Today is Reina’s Fifth Birthday

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It’s Reina’s birthday today! She is five years old! Here is what she looked like when she first became a part of our pack!
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Right off the bat, she reminded us how to embrace winter.

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She learned how to be a member of the pack from the best- Riley and MayMay.

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At work she has always taken a hands on approach to every task.

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She has always been game for hamming it up.

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Sometimes quite literally.
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When she comes calling, she always brings Flowers.

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Flowers are also her favorite accessory.

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During her lunch break, she knows how to relax

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and then relax more deeply.

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She never says no to a nap

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or a passing snuzzle.

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She knows how to entertain herself on the weekends and is very well informed especially about Hollywood gossip.
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She keeps an open mind about most things including her main person’s strange fascination with the Camino.
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She remains unconvinced about the necessity of ever walking across a hot dry country let alone walking across this country three times,
but she is happy to be at the end of Lizzy’s dusty journeys.

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She loves a good outdoor lecture. I mean, who doesn’t?

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She is patient when we treat her like a baby still.
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She even plays her part in events like Lizzy and Miguel’s wedding. Only Reina could rock this hat with dignity intact.

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She welcomed Miguel and then Grace to her pack with enthusiasm and always sends cards to those in her pack who are off in the world.

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There is nothing she likes MORE than taking the wheel for a drive around town.

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And there is nothing she likes LESS than a mouth full of quills!

Happy Birthday Reina! We love you!

Early July around the Farm

It’s been a glorious summer in the gardens so far.

Even after a perilously cold winter in which the Roses died back hard, they have been lavish in their blossoms.

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Our lovely Alba Maxima Rose had a particularly terrible winter. We were all so relieved to see her come back so strong.

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This season is the first time this Charles de Mills Rose has bloomed for us as we just planted in April of 2013. It is mesmerizing in its beauty.

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John Davis Rose covers itself in a zillion blossoms in its position right next to the door into the office.

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This is a sweet old friend named Blush Damask Rose

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This is a new very lovely Rose named Goldfinch.

On Facebook, I have had a hard time not putting up a daily (if not hourly) photo of Pink Pillar Rose which is so extraordinary in the beauty of its many moods.

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The Clematis have also been happy this season.

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This is a new one called Clematis Guernsey Cream.

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Here is Madame St Germaine Rose in amongst a very old and robust Clematis friend.

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This is Clematis Nelly Moser.

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Our Clematis Jackamani seems to enjoy mingling with the climbing Roses.

July is annual Poppy (papaver somnifermum) time which I love. As do the bees.

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As the perennials and annuals mix together, there are always some great combinations that happen unexpectedly. It is one of my favorite things about gardening- the surprises.

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Here Maltese Cross sits cheek by jowl with Bee Balm, a color combination I would never have planned but one that works surprisingly well.

It is not too much of a surprise that the Bee Balm is part of this duo. It has gone a bit nuts in the perennial beds and is EVERYWHERE. After it blooms I am going to have to move 90% of it somewhere else.

Note to Bee Balm- You are SUPPOSED to be one of MANY in a perennial bed of many Flowers not the HOG of the whole bed! Yes, I know the hummingbirds will be happy but all those other plants you overtook, not so much….

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Besides making many, many Flower Essences, we have been drying plants for herbal teas. Our dream is to make an organic blend we could someday share with you all as a way for you to take your Flower Essences!

This year we are saving a little bit of a lot of different things to experiment with what things taste like when blended together. Our hope would be to settle on a recipe this season then grow what we need for you next season.

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Chamomile is one of the things we are drying for the teas!

Another project has been making an Elderberry Flower syrup to add to sparkling water or wine. Katie Carpenter made our first batch which was gone in flash. With crowds clamoring for more, Sarah Porter (she who now knows a frightening amount about World Cup Soccer) and I made another batch this weekend.

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Of course there is always lots of weeding, watering and mulching along with savoring the Flowers.

This weekend I mulched around the blueberries. I used a surprisingly large number of cardboard boxes for this- thank goodness we had them waiting after a long winter of saving them for just this sort of project!

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Taking progress shots of this was what got me through hauling all this mulch ( Where were you Molly Sanders- Queen of mulch hauling?)

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Now the blueberries are all ready for their netting!

