Tag Archives: Shenandoah Watercolors

It Isn’t Spring Without Goslings–Beth Trissel


bluebells and jonquils2Mother Natures takes a long winter’s nap, and then Bang! Wakes up and there are a million things to do, especially if you’re a gardener. And I am. I have the aching back and carpel tunnel flare up to prove it. But my flowers, herbs, and vegetables beckon and the call of birds floats through the window like a siren song. Every living creature is busily about the business of spring. I can hardly bear to be indoors on these gorgeous days,  so keep looking out the window, promising myself I can go back outside soon if I rest my hand awhile. Or dart back out anyway. (Image of daffodils and Virginia Bluebells in my yard.)

Old red barn April 2011 243Yesterday, I saw three goslings with their mama, papa, aunties, and uncles waddling past the white flowering pear trees up by the old red barn. But they escaped before anyone got a picture. Later in the afternoon, daughter Elise, my three year old grandbaby Owen, and I walked all over the farm beneath a sparkling blue sky seeking the goslings. We never did find them. Then today, I spotted the trio and their family foraging in the flower bed along the road. Not a safe place to be, so I raced out to shoo them away. A friend tried to take pics, but they fled in a frenzy of honks. Geese are fussy at best and especially protective of babies. Dennis caught up with them in the meadow. He also got some pics of a pair of gray geese nesting in the barn. They were not happy. The zoom feature on his camera is handy to have as geese will pinch you hard if provoked. Getting anywhere near their nest is against the rules.

Geese and goslingsAn Excerpt from my nonfiction book about Gardening and Country Life, Shenandoah Watercolors:

“Our meadow is as lush as I’ve ever seen it. Thick grass, reaching past my knees, spreads in a green swathe from fence row to fence row and sparkles with bright gold dandelions and buttercups. The elusive meadowlark, my favorite songbird, trills sweetly from some secret place hidden in the green. Rarely, I catch a magical flash of yellow as it flies, just before it tucks down again. Sandy brown killdeer dart around the edges of the pond on their long legs, sounding that wild funny cry peculiar to them.

???????????????????????????????The green-blue water that fills the banks of the pond now had dried to a painful parched puddle last summer. Migrating mallards and ruddy ducks ripple over the surface, bobbing bottoms up, and fill the air with busy gossipy quacks, content and happy creatures. Not so the plump gray and white barnyard geese. Their honking clash and chatter punctuates life on the farm, more or less, depending on their current level of hysteria.

Gray Geese sitting on eggsSome of the geese have been here for ages, waddling about with their broken useless wings, reminding me of nervous old ladies who can’t find their glasses and are forever misplacing their grandchildren. Even well-intentioned geese are extremely absentminded. More than once we’ve had to rescue a frantic gosling inadvertently left behind by its addled elders in a hole wallowed by the cows. Silly, silly geese. I scold the dogs when they’re tempted to chase and annoy them. Too easy, and it doesn’t seem fair.”

Images of our geese and the babies. Old red barn above.

Goslings and three geese

For Lovers of Gardening and Country Life–Beth Trissel


Written in a month by month journal style, my award-winning nonfiction book, Shenandoah Watercolors, follows a year in my life on our farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Excerpt from May:

“The quality of mercy is not strained,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven,

Upon the place beneath; it is twice blessed;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…” ~William Shakespeare

The heavy rain has given way to a misting drizzle, but streams of water pour down from the hills and make new ponds and creeks. It’s chilly with that raw wet feel. This spring is awash in moisture and amazing after last summer’s searing drought. I’m struck by the intense beauty around me, and I thought I was already seeing it, but it’s so much more somehow. The grass seems to shimmer, yet there’s no sun out today, and the meadow is so richly green it’s like seeing heaven.

Our barnyard geese are enraptured, as much as geese can be, with all the grass. If there’s a lovelier place to revel in spring than the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains, I don’t know it. Narnia, maybe.

I’ve been thinking about my favorite places. The pool I like best lies in the woods near a place called Rip Rap Hollow in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A splendid falls cascades up above, but I like the pool far more. We always meant to go back, but never have. The cold water ripped through me like liquid ice and is as clear as melted crystal.

