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Archive for April, 2012

Peek-a-boo

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When I walk out my front door and look to the right, I see a sweet dark-pink rose, sticking its bloom around the corner and beckoning me to come take a look.

Sweet little rose, how easily you forget the two hours I spent with you and your kin on Saturday. Dead-heading, pruning, weeding, mulching. You all look so pretty!

I had to play with the tomatoes today, but don’t worry, sweet rose, I’ll be back for a visit tomorrow.

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A year ago, give or take a few days, I received some flower essences in the mail. Along with my order was a postcard advertising a book about one woman’s journey on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. One look at that postcard and I knew I had to make my own journey on this ancient pilgrimage trail.

I immediately called my friend, soul sister and walking partner S., and gushed with excitement. Little did I know that S. and her hubby had traversed part of the trail years ago, and she had always wanted to go back and walk the entire route.   So it was immediately decided: we would go!

What wasn’t so easy to decided was when to go.  I had elderly dogs, one of which is still alive, and didn’t want to leave them for such a long time at this stage of their lives.  I figured a few years out would (sadly) mean that I wouldn’t have to worry about this.   My remaining dog is (happily) doing quite well and shows no signs of rapid decline, so I may still have an issue here. 

Another concern for me was saving enough vacation time to have a month or two off.   Waiting a couple years, and taking no time off until then, would mean I could go without worrying about paying my bills.  Unfortunately I am not one who can work without time off, especially when the garden calls.  So I may still have an issue here.

Then there was the teeny, tiny issue of saving enough money to actually pay for the trip! I needed some time to do that.

S. had a few concerns of her own.  A new grandbaby was arriving shortly, and she wanted to be around to help out.  She also had some knee issues that she wanted resolved before embarking on a long walk.

Plus, we both wanted to train.  We had walked for two weeks during our 2010 trip to Southwest Ireland, but nowhere near the  daily distance we’ll be covering on the Camino.   So, given all our constraints, we decided on May 2013.

At the time,  2013 seemed so far away.  But the past year flew by, and I’m pretty sure this next year will too.  Because of that, I’m already working on increasing my daily walking distance slowly but surely, and I’ve begun purchasing some equipment for my trip.

Two weeks ago, during a “down” day, I did what your normal American woman does when she needs to cheer up: shop!

Now for a disclaimer: I”m not really a normal American woman, because I hate shopping.    But I had this 20 percent off coupon from REI, coupled with a rebate check of $20-something.   So the monetary incentives, combined with my upcoming hiking trip to Blowing Rock/Grandfather Mountain, were all I needed to start looking for my pack.

I headed to REI with my friend and hiking guru Q., and, after some expert help by the REI staff, came away with a maroon Osprey Aura pack.   This pack feels great on my back, though I must admit to feeling a bit overloaded when J. the salesman put 15 pounds in the pack.  Apparently I carried nowhere near that much weight during my Ireland trip!

I’ll use my pack on my June trip, and I’ll begin walking daily with the pack next winter, slowly adding weight until I reach that magical 15-pound mark.  I”m actually hoping to carry a bit less weight on the Camino, but better to be prepared than not.

So, as I find myself reading blogs of people who are currently starting their Camino, I have to remind myself that time will fly by and soon enough I’ll be the one embarking on a wonderful journey.  But until then, I have lots more training to do, and a few more supplies to buy!

 

 

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When I started writing about my favorite things, I thought it would be a bit silly to use the lyrics to the song of the same name. I am, after all, nothing if not silly!

But now that I’m knee deep in this song, I have come to realize that many of Maria’s favorite things had to do with winter, and, in all honesty, winter is my least favorite season.

Perhaps it’s because we are in the midst of a glorious spring (I should save future comments on that for the next line in the song). Perhaps it’s because  my hands get cold easily and become very painful (Reynaud’s Disease). Perhaps it’s because winter means less daylight.  Whatever the reason, I find myself dreading the arrival of winter and looking forward to spring.

However, when I think about snowflakes, I think about delicate beauty. And, because it doesn’t snow that often where I live, falling snowflakes invoke a sense of wonder and, sometimes, surprise.

That same sense of wonder and surprise happens  with my rose bushes. I have several bushes near my driveway, so I see them every day going to and from work.   They’re just standing there, slowing developing their leaves.  Then all of a sudden — POP –from seemingly out of nowhere, they are full of glorious blooms.

 

I have more than a dozen rose bushes in my yard.  I chose to buy the antique varieties for several reasons.  One is that I have a thing about heirloom plants.  Another is that, after researching rose plants,  I learned that antique roses take a licking and keep on ticking.   I don’t make the time to baby any of my plants, so I needed something that would survive with little attention.

