Carving Magic

I met an amazing artist, Tom Gow, at the Moses Cone Estate last weekend.

He was out on the front porch demonstrating his craft.

I wish I had had the time to watch him work. He studies the shape of the wood and lets it guide him on what form it should become.

Tom makes whimsical pieces of art out of various types of wood and from the bark of dead Canadian Cottonwood trees.

He had been carving for about ten years, when he saw an article in a carving magazine about bark carving. He took a class from the artist in that article. His love of the bark carving shows through in these magical pieces.

My favorite is the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.  This is Tom’s favorite, also.

I also thought Rapunzel’s Tower was wonderful.

The tiny, crooked details in each piece make it special and unique.

Tom is a member of the Southern Highland Artist Guild.

His contact through them is http://southernhighlandguild.org/tombarkcarving.

FLOWER on the Move.

 

The Second Story

I have been going to the Cone Estate outside Blowing Rock, NC for decades.

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This was my second trip upstairs.

My first was years ago. My camera battery died at the top of the steps. Hi, Ho!

My sister and friend, CP, lucked up on it being open while we were there.

It was like winning the lottery.  My camera had a full battery, too.

There is a book about this estate, A Mansion in the Mountains, by Philip T. Noblitt.

This book started as his graduate thesis. If you love the place, you will love the book.

The second floor has lovely details.

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Photos of Moses and Bertha Cone and other family portraits are scattered around in the rooms.

The sisters have a famous art collection on display in Baltimore.IMG_5353

There were several tour guides sharing fascinating details.

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I was happy to see some renovations in progress.

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The bottom floor has local art and a book store.

A featured artist sets up in the covered porch on weekends to demonstrate crafts.

That will be my next post. The art was magical.

I will end with a view from the second story window.

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Below is Bass lake and the newly renovated “Heart Pond.”

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I have walked here many times.

This place is a dream.

FLOWER

 

 

Cold Scarlet Flame

I was unsure when to bring in my Red Passion vine/ Passiflora vitafolia/ Scarlet Flame.

The first frost came. I looked out on the deck rail where it has climbed up to and beyond.

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It is still blooming.

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It’s little ant guards are still running up and down the stems.

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Even some yellow jackets have figured out how to harvest food from the glands on the bracts.

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I was expecting a wilt down, but it is thriving.

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This vine is amazing, but tropical.  It will not tolerate freezes.

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I will have to cut it back and bring it in before the first freeze.

I will enjoy it until then, along with the ant and yellow jackets.

I shall try to root some pieces over the winter. Get your name on the request list if you want one.

FLOWER

New Idea for Countdown to Cold

I love terra-cotta pots. I have them in all sizes and shapes.

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My plants love them, too. They weep moisture. They breathe. They patina with algae. The plants thrive in them so much better than plastic.

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What I do NOT like about them is their weight.  Moving the the large ones around outside is bad enough, but lifting them and moving them around inside is worse.

So this year, I had the idea to re-pot most of my largest plants that over-winter in the basement workshop into durable PLASTIC pots. Many are in 2 or 3 plus gallon pots.

I have to shift these around in the workshop. They take turns at the windows. Sometimes the ones on the workbench must be moved, if I have a big project. I need to move the plants in the front rows to water others in the back.

A lot of these plants are my stock plants. I do not bring in every one, just a sampling in case of a harsh winter.  Some eventually go dormant, like the dahlias and callas, most just rest.

Yes, it is a lot of work.  Yes, I know I have too many plants. I have been told that.

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This little idea cost roughly two and a half dollars per pot, bigger ones were over three dollars.  The total was well worth the lessons I learned. Not to mention not having to do all that heavy lifting during the winter months.

I will re-pot them back into their cleaned terra-cotta pots in the spring. Moving them outside to do this will be easier. No rush. No countdown to cold weather.

Here are my lessons I learned from this.

  1. Many plants that I thought were comfortable, were actually root-bound. These got a slightly bigger pot, and some new soil in bottom and sides as a bonus.
  2. Some plants were in over-sized pots with no roots any where near the perimeter. These were downsized. No use carrying around that bigger pot and all that unused soil for the winter months.
  3. Some plants, like Agapanthus, that had been potted up from the gardens had critters in them. These little guests needed to be released back into the wild, except for the slug that ended up under my finger nail.  He didn’t make it.
  4. I found some surprise problems during the process. Slime mold, a woody type fungus and mushrooms. This would be like putting a baby to bed with a dirty diaper. These plant babies are cleaned up and comfy now.
  5. Having the sides of the pots vertical, instead of at an angle has taken up much less space. I have half of my workbench clear, due to a second tier using plastic tables.
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Notice the stakes with glass balls on the cactus. This is not decoration. It is for my protection against impalement.
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Lucky hanging baskets get the best spots.
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Ooh, a bunny photo. How did that get in here?

I will assess the results at the end of this winter, but I feel this was a very effective change in the transition process. I did still flood all pots to saturate the soil, but did not feel like I was blasting pests out the bottom.

FLOWER

 

 

Gratitude

I have been hit over and over by waves of gratitude this past week.

My son was home. My baby girl had her twenty-fifth birthday.

I got to see both my adorable nieces.

We spent time with my husband’s family.

My parents had a mishap that could have been horrific, but turned out okay.

I got to spend time with one of my favorite friends, Joyce, yesterday.