I hope you all weathered Hurricane Arthur well, and that you are finding lovely moments with the Flowers of your world! We send much love and blessings to you all!

Handling World Cup Fever

This is a post for Will’s girlfriend Sarah and all the other souls about to be deeply affected by their loved ones’ Futbol Madness aka World Cup Fever.

Tomorrow, Thursday will begin your exposure to the Sheehan men in the grips of the madness. Here are my final thoughts for you during your last day before the madness descends.

Sarah-

Prepare yourself.

For the next thirty days the Sheehan men will eat, sleep and dream World Cup. They will have glazed eyes whenever they look up from the TV, but that won’t be often. The rest of the time will be even worse. Their eyes, quite literally glued to the screen, will also have an alarming rolling quality matched only by their wild hair and manic pacing.

They will suffer from serious couch potato syndrome, growing pasty from slumping in front of the TV from noon ’til nine pm each day. Only their adrenaline infused leaps to their feet when a good or bad play is made will keep their hearts pumping. They will not care at all about being inside day after beautiful summer day. Instead, they will be happy, because each couch potato day will mean they have watched three of the beautiful games IN A ROW.

Their dress will be casual to say the least. They will care little about what they have pulled on for their day in front of the TV. If you notice Will is wearing a futbol jersey he has worn six days straight, consider yourself lucky it is not day seven.

They will give up all interest in any other topics than soccer. This includes all discussions of life, death and immortality. If you are experiencing a dark night of the soul during the World Cup, they will not notice or worse, they will think you, too, are upset about the same bad call that sent them into a frenzy of teeth gnashing.

When they refuel between games, they will graze in the refrigerator little noticing what they are consuming. Often reheating their food will be just too much of an effort, and they will just eat cold glop. The only consideration when it comes to food will be: Will this stuff keep us going for another ninety minutes plus or minus of glory?

You will understand not a single sentence that falls from their lips either shouted or hissed.

To sum up: They will bore us all to tears.

To prepare for this fevered time, I have encouraged you to watch pre-World Cup sports shows to get some dexterity with the language of their obsession. A hopeless task but a valiant one. I myself have watched all seven of ESPN’s “US Soccer: March to Brazil”. I now know way too much about Mix Diskerud, but when I tried to wedge myself into the conversation about the US game against Ghana, William scoffed at my level of insight. Maybe tonight I can watch the shows over again. After all, I need to be ready to fluff my way through the upcoming 63 games and so do you.

Yes Sarah, you read that right.

63 games.

63.

Here are some tips for you for navigating the next futbol filled month- May the force be with you!

1. There is no getting around this: You need to become a futbol fan. OVERNIGHT because your time frame for becoming a fan is 22 hours and counting. Yup, its five pm on Wednesday right now, and there is no way that World Cup Fever is not going to fell them by tomorrow at 3 pm when Brazil faces Croatia in the opening game. So EMBRACE this journey into uncharted waters. ASAP. I can promise you it will be an adventure….. of some sort.

2. Consider your sudden conversion to soccer as scientific research. One thing is for certain- After the next four weeks, you will either understand a lot more about the Y chromosome specifically as it affects Sheehan men, OR you will feel that there is something so inscrutable about the Y chromosome that studying string theory would be a piece of cake.

3. Pick a horse, any horse. There are 32 teams to choose from. Just one caveat- Don’t tell Will or any other Sheehan man that you picked your horse based on the color of the team jersey.

For example, if you pick Ivory Coast as your team because their logo is a gorgeous green elephant against an orange background, do NOT tell anyone but me this fun fact. Make up a more soccer-ish reason like you heard that the brilliant but aged Didier Drogba has great legs this season like back in 2012 and is expected to help his team blow through the group stage.

That should awe them ( and frankly Sarah, they are such zombies while they have World Cup Fever that they are not going to notice if you say Drogba’s name wrong or deliver this remark with a peculiar expression of disbelief on your face).

4. Get a craft activity that can be easily done game after game while Sheehan men rant, stomp, pull their hair, scream at the ref and spill chips all around you. I am thinking a knit activity with washable wool so you can remove all grease stains from spilled chips after the craft project is complete. I plan to knit a couple sweaters for Grace. In acrylic. Machine washable.

