Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lucky, Lucky

That’s me after Hurricane Irene made her way up the east coast and passed through the Berkshires. I’m lucky because Irene had become a tropical storm by the time she reached us. I’m lucky because what Mother Nature unleashed on us was rain and little wind until Irene waved goodbye with enthusiastic gusts. I’m lucky because local authorities prepared for the possibilities of what might happen with Irene’s coming. I’m lucky because iberkshires.com posted throughout the storm to keep us advised of just how bad it was out there and why it was a good thing that I stayed at home. I’m lucky because I live on a hill where the waters ran down and away from my house and didn’t flood my basement or cause anything other than minimal damage in my little part of the world. I’m lucky that while the incessant rain caused landslides – one of which blocked the only exit from the street I live on, by the end of the storm, local public works employees had cleared the mud out of the street. I’m lucky because I still have my home, which is something the residents of the Spruces mobile home park can’t say: Irene flooded the park and the jury is still out on whether any of the homes can be made habitable again and if residents will be able to return.

Part of the Mohawk Trail is closed due to damage caused by Irene: mudslides, washouts, flooding. Roads were closed during the storm due to flooding; basements were flooded causing damage that is still being assessed. Water, water, everywhere. Downed trees left countless people without power. Raging rivers washed away historic covered bridges, roads, homes and crops, and caused billions in property damage.

Among the pictures of Irene’s wrath I carry in my head from news reports, there are pictures of people frolicking (yes, frolicking) on beaches during the onset of the storm, despite the angry tide, when authorities advised them to evacuate the area. And then there are the vehicles plowing through deep water on roadways when their drivers didn’t have sense enough to find another way (or just stay home). I will never forget the video of the car careening down the wild waters of a normally mild-mannered river that had captured and pulled it along (thankfully its driver was not on board when the river grabbed it). And the local flood control chutes – ugly concrete waterways with no apparent purpose in most people’s memories – nearing capacity, water raging through the center of towns, barely contained. Thanks to those ugly concrete chutes built over half a century ago by the Army Corps of Engineers, homes and businesses adjacent to the river were spared its fury. Yes, there was much flooding in low lying areas due to the sheer volume of water, but it would have been so much worse without all that ugly concrete containing the river. In areas where the beautiful, untamed waterways flowed, flood waters covered main streets and businesses, wreaking havoc.

I will remember Irene and how she affected my friends and neighbors while I count my blessings and remember what a powerful force nature is.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Never Underestimate a Volunteer

When the first volunteer thistle plant appeared in the garden a few years ago (courtesy, no doubt, of an uneaten seed from the finch feeder), I saw it as a weed that sooner or later would cause me pain. I pulled it out and most of the others that followed.

There was one, however, that had planted itself in a place inconvenient to weed, a spot I wasn’t actively planting in. So I left it. And it grew. And grew. And grew. But as I looked up at the thorny plant, I realized that my procrastination had not been such a bad thing. It was actually rather interesting to look at with its upstretched branches and purple tufts.

And then something very interesting happened. The butterflies found it. And loved it. The finches followed, taking great joy in pulling apart the purple flowers, revealing fluffy seeds. That’s when I decided that the big, old thorny weed could stay – as long as it chose a spot a bit out of the way and refrained from attacking me as I worked near it in the garden.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Here I Go Again

Just what I needed: another idea for my garden. Sigh.

When what I really need is to complete projects I’ve started or prepare spots in the garden for plants I want to get (or just get the last of this year’s acquisitions in the ground), I found another plant to add to the garden’s most wanted list. What caught my fancy this time? Hops. Yes, hops. The stuff beer is made from. No, I won’t be making beer. Heck, I don’t even drink beer.

But hops I like after being introduced to the plant earlier today courtesy of another master gardener. It’s a vine – one that will grow counter clockwise around a twine support I’m told. The hops flowers themselves are darned cute (sorry beer makers, that’s my opinion: cute), and cute will get the plant an invite into my yard. And its usefulness is not limited to beer making. My hops guru told me that hops can be used to make a tea or stuff pillows, which are said to aid in sleeping. Hmmm. Food for thought (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

When I got home I did a little online research. Among other things, hops tea is said to have a calming effect and is used to aid in inducing sleep. But would it be bitter? Have an odd taste of any kind? Using the cup of hops flowers I brought home with me, I brewed a cup of hops tea this evening. It turned out quite pale and mild, though the flavor likely would have been stronger if I’d let it steep longer. And while I didn’t notice any physical reaction apart from liking the flavor, it did make a pleasant cup of tea.

Yes, there will be hops in Deborah’s Garden next year. The only question remaining is where in the garden the hops will be. What I do know is that it will be a welcome addition to the garden, a pretty vine with cute cone shaped flowers from which I can make tea or vine wreaths and share the bounty with my beer making friends.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Meanwhile Back at the Blog

It occurred to me the other day that it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted to my garden blog, so I stopped by and read my old posts. They brought back some interesting memories. And it left me regretting that I hadn’t recorded more of my experiences building the garden. Today, here I am, back at the keyboard.

There is still so much to do in the garden, things I’ve started and not finished for one reason or another, things I did and now want to change since they didn’t quite live up to my expectations. And there are the successes, the ideas to be expanded on. So, now that the rain has stopped and the sun is peeking through the clouds, I think I’ll go outdoors, into the garden and get to work. I’ll take a few photos and, later, jot down my thoughts. And the blog will go on.