Lilac Time

Our old white farmhouse was surrounded by lilac bushes, which were often out in time for Mother’s Day, an occasion we always celebrated on the farm with a big family meal which my mother prepared.   Looking back, it seems strange we made her cook on Mother’s Day, but then my grandmother always came over, so she probably considered it her daughterly duty, and was happy having all her kids home, even if it did mean we ended up doing two hours of dishes by hand in the days before the dishwasher.   Out would come the lace tablecloth and the good china, and the long farm table, dating from 1870, would be extended to its maximum length, with later another set up in the kitchen for the ever-growing collection of grandchildren.   Of course, this was in the days before going out for brunch became popular, which we tried occasionally but which was often a disappointment, restaurants always being so busy that day, and the kids not being able to play outside, where the lawn and orchard would be sunny with dandelions.    

Those old farm lilacs were common in the countryside, with almost every farmhouse (which back then only came in two types, white clapboard or yellow brick), sporting a bush or two.   But ours were special, as they surrounded the house on three sides.   If it was a nice day with a south breeze and the windows open, the smell was heavenly.    The fragrance would waft in through the kitchen and living room windows, and also the upstairs bedrooms, as the bushes were quite tall.      

lilacs 1 (3)

We also picked some to bring inside and put in vases, something I still do to this day.   Even when I was older, I would always take a bouquet or two home, wrapped up in tinfoil, to put on the kitchen counter.  

lilacs

After my father passed away and my mother moved into town, my sister brought her two lilac bushes as a house warming present.   They lasted about fifteen years and then had to be cut down.   I planted two lilac bushes in the corner of my yard ten years ago, and they are now starting to look spindly.  One bush smells like what I remember, the other does not.    Of course, they are late this year, like everything else, so these are pictures from last year.

Lilacs

There are over 2000 varieties of lilacs, according to the International Lilac Society, in a wide range of colors, sizes and blooms.    Common lilacs generally prefer cold winters, well drained soil and full sun.   They are low maintenance and require little watering, once established – my kind of plant! 

lilacs

My neighbor has the darker purple kind, which does not smell nearly as nice, but then maybe I’m just being nostalgic.

lilacs

All lilacs are lovely, (except those four foot Korean Dwarfs, my Miss Kim never bloomed once), but it is the old-fashioned kind I love the most.   While the nursery sold me the variety known as “common lilac” they certainly don’t seem as hardy as those old farm lilacs, which must have been heirloom stock, as they were still going strong at eighty years plus.   (Some varieties only last 10 to 15 years.)   The “common lilac” has the largest and longest blooms and the most fragrant flowers and can grow up to twenty feet.   Ours would be pruned back once in awhile when they got too tall, (only prune immediately after the spring bloom), but they were always leafy and full, and the branches made excellent spears for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over a backyard bonfire.  

Lilacs

I was told my grandmother planted them sometime in the 1920’s when she was newly married, after the house was raised, a basement put under it and a veranda added.   She also planted a row of white spirea bushes beside them, so it formed a little alcove.  lilacs 2 revised I would sometimes take a book or magazine there and sit and read, sheltered from the wind, stopping once in awhile just to breathe in the scent.   Here’s the view, looking out. 

lilacs on the farm 1 (2)

Someone needs to cut the grass!

After my mother moved, the house and the lilacs were bulldozed down to make room for  more acreage – a sad fate after so many years of providing beauty.   I wish I had thought to take a cutting or two, but I was busy with life and not much interested in gardening then.       

Last fall, I bought two Bloomerang Lilacs on sale, a variety new to me, but then I’m always behind on the latest gardening trends.   (Here’s a link to more info.)   They are similar to the popular Bloom Again Hydrangeas, and will rebloom in the summer and fall after a short rest.  They will only grow to 5 feet, making them more like a shrub than a tree.   Mine seem to have survived the winter nicely and even have buds on them.   I like the idea of having lilacs for three seasons, as a week or two in May seems much too short.   

Lilac Bloomerang

This would make a nice Mother’s Day gift!

If you’re ever in northern Michigan in early June, check out the famous Mackinac Island Lilac Festival (link added to bucket list).   No cars are allowed on the island, but you can cross on the ferry and stay at the Grand Hotel (where Somewhere in Time was filmed) and tour via bike or horse drawn carriage – now that really is going back in time.   Visiting this lilac paradise is a nice way to welcome summer after a cold and snowy winter.  Here are a few pictures from Victoria Magazine, May 2000 issue. 

Victoria Lilacs 1 (2)

Victoria Lilacs 4 (2)

Happy Mother’s Day!

