Wednesday, September 9, 2009


We have yet another visitor at the Lodge! We hope he stays around for a long time. Drew and Vanessa got to hear him when last they visited. After hearing him again this weekend, we decided to try to discover what he was. Lucky for us, his song is VERY distinctive, so we didn't need Ranger Rick to figure out who our new friend was. Another wonderful sound to hear in the night! Check out this video to see and more importantly hear how lucky we are!

YouTube - Coyote cub singing - BBC wildlife

We have a new family living near the Lodge! We have yet to see them but we hear them all the time. When Ken and Kathy were up last weekend, they heard them. Frightened by the train which passes nearby, they broke into their usual chorus much to Ken's awe. It is an eery sound to be sure and one that makes the hair on the back of one's neck stand on end. Our first knowledge of their existence was last summer when Eric was out at the grill and the wonderful aroma of steak cooking must have enticed them to come closer to the Lodge than their usual comfort zone. By the sounds, a good sized pack was rustling through the undergrowth just on the far side of the stone wall. Luckily the dogs were inside with me, but to be sure things stayed that way, Eric ran inside to warn me of our visitors. I had already heard them and was simultaneously running out to check on Eric. He grabbed a 2x4 to keep by his side while finishing his grilling just in case the smell got the best of the coyotes. Since that time, we have never had them come quite so close, but we hear them most every evening and throughout the night. I love the sound but we are cautious to get the dogs inside whenever their chorus indicates their proximity to the Lodge. Found this short video on You Tube that I thought you might enjoy.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Beautiful September Day

After just having three amazingly beautiful days off for Labor Day Weekend, I guess I could be accused of being a little greedy to wish for more but the sun rising through the trees giving the promise of yet another gorgeous day, did leave me yearning to pretend I didn't realize it was Tuesday morning and spend yet another day at Oak Hill.

A Visit to Fernwood...

... and there are nine more hostas in Oak Hill Gardens! Such a fun adventure that took us all the way up to Swanville and Montville, Maine on Sunday. We were in search of a shade garden nursery called Fernwood that we had heard of from the people who own Plainview Farms. Rick Sawyer is the owner, a wonderful, knowledgable man with a very down-to-earth attitude about gardening and an amazing selection of hostas as well as other shade-loving plants. I envy his ability to distinguish varieties. He made sure the plants I bought were well tagged before I took them. We actually spent far more time just chit-chatting with him, as we were his only customer during the two hours we were there. He told us how he really isn't the best of businessmen as he gets much more joy selling his hosta to someone who buys a few they really love and have an interest in their characteristics as compared to the person with the landscaper that comes in to buy hundreds of dollars worth with no love of the plants themselves. He also opened my eyes to an idea which is right up my alley. Hosta theme gardens! The hosta cultivar often times bear very unusual names and apparently some hosta collectors take advantage of these names when planting. He told us of one such gardener who had a "Naughty Garden" planted with such varieties as "Striptease", "Hanky Panky", "Climax", etc. Although it would require some moving, looks like theme gardens such as this could definitely be in the forecast for Oak Hill.

Up Go the Walls!

Despite the absolutely beautiful September day we were blessed with yesterday, Eric and I forced ourselves to stay inside and put up sheetrock. We had set a goal of doing just one side of the wall, but ended up doing BOTH. It looks incredible! Now comes the mudding, but meanwhile, I can start figuring my paint colors! The little mahogany set that was downstairs fits perfectly in the new upstairs seating area. So, at least we know the color will have to blend with deep red!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Late August Blooms

The summer of 2009 has broken every record for rainfall since the Weather Bureau has kept such records. The gardens of Oak Hill bear witness to this. Usually by the time September is upon us, the gardens have wilted back from the hot, dry month of August and the grass is more brown than green. Not so this year! The gardens are literally spilling over their beds and I have had to prune the shrubs three times already to curb all the new growth. There have been some negatives as well such as a formidible crop of slugs who have turned many a hosta leaf to lace; a nasty case of powdery mildew on my phlox, which luckily did not seem to affect their ability to bloom, and a curious blight which hit all the lower leaves of my tomatoes and asters. I find great humor in the fact that this was the year I was given an irrigation system for my garden for my birthday. Hmmmm, well I'll still have it next year.

And then there were TWO!

