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March 4, 2007

Rince na Chroi Video: March 3 Performance

Just click here to view the some photos from the March 3, 2007 performance of our son Graham's Irish dance school, Rince na Chroi. It was their annual "big show" performance from Concordia University in St. Paul.

Posted by maasx003 at 7:47 PM | Videocast

Category "Videocast"

December 30, 2006

Best of Rince na Chroi Video: For your iPod!

Just click here to view the best photos from 2006 of our son Graham's Irish dance school, Rince na Chroi.

Posted by maasx003 at 8:22 AM | Videocast

Category "Videocast"

December 29, 2006

Best of Xmas 2006 Video

Just click here to view the best Xmas photos from 2006! And remember, you can subscribe to future video podcasts by inserting this RSS subscriber address into your iTunes podcast folder.

Posted by maasx003 at 4:59 PM | Videocast

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December 10, 2005

Countdown to Christmas

In a household with a five-year-old, counting the days down to Christmas takes on the meaning of ritual.

When I was a kid, we used the Advent calendar that my Aunt Betty gave us. It was kind of like a flannel board - a green Christmas tree appliquéd onto a red background. Everyday from Dec. 1 to 25, we would pin a tiny ornament onto the tree with the big yellow star saved until Christmas day.

A few years ago, my sister Juanita made copies of this cherished holiday keepsake and gave them to my brother and me. Juanita updated it by putting little pieces of Velcro on the ornaments.

This year it hangs in Graham’s room, and when he wakes up in the morning, he begins his daily calendar countdown.

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After the flannel calendar, he moves to the paper Advent calendar with a wildlife scene. Each day, he opens a little flap to reveal a tiny bird or woodland animal.

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Then he goes to the traditional green and red paper chain that he made at the beginning of the month to tear off a link.

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Finally, in the evening after dinner, he can eat the chocolate treat in the last calendar.

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What a sweet way to count down to Christmas!

Xmas Trees

In addition to counting down to Christmas, we celebrate with two, count 'em two, Christmas trees. I'll talk more about the trees and special ornaments in my next blog entry.

Christmas Tree One

Christmas Tree Two

The Seed Doesn't Fall Far From the Vine

During Graham's harvest party at school, he painted a jack o'lantern garden pot. A few weeks ago, he brought it home, planted with three pumpkin seeds. They have grown quickly, and he and Daddy measure them daily to chart their growth in an Excel spreadsheet.

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Finished!

This weekend with the temperatures in the mid-30s, I finally finished my outdoor gardening chores. I put 55 bags of leaves down on clematis vines, hellebores and hybrid tea roses.

I had been waiting for the ground to freeze, which took some time considering our warm November. There had been a few inches of snowfall so I might have missed some hellebores. I guess that will just have to be an experiment – did they really need winter cover or not?

Then I loosely wrapped the two dwarf Alberta spruce in lengths of burlap. This will prevent severe winter burn from the reflection of the sun off the snow.

The garden looks a little goofy now, with the burlapped trees and black bags of leaves all over, but I know that the tender stuff is snugly tucked in for the winter.

What I’m Reading

In the middle of: “What do You Do All Day?? by Amy Scheibe, a childhood friend. It’s a funny and frank story of a stay home mom in Manhattan. Run out and buy a copy now! (Okay, so that was a shameless plug!)

Listening to: “The Blue Last? by Martha Grimes. It’s been a while since I’ve either read or listened to one of the Richard Jury detective novels. It’s good to be back.

Graham’s current favorite: “Henry Huggins? by Beverly Cleary. A classic tale of an All-American boy and his dog.

Remaining Garden Chores

Clean out my gardening tote. It’s filled with old plant tags, clods of dirt and other detritus.

Pack the canna, four o’clock and sweet potato tubers in sawdust for the winter and store them someplace in the house that won’t be too hot or too cold.

Today’s Grahamism

When told that his cousin Elise’s picture was in my college alumni magazine, Graham asked, “Why? Is she famous or something??

“What do you call people who live in Antarctica? Snowmen! I made that joke up by myself.?

Daddy, “I was the fastest kid at dodgeball.? Graham, “But remember, Dad, that was when you were young!?

When Graham noticed that our Christmas stockings were hung along the stair railing, he said, "But that’s not how stockings look in the cartoons.?

On our dog history, “Sister Olivia was Sister Glynis’ mommy so Sister Glynis is Pont’s mommy. And he thinks I’m his daddy.?

Posted by maasx003 at 6:00 PM | Books | Family | Gardens | Videocast

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November 26, 2005

Too Much Information

To paraphrase the incomparable Sting and The Police, Ive got too much gardening information running through my brain.

Now that the outdoor gardening season is almost officially over, its time for the indoor one. For me, that means catching up on a backlog of gardening magazines, checking out books from the library and setting down my thoughts and ideas for the next year.

