November Greetings

November arrived a few days ago, just as we were finishing our autumn chores. We’ve harvested the vegetable garden, added new compost to beds, planted bulbs and seeds, harvested additional seeds to plant in the spring, and cleaned up each garden bed. Mr. Hollyhocks and I are a good team, working together on many projects side by side, but there are also certain chores I take care of while he prefers others. A perfect example is the irrigation in the garden beds.  I honestly have no knowledge of re-routing irrigation lines — I just show him what is needed and he takes care of it.

Many of our weekends in September and October were spent removing plants from one garden bed or another and tucking them into areas where their needs will be better met. Never have we lived and gardened in one area as long as this particular spot has been home. And never have we had to remove all of the plantings from certain beds because their environment no longer is in full sun, as was the case so long ago when the beds were first planted. We’ll see how successful we were with that endeavor next spring. I’m hopeful though that everything will be able to put down roots and get comfy in their new surroundings. Hopeful. I think that word defines all gardeners, don’t you?

With autumn chores behind us, I now want to rest a bit more and take in every bit of this fleeting autumn beauty before the rain and winds blow these colorful jewels off the trees and shrubs. I don’t want to miss a thing. Happy November!

 

 

Finding Gold

“Summer’s loss seems little, dear, on days like these.”

~Ernest Dowson

On Sunday my husband and I took a break from our outdoor autumn chores and drove the one hour up to the Tahoe area to view the fall foliage. Leaves on our trees at home in the foothills are just starting to put on a show but we had heard that if we wanted to catch the foliage performance in the high sierras we’d better go sooner rather than later. Hiking boots and layers of clothing, a cooler filled with snacks and drinks, our beloved furry companion, check, check, check, and off we went. We chose to hike the new-to-us Cathedral Meadow, near Taylor Creek and a favorite area of ours, Fallen Leaf Lake.

We encountered a perfect fall day with blue skies and warm temps and a whole lotta golden groves of aspens glistening in the sunlight. Beautiful scenery and fabulous views of Mount Tallac all along the trail were free for the taking! I honestly can’t imagine that we could have timed it any better! If you’re in the area, go now!

Postcards from the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

 

During late August we visited the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.  This incredible garden jewel boasts 47 meticulously cared for acres of canyons, wetlands, coastal bluffs, conifers, perennials, vegetable gardens and more.

Paths, some paved and others unpaved wind their way through each of the breathtaking gardens. A lovely half mile walk offers the gift of stunning views of the Pacific ocean from the bluffs.

Words can’t do justice to the incredible beauty found here. I’m just going to let my photos speak for me.

Voted 5th best botanical garden in the nation by USA Today, this is the most beautiful garden I’ve had the pleasure to explore in a long time.  I could have spent an entire day here, and honestly, if I lived closer I’d sign up to be a garden volunteer just so I could bask in this splendor on a regular basis.

Kensington Gardens

This week Kensington Palace announced that William and Kate are expecting their third baby; Prince George started school; and the twentieth anniversary of Diana’s death was just a little over a week ago. With all of this news regarding the Royal Family lately I thought I’d revisit my photos from our trip to London just this last spring and share.

The palace has been a Royal residence since the 17th century. Queen Victoria was born here and lived here until 1837. Princess Diana lived at the palace from 1981 – 1997. Currently it is home to Will and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and their children, George and Charlotte, as well as to Prince Harry.

Parts of the palace were open for touring and we were able to get tickets and go right in to see the King’s State Apartments, the Queen’s State Apartment, and the exhibit of Diana’s dresses.
I considered it quite a treat to view the sunken garden that was designed this year to honor Princess Diana. Isn’t it magnificent?
Throughout Kensington Gardens there are ponds and lakes, walking trails, benches, stately trees, an Italian garden, the serpentine galleries, statues and memorials, and the Princess Diana Playground with a Peter Pan theme (I longed to go in but adults without children with them are not permitted in the gate). I peeked as much as I could though, and found it enchanting. This is the full scale pirate ship which serves as a climbing area for children. There are swings, slides, a sensory trail and more.This is the Albert Memorial. The Diana Memorial Fountain, built in 2004, is a lovely, restful spot where people can sit and put their feet in the water.We were at the park for a good portion of a day and still didn’t see everything there is to see in this magical place. There’s always next time!