Privacy is not something the Lodge was designed to provide. On the contrary, the reason for its existence is "togetherness". However, there are certain times when this becomes problematic. One of those times is trying to change clothes when members of the opposite sex are roaming about. The other is sleeping with extra doggies running around excited to be together, and adults snoring, and babies fussing, and grownups making their way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Our weekend project was to construct the wall between the loft sitting area and the master bedroom. We had purchased a french door from Lakeview Lumber so that whenever possible, the view of the timbers would not be blocked and when privacy is needed, I will make a set of drapes which will cover the glass of the doors. The 2x4 studding proved to be no easy task. Not only does it require working at times 15 feet from the floor, but most of the studs required angle cuts. But, with a little perseverance and a typically late supper, we were able to get the wall all ready to sheetrock.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Working on the Little Buildings

Great progress was made this weekend on the greenhouse (Oak Hill Nursery) and the playhouse (Nutshell). We got the sides put on the potting shed, shingled and painted them. This merges the greenhouse area to the potting shed and looks fabulous! I will get to give it a trial run soon as it is almost time for fall mums! We have had the windows for Nutshell since last summer, but had not had the chance to get them in. It is amazing how it moved the little structure from a garden shed look to what it is meant to be, a playhouse. Now I can start working on the inside, whenever the opportunity arises.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Move Over Martha!

The ladies are coming! The ladies of the Bath Garden Club are coming to visit Oak Hill Gardens. My excitement is only slightly dampened by my determination to "get stuff done". You can imagine that Eric is also feeling my enthusiasm to "put on our Sunday Best"! But, it was not ME who decided to launch us off on yet another "side project". We were going to work on the greenhouse this past weekend when Eric noticed the leg of the potting bench he had made me back in the 80's and I had used for years at Raymond Ct., was beginning to cave. Of course, this was largely caused by the fact it was twenty plus years old, was made from an old print shop counter (not pressure treated wood), and the potting soil container we had installed had been collecting rainwater as the roof overhang was not sufficient to keep it dry. Eric announced that it was not up to par for the ladies to see my potting table in such a condition and that we needed to build a new one NOW on the back of the greenhouse where the garden tools were to find their home. We were able to implement some of the old pieces of the potting bench, like the soil container and its lid, the upper shelving with bins for peat moss and perlite, and the upper shelving unit. There is a weather tight roof and it will be enclosed with sides and doors; three of them to be precise. One will be for the shovel, rake, hoe and other garden tools on the right- and double doors for the bench area. Ooooh, la, la! Ladies - eat your heart out! Can't wait to pot up my fall mums!

Summer Gardens

How exciting and rewarding to see the Gardens of Oak Hill reach their full potential. With all the rain that the summer of 2009 has been blessed with, the gardens are even more lush than usual. Granted there was a time in mid-July when I think even they were crying Uncle! The slugs outnumbered the blossoms and the fungal infections were running rampant, but now things have dried out a bit and the gardens are amazing. I am so happy as it gives me courage to keep learning, keep trying to correct the mistakes I made with landscape planning, or lack thereof.

Monday, June 29, 2009

All Is Gray... and GREEN!

Despite four days short of a month of rain, my faithful friends still wish to be outside with me! Guiness who used to hate the rain, now tolerates it rather well and McEwan, who is quite happy to be dripping actually had had enough yesterday when I found him sitting patiently by the Lodge door hoping and praying I would let him in so he could dry off. The gardens of June 2009 are quite lush, although somewhat flat from the pounding rains we have had. Anything not staked tends to provide a home for slugs, the great enemy of the passionate gardener.
The honeysuckle seems to hold up rather well much to the gratitude of the hummingbirds.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Can You Stay for a Spot of Tea

...or perhaps a glass of wine? Looks like just the perfect place to partake of such things! We make slow but steady progress on the garden area to the back left side of the Lodge. The rain has definitely given the plantings a big boost this year. This past Friday, in a torrential downpour, I completed the brick walkway so that we are now ready for the affectinately called "Humpty Hump" bridge to go in over the drybed. If it ever stops raining, I will paint it a dark, lucious red, kind of the color of .... cabernet sauvingnon... now that I think of it.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Gardens of Blackwater Cove

Until the Lodge came along, I always played a game with Mother Nature as to what she would let me grow if I were not to prune her trees back to sharply. At Raymond Court, I loved the shaded yard given to me by the host of maples which grew abundantly in the side yard. But, that meant I was restricted plants that could tolerate or perhaps enjoy the shade like hosta, astilbe, daylilies, ferns and sedums. When we got the cottage, I was faced with the same plight. It is in the woods afterall, and we did not wish to change that. The front garden was a special challenge, as, when we bought, there was only "forest soil" a nutrient poor, combination of decomposed pine needles and sand that was hard pressed to hold any water. We fashioned stone walls to terrace off the embankment and brought in loads and loads of loam to backfill and create garden beds. Slowly, I learned which plants could live largely off just rainfall and tolerate the small amount of sunlight the garden was provided with each day. This photo shows that I am now in tune with this garden, though it has taken me years to achieve it. That is why Oak Hill is such a fun place to garden with its many areas of sun and shade, wet and dry, but tremendous soil everywhere!