Im envious of gardeners who can gather all this information in a cohesive and efficient manner. I have friends with gardening databases who can produce print outs of all the plants put into a particular bed, where they were purchased and the success of each.

Other friends have gardening journals filled with little sketches and notes detailing changes to their gardens through the years.

Me? I have lovely journals that were given as gifts that only have one or two pages filled. I have stacks of magazines with little sticky notes attached, marking particularly interesting articles or suggestions for my own beds. Nearby are half-filled legal pads with lists of plants to try for 2001 and 2002, drawings of where to place the liatris that need to be divided, names of books to request from the library and on and on.

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Last month as we drove to the Wisconsin Dells for our fall vacation, I started a new system for my BBC Gardeners World magazines. When I found an interesting article, I put a tape flag on top of the page and I wrote the page number of the article and a brief description onto a lined post it note which I put on the front inside page of the magazine. I then wrote down that same information on a legal pad which I will eventually type into the computer.

This way, when I pick up the magazine again, I can just look at the post it note to see what I found interesting in it. Well see if this Great Idea works any better than any of the other information gathering systems Ive come up with.

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But how to combine all these notes, drawings and lists collected through the years? At this point, my only idea is to start some documents in the computer compiling similar data and then put the print outs in a three-ring binder.

Wait, did I mention my collection of three-ring binders? I have binders containing all my old Master Gardening resources, landscape plans of completed projects, receipts, plant tags organized by year and garden area and articles Ive clipped from newspapers and other sources.

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Ive got too much information, running through my brain

Tomato-rific

Okay, not really.

Every year I try to ripen the last tomatoes of the season indoors. I read accounts of people who tear up the entire tomato plant and hang it upside down in the greenhouse or cold cellar. Or wrap each tomato individually in newspaper to enjoy a tasty homegrown tomato in their BLTs months after everyone else has been purchasing the red cardboard versions in the grocery store.

Maybe its my technique. I just picked the last tomatoes which seemed to have a chance of ripening and put them on a plate in a sunny part of the kitchen.

Some of the tomatoes ripened while others have acquired a white fuzzy beard of mold. Others seem to have stalled out and are doing nothing.

But just because the tomato looks red doesnt mean it tastes good. The one red cherry tomato I popped into my mouth today held but a shadow of the rich flavor that occurs in high summer when it feels like you are eating a little piece of the sun.

So Im going to toss the entire plate of tomatoes and cancel my experiment in spite of my limited success.

And start dreaming about next seasons tomatoes rich and juicy and warm from the sun

Snow

After our first real snowfall this week, its beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

At least Pont liked running in it. And the dogs do have winter coats they wear when walked outside. Whippets have little body fat so winter coats are essential in The Tundra. Here is Pont sporting his:

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And Glynis with hers. Yes, she also sports booties as her feet do not take the snow well.

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And least you think the dogs are wimps, they enjoy running on the frozen lake nearby. One can often see Glynis race the occasional snowmobile. You then see an astonished snowmobiler slow to take a look at what kind of animal can run alongside his sled at 40 mph. Usually looking like a snow shark as the photos below indicate:

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Turkey Chili

What to do with all that left-over turkey? This year Im going to adapt my favorite chili recipe by substituting turkey for part of the meat. Give it a try!

Daves Chili (from the StarTribune, Nov. 8, 2001) my version

1 lb bulk hot Italian sausage
lb ground beef (or left over turkey)
lb ground pork (or left over turkey)
2 jalapenos one red, one green seeded and chopped
1-14 oz can dized tomatoes in juice, undrained
1-6 oz can tomato paste
1-3/4 cup water
1 TBS chili powder
1 tsp onion powder
tsp ground coriander
tsp ground white pepper
tsp cayenne pepper
1 -15oz can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1-1/2 tsp salt

Garnishes such as tortilla chips, diced tomatoes, avocados, onion, cilantro and shredded cheese.

Cook meats in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until browned, about 10 minutes; drain fat. Stir in chiles and cook 3 minutes longer.

Stir in tomatoes and liquid, tomato paste, water and spices. Heat to boiling; reduce heat and simmer, covered 15 minutes. Stir in beans and season to taste with salt. Ladle into bowls and serve with garnishes.

What Im Reading

In the middle of: Sahara by Michael Palin, the former Monty Python member. Its a warm way to get through our recent snowfall.

Listening to: Blue Shoe by Anne LaMott

Grahams current favorite: Bears by Dagmar Fertl, Michelle Reddy & Erik D. Stoops

Remaining Garden Chores

Throw the cordyline in the compost bin.

Cut back the last roses and verbena bonarienses.

When the ground finally freezes, throw bags of leaves onto the tender stuff.

Wrap burlap around the dwarf Alberta Spruce and wisteria trees.

