Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Gifts

I was hoping to get some photos to post on this page of some wonderful Christmas displays with LOTS of snow, but I guess that's not going to happen.

Not much snow on the ground here at this time. About four inches, and by Christmas we probably won't have any snow at all left. It's supposed to get up in the 50's that day.

Am I complaining? Not really. I'm glad that the weather won't be too snowy or icy for those people that will be traveling for the holidays to spend time with family, friends, and loved ones.

We had snow a few weeks ago. But then our temperatures would fluctuate and we would get rain. So between the warmer temperatures and rain most of our snow is gone.

It got me thinking that Christmas isn't about the snow, the lights, the tree, the wreath, or the presents.

If there's no snow, there will still be Christmas. With or without snow, Christmas will come with all the busyness, stress, and preparations.

But, it's more than that and we all know it in our heart.  It's about His presence, not the presents.

And how do we keep that Presence alive in us? With a spirit of giving throughout the year.

And it's not just the monetary giving. Your time is your most precious commodity. To give the gift of your time is the most precious gift you can share with others. You could volunteer at a hospital, in a school, a senior citizen center, or a animal shelter. You could shovel an elderly neighbors sidewalk, or take them to the store. There are any number of places where you could volunteer.

What's most important is that we keep the Spirit of Christmas in our heart all year long.

I hope that 2015 will be a year of peacefulness, good health, and hope.

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree. . .  I think this tree would make a good Charlie Brown Christmas tree

May the path you take today lead you to exciting places that fill you with happiness, peace, and blessings. 

Merry Christmas!

(With the exception of the last photo, the snowy pictures were taken a few weeks ago around the middle of December in our back yard. The last photo on this page was taken at our friends, Amy and Mark Himes, of Three Seasons Farm where we purchases our Christmas tree.)

Thanks for taking the time to view my blog. 
I welcome your comments.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Time of Waiting . . .

Almost winter 2014-2015. Winter arrives in our area on December 21st, 2014 at 6:03 p.m. (EST). Also know as the Winter Solstice. Where the sun has reached its lowest point on the horizon, with it also being our shortest day.

Then, after December 21st, the days will start growing longer.

The longer days means that soon spring will be here again. So for many of us, it will be a time of waiting. . .waiting for spring.

But it also means that that is our official first day of winter. For some that means skiing, sledding, snowmobiling, and hiking with snowshoes. And for some of my photographer friends it means searching out those treacherous frozen waterfalls for just the right shot or walking through a snow -covered forest hoping the snow from the branches doesn't give way and fall on your head or camera.

And for others, winter means knitting or reading by the cozy fire drinking hot cocoa. Or playing games on your iPad or computer. (I fall into the second category.) 

There's another anticipated event going on this season as well. For Christians, like myself, it's the time of Advent. I always had a hard time understanding the meaning of Advent. I know it's referred to as "waiting for the coming (arrival) of the birth our Savior, Jesus Christ", that we were promised. But how do we anticipate that waiting in terms of this day and age. While trying to come up with an analogy for this, I thought of how we know and "wait" for spring in the dark and gloomy winter months. We KNOW that spring will arrive in a few months. How do we know this? Because it's how the cyclical/seasonal calendar works. It's how nature works. It's how the earth revolves around the sun. And Advent is the promise that God made to his people that he would send a Savior.

As Christians, let us also be respectful of our Jewish friends and neighbors as they celebrate their religious Festival of Lights or Hanukkah. Our Christian roots are in the Jewish tradition. Jesus and his Apostles were Jewish and they practiced their faith religiously. And we should respect all peoples' beliefs whatever they may or may not be.

So for all of us, let us take a sign from the heavens and earth and let us use this time of "winter" to rest and rejuvenate so that come spring we will be ready to plow the earth, plant the seeds, and bring forth rich fruits, vegetables, and flowers.

"We cannot stop the winter or the summer from coming. We cannot stop the spring or the fall or make them other than they are. They are gifts from the universe that we cannot refuse. But we can choose what we will contribute to life when each arrives."

Thanks for stopping by-
Feel free to leave a comment. . .

