie patio wall and vast peony collection needed attention. Earlier this year, I found a landscape company who is knowledgeable, willing, incredibly strong. Although my high school Spanish was of no help (other than for smiles and giggles), the company owner speaks prefect English and both projects went splendidly. Below are photos of the events of this week.

The 40+ year old railroad tie wall is dismantled. Fortunately the earth remained upright. Only one huge skink surfaced as the base was removed.
What a pile. I was in awe of the strength of the crew.
With the ties out of the way the base was leveled, blue dust tamped, and the landscape cloth placed on the earth side…held in place with aluminum nails.
The first 6X6X12 goes into place. I had the opportunity to lengthen the wall’s footprint. This is why I am always on hand when projects are in motion. Had to remind the men driving the base stakes NOT to drive them through the downspout drain. There are only two downspouts from the entire roof system, so plugging one would be a disaster.
Two other men from the crew measure and cut posts.
Once the walls were completed, the men moved the existing rock to the tarp, then dug down to lower the elevation of the path, since over the years, it rose, causing the patio not to drain well during heavy rains. This was a big job, where even a digging bar was necessary. The men never broke a sweat.
The completed wall. Hurrah! Next fall I will apply solid stain to match the other end of the patio. So pleasant to have additional seating and that decrepit wall gone. My job remains to add additional rock to the area…a never ending task in these gardens. In addition to my Mulchqueen nick name, the landscaper named me Rock-queen. Alas.
With my back to the house, this is the view of the inner wall. The oriental poppies seen here will look so pretty come spring when they fill this area.
This photo shows the current condition of the patio. With 15 YO deck boards removed, come spring this slab will be power washed and prepped for the next paint job. No more deck boards! After much research, I am considering Olympic Rescue It! Has any reader used this product? Concrete slab paints seem to have improved over the past 15 years. Many have granite or rock in the mix, but that would be way too rough for moi. Notice the older retaining wall that appears solid. I keep it painted and watch for any termite infestation, as I never want to replace THAT wall! The left side of that wall will be tweaked a bit as the “slope from hell” remains such a problem.
The heavy soil removed from the lowered path elevation was re-used along the east tree line, a path I use to the burn barrel. Hope no toads or skinks were covered in the process. One HUGE skink popped out of the ground during the wall’s removal. I first admired it then carried it to the old woodpile, in hopes that it will find cover for winter. The ground remains thawed now, so it can dig another hidey-hole if necessary. A pile of composting leaves is nearby too. I was so excited when this skink was in my gloved hands, that I did not snap a photo. The skink was 12″ long and SO strong, as it attempted to move from my grip. The grandfather of all Swallowtail Cottage skinks!!!
As mentioned, I found a buyer for my entire collection of heirloom peony plants. For the past twenty years, I grew the small box of tubers sent to me by the current owners of my home place on Long Island, NY. My family left NY when I was seven, and I was glad to have a part of my past here at my home in Virginia. As seen from the holes out front, the peonies thrived under my care, but in recent years, they became a burden to harvest and sell at market. Buying habits changed, and there is competition from vendors who lowball with hybrids. With these realities, fourteen large clumps were dug, transported, and replanted at their new home. I hope to work with the new mother and help her appreciate the value of heirloom varieties. Her father, who gifted them to her new garden, purchased clumps from me a few years back, and he took the leap last week and invested in this purchase.

For 24 hours following the Big Dig, my two beds resembled a mine field, yet my wonderful landscape crew came to the rescue the very next day and filled all gaping holes with beautiful topsoil (two tons!) fit for a queen, Mulch Queen, thank you. Now I have the challenge of what to do with these areas. The bank above has failed many times over the years to support any kind of mass planting. Do followers have any suggestions for an evergreen, low-maintenance plant material for zone 7a? I am currently thinking Iberis sempervirens ‘Snowsation’ an evergreen candytuft. Often said aloud…wish I could get my hands on the guy who originally graded this property back in 1973. He would be tarred and feathered.

On this quiet, sunny, 63F Thanksgiving Day in the USA, I close on my recent projects. For now.
The thimble of Speyburn whiskey tastes great on my tongue, and soon the oven and steamer will provide a hot lunch.

To my readers, I thank you for following along. I enjoy hearing from you and I invite your comments.

Stay safe and strong and above all hopeful. Cheers!

Copyright 2021 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

Feeling it


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Days never seem to slow, and meals are simple, healthy, and quick. Below are a few new meal photos that are lectin free, gluten free, both Keto and Paleo friendly and always organic.

I use my dry crepe pan to heat almond tortillas and top them with eggs and hemp seeds. Yummy breakfast. Sometimes my eggs go awry in the pan.
Here are roasted/shredded organic, free range chicken thighs, sliced artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, and a sheet of organic Sushi Nori seaweed stuffed with goat cheese. Almond tortillas add a crunchy twist. Somehow that Nori looks like an eel.
Another breakfast meal variation: Organic, free range eggs, roasted chicken, macadamia and pistachio nuts, artichoke hearts, and a splash of organic olive oil. A one skillet meal always accompanied by a half cup of organic blueberries and a T. of organic heavy cream. A large mug of Rooibos tea with a splash of organic 1/2 and 1/2 or freshly brewed Matcha hits the spot. And yes, I confess I do eat right out of the skillet some days. 😉
Hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, roasted chicken garnished with crumbled goat cheese over toasted almond tortillas make a satisfying meal. Steamed organic kale is a fine side dish.

For months I have enjoyed intermittent fasting, finding my best windows at 8AM and 2PM. So far I have lost 7 pounds and most of that fat. Am I happy, yes indeed.

The trying summer of 2021 is behind me and the gardens are nearly tucked in for their winter’s rest. I mowed for the last time on Sunday. My hips are so relieved. Many outdoor projects are winding down…exterior painting, house washing, removal of the old deck boards on the concrete slab patio, and rock relocation just to name a few. Next week the construction of a new retaining wall on the lower patio is scheduled. Lumber arrives on Monday.

I found a home for my vast collection of heirloom peonies, as in twenty years, they became too much for me to handle. They will be dug, transported, and replanted next Tuesday. My legacy continues.

My heirloom peonies will go to a new home next week.

Downsizing the gardens and aging-in-place continues. My battle against inflammation is ongoing.

How are your projects going? Are you ready for a long winter’s rest?

Keep safe.

Copyright 2021 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved