Tag Archives: country garden

October On Our Farm in the Shenandoah Valley


Misty mountains, autumn leaves, and garden tidying…now and forever more I will associate the pungent minty scent of catnip with my fall garden. I’m in cleanup mode, pulling weeds, grass, catnip seedlings, and struggling to root out large mounds of the fragrant herb.

(Catnip growing in with tansy in the garden)

It’s not that I dislike this old-time plant, not in the least. But several years ago, daughter Elise planted four clumps at either end of the vegetable plot to act as beneficial companions and attract pollinators, which catnip does well. Butterflies favor the blossoms and potato bugs can’t sniff out their desired food when potato leaves intermingle with catnip. Since then, hundreds of their offspring have graced every corner of the garden. Flower beds also play host. I’m fond of this potent plant so leave seedlings here and there, and on it goes. Catnip will inherit the earth, as will mint, comfrey, dill…but I love them all. And, of course, cats are mad for it.

We haven’t had hard frost yet, but soon will. As I work outside, I pause to gaze over the meadow and hills rising beyond our farm and admire the changing leaves. Yesterday’s overcast sky only muted the beauty–which I don’t mind–and the mist made the mountains appear even more mysterious. While walking the dogs into the field I call the back forty, I summon halts to savor the beauty. The dogs stand, nose to the breeze tossing my hair, and sniff appreciatively. Country scents of cows and new mown grass float around us. Barnyard geese honk, birds call, and cows let me know they see us. Pockets of mist hovered between the hills this morning, the subdued bronze and orange in the trees showing through in places. When the sun comes out, these autumn hues will shine. The woods above our meadow are called ‘Burnt Woods’ by locals because of their flaming color in the sun. Glorious.

(Maples in our meadow)

(Sugar maple at our pond)

(Hills and the neighbor’s farm behind our pond. See the Old Order Mennonite Church?)

(Misty mountains in the distance seen on my walk with the dogs)

Meadowlarks still trill from the tall grass, reminding me of spring, while wild geese fly in V’s overhead. I’ve left tangles of asters, bittersweet, and clematis in places in hopes of attracting the wrens who visited our feeder last year. They like a bit of untidiness, as do other birds.

(Fall asters and last of the dahlias above)

(late ground rose)

(Pocket of flowers)

I’ve been on a bulb planting craze lately, hiding them like Easter eggs to discover in the raw winds of March and balmier days of April and May. These early flowers elicit such joy, how can I resist adding more? I also sprinkled hardy annual flower seeds around for spring color like larkspur, violas, wall flowers, poppies, and sweet alyssum. Spinach is seeded for early greens. By late winter, we’re starving for them. This is when the new leaves of dandelions are appreciated for cooked greens.

Hubby Dennis’s mother made a wonderful creamy dressing to pour over dandelion greens with bacon and hard boiled eggs. That stuff made anything good. I found her recipe in an old cook book. I could post it for you in spring. She also used it on watercress. One unfortunate spring, the whole Trissel family, apart from baby Dennis, contracted typhoid fever from consuming contaminated water cress. Seems a man who lived above the spring where the cress grew was a typhoid Mary type of carrier with a leaky outhouse. Who knew? All of the family survived because new medicines were available by the early fifties.

Back to the garden. This garden was my mother-in-law’s before I became its caretaker. The first years that Mom Trissel and Dennis’s father lived at the farm they had no indoor plumbing and only one electric outlet. She boiled up her wash in an outdoor kettle. And this old farmhouse was built soon after the Civil War. But that’s another story. There are many tales to tell from this beautiful valley.(Our land leading to another farm and the hills seen on our dog walk)

(Gorgeous trees at the church up the road from our farm)

‘Autumn burned brightly, a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees.’ ~Faith Baldwin, American Family

The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there. ~George Bernard Shaw


“My little bit of earth in the front garden is one of the places that I find my bearings. The rhythm of my day begins with a cup of coffee and a little bit of weeding or dreaming.” ~Betsy Cañas Garmon, http://www.wildthymecreative.com

(Foxglove and roses in my Memorial Garden)