I could see the rocks on the bottom, some slick with moss, others brown-gold in the light where the sun broke through the leafy canopy overhead. Trout hid beneath big rounded stones or ones that formed a cleft, but the men tickled them out to flash over the flat rocks strewn across the bottom like a path. Drifts of hay-scented fern rose around the edges of the pool, warming the air with the fragrance of new-mown hay, and made the shady places a rich green.

Now, that’s a good place to go in my mind when I’m troubled. The problem with cities is that people don’t learn what really matters. Don’t really feel or know the rhythms of the earth. When we are separated from that vital center place, we grow lost. Sadly, most people will never know what they are lost from, or where they can be found.~

Only .99 in kindle at Amazon, Shenandoah Watercolors is also out in print with lovely photographs taken by my talented family.

“This is perhaps the most beautifully written memoir I’ve ever read. Its lovely and languid descriptions of the picturesque valley, the farm and gardens are equaled only by the charming and funny descriptions of the antics (and conversations!) of the farm animals. What a joy this is to read…” Amazon Reviewer C. G. King

 

Gardening in August–Or Not–Beth Trissel


“Gardens are a form of autobiography.”~Sydney Eddison
If, by late August, a gardener is wondering how long it will be until frost arrives and tidies up the robust weeds growing in and among everything, or if she/he is thinking of tacking up a sign to declare the grounds a wild game preserve, then that person has lost the battle. Again. And, as usual, I remind myself to look for the beauty amid the tangle. It is there, in the soft pink anemones, bold zinnias and bright orange tithonia, Mexican sunflower, that towers above the black-eyed susans and rose-colored cleome.
Masses of fall asters bloom in shades of lavender and blue and butterflies flutter all over the place––monarchs, swallowtails, orange skippers, and tiny blue hairstreaks. Hummingbirds are darting, and the moths that resemble them. Goldfinches streak from sunflower to sunflower singing in that euphoric chatter finches have. When I was a child a close friend made the observation that our family hummed happily at meal times. Well, so do birds in their way.
The writing spider (see Charlotte’s Web) has woven stories throughout the garden, intelligible only to her and perhaps the fairies. Blue-green dragonflies hover over the pond, ducks bob, and squeaky frogs plop into the water every time we walk past. At night, the peepers sing from the tall grass in the meadow, and the crickets and katydids. Owls hoot and screech, bats zing through the dusk and nighthawks pirouette. Come to think of it, this is a wild life preserve.~
“No two gardens are the same.  No two days are the same in one garden.”  ~Hugh Johnson
***This is an excerpt from my nonfiction book, Shenandoah Watercolors, a 2012 Epic eBook finalist. Free in Amazon Kindle from August 19th — the 23rd.
*Image of our old red barn and abundant sunflowers by daughter Elise
*Our garden with cleome flowers in the foreground taken by Elise
*Butterfly on red Bee Balm taken by Elise

June In Our Garden–Beth Trissel


June Excerpts from my nonfiction book,  Shenandoah Watercolors, a 2012 EPIC eBook Awards Finalist.  Images of the garden by daughter Elise.  This photograph is of our double-flowered apricot hollyhocks. This year I shall try to remember to save seed.
“It’s the longest day of the year, one to bottle and take out when November is come and the day ends at 5:00. I will tip the bottle over and pour liquid sunlight all over the gray autumnal shadows as they seep over the hills and into the meadow…the scents too, new mown hay, lavender, attar of roses, and the gleeful chatter of birds.”


“To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie –
True Poems flee.”
~Emily Dickinson
“This morning glows like a green-gold sun drop and every blade of grass glistens in the light. The newly washed spires of larkspur stand tall to greet the day. Fellows on every side, yellow lilies, bright-eyed pansies, lavender candytuft, crimson yarrow, and white asters all sit up straighter as if answering an unspoken summons and shine. Is it magic or June in the Valley? Is there a difference? ”
“Several plants reign supreme because of Elise. ‘Magic flowers,’ yellow evening primrose, have taken over a generous quadrant at the edge of the vegetable garden. She rushes me out at twilight to view the wonder as they pop open, charged with fragrance. Hummingbird moths swoop in like little fairies to feed on the blossoms.