Pack the canna, four oclock and sweet potato tubers in sawdust for the winter and store them someplace in the house that wont be too hot or too cold.

Todays Grahamism

"How you make money is just look on the floor."

At the Thanksgiving table, Graham stated, "Mommy, your job is to serve the pie."

When told that Charlie Brown's Christmas special was 40 years old, just like Mommy, Graham asked, "What is this? The ancient movie of God?"


Click to see Graham in action at a indoor playground.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:05 PM | Books | Family | Gardens | Videocast

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November 11, 2005

The Minnesota Tip versus the North Dakota Shuffle

When I was growing up in North Dakota, my mother was renown across LaMoure county for her rose garden. During late June and early August, we got used to people driving slowly past our house for a look at the two beds with formed a sort of ying-yang shape on either side of the front sidewalk.

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These beds held nearly 30 hybrid tea rose bushes from shades of softest yellow to rich wine red. The most fragrant were a pink variety, probably Peace. My favorites were the yellow roses and still are today.

Mom was generous with her roses, and brides-to-be often came by the day before their weddings to pick up petals to throw down the church aisle. If someone actually stopped her car to take a closer look at the roses, she most likely left with a bouquet in hand, the rose stems resting in wet paper towels wrapped up in tin foil. When we visited our grandparents in west-central North Dakota and north-central South Dakota in the summer, arrangements held in quart jars always came along.

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Mom was kind of a fanatic about caring for her bushes. Although she often bemoaned her lack of time to sprinkle this systemic bug killer or apply that fertilizer, she always dug her banana peels and eggshells into the ground underneath the bushes, her method of direct composting.

When fall came, we kids hated those rose bushes.

To keep roses alive through frigid North Dakota winters, they had to be covered. Not just any special covering would do, it had to be done Moms way. I have vivid recollections of raking leaves and leaves and leaves. I cant remember if we bagged them or left them loose but we would mound the leaves up around the roses until they were two to three feet high.

Then Mom would throw black plastic tarps over the enormous leaf piles, would string of web of twine across them and tie them down onto wooden stakes. In spring the whole shebang would have to be untied, rolled up and disposed of leaves.

When I first started gardening, I wanted to include roses in my beds but I didnt want to do it Moms way in the fall. If a rose didnt make it through the winter, I would just replace it.

I read about the Minnesota tip method for covering roses for the winter, but the idea of digging up all the rose bushes and burying them in a trench seemed way too complicated for me. Who wants to work that hard?

I went for the other method of winter care: cutting the canes back to about 10 inches and covering them with soil and leaves. At first I used the soil left over from my pots, but that didnt work so well as that soil was compacted and held together by roots.

Then I tried digging up soil from around the bushes but worried about damaging roots late in the season. Next I dug soil from the vegetable garden but that just seemed counterproductive.

One year Brian suggested using some leftover bags of topsoil and Eureka! it all made sense. Topsoil is cheap, easy to transport in a 40-pound bag and helps regenerate tired soil.

And then Eurkea! another brainstorm. One summer I had a long chat with a woman who had her own landscaping business. She directed me to mulch my rose bushes only with well-rotted manure. Roses are heavy feeders, and they thrive on the manure.

I never actually got around to doing that but the light bulb clicked on that fall when it came time to cover the roses. Wait a minute, I thought. Why not cover them with manure? That way the roses are ready to go in the spring when I never remember to fertilize them?

Ive been doing it that way ever since. I revised the leaves portion of the process as well. Now I take a bag of leaves that my neighbors have willingly donated and divide it into two bags. I fluff the leaves out to all the corners of the bag so it forms a big blanket. I throw it over the roses when the ground finally freezes.

This method would probably not get endorsed by the American Horticultural Society, but its fast and easy, and I have never lost a rose bush.

So to those proponents of the Minnesota Tip, I give you the North Dakota Shuffle:

1. Push all the mulch away from the base of the rose bush.
2. Cut all canes back to about 10 inches and dispose of the canes. Good sanitation is very important if you have black spot so try to pick up and throw away any diseased leaves. You dont want the spores to remain on the ground, ready to wreak havoc next year.

Note: Cutting the canes back can hard to do if they are still producing buds that seem like they will bloom soon. You can cut the buds to see if they will bloom indoors. This year, I left the canes with buds intact but still covered their lower stems with soil. If they can make it to full bloom, great. If not, Ill just cut them back to the soil line.

3. Mound well-rotted manure or compost up over the canes. I purchase manure at Home Depot for around a buck a bag.
4. Cover the manure with an inch or two of topsoil. This is not really necessary but it will help keep the manure in place if it rains. Again, I purchase topsoil at Home Depot for around a buck a bag.
5. When the ground finally freezes, throw a half-filled bag of leaves over the mound.

And thats it.

I use this method with my hybrid tea roses and miniature roses. I also cover my Nearly Wild and William Baffin roses, even though they are hardy to Zone 4. The Carefree Wonders I leave to their own devices.

