Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Path that leads to Nowhere

by Corinne Roosevelt Robinson

THERE’S a path that leads to Nowhere
In a meadow that I know,
Where an inland island rises
And the stream is still and slow;
There it wanders under willows
And beneath the silver green
Of the birches’ silent shadows
Where the early violets lean.

Other pathways lead to Somewhere,
But the one I love so well
Had no end and no beginning—
Just the beauty of the dell,
Just the windflowers and the lilies
Yellow striped as adder’s tongue,
Seem to satisfy my pathway
As it winds their sweets among.

There I go to meet the Springtime,
When the meadow is aglow,
Marigolds amid the marshes,—
And the stream is still and slow.—
There I find my fair oasis,
And with care-free feet I tread
For the pathway leads to Nowhere,
And the blue is overhead!

All the ways that lead to Somewhere
Echo with the hurrying feet
Of the Struggling and the Striving,
But the way I find so sweet
Bids me dream and bids me linger,
Joy and Beauty are its goal,—
On the path that leads to Nowhere
I have sometimes found my soul!

The Second Book of Modern Verse. 1922
Jessie B. Rittenhouse, ed. (1869–1948)

Friday, January 26, 2007

herbies in the digital age

While looking for some information for our (GCHS) herb study about Echinacea, I ran across these podcasts by HerbEd, A.K.A. Ed Smith, a very interesting and knowlegeable herbalist.
So... yesterday, on The Backyard Herbalist weblog I posted some links (click here) to interesting programs that you can listen to on your computer or download to listen to on an Ipod-type mp3 player. I subscribed to the podcasts (easy, free) and they download automatically.
You can even burn them on a cd and play it in your car, if you don't Ipod.
You don't have to watch soap operas.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

the optimism of a gardener

"The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied. They always look forward to doing something better than they have ever done before."
-- Vita Sackville-West

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

For Robert Burns

His birthday is tomorrow.

Selkirk Grace

Some hae meat and cannot eat.
Some cannot eat that want it:
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

This following Burns Supper Format I copied from the official Burns Supper website where you can find the recipes and a sample of Burns poetry.

Just thinking, the Cock-a-Leekie soup is pretty similar to the Leek and Potato Soup recipe that Norma posted in the GCHS Yahoo Group that she served at the January meeting. I'm thinking of making it for dinner tomorrow night. I'll have to call mine Turk-a-Leekie though, as I'm out of frozen chicken broth and will be using my frozen turkey broth instead. I don't think any true Scotsman would decry the substitution, thriftiness being a virtue.

Burns Suppers have been part of Scottish culture for about 200 years as a means of commemorating our best loved bard. And when Burns immortalised haggis in verse he created a central link that is maintained to this day.

The ritual was started by close friends of Burns a few years after his death in 1796 as a tribute to his memory. The basic format for the evening has remained unchanged since that time and begins when the chairman invites the company to receive the haggis.


Chairperson's opening address

A few welcoming words start the evening and the meal commences with the Selkirk Grace

The company are asked to stand to receive the haggis. A piper then leads the chef, carrying the haggis to the top table, while the guests accompany them with a slow handclap. The chairman or invited guest then recites Burns' famous poem To A Haggis, with great enthusiasm. When he reaches the line 'an cut you up wi' ready slight', he cuts open the haggis with a sharp knife.

It's customary for the company to applaud the speaker then stand and toast the haggis with a glass of whisky.

The company will then dine. A typical Bill o' Fare would be:

Cock-a-leekie soup
Haggis warm reeking, rich wi' Champit Tatties, Bashed Neeps
Tyspy Laird (sherry trifle)
A Tassie o' coffee

The Immortal Memory

One of the central features of the evening. An invited guest is asked to give a short speech on Burns. There are many different types of Immortal Memory speeches, from light-hearted to literary, but the aim is the same - to outline the greatness and relevance of the poet today.

Toast To The Lasses

The main speech is followed by a more light-hearted address to the women in the audience. Originally this was a thank you to the ladies for preparing the food and a time to toast the 'lasses' in Burns' life. The tone should be witty, but never offensive, and should always end on a concilliatory note.


The turn of the lasses to detail men's foibles. Again, should be humorous but not insulting.

Poem and Songs

Once the speeches are complete the evening continues with songs and poems. These should be a good variety to fully show the different moods of Burns muse. Favourites for recitations are Tam o' Shanter, Address to the Unco Guid, To A Mouse and Holy Willie's Prayer.

The evening will culminate with the company standing, linking hands and singing Auld Lang Syne to conclude the programme.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle - a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl. And the anticipation nurtures our dreams.
-- Barbara Winkler

Monday, January 22, 2007

Catalogue dreams

January is dreamtime for gardeners and I finally have time, after an
over-stressed over-scheduled December, to sit down with all of the
mail-order garden catalogues I piled in a basket next to my favorite
chair since Thanksgiving. Last week I dedicated an afternoon to
checking out the catalogues.