She doesn’t like the bats that also come. I love the nighthawks. Dill is also taking over because black swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on its leaves and hatch into little caterpillars which she watches closely, puts some into jars and feeds until they make a chrysalis, then one day they emerge with wet crumpled wings and she releases them to the sky.

I feel a bit like those uncertain butterflies, taking those first tentative flights. “~ 

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

“Brilliant yellow gold finches streaked across the garden today and landed on the fence beside the hollyhocks. I love these birds, one of my absolute favorites. In midsummer, when the sunflowers bloom, they gather in chattering clusters to feed on the seeds. Their wings flash in the sun as they suspend on flower heads and peck away, and meticulously open each seed. I’ve never heard such euphoric birds, continually exclaiming over their finds. They have a lot to say and do not keep secrets well.

If I were to confide in birds, it would not be them, or to crows, loudly proclaiming the latest gossip. Warblers are fairy creatures, but not silent fairies. Possibly to wolves––no. They howl. Frogs croak and gribbit. Turtles are quiet. Tell all to turtles, then. Box or painted ones. Snappers are treacherous and would as soon bite you as listen.”

“The larkspur is in full bloom, a sea of blue and pink spires rise above a mass of poppies. Delphinium is a more glorious shade of blue but I lost so many blooms to gusting winds and winter cold that I finally became discouraged with cultivating those beauties. And so I content myself with larkspur, simpler but a survivor as are so many of the old heirloom flowers. Someday I will be an heirloom. Maybe I already am. But there are not many people in this world like me as there are seedlings of larkspur. ”

*Note, I recently took the plunge and planted more delphinium seedlings, so we shall see.  One must try and nurture that which we love.

“I’ve enough spare flowers to fill a meadow and make butterflies and bees giddy with delight, but who would tend them? Only the most ‘satisfactory’ plants could compete with the grass and weeds that would choke them out. How do wild flowers survive? Queen Ann’s lace, tiny red poppies, and blue chicory run free along our unruly roadsides. Orange day lilies too, but they are tough with gnarly roots.”

“A sea of herbs and flowers continually change with the season. Some perennials are lost each winter and new ones are planted by Elise and me, others by the birds. I’ve a wild aster that blooms in late spring, covered with small white flowers. It’s very pretty really, although hard to contain. I like white flowers. They glow at dusk while all else fades. ”

“Earth laughs in flowers.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I’m particularly drawn to the heirloom varieties and the English cottage garden look. Even with these fairly trouble free plants it still takes considerable effort to fight the weeds and curtail the extremely aggressive flowers.

Years ago, I met a gardener who referred to the varieties that take over the garden on their march to the sea as ‘highly successful.’  So are weeds. The beds I tend could never be called orderly and can best be described as a happy confusion of plants. And we’ve nothing to sit on outside, so one simply strolls about and then comes back indoors. And one works one’s tail off.

My job? To tend this bit of earth, but mostly to savor and learn.”~

If it could always be June…

“What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.” ~Gertrude Jekyll

***Shenandoah Watercolors is available in print and kindle at Amazon.

For Lovers of Gardening and Country Life (And Wannabes)


My award-winning nonfiction book, Shenandoah Watercolors, is free at Amazon Monday May 14th–Wednesday May 16th.  Written in a month by month journal style, Shenandoah Watercolors follows a year in my life on our farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Excerpt from May:

“The quality of mercy is not strained,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven,

Upon the place beneath; it is twice blessed;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…”

~William Shakespeare

The heavy rain has given way to a misting drizzle, but streams of water pour down from the hills and make new ponds and creeks. It’s chilly with that raw wet feel. This spring is awash in moisture and amazing after last summer’s searing drought. I’m struck by the intense beauty around me, and I thought I was already seeing it, but it’s so much more somehow. The grass seems to shimmer, yet there’s no sun out today, and the meadow is so richly green it’s like seeing heaven.

Our barnyard geese are enraptured, as much as geese can be, with all the grass. If there’s a lovelier place to revel in spring than the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains, I don’t know it. Narnia, maybe.

