Cluster of wheat image Grapes and vines image Cluster of wheat image
July 22nd, 2013


Yesterday I went out into the backyard with a bottle of frozen water, sat down in a lawn chair, and watched night fall.  This week in July is historically the worst week of summer, and the week had lived up to its reputation — over 90 degrees every day, oppressive humidity, warnings to the old folks to stay indoors.  Our Hart bus even parked an air-conditioned bus on Main Street, inviting sufferers to come in.  Relief was predicted for last night so I went out to watch the sky and wait for its coming.  Have you ever just watched the sky darken as night falls?  The rain did not come but  Martha and Dan came over and informed me that our Mimosa tree, which is now in bloom, is being frequented by hummingbirds.  I’ve never seen a hummingbird on this property and it was too dark to see properly but I look forward to a daytime sighting.  I expected mosquitos, but saw none.  It was a good musing time.

My birthday festivities are all over now, save for a  raincheck for lunch with Sis Ann.  They seemed to go on and on, such that a church friend deemed it “celebrating the octave of Dottie’s birthday.”  There were several lunches, a big cake, a small cake,  a designer cupcake, and tiramisu, flowers and plants, sundry gifts, numerous cards including four that actually said, “For your 90th birthday” and only two were duplicates!  Plus Facebook, which is a good place to gather wishes from far afield.

It was good to be able to spend a length of time with the grass and the sky, to check out the two new pear trees and the fig tree that looks like it will really produce many figs this year.  I note just on the other side of the fence a tree that has suddenly (where have I been?) grown huge, to shade-tree size, and I don’t even know its name.  It is definitely not a maple, perhaps an elm?  I must check it out.  One should know the name of a sizeable tree so close at hand, even though it’s not mine.

During the night it apparently did rain some but no storm as predicted.  Another hot day coming up,  only in the eighties.  I hope to watch night fall again in the near future–it’s a nice change from watching one TV program after another until I fall asleep.  A good time to commune with nature and count one’s blessings.


Nightfall. Fireflies in abundance as a bonus. Haven’t seen any for years!




October 15th, 2012


It was in mid-August that I posted the joyful newsthat the little fig sprig that I had nurtured for five years had finally become a tree and brought forth figs!  In no time at all the little tree became taller than me and I could look forward to my first fig harvest.   I actually harvested ONE fig, about two weeks ago.  The little fellow turned brown and got soft and nearly fell off the tree when I touched it.  It was delicious, a promise of figs to come.  As October  approached and nights grew cooler, I began to wonder if the rest of the figs would have time to ripen before frost.  I have no idea why that one fig was so far ahead of the rest of them but I am thankful for what may be my one taste of figs this year.  A couple of nights ago we had a sudden cold snap and I awoke to learn that it was only 27 degrees outdoors!  And the next day my pretty little fig tree looked like this:

After the frost

One week later

For anyone who saw this post a few days ago and saw the itty-bitty fig foto that was then published, know that it is two days later and I’m beginning to get the hang of this new computer with the touchy-feely screen. This photo is what I had hoped to show you and now actually have. Let us rejoice in small accomplishments!


This was taken with my iPad and  somehow posted to my computer with that same iPad.  How sad are my figs!  One looks like it might ripen, given ideal weather, but I think the rest are goners.  An iPad is a very talented thing.  Some day,  when I know it better, I expect we’ll get along better!








































August 17th, 2012


After five years, we finally have figs!  Not yet edible but definitely there and growing.  It was five years ago that I told Rita that I’d love to have a cutting from a fig tree she knew in Brooklyn.  For two years it was kept in the house during the winter until it was a couple of feet tall.  For two more years it stayed outdoors during our Connecticut winter, wrapped up in a old down coat.  Each year in the spring I wondered if it had survived, the old branches looked so wretched, but it due course it would arise from the roots and give life another try.   This last year, after a relatively mild winter, and a rainy, hot , hot summer it again sprang forth and it now taller than I am, with those great big fig leaves as in the paintings of naked people, and now, at last, FIGS are growing in the crotches of the branches.  The largest is not yet the size of a walnut and it is time I studied up on figs.