There are pros and cons to using catalogues.
Con: You pay for shipping. But Pro: You usually don't pay sales tax.
Con: You don't get to make an 'on the spot' evaluation of the health
of the plant as you would in a nursery. But Pro: You usually get a
better deal with catalogues, a wider choice of unusual varieties, and
good mail order nurseries want repeat business so they stand behind
their plants, in case one arrives with problems.

There are plants I'll plan to buy at local stores, just because I
know that I can get a better deal and a common variety and a sturdy
plant, but still, I'm drawn to catalogues. They are part of the
gardening tradition for good reason.
For one thing, the best catalogues are great learning resources. They
describe plants. The best ones use plantsman's language, even
botanical names. If you read the better catalogues you will begin
saying and thinking botanical names. The good catalogues will tell
you tell you how to grow individual plants, what spacing and light
and watering and other factors they require.
And the luscious color photographs spark my creative thinking. I've
planted more imaginary gardens in January than I ever will have time
or space or money enough to plant in May.

Favorites? Plenty.
However...I order from:

Bluestone. My all time favorite catalogue to see in the mailbox. Small but healthy perennial at prices that don't make choosing too difficult. Somethimes has a jump on the competition in offering new plants. Fun coupons. Discounts. Recycling deal on packaging that helps with shipping. Nice people.

Nichols. Herb and flower seeds. Hops.

Park seed. Garden porn photos, always a killer "gotta have" plant .

Burpee. Veggie seeds.
A relevant quote from a popular Michigan garden guru, Janet Makunovich:

"Make your catalogues support your plans rather than drive them.
Define your plans first, by re-organizing and re-reading notes, and then go to catalogues with a purpose."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

CSI: In My Garden

The January Herb Study at the GCHS was Echinacea.
To paraphrase an old television drama "There are a million stories in the" ...garden... "here is one of them..."

A few years ago I began to notice some significant problem with my purple coneflowers. What! Nothing bothers purple coneflowers! Right!?!

BUT, if something is gonna happen in way of a garden disaster large or small, it'll happen to me.

On closer inspection of my blighted flowers, all of the the ruined cones seemed to be damaged in the same way... blackened broken centers. I cut off the worst flowers and brought them indoors and dissected them on my kitchen counter. Eyuck, small wormy creatures had burrowed straight down from the tip of the seedhead right down into the stem. I took some photos with my first generation digital camera and went out to the garden and deadheaded all of my Echinacea. Dejectedly. I love purple coneflowers.

I couldn't find any clue in my books, or the books at the Extension, or
online, or by asking around. Closest I could figure was a hint from several online sources that certain flowers attract the European Corn Borer, the timing was right, and the damage was identical. It fit the profile of a native plant being decimated by an imported pest, especially because the pest was probably under pressure from all of the cornfields that have surrounded my neighborhood being bulldozed for new subdivisions. But I was still unsettled about it. The little larvae I had didn't look right, I was seeing stripes and the ECB is spotted. I knew from my time working with the Diagnostic team that the distinction was important. All burrowing larvae are not the same.

I even asked flower experts at conferences. Apparently I didn't paint a grim enough portrait of the damage these flowers were suffering. No one knew or cared. Years passed. I deadheaded as needed, dejectedly.

January 2007, the Genesee County Herb Society's herb study will be Echinacea. It's January, time to read with a purpose! Looking through my coneflower photos from years past, the CSI photos sparked my interest in finding the name of that little grub.

I Googled around and came across a paragraph in a paper I downloaded from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, entitled Perennial Medicinal Herb Trials 1996-1999. On page 7, under Echinacea purpurea L. Moench. is this sentence:

"Echinacea is a member of the aster family, and susceptible to the same insects. Sunflower moth larvae damaged more than 80% of blooms cut in late summer."

Googling furiously, I brought up: "Sunflower Moth" page 3 on a publication from the Maryland Cooperative Extension with a GREAT PHOTO!

Identification of a pest is the first step in IPM. I feel much better.
Now I have to figure out how to save my purple coneflowers from this particular larvae.

NOTE: Cross-posted to The Backyard Herbalist

Friday, January 19, 2007

"From December to March, there are for many of us three gardens -- the garden outdoors, the garden of pots and bowls in the house, and the garden of the mind's eye."
-- Katherine S. White

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"To create a garden is to search for a better world. . . . Whether the result is a horticultural masterpiece or only a modest vegetable patch, it is based on the expectation of a glorious future. This hope for the future is at the heart of all gardening."
-- Marina Schinz (Swiss garden writer and photographer)