Friday, June 5, 2015

The Barry Sturgeon Hosta Garden

Just begun last year, the new hosta garden affectionately named because the benches we created from pine stumps were fitted with tops given to us by good friend Barry Sturgeon. They are very wide, live-edge boards which Barry was clearing out and knew that if anyone could use them, it would be us. Sure enough, they make perfect benches for the new area. The problem with the new garden was that there was very little definition between the garden beds and the pathways. The hostas are not to a size yet where they cover the soil, nor has there been enough time to build up a pine needle mulch as of yet. So, we decided to buy a load of dark bark mulch for the beds. Though I don't plan to keep this up in future years, it really accomplished what I had hoped and gave a distinction between garden bed and path. Meanwhile, I brought in some sod chunks for the path from the newly expanded Event Field Garden and sprinkled some grass seed in an effort to grass over the paths. Would love to see this area improve before the Maine Hosta Society tour happens on July 11. I have an opportunity to buy more plants this weekend as I am off on a bus tour to Mason Hollow in NH, and to view three private hosta gardens along the way. That will provide me with even more ideas along with a shopping opportunity!

Late May at Oak Hill Lodge

True, I have lost the daffodils and the tulips, but they are replaced with gorgeous blossoms from the rhododendrons, hostas emerging with even more vigor that the year before, and the promise of budding peonies that are soon to put on their magnificent show. Everything is such a triumphant green... claiming victory over a long, cold winter. There is lots to do in the garden this time of year: planting the veggies, the annuals, dividing perennials, edging to ensure nice sharp definitions between grass and beds. I like to give the tulips and the daffodils a shot of bulb tone before they die back too much to encourage larger clumps next spring. The cedars I had growing in the pots at the end of the front sidewalk show signs of stress and are now almost five feet tall. Time to find them a permanent home in the garden beds and purchase new little cedars for the pots. When I remove them, I find I have made the right decision as they are badly root-bound. Eric and I walk the Garden Tour path and discuss possible sites for them. We decided they are best suited to stand sentinels at either end of the Event Field Garden at Acorn Cottage end. There, they will be able to grow as tall as they wish, though be limited in girth. There are a few other conifers in that garden already and the variety of shapes will provide great structure.

The Empress- Miss Wu

Each year I wait with great anticipation to see how much larger the Empress Wu hosta I planted back in 2008. I bought two of them as starter plants through mail order. I had never done this before as I am usually more "sane" and can wait until they come to a nursery closer to me and can be purchased at a size that fills a spot in the garden almost immediately. But, Empress Wu sounded too incredible to wait for. Besides, there would be something exciting watching the two little tiny leaves the size of teaspoons develop into what was touted as the largest hosta EVER! The Empress has not disappointed. Each year she comes back notably larger than the year before and her leaf size has increased remarkably as well. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Dual Purpose Screen House

Thank you smart hubby for your brilliant idea of placing plastic over the screen panels of the screen house to convert it to wonderful winter storage, keeping my treasured garden ornaments, patio furniture and summer games free from winter's ravages. The plastic even held tight against the very winds which brought down many a tree branch! Fabulous! It is time, when I get time, to turn it back to a screen house in which to sip a summer glass of wine and enjoy an evening breeze free of mosquitos after a hard days work. 

Daffodils, Little Faces of Gold

For about eight years now, every summer I place a bulb order with Van Englen Bulb Co., mostly for daffodils although some alliums, hyacynths and tulips do also make their way into my order. I always plant at least 250 daffodils which are quickly going from being single bulbs planted just how you're NOT supposed to do it, to clusters at least a foot around. I think of it as a savings account. I diligently make a "deposit" every fall and the "interest" yields me beautiful spring gardens! I tend to stick to a simple palette of mostly King Alfred traditional, hardy, yellow daffodils... but have enough "egg faced" ones to offer a good sparkle in the garden. Once in awhile, I will order up 25 or so with pink centers or orangey-red centers. Now the end of the first week of May, the daffodils are about at their peak. The areas where the snow was slower to melt, still hold many that have not blossomed as of yet, so they will no doubt make great companions for the rhodies and the bleeding hearts when they begin to blossom. After such a tremendous winter, they say we are about two weeks behind. That makes the show of spring blossoms  an especially great sight to behold.