Here they are, in all their figgy beauty:

From Wikipedia

The flower is not visible, as it blooms inside the infructescence. Although commonly referred to as a fruit, the fig is actually the infructescence or sсion of the tree, known as a false fruit or multiple fruit, in which the flowers and seeds are borne. It is a hollow-ended stem containing many flowers. The small orifice (ostiole) visible on the middle of the fruit is a narrow passage, which allows the specialized fig wasp to enter the fruit and pollinate the flower, whereafter the fruit grows seeds.

When you read this you wonder how figs ever got going!  That they continue is surely some sort of miracle!

The infrutescence is pollinated by a symbiosis with a kind of fig wasp. The fertilized female wasp enters the fig through the sicon, which is a tiny hole in the crown (the ostiole). She crawls on the inflorescence inside the fig and pollinates some of the female flowers. She lays her eggs inside some of the flowers and dies. After weeks of development in their galls, the male wasps emerge before females through holes they produce by chewing the galls. The male wasps then fertilize the females by depositing semen in the hole in the gall. The males later return to the females and enlarge the holes to facilitate the females to emerge. Then some males enlarge holes in the sicon, which enables females to disperse after collecting pollen from the developed male flowers. Females have a short time (<48 hours) to find another fig tree with receptive siconios to spread the pollen and assist the tree in reproduction.

I hope everyone will forgive me if I have decided the understanding how figs reproduce in above my paygrade. I, will, however, let you know how they taste and what we do with them, once I know myself.

I am seriously worried about the fig wasps that seem to be necessary to get figs.  Where, or where, are they going to find another fig tree hereabouts within 48 hours????

June 25th, 2011


A few days ago my son commented that he had been watching me grazing in the back yard.  Well, when you think about it, I guess that is what I do do.  I think it’s hereditary.

Way back when I had a Mommy one of the rites of spring was to dig up young dandelion plants before they bloomed, or even budded, clean up the leaves and boil them to prepare what Mom called “a mess of dandelions.”  They were quite tasty with butter on them, not yet bitter as older dandelion leaves tend to be.  Back in the day, after a long winter, people somehow knew they needed something green inside of them.  There were, of course, no supermarkets laden with salad greens of many sorts in cello bags.   Dandelions were right  there in the yard,  edible, and, of course, free.

Just last week coming out of church I noticed that purslane had started to grow where the daffodils had died down.  I picked a little piece and said to friend, Jim, “This stuff has lots of Omega-3’s.”  “It’s fresh,” he said.  “Are you going to eat it?”  And I did.   At this time of year, mid-June, purslane starts growing all over the place.  Many consider it a weed but I welcome it and I expect that I was nibbling on purslane when my son caught me.  You have to get your Omega-3’s when and where you can.  It has a bland taste, interesting texture, and makes a fine addition to any salad.


Health benefits of Purslane

This wonderful green leafy vegetable is very low in calories (just 16 kcal/100g) and fats; but is rich in dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Fresh leaves contain surprisingly more Omega-3 fatty acids (?-linolenic acid) than any other leafy vegetable plant. 100 grams of fresh purslane leaves provides about 350 mg of ?-linolenic acid. Research studies shows that consumption of foods rich in ?-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and also help prevent development of ADHD, autism, and other developmental differences in children.

It is an excellent source of Vitamin A, (1320 IU/100 g, provides 44% of RDA) one of the highest among green leafy vegetables. Vitamin A is a known powerful natural antioxidant and is essential for vision. This vitamin is also required to maintain healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in vitamin A known to help to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.

Purslane is also a rich source of vitamin C, and some B-complex vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine and carotenoids, as well as dietary minerals, such as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and manganese.   Read more

As kids somehow we had all learned that “sourgrass” was edible. It, too, is everywhere, with its clover-like leaves and little yellow flowers. On looking it up, I find other people know much more about plants than I do but it is described as pleasantly sour and “palatable.”