I’ve been thinking about my favorite places. The pool I like best lies in the woods near a place called Rip Rap Hollow in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A splendid falls cascades up above, but I like the pool far more. We always meant to go back, but never have. The cold water ripped through me like liquid ice and is as clear as melted crystal.

I could see the rocks on the bottom, some slick with moss, others brown-gold in the light where the sun broke through the leafy canopy overhead. Trout hid beneath big rounded stones or ones that formed a cleft, but the men tickled them out to flash over the flat rocks strewn across the bottom like a path. Drifts of hay-scented fern rose around the edges of the pool, warming the air with the fragrance of new-mown hay, and made the shady places a rich green.

Now, that’s a good place to go in my mind when I’m troubled. The problem with cities is that people don’t learn what really matters. Don’t really feel or know the rhythms of the earth. When we are separated from that vital center place, we grow lost. Sadly, most people will never know what they are lost from, or where they can be found.~

***FREE kindle at Amazon. Also available in print with lovely photographs taken by my talented family.

“This is perhaps the most beautifully written memoir I’ve ever read. Its lovely and languid descriptions of the picturesque valley, the farm and gardens are equaled only by the charming and funny descriptions of the antics (and conversations!) of the farm animals. What a joy this is to read…” Amazon Reviewer C. G. King

Out in Print–My Book About Gardening & Country Life!


At long last Shenandoah Watercolors is out in print!   My talented daughter Elise labored hours and hours to design the layout and incorporate her and my mom, Pat Churchman, and husband Dennis’s beautiful photographs of the Shenandoah Valley and mountains.  Also a few vintage images from times past.   A lovely coffee table sized book, Shenandoah Watercolors will be a joy to those who want to savor the images and linger with me in my beloved valley.
The book is available at Amazon.  I authorized other outlets for it as well but am not sure where it many show up for sale, so wouldn’t count on it being anywhere else.  The cost is as inexpensive as we could possibly make it for a book of this size with many colored images.  We won’t get rich, that’s for sure, but hope to share our love of the country, of our valley and the mountains, of family and all that’s good.  And God bless those who join us.
A 2012 EPPIC eBOOK FINALIST~

A Perfect Summer’s Day In The Garden


“It’s the longest day of the year, one to bottle and take out when November is come and the day ends at 5:00. I will tip the bottle over and pour liquid sunlight all over the gray autumnal shadows as they seep over the hills and into the meadow…the scents too, new mown hay, lavender, attar of roses, and the gleeful chatter of birds.” ~ Beth Trissel, from my nonfiction book,  Shenandoah Watercolors

While the light was pure this morning, my talented art major daughter took some pictures of the garden.  This is of our double-flowered apricot hollyhocks.

“This morning glows like a green-gold sun drop and every blade of grass glistens in the light. The newly washed spires of larkspur stand tall to greet the day. Fellows on every side, yellow lilies, bright-eyed pansies, lavender candytuft, crimson yarrow, and white asters all sit up straighter as if answering an unspoken summons and shine. Is it magic or June in the Valley? Is there a difference? ” ~ Shenandoah Watercolors

“Several plants reign supreme because of Elise. ‘Magic flowers,’ yellow evening primrose, have taken over a generous quadrant at the edge of the vegetable garden. She rushes me out at twilight to view the wonder as they pop open, charged with fragrance. Hummingbird moths swoop in like little fairies to feed on the blossoms.

She doesn’t like the bats that also come. I love the nighthawks. Dill is also taking over because black swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on its leaves and hatch into little caterpillars which she watches closely, puts some into jars and feeds until they make a chrysalis, then one day they emerge with wet crumpled wings and she releases them to the sky.

I feel a bit like those uncertain butterflies, taking those first tentative flights. “~ Shenandoah Watercolors

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

“Brilliant yellow gold finches streaked across the garden today and landed on the fence beside the hollyhocks. I love these birds, one of my absolute favorites. In midsummer, when the sunflowers bloom, they gather in chattering clusters to feed on the seeds. Their wings flash in the sun as they suspend on flower heads and peck away, and meticulously open each seed. I’ve never heard such euphoric birds, continually exclaiming over their finds. They have a lot to say and do not keep secrets well.

