Saturday, January 31, 2009

One Month Nearer

We were lucky.
We didn't have as much snow as many did this week. We didn't have the ice that paralyzed the southern parts of the state. Still, as you can see in the photos I took from the center of the road in front of our house, there was enough to keep road crews busy.
The worst part of our weather was, as it so often is, the wind. Although it wasn't blowing when I took the photos, gusts of wind wipe out the roads in a short time. Visibility is impaired by blowing snow, and unexpected drifts on top of ice make travel treacherous.
This was the last day of January. There's a possibility of more snow in the next few days--and winter is far from over. But we are one month nearer to spring. I'm ready. West & East photos by JulenaJo.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sweet 16

This young lady is my baby girl--pictured with birthday cake, with her grandmother at the beach, and with Roxy, in heels for a dance, and with her horse. Today she celebrates her Sweet Sixteenth Birthday. I'm so proud. Happy Birthday! xoxo

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Gallica Gentleman

This gentleman is a gallica, an heirloom rose blooming once in the spring, magnificently. 'Tuscany Superb' is his name. He's tough, shrugging off Ohio's bitter winters and blazing summers with aplomb. Although he can be a rogue, sending suckering canes where he will, this one indiscretion is easily forgiven. His deep crimson, velveteen petals hide a coronet of golden stamens at the heart of each blossom. Everyone who sees him will comment on the rich color and satin sheen of his many blooms. His musky cologne entices, but does not overpower. His foliage is neat and green, borne on a tidy, smallish shrub. Tuck 'Tuscany Superb'--and other once-blooming heirloom roses--into the back of a flower bed where they can be enjoyed in the spring, and grow into green oblivion for the rest of the summer. Tuscany Superb photo by JulenaJo.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Carefree Delight