Living on a farm allows me more than a bit of earth, but the garden is also where I find my bearings. As much as I savor fresh fruits and vegetables, it’s the flowers that feed my soul. Beds dating back to my late mother-in-law’s day wrap this old white farm house and flow along the side of the road where drivers roar past. The road wasn’t such a menace in Mom Trissel’s time. Now, it’s ‘gardener beware’. I’ve reeled back more than once while working in that bed when a driver zoomed by alarmingly close. I have this crazy hope they will slow down to admire the flowers. Plus the barnyard geese graze in my front yard and sometimes wander near the road. We have about two dozen squawky Pilgrim geese. We’d have even more but they aren’t great parents and often misplace goslings. We’ve rescued some babies but can only do so much. It’s a running joke about the geese hating me, while not minding Hubby Dennis or daughter Elise. I think it’s because I clap and shout to get them away from the road and out of my yard. In addition to grass they graze on my plants, like phlox and bee balm. Tender lettuce is also a favorite but the vegetable plot is fenced in. Pic of goose with the monarch was taken last summer. Those are tithonia flowers the butterflies love.

Below are Shirley Poppies, Larkspur, yellow evening primrose, roses, iris, yellow coreopsis, and blue Love in the Mist blooming now in that massive bed along the road. A giant old-fashioned rose commands the far corner. This sea of color overflows with wildflowers, perennials, heirloom flowers, roses, and herbs. The abundant plants are so thick there is little need for mulch. It’s my living barrier to that beastly road. Grandchildren also play in the yard, but on this side of the border. The kids love to explore the many beds that comprise my garden, but they aren’t allowed to stick a toe in that one. Only I risk life and limb.

I’ve whittled down the vegetable plot over the years and expanded Mom Trissel’s flower beds while adding others. Herbs and blossoms surround my vegetable garden and mingle with the edibles. Drifts of wildflowers I seeded in April are lush with promise but I’ve knocked myself out dragging the hose around during dry spells. Blooms fill our small back garden from the white snowdrops in late winter to pink Queen Charlotte anemone in late summer. I watch from the kitchen window as feathered friends visit the bird feeder and hummers dart. Because this garden is enclosed by a wall, I can only expand it so far. Aggressive plants like fragrant Egyptian mint and Queen Anne’s Lace have taken too much ground, though both are beautiful. The mint should have been planted in a pot but I didn’t know that thirty years ago. Battling mint is an ongoing struggle and I must thin Queen Anne’s Lace. Iris and Dame’s Rocket (below) are finishing up for this season, as are Mom Trissel’s peonies. I moved some of her peonies and iris to the kitchen and Memorial gardens. My dear grandmother gave me this white iris years ago.

Dear to my heart is the expansive Memorial Garden I’ve labored in since late February. Not only have I worked there every day the weather permitted, but often when it didn’t. Cold wind blasted me in my scarf and multiple layers. Raw drizzle misted my face and chilled my muddy gloved fingers. In the early days, if temps hit the upper forties, I headed out the door. Fifties was a heat wave. Sometimes I waited until mid-day for the ground to thaw enough to dig. Everything was brown and depressing at first, apart from emerging daffodils. The only beauty lay in my vision of what could be. But I was bent on digging out wild asters that had overrun this enormous bed and creating a glorious site. I still dig tenacious roots out daily, but I’ve left some asters growing along the fence. They are butterfly magnets. The colorful mounds, some reaching over six feet tall, flutter and buzz with life in late summer. If I’m not careful, though, that’s all I’ll have. And I badly needed a goal and physical work this spring.

(Me digging aster roots. Hubby took pics when I didn’t realize)

I spent hours crawling around in the bleak cold getting out roots. See the tiny plant surrounded by stones? It’s a poor little rose that got lost in the asters, much happier since its rescue. Asters pictured below.


“Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets used to it.” ~Author Unknown (Truth! My back ached terribly in those first days,not much now.)