With an organized plan of attack, it should only take me about an hour to cover a little over 15 rose bushes.


Click on Jackie to to see how she does it.

The Other Potato Harvest

Remember the Yukon Gold potatoes that I harvested from my compost bin? Well, I found these big beauties in some of my containers when I was dumping them out. The sweet potato vines set tubers, some of them enormous. Does anyone have any experience overwintering sweet potato tubers to use in next years pots? Let me know by leaving a Comment at the end of this entry.

The biggest of the sweet potatoes came from a pot that was nearly two feet tall. Im almost tempted to try to grow an eating variety in a big pot to see if it would produce anything fit for the table. Ill have to ponder that over the winter....

Canna Harvest

These canna tubers came from a single tuber that had been grown in that same two-foot pot. I have five more cannas to dig up yet. Id like to overwinter these tubers for next year as well. Ill have to do some research on how to do this. I dont have a cold cellar, would the refrigerator work?

Magnolia Magic

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Our Merriill magnolia trees are five years old now, and they have begun to produce a lavish display in early spring. The tips of this tree outside our back door are plump with buds for next spring.

Phormium Provide Fall Container Interest

I have been very pleased with the phormium that I put in the copper pots in front of the pergola. They added color, structure and height to the containers. The added bonus has been how well theyve stood up in the fall. They have maintained their structure even as the days have gotten colder, and weve had one cold snap. Ill bet if we lived in Zone 5, I could leave them out all winter. Id even consider bringing them for the winter to try as houseplants, but I really am not interested in caring for plants during the cold months. I need a break!

Timing is Everything

Some of my plants are a little confused.

Last March I was given a bulb garden as a birthday gift. After it finished blooming, I stuck it outside next to the house and promptly forgot about it.

As I was clearing out the gardens last weekend, I noticed that one of the hyacinths was attempting to bloom. Im going to bring it in and start watering. Who knows what could happen?

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Christmas Cactus

I have never had much success with Christmas cactus. Brian gave me one more than 10 years ago, and it has struggled along, never doing very well. The past two years, however, somehow I figured out the right care regime, and it has grown tremendously. I had noticed lots of buds on it in September, and by mid-October, it had hit full bloom.

The plant is looking a bit sad now and Im concerned about the color and texture of its stems. I hope this wasnt its last hurrah!

What Im Reading

In the middle of: Funny in Farsi: Growing up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas, a humorous tale of a young girls Americanization.

Still in the queue: Sahara by Michael Palin. The former Monty Python member has written a number of delightful travel tales.

Listening to: A variety of Christmas CDs, from big band and bluegrass to B.B. King and Celtic.

Grahams current favorite: Hungry, Hungry Sharks by Joanna Cole.

Heres Whats Blooming Now

Not much since we finally had a killing frost. Here are the hardy gang who still remain:

Toad Lily
Calendula
Rose
Aster
Gaillarda
Lavender Hidcote
Mums
Nicotiana all shapes, colors and sizes
Verbena bonariensis
Alpine strawberry and fruiting, too
Sedum

Garden Chores for the Week

Repot the amaryllis.

Finish cutting back the dead stuff.

Power wash all the containers before putting them away.

Harvest any runner bean seed that may still be clinging on the teepee.

Dig canna tubers, wash and store them.

Divide bags of leaves into two in preparation for putting them over roses and tender perennials when the ground freezes.

Water all gardens with newly planted bulbs if we dont get rain this week. The ground is very dry.

Todays Grahamism

"Were there spiders back long ago when only the presidents were alive?"

"Did you know that some people think that the Chinese and the Japanese are the same because they both end in ese?"

Posted by maasx003 at 6:32 PM | Books | Gardens | Videocast

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October 15, 2005

The Greatest Generation

In my work as the volunteer coordinator at the Minnesota Historical Society, I help to plan a recognition event for our volunteers each year. This year we chose the theme of Minnesotas Greatest Generation as a kick off for the Societys new project by the same name.

My coworkers and I like to dress up for the party to add a bit of fun for the volunteers. Last year we were lumberjacks; this year we dressed for the occasion by borrowing our fathers World War II uniforms and coming as Rosie the Riveter.

Dad was drafted in April 1945 at age 18 and spent a year in Japan after the bombing of Hiroshima. He was discharged in December 1946. Hes the guy in the bottom left hand portion of this photo.

As I wore his jacket during the event, everyone asked me about the different medals and patches along the sleeves and front. I knew that the rifle pin was for completing artillery training and that he had held the rank of staff sergeant in the Corps of Engineers.

Some of the volunteers who had also served during the war filled me in on the other patches, including a brief but heated debate over whether my dad deserved to wear two particular stripes down by the left wrist since he had not actually served for four years. That argument was cleared up when someone recognized that the patches were each for six months spent overseas. I can tell you I was pretty angry that someone was insinuating that my dad was a liar!