One cannot help but love the name of this rose: Carefree Delight. I first discovered this rose at the Whetstone Park of Roses in Columbus, Ohio. There they grow in partial shade that does not seem to hinder bloom one whit. Huge hedges of them are covered with masses of small, carmine pink blooms. There is zero fragrance, but there are plentiful small hips in the fall. The attractive foliage is glossy and deep green, reminiscent of holly leaves.
In my more open garden, Carefree Delight performs well, but not with the astounding vigor of the ones growing in the protected park garden. Even so, it makes a nice spreading shrub that provides great cover for rabbits and birds. When it's in its first flush of bloom the foliage is barely visible behind the masses of flowers, and it blooms in continual flushes right through the season until hard frost.
Although Carefree Delight is listed as a shrub rose, it performs like a ground cover in my wild, open garden. The winner of numerous awards, Carefree Delight is a hard-working, tough plant that requires minimal pruning or care to look great as a hedge or in a small grouping in the yard or garden. Carefree Delight photo by JulenaJo.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Well, on one count we got it wrong, but on all other counts we got it right.
My sister, brother, and I decided to spring a surprise dinner on our father this weekend for his birthday, which is January 28. There was a break in the Ohio weather so my sister and her husband drove up from Tennessee and got a hotel room in Dayton for the night. She's the one who hatched the plan, basically. All I had to do was lie, lie, lie. I told my dad we were busy on Sunday, our usual day of getting together, and could I join him for Mass on Saturday night instead? I suggested a church near Dayton, said maybe I'd take him to Skyline Chili after Mass for his birthday because he likes it and it's cheap. (Skyline Chili originates out of Cincinnati: chili, beans and cheese over spaghetti. Great combo!) He eats dinner out almost every night, but usually at a place that is far less "fast food" than that. He likes it, though. It would be fun to eat there for his birthday, just for kicks, I told him.
So my husband and I drove Dad to church. While we sat in the pew, waiting for Mass to begin, I excused myself to use the ladies' room. In the lobby I met up with my siblings, and we all walked in and sat beside and behind Dad. My brother lives in the Dayton area, and so Dad wasn't TOO surprised to see him join us. However, my sister touched his shoulder from behind and said, "Happy birthday." He turned around with a polite but reserved expression on his face, expecting to see a stranger there. Then he did a double take. "YOU'RE here! How did you get here?" Such happiness broke over his face as comprehension washed over him that all of us kids were there to celebrate with him. It was a gift to us all.
I said, "Well, we couldn't let your 75th go by without celebration, could we?"
Dad retorted, "I'm not 75! I'm 74!"
Ha! Well, the joke's on us. But we celebrated anyway.
We didn't go to Skyline. Maybe next time, dad. We took him to the Paragon Supper Club and enjoyed a fantastic meal seasoned with much laughter. Then we went to a nearby bar for another drink and more laughter. We were tired for the drive home but it was so worth it.
As the temperatures dipped once more into the teens, my sister quipped, "Next year, you're coming to MY house for the birthday party!" We decided we would--but maybe in March. This January stuff is for the--snowbirds!
Happy birthday, Dad! Dad & Boo photo by JulenaJo.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Redeeming Love
This weekend I devoured a wonderful novel that my friend Cheryl recommended to me, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. When she slid it over the Library check-in desk toward me, urging me to read it, I glanced at the cover, dismayed. A bodice-ripper, I thought, Cheryl reads bodice-rippers? Oh, no. I couldn't bear it. Yet when a friend recommends a book, I like to at least give it a try.
Boy, am I glad I did.
This is an inspirational historical romance. Whew! Francine Rivers is a writer who came to Christ later in life, and this was the first novel she wrote after that. Much of the above made me want to avoid reading this book. I generally shun romance as I find so much of it unrealistic and sappy, and I often find what passes for "inspirational" writing to be preachy and condescending. Rivers' novel features wonderful characters in a plot so gripping I could not put it down. Although the story is deeply satisfying in itself, the way the lovers, Sarah and Michael, grow personally, in their love for God and for each other, opened my heart to spiritual and emotional growth, too. All who walk the path of Christ, regardless of denomination, will welcome the messages revealed in Redeeming Love. Thank you, Francine Rivers! I look forward to reading more of your books. Thank you, Cheryl, for recommending a great read!
And now, readers, I urge you: do yourself a favor.

Happy Pogonip!

Pogonip, as I understand it, isn't really a happy thing. It's a special form of dense fog that contains needle-like crystals of ice. To go out in it spells doom because one risks being lost in the fog and freezing to death. Even more deadly is breathing in the fog, for the ice crystals wreak havoc on the lungs. Hence, the Farmer's Almanac periodic warning: Beware the Pogonip!
What I woke up to this morning is probably hoarfrost. I think that's an ugly word for something so beautiful. Sometimes I say rime instead, but that reminds me of an ancient mariner. So I say pogonip. Technically incorrect, but a fun word to say.
It was foggy and cold and ice crystals formed on the trees. Before daylight, the fog dissipated. I'll have to drive to work soon and will be unable to take a photo of the truly glorious sight of crystal-cloaked trees on fire with the sun. Alas! Photos by JulenaJo.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Winter Hike 2: Ash Cave Moustache

Another weekend, another winter hike. This one was in Hocking County, where Gourdo is originally from. Due to the severe cold (and my unwillingness to climb cliffs anymore), I told my family I'd accompany them, but only if they went on a very short hike, not the entire six-mile jaunt.
We drove to Ash Cave, which is where the annual, organized winter hike ends. It's a short, flat hike, and you get to see a spectacular frozen waterfall. Although I was impressed by the ice formations, it's my understanding that some years there is a column of ice from the top of Ash Cave to the bottom. Amazing.
Also amazing was the "moustache-cicle" sported by one hearty hiker. I saw many hikers with moustaches or beards, but only one with a moustache-cicle. I was too polite to take a picture, and, truth be told, it rather repulsed me. When we caught up with another relative later in the day and shared our impressions of the hike, he said, "Man, you should have seen the frozen moustache on this one dude!" And we all knew he was talking about the same moustache. The more he described it, the more certain we were. On a hike where everyone looked like everyone else--parka, scarf, hat & eyes--and you had to look twice to make sure you were talking to your own kid or spouse, it is no mean feat to stand out from the crowd. The icicled hiker certainly earned his "15 minutes of fame" this weekend as the hundreds of hikers who encountered him will all remember seeing him. That's how impressive I believe it was.
Sorry. It's kind of gross. I hope the beautiful photos I did take make up for the icky image I've painted with my words.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Lark Under the Snow