Update on the Greenhouse

PHASE 2 of the greenhouse construction meant doing the extensions for the two pieces of the roof and hanging the windows for the sides. We used the glass that my Dad had held onto for years hoping to one day build his own greenhouse. It had come from either J.J. Newberry store shelving, or possibly when Dyer's tore down one of their greenhouses, I can't recall. The side windows once hung in the Bath City Hall and were rescued by Eric when he saw them ripping them out and tossing them in a dumpster! We also finished the peak of the back wall and the two lower portions of the front. We came home armed with measurements to either find or build the two front windows and the double french doors thereby closing it in. Since I am usually the one to do the progress photos, I asked Eric to take a turn. He got very artsy, taking photos of the inside as well as the outside. I moved the bistro table into the space so next visit I think a glass of wine is in order!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Buildings...not Babies!

I have realized that since Dad and I are happy to turn the childbearing over to you girls... that we are now obsessed with bringing buildings into the world! Welcome,
the newest Oak Hill
Lodge building...
the greenhouse!
Although we have a ways to go, we made amazing
strides on Memorial Day and, to my surprise even wrestled the glass top up a ladder and into position seven feet in the air! The greenhouse is 8 foot square with a two foot extension for a tool and pot storage area on the back. We are going to attempt to do the remainder of the roof also in glass and as of this writing, the base will either be white cedar shakes, fake Eldorado stone or fake brick... depending largely on cost. Stay tuned for updates!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Hardest of Lessons

This is the Gerald & Alice Allen Garden at the Lodge. It was the first garden put in and it has already undergone several transformations. I am beginning to understand that the term, "The Trial and Error Gardens of Pam Allen", is not a bad name, and that in fact, most gardeners, save the unadventurous, should name their gardens the same. What is deemed to be "invasive" and what is not, is quite bewildering. My Bee Balm (Monarda) for example, or Feverfew which were both planted in this garden started out as well behaved fine specimens who are now vying for virtually every square inch of unplanted (or planted for that matter) soil that they can find. I am to deduce that they escape the label "invasive" simply because they are easy to pull up unlike some of their weed friends with tap roots half way to China! So, my dilemna becomes, how much of these renagade plants do I want? Is it wise to transplant them to yet another garden where they will torment me with their prolific nature, or do I (contrary to my nature) ... pull & discard?
I think this to be one of the great questions in gardening!

Daffodils Fading, Tulips Take Over

"To everything there is a season...", seems I've heard that somewhere before. Well, no sooner has the color of the daffodils faded from a brilliant, scorching sun yellow to the color of butter pats; than my tulips have pushed open their indescribable, molten red petals to show off their yellow throats. The gardens begin Stage 3 of their spring bloom. The crocuses, pussywillows and forsythia gave way to the daffodils who have now surrendered to the tulips... and the peonies are not far behind!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Ahhh, the Return of Spring to Oak Hill

Gardening is a lot like banking... every year, I make more investments in bulbs, and every year I am paid back in the spring with dividends in the form of gorgeous spring blooms. I keep adding... they keep multiplying... and slowly but surely... Mother Earth pushes forth a more spectacular show than she did the year before. There is no more fabulous reward for the toils and cold fingers of the fall planting than the April, May and early June garden.

Oak Hill Lodge Celebrates Kat's 30th Birthday!

Saturday, May 2 was the day we celebrated Kat's entry into her third decade of life! The Lodge played host to a barbecue in her honor. Pulled pork roasted on the grill tickled guests appetites as they played corn hole and bocce ball while enjoying a perfect, warm and sunny day! Barbecue King Eric served up hamburgers and hot dogs, Wisconsin folk brought along brats and sauerkraut, and there were salads and condiments to round out the menu. Kat made a fabulous sangria, aided by advice from Erica to grant reprieve from the first round of summer ales. Guests were convinced they had arrived at the right spot by the large "glowing" 30 displayed (much to Kat's chagrin) on the front of the Lodge as well as the pink balloons and streamers.

Monday, April 6, 2009

One More Picture...

that says it all... the teamwork... the cold... the AMOUNT OF WORK to be done! We must have been CRAZY! I wonder how we had such confidence that it would all work out when I look back at these pictures. We never blinked, never doubted ourselves. The kids must have had their moments, but they never let on. Thank goodness! If we had seen the reality of the situation instead of the dream, we might not have had the courage to pull it off.

