Tag Archives: Gardening

Chronicling Spring in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

I am a gardener, animal lover, author… Fortunately, I haven’t had to choose a single focus and incorporate my loves into my writing. Among my greatest passions is the Shenandoah Valley in general, and our farm in particular. The meadows are covered in a wash of green and looking far more hopeful than the brown hue we’ve lived with since November A blanket of snow is pretty but we haven’t had much snowfall this year. Thank heavens the rain has returned after months of drought. Fingers crossed, it stays.

Our drained and dug out farm pond is finally beginning to fill back up again. It was a dry crater all fall and winter like something on the moon. The barnyard geese were suspicious at first, but now go for swims. We are watching for the migrating waterfowl and birds who were once regular visitors here. Sadly, our place was off their radar last spring. Having an alive pond again is exciting. We’re consulting experts about what to do regarding fish, and I’m toying with getting ducks. The original pond had filled with silt over the decades and had to be redone. It’s located in a marshy spot in the meadow fed by wet water springs and is the head waters of Cooks Creek, which ultimately feeds into the Chesapeake Bay. Fencing keeps the cows out. We have planted some trees and shrubs around it and will plant more.

(Geese enjoying the new grass. Ruins of an old barn visible behind our farm)

I’m in my ‘giddy about the earth awakening mode’, or was, until the wind storm hit. My spirits are a little battered, and the crocus are kind of sad after the roaring bluster. But I trust the blossoms will revive and new ones will open when this gale finishes with us and sweeps away. March really roared in this year. Inclement weather is a trial to gardeners everywhere. We hopeful souls go on. We must. I’m chronicling spring as it unfolds in my bit of earth.

(Early crocus and snowdrops)

I saved a lot of seeds last year, ordered many others, and started some early varieties of flowers, herbs, and vegetables in my little greenhouse. One late February day was so balmy, it felt like May. I planted my early salad greens in the garden during the warm spell. Then the lion returned, and the seeds will slumber until the warmth comes back.

“Who loves a garden still his Eden keeps;
Perennial pleasures plants, and wholesome harvest reaps.”
~A. Bronson Alcott, “The Garden,” Tablets, 1868

“It was such a pleasure to sink one’s hands into the warm earth, to feel at one’s fingertips the possibilities of the new season.” ~Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden

(Miniature iris return faithfully each year)

(Yellow crocus)

***For more on me follow my Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Beth-Trissel/e/B002BLLAJ6/

To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves. ~Mahatma Gandhi

May is the wackiest, loveliest month, swinging from soaring heat to frigid cold. Now that the month is almost over, seasonable temps have arrived, and we’ve gotten some nice rain. Despite this roller coaster weather, most of the plants survived.

We grow hardy perennials, reseeding heirlooms, wildflowers (some might be called weeds), herbs…greens, especially Swiss chard, and a forest of dill. It’s possible I accidentally planted two seed packets. We’re reluctant to thin the excess as swallowtail butterfly caterpillars feed on the ferny foliage. Much of the dill is left to bury whatever else we had in that vicinity. Carrots, maybe…beets…  Some of the adult butterflies are soaring about the garden(s).

(Image of Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar and ladybug below taken today)

(Black Swallowtail on Bee Balm from a past summer)

Our garden is not carefully planned, and exists as much for the bees, butterflies, and beneficial insects as for us. We have a lot of ladybugs, lacewings, baby praying mantis, hover flies that resemble honey bees but are beneficials…and I’m not sure what, but a lot of good bugs to battle the bad. The plants often determine what grows. Those that do well tend to be takeover varieties, requiring some management.  By August it’s a jungle. Every single year. But this spring we’ve  mulched with a lot of hay, made valiant attempts at order. We even mulched many of the flower beds with bark like other people do, leaving spots for the reseeding flowers to do their thing, and make frequent rounds to pull out weeds, thistles, etc. But the ‘etc.’ has a way of overcoming all. Perhaps it’s best to do what we can and glory in the untamed beauty. We rarely achieve tamed.

(Swiss Chard with Peas behind below)

Weather means more when you have a garden. There’s nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans. ~Marcelene Cox

My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view. ~H. Fred Dale (Thanks, Anne)

Gardening requires lots of water — most of it in the form of perspiration. ~Lou Erickson

God made rainy days so gardeners could get the housework done. ~Author Unknown
I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from and Old Manse

Gardens are a form of autobiography. ~Sydney Eddison, Horticulture magazine, August/September 1993

Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity. ~Lindley Karstens, noproblemgarden.com

You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt. ~Author Unknown

How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence. ~Benjamin Disraeli

The garden is the poor man’s apothecary. ~German Proverb

(Heirloom peony)

Half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination. ~Mrs. C.W. Earle, Pot-Pourri from a Surrey Garden, 1897 (Thanks, Jessica)

No two gardens are the same. No two days are the same in one garden. ~Hugh Johnson

(Happy Coreopsis)

Coming Soon-My Very First Newsletter!

With much appreciated help, I’m putting together my first ever newsletter, a mix of gardening, geese, the farm, my furbabies, books…new release…If you’d like to be among the happy recipients please message me your email at bctrissel@yahoo.com or fill out the form on the left side of my blog. A $20.00 Amazon gift card will be awarded to one of the recipients for coming on board. I’m too busy herding cats, geese, Puppy Cooper, gardening, and that writing thing…to get a newsletter out more than quarterly so don’t worry about being bombarded.

This announcement is brought to you by my publicists, Peaches and Cream..