Stark Contrast

Why I love the State of Maine, by Pam Allen. Sometimes I feel like I could do a whole thesis on this.
The change of seasons is so dramatic in Maine. The bitterly cold winds of the winter months slowly give way to the warm, gentle breezes of springtime and the mounds of white snowbanks give way to the mounds of beautiful yellow daffodils. The maple trees are covered in their springtime red blossoms which before we have tired of the warm summer days, will turn to red autumn leaves. But each season has its own special flavor. I particularly love spring... rebirth, fresh, deserved!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Robert Chester Bartlett a/k/a Uncle Bob Passes

It is so sad that my dear Uncle Bob passed away at the age of 86 while visiting his son Scott and his wife Mary Beth and their son River in Hawaii. He died peacefully, in his sleep which brings me much comfort. The fact that he was off on yet another adventure when he passed was a very fitting way for the uncle I loved very much to have left this earth. I will miss the ability to SEE his reaction to the progress we have made on the Lodge between his visits... though I strongly believe it will be easier than ever for him to see it! The adventure he set us off on, ten years ago, when he gifted us the land in Nobleboro where now stands our beloved Lodge has been an incredible one; full of lots of learning, lots of close family times, lots of ceremonies and most of all, lots of laughter. We thank him.

Monday, February 23, 2015

No Roof Raking Needed

The bright breasted robin that shot past our heads on Saturday, paused in the apple tree to admire the bird "condo" we built for the Lodge. He didn't seem interested in taking up residence at the moment, hopefully not because he thought the maintenance was shotty as we did not choose to remove their snow loads.

Acorn and Nutshell Get Gobbled Up by the Snowdrifts!

So, can't see the table and chairs, can only see the tips of the picket fences, and there would be no getting into Nutshell without a LOT of shoveling... so I guess for the first time I could say, "Oh, I'm glad the grandchildren aren't coming!" Acorn has a 12/12 pitch, so theoretically, we should not really have to be concerned about snow-load... but something about four to five FEET of snow, made us certain it had to come off. I really wish one could paint at this time of year as no ladders would be needed to paint right up to the eaves.

The Snow Keeps Mounting-But I DID See a Robin on Saturday

Mother Nature Adorns the Entryway

The Kousa dogwood now looks like a bush, trunk all covered.

Walkways like rat mazes. 
With snow totals nearing 100 inches in just a month, the amount of snow we have shoveled is truly
unbelievable. We pay homage to our snowblower on a daily basis. Our temps are still in the teens during the days and single numbers or below zero at night and most everyday boasts a much colder "feels like" temperature due to the 20 mph wind chills. Then, out of the blue, we get a weather report saying that though our weekend storm would start with 4-8 inches of snow, it would change over to rain on Sunday with temps in the high thirties, possibly even touching 40 degrees! Though this temperature would be a wonderful reprieve, the thought of the weight of the snow AFTER the rain sent many cautious Mainers running for their roof rakes. Hope of a weekend visit to Jess and Pete's was quickly put on the back burner as we planned a day of clearing at the Lodge on Saturday and a day of clearing at Raymond Ct. on Sunday. We arrived at about 10:30 a.m. we were surprised to find about 30" of snow on the deck and walkways, much more than the last two storms had given Bath. And sure enough, by the time we headed for home on Saturday evening, it was snowing a blizzard, so we thought the forecast might come true. However, we awoke to brilliant sunshine on Sunday which momentarily bummed me out as the thought of Lexi, Della and Annette jumping on us to wake us up seemed like it could'a, should'a happened. But, only minutes into pulling 2-3 feet of snow away to reveal those cursed ice damns on the roof edges, convinced me that despite the pleasant surprise in weather, we had made the right choice. We cleared roofs and dormer roofs and porch roofs and garage roofs from 9:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Now perhaps the sun would have melted the snow before the next storm, and perhaps it would be down to a better depth before the first rain falls... but there is a lot of comfort in knowing that your roof will stay "over" your head instead of "on top" of your head!.. not to mention, I am going to have killer byceps!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Winter Woods Walk

Ahh, the colors of the winter landscape on a shimmery, sunshiney day! They are magical! The deep blues and purples, the almost fuchia ring of the sun as it breaks through the tree branches picking up rainbows from all the snow which clings to them. The dark tree trunks against the white snow and the spots of brilliant light which break up the serenity of the woods. 