Minus fourteen.
That's how cold it is here tonight. That doesn't even account for windchill, which makes it even more deadly.
Driving home tonight I noticed how snakes of crystalline snow seemed to loop and coil across the road, illuminated in the headlights of the car. The flocks of horned larks and snow buntings that I'd seen all week gathered in flocks beside the roads, eating grit from the snowplows, were gone tonight. No doubt they had settled in a field somewhere under an insulating blanket of snow, gathered in a tight knot for warmth. There were few cars out. Some wouldn't start. Others started, but took an impossibly long time to warm up. Roads were encrusted in crunchy snow, and underneath that was hard, glassy ice.
I'm glad to be home for the night. I'll just pile on the blankets and the Roxy and settle down for this bitter night like a lark under the snow.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What Madness?

Much of Ohio is under a winter weather advisory, and here we are expecting 2-4 inches of snow, single digit temperatures and I believe the wind is supposed to kick in later. It's not pretty--see how dark the photo is above? It was taken this morning well after daybreak!
To my mind this winter weather is gloomy and vaguely threatening. I just saw my daughter drive off to the classes she takes at the university branch campus. She was apprehensive about driving in this, as am I, but soon I will get in my little car and head off to the Library. People must have something to read in weather like this, after all.
Sometimes people remind me of ants. When I was a child I used to lay on my belly in the grass and study the mad scurry of ants in their relentless search for food. I think of this image quite often as I follow the flow of traffic to town for work and shopping. Unlike ants, however, our busyness continues even in the snow. What madness is this?
The thought that cheers me along is the knowing that, at the end of the day, there will be a steaming bowl of chili to eat, warm slippers for my feet, and a good novel to spirit me off to a faraway place and time. Gloom Photo by JulenaJo.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Beautiful Day for a Walk

I'd been looking forward to a Saturday sleep-in, truth be told. Gourdo, aka the Gourd King and my husband, had other ideas. Today there was a winter hike scheduled along the Miami Erie Canal towpath, and he had volunteered to help. Did I want to accompany him?
What I heard from the little voice in my head: "What, are you kidding? Have you lost your MIND? Leave me alone, for pity's sake. It's raining ice, man!"
What I heard coming out of my mouth: "Sure. I'll go!"
This exchange took place at 7:30 a.m. during an ice storm. Can you believe it? Nevertheless, I was committed to the long haul, and off we went. At first, I thought we'd be set up serving hot chocolate, coffee, yogurt and granola bars at the starting point of the hike, but that station was covered. Then I thought I'd be encamped at the Miami Erie Canal Corridor Authority ( center in case visitors showed up. Just as I was settling down at the center wishing I'd brought a good book or my knitting along, Gourdo called from the trailhead asking, "Do you want to hike?" Again, there played the dissonance between mind and mouth, and before I knew it we were crunching along an icy towpath.
Ohio was divided in thirds by two canals hand-dug in the early 1800s. The Ohio and Erie Canal is on the eastern part of the state and the Miami and Erie Canal runs though the western part, where I live. At the time, the canals opened up not only the state but the heart of the settled nation for commerce by linking Lake Erie and the Ohio River.
Though canals were quickly put out of business by more efficient railroads, many of the communities that sprang up along the canals seem reluctant to let them go--and for good reason. The towpaths offer excellent hiking, and in this neck of the woods, it coincides with the Buckeye Trail, a hiking loop through the entire state ( Feeder ponds and Grand Lake, a vast manmade reservoir created to provide canal water, now provide sporting types with great fishing and boating. Wildlife enthusiasts may be rewarded with sightings of abundant birds, including bald eagles, great blue herons and ducks. Small mammals abound, as well as the occasional deer or coyote. In addition, the canal and its locks are historical treasures.
Today our historical treasure was covered in ice, though. Sleet pelted us as we hiked a short 2-mile section of the towpath, encrusting and thoroughly drenching my cheap parka. In spite of the elements, we encountered several intrepid hikers, and they all (I am not even kidding) greeted us with, "Beautiful day for a walk, isn't it?" I couldn't tell if they were being sarcastic or not, so I just agreed with them.
Due to the sleet, I kept my head down for the hike. There were lots of rabbit tracks along the trail. We saw big flocks of Canada geese. The prettiest things were the icy teasel heads and wild rose hips that grew in swaths on each side of the trail. Although I feel like my thighs might never thaw, I'm glad I went. It really was a beautiful day for a walk. Winter Walk photos by Gourdo.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Rosy Resources

