Thursday, October 18, 2012

In the spirit of the mural I did for the kitchen at Oak Hill Lodge, I created this painting for the Garden Club Federation of Maine. Their annual summer conference will be next June, and they asked me, based on the theme Mid Summer Night's Dream, to create a painting which they could use to entice garden club members all around the State of Maine to attend. I plan to donate the painting so it can be auctionned off along with several prints which could also be sold to sure up the coffers! It was a really fun project for me and hopefully it will be a good "tease" for the convention.
First frost lands on the roof of Oak Hill Lodge. Such beauty, yet a harbinger of what is to come.

O.K., ...... not to brag, but, my Elephant Ear is tremendous! This is the fourth year I have had the bulb and every year it gets bigger and bigger... so exciting!  I guess various people have contests to see who has the biggest leaves on their plants and I really wish I could enter that contest! Funny, I used to remove the bulb from its pot and store it "dry" all winter, but found I undoubtedly planted the bulb upside down, so the poor plant had to wind itself around this massive bulb to make it to sunlight. I have left it in the pot and simply cut it off the past two years, left it dry until about mid-February then began watering it and by the time it goes out in late May, it has already begun forming its new leaves. It gives it a really great jump start!
We awakened a white roof and a slippery deck on Tuesday, October 16th. The white ice crystals sparkled atop the bright orange pumpkins and gave a winterish look to all surfaces on which it lies.
Thank goodness for the brilliant colors of the mums and the late summer grasses which withstand the frosts, at least for a while.
I love this time of year, the cooler temps, no bugs, the beautiful colors the autumn brings to Maine... but there is also a side of me who mourns for the plants as they encounter that first killing frost and all the growth I have watched with such wonder all summer long, withers while I lay sleeping. We had just such a frost October 16th, this year. I went to bed with my gardens still looking like they had in late September and awakened to blackened pole bean vines, wilted cannas and marigolds which I grew from seed in my living room at Raymond Court, laying sadly on the ground, only a slight glimmer of orange left in their blossoms, their foliage blackend and slimey. Alas, Jack Frost striketh with his mighty wand.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gypsy Rose Lee

Thirty years of litter box duty and a son-in-law who is allergic to cats, had my mind made up that we would not be getting any more felines in the family. However, the Lord had a different plan for us. In the seven years at Oak Hill, we have never once seen a cat in the area. Last Tuesday morning, as I walked across the front deck, this tiny, guess to be 10-12 week old kitten bounds out from under the deck to greet not only me but both of the dogs with not the slightest trepidation. She made herself so much at home, she followed me from garden to garden as I did my early morning watering, sat just outside the curtain as Eric took his shower, and rubbed her head on the bottom of Guiness' chin as if it were her mother. As we were off to Bath to open the shop that morning, I left her with some dog kibble and asked her to go find where she came from, but two days later when we returned, there she was, guarding the Lodge and waiting patiently for our return. Again she endeared herself by being constantly at our heels, so after a brief hesitation, I was off to buy cat food and a litter box. Our "Gypsy" will stay as long as she cares to, but by the looks she has found her permanent home.

McEwan, Hound of the Hill


Gardens Are Bountiful!

Despite a lack of rain in July, the gardens are especially beautiful this year. They have reached maturity and I have learned what does or does not work in certain locations and have moved things to accommodate their needs. Notice the field shot without the "hump"... a real joy to see, though lots of hard work to get it that way. The vegetable garden is doing very well although I struggle to keep it well-watered, which delays or stunts the yield I am able to achieve. When life allows, we will install the irrigation system that Eric gave me for my birthday a couple years back, and thay will be a tremendous help. In the meantime, there is plenty of lettuce, a good crop of tomatoes have started and some gorgeous purple peppers. The pole beans are just budding, so they will be a late crop this year. We had a good crop of peas and I have dug a couple of my potato plants, giving me a dozen or so good size red potatoes. Don't think I'll get the winter provisions from my efforts, but there is something very special about the process of raising your own food.  I planted the asparagus patch this year, particularly important to enter in this blog as it is not until the third year that I can harvest anything, and I am sure to forget its planting date!