These antique roses have done just that.  Unfortunately,  though, they do develop black spot.  I really need to find some organic way of dealing with that disease.   I’m sure there’s a relatively easy solution, but until I make the time to research the issue and then purchase what I need, my sweet bushes will continue as they have:  Beautiful in the spring and early summer, followed by leafless and sad-looking come July, only to flower again in the fall, and then come back strong again the following spring.

The flowers on the bushes below start out a blush pink, then turn white.  I forgot to cut the bushes back last year, and they are now taller than I am!    Oops.

Most of my roses are of the bush variety, though I did buy a Texas Rose climber (below) that is a bit too vigorous.  If anyone has a fence that needs covering, let me know and I’ll gladly share some rootings.   This particular rose only blooms once, though it develops dainty rose hips in the fall.  Oh, and it’s thorn-less!  It  blooms mid-to-late summer, so the picture is from last year.

I bought most of my roses from The Antique Rose Emporium and have been very satisfied.  However, there are two rose bushes in my yard that were not purchased.   One, a pink sweetheart rose, originally came from my great-grandfather.   It lived with my great-aunt E. for awhile, until she dug it up and passed it on to me.  It is truly an antique!

The other rose I did not purchase came from a neighbor’s yard.  An elderly couple down the street had passed away and their land was about to be cleared to create a parking lot for an adjacent church, so I asked a church member if I could have the  rose bush in front of the house.  He said yes, so the bush came to live with me.  I like to think that, somewhere in the great beyond, the elderly couple is happy to know that at least one of their plants got saved from destruction.

Since their yellow tea rose is nowhere near the blooming stage, I’ll share a picture of a yellow rose that is currently has one bloom on it, the rest waiting to appear at a later date.

I do love my antique roses, but they are all shrub roses and not good for cut flowers.  One day when I’m a bit ahead of the game with my vegetable garden, I’ll go back to building some flower beds for more roses.  But until then, I’ll just have to walk around my yard, stop along the way, and smell the roses.

So when the dog bites, or the bee stings, or I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my always delicate, often sweet-smelling roses, and then I don’t feel so bad.  (Apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein!)

 

 

 

 

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If you’ve been in a conversation with me during the past four months, chances are you’ve heard me talk about the following: training/planning for my Camino next year; increasing dissatisfaction with my job (to the point I’m contemplating an unpaid leave of absence), and a feeling that maybe it’s time to move to a new locale.

Walking the Camino de Santiago next May most likely means I will not have a garden next summer — or at the most a very small one with things that can be planted in July. There’s always the possibility that I can find a gardener to house-sit while I am gone, but putting in and taking care of a garden takes time away from training, as I can already attest!

The job and moving situation are probably tied together. Unless something drastically changes, I plan to leave my current job next May (or maybe sooner). I figure a month or so spent walking might give me insights on where to go next in my life.

So, what’s the logical step to take this summer? Something must be seriously wrong with me because I’m pretty sure it’s not what I’m doing right now: spending a lot of time — and money — creating several new garden beds.

Why would I spend the extra time and money, much less create more gardens to deal with while I’m gone next year, and all with a very large possibilty that I won’t be living here much longer?

Well, the short answer is that I needed to put up a deer fence. And I like to eat. And even though I say I don’t want to work all the time, I must be addicted to having too much to do. Oh, and there’s that whole experiencing God in nature thing.

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The picture above is of red clover that I planted last fall in the front rows. I shared that first, because I’ve pulled up most of the clover and will be digging it into the beds shortly.

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I currently have three rows in the front, as well as a large bed on one side of my house, and three long garden boxes on the other. My veggies grew happily (well, except for the squash) for three years. Then last July, I went to the beach and came back to find the deer had a dinner party while I was gone. Alas, my luck had run out!

So if I was going to grow anything this summer, I needed to put up a deer fence. And if I was going to put up a deer fence, why not put it where it would live forever rather than moving it in a few years.

That was the thought process. Which makes sense except it meant clearing more grass, and while I was clearing the grass, I might as well start some beds. Oh, and then I can plant flowers outside the fence to make it prettier…

And now it’s become A PROJECT.

Now, here is where I admit that there are ways to do things easier than the way I do them. For one, I use a manual sod cutter.

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There are several reasons: one, I own this piece of equipment so it’s always ready to go when I am. And I don’t have to worry about a pull start; I must not have a lot of upper body strength, because starting power equipment is about impossible for me. The manual sod cutter will also provide plenty of exercise! My hamstrings say hello…

Anyway, I use my sod cutter to cut the grass weeds into strips, roll them up, then take the rolls and spread them on top of some low-lying areas in my back field.

Here’s the areas I cleared:

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The clearing took me several days (yes, I’m getting old). It had rained a lot before I began this project, so the sod was heavy, and I got all muddy.

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This weekend, I dug one small bed up front. I’ll add lime and compost and manure — as you can tell this area is currently straight clay!