“I cultivate my garden, and my garden cultivates me.” ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com

The garden has, indeed, cared for me. My father’s passing in late December, only a year and a half after my brother Chad’s death, left me overwhelmed with grief. Then my mother-in-law died. The Memorial bed is also for her. All the digging, clean up, planting, mulching, path making, and ongoing planning for what to put in where has given me a much needed focus. Writing eluded me as I never thought it would. But nature hasn’t. And Lord knows the seed catalogues and online garden sites are there for me. Local ones, too. I have discovered some wonderful gardeners through the world of YouTube. My favorite is artist Jeri Landers. the Storybook Gardener, who has been of much comfort and inspiration. I love her creativity and gardening style and avidly follow her YouTube channel.

Like Jeri, I would describe my garden as cottage, country, with native plants. I’m not in the least formal. In one video, Jeri suggested finding an unsightly–even ugly–corner and making it beautiful. So I tackled the kitchen garden, another bed ruled by an overreaching plant, Bishop’s Weed. It was a hard slog, but I am delighted with the transformation. Then I took on a third bed overrun with a different kind of wild aster, and so on…You see the pattern here. I worked until I dropped, but it helped lift my spirits.

Jeri raised stunning foxglove from seed this year, while I bought plants, so guess what seed I ordered yesterday…plus, plus. I have a little greenhouse Dennis built for me eons ago, but it relies on solar heat. Too often seeds I sow in spring don’t germinate, even with a heating mat. I like Jeri’s idea of starting some of the hardy flowers in summer and wintering them over to bloom next year.

My most enticing plant lure are roses. At last count, I’ve moved four from various corners of the yard where they weren’t thriving to join five existing roses in my Memorial Garden. Two more roses were given to me, and I’ve purchased fourteen. So far. You can’t have a remembrance garden without the queen of flowers. Most came from English rose breeder David Austin and Jackson and Perkins. (J and P had a super sale this past week.) Several roses spilled into my newly reclaimed kitchen garden. I eagerly await those that have not yet bloomed. Among my new Memorial Garden additions are delphiniums, various buddleias, oriental lilies, gladiolas, hollyhocks, sweet William, iris, peonies, hardy geraniums, dianthus, bellflowers, less aggressive perennial asters and an annual aster, heuchera (coral bells) Lady’s Mantle, phlox, yarrow, saliva, rudbeckia, violas, columbine, different varieties of poppies, foxglove, lupins, verbena, catmint, sweet alyssum, lavender, chamomile, lemon marigolds… I’m still adding. Pics below from emerging blooms in that garden: roses, nepeta (catmint) miniature delphinium and violas. I started violas and alyssum from seed.

Carding Mill — David Austen Rose

Grief has its own timetable, with unpredictable ups and downs, as uncontrollable as the tide. I’m slowly finding my way, but know the sadness will never fully leave me. I already knew this from past grief, but never quite so sharply. I’m blessed with a close loving family and dear friends. They are my lifelines. I hope to find my way back to writing. This is the most I’ve written in months and it hasn’t been easy, but cathartic. For me, gardening is a vital part of healing. At some point, I will add a plaque, statue, or remembrance stone to the Memorial garden. Maybe all three. It’s a work in progress.

“I think this is what hooks one to gardening: it is the closest one can come to being present at creation.” ~Phyllis Theroux

First hollyhocks opened yesterday.

Summer Inspiration From Our Farm in the Shenandoah Valley


Summer days on the farm sail by like clouds in the blue. Each morning brings a fresh look to our familiar  scenery. The sights that greet us have comforting continuity and yet are ever-changing.  No two days in the country are identical.

Breaking dawn and soon after is the best time of day. Nightly slumber renews the garden, beading every leaf and blossom with dew. Cows amble in the sparkling meadow, and the pond swims with waterfowl… It’s the garden of Eden time.

(Lilies with the barn in back.)

Pastoral beauty and flowery nooks beckon and I get out my camera phone. Suspicious geese flee the crazy lady unless I sneak up on them. Fussy bunch. Summer sounds create a symphony while I dart around picture-taking. Birds sing, roosters crow, cows bawl, geese fuss… The cooing of mourning doves is a continual background note, and we have an insane mockingbird who runs through every tune he knows. Repeatedly. The trill of meadowlarks is heavenly. Finches and robins have the happiest song. Red-winged blackbirds sound their classic wetland call  at the pond. Ducks converse amiably, unlike the squawky geese.. There is much life here.