The whole thrust of the Societys Greatest Generations project is to gather the stories of those who were born during the Depression, came of age during WWII and went on to prosper during the boom afterward.

For me that night came the recognition that while I had some information about my parents lives during that time, I had better get going to gather more. This particularly came home for my supervisor as well.

Jeans father was in the Navy, which he chose over the Army because he didnt want to sleep in a tent! Jean knew that he had served in the South Pacific but had little other information. At some point in recent weeks, she told him about an exhibit of Pulitzer Prinze-wining photographs that was going to be on view at the History Center, including the famous image of the soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima.

I saw that happen, you know, he told her. Actually, she didnt know it and it floored her. Her father had never thought it worth mentioning that he had been aboard a supply ship off the shore of Iwo Jima and that he had cheered when he saw the flag go up.

So get out there and start asking your elderly family members questions about their lives. Write it all down or videotape it so future generations can know about the great events that shaped their lives.

You will be glad you did. Who knows what you could learn?

If you need help to get started, visit the Societys website for helpful tips at http://www.mnhs.org/people/mngg/stories/index.htm

A Few of My Favorite Tools

While Julie Andrews had long woolen mittens, snowflakes on eyelashes and schnitzel with noodles, I have my favorite spade, secateurs and gloves. View the videocast below as I dramatize my favorite tools for you!

A Through the Garden Gate Web Cam Moment:
:: Tools, Tools, Tools! :: View the videocast below as I dramatize my favorite tools for you.
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Click photo or HERE to view the video

You can also view me in the following videocast as I walk you through my prairie garden:

Get Off your Asters

I tried something new this year by cutting back my asters in two successive efforts. At the end of June, I cut some of them back by a half to a third. Two weeks later, I cut back the others. This was to prevent them from getting so leggy, produce a fuller shape and get more blooms.

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While the plants were certainly less leggy, I dont think the blooms were increased, particularly not on the hot pink Alma Pottschke asters to the left of this photo.

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While the results are mixed, I will probably do this again next year, if only to avoid staking the plants.

What Im Reading

In the middle of: A String in the Harp by Nancy Bond, a teen novel set in Wales.

Next in the queue: Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear. The latest in the Maisie Dobbs series about a young female British detective following WWI.

Listening to: The Serpents Tale by Sue Henry about a middle aged woman solving her friends murder.

Grahams current favorite: Any Calvin and Hobbes cartoon book. Graham has found his new anti-hero!

Heres Whats Blooming Now

Calendula
My Favorite mum lavender, red and coral
Rose
Morning glories
Nicotiana all shapes, colors and sizes
Verbena bonariensis
Nasturtium Peach Melba and others
Asters
Russian sage
Hydrangea Annabelle
Alpine strawberry and fruiting, too
Sedum

Garden Chores for the Week

Repot the amaryllis.

Start cutting back the dead stuff.

Vegetable Garden

Tomatoes are still trying to ripen on the vine.

Todays Grahamism

Do you think I will ever die? What makes you ask that, Graham? Well, what if a bad man shot me in the arm? Then wed take you to the doctor.

Which was immediately followed by, Do you know what my favorite number is? Its 15 because if you take away the 1, you have 5 and Im 5.

All leaves are green because they have chlorophyll, you know.

I had a bad dream last night. A meteor landed on earth and it was filled with dinosaurs. They came into our house and wanted to sleep in our beds. George Washington came and he was really mad at them. All of a sudden, the dinosaurs did something that made them go back into the meteor, and they returned to the asteroid belt. What did you dream about last night?

Posted by maasx003 at 6:29 PM | Books | Family | Gardens | Videocast | Work-Related

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October 9, 2005

Busy, Busy, Busy

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We have been running like crazy the last few weeks, and theres been no time to write. Any free time has been spent in the garden planting bulbs.

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Saturday evening, however, we enjoyed one of our last bonfires of the season. We toasted some marshmallows, listened to tunes and watched for the first stars of the evening. When Graham had had his fill of outside time, the two guys went inside to watch a Transformer movie while I stayed out to watch the fire die down.

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I grabbed a book and curled up on the willow couch in front of the fire, relishing a bit of time to myself. It was a lovely night brisk with the hint of the cold to come. Finally, around 9 p.m., I went in myself, knowing that Graham would be ready for bed soon.

I fell asleep on Grahams bed and woke up around 5:30 a.m., still in my jeans and fleece pull over and still smelling like smoke. If it didnt bother him, it didnt bother me either, and I went back to sleep.

It was a quiet evening, but just what we all needed. Somehow, amidst our busy schedules of work, obligations, play dates and lessons, quiet moments can happen, if we let them.

