Tag Archives: Garden

‘No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.’


As drab February drags on, my thoughts turn to the shimmering promise of spring. Glorious days lie before me, filled with promise of the riches to come here in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, I call ‘the Shire.’

“I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.” ~Ruth Stout (Me too!)

spring flowers in the Shenandoah Valley

Seeds are ordered and hoarded–I have enough for a meadow–but can’t commence in my little greenhouse until the deep freeze passes. It’s only solar heated. I don’t start anything in there before March. Cruel frosts can strike us into mid-May, even later, so no tender seedlings go into the ground until the ‘Corn Planting’ moon is past, as some Algonquin tribes referred to it. Frosts often coincide with a full moon. Outside, hardy plant seeds go in the garden as soon as it’s dry enough. Not likely before March. Many lovely heirloom flowers, and some vegetables, reseed themselves freely. As do the weeds. Hardiest of the lot.

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” ~Anne Bradstreet (True, Anne, but we’d rather not.)

Farm garden with horse and buggy going by1

(Mounds of rhubarb in our garden with piles of compost and buggy going past.)

Each year, I declare THIS will be the best garden ever! I’m an optimist. Whatever comes, there will be bounty and beauty despite adversity, bugs, and blight. Daughter Elise and I are researching and rethinking which organic gardening methods and aides are best. We’re big into companion planting and expanding on that theme. Also using lots of compost. If anyone has any great ideas about battling the squash vine borer, that also attacks our beloved pumpkins, please speak up. It’s enemy number one. The hoard of squash bugs are enemy number two. We’ll be planting many more herbs and flowers in among the vegetables to attract the good bugs and repel the bad, plus trying floating row covers, and an insecticidal oil from Gardens Alive. I like their products and use various ones. I will report in and let you know how we fare with our schemes and dreams.

Spring 2015

(Snowdrops in bloom from last year. In bud now)

“Every spring is the only spring — a perpetual astonishment.” ~Ellis Peters

“I think that no matter how old or infirm I may become, I will always plant a large garden in the spring. Who can resist the feelings of hope and joy that one gets from participating in nature’s rebirth?” ~Edward Giobbi

Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day. ~W. Earl Hall

Early spring in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

(The Shenandoah Valley–image by my mom)

“The naked earth is warm with Spring,

And with green grass and bursting trees

Leans to the sun’s kiss glorying,

And quivers in the sunny breeze.”
~Julian Grenfell

“In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours.” ~Mark Twain

Indeed.

(Images by Elise Trissel unless otherwise noted)

Anyone Up for Catching a Leprechaun?


leprechaun (1)It’s been snowy, so leprechauns may not be out yet. But the white stuff is melting and spring on its way to the valley, so maybe. According to the small people in the family, in order to catch one, you dig a shallow hole–deeper, if you’re in a digging mood–beneath the old maple tree in our front yard, then disguise it with twigs and sticks, fallen from the tree, and add some tempting leaves and flower petals. The clover isn’t really out yet, and the best blossoms they can find are tiny white snowdrops. The idea is similar to a tiger trap, the thinking being that the unsuspecting leprechaun will tumble into the trap and stay there until discovered by eager youngsters. What they’d do with one if they caught it, hasn’t been hotly debated. No one has a clue. I’m not sure they even realize these magical little guys have a bag of gold at the end of the rainbow, or that they’re required to grant you three wishes upon their release.

Snowdrops one

(Snowdrops blooming in our yard. Image by Elise)

irish shamrocksRecently, six yr old granddaughter Emma asked her Aunt Elise if leprechauns actually exist. Elise said that all depends on who you ask. Many would say ‘yes’ and there are a lot of stories about leprechauns. Satisfied, Emma returned to her task. Heaven knows our resident fairy expert, my niece Cailin, knows about leprechauns. They fall into her area of expertise, as they’re a type of fairy in Irish folklore. Nine yr old grandson, Ian, the original instigator of the annual trap laying, had a theory that a leprechaun hitched a ride to his school in the pot of shamrocks his teacher brought to class, found its way into his backpack, and then ultimately my yard. I’m told I have highly fairy, and likely, leprechaun friendly gardens with all my herbs and flowers. Scant this year, though, until warmer winds blow favorably upon our realm. It’s been a long winter.

Last spring, Elise dipped the small foot of a doll into green paint and walked her around the trap, to give the kids a thrill. Just missing a leprechaun is almost as good as snaring one.

darby-ogill-and-king-brian-shar

Who remembers Darby O’Gill and the Little People? I saw the film years after it first came out in 1959, when my children were young, but we all found it enchanting. Although the banshee scared the bejeebers out of us and seeing Sean Connery with dark brown hair and singing was rather a shock for me. He was much younger then. I was a preschooler in ’59, only they didn’t have preschool in those days. Plus, I was in Taiwan where I spent much of my early childhood and they most definitely did not have leprechauns. Dragons, however, are another matter.