As you can well see, the day we visited was cloudy and dark and my photos didn’t come out as well as I would have liked. The first photo, the seventh, and the eighth came right off the internet.

Jackpot!

We spent a few days on the beautiful coast of Mendocino recently.  One afternoon while my love was golfing, I walked the trail down to the beach with the sweetest furry friend a girl could ask for.
This is beautiful Buckhorn Cove. It was such a great place to explore a bit and just relax. When I first arrived there were a few kayakers in the water and a group of divers who were packing up to leave. In less than five minutes I had this serene stretch of coast all to myself. 
There were tide pools to investigate, caves to peek around in, and large rocks for sitting on and gazing out at God’s mesmerizing handiwork.

And there were a whole lot of valentines from nature.Yes indeed. A bag full of treasures, peace and gratitude in my heart, abundant love in my life; I hit the jackpot in so many ways.

Meiss Meadows Trail

Near Carson Pass, on the north side of highway 88 is Meiss Meadows Trail. A few weeks ago we set out to hike one of our favorite areas but when we got to the parking lot we were surprised that it was still covered in snow. Yep, snow in July. We still plan to go back to that location, but decided to venture a bit further and to the other side of the highway and discovered Meiss Meadows Trail. The parking lot  to the trailhead wasn’t under snow even with the starting elevation at 8200 feet. That was a good sign!

Though this was not our first choice for hiking on this day, by no means were we disappointed. The views along the trail were outstanding.
Hillsides full of Mule’s Ear, Indian Paintbrush, Forget Me Nots, Lupine, and Creeping Phlox had me stopping to take photos every few feet!Heart rocks and all of this wildflower beauty. These are a few of my favorite things! 
 Mountain beauty as far as the eyes can see.  I just may have spun around with my arms outstretched like Maria in The Sound of Music!Oh yes, the hills are definitely alive!

Dear Summer

Dear Summer,

Why the rush? You’re moving way too quickly. I’m noticing the earlier sunsets each evening and realizing that children in my neighborhood will be heading back to school in a couple weeks. How can it be that in a few days we’ll be turning the calendar to August? Already!

Time is fleeting and I find myself taking morning and evening walks in the gardens to take in all that this glorious season gifts us with. On my visits with my plants (c’mon I know you do that too!) I notice which ones need a little more water, what needs deadheading, and what’s been munched on by deer or insects. It’s definitely a busy season of yard work, but I want to focus on all there is to celebrate as I watch blooms open and vegetables ripen.

Each day and week holds the anticipation and promise of new blooms, new miracles. One week the buds are tight.Don’t blink; things change quickly!I’m still waiting for the fragrant, white Moon Flower vine to bloom (must remember to add fertilizer in my watering can this week), and also am being patient for the blue smokey blooms of Caryopeteris. The rest of the summer bloomers has already opened.

Soon I’ll be harvesting seeds for next year, and digging and dividing perennials to give to friends or move to other areas on our property. With the healthy amount of rain we received last winter the perennials really spread out. It’ll be a busy September in the garden with all the autumn chores ahead, but for now, well, I’m gratefully admiring the garden show, filling up vases with abundant blooms, and going out to pick herbs and veggies for our summer meals. I don’t want to miss a thing!“In summer, the song sings itself.” ~William Carlos Williams

A Weed or a Treasure?

“It’s a weed”, I would have told you. The Albizia tree (also known as Silk Tree or Mimosa) that was here when we moved in 25 years ago is a messy weed tree. It looks beautiful all in bloom, but don’t let that fool you!

