28 September 2011


I'm often amazed to read that African Violets are considered easy houseplants.  I started with one plant over 10 years ago and it took a lot of trial and error before I found success.  I now have 9 and I manage to keep them all flowering most of the year.  Each one will be flowerless 1 or 2 times a year for a month or so but fortunately it is rare for all to be flowerless at the same time.  Even with only 9 plants I spend at least a half hour each Sunday nurturing them.  Different varieties have their own little quirks but I have found a routine that works for all of them under most conditions.  Mine thrive in a window facing East & they like being on this lovely shelf that my husband created - keeps them far enough away from the window to avoid touching the glass when it is too hot or too cold.  I also have grow lights for the winter months because they like light 10 or 11 hours each day.

You want to keep water off of the leaves or they will develop brown spots.  I never had much success watering from the top so I put the plastic pot into a small bowl - the pot should be even or a bit above the bowl.  I put some stones in the bottom of the bowl which keeps them from sitting in water but still provides a little humidity, especially in the summer heat.  As an added bonus the bowls are a pretty display on their own.  I check each plant each week - if the bowl still has water or the soil is still damp, I do some pruning but add no more water.  When they do need water I put it directly in the bowl & put the plant pot back in - the amount I add is based on how dry the plant is - if the plant doesn't need water but the stones are dry, I add water just to cover the stones.  Regardless of how much water, never use cold water.  Tepid water is best.

Other than providing light and water, I also check the flowers and the leaves.  I remove all brown flowers and all leaves that are spotted or soft.  Even if all the leaves are perfect I gently cut some out when the pot seems crowded.  I have no facts to back it up but it seems that pruning the leaves helps the plant to produce more flowers.

These steps may not spell success for everyone.  And not everyone wants to put the time into a simple houseplant.  But they have become a hobby for me and I enjoy taking care of them.  I have them in the kitchen where I spend a lot of time and the violets make me happy.

24 September 2011

Dreary, Buggy and Wet

Every morning I walk the trails - one loop with Blackie and a 2nd loop with Lucy.  The dogs and I love our walks - almost always a high point of our day. But today's walk was just a chore.  And this is too bad because as the first full day of fall we should be enjoying the best walks of the year.  I love fall but this one is not off to a good start.  Hurricane Irene tore a lot of leaves off the trees, and all of the rain since seems to be drowning the trees as well as everything else that should be peak right now.  
 These trees make it look like November.  I found a Weather Channel video that reported a fungus on Sugar Maples caused by the heavy Northeast rains.  The report said this is mostly restricted to Sugar Maples but I see the same symptoms on many more trees.  There is no color in the field - the last of the bright yellow goldenrod is now bedraggled & sad - the whole field is dismal.  Everything is soggy and because of that we have a major mosquito infestation - even covered with bug spray I'm attacked. Lucky dogs - Frontline seems to spare them from the bugs.  Blackie is always happy to be out; he loves running thru the field & he seems immune to crappy conditions.  Lucy who loves to swim but otherwise hates being wet, is less than thrilled.
 Lucy is ready to be back in the house so she can just nap on the couch.  Can'y say I blame her.
We walk every day - regardless of weather.  We go out when it's below zero, when it sleets, when there's 2 feet or more of new snow ...  We certainly walk many days when it would be much cozier to stay in the house.  Today definitely makes the top 10 list of nasty, miserable walks.  To top it off my Ipod battery died overnight - I guess I forgot to turn it off yesterday.  So all I heard was the buzzing of the mosquitoes.  We had one interesting encounter.  A Great Blue Heron flew over when I was with Blackie - it was not too far above him & he looked completely amazed - like a pterodactyl flying over him.  Of course I didn't have the camera for that shot - no surprise all things considered.  

23 September 2011

Hurricane Irene

The local weatherman just said that it is going to rain today.  It rained yesterday.  If there is one thing we do not need, it's more rain.  

We have a well - an old dug well & our water source is the small stream that surrounds our property on 3 sides.  When there is no rain the stream dries up and in really bad years our well dries up too.  Fortunately it rarely gets that bad but I have always vowed not to complain about rain when it comes. But this year that vow is being seriously tested.  Upstate NY was really hit hard by Hurricane Irene  on August 28th.  It's rare for the East Coast to get hit by a hurricane.  For days before Irene reached the U.S. there were constant warnings for coastal areas and NYC - upstate NY was supposed to get heavy rain & some local flooding but there was no call for extraordinary preparation.  As it turned out the hurricane had other plans.  The rain came early that Sunday morning & it was relentless throughout the day.  We had already had a very wet summer so the ground was saturated - rivers and creeks started flooding early in the day.  As I say, we are surrounded by a stream but we never gave it a thought because it has never flooded the land near the house - the house sits on the high point of the property and my husband (Dan) who has lived here all of his 60 years has never seen the stream come close to the house.  Late in the day we looked out and saw that the stream was indeed flooding into the backyard.

The bridge in the center of this photo is usually down a small decline (and is usually 8 feet above the water) but here it is floating on the water as it spreads into the yard.  We were incredibly lucky because not long after we saw the water rising, the rain stopped.  After taking this picture I went back in the house.  Just as Dan & I were doing a little happy dance to celebrate our good luck, the power went out.  The wind and rain had finally taken its toll on a local power station and thousands lost power.  We didn't get power back for almost 3 days.  The morning after the storm we went out to assess our damage.

The bridge had fallen back down but it was no longer attached to anything. Here is Blackie confused to find that his path to the back trails is broken. There is another bridge at the back of the property - that too is gone so we have no access to the back trails.  Sad, but we still have access to the field trails & our daily rambling continues.

All in all we were incredibly lucky - just some inconvenience.  So many people in our area have lost their homes completely.  Many have not even found their homes let alone any of their belongings.  Some still have buildings but what wasn't swept away is beyond salvaging due to water and mud damage. It's been almost a month and clean-up continues and families are homeless. No, we definitely don't need more rain - but according to the weatherman we will be getting more - maybe every day for another week.

21 September 2011

Meet the Dogs

The dogs will be a big part of this blog, so here are my best friends & rambling partners.

First is the beautiful, obstinate, always-under-foot, so sweet & easy going, Lucy.
And here is the handsome, sensitive, attached-to-my-side, careful & loving, Blackie (the Brown Dog).
At some point there will be an explanation for why a brown dog is named Blackie.  It's not for the obvious irony of it.  Though I do appreciate irony in any form, I wouldn't name my dog for that reason.  

20 September 2011

Why Blog?

To blog or not to blog?  This has been my question for all too long now.  And today I have finally decided - why not? 

When I first retired, a year and a half ago, I started writing Retirement Ramblings.  It was a way for me to chronicle a huge, new phase of my life.  I continued writing for 6 months and then life got busy so I stopped.  Now when I read those ramblings I’m glad that I captured the early days of retirement - even happier to recall my feelings at the time.  I have kept some sort of diary 3 or 4 times in my life and I’ve only been successful when I understood that a diary doesn’t have to be maintained every single calendar day (or even every calendar month) - just write when there’s something to say or events to record.  Years and years later I have no regrets that I didn’t write something every day in those few journals I did keep, but I do regret the many journals I never even started.

So now I’ll try blogging - maybe it will become the ultimate journal.  I just want to write about my life, my dogs, my beautiful gran’baby.  I want to write what I remember of those years when I didn’t keep a journal.  Memories or moments, monumental or mundane.  Life will sometimes get too busy and I won’t be able to write.  But this time I hope I won’t stop.  Diary, journal, blog … I’m writing this for me.