The Perogla

The far end of the Lodge has been undergoing major upgrades since last fall when we laid the rock making our patio and firepit area. We added a garden along the foundation which I filled with hosta divided from Raymond Court and which were previously from my Dad's garden on Riverview Drive. Though they aren't hostas that are currently in vogue, their sentimental value makes them special to me. We also strategically planted a wisteria vine last fall with the intent of building a pergola for it to climb on thus providing us with both structural interest and much needed shade on the patio. We spent many a Saturday morning during the winter looking at books and magazines trying to figure the best design, particularly for the ends of the roof joists. Oddly enough, the decision was made when we assembled the screenhouse as it came with supports that had a charming profile, proving to be the perfect pattern. Eric got all the various pieces cut and drilled the weekend prior, and we raised it this past Sunday. Lucky thing I might add, as the wisteria, once untangled, already reaches the roof. This weekend we will add the small cross pieces that will keep the roof beams from twisting and add more climbing opportunities for the wisteria. A quick coat of cedar stain and another project will be finished.

Another Shot of My Hostas

Photo taken by Jessica Frackelton - July, 2012

Oak Hill Images

From time to time I stumble upon these really great images that are so perfect for the Lodge. Pinterest has been a great source as I have found there are others out there with my acorn and oakleaf obsession. I am always shocked to find a larger number than you might think with entire boards devoted to our obsession. They inspired me to take the plunge and create a board of my own. Hesitant though I was at the thought, I quickly saw the value after perusing their boards ranging from 20+ to well over 100 images and like the spiderweb that Pinterest is, each one I found, led me to others I have yet to explore.

More Progress for the Screenhouse

Roof is all on, screens are all in, bugs are foiled... next step, shingle the roof, and really decorate the inside. I planted  Dragon King daylilies along the outside, a red daylily with yellow throat, with my Fernleaf  Buckthorn tree in the middle and a few hostas to break up the daylilies. I added some late summer color with Black Eyed Susans. The only new purchases were the Buckthorn tree which I had seen in one of the gardens on the hosta tour and the daylilies. The hosta and rudebekia were divided from plants I already have. I was very excited to find the tree at Skillin's as its leaf structure is more like a houseplant than a tree you would see in Maine. A trip with Vanessa to my favorite material store, Fabric Warehouse proved very successful. I am on their e-mail list, so knew they had their remenant pieces of drapery/upholstery on sale from $6.98 to $3.98, but to my surprise the clerk informed me they were marking it to $1.98 to reduce their stock! 46 YARDS of material later I was leaving the store just $100 poorer! My mission had simply been to get material, around 12 yards, for the screenhouse. I wanted that much as I have high hopes of building a "Passion Pit" like the one we used to have at Raymond Court. It is just a large round bed-like structure suspended from posts, made of stretched canvas topped with a huge cushion and tons of pillows. It would take a lot of material if I can pull it off, so I wanted to get lots. I also wanted to get waterproof canvas to make covers for the patio woodpile, the patio cushions and the grill. The covers you can buy often times have that flannel backing which really attracts mice as they love to use it for nesting, and generally either don't hold up very well or are very attractive. Well, given the sale price I was able to not only accomplish those two missions, but I also got material to redo all the front deck cushions when the spirit moves me, and the deck cushions at the cottage, and cover the teak bar at the cottage! Hugely successful! So, oil up that sewing machine and hit the foot pedal! I have yards to go before I rest.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Baa Baa White Sheep

The new garden wagon/grandchildren buggy.
 Thanks to a dear friend of Patti's and now of ours, Jack... we were able to purchase a lawn tractor which had put in years of service and had therefore finally dropped its mowing deck. It was a faded orange as it was a Husquavarna tractor, but soon after it arrived at Oak Hill, it was sporting a shiny white coat of paint,and I was fashionning a head out of a piece of wood to turn her into a sheep! Complete with a fleece upholstered seat, she is ready to haul the garden implements, the loam, the compost or whatever else may need hauling... but especially anxious to give rides to the grandchildren! Before she even had her head I had a fun time giving tours of Oak Hill with them in the trailer, until we stopped at the Root Cellar Pub and Gran came and stole the tractor with Jess as an accomplice. We chased them all around the field trying to get our wheels back! Not sure whether the kids or the grown-ups were having more fun!