Pretty, pink puffs dry up, turn to fluff and drop. Once the fluff/seed heads drop, the wind carries them everywhere and then we get ferny baby silk trees coming up in every garden bed. Last night I pulled up this monster hiding within an azalea shrub. Who knows how long it had been there!Year after year, our Albizia tree persevered despite our best attempts to remove it from the landscape early on.

But then, some years ago, when my sister told me that Albizias were our mother’s favorite tree, I began to notice the especially heavenly fragrance of the blossoms perfuming the air during June and July. I started appreciating the shade that the tree in our yard provides, and I noticed something interesting in the bark of the tree that has happened naturally over the years. What do you see?Yep, definitely a heart!

My mother passed away many years ago when I was just twenty. Could that heart in the bark be a message from her? Maybe not, but I’m going with it! I’m also pulling out seedlings everywhere and cleaning up the messy blossoms starting to drop. I love that tree now, and I don’t mind the annual clean up that goes on for months. I do it for Mom. Some things are worth the trouble. Tell me, is there a ground cover or vine or tree that most people would consider a weed but that you’ve grown fond of? What are your reasons for keeping it around?

 

 

 

 

Short and Sweet

A short and sweet little break in nature was just what we were looking for. We had the joy of taking care of our eleven month grand daughter this weekend and were looking for a short hike to take her on in a new back pack. We figured we could take turns holding her if she got fussy or didn’t want to sit in the back pack, and decided to go to the Dave Moore Nature Trail near Coloma. We found it to be ideal for our needs.  It’s an easy 1.1 mile trail loop, very well maintained, with a canopy of oaks to provide ample shade.
The trail took up past this beautiful madrone tree,blackberry bushes, wild grape vines, some interesting rock formations, and lots of colorful wildflowers.
 And on we hiked, right to the south fork of The American River. Here we found a small beach to enjoy for awhile, before carrying on with the trail. In no time at all, we were back at the parking lot, just in time to give our sweetie a bottle and a snack. What a great hike for families with little ones, or anyone who wants a quick dose of nature.I’ll leave you with a little lichen heart along the way that brought a smile to my face. Hope it does the same for you too.

Strawberry Shortcake

I came across this recipe in a newspaper over ten years ago and it quickly became a family favorite. I made it yesterday for Father’s Day for the first time this year and want to share it with you. With all of the fresh, sweet strawberries available at farmer’s markets, now is the time to try it. You’ll be in for a treat!

Grandma’s Shortbread

Ingredients:

2 cups flour, sifted

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon baking powder

2 Tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

3/4 cup whole milk

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. With a pastry cutter, cut in the shortening until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the milk. Stir briefly with a fork, just until the dough holds together. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and gently knead it eight times. Do not knead it more than that.

Gently press or roll the dough into flat piece about a half inch thick. Use a biscuit cutter to cut the dough into circles (or whatever shape you choose) and place them about an inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 450 degrees for 12 minutes or until the biscuits are lightly browned.

The strawberry shortcakes should be assembled while the biscuits are still warm. If the biscuits are made ahead, wrap them in foil and warm them in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes before serving.

Old Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake

Ingredients:

6 cups strawberries, washed and stemmed

1/2 cup sugar

1 pint whipping cream, very cold

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Baked, warm shortbread (recipe above)

Instructions:

If the strawberries are large, cut them in half or quarters. Place the berries in a large bowl and sprinkle them with sugar (optional). Allow the bowl to stand at room temperature while you prepare the whipping cream.

Chill the beaters and bowl of your mixer. Pour the whipping cream into the chilled bowl and beat it on medium speed until it begins to thicken. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and continue beating until the cream is thick.

To assemble, top each warm shortbread with a generous scoop of strawberries and whipped cream. Serve immediately.

For the record, I turned on our oven during our current heat spell to make these. It was well worth it!