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I still have to dig some more beds, then buy and install the metal poles and mesh. And, of course, plant!

Hopefully the end result will be worth all the work, and be pretty enough so that it will add value if I do end up putting my house on the market next year.

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Falls Lake

 

Easter Sunday was beautiful here in the Carolinas, so my walking partner S. and I decided to hike part of the Mountains to Sea Trail that runs along Falls Lake.     We ended up hiking for about four hours, which didn’t include our time spent enjoying a picnic lunch.

 

Starting out at the parking lot at Rolling View Recreation Area, we followed the blue blaze.  Then we diverged and followed the white blaze for the majority of our hike.   Our trail led us through the woods, with numerous views of the lake through the trees.

After doing so much walking on pavement, it felt great to walk on the nice, soft ground, covered with pine needles!

There were some sweet wildflowers along the way.

And a random lily…

We stopped for lunch at the spot pictured below:

I sat on that log, and afterwards felt a tick biting into me.  Ack! Luckily I was able to pull it off before it got really attached.

This walk was very peaceful and quiet; in fact, we were the only ones on the trail.  I’m surprised more families weren’t outside walking off their Easter meals!   And perhaps the biggest surprise:  there weren’t boaters on the lake.    If you look carefully, you can see one person canoeing in the picture below.  He was the only person we saw in the water.

 

Anyway, we ended up turning around where I took this picture.  The bridge has not yet been completed over the lake, and neither S. or I were prepared to wade through hip-high water to get to the other side.    Even though that water looked tempting, I feared it would still be too cold!

The Mountains to Sea Trail will span the length of the state of North Carolina.  Here’s a link to a PDF of the trail.  According to that map, there are currently 45 miles worth of trails not that far from my house.  So, once my garden is in, I look forward to spending more Sundays exploring this amazing resource.

 

 

 

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Okay, so they’re black and gray, not blue. And they are straps, not sashes. But these beauties are connected to one of my absolute favorite things: my Black Diamond alpine cork trekking poles.

I bought these poles last November. They were the first pieces of equipment I purchased in preparation for walking the Camino de Santiago next May. And boy, have they come in handy!

Here’s a few reasons why I love my hiking poles:

1. By using a nordic-walking technique, I get a nice upper-body workout and can burn more calories than during regular walking. The estimated extra amount one can burn varies across websites, but 20 percent more feels about right to me.

The nordic walking technique definitely tightened up my middle and helped me warm up quickly during winter walks.

2. By using the more supportive techique recommended for long hikes, I can take some pressure off my joints. The poles add extra support when going up or down hills as well. And if I start to tucker out during a long-distance walk, the poles help me walk a bit faster.

This technique also assisted me when I began walking again after experiencing a stress fracture in December. It may just be pyschosomatic, but my foot hurts when I walk distances without the poles; with the poles, it feels stronger.

3. The poles add stability when walking on uneven surfaces.

4. They also add a sense of security against dogs running off-leash. I’ve never been attacked by a loose dog, but my dogs have, so better safe than sorry.

5. And even though I’m trying very hard to “be here now,” I can’t help but look forward to using my poles when walking on the Way.

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So, because of all the reasons listed above, I walk with these poles all the time. And believe me, I get quite a few questioning looks. When driving his bus by me one day, a driver actually stopped the bus to ask me what I was doing with the poles!

Most folks who make direct comments to me ask if I’m training to go skiing. It might be easier to just agree, but instead I stop and tell them I’m training for a 500-mile walk. Then, if they didn’t think so before, at that point, they really think I’m crazy!

So when the dog bites and the bee stings, and I’m feeling sad, I simply pull out my hiking poles, go for a walk, and then I don’t feel so bad. (Apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein!)

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Spring in my garden brings blossoms of pink, purple and yellow. Tulips, crocus, daffodils, azaleas, and cornflowers all show off their bright colors.

But amidst the showy pastels are some amazing white flowers that more than hold their own. My white azaleas have been especially beautiful this year.

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I don’t have dogwoods in my yard, but they grow wild in the woods around my house.

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Dogwoods make me happy! Maybe next fall, I’ll remember to buy a few dogwoods to plant in my back “field.”

Other plants, like the arugula below, shoot up white flowers when they go to seed.

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While this batch of arugula is on its way out, the peas are on their way in.

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So are the blackberries!

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Spring also means breaking out the fish emulsion. It smells disgusting (even my six-year-old neighbor G. thinks so!), but the plants love it.

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Though the flowers make me happy, none can hold a candle to a certain white-faced friend.

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So when someone else’s dog bites (because my dog is very well behaved!) and the bee stings (because they are attracted to those white flowers!), I simply remember azaleas, dogwoods, peas, berries, and my sweet Nanaline, and then I don’t feel so bad! (Apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein!)

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