Big on Bulbs

Between this weekend and last, I have dug in nearly 500 bulbs, and I have more than 100 left. When we look at the bulb catalogs each summer, we are bedazzled by what we see and forget how much work it is to put the bulbs in.

We think, Oh, lets put 200 daffodils in that bed to add spring color, forgetting that means digging 200 holes to put each bulbs into. But come spring well have forgotten the repetitive stress injuries in our wrists, the sore spots in the palms of our hands from the pressure of the trowel and the cold and tired knees as we behold a sea of cheerful yellow faces.

And it will all be worth it.

Videocast Two: Watch My Tips on Planting Bulbs

Other Tips to Consider When Planting/Purchasing Bulbs

Plant in masses. Make a statement by planting at least 100 or 200 bulbs in a bed.

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If you are planting daffodils, clump them in groups of 3, 5, 7 or 9 randomly around your bed to make them look natural. Tulips are more formal so they can be planted out in rows.

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Buy bulbs from a reputable firm. We purchase most of our bulbs from White Flower Farm.

Daffodils give you more for your money as they come back year after year and form large clumps. And deer leave them alone. Tulips make a lovely show the first year or two and then they peter out. That works, too, if youre willing to consider them as annuals and dig them up and replace them every year.

Dont forget less common bulbs such as snowdrops, fritallaria, allium or even smaller, species tulips which naturalize. My snowdrops typically begin blooming in mid-March, long before anything else is blooming.

Say it Aint So

This weekend I received my first seed catalog from Thompson & Morgan. This is like receiving a Christmas catalog in mid-July. I havent even put this garden put to bed yet, and somebody wants me to plan my garden for next year? Sheesh!

Mazel Tov! Mazel Tov!

A few weeks ago, I attended the wedding of my friend Dvora. She had started as a student volunteer with the Minnesota Historical Society when she was 14, went off to study in England after high school graduation and stayed in touch as she pursued her college education.

This summer, a matchmaker found her a partner in a young man named Mendel from Brooklyn, and the wedding was set for a few months following.

This was my first Jewish wedding, let alone a Hasidic one, and I was fascinated by the ceremony and celebrations that are so different from a traditional Christian one.

When my co-worker Wendy and I arrived at Landmark Center in St. Paul, we paid our respects to Dvora and her mother Chana. The bridal couple is treated as a king and queen on their wedding day, and Dvora was, indeed, seated on dais above everyone who approached her. She looked so lovely and happy.

Only the women were in attendance but soon Mendel and the men arrived. The women were asked to move to the left side of the room as the men took over the right-hand side. Mendel veiled Dvora, and then everyone left her and her parents alone for some time together.

The guests trickled down to Rice Park where the chuppa was waiting. Eventually, Dvora was led to the area by her parents, and she circled Mendel seven times underneath the chuppa. Then began the ceremony with blessings from many rabbis.

Following the service, Dvora and Mendel went off to have their first meal together as a married couple and to break the fast they had maintained all day. Wendy and I returned to Landmark Center to find our dinner table, seated with the other women. The tables for the men and women were separated by a large fabric wall.

Soon after we finished our salads, Mendel and Dvora appeared, and Mendel was spirited to his side of the room. The dancing began, lead by an amazing pianist on an electric keyboard who kept the room rocking.

Dvora was quickly encircled by concentric rings of women of all ages. As she would choose someone to dance with individually, the rings would break and reform with the movement never stopping. I thought, This is how women have been dancing and celebrating for thousands of years.

Because of the dividing curtain, we couldnt see how the men were dancing, but at one point, the curtain parted somehow. I saw men on each others shoulders, dancing as we were.

Eventually the dancing stopped, and dinner was served. Our table was filled with interesting women who provided me with explanations for some of the rituals I didnt understand.

And then the dancing began again and seemed determined to go on all night. Wendy and I managed another dance with Dvora before we made our good byes and headed home. It was well past 10 p.m. on a Monday night, and we had to go to work the next morning.

Attending this wedding was an event I am unlikely to experience again. It gave me insight into Dvoras world and allowed me to experience her values and beliefs in way I hadnt imagined.

The overall feeling I came away with was the joy that was felt by everyone dancing, and the modesty and dignity of those around me. Ive been to some wedding receptions that have left me feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed by the behavior of the wedding party and guests.

At Dvoras reception, there was no silly chicken dance, no raunchy garter fling or demeaning groping of the bride and her attendants by a blind folded groom. And there certainly wasnt the impending feeling of doom in wondering who the drunken bridesmaid would go home with that night.

There was none of that icky stuff that night just dignity and joy.

May Dvora and Mendel have a long and joyful life together.

Mazel Tov!

What Im Reading

Just finished: Locked Rooms by Laurie R. King. The long-awaited sequel in the Mary Russell series. A pleasure, as always.

In the middle of: a shlocky romance Im too embarrassed to even mention. Everybody needs a little brain candy now and then, right?