(Image of Darby O’Gill and King Brian)

leprechaun“Magic
Sandra’s seen a leprechaun,
Eddie touched a troll,
Laurie danced with witches once,
Charlie found some goblins gold.
Donald heard a mermaid sing,
Susy spied an elf,
But all the magic I have known
I’ve had to make myself.”
― Shel SilversteinWhere the Sidewalk Ends

***This is a repost from last March, but very fitting.

Inspiration from the Inky Dinky Spider


lavender in the garden

If you’re among those who insist on referring to said spider as ‘Itsy Bitsy’, so be it. I was raised singing The Inky Dinky Spider. But back to the point. Given the number of posts I’ve done centered around inspiration, it’s likely not a surprise to hear I’m experiencing some challenging times.  Being a spiritually minded individual, I’ve prayed hard. Last night, I told God if he had a sign for me, I was sorely in need, as I’d given up. This morning, I awoke singing, you guessed it, The Inky Dinky Spider.  I have no idea why. It’s not a favorite of the grandbabies, and been years since I sang it with my kids. As I pondered this seeming Divine response, I gleaned the deep wisdom in these simple lyrics.

garden in ray of sunshine

‘The inky dinky spider climbed up the water spout.

Down came the rain and washed the spider out.

Out came the sun and dried up all the rain

And the inky dinky spider climbed up the spout again.’ (In order for that last bit to rhyme, you must pronounce again with a British accent).

So, the message of the Inky Dinky is this: troubles come, but the sun returns and we try again. And again.

I’m also a big fan of the beautiful song, The Impossible Dream, but will save that for another day.

tulips in the garden-April

*I couldn’t find an image of a spider, but there are many in our garden. The big Charlotte’s Web writing spiders are especially evident. They’re in here somewhere.

Images of our garden by daughter Elise Trissel

How To Catch a Leprechaun


leprechaun (1)According to the small people in the family, you dig a shallow hole–or deeper, if you’re in a digging mood–beneath the old maple tree in our front yard, then disguise it with twigs and sticks, fallen from the tree, and add some tempting leaves and flower petals. The clover isn’t really out yet, and the best blossoms they can find are tiny white snowdrops. The idea is similar to a tiger trap, the thinking being that the unsuspecting leprechaun will tumble into the trap and stay there until discovered by eager youngsters. What they’d do with one if they caught it, hasn’t been hotly debated. No one has a clue. I’m not sure they even realize these magical little guys have a bag of gold at the end of the rainbow, or that they’re required to grant you three wishes upon their release.

irish shamrocksRecently, six yr old granddaughter Emma asked her Aunt Elise if leprechauns actually exist. Elise said that all depends on who you ask. Many would say ‘yes’ and there are a lot of stories about leprechauns. Satisfied, Emma returned to her task. Heaven knows our resident fairy expert, my niece Cailin, knows about leprechauns. They fall into her area of expertise, as they’re a type of fairy in Irish folklore. Nine yr old grandson, Ian, the original instigator of the annual trap laying, had a theory that a leprechaun hitched a ride to his school in the pot of shamrocks his teacher brought to class, found its way into his backpack, and then ultimately my yard. I’m told I have highly fairy, and likely, leprechaun friendly gardens with all my herbs and flowers. Scant this year, though, until warmer winds blow favorably upon our realm. It’s been a long winter.

Last spring, Elise dipped the small foot of a doll into green paint and walked her around the trap, to give the kids a thrill. Just missing a leprechaun is almost as good as snaring one.

darby-ogill-and-king-brian-sharWho remembers Darby O’Gill and the Little People? I saw the film years after it first came out in 1959, when my children were young, but we all found it enchanting. Although the banshee scared the bejeebers out of us and seeing Sean Connery with dark brown hair and singing was rather a shock for me. He was much younger then. I was a preschooler in ’59, only they didn’t have preschool in those days. Plus, I was in Taiwan where I spent much of my early childhood and they most definitely did not have leprechauns. Dragons, however, are another matter.

(Image of Darby O’Gill and King Brian)

leprechaun“Magic
Sandra’s seen a leprechaun,
Eddie touched a troll,
Laurie danced with witches once,
Charlie found some goblins gold.
Donald heard a mermaid sing,
Susy spied an elf,
But all the magic I have known
I’ve had to make myself.”
― Shel SilversteinWhere the Sidewalk Ends

Nifty New Gardening Gadget–the Ring Weeder


ring weederFor all you fellow gardeners, I came upon an innovative little tool to help with weeding. As you know, there are many kinds of weeds, the sort that require a wench and pickup to uproot, or a strong back and shovel, down to those smaller pesky weeds for which you need a trowel, or you think, maybe just your hand. But no, not quite. For those in between trowel and hand pulling size weeds, I’ve chanced upon the ring weeder. Worn over a glove on your index finger, this little gadget uproots the weeds with its hard plastic tip, like an extension of your hand, You then toss the weed aside and go on. And on, if you have as many as I tend to. I’m good at growing weeds. All sorts.