We kids used to pull at the tall grasses and nibble at their tender white insides. Purple clover, too, would provide a sweet nectar when you pulled the flower apart and sucked at it. (I wonder what happened to purple clover — haven’t seen it around lately.) Back in the day,  children would  spend time out in the fields investigating “things”.   Fields? What are those?

When my great-granddaughter was here a month ago she informed me that you can eat violets – the flowers, that is, not the leaves. Her Daddy told her that.  He takes her out exploring.

Another thing I tend to “graze” on when available is milkweed, especially the tenderest little tips. On investigating, I find that milkweed is much more edible than I knew.   Chickweed and lamb’s quarter are also free and nutritious in most back yards.  Here is a link to edible “weeds.”

Do something different today.   Go outdoors.   Graze.


July 31st, 2010


Just because the weather outside is incredibly hot and steamy doesn’t mean that interesting things aren’t going on outside, worthy of note.

The little bird sits at his door in the sun
Atilt like a blossom among the leaves
And lets his illumined being o’errun
With the deluge of summer he receives.

Yes, the robins did their thing again this year, in a different rosebush. And just a couple of days ago the last of the fledglings took flight. It’s about three weeks from hatch to dispatch and the rapidity of this metamorphosis never ceases to amaze me.

Two years ago a rabbit ravaged my garden. Last year the cause of devastation was a mole (or a family of moles?) This year a woodchuck decided I would have no broccoli and no parsley so I borrowed Stan’s Have-A-Heart trap and set it with a chocolate chip cookie plastered with peanut butter. In one day we caught a monster of a woodchuck which has been carted away to distant parts. I don’t know whether to reset the trap to see if the woodchuck has a family hereabouts. I worry that that might catch the skunk that I saw the other night and smelled this morning. What do I do if I catch a skunk?

Tomatoes are starting to ripen, thanks be to God. The miserable tomato blight that killed the whole crop last year makes us grateful for every healthy plant with the promise of yummy tomatoes this time around. As usual, I just pop the extra tomatoes into a bag in the freezer and usually have enough available for the entire year. Just hold the frozen tomato under warm water from the faucet and slip off the skin — behold, ready to cook for sauce or whatever.

The potato tops are starting to die down and digging can then begin. Mary and I find this enjoyable and like to do it together. Wonderful things happen underground when we’re not looking! (On another note, I suspect we have enough horseradish underground to start a small factory. But it is so hard to dig up that I usually settle for one small root a year, grate it, mix it with vinegar, and that’s that. Want to start a horseradish business?)

For years I shied away from petunias because they were everywhere. Finally I succumbed and used them in my flower boxes where they were, of course, colorful and prolific bloomers. This year I didn’t buy any, hoping they would reseed, but nothing happened and I was happy to receive lovely purple petunias for Mother’s Day. If I could have been patient until mid-June I would have learned that they would indeed reseed, in their own time. Bless them, they are now all over the place!

About five years ago some sort of vine started climbing up the rope hanging from my clothesline by the back door. Each year it returned and two years ago it bloomed in September, little white flowers all over it. This year it is mammoth and wants to take over the world!

Now that’s a VINE! When we Vinings do VINES we do them  RIGHT!

When I showed this vine to daughter Terry I told her that if we waited till September it would bloom for us. That was when she informed me that it must be a fall-blooming clematis. Of course I argued that it couldn’t be a clematis because the flowers are quite small and white and my spring-blooming clematis has bright magenta flowers 5 inches across. “It has clematis written all over it,” she exclaimed, and sure enough when I googled late-blooming clematis the picture looked exactly the same. I also read that it could easily cover a small shed or a slow-moving animal!

(Added: September 3.  Sure enough – it DID!  This is just a smidgin of it.  )

Fall-blooming clematis

I reluctantly add that we Vinings not only have rose vines (red, white, and wild), clematis, English ivy, a trumpet vine, but also a collection of truly evil vines which take over the garden about August. Perhaps if I do a special post on the evil vines that thrive hereabouts someone will 1) identify them and 2) tell me how to get rid of them.