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Evergreens For the Season

I'm not sure what inspired me to write about this subject or even make these little arrangements, but thought I'd share with you some simple ideas for making holiday arrangements out of materials you might have growing in your garden or yard. It could be I was inspired by a friend and fellow garden blogger, Donna Abel Donabella and her blog Gardens Eye View. Every Monday she would link in to another blogger's blog that was hosting the theme "In A Vase On Monday". I always enjoyed the vases that she produced and displayed. So colorful with beautiful vases, and she would use plants that I never would have thought to use in a floral arrangement.

During this "fall/winter" thaw, now is the time to get outside to gather and trim some of your shrubs, vines, and perennials for winter arrangements. As long as you don't have a lot of snow to shovel off your gardens you might want to try making a few simple arrangements.

There are several items you can cut now outside for fillers in your arrangements. Some of these would include dried flower heads such as hydrangea, some grasses, and evergreens such as boxwood, cedar, holly, ivy, pachysandra, and vinca vine. I have quite a few of these plants growing in our yard so thought I'd gather some up and make a few simple arrangements.

I am by no means a florist, but I do have a few vases and some craft supplies that I can use for accents.

Bypass pruners
I thought about trimming some branches off our holly bushes, but the past few years have left them pretty scraggly looking. The deer got to them and trimmed them back pretty good, and then last year with the long, cold winter we had more of the branches died back. So right now they do not need any further trimming.

Boxwood. I'm going to start with the boxwood. I'm not sure exactly what variety I have. It may be English Boxwood. You will actually be pruning these bushes so you want to use a bypass pruner to make clean, sharp cuts without crushing the stems. It is actually recommended to prune your boxwood annually (which is also called plucking).

It should be done in late fall or early winter. You only need to prune 10%-15% of the shrub. You don't want to shear these bushes because then they will become a tight mass of branches which could lead to disease and breakage. What you want to do is to thin out the branches with cuts about 6" to 8" long. But don't over-prune it either. You want to open up the center so that sunlight and air can reach the interior, and also allow rain to water the roots. It will also help by letting the snow fall through the plant without damaging the branches. This pruning will help with leaf growth along the inner branches making it sturdier to hold up in snow and ice conditions.

Other items that I cut for these arrangements were white pine and spruce evergreens, variegated pachysandra, variegated vinca vine, a few Purple Palace heuchera leaves, and English Ivy.

Top: white pine branches; Bottom: spruce  branches

First you want to soak your greens for several hours. I soaked mine for about 2 hours. This helps to clean them off and they will last longer in your arrangements if they are soaked first.

After soaking your greens, you will want to remove the lower leaves and branches that will be under the water. Then re-cut the stems at an angle so the branches will have a larger area to take up water.

Soaking in water
To add some color to your arrangements you could purchase some carnations which are available in several colors. Or you can add dried flowers, pine cones, or purchased decorations. Whatever suits you, and don't be afraid to experiment.

Note: Live floral arrangements are highly flameable. Do not place your arrangements near lighted candles or fireplaces. Also, to help your fresh arrangement last longer, keep out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources. Remove and/or replace any greenery that becomes dry or brittle. And some greenery may be toxic to pets or children so keep them out of their reach.

I am linking in with my friend, Donna Abel Donabella as she is hosting the garden bloggers Seasonal Celebrations. Check out her blog post and you also might want to check out some of the other garden bloggers as they join in for this event. Thanks for hosting this, Donna. Here is the link to Seasonal Celebrations - Winter Wonders

If you missed my blog post from last year on Christmas trees you might want to check it out at this link: We've Got Your Christmas Tree

"Christmas is forever, not for just one day, 
for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself..."
~Norman Wesley Brooks 
(U.S. design engineer, 1923-2002)
"Let Every Day Be Christmas," 1976

Feel free to leave a comment. 
Would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

To Everything There Is A Season

This time of the Thanksgiving season, I wanted to share with you a song that brings to mind the fall or harvest season for me.

I don't know why this song makes me think of fall. Maybe it came out in the fall the first time I heard it.