The Screen House

Cocktails anyone? No skeeters invited!

With a huge help from Jess and Pete's donation of the entire framework for the new screenhouse at the Lodge, we are making every effort to outsmart the skeeters. The firepit works wonderfully, but when the temps sore into the 80's the fire makes for an awfully sweaty evening! Daring once again to attempt the classic hip-roof... which in our case is always a bit less than classic. We used the pressure treated we had used for Erica & Casey's wedding's for the base, (we had purchased the stock for a dance floor with this in mind). The pillars were all enclosed in the tremendous crate that Pete had built and hauled all the way up to Maine for us with all the metal framework, the screen panels and the doors. The hardest part was to reconfigure what had once been a rectangular 3-sided, up against the side of a house, porch into a free-standing square structure. Thank heavens for graph paper! Since the screen panels were two different sizes, they had to be placed with narrower ones with wider ones in some sort of pattern that at least made it look like we knew what we were doing. This required us to figure "filler boards" to make the sides long enough to match the railing length, which of course didn't really work either so had to be cut and fitted between posts. We were really lucky to come out only about 3 feet short in railing pieces and had plenty of spindles to recycle. So, the only actual purchases we had to make were the roof, the filler boards and a small piece of railing. We thought long and hard as to weather to keep it white or go to a more "Pam color", but decided that the white was nice what with the greenhouse and the raised beds being in such close proximity. The colors for the inside will be dependent on a trip to Fabric Warehouse, and the selection of fabric I make to cover the cushions.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Despite the weeks when we don't make it up to water the gardens as often as we should and despite a bumper crop of Japanese beetles descending upon the plants this year, the gardens of Oak Hill are especially beautiful. The vegetable garden promises a good crop and the roses have never been so lovely.

Hostas Huge and Healthy

The oldest hosta bed at Oak Hill is looking amazing this year what with the large amount of rain that fell in June and given that they range in age of between three and seven years in age. In fact, many have had to be moved and some I have been able to divide already. This first bed is mingled with astilbes and wormwood, along with some fast fading bleeding hearts. With the pine needle mulch and the size of the hostas, weeds are finding it increasingly difficult to compete for space... yipeee! A large amount of the hostas in this bed are from the gardens of Herb Hidu of Sheepscot and given my love for the larger species, it is dominated with Blue Angel, Krossa Regal, Elegans, Sagae and Sum and Substance, although many other varieties have found their home in this bed as well.
Well, My "Sheep" is Missing Its Head
One of my great pleasures at the Lodge is to give the grandkids tractor rides. What I really want is a Gator, but since that is a bit out of budget for now, Patti found a tractor for me that her friend Jack was getting rid of as the mower deck had rusted off. It is a Husquvarna, oldie but a goodie, and it didn't take me long to paint it from orange to white. My intent is to make a trailor pulling sheep...afterall, what eats grass better than a sheep! This will also no doubt, keep Eric off of my tractor! This past weekend I cut the head for it, but didn't want to attach it until I add its leather ears, so have brought it home to do so. Meanwhile, it serves well without its head to whisk the children through all the garden paths, making stops at all the little outbuildings.