From the Ground Up

I take you back now to the time when the foundation went in. We were fighting the coming of winter as it was to be poured just about Thanksgiving time, leaving us precious little time to cap the basement before the snow would fly. Thank goodness Pete had introduced us to the power of air guns! There were to be over 8,000 nails in the decking boards alone, a crazy job to do with a hand-held hammer. Larry Hallowell of Chester Rice Co. had done a great job with the excavating allowing us the largest possible basement despite hitting ledge; 8 foot on one end and 6 foot at the other. Randy McClintok followed right behind putting up the foundation forms and pouring the cement. What a thrill it was to see it go in. Then, it was time for Eric and I to swing into action and get the rear above ground basement wall up. The whole gang arrived soon after to help us get the floor joists and sill boards in place so the long and grueling task of getting the decking boards on could be accomplished. The snow had already begun, so each time we worked we spent half the time removing snow from the tarps which covered the joists and whatever had been laid of the floor. I remember more than once when the snow had mixed with rain and we were left with enormous chunks of ice which made the tarps sag between the joists and proved exhausting to get out. Naturally, the tarps did not completely prevent snow and ice from getting into the basement, so by spring we were left with a frozen skating pond in what would someday be Root Cellar Pub. Our hands would get so cold that we would use the exhaust of the generator to try to warm them.

The Whole Reason for Building...

... was to make sure there is always a place where the entire family can gather and just "BE TOGETHER". We do so love being together! Now there are two very important, ever-changing reasons to stay close. Their names are Alexa and Lawson. What fun it is to watch them, hold them, love them! We have a ways to go before the Lodge will be finished, but in the meantime it is sure fun to gather there as often as we can. Next time will be on Easter. Erica will be missing, but she will be home again soon. Meanwhile, the oaks of Oak Hill will be jealous as she stands amongst their mighty kin the Redwoods, and Lexi and Lawson will eagerly await her hugs!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Baby Bump Mayer is Feted!

Thank you Mother Nature... and thank you all attendees! Oak Hill Lodge was once again the host of another warm and wonderful gathering of Allen Family friends. Although due to feel the wrath of another frightful winter storm, it managed to hold off long enough to have Baby Bump Mayer's Baby Shower. I will no longer curse the Spirits of the Night who seem determined to overdue the creepy decor of the Lodge on All Hallows Eve by staging the most frightful rain storms, or the Fairies of the Summer Garden who seem to reverse June weather for August weather when daughters plan their wedding dates based on "the usual" Maine summer... but will rather be eternally grateful that the week-long prediction of a substantial winter storm managed to begin just as the last guest was safely on the road!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Redwoods and Oaks

A photo from Muir Woods only begins to show the massive nature of the California Redwoods! A "tree hugger" and garden enthusiast, I really loved seeing these giant trees. Their bark is so beautiful with its rugged, craggy appearance and Casey told us that it contains chemicals which make it extremely resistant to the many forest fires which spontaneously break out in the dry heat of summer. The gift shop offered 6" seedlings which had been sterilized to insure no unwanted viruses would be transported with them, and we bought one to be shipped back to Maine. It must be raised in a pot for 3-5 years before being transplanted into the ground. Although I am not convinced it can withstand the Maine winters, I can just imagine this great tree joining the mighty oaks of Oak Hill.

California or Bust!

Eric and I went on a big adventure, visiting Casey and Erica in San Francisco. They were amazing tour guides! We saw SO much of the Bay Area, including observing (cautiously) Elephant Seals mating ritual at Ana Nuevo, vineyard tours in Nappa and Sonoma, and visiting the great Redwoods of Muir Woods. Somehow, I am able to relate most everything to Oak Hill Lodge.... (well, except possibly the seals!). The barrels in which the fermenting wine was stored at Rombauer Vineyard were made of oak. We went on a tour of the wine caves and there were thousands of barrels. Our guide explained that they were made of French Oak rather than American Oak as it is 200+ years old vs. 50-100 years for American (although 4 times the price, the age adds much to the fermenting process).... so thankfully, I guess the oaks of Oak Hill are safe for a while! The wine was superb, the company the best... and I learned yet more about one of my favorite things!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Christmas at The Lodge

For the third year we celebrated Christmas at the Lodge. I guess of all the holidays, Christmas is the one where I always believe it is magical for families to be all together. As Eric so often wisely warns, this is a pretty tall order with all the demands of today's world, but I am willing to celebrate Christmas on whatever day in the winter on which it can fall conveniently for the whole family to be together. I think this to be the perfect plan as it is inevitable that now that the little ones are coming along, each family will wish to create its own special family traditions...
just have my fingers crossed that one of them will be Christmas with Nana and Gran at the Lodge.

This year it was particularly great as it was a White Christmas, everyone was home, and the way the holidays fell, we had longer than EVER off from the print shop. Erica and Casey flew home from California and were with us until the 29th giving us time to begin the search for the perfect wedding dress. With Kat now in Portland, we were able to go spend a night with her, and we went down to Jess & Pete's for a stay as well. Ness & Drew have become another hosting spot when everyone gathers which is terrific. So, I got to see all the Christmas trees except, I thought Erica & Casey's which to my surprise, they were pine needle tolerant enough to leave up for us to see during our late January visit! We are so proud of our family, their beautiful homes and abundant creativity!