If I were to confide in birds, it would not be them, or to crows, loudly proclaiming the latest gossip. Warblers are fairy creatures, but not silent fairies. Possibly to wolves––no. They howl. Frogs croak and gribbit. Turtles are quiet. Tell all to turtles, then. Box or painted ones. Snappers are treacherous and would as soon bite you as listen.” ~ Shenandoah Watercolors

“The larkspur is in full bloom, a sea of blue and pink spires rise above a mass of poppies. Delphinium is a more glorious shade of blue but I lost so many blooms to gusting winds and winter cold that I finally became discouraged with cultivating those beauties. And so I content myself with larkspur, simpler but a survivor as are so many of the old heirloom flowers. Someday I will be an heirloom. Maybe I already am. But there are not many people in this world like me as there are seedlings of larkspur. ” ~Shenandoah Watercolors

*Note, I recently took the plunge and planted more delphinium seedlings, so we shall see.  One must try and nurture that which we love.

“I’ve enough spare flowers to fill a meadow and make butterflies and bees giddy with delight, but who would tend them? Only the most ‘satisfactory’ plants could compete with the grass and weeds that would choke them out. How do wild flowers survive? Queen Ann’s lace, tiny red poppies, and blue chicory run free along our unruly roadsides. Orange day lilies too, but they are tough with gnarly roots.”~Shenandoah Watercolors 

“A sea of herbs and flowers continually change with the season. Some perennials are lost each winter and new ones are planted by Elise and me, others by the birds. I’ve a wild aster that blooms in late spring, covered with small white flowers. It’s very pretty really, although hard to contain. I like white flowers. They glow at dusk while all else fades. ” ~Shenandoah Watercolors

“Earth laughs in flowers.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I’m particularly drawn to the heirloom varieties and the English cottage garden look. Even with these fairly trouble free plants it still takes considerable effort to fight the weeds and curtail the extremely aggressive flowers.

Years ago, I met a gardener who referred to the varieties that take over the garden on their march to the sea as ‘highly successful.’  So are weeds. The beds I tend could never be called orderly and can best be described as a happy confusion of plants. And we’ve nothing to sit on outside, so one simply strolls about and then comes back indoors. And one works one’s tail off.”~ Shenandoah Watercolors

“My job? To tend this bit of earth, but mostly to savor and learn.”~

*Roman Chamomile and Evening Primrose

Shenandoah Watercolors is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble~

In My Garden~


Evening primrose (4)In my garden(s), a sea of herbs and flowers continually change with the season.  Some perennials are lost each winter and new ones are planted by my daughter Elise and me, others by the birds. I’ve a wild aster covered with small white flowers that blooms from late spring into summer, very pretty re­ally. I like white flowers glowing at dusk while all else fades.

Several plants reign supreme because of Elise. ‘Magic flowers,’ yellow evening primrose, occupy a corner at the edge of the vegetable garden. She rushes me out at twilight to view the wonder as they pop open, charged with fragrance. Hummingbird moths swoop in like little fairies to feed on the blossoms.

iStock_000001550421XSmallElise doesn’t like the bats that also come. I love the nighthawks that swoop and call in the soft summer evening. Dill is another favorite because black swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on its leaves and hatch into little caterpillars which Elise watches closely, puts some into jars and feeds until they make a chrysalis, then one day they emerge with wet crumpled wings and she releases them to the sky. I feel a bit like those uncertain butterflies, taking those first tentative flights.

This is an excerpt from my non-fiction collection about country life entitled Shenandoah Watercolors.

A Lovely June Day in the Shenandoah Valley


“There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

This is one of those sweet June mornings when the world seems fresh and new, too soft for words, but I’ll try. I’m looking out the two windows in my bedroom as I write into the most beautiful gold light, the sort of light photographers love. Roses glow like jewels, their red, yellow, pink blossoms heavy with rain from the night. White daises sparkle, lacy pinks, red clover, lavender candy tuft, angel wing poppies, nodding columbine bells, spires of blue salvia, crimson lupines…and all the plants with a rich promise of more to come.