5. Get some key phrases to shout. For example, when someone misses a goal, consider yelling, “He missed a sitter.” This suggests you think it was an easy shot missed AND know how to deliver a real put down about it. Perhaps both of us should not use the same phrase or it will look suspicious, so I give that phrase into your care.

6. During refuelings when Will or any other Sheehan leaves the TV, you’ll want to ask insightful things. These rare moments will be your only chance to talk to Will for the next month so don’t blow it with off topic remarks like “Are we still dating?”. Stick to the beautiful game. Stick to arcane questions like, “Will the titans of Germany be force to play Thomas Muller as a false nine?” or “Will Edin Dzeko lead debutants Bosnia & Herzegovina to glory?” You’ll want each moment to count. These kind of high caliber questions are sure to at least hold Will’s attention for 5-10 seconds even if his answer makes no sense to you. And it won’t.

7. Watching your boyfriend obsess over the beautiful game for thirty days straight may make you want to have an argument with him. One sure fire way to start an inferno of an argument is to bring up the topic of Landon Donovan not making the US team.

8. Remember it’s only thirty days, and you will have at least an hour or two after the World Cup trophy is awarded before another sporting event takes center stage and you lose Will to his second favorite viewing experience- that little bike ride around France we like to call the Tour de France.

9. Consider the up side. You’ll go off to college next year with a whole new wardrobe of strange acrylic garments with each bobble remembered as the moment when Jose Altidore proved Jurgen Klinsmann’s judgment correct and each dropped stitch bringing a sigh as you remember the many moments Will went to the mattresses, beating a pillow on the couch to try and bring America (then later Argentina) through.

10. Final thoughts. It will make you strong. It will make you a world citizen. It will make you laugh. It will make you cry. And I will be there to wipe your brow when the going gets rough. We will be each other’s support group. I promise to share my knitting patterns. I promise to feed you good lines and not laugh when we both miss that flagrant flop someone made without getting a yellow card. Our faux World Cup Fever will be a beautiful thing. The Sheehan men may not need us because they have 3 billion others who understand them. But we won’t care because we will have each other and a lot of ugly hand knit acrylic clothing.

Re-imagining our Website

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As the gardens continue to flood with June Flowers, other projects also flourish.

Today’s the big day here in which Ben Sheehan and Katie Carpenter officially begin to rebuild the website.

All Spring, Katie has been working away on a new design while Ben finished up his academic year as a history and English teacher. Today, his first day of his summer vacation, he’ll spend the morning beginning to plan the rebuild with Katie.

I expect assignments to start flowing my way shortly. There will be many sections to bring up to date and many to rewrite for greater clarity. One thing we plan is to make the common concerns list ( a hefty document we share of our Flower Essence suggestions for common concerns) a lot more user friendly and manageable. Right now it is a rather DRY and LONG document! After the web rebuild, we will still have this original version on offer but plan to create pages sharing the information in a way that is a lot more punchy and visual.

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With all the gardens planted, the Red Shiso babies up (there they are right above this sentence along with a lone ranger crab grass seedling) and “most” everything weeded, I look forward to pitching in and helping Katie and Ben with the overhaul. We hope to have the big reveal around the time of the fall equinox. Until then, our current website will stay as is.

If you follow us on Facebook, you’ll have noticed that Katie is also posting there. I have really loved having another person’s view of the farm on our Facebook posts. To me, it makes this window into life here more dimensional. Just as looking at the world through two eyes gives us depth of field, looking through two different sets of eyes at the gardens has meant Facebook posts that bring a similar depth of field.

I feel this way about the website rebuild as well. Somehow my way of thinking about the website has often been very two dimensional. I have thought of the website as somewhat like a book i.e. a place to put up pages of information. As Katie has shown me her ideas for the site and also begun to share her vision of the garden on Instagram and Facebook, I have begun to understand that websites can be more multidimensional than I understood.

As we head into the thick of summer Flowers, it will be so fun to see what unfolds in the gardens as well as in the creative hands of all these young people at the farm! While they dream the new dreams, Grace and I will wander with Sheba, examine the Buttercups and sample the berries- and I will remain very happy to leave the creative rethinking of the website in other hands than mine!