Being a Vining is not all fun and flowers!

March 20th, 2010


LET’S  C E L E B R A T E !



The year’s at the spring
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hillside’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn:
God’s in His heaven—
All’s right with the world!

— Browning

October 28th, 2009


With Christmas coming up my thoughts turned to the poinsettia plant that I received last January from St. Peter’s.  Its  time on the altar was over and we parishioners were invited to take the poinsettias  home.  Mine has spent all of spring, summer, and most of the fall on the front porch and is now an even bigger, better, bushier  poinsettia, but, alas, quite green.   It is now back  in the house since we’ve had a couple of frosts.

How do I make it turn red for Christmas?   Google knows, of course, and according to the experts my plant needs 12-13 hours of dark each night — total dark — apparently it would be good if I could turn off the moon.  I started covering it at night with a big black plastic bag maybe two weeks ago and so far have forgotten the covering ritual at least twice.  I don’t know what will happen with this lackadaisical approach but I’ll let you know.

Here is a picture of the poinsettia now.   Tune in at Christmas-time for the results.



To me – choose thumbnail size (smallest)

September 1st, 2009


Ben Stein, host of the documentary Expelled:  No Intelligence Allowed, actor, writer, economist, commentator, writes in September 2009 NewsMax:

Ben Stein

Ben Stein

Once you have found yourself in a place you want to be, praise God.  Don’t think you did it yourself.  God put you there and deserves the praise.  Plus, praising God is probably the single best use of your time and energy.

As for me, I have to get on my knees now and thank the God who let me earn a living yesterday by playing make-believe.  And, as always, the men and women of the military who keep me free in a free country with their blood and their lives.  They are not playing make-believe.

No wonder Mr. Stein writes things worth reading!


When I wrote about my MagicJack back in January,  it was all new to me.  Now, half a year later, I should report how happy I am to have it.  In the past couple of days I have had nice long conversations with daughters in Indiana and New Mexico without having to think of mounting long distance charges or cell phone minutes accumulating.  While perhaps not as clear as a telephone line, it is for my purposes quite satisfactory.    NB:   This is not a paid, or even a solicited advertisement!


Garden Report:  On another front, my mole seems to be permanently gone from my garden.  I cannot blame it for feeling unwelcome — after doses of Mint Moleblaster (with and without habanero peppers), after having its hole filled with rocks, etc., etc., it  has vacated the premises.  I wish I could say the garden did well  but it rained almost every day this summer and something went dreadfully wrong with my tomatoes. The leaves just turned yellowish-gray and wilted away and the fruit had big brown spots.  Less than a dozen were edible.   For the first time in 40 years I will have no tomatoes frozen in my freezer for the coming winter.  The  (senior lapse here*) is deliriously happy and potatoes are yet to be harvested.   Peppers are so-so.   The weatherman reports that summer is over – we will have no more days over 90, he says.  Actually, this is the summer that wasn’t.  It just rained and rained and rarely was really hot.   We did have plenty of humidity!

*Basil.  It took me hours to come up with that word!  I had ‘balsam’ in my mind and it wouldn’t move over and let the basil in.  I was about to go out to the garden, pick some, and ask what its name was, when ‘basil’ came to mind.  For someone who has always had plenty of words on the tip of my tongue, this is a humbling experience.


(From Marion via Barbara)  As I was nursing my baby, my cousin’s six-year-old daughter, Krissy, came into the room. Never having seen anyone breast feed before, she was intrigued and full of all kinds of questions about what I was doing. After mulling over my answers, she remarked, ‘My mom has some of those, but I don’t think she knows how to use them.’