Herbal Lore of the British Isles–April Workshop

herb gardenMy Herbal Lore Workshop for Celtic Hearts Romance Writers is also open to others. For more info and to register visit the link. The workshop runs from April 3-30, and will be interesting and informative. Although the focus of the herbs are those used historically in the British Isles, if a question arises about Native American plants, I can help out there, too. Be an active participant or a lurker. The material can be saved for later use. Lively interaction does make the class more fun, however.

Regarding homework, there isn’t any. If  you incorporate one or more of herbs into a scene you’ve written and would like feedback, I invite you to share it in the broader group, or email it to me privately and I’ll tell you if I think the herb choice and use seems right. My role is to offer information and inspiration.

Visit: http://celtichearts.org/herbal-lore-of-the-british-isles/

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

Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn. ~Quoted by Lewis Grizzard in Kathy Sue Loudermilk, I Love You

(Crocus and violas in the garden blooming now)

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. ~Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden. ~Ruth Stout

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

I wonder if the Daffodil
Shrinks from the touch of frost,
And when her veins grow stiff and still
She dreams that life is lost?
Ah, if she does, how sweet a thing
Her resurrection day in spring!
~Emma C. Dowd, “Daffodil and Crocus,” in Country Life in America: A Magazine for the Home-maker, the Vacation-seeker, the Gardener, the Farmer, the Nature-teacher, the Naturalist, April 1902

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

Her fairies climb the bare, brown trees,
And set green caps on every stalk;
Her primroses peep bashfully
From borders of the garden walk,
And in the reddened maple tops
Her blackbird gossips sit and talk.
~Hannah R. Hudson, “April,” The Atlantic Monthly, April 1868

(Grecian wind flowers)

The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month. ~Henry Van Dyke

…the sweet wildflower breath of spring… ~Terri Guillemets

I hear the passing echoes of winter and feel the warming spring on my face. ~Terri Guillemets

A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King.
~Emily Dickinson

The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring. ~Bern Williams

(Snowdrops blooming in the garden)

Spring Is When the Meadowlark Sings and It’s Singing

Signs of spring are everywhere on the farm. February is like an erratic March. So was January. We’ve had little real winter. Almost no snow. Our weather blows mild then cold then warm again, even balmy before the wind cuts through us once more. The geese are in hyper fussy mating/nesting mode. Don’t even try to talk to them now. Fuzzy pussy willows will soon burst into full-blown catkins. Possibly today. I’m calling it. Spring is here. I’ve got pea seed and early greens ready to plant.

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
― Margaret Atwood

Early spring in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

Meadowlark, Eastern MeadowlarkBack to the meadowlark, my goal is to ever actually see one of these elusive birds again. Theoretically, this shouldn’t be such a challenge, with our meadows and all. Once or twice, I’ve glimpsed a yellow flash and spotted the bird perched on a fence post before it flew. Mostly, they hide in the grass and skim away to another spot before I get a good look, calling all the while from various positions in the meadow.

Several years ago, daughter Elise and I were determined to track down the evasive songster and take its picture, like photographing fairies. We tenaciously followed its calls, even climbed over the fence into the neighbor’s pasture and picked our way along the little creek that flows from our pond, but never caught up with that bird, or birds. There may have been more than one taunting us. Unless I catch another rare glimpse, I must content myself with their beautiful trills. Birds like this need tall grasses and untidy hedge rows for nesting. Bear that in mind in your own yard and garden. Keeping everything trim and cultivated robs our feathered friends of habitat. It’s also a good excuse for a less than perfectly kept landscape. A little wilderness here and there is a good thing.

The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in spring“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
“Winter is dead.”
― A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young

***Images of spring in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia by my mom, Pat Churchman.

I bought the image of the meadowlark. Sigh.

Happy Boots, Happy Self

happy-garden-farm-bootsI’ve been thinking about my garden/farm boots a lot lately, partly because I haven’t ordered a new pair in two years, and daughter Alison is also debating this question. We’re fans of the colorful spirit-lifting kind. She’s torn about which pair to get. Initially, you can get away with one pair of oh, say yellow polka dot boots for everyday and town wear, if you hose them off after feeding the goats, chickens, etc. But it doesn’t take long before the gloss is gone.  Mud and manure take their toll, which leaves you really needing two pairs. I’ve actually accumulated three of the same happy print over the years. They’ve held up well, but one pair has formed a small hole in the sole–easily detected when wearing them in the wet–and all have lost their shine. No zip left. Question is, do I get another identical pair because they’re so swell, or risk a new pattern?

My son-in-law asked why not just wear plain black, which better endure and are what most men favor. My farmer husband and son do. Alison said her soul would be just as dark while wearing them. Where’s the fun in that?

What it gets down to is having the money to purchase alternate pairs of the same puddle splashing, mud slogging, critter feeding (and other stuff) boots. It can seem rather frivolous when watching your budget. However, when my last new pair were still fresh enough for town, I wore them to get allergy shots to the delight of nurses and patients, and cheered passersby at the grocery store. I brought joy and light with me wherever I went/skipped. There’s far more to boots than you may realize. Children know this.

Ask a kid if they want yellow/pink polka dots, bright flowers, happy animals, or back boots and see.

“Everyone chases happiness, not noticing that happiness is at their heels” – Bertolt Brecht (Literally, if you’re wearing the boots.)

One of my current glossless pairs pictured above. For those eager to know, these are called Sloggers and sold at Amazon. Isn’t everything?