Remembering Life in New England

winter forest photography
My Backyard – Long Ago

This winter photography recently sold in my Zazzle store as a postcard. It seems fitting as a reminder of how far I’ve come. Since I am no longer living in the northeastern U.S., and back down in the humidity of Florida, this scene makes me a bit sad.  I was born in New England, and I love it there.

I took this winter photo back in 2007, and it reminds me of great hope and huge loss. After spending 27 years in the humid, bug-infested south, I was back home in New England and loving every moment of my first winter with snow in years. I took pictures every day I think. This is a scene from my back yard after a nice storm had passed. I say “nice” because it dropped a bunch of that sparkling white stuff I had been longing to play in and witness. I wanted a white Christmas, and New Hampshire nearly always cooperated in the eleven years I lived there.  I love the change of seasons and winter is part of it.  It’s a long season, but we are all in it together, and somehow get through the worst ones.

We had moved together as a family, but ultimately I ended up alone, with a son dependent upon me to provide a decent life. I couldn’t take a little boy away from his father, no matter how much that father lacked the qualities to actually be a father. So I stuck it out until my son graduated and wanted to move away. Then it was his choice. I did my part. But it wasn’t easy getting by alone in a place known for it’s costly living expenses. By the time I left my New Hampshire home, I had moved 5 times, finally settling into a little fixer-upper for my final years there.

The beautiful snow had lost it’s charm after the hellish winter of 2014-15. And my final winter had very little drama – or snow. It was okay with me.

I’ll never live in New England again, short of winning the lottery. I have some pictures left that remind me of the great hope in my heart when I moved there. The opportunity to spend time in such a beautiful place one last time, is what I will be thankful for. And I’ll visit when I can. But I may never see such a beautiful winter scene in person again. Nor will I walk in the deep snow and enjoy the silence of snowy woods. But I did it once. And that was good.

A Little About Sunflowers

Types of sunflowers and possible problems when planting and growing.

Soon the sunflowers will be popping through the soil and by mid-summer their happy blooms will decorate the garden landscape.
Sunflower plants can be tall or short. When mixing varieties be sure to leave enough space between them as they all need lots of sunlight. Seed packs will describe which is which.

yellow sunflower poster
Sunflower Poster

Besides bright yellow the petals can be rusty redish orange as in the Autumn Beauty
variety.  (I don’t know what variety this red sunflower is, but it’s pretty.)

red sunflower
Photo by eponaspirit @ Pixabay

I used to plant sunflower seeds until I realized that the squirrels were digging them up as fast as I could plant them! My gardening space is very small, so I don’t need many sunflowers, but a few are nice to have. Because I feed sunflower seeds to the birds in winter, I always have a few volunteers that grow on their own. All I have to do is weed out the ones that are too close together and let the others survive. Of course they don’t always sprout where I would prefer they live, but I can’t be picky. It’s that or no sunflowers, and a summer without sunflowers is just not right!
Here is a picture of my garden last year.

backyard garden scene
My Backyard Garden – 2014
grasshopper eating a sunflower
Grasshopper on sunflower

I like the fact that sunflowers grow beautifully on their own.  Usually they mature and have plenty of seeds to feed the birds.  The goldfinches love them.  Although, I have had squirrels climb the stalk and chew off the stem to steal the entire flower! Those little buggers are a real nuisance.

Now that I have cats prowling the yard, I haven’t had that problem.
I did however have big green grasshoppers chewing on the flowers. It’s always something. But they were so interesting that I let them eat and got some photos.

I’m Learning How to Grow Lilacs

white lilac flowers

I look forward to seeing my hydrangeas grow and bloom this year, but first I will see the lilacs bloom. I don’t have very impressive lilac bushes, I will admit. The yard is very shady and I am not used to dealing with this type of plant. Lilacs don’t grow in Florida, where I lived for a long time. They thrive in US hardiness zones 3-7 and central Florida is in zone 9.

So I have been trying to help my Lilacs do better in the once-neglected yard of my newer house. The tall, gangly tree / bush at the corner of my house was tucked under a pine tree and hidden behind a piece of fence. Now the fence is gone, and so is the little pine. I’m hoping that now the lilac will get more sun and branch out and get bushy.

I know that it’s a good idea to trim off the flowers as they die and then leave the tree alone. Trimming too late will remove the blooms that set for the following year. Also do any pruning then too.

I recently learned something about pruning the suckers, or shoots that grow from the base of the shrub. I always thought I needed to remove them all so the main trunk would do better, but that is not so. I’ve read that only 2/3 of the suckers should be cut so the others can grow and fill in the shrub. I am going to try it.

My lilac flowers are dark purple. I don’t know if they are double blooms or not, but double bloom varieties are more fragrant. I counted a few big flowers at the top of my lilac tree last Spring. And although it didn’t have many, I could smell the fragrant flowers in that area of the yard. I don’t know if I should just buy a new bush and give up on the old one, or try to work with what I have.

Lavender, white, pink, purple and blue are the colors to be found among lilac varieties. President Lincoln is one of the popular blue flowering plants.

Ugly, But Free, A Raised Bed Garden Made of Cinder (Concrete) Blocks

raised garden bed
Simple Raised Bed of Cinder-Blocks

Oh how I’d love to have the land in that picture I used! It’s not my yard. I don’t have a big sunny parcel of land. Because of that, it makes growing vegetables, in our short, New England growing season, tough to do. The sun is scarce in my yard, which is surrounded by tall pines and hardwood trees. My yard is also small. I’m always on the lookout for solutions to these problems so I can grow more crops.

This idea of making a raised bed from cinder-blocks is not mine. I saw it in the “Organic Gardening” book.  It looks ugly, but it was free to build because I already had the blocks.

When I came across an article in the magazine which showed five types of alternative raised beds, the concrete block one jumped out at me.  I could do this!

Shade is a problem when it comes to vegetable gardening in a small yard

The thought of having another sunny spot to grow vegetables stuck in my mind as winter carried on.  I would have to lug the blocks up a hill to my front yard because that was the sunny spot.  While I waited for the mud to dry up in spring, I watched the path of the sun to decide the best location for my new patch of dirt.

Once the garden loam was delivered, I enlisted my teenage son to help me move the blocks – those suckers are heavy! I used the wheelbarrow to fill the space with dirt and some compost, and then planted the rest a tomato and zucchini in there.  It’s not a huge garden, but it did give me some extra growing space.

dsc05427This was an experiment for me, and I’m not raised bed savvy.  It was a quick fix for lack of garden space and I did get vegetables to grow there.  Since then I have learned a bit more about raised bed gardening and am beginning a new raised bed garden (made of wood this time) in my Florida home.

An even easier idea is to buy fabric bags and use them as raised beds.  They work well for many types of vegetables.

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