Bugs Beware!
You are about to be foiled! The Lodge is soon to have a new screenhouse thanks to Jess and Pete. They had hauled a trailer packed with what once was a screen porch on the side of their house before their new addition was added, in a huge crate all the way to Maine for us. The original design was three sided, but we were to construct a four sided structure, which meant a lot of planning what would fit where and whether the plan could be completed with the screen panels and railings provided. Armed with graph paper and plenty of erasers, we set out to design it. We managed with the help of spacers, to find a home for every panel and all but two of the spindles. New lengths of hand rails were purchased to close in two gaps in the rails. All that remains to be done is the hip roof. If I do say myself it looks beautiful in a very "Williamsburgesque" kind of way! Can't wait to complete the roof and slide the screen panels into place... then we will have a "bug-free zone" for evening cocktail hour.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Spring comes to Oak Hill Lodge. Look at all the beautiful flowers in bloom! Ahhh!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

There are lots of things that bind families to one another. In our family, silver is one of those things. My maternal grandfather was a wonderful man; gentle and loving and full of fun. He was also a silversmith for most of his life and we are lucky enough to have some of the pieces which he worked on while at Webster Silver Co., in North Attleboro, Mass. It was partially because of this and partially because my Aunt Vivi, whom I wished to be like since I can remember always wore a lot of jewelry; that I began my collection of silver bangles. I now add to them mostly just for special occassions as they number 15 and Eric says I will need a separate life jacket for my wrist when we go boating if I don't curb my appetite for them. So, now I make very special purchases when we go on vacation or in this case when I realize how fabulous it would be if all the girls and I had identical bracelets stating the motto carved into the beam at the Lodge, "Mighty Oaks from Tiny Acorns Grow". Perfect my father's fathers land, my mother's fathers trade and all of us bound together by the wearing of the same bracelet. Thank you Two Willows Jewelry and Kim Perry for creating such a marvelous connection.

The Regal Color Purple

Ahh, not hard to see why the color purple was traditionally the color of kings! What regal splendor these crocuses epitomize. Such a welcome burst of color after the browns and grays of this winter without snow.

Eric got the chain all sharpened up for a full day's worth of "The War on the Pines". We were able to completely remove the last of the pines from around the greenhouse gardens. I could fairly hear the sighs of relief from the oaks who will now be able to get all the sun they need to develop into "well-rounded" trees. I have become less and less merciful to the pines. I used to actually feel bad when we cut them down, but now, seeing how much better, how much fuller the oaks become, I am committed to reclaiming the woodlands for the oaks. Afterall, it IS Oak Hill!

This weekend we will start the daunting task of cutting the pines in the playground area. We would love to get that project completed this summer as four of the grandchildren are playground experts now, challenging themselves on the most scary of apparatus. We have elected to leave a few of the pines and most all of the oaks. There are some pines in this area which measure a good 15" in diameter which is comparable to the pines we left for the hostas in the center of the field, so I am thinking they were part of the first generation pines which would be roughly 50 years old as Grandpa Bartlett would have stopped farming the land in the late 50's or very early 60's, having died in 1963.

Winter's Over-What Winter?

Mother Nature was very kind to us this year. We only had one plowable snowstorm the entire winter in midcoast Maine. Even the oldtimers were remarking that they'd never seen such a thing! A part of me wants to worry about what this could mean... the entire global warming phenomena, water for wells this summer, fire danger, etc. ... but there is a large part of me who wonders if it is just not a cyclic thing, to be enjoyed and winter's wrath will return with a vengance next year. I choose to believe in the later. Last fall, I again ordered my 250 daffodil bulbs and Eric and I carefully placed them each in the ground occassionally surprised to find there was already one where we had intent to plant! We have high hopes of waves of daffodils lighting up the woods, the gardens and the pathways. This is a long range plan as it requires the removal of many more field pines with their hundreds of twisted, misformed dead branches, the purchase of thousands more bulbs and the patience to keep adding each fall. I look at it like a savings account... just keep adding, faithfully, putting in as much as you can...and eventually, you will get the look you are striving for. In the meantime, I can take great joy from the small displays of brilliant yellow which will dot the gardens soon. The leaves are up about 5 inches... so the timing should be just right for Easter.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Winter Wonderland

This has been a very unusual winter for Maine. The weatherman says it is something to do with El Nino... but two days before Christmas, we were blessed with this wintry site at the Lodge.
It didn't last long... three days later there wasn't a trace, but hopefully we will get some in time for the Allen Family Christmas.