Garden Notes

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Spring clean up is finally done.   I got two more bags of leaves and other detritus out of the nooks and crannies of the back yard.

The herbs aren’t doing much yet – the lemon thyme is starting to stir, and I’ve got just a bit of mint in one of the three pots.     Still waiting to see if the sage and/or oregano survived.

I put together a window box with some soil and compost.   I’ll be planting that full of radishes in the next day or so – I wanted to give it a good soak and let that equilibrate first.


Hamilton House, South Berwick, ME

This is the earliest we’ve ever stopped by Hamilton House, and I was delighted to find that there are blue squill and grape hyacinth (my two favorite Spring garden flowers) naturalized down the slopes toward the Salmon River.     I cannot tell you how happy it made me to see all that blue.

The bonus trout lilies in the garden, and skunk cabbage in the margins, were also a joy.    I’m so glad it’s Spring.

Knitting Notes


Pattern: Pussyhat, Four Gauges, in the Round, by Sarah Keller
Yarn: Valley Yarns Northampton in the Bright Pink colorway
Needles: Size 8 circs and DPNs

Just a quick little project, for a special request to have one on hand in case they’re needed again.    I had enough yarn to make one more that was almost as big, so I went ahead and used up the yarn to do that.

Really liked this yarn – very pleasant to work with.    I’d definitely get it again.

Goldmayne – Kate Stradling

1490345566-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_This book is an adaptation of two fairy tales called “Scurvyhead” and “Sir Goldenhair”, which both feature a young man named Petit Jean, who goes out into the world to make his fortune. Here, we have young Duncan, who realizes one day that he does not have to put up with the constant beatings from his father, and simply leaves one morning.

He’s found the next day, having spent the night in a bush, by Dame Groach, and as one could expect from someone with that kind of name in a fairy tale, she’s a witch. She sets Duncan to the task of caring for her overgrown garden, with the simple stipulation that he must never enter the door under the stairs. Being a witch, she naturally wants him to enter that door, but Duncan is honest, and a hard worker, and it takes him a while to give into her tricks. When he finally does, he finds a fountain in the basement under the stairs. Thinking only to take a quick drink to quench his thirst, he accidentally gets his hair in the water, which turns it to gold.

He immediately realizes that the witch will be after him, and flees. Have I mentioned he’s been making friends with the talking horse in the stables that he’s supposed to have been beating everyday? Well, Wildfire, for some reason, knows that they will be safe from Groach if they can get to Merediana – the kingdom to the south. So they head there, and look up an old friend of Wildfire’s, who helps Duncan learn to fight, as fortune hunters (and Dame Groach) are now after him. He takes on the identity of Sir Goldmayne for when he fights the fortune hunters.

Naturally, in the course of time, he finds himself in the capital city, where he gets a job as an undergardener at the palace. There are three princesses – Margaret, Alberta and Bellinda, and something is clearly going on with the three. Margaret is always sad, Alberta is widely believed to be taking up witchcraft, and Bellinda seems to be fending off all the suitors that are coming for Margaret. Duncan comes to Alberta’s attention, and it’s not long before he realizes that her witchcraft and general bad attitude are an act. And it’s his adventure to get to the bottom of things.

This is a really satisfying weaving together of these two tales. Duncan’s a great character, and the three princesses are so much more than you usually find of princesses in a fairy tale. Alberta especially was a lot of fun to read about. I really enjoyed this book.

The Seventh Wife – T. Kingfisher

1503949753-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_Rhea is the miller’s daughter, and when a lord asks for her hand in marriage, she and her family don’t feel like they can say no. Lord Crevan demands that she visit his manor before the wedding, and there she finds out that he is a sorcerer, and that his other six wives all still live there. He’s taken something from all of them when they were married.

Rhea now knows that something isn’t right about the whole situation, and she’s smart, and very capable. With the help of a hedgehog, and some of the other wives, she sets out to win her, and their freedom.

This story definitely has shades of ‘Bluebeard’, but with a very different back story and outcome. It’s a great tale- Rhea is a very satisfying protagonist. I’d definitely read more from this author.

Wilderness and the American Mind – Roderick Nash

0300029101-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_Having done a concentration on the ecological side of biology in college (I like large scale communities. Microbiology bores me, though I do recognize its importance.), this was an interesting read. I think today, if you talked to a lot of urban dwellers (I’m firmly in that camp), and asked them their view on wilderness, they’d probably point to some wilderness preserve or national park, and talk about the importance of preserving nature so that everyone can escape there and enjoy it. I think it would surprise many members of that demographic that that was not always the case.

This book goes back to the roots of this country, and examines the way our views of wilderness have changed. Our ancestors (mine were Puritans in Massachusetts) came to this country with a dim view of wilderness – it was actually their sacred duty to subdue the wilderness and bring it under the influence of civilization. A Puritan from the late 1600s would probably look askance at our current movements to preserve wilderness. In fact, that’s a fairly recent development in this country, because the book also argues that a country must have a fairly settled existence to value wilderness. We value it now precisely because we’ve almost erased it.

I read the third edition, which was published in the 80s. (I got it for free from a book swap, so I was happy to get any edition.) I would be very interested to read the newest edition (the fifth – published in 2014), which brings in viewpoints on more current issues like climate change. Full disclosure – this is dense and scholarly, so I can’t stay I read through it quickly, but it was definitely a worthy, slow read.

Garden Notes

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It was in the 50’s yesterday.   So far, it’s hit 75 today.   The daffodils shot up six inches and started to bloom overnight.    Allergies not withstanding, I went out this morning and did some clean up.    Speaking of allergies, I finally got officially tested this weekend, and I am indeed allergic to a number of trees, and some soil molds, so early Spring gardening probably isn’t the smartest thing for me to doing, but oh well.    I held out as long as I could, which means I didn’t get as much done in the backyard as I would have liked.

I did get the pots out the garage (and the chives dug up and potted).   I also cleaned up and mulched the side garden, fed the hollies out front, and put the clematis trellis up.   I even managed to de-stick most of the backyard.  Not bad for a couple hours’ work.

Exile’s Song – Marion Zimmer Bradley

917a6495bf373a5596750376e41434f414f4141This was the book that well and truly got me into the Darkover series, which is somewhat ironic, as she didn’t write all or most of it. (I’m not able to find the exact details around this – the trilogy it’s a part of was started around the time of her death, so was in some measure written by Adrienne Martine-Barnes.   I assume the final book at the least was not Bradley at all.) I was in a sci-fi based book club in college, and had forgotten to send the monthly slip back in, so this book arrived. I had read some of the short story books before this, but something about this book hooked me in. I’ve since collected all of them, which was an interesting adventure in the early days of Ebay.

Margaret Alton is the daughter of Senator Lew Alton from Darkover, but they left that planet when she was very young, and she remembers little about it. She’s also grown distant from her father, and has not seen him since leaving for University. Since then, she’s become a scholar in her own right, accompanying her mentor, a renowned musicologist, to a number of worlds. And that is what brings her back to Darkover.

I think that’s what I liked about this book, as Margaret has to discover her home again, so it’s a reintroduction for the reader as well. (It also represent a tonal shift in the books – the series was written over a great span of years, so the style, times, and themes vary wildly. This is the first of the post-Bradley era style.) She’s basically an heiress, which she had no idea was the case, and she also is not aware of the planet’s people’s telepathic abilities (for reasons that become a major plot point.) It’s a good introduction to the series, if someone is looking for a way in.