Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sundial, with zinnia

snowy yard 
We're having one of those crisp blue sky winter days that don't generally show up this far south, with a bright sun reflecting off the sparkling snow. The volunteer zinnia is still on the job, this time as a depth gauge for the snow. And the sundial? It's right there in the middle, at the end of the walk.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Apple sandwich

northern spy apple 
When in Maine in November I picked an apple from the Northern Spy tree, brought it home, and stuck it in the fridge. A couple of weeks later I sliced it for a toasted cheese and apple sandwich.
It was sweet, tart, tangy and crisp. Perfect with some thinly sliced sharp cheddar.
I was reminded of it when I came across these photos while copying today's snow photo. This is real food.
Posted by Picasa

Posted by Picasa

Still snowing

The predicted Great Snow of 2009 has arrived! This is how our new car looked a few minutes ago. There has been enough wind to blow off some of the accumulation, but we're guessing we might have a foot of snow so far. The forecast calls for more snow all day. It's a fine dry snow--the kind that can keep falling for a long time. What we haven't had so far is the predicted "thundersnow".

New car 
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 05, 2009

First snow, last zinnia

This morning's rain has turned to the season's first snow. It's falling in big thick fluffy flakes, melting on the pavement but clinging to plants. The volunteer zinnia's last blooms are wearing little mounds of snow.

First snow, last zinnia

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Health: more than medicine

A couple of articles that struck a chord:
Awareness and movement do something that seemed impossible:
Learning His Body, Learning to Dance
Published: New York Times, November 25, 2009
A determined choreographer has done what therapists could not: She has dramatically changed the way Gregg Mozgala, a 31-year-old actor with cerebral palsy, walks.

Maybe feeling taken care of matters too:
Trying to Explain a Drop in Infant Mortality
Published: November 27, 2009
Mothers in Dane County, Wis., are the subject of a study by researchers into the large racial gap in infant deaths.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving cactus is blooming right on time:
Thanksgiving cactus

The lilac in the backyard is hopelessly confused:


And the wreath I got at last week's Garrett Park craft fair is hanging next to the front door:


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Rainy afternoon at the museum

We spent yesterday afternoon at the National Portrait Gallery, where we saw two exhibits:
  1. Faces of the Frontier: Photographic Portraits from the American West, 1845–1924, where we were able to tag along with segments of a tour conducted by someone so knowledgeable and excited about the material that he must have been the curator. He pointed out, for example, that a handsome photo of Chief Joseph poses him next to papier mache rocks with bits of Spanish moss, and that he is holding blankets from an entirely different tribe, possibly in support of his efforts for Native Americans as a whole. We kept thinking that somewhere we would glimpse Great-great Uncle Albion in his early days in Reno.
  2. Finalists in the second Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. We liked the top winners but also admired the ironically titled Miss Priss, which got our vote for the People's Choice award.

End of Summer

monarch butterfly on volunteer zinnia 
monarch on zinnia 

Yesterday morning was overcast, windy, and threatening rain, but the volunteer zinnia was still blooming. A lone monarch clung to it, feeding.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Butterflies and others

A lovely sunny day, and several butterflies--skippers, cabbage white, Painted Lady, and a Red-spotted Admiral. Also I startled a large preying mantis into flight.

painted lady on yellow zinnia

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Volunteer update

That volunteer zinnia is still blooming its head off:


We actually hired someone to mow the lawn, which is why it is looking so nice in the background!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mixed blooms

As previously noted, back in the spring or thereabouts I hastily planted a couple of little packs of seedlings, labeled only as mixed zinnias. You don't have to be a deeply experienced gardener to have learned that "mixed" in this context can mean anything from "our own uniquely tasteful blend" to "color unknown", and to suspect that spindly little seedlings in an inexpensive pack fall into the latter category.
As it turns out, the seedlings from the first pack, planted behind the house, are all a vivid hot pink bordering on magenta--except for one white one. The ones from the second pack, planted in front, have been paler--a weak pink, white, a faded salmony orange--except for the most recent one, which is taller and hot pink like the ones in back, and attracted a hummingbird this afternoon.
We have had at least two hummingbirds in and out of the yard lately, sometimes arcing towards each other as they fly upward. I don't know if this is some sort of territorial challenge, or courtship, or play.