Next in the queue: Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear. The latest in the Maisie Dobbs series about a young female British detective following WWI.

Listening to: Cuba, an anthology of spicy Latin music.

Grahams current favorite: The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems. If you are lucky, some day maybe you can hear him read it to you, acting out all the parts. Its a stitch.

The Mystery Plant

Last weeks plant was an Alaska Nasturtium blossom. Can you guess the plant this week?

Heres Whats Blooming Now

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Calendula
Sunflowers
My Favorite mum lavender, red and coral
Rose

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Comfrey
Morning glories
Nicotiana all shapes, colors and sizes
Verbena bonariensis
Nasturtium Peach Melba and others
Asters
Russian sage
Hydrangea Annabelle
Alpine strawberry and fruiting, too
Sedum
Zinnia

Garden Chores for the Week

Finish planting bulbs.

Repot the amaryllis.

Vegetable Garden

We missed the big frost so even though I brought in any reddish tomatoes, there are still more on the vine.

Todays Grahamism

Following Ponts return home from the vet following his snip snip, Im going to give Pont a kiss to help him feel better.

Sunday Dance Practice

Each Sunday my husband (when he is free) transports Graham to St. Paul for dance practice. This gives me a bit of peace and time to work in the garden. Here is what it looks like at Graham's practice:

Note: You can see all my videocasts at my Moblog site.

Posted by maasx003 at 1:42 PM | Books | Family | Gardens | Videocast

Category "Books"

Category "Family"

Category "Gardens"

Category "Videocast"

September 24, 2005

Sick Time

Ive been out sick most of this week with my annual September sinus infection, an occurrence that occurs with the same regularity as the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano.

This infection knocks me out, leaving me as tired as a baby. I spent one morning sleeping and in the afternoon, made my way to the chaise lounge under the pergola. There I managed enough energy to turn the pages of my book.

I lounged for a couple of hours, warmed by the sun, surrounded by my beautiful fall blooms. As I sat there, it registered that Ive been wanting to do nothing more than this all summer: just lay back, rest and enjoy the gardens.

Im just sorry it took an illness to get me to slow down and enjoy the fruits of our labors. Theres got to be a message in there somewhere but my brain is too fuzzy to figure it out.

Happy Birthday, Pont!


This weekend marks the first birthday of Pont, our male whippet. While his reign of destruction while growing out of puppyhood has left a long laundry list of chewed up socks, books, toys, sofa pillows and coffee tables, were still glad to have brought him into our family. Graham picked out some presents for him including a new Flying Squirrel Frisbee and sang Happy Birthday to him when he woke up.

Listen to a First-hand Account of Surviving Katrina

Pop over to my husband Brians blog to listen to his interview with The Pope, the New Orleans Saints Fan of the Year who rode out the levee burst with his son on the roof of his house. Harrowing stuff. From his podcast page, simply click on the play button of the embedded sound player and choose Viking Underground Podcast Sixteen.

A Shameless Book Plug

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The next time you are at the book store, pick up my friend Amy Scheibes new book, What Do You Do All Day? that she began writing while on maternity leave with her son two years ago.

Publishers Weekly gave her the following review: Scheibe's hilarious debut is rife with wry observationsWith a light touch and a sparkling plot, Scheibe takes on the conundrums-and beauty-of motherhood for driven yet nurturing women.

Amy is smart, funny and in touch with what working mothers are feeling today. Again, check it out.

Something New

My husband has been raising the bar for sports bloggers everywhere. He has been delving into podcasting, mobile blogging, and videocasting. I was getting jealous so he finally decided that I should start doing some of that as well.

We put our collective minds together and came up with the idea of having me do short videocasts each week. You will actually get to see and hear me in action as we discuss something new each week. This week, I let you know how to defend your gardens against slugs.

To view this videocast, the very first one for Through the Garden Gate, you just need to slide over to my Moblog site. You'll notice a hot link on the right side of this page near the top called "My Moblog Site: Video/Audio Supplements".

Once there, you will see the video and all you need to do is click on the play button. I hope you like them. Next week, I'll show you how to properly plant bulbs.

Why We Use a Tree Care Service

When we purchased our house 14 years ago, it came with five flowering crab trees along the north side of our property. Each spring they started out looking lovely with lush green foliage but by mid-summer, the leaves had turned bright orange-yellow and spotty and were dropping off.

The culprit was cedar-apple rust, a fungus (Gymnosporangium), which alternates between Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) and mostly apple and crabapple trees. The rust is particularly bad during wet springs.

There are two things you can do prevent rust: remove the hosts or apply fungicides. Since removing all the cedars in the wide radius around our house is unrealistic, that leaves a chemical solution. Okay, I thought of a third thing: plant trees that are disease-resistant. But our trees were already in place so that wasnt an option.