Lilacs - AMc

Farm Lilacs

 

 

 

 

   

Blockheads and Daffodils

Which is more depressing, forty days of rain or using the new WordPress Block/Gutenberg editor?

Even the daffodils are depressed

Unlike Enchanted April (link to last blog), this past April has been anything but enchanting.   Day after day of rain and gloomy skies – on Tuesday we even had a bit of sleet, and some places received several inches of snow.   These cold wet late springs are beginning to be the norm here, and it seems you need to book a vacation to an Italian castle if you want to enjoy nice weather and blooming flowers in April anymore.    Despite the debate over climate change, it does make you stop and think – are we ruining the earth?    It’s enough to make you depressed, like poor old Charlie Brown of the Peanuts cartoon fame – remember how Lucy was always calling him a blockhead.

Which brinks me to my second topic, the new WordPress block editor or Gutenberg Editor, as it is named after Johannes Gutenberg, who invented a printing press with movable type more than 500 years ago.    If you are not familiar with it yet, each paragraph, photo, video etc, is contained in it’s own separate block, and there is an option to try out this new Editor on the right hand menu in Draft. Since we are all (sooner or later), to be made mandatory Blockheads by WordPress, you may now have another reason to be depressed other than the weather, unless of course you’re the kind of person who enjoys coding and fiddling with layouts.   If you’re just here for the joy of blogging, then it seems like the new editor has taken all the fun out of it.    I’m not sure how they managed to take something so simple (writing and inserting pretty pictures) and make it so complicated.    Of course, I may change my mind once I get used to it, but it seems to be taking twice as long to do anything, if you can even figure it out in the first place.    On my first try I could not even paste in the draft I had written in Office Word.   I had heard that it would automatically convert it to blocks so I wouldn’t have to copy and paste each paragraph individually.   Was I not in the right block? I finally gave up and tried to exit back to the Classic Editor but could not find the button.    I googled and read the tutorial and tried to contact a Happiness Engineer to no avail, and after wasting an hour finally located it at the bottom of some sub-menu.   Intuitive it is not.   Perhaps hiding the button was deliberate, thereby forcing me to stay here until I figured it out, but the hour grew late and I was starting to panic. It was like being in one of those reality “escape room” games where you have to figure out the clues or you’d be stuck there forever.     

When I first joined WordPress almost two years ago, there were 32 million followers on here, now there are 52 million.     I’m not sure what is behind their reason for the change to the block format (could it be the new European copyright laws coming?), but I would bet the majority of those on here are either amateur bloggers or smaller business sites, who don’t want, have the time or even care about how they can endlessly change and create new layouts by moving blocks around.    It’s a puzzle to me, but then I am only a very small tadpole in a great big pond.    I checked a recent survey though, 1800 of 2700 users who had tried it were not happy, so I don’t think I’m alone.    It would be nice if WordPress would leave us the option to continue with the current Classic editor, if that is a possibility?  (Asking nicely here, but not really expecting a positive response, as they didn’t listen about the dark blue likes and links which don’t contrast well to black ink.)     

Ah well, the second attempt was better, but I watched a youtube tutorial first to get the basics. I’m sure there are many more icons and features I will need to know at some point, like just exactly how did I do the links? The captions were fun though. I’ll try it out to see if it will solve the problem of my very thin font with the Sela theme…(it did not, although I was allowed to make it larger). I’ll even try a background color, maybe yellow….pretty fancy eh? (Except it’s not really yellow, it’s called luminous vivid amber.) But good grief Charlie Brown, it’s just not worth all the grief. I think I would prefer to remain Glutenberg-free! Now where is that exit button again?

To cheer up I went for a walk in the woods.   Here’s a link to last years blog, Among the Daffodils, because daffodils always remind me of sunshine, and we need some right now.  

see how late the spring is, not a bud on the trees.
now this is yellow!
woodland fairyland

PS.  Have you tried the new Gutenberg/Block Editor yet? 

The Literary Salon – Enchanted April

Last April I posted about a delightful book, Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnin, and since it is April again, I thought this would be a good selection for this month’s Literary Review.    Although this book was written almost a hundred years ago, it’s a favorite of mine for it’s theme of beauty and hope, and how a lovely environment can renew one’s life and perspective.  Here’s a link to the blog……Enchanted April.    I hope your April has been enchanting too! 

The Enchanted AprilThe Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I absolutely loved this book, but I had watched the movie first. A timeless tale with a lovely story line and such vivid descriptions of flowers, gardens and beautiful countryside that you almost felt like you were there.

Italian Villa - AMc - 2015

Italian Villa – 2015

Signs of Spring

Spring is late again this year.  Having survived a particularly brutal winter, which started early and never let up, we’re all tired of the snow and the cold, and anxious for the first signs of spring.   So, here’s my take on the Six on Saturday Garden post….   