I love the music of the garden. Bees hum, crickets chirp, fairies sing…

(Phlox and more phlox)

(Zinnias and cosmos from seed I saved and sowed in May, also pictured below)

(Wild Bee balm and coreopsis tinctoria)

Hazy, hot, and humid stretches of summer do not inspire me. Pics are dulled when the air hangs like a warm wet blanket. My spirits soar in the ‘Reaching to heaven blue sky days’ and these are the best for image taking. But I also love the mist. Mist lends itself well to mystery. You can hardly say mystery without it.

Magic returns again in the long summer evenings. We’re blessed with a spectacular view of sunsets over the meadow, the pond, and hills with the Allegheny Mountains rolling beyond them. Once again, the geese may enter into these images. It depends on how sneaky I am and how fast they are. The host of lightning bugs blinking in the garden and meadows are impossible to capture on film.  Cicadas serenade us from the trees. Earthy farm smells are not for everyone but you have to love the scenery.

(Our pond at dusk)

(Our barn at sunset with sunflowers)

(Phlox at dusk)

I’ve captured glimpses of midsummer in ‘The Shire’ as I term our little patch of earth and hope you enjoy my sharing.

(The geese running toward the meadow-away from me)

(The geese watching the sunset)

(Cows in pasture beneath the setting sun)

‘The summer night is like a perfection of thought.’ ~Wallace Stevens

‘In summer, the song sings itself.’ ~William Carlos Williams

‘Each fairy breath of summer, as it blows with loveliness, inspires the blushing rose.’ ~Author Unknown

(Cone flowers)

‘Love is to the heart what the summer is to the farmer’s year — it brings to harvest all the loveliest flowers of the soul.’ ~Author Unknown

‘Then followed that beautiful season… Summer….
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.’
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

‘To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie –
True Poems flee –’
~Emily Dickinson, c.1879

‘I drifted into a summer-nap under the hot shade of July, serenaded by a cicada lullaby, to drowsy-warm dreams of distant thunder.’ ~Terri Guillemets

‘One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides.’ ~W.E. Johns, The Passing Show

(Gaillardia)

***In addition to the farm and garden, I’m an author. I write historical, time travel, and paranormal romance. Also young adult. Plus nonfiction about gardening and country life. For more on my books, visit my Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B002BLLAJ6/

June in my Garden in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia


Flower Bed along the road 8Husband Dennis was out with his camera this morning and captured some lovely shots of the flower bed along the edge of the yard that borders the road. We’ve had some sumptuously gorgeous days lately with low humidity and blue skies that reach to heaven. This time of year it’s very hard to be in when the garden beckons, and bird calls float through the open windows.

To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers is a delectable form of defeat. ~Beverly Nichols

A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books. ~Walt Whitman

How can one help shivering with delight when one’s hot fingers close around the stem of a live flower, cool from the shade and stiff with newborn vigor! ~Colette

Flower bed along road 6-16-2014

Flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men or animals. Some seem to smile; some have a sad expression; some are pensive and diffident; others again are plain, honest and upright, like the broad-faced sunflower and the hollyhock. ~Henry Ward Beecher, Star Papers: A Discourse of Flowers
Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed. ~Walt Whitman

Flowers really do intoxicate me. ~Vita Sackville-West

Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature. ~Gerard de Nerval

I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers. ~Claude Monet

larkspur and shirley poppies

A flower’s appeal is in its contradictions — so delicate in form yet strong in fragrance, so small in size yet big in beauty, so short in life yet long on effect. ~Terri Guillemets

Let us dance in the sun, wearing wild flowers in our hair… ~Susan Polis Shutz

The flower that follows the sun does so even in cloudy days. ~Robert Leighton

Flower bed along road 4

Image of: Roses, larkspur, Shirley poppies, calendula, asparagus, sage, lamb’s ears, lilies, hollyhocks, coral bells, California poppies, lavender, and numerous other herbs and flowers.