Hues of green spread through my yard and garden, out over the meadow, and up into the hills beyond the fields. The sky is washed in pale blue at the edges, deeper blue as it arches upward. And the air is alive with birdsong. Cows impatiently bawl for more hay, greedily snatching at the bales tossed down to them from the mow. Plump gray and white barnyard geese fuss, as is their way––I never quite catch the argument––while the goslings make this funny whistling sound.

“Waddle-butts,” I call the infants, “busy little waddle-butts,” plopping down to rest when they tire and then darting off again to catch up with the group.
If a gosling falls too far behind, its shrill peeping can be heard over hill and vale, by all, including the baddies out there that eat silly babies. Given the absentmindedness of mama and papa geese and auntie and uncles, it’s amazing that as many goslings survive as they do. Somehow, they manage, usually.

Wood duck mamas loudly cry ‘whoo-eek’ from the pond to round up the ducklings darting over its calm surface like little bumble bees. Mallard babies quietly follow their mothers in a dutiful row or all huddled together. Not so the wood ducklings. They are far more independent. But fast. Bad old snapping turtles are hard pressed to catch them. Snappers are the pond’s version of sharks, but I shouldn’t end on that visual image.

Way up beyond the hills and the distant fields I see the Allegheny Mountains rising above all. Why weren’t they called the Blue Ridge? They are equally blue, and can be every bit as hazy as the Smokies. What’s in a name? Much? Little? Some are steeped in meaning, others not. I don’t even know what Allegheny means, only that the mountains are glorious. They seem to roll on and on forever like the swells of a sea. I tell my daughter, Elise, that as long as the mountains stand and there are green meadows, we are well.

****

This piece is an excerpt from my non-fiction collection entitled Shenandoah Watercolors that my mom and I are combining with her lovely pics. This photograph of larkspur and the rose was taken last week by my daughter Elise. Mom and I are thinking of self-publishing Shenandoah Watercolors digitally so as to include all of her pics. We doubt any traditional publisher would allow them all.

For more on my novels, please visit:
http://www.bethtrissel.com/
The beauty of the valley and surrounding mountains are my inspiration.

Dogs and Naps


Naps are well worth the time, a good investment in one’s day. Sometimes if things are wrong when I lie down, they are somehow righted when I awake. Only if I were taking one now I would have to ignore the geese up in the barn squawking about whatever it is that geese squawk about, and several of the cows are bawling. I’ll call it lowing. That sounds more appealing. But they aren’t. They’re really carrying on about whatever it is that annoys the mess out of cows, to use my eldest daughter, Alison’s, phrase. Not that I listen closely. I’ve never found cows had much to say that interested me. They tend to repeat themselves and are rather fixated on food. Not unlike some people, or Mia, the funny-looking dog we rescued from the animal shelter.

Mia watches us intently for the slightest indication that food may be involved in whatever we’re doing. If she’s asleep in the next room, she will poke her head into the kitchen when she hears the rustle of crackers or the ping of a toaster. Someone (me) shares their crusts with her and tosses her the odd cracker. My youngest daughter, Elise, is also guilty. And we discovered Alison feeding Mia entire sandwiches until we pointed out that the vet had urged us to put her on a diet. Mia is short but rather wide, portly even. So Alison cut back on her tithes.

Mia feels entitled to a portion of the take, though. She insists snacks were included in the contract we signed with the SPCA and that she will file a complaint with her benefactors if we default. She’d been in residence at the shelter for over a month when we adopted her and was partial to junk food. Several of the volunteers took a real liking to her and fed her cheese puffs and the corners of candy bars. A vet’s dream diet for dogs. They felt sorry for her because she’d been found abandoned in a derelict house and was so traumatized they thought she was mute. That, and her being half African basenji. She never even woofed. They said she might yodel. Basenjis do, but it seems Mia is unaware of this hidden talent.

I’d be rather surprised to discover her yodeling and playing the accordion. Either one. But she’s given up her vow of silence and sounds the inside alarm whenever the outside dogs go off at the slightest provocation…which brings me back to disturbances during naps.

©2007 Beth Trissel