Got Off Easy Until the End of January...Now, Not So Much

Many things in life are a matter of perspective... and so it is with the photos I took, February 1, 2015 after the midcoast area had seen the third of four storms ranging from 24" to 12" within less than a week. Definitely guilty of playing up the snow banks a bit, but with nothing to give comparison to, it is hard to judge the amazing snow cover! Since late January, we have been averaging a storm every 2-3 days, which is certainly payback for a pretty snowless December and January. The winter has been very cold with many days not making it past the teens and most night in the single numbers or below. In that sense, I am glad for the snow cover which might give some protection to the gardens, if it is not too late!

Another Allen Family Christmas at the Lodge

Perhaps, it is best said by the wreath... "This Home Believes". We believe in the power of love, the strength of a close-knit family, and the miracles of Christmas. We spent a lovely "real" Christmas with Erica and Casey. Erica was concerned we would miss the "joy of the children" on Christmas morning, but I assured her that that would all be felt on Allen Family Christmas and that I would in fact, enjoy a quiet celebration, sipping champagne, tasting each bite of my delicious meal and having the opportunity of admiring the gifts I had been given. Those are things that are much less likely to happen at Allen Family Christmas. 
This year the Lodge was sporting a 20 foot woods tree, drug from the woods by Eric and Pete... yes, I was thrilled to get a year off! The grandkids chose small trees for their rooms and gathered "ice plates" for the tree fort we had made from all the fallen branches from the November ice storms. Little Della proclaimed we were all in a "Winter Wonderland". I was glad she was up to gather her tree as by Christmas, there was no snow at all.  Eric once again, "enhanced" it by drilling in branches, some actually supported by wire.. but it was a beautiful tree after he worked his wonders. Beautiful too, was the brand spanking new fireplace we have waited nine years to put in. As it was both a big job and a costly endeavor, it had not made the priority list, though each year when I hung the stockings, I dreamed of the day we would have a real mantel. 
We celebrated only a few days after real Christmas. Vanessa, Drew, Lawson and Avery came to spend the night before Christmas and everyone else arrived just after noon. If you look closely, you will see where Lawson (and Avery) spent most of the morning waiting very anxiously for the others to arrive. Jess, Pete, Lexi, Della and Annette and Kat and Peighton all stayed the next night. Poor Pat was wonderful to take Phoebe back to their home as a cry out in the middle of the night would waker her for sure...leading to the rest of us spending a sleepless night. Just a bit more time and sleeping will get much easier for all the children. 
Once the present opening begins, things get pretty chaotic. One has to be quick to keep abreast of who is opening what and from whom it came! We let all the children open their things first and then after a mimosa break, we adults start opening. I wish I could say that was more relaxed, but in order for that to happen with ten adults, we would still be there at  New Years! It has greatly helped that we now exchange names for the adults and all but Nana and Gran for the children...we still want to buy for all the children until their wish list gets too filled with electronics at which time we may choose to join the name drawing. Right now, it is wonderful to watch their faces light up at a pair of P.J.'s with their favorite character on them, or a hand-sewn costume, or a new book... all things fun to gather over the course of the year. 
We have also gone to a "grazing" meal plan. It works much better as there is no working around everyone's varying appetites or nap times. With a lot of help, I just keep pumping out food all day long until we all move on to the rum cake and frozen pies for dessert. 
I think it is fair to say that by the end of the day, we all know we have had quite a day... but it was a day full of lots of great memories. I know they are ones that Eric and I live on all year long and each Christmas seems to bring with it at least one story that will be told for countless Christmasses to come. Now isn't that what it's really all about?

More Pictures from A Very Love Filled Anniversary

I just got a bunch of new pictures uploaded from the girls which show so beautifully the amount of love and understanding the girls and a few of our closest friends have for our crazy projects! The girls and their wonderful husbands "got" the fact that we were feeling a lot of pressure to complete the chase so that we could have at least a few fires this winter in the new fireplace. It seemed like too much to try to work on the plans for a party when the Lodge is a bit of a construction site what with the stairtower and the hearth area mid-stream in completeness. I had given it a lot of thought, even bought a fancy dress for the occasion, but it just wasn't fitting in to the flow of things. But the girls just ran with the idea of just a few people, rental of a man-lift, lots of work to be done on the chase, a bit of raking to be done... and a LOT of fun with the grandkids.... a lovely dinner in the evening followed by some fun times in the Pub. A truly memorable anniversary. Thank you all again!