March 20 – The first official day of spring – saw my first robin, who was uncooperative for a photo-shoot, hopping away every time I got near.  Unfortunately the zoom lens on my camera is broken so this is as close as I got.  Robin

March 22 –  The tulip and daffodil tips are peeking through on the south side of the house and some of the rose bush stems are starting to turn green.

daffodil tips

March 23 – Went out for a walk for the first time in weeks, the wind was cold but the sun was bright, and the neighbor’s snowdrops were out in full force.  

snowdrops

March 25 – The Angry Bird  – I opened the front door to check the temperature this morning and saw the morning doves have returned.   One was sitting on the front step, looking quite perturbed now that it has to find a new place to nest.   They are life long lovers and creatures of habit, but as they didn’t build a nest last year I thought it was safe to install new light fixtures.    I’m feeling guilty but my new lights are so much nicer than the old.  

Morning Doves

Mr. And Mrs. Lovebird

light fixture

March 26 –  So nice to see a blue sky again, especially against a budding maple tree.Blue sky and maple buds

March 27 –  saw my first crocus while returning a book to the library.   Their flower beds are always gorgeous because they have professional gardeners maintain them.  

crocus

March 28 – first spring-like day, 15 C, and first milkshake from the Dairy Queen –  chocolate of course.   Drove home with the windows down.  Dairy Queen Milkshake

March 29 – The ice is gone from the river and the sunlight is sparkling on the water again.    river view

March 30 – our first all day spring rain flooded the back forty, but brought a tinge of green to the grass.  spring rain

March 31 – brought a return to winter and a couple of inches of snow – the robin was not amused.    The snow hung around for a more few days – is this some kind of April Fools joke? Robin

A pot of hyacinths can provide a small dose of beauty, hyacinth

while we wait for this.        

Daffodils and hyacinths

What wonderful sights await us in a few more weeks.   Happy Spring!   

May Flowers

April showers bring May flowers, so the saying goes.    Finally we are having some signs of spring here after what must be the longest winter ever.   Midway through April and nothing but single digit temperatures, flurries and freezing rain.  The flowers were up and trying to be brave but why bloom when you can hide.   But today it rained, a soft spring rain, destined to bring the first new fuzz out on the trees, a shade of green that is impossible to describe.  new spring green birch trees

Here’s some proof that warm weather is on it’s way.

Forsythia and Siberian Squill,Forsythia and Blue Flowers

Siberian Squill

Purple Vinca,Purple flowers and tulips

purple vinca

Purple Vinca and Orange Tulips

I like the mixture of colors in this clump of tulips, so cheerful to see while walking on a rainy spring day.

Tulips

This is the best time of year for lazy gardeners, as mother nature is doing all the work. 

All the fruits of last years fall plantings are bursting forth, and we can just sit back and enjoy the show.

Pink tulip

my favorite pink tulip

 

 

The final sign, the love birds are back and nesting.   They arrived during the last ice storm and had that nest assembled practically overnight, hence the messy job.  It was so cold they must have felt the need for some extra layers.  They need to do some spring cleaning and so do I, but first a cup of tea on the deck to listen to the birds and gaze at nature’s masterpiece.

Postscript:  for more pretty flower pics see last weeks post Among the Daffodils

Daffodils and hyacinths

 

 

Among the Daffodils

Daffodils are one of the earliest messengers of spring and after such a long late brutal winter, the warm weather has finally arrived.   I think we are in need of a little dose of sunshine, and perhaps some poetry.Daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsmith may be famous for the poem, I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud, but I think I much prefer his sister Dorothy’s 1802 journal entry about the walk in the English Lake District which inspired the poem.

“When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side, we fancied that the lake had floated the seed ashore and that the little colony had so sprung up – But as we went along there were more and yet more and at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the Lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here and there a little knot and a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity and unity and life of that one busy highway – We rested again and again. The Bays were stormy and we heard the waves at different distances and in the middle of the water like the sea.”Daffodils

This acre of wild daffodils in a wooded lot is enough to motivate me to start my daily walks again.   Every spring I thank the lovely soul who originally planted these heirloom gems, as they have reseeded themselves over the years in a way that my modern bulbs never seem to do.   Mine might start out in orderly clumps, Daffodilsbut the squirrels have great fun transplanting them and they eventually end up lonely as a cloud.  Daffodil

They are especially lovely paired with the delicate blue of Siberian Squill, a bulb that can be invasive over time, but who would mind?  Daffodils & Blue Flowers

Daffodils are the most cheerful of flowers, so bright and sunny, waving in the breeze as if they are announcing that spring is here.   No wonder they belong to the Narcissus family, they demand look at me, and we do!  Welcome spring!    