I remember trying to apply the fungicide by myself one year but shortly after that I became pregnant with Graham and avoided all garden chemicals, even for a few years after he was born.

Eventually we hit on the idea of hiring a tree service to spray for rust. Take a look at the difference between an untreated flowering crabtree from the neighborhood and then one of our treated trees.

In addition to the obvious aesthetics of a tree with healthy, glossy leaves, massive defoliation year after year will weaken a tree.

Weve also used a tree service to provide deep root fertilization for trees stressed by the heavy construction equipment used during our remodeling project and to provide professional pruning.

There are some gardening maintenance projects that should just be done by professionals. The service may be expensive but for the health of your trees, its worth it.

Amaryllis Care

Each Christmas, I find myself purchasing an amaryllis bulb at Target. They offer a great deal a big, healthy bulb for only $5. I have given them away for presents to Grahams teachers, and they also make a great hostess gift.

I seem to have developed quite a collection of them through the years but have had little success in getting them to bloom again.

With care, amaryllis can provide years of holiday blooms but you need to follow a specific regimen to get them to bloom again. Ive got the easy part down pat: bring them outside in the summer to give them as much sunlight as possible so they can gather energy back in the bulb. But after that, even though Ive read article after article on how to do it, Im just not doing something right.

I asked my friend and fellow gardener Susan for her proven methods of getting her amaryllis to bloom year after year:

One, take the bulb out of the pot, wash the roots and start the dormant stage by putting it in the basement for six to eight weeks. Then re-pot the bulb with fresh soil.

I prefer to leave them in a pot with fresh soil, in the cool, dim area of the basement, and keep them fairly dry. Let the leaves die down, then cut leaves off. Start the forcing period about six to eight weeks before you want bloom. When leaves appear, bring them up the light, water and watch them take off.

The real key is to re-pot them, in a deep but small pot, with about 2" of soil around the bulb. Keep the bulb raised in the pot, so soil does not touch the neck. If that does not work, put them out in the summer, feed and encourage new leaves. That feeds the bulb. Then try again!

Ill keep you posted through the next couple months to see if I can reach my goal of amaryllis blooms for Christmas without buying more bulbs at Target!

Whats That Buzz?

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Our prairie garden is attracting thousands of busy honey bees. If you stand still, the buzz of all those golden wings is not deafening, but certainly loud. Somewhere around here is a hive that is going to have some scrumptious honey this year, thanks to us!

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What Im Reading

Just finished: Confessions of a Slacker Wife by Muffy Mead-Ferro. I highly recommend it.

In the middle of: Snobs by Julian Fellowes, who won the Best Original Screenplay Academy Award for Gosford Park.

Next in the queue: Locked Rooms: A Mary Russell novel by Laurie R. King. The latest in the series about Sherlock Holmes young mystery-solving wife.

Listening to: Monty Pythons Spamalot the original Broadway cast recording. Hilarious musical retelling of one of the greatest films ever made, Monty Pythons Holy Grail.

Grahams current favorite: My Kindergarten by Rosemary Wells. A lovely look at a kindergartners first year.

The Mystery Plant

Was that tricky? Last weeks plant was a canna seedhead. Can you guess the plant this week?

Heres Whats Blooming Now

Calendula
Sunflowers
Sweet Autumn clematis
My Favorite mum lavender, red and coral
Rose
Scabiosa
Campanula Blue Clips
Comfrey
Ligularia Othello
Canna
Morning glories
Nicotiana all shapes, colors and sizes
Verbena bonariensis
Native monarda
A lobelia that is blue but was labeled Cardinal Lobelia when I bought it. Surprise!
Nasturtium Peach Melba and others
Rudbeckia Goldsturm
Phlox David
Asters
Russian sage
Hydrangea Annabelle
Coreopsis Moonbeam
Joe Pye Weed
Purple coneflower
Butterfly weed
Veronica
Thyme
Alpine strawberry and fruiting, too
Sedum
Indian blanket
Nepeta Walkers Low

Garden Chores for the Week

Keep up with the wisteria vines, slug traps and pot watering.

Start planting bulbs.

Make an appointment to get the lawn aerated?

Vegetable Garden

Lots of green tomatoes but not many reds. I had to purchase a tomato to make a BLT this week. Gasp!

Todays Grahamisms

During the severe thunderstorm that the Twin Cities experienced this week, Graham gave me minute by minute updates of the storms progress:

"Mom! Mom! The winds fellsity is up to 40 miles an hour!"

"Mom! Mom! Its hailing!"

"Mom! Mom! The guy said the storm is heading toward Oakdale. Aunt Lori and Uncle Mike are in DANGER!!!"

On being presented with a chocolate doughnut covered in red, white and blue sprinkles, Graham asked, Is this an American doughnut?

Posted by maasx003 at 4:27 PM | Books | Family | Gardens | Videocast