The Lord gives and the Lord takes away [harvests and memories].   Blessed be the name of the Lord.  — Job 1:21


August 29th, 2009




This year, behind our church, someone planted a flowering plant that I have not seen in over 70 years!  I recognized it right off!  Way back in the 1930’s, as a teenager, I planted a packet of  “old-fashioned garden” seeds and as they grew my mother identified them for me — cosmos, hollyhock, marigold, sweet William, and the plant by the church which I think she called “balsam.”  The flowers are tucked up close to the stalk, amid the leaves.

When I googled “balsam” there were pictures of a number of plants, none of which looked quite right.  But I did learn that those long-ago plants are called “antique flowers” and there is a online catalog of those old time flowers with really beautiful flower photos.  Remember zinnias?  When is the last time you saw a zinnia?  Or a common cosmos, for that matter?

I got to thinking about all the things my mother taught me besides flower names – like how to say the German alphabet (at age 5), how to know which shoe goes on which foot, how to dress so things are not inside-out and backside-front, how to sew on a treadle sewing machine, how to thread a needle, and on and on.   Is it not good of God to put us on earth with a mom and a dad to watch over us?  Dad worked and Mom was at home so she did a lot more teaching.   How to make cream of tomato soup so the tomatoes don’t curdle the milk, how to say please and thank you, how to cross the street.   How blessed is anyone who comes to earth with a half-way decent mother!

One day while we were looking at the garden,  Mom told me she had never deliberately hurt anyone.   I had no trouble believing it.  I cannot remember her ever hurting me in any way.  I remember only truth and caring.

In those days money was scarce, I was the oldest of five,  and I had an idea that my Dad was  looking forward to my graduating from high school and getting a job.   I was awarded a $100 scholarship to the local junior college and when I told Mom I wanted to go the college she said, “You’ll have to speak to Daddy.”  How well she knew the family dynamics!  I did, he said OK,  I ended up with a Bachelor’s,  and never was a financial boon to the family.   Note that I wasn’t asking for help to go to college, just for permission!

Mom taught me the first prayer I ever learned:

  • Angel of God
  • My guardian dear,
  • To whom His love
  • Commits me here.
  • Ever this day
  • Be at my side
  • To light and guard
  • To rule and guide.

The current politically correct version, of course, reads “To whom God’s love, commits me here.”  For some odd reason, it is deemed not proper to refer to God the Father with a masculine pronoun.   Go figure!  Next we’ll have to stop saying “Our Father.”

This, I guess, is a tribute to mothers.   I’ll top it off with a link to Danielle Bean’s “I sob because I care.”




A Christian who does not have Our Blessed Mother is a Christian orphan. — Homily, Fr. John Perez

Do whatever He tells you.  — Mary, John 2:5

July 16th, 2009


I seriously doubt that there is anyone in this whole world who has been waiting impatiently to find out whether the Mint Mole Blaster successfully evicted the mole from my garden.  Of course, I’m going to tell you anyway.  Moles reputedly hate the smell of mint. We blended a large handful of fresh mint from the garden with water in the blender and then boiled it up to make a slurry.   For a couple of days we poured a large quantity of this Mole Blaster into the mole hole, and added a few branches of fresh mint for good measure.   Mole didn’t seem to mind.  Then I mixed up more fresh mint plus a habanero pepper in the blender.  (If you’ve ever tried to eat a habanero, you know it is seriously obnoxious and painful!)  And for good measure I followed that with gallons of water.  Mole remained.  Then I stuffed the mole hole with rocks. Mole came up (or went in, I don’t know which) alongside.

At this point I was beginning to feel really mean.  What’s the big deal?  The little critter doesn’t eat my vegetables – just wants the lovely bugs and slugs under my mulch.  Maybe mole has babies in her den.  Maybe it was time for a détente?  Live and let live?  Finally, I stuffed the hole with rocks and put a heavy watering can filled with water on top.

I think it’s gone!  It has been several days now and no sign of the mole.  I’m going to miss him/her.  Isn’t that the way it always is with things (and people) that annoy you?  Will I be nicer should s/he come back?   I don’t know.


And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. — Genesis 1:26