After doing a little research on Wikipedia- I was absolutely correct. This song by The Byrds was #80 on the charts in October 1965, and was #1 by December 1965. The song was written by Pete Seeger in the late 1950's

The song is "Turn, Turn, Turn" by the Byrds. It is also known as "To Everything There Is A Season". The lyrics, except for the title which is repeated throughout the song, and the final verse of the song, are adapted word-for-word from Chapter 3 of the 
Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible.

This video clip is from one of the Byrds' performances.

I'm sure this has probably been done several times before, but thought I would add my interpretation in photos to this song.

To everything there is a season,

and a time for every purpose under heaven:

a time to be born, 

and a time to die;

a time to plant,

 and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal; 

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, 

and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, 

and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, 

and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to rend, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war,

 and a time for peace.

The King James Bible
Chapter 3, Versus 1-8

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I hope you can embrace with loving kindness the many gifts you have received in your life. Maybe, if possible, you could give back a little something by giving a donation to your local food pantry or soup kitchen. The work that these groups do for the community is so necessary and they can always use your help.

May you be truly blessed this season with health, love, and happiness.

Thanks for visiting-
feel free to comment.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Story Begins

And so the story begins. Or maybe I should say Chapter. Right, the Chapter begins. It's not a new story. As a matter of fact it's the same old story. That story would be "Winter". Or Tales of Winter. Or maybe just Snow. Yeah, lots of snow. Probably.

I mean winter doesn't officially start until December 21st. Here it is the middle of November and most of the country has had very cold temperatures. We had our first measurable snowfall of the season. We got about 5 inches last week, but so far the storm that is now in the area has left its mark on northern and western New York. The Fort Drum Military Base in Watertown, NY, is closed today and so is the New York State Thruway from Rochester to the Pennsylvania state line. You know it has to be bad when the Army base closes.

But yet the calendar says it's still fall. . .

Our Indian summer is coming up early next week. Maybe. An Indian summer is when you have unseasonably warm, dry temperatures after experiencing a heavy killing frost (I don't know many people that complained about unseasonably warm temperatures in November). This usually (or sometimes) occurs between September and mid-November. Right now it's 22 degrees Fahrenheit. The weather is predicted to be maybe 60 on Monday (Nov 24). We can only hope.

Local Amish harvesting hay before the snows arrive.

Amish harvested cornstalks. When I first saw these I thought they were hay stacks.

And anything still blooming????

We still had some flowers blooming in the gardens this past week. There were a few knock-out roses that were blooming that are planted in a protected area as well as The Fairy Rose, and the dianthus were reblooming as well.

Double Knock Out Roses (right) photo taken July 2014 

Knock Out Roses. If you love roses and have not tried the knock-out roses, they might be something you might consider planting in your garden. They are so reliable, disease (mildew and blackspot) resistant, cold hardy, and bloom all season long from spring until a heavy frost. Last year because our winter was so cold and long they died back quite a bit, but after a spring pruning they were flowing a few weeks after that. They are cold hardy to zone 5 and heat tolerant throughout the US.

Knock Out Roses (photo taken July 2014)

They are available in a wide variety of colors. They grow about 3 feet wide and about 3 to 4 feet tall. The prefer full sun, and a well drained and fertile site. They should be planted about 4 feet apart for good air circulation. They are also self-cleaning, meaning you do not have to trim back the dead flowers. These roses do not have to be trimmed in any special manner either. You can trim them with the hedge trimmers. Every two or three years you might want to remove about 1/3 of the branches to stimulate new growth. Or you might want to take out some branches from the center to improve air circulation. These roses will not disappoint you. However, if you are looking for a scented rose bush you will not find it in the knock out roses.

The Fairy Rose 

The Fairy Rose Bush. The Fairy Rose bush is a miniature Polyantha shrub rose. It is about the same size as the knock out rose, but hardier. This rose bush is not scented either. I believe the knock out roses are larger flowers, but the Fairy Rose bush has larger clusters.This rose is disease resistant as well. Personally, I think the knock out roses have nicer foliage.

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First snowfall. November 13, 2014

"In seed time learn, in harvest time teach, 
in winter enjoy."

Thanks for stopping by, 
and feel free to leave a comment! 
I would love to hear from you!