My world is steady.  Things are good. This has not always been the case.

I have had an empty glass, so half-full is good and full is a miracle.

I have friends who are grieving. Gloria lost her precious husband. Crystal lost her dad.

A darling, former student’s courageous battle with cancer ended.

Oh, bless Dalton’s family.

In all this sadness, there is love. So much love. Helping and holding and healing.

I admit that I am an introvert. I can handle humans in small doses.

I am grateful for this love that binds us, through the good times and the bad.

I am grateful for friends, family, pets, plants, food, a warm bed…

Blessed feels so good.  I am so grateful.

FLOWER

 

My Three Dirty Secrets

I shouldn’t share these. They are the secrets of my success.

But my devoted readers deserve to know the truth.

I do three rather gross things that make my gardens lush.

Be prepared, they are nasty and stinky.

If you are squeamish, you may want to stop reading about now.

My FIRST dirty secret is compost. Not the nice leafy kind mixed with leaves and grass clippings.

The gooey, juicy kind that stinks. All veggie and fruit scraps along with egg shells and some coffee go into a five gallon bucket with a tight, screw-on lid.

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If you don’t keep the lid closed tightly,  raccoons come to snack.  Also the compost gets full of maggots. That is really gross.

Dig a trench in an empty spot in your garden. I put in some bunny litter first to catch the juice. (That is my next secret.)

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Then I add the stinky soup mix and chop it well with my shovel to mix it with the soil microbes. Cover this trench well with dirt or the critters smell it and dig it up. This stinks enough without adding a skunk spray in the mix.

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My SECOND secret is used bunny litter enhanced with pee and poop. I use paper pellet litter. This is seasoned in buckets until moldy.

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I have two adorable, fuzzy compost factories. Food goes in one end, fertilizer comes out the other. IMG_5108

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This seasoned concoction gets raked and mixed with the soil, then covered with mulch. Everything loves this top dressing. It holds moisture and decomposes to release nutrients.

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My THIRD secret is a recipe from fellow blogger, John Viccellio.  He got it from a plant grower.  It’s in his excellent e-book, Guess What’s in My Garden.  It contains Miracle Grow, Fish Emulsion, Epsom Salt and Liquid Iron.

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I mix up a concentrated version of this recipe and store it in big plastic bottles with screw top lids. I dilute it right before I use it.  His recipe makes over 6 gallons of concentrate, so I basically halve it and make three gallons. This 1/2 batch has lasted me three seasons. It brings back even the most struggling plants. Liquid gold!

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Even when diluted, the mixture REALLY stinks, so DO NOT use it inside on your houseplants.

Okay folks. Now you know my secrets. I hope you still respect me.

Gross waste produces lush gardens.  WIN:WIN!

FLOWER

 

See Everything by Looking for Nothing

This life lesson started out with a lost lens cap.

It fell out of my pocket in the woods.

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So if I don’t find it soon, it will be covered with leaves.

There are no paths in my woods.

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I meander around without much notice of my location.

These are my woods. I can’t get lost, but a lens cap can.

I felt obliged to go look for it. It would be easier to find a needle in a haystack.

I took my camera, as usual.

I was looking for a round, dark, man-made object.

Here are my pictures from the search.

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Round, dark, man-made objects.  Blah!

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Today, I went into my woods looking for nothing.

I found everything!

Moss, mushrooms, fairy houses, lichens…

and (NO LIE) the lens cap.

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Open mind… Open eyes…

See everything while looking for nothing.

Go with the FLOW.

The Banana Chandelier

I love chandeliers.

20151003_112333_LLS I do not own one.

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I do, however, take many photographs of them.

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That way I can enjoy their beauty without dusting them or changing bulbs.

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Much to my delight, the banana forest has produced a second bloom.

This one is much larger than the first. Its burgundy colored bracts lift each day to expose another row of flowers.

These are being fertilized by bees attracted by the dripping nectar.

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Now there are many levels of little bananas.

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I love how this cluster looks with flowers hanging down and bunches of bananas in rows.

It looks like a chandelier.

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The prettiest one ever.

No dusting.

I love nature!

FLOWER

 

Feeling Fall

There is a first frenzy here in North Carolina before fall.

The first one involves moving plants around in the gardens.

The ones that are crowded must be separated.

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The ones that are unhappy must be relocated.

This is hot dry work that involves digging holes and amending soil.

Followed by digging, dividing and moving plants.

It’s also time to trim back the overachievers.

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Lastly there is a lot of mudding-in of the transplants to ensure the roots make good contact with the new soil.

I use a soaker–hose.

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This has been my project for weeks now.  It has been hot and dusty, but not any more.

We had almost two inches of rain yesterday.

Now there is a cool breeze.

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That starts me thinking about fall frenzy number two.

Hauling all the delicate plants into the house and workshop.

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Another multifaceted job with much preparation.

Also some potted plants need to be put in the ground.

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At least it is cool. At least I can stop watering all my parched plants.

There is something final about fall.  Autumn always makes me anxious.

It is an ending.   To everything there is a season.

I like to end all this fall preparation with a ritual planting of spring bulbs.

It is my way of showing my faith in spring.  Bulbs are my time capsules that I put in the ground as a message to myself.

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“See you on the other side.”

I think of them all winter, under the snow, waiting for spring …just like me.

FLOWER