My annual excursion to the Columbus Rose Festival (June 13 & 14 this year) is one of the ways I decide which roses to grow in my own garden. Although the Whetstone Park of Roses is more sheltered than my own windswept property, there I see roses that are reasonably hardy and get an idea of their general appearance. I decided to try Fourth of July, pictured above, after discovering it at the festival one year.
Fourth of July was an All-America Rose Selection in 1999, the first time a climbing rose garnered the award in 23 years. You won't wonder why when you see a row of trellises covered with them at the festival. The sight dazzles the senses: firecracker blossoms in sprays from top to bottom of the 8-foot canes, healthy green foliage, and sweet rose fragrance, too.
If you're looking for an excellent resource to assist in choosing roses for your garden, check out the All-America Rose Selections web site, Make an early summer visit to the nearest public rose garden, too. There's no more heavenly sight than a park filled with hundreds of roses in bloom. Fourth of July rose photo by JulenaJo.

Addendum: After my husband, the Gourd King, read the above post he informed me that the Columbus Rose Festival may be canceled this year due to lack of funds. Apparently, an article in the Columbus Dispatch said the festival lost money every year. If that's so, I can understand why they have to end it. If the city can't keep the garden going, however, it would be a great loss to gardeners and rosarians all over the state. It's just another indication of the miserable condition of our economy right now--the Gourd King's company is laying off workers, and the Library is faced with a budget cut, too. We see no end in sight, and it's alarming.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Aliens and Angel's Wings

Work, even when you love it, is sometimes just work. On days like that it's best to remember things that made you laugh.
We used to have a poster in the children's area with a cartoon UFO and alien on it. One day a gentleman came up to me at the circulation desk and complained, "Hey! The eyes aren't right on that alien! Go take a look!"
I have to confess, I looked, but I'm not really sure what an alien's eyes are supposed to look like. I still wonder how HE knew!
A local festival takes place in the city parking lot right outside the library doors every summer. There are all the usual rides and games, and a lot of the workers from the festival use the library. One morning during the festival, a ragged little boy came running up to me at the circulation desk: "Are carney kids allowed in here?" Yep. Carney kids are allowed. And aliens, too--see the picture?
It's a sad sign of the times that a surprising number of children filling out an application--these are children old enough to fill out the card themselves, mind you, not preschoolers--have to ask a parent or stepparent for their current address and phone number. No doubt this is due to blended families and an increasingly mobile society. But we had one middle aged man who didn't know his name. Now that was a problem. Come to think of it, this was the same fellow who thought the alien's eyes looked funny.
I am the shortest person on the staff and find shelving a challenge sometimes. One day I was grousing to a coworker as I struggled to place books on the higher shelves, "Shelving is going to be the death of me." Suddenly, a book fell from the top shelf and bounced off my head, as though cued by my words.
Oddly, it was The Book of Heaven (Zaleski & Zaleski). At least I know where I'm going.
Back when fax was new, a woman timidly asked if we could fax a document for her. We said yes and ran her paper through the fax machine. "What a miracle!" she exclaimed as the process was explained to her. She happily offered a prayer over the fax machine. I think that particular fax was not delivered via the telephone line, but by angel's wings.
And speaking of the biblical, a man came into the library and asked me if we had laminating service. I replied that we didn't and suggested a local print shop that did. He said, "Ah, ok. Do you know how much they charge for lamentations?"
Sometimes the work is just work. And other times...well, it flies on angel's wings.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Auld Acquaintance: Belle Story