Daffodils indoors

Postscript:  for more pretty pics see May Flowers blog.

 

Easter Chicks

Spring Fling - AMc - 2016

Spring Fling – 2016

After the earthy tones of winter, we are all craving the colors of spring.   Pretty pastels, soft greens, yellows, purples and pinks, all the colors of nature when she’s decides to put on her spring fling.   Even though it’s not yet warm enough to sit out on the deck, we can always dream, and decorate with a few Easter egg touches until mother nature agrees to cooperate.   Never fear, this blog is mostly pretty pictures.   (There may be cake at the end.)

Paperwhites, started in January, can be an early reminder of spring and it is wonderful to come home to such a heavenly smell.   Hyacinths are great too.

 

I forgot to buy Paperwhites this year, so I made do with a new candle in one of my favorite scents, rose water.

Rose and Ivy Candle

Victoria magazine is one of my favorite reads.   I have a collection of old editions in the basement and like to browse through them for seasonal decorating ideas.   For those weary of winter and in search of an early dose of spring the new 2018 March/April edition is a feast of gorgeous color.   Victoria Spring 2018

Victoria Daffodils

I found this garden gate table decor at Winner’s a few years ago and thought it might make a nice centerpiece, with some daffodils in the middle.

 

Also found this cute little guy to put inside one of my indoor bird cages.

Baby Bird

I saw my first robin yesterday, but he was camera shy and got away before I could point and shoot.  They will soon be getting plump and fat, and preparing their nests.   This is a well behaved bird, who chose her birthing bed wisely, a sturdy tree with lots of supporting branches.Robin in nest

This is a badly behaved bird who chose her nesting place just to annoy me.    morning dove Apparently morning doves mate for life, and these two lovebirds have insisted for years upon building their nest on my front light fixture, so I have just resigned myself to never ever getting new light fixtures because what would be the point.

Morning Doves

Mr & Mrs. Lovebird

They are very efficient creatures who can assemble a home in a day, and often the nest is built and the eggs laid before I even realize it, and then I don’t have the heart to do anything.   But last year I was ahead of the game and brushed the twigs off before they could get a head start.    After a few days of this build and toss tussle, they finally gave up and went elsewhere, but then I felt guilty.   I had destroyed their home, when they were just trying to feather their nest, the same as I do.   This year I am hoping we can co-exist somewhat peacefully, except they do tend to coo a lot, which is annoying so early in the morning.

The crocus usually pop up where ever ever they feel like it, sometimes in the middle of a bush, seldom where I planted them.  There must be a secret underground passage for wayward bulbs.  My elderly more sensible crocuses are still hiding under the lavender but these younger braver souls are blooming in front of the library. Crocus

These pretty blue flowers are one of the first signs of spring, but spring has been very late this year so this is a picture from last year.   It’s not my yard but I wish I could get them to populate on my grass.

blue flowers and forsythia

The annual trek to buy the windup Easter chicks…..they break after a few hours but what little one doesn’t love them.

Easter Chicks

My mother always had an Easter lily on the farm, and coming home after church for our family dinner of ham and scalloped potatoes is associated with the smell of the lily on the kitchen counter near the sink.  (Perhaps I remember it so well because of the two hours spent washing dishes by hand pre-dishwasher days!)

Easter Lily

Can you smell it?

Traditionally, we would either have a cherry cheesecake for desert or coconut angel food cake or a pineapple upside down cake.   This year I made a pineapple upside down cake, using the recipe from her old Purity Flour cookbook.   Sprinkle brown sugar (I like lots), in the bottom of a well buttered cake pan, lay out the pineapple slices and pour the cake batter on top – voila, a fast and easy desert.

 

I nixed the cherries though because of the red dye, (we didn’t worry about such things back then), although they do make a festive touch.  You could try strawberries perhaps?    If you haven’t time for that, President’s Choice makes a perfectly acceptable frozen cake in individual portions.  (Note PC is a Canadian brand.)

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

PC Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Although we can’t bring our spring clothes out just yet, I have noticed the weather girl on my local tv station has switched from her winter scarfs to her spring ones. Spring scarf If I had such a vast collection of colorful artfully tied scarves I’m sure I could learn to love inclement weather too.   I am sure there must be a stylist on set to drape all those scarves just so……the art of the scarf might be a French technique? She is predicting possible snow flurries for Easter tomorrow, so I hope the bunny bundles up.

Happy Easter!  May the Easter bunny bring lots of chocolat français.

The Easter Bunny