Vicissitudes of suburban life

If you live in a suburban house, however small, you almost certainly have a lawn, which must be not only mowed but also (especially if you can't quite mow up to the fence or flower beds) trimmed or edged in some way. People used to do this manually, of course, or their gardeners did, but the modern standard suburban "I don't have time for this" approach is to use a string trimmer.
Our current electric trimmer is the latest in a succession of unsatisfactory helpers. Purchased a month or so ago to replace an earlier model that literally went up in smoke after tying itself up in daylily leaves, it initially showed great promise. It had a new feature that fed 2 filaments instead of just one, by some magic we admired without feeling that we needed to understand it. That blissful ignorance ended today, when the self-feeding spool stopped feeding, leaving the trimmer with just a single 2 inch bit of filament and an unhealthy whine in its voice. I got it open and thought I had succeeded in advancing the filament manually, hoping to at least finish the front yard tonight. But moments later the spool exploded out of its housing, leaving me with this:


The only solutions I can think of, short of digging up the lawn, are to buy another spool (because this 2-ended version can't use the spools left from its predecessor) or to buy another trimmer. It all makes a kind of sense when you realize that the manufacturer needs people to keep buying filament, or trimmers, or ideally both.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Start at the back door to see:
--Tiger swallowtails and a monarch sharing the butterfly bushes and a hot pink zinnia.
--By 8 a.m. sun like a spotlight on the orangey red zinnias, cosmos, blackeyed susans, and echinacea in the back corner. (The year is turning around: A few weeks ago the sun arrived at 7:30.)
--Hummingbird swooping past the butterfly bush and up into a hemlock two yards away
Moving to the front yard, don't miss the bumble bees, and an occasional honey bee (suggesting a nearby beekeeper?).
Head down the street to the next corner and startle goldfinches who rise, twittering, out of a neighbor's mass of echinacea going to seed.
Further down the street, pause to admire the Sri Lankan monks' peppers and beets growing neatly at the feet of a statue of the Buddha meditating tranquilly in a 50 year old American suburban lawn.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Blooming volunteer

It started out looking small and weedy. It survived in a thin patch of soil, and bowed to the mower without losing its head. Once I recognized as a zinnia, I protected it with a leftover bit of wire edging and waited, hoping it would prove to be a true zinnia in color, and not some bleached pastel. It began to show a nice bit of yellow on August 8:


And here it is today:


Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Stayed home today. A monarch visited the large hot violet pink zinna. Later I got to sit in the shade on the back step, sipping my tea and watching four tiger swallowtails on the white butterfly bush.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Eating Summer

Thursday evening, on my way to meet my knitting pals, I stopped at the Penn Quarter Farmers' Market and bought nectarines, peaches, and green beans from Maryland and Pennsylvania farmers.
Saturday morning I went off to the Kensington Farmers' Market again. I came home with tomatoes, eggplant, yellow squash, peppers, blueberries, and more peaches, all from Maryland. Then I went to MOM and got some local zucchini and mushrooms from Pennsylvania, as well as some Maryland Cherry Glen goat cheese.
I've been eating peaches, nectarines, and/or blueberries with Greek-style yogurt and a little granola every morning. I had a tomato and some goat cheese for lunch.
Tonight for our dinner I'll make some version of ratatouille, perhaps with polenta, and some garlicky green beans on the side. (And a little California wine!)

More about the Zinnias

The first two are the ones finally blooming from the early seedlings I planted. The third is a volunteer, presumably selfsown from last year's mix of Dreamland and State Farm. Can't wait to see the color!
  • Salmony Orange


  • Hot Violet-pink


  • The Volunteer


Saturday, August 01, 2009


It started out to be the year without zinnias. Hopeful early visits to the nearest garden center were disappointing, and travel cut into my home gardening time. Two little market packs of spindly zinnia seedlings distributed between the front of the house and a spot in back near the fence grew slowly into discouraged-looking plants with no buds in sight.

The discouragement wasn't only local. The slightly larger plants purchased and planted in my parents' garden were beaten down by Maine's wet weather and devoured by slugs.

Not until the end of July did my plants begin to show buds, with two of them blooming this week: a pleasingly hot violet pink in the back and an anemic salmon orange in front.

Meanwhile, a stocky mystery plant had begun to grow on the edge of the back walk, or rather (because it hasn't actually been edged in quite some time) in the meager layer of soil gradually building up on the edge of the aging pavement. Curious, or perhaps unconsciously recognizing a familiar form, I let it grow. Now it has a bud, and is clearly a zinnia. I can't wait to see what color it turns out to be. Will it be one of the hot zinnia colors I love, or a weak pastel? In either case, it tells me that next year I should just plant some seeds.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Signs of summer

Watching an Eastern Swallowtail on the butterfly bush.
Buying peaches and tomatoes at the Saturday morning farmers' market in Kensington.
Sitting in the shade of a pale lavender crape myrtle in bloom, listening to the cicadas.
Buying a few last plants for the summer garden and deciding that it was too hot to stay outside and plant them.
Reading the forecast for Sunday and hoping the rain doesn't start until after I've planted things in the morning.