One of my all-time favorite roses is Belle Story.
I grew her in my previous garden and hope to have her blooming in my garden again soon--perhaps even this spring. I feel I've been without her far too long.
Some roses are more fragrant. Madame Hardy perfumes a couple of acres when she is her glory--but she blooms madly, passionately only for a couple of weeks each spring and then she is spent for the year. Others bloom more heavily, bearing great bowers of blossoms that completely hide the foliage. Belle Story does neither of those. Her blooms are borne singly or in small clusters of three or so--each unassumingly presented for admiration. She earns her place in my affection for her loveliness. Her blossoms are exquisite open cups of clear pink petals with stunning knots of gold stamens at the heart. They are, in a word, perfection. The foliage is healthy and the size of the shrub is reasonable, about 4'x4'. Belle Story is hardy in my northwest Ohio garden, USDA Zone 5.
I never coddled her or fussed over her, and she bloomed repeatedly, providing a steady supply of sweetly fragrant flowers from spring to fall. Her sister, The Herbalist, another Austin favorite of mine, bloomed beside her, and the two of them kept me in delicious bouquets all summer.
Why did I ever let them go? We razed an old farmhouse to build a new one on our property and the entire yard was torn up. There was no practical way to save old landscaping. We were fortunate enough to keep the few trees dotting our property.
I think now that everything is settled--after all, it's been six years or so--it's time to bring these dear "auld acquaintances" back into my garden once again. Belle Story photo by JulenaJo.
"Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' lang syne ?"

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Planning the Possibilities

Thoughts on January first seem to play about on all the possible ways to make the upcoming year more fulfilling than previous years. As a gardener, this means planning what to grow come spring. An idea I've been toying with is growing cut flowers and herbs for the local farmer's market that takes place every summer Saturday morning in our little community. To that end I've been compiling lists of flowers excellent for cutting and herbs that I think people might like to buy fresh. If I continue with my knitting and tatting, I'll offer the results of those handicrafts for sale, too, and my husband, the Gourd King, has dried gourds to sell. 2009 looks like a year where the economy necessitates earning whatever extra income one can, and what more fulfilling way to do so than gardening and handwork?
So far my list of cut flower seeds to buy includes (in no order): sunflowers, larkspur, cosmos, globe flower, daisies of all kinds, snapdragons, zinnias, strawflower, love-in-a-mist, baby's breath, and statice. Herbs I'm thinking of including are: lavender, blue balsam mint, basil, chives, cilantro, dill, fennel, rosemary, sage, tarragon and parsley. Just typing those lists fills me with happiness and eager anticipation of the 2009 growing season.
One of the daisies I know I'll be growing this year is shown above, a blue-eyed daisy, arctotis grandis. I'm not sure I can harvest and sell them as cut flowers as the blossoms close at night, but aren't they lovely? The reverse of the silvery white petals is pale blue and the foliage resembles dusty miller. I saved the seeds from last summer's plants so I can grow even more of them this year--even if I can't sell them. Some things a gardener just grows for the pure love and joy of it, you know? Just thinking of these beauties makes me smile. I can't wait for spring! Arctotis Grandis photo by JulenaJo.