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The Blur of May

The funny thing about May in the gardens is that I enjoy it at a trot. There is just so much to do that only at dawn and dusk can I wander around at a leisurely pace and savor the return of so many beloved Flower friends. The rest of the time it,s all a bit of a blur. A pretty blur but still a blur.

The Roses did very poorly through this last long cold winter so one thing I have been cutting away hauling off this week is dead branches from our Rose bushes. It looks like almost every Rose survived but many are in need of being cut back almost to the ground. In between weeding projects, I pick away at each of the farm’s 75 Rose bushes.

Another project clamoring to be competed is preparing the gardens to plant the annual crops including Red Shiso. The Red Shiso seeds don’t go into the ground until frost danger is passed but we still need to get the garden spaces where we plant the Red Shiso ready. Being rather luddite in our equipment, this means pitchforks, claws and shovels not a rototiller. This is better for the soil but not perhaps for our backs.

In amidst weeding, pruning and planting, so many Flower Essences need to be made right now. Each sunny morning I make old Flower Essence friends that need replenishing as well as new Flower Essences that you have asked for or that are calling out to be made. This week I made Cherry Flower Essence from our Montmorency Cherry trees for the first time. This Cherry Essence joins an enormous group of Fruit Tree Flower Essences including Pear, Peach, Plum, Crab Apple, Loquat, Quince, Medlar, Lemon, Lime, Orange and Grapefruit. I look forward to sitting down with the Angels and Elementals to find out the strengths of this new Flower Essence friend….. but probably not until June!

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Here are the Cherry blossoms on the day I made the Essence. In the early years I didn’t think to take a photo of the Flower when I first made it into a Flower Essence, in part because I had no sense of any larger plan that included sharing the Flower Essences. This led to YEARS of filling in the blanks with photos taken later. In fact, as Katie Carpenter gets organized to rebuild our website from scratch, there are photo gaps we are still trying to fill.

We almost managed to coax our honeybees through the coldest winter on record, then they died in February. Laura and I wrapped the hives so carefully and fed the bees honey whenever their was a thaw, but there just weren’t enough thaws. We had thought we had gotten them through so it was a very sad day when we realized all three hives had died. We have two new hives coming but the supplier won’t send them until the end of June which is, frankly, a nightmare for pollination.

The cold winter killed lots of other kinds of pollinators too, and the decline in various bees around the farm is noticeable. Mercifully, a beekeeping friend just gave us a hive to tide us over until our two hives arrive in June. Jim brought the hive home on Monday. I am so grateful to this beekeeper for sharing a hive. They arrived in time to pollinate the Apple and Cherry trees- I am not sure if we will have much of a Plum, Pear, Black Currant or Red Currant crop as these bloomed before this hive arrived.

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Here is Jim taking the seal out of the front of the hive so that the bees can leave the hive and explore their new home. The seal was put in place so they could be moved from their former home in Springfield, VT to here. This new hive appears very happy and busy. All of us share in this happiness. It is wonderful to have honeybees here again after the losses of the winter.

On a woods walk this week, Elizabeth and Reina had a close and lovely encounter with a bear, so we know there is a bear in the neighborhood. We remain committed to keeping the bees in these second story quarters, out of the neighborhood bear’s easy reach.

This morning I am tearing myself away from the gardens for an hour or two to go get groceries. We have been living on stranger and stranger supplies these past few weeks as I just can’t waste time from the gardens to go on a shopping mission when there is something I can throw together from the freezer.

However William is coming home from his first year at college tonight. I think the absence of cheese, milk, butter, ice cream, chips, salsa, cereal, cookies or even pasta may be be too much of a shock after nine months of a dining hall cornucopia. So this morning I got out the Green Hope Farm cookbook and made my list so I can cook him some of his favorites.

I think Jim is going to be a happier camper too. I don’t think the heaping platter of Wild Leeks I served up last night for dinner felt like a complete meal to Jim either.
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Oddly enough, this is the most recent photo I have of Will. Here he is buying supplies for his dorm room at the end of his last vacation. Not to worry Will! There WILL be something besides freezer burned peas for supper tonight!

As a community of Flowers, Angels, Nature Spirits, Dogs, Cats and even some People, Green Hope Farm can be a funny place……and I love telling you all about it!