Ring Weeder in ActionThe ring weeder is the brainchild of Vince Suozzi, a longtime gardener, landscaper, and teacher, who conceived this nifty device after seeing the need for it over the years. With much encouragement to share his invention, he’s done so, and it’s really taking off.

Vincent with ring weederFrom Vince:

And other sites, as this innovative tool gains recognition.
Christmas BellsFor more on the Ring Weeder visit: www.theringweeder.com
It would make a great stocking stuffer, but is an anytime gift for a gardener.

“The garden is the poor man’s apothecary.” ~German Proverb–Beth Trissel


herb garden“A man may esteem himself happy when that which is his food is also his medicine.” –Henry David Thoreau. 

“All that man needs for health and healing has been provided by God in nature, the challenge of science is to find it.” ~ Paracelsus (Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim) (1493-1541)

“What can kill , can cure.”

“Yesterday I had peas and pot herbs, today pot herbs and peas; tomorrow I shall eat peas with my pot herbs and the day after pot herbs with my peas.” ~Benedictine Monk, 1053.

“Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” -Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.)

herbal arrangement

“Garlic is as good as ten mothers.”
~Traditional European Saying

“Eat leeks in oile and ramsines in May,

And all the year after physicians may play.” (Ramsines were old-fashioned broad-leafed leeks.)

“The leaves and floures of Borrage put into wine  make men and women glad and merry, driving away all sadnesse, dulnesse, and melancholy, as Dioscorides and Pliny affirme.  Syrrup made of the floures of Borrage comforteth the heart, purgeth melancholy, and quieteth the phrenticke or lunaticke person.”
~John Gerard, The Herball, or General Historie of Plantes. 1597

herb garden with parsley“The revival interest in herbal medicine is a worldwide phenomenon.”
~Mark Blumenthal, Executive Director of the American Botanical Council

“Oh, the powers of nature! She knows what we need, and the doctors know nothing.” ~Benvenuto Cellini

“Botany and medicine came down the ages hand in hand until the seventeenth century; then both arts became scientific, their ways parted, and no new herbals were compiled.  The botanical books ignored the medicinal properties of plants and the medical books contained no plant lore.” ~Hilda Leyel   

“Much Virtue in Herbs, little in Men.” ~Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) Poor Richard’s Almanac

“Time is an herb that cures all Diseases.”
~Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790,  Poor Richard’s Almanac 

“Eat an apple going to bed , make the doctor beg his bread.”

“What is Paradise? But a Garden, an Orchard of Trees and Herbs, full of pleasure, and nothing there but delights.” ~William Lawson, 1618.

“With the growing recognition of the value of herbs, it is surely time to examine the professional therapeutic use of these herbs. There are profound changes happening in the American culture and herbal medicine, ‘green medicine,’ is playing an ever-increasing role in people’s experience of this transformation.”   
~David Hoffman, past President of the American Herbalist Guild

“The olive tree is surely the richest gift of Heaven.
I can scarcely expect bread.” ~Thomas Jefferson

“I borage, give courage.”

“He would live for aye, must eat sage in May.”

“Gardening with herbs, which is becoming increasingly popular, is indulged in by those who like subtlety in their plants in preference to brilliance.”~Helen Morgenthau Fox 

Gardening and Country Life in the Shenandoah Valley–Beth Trissel


lilacs blooming in mid May

This has been a challenging week in the garden weather wise–a hard freeze Monday night took a punishing toll and then the temps soared Wednesday and hot winds blew. My poor plants. The past few days have been blessedly mild and I’ve done as much damage control as I can. Fortunately much of what I grow is tough, plus I’m planting out new seedlings I grew in my greenhouse. This is one weary gardener with much left to do. On a brighter note, daughter Elise got our her camera and took some lovely and endearing shots that remind me why I bother. For better or worse, this is my life and I wouldn’t trade it. There’s nothing like living in the country, especially the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. But I’m praying for rain. A light mist is falling now. More, please, but not a flood. You have to be very specific with your weather prayers. Onward ho.

(Very hardy late season lilac with the sweetest blooms)

mama goose and goslings

***Mama Goose taking our latest goslings on an amble.

Eons ago husband Dennis bought two pair of barnyard geese because I was into decoupaging eggs. That hobby has long since passed, but the geese have thrived. They eat grass, peck corn that spills from cow feed, and swim on the pond. We have a cantankerous gaggle that are part of the farm and always will be.

Below is a pic of our two bantam roosters, buddies and brothers, who have the run of the place and roost on the rafters in the barn at night, which keeps them safe. My daughter in law, who has chickens, gave us this pair. The few times she’s tried to add a hen it becomes a quick snack for some predator or other. Everything eats chickens. I’d like to have hens that can free range like these roosters but they’d have to be big and strapping, and learn to roost at night like the boys. The barn kitties get along with the roosters and the geese. An odd mix but they sort it out.

barn cat and roosters