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Green Green Green is the Thing

top view photo of clover leaves

Green for St. Patrick’s Day!

Today we celebrate all things green, with all the green pictures from last year’s garden! Once again, it is time for March Madness, grow lights, and starting seedlings indoors in zones 4-6 or so.

Whether you enjoy green beer or not, let’s use this week as a reason to celebrate! Celebrate spring. Celebrate a new year. Celebrate health, if you are blessed with it. Celebrate a hot cup of coffee. Celebrate the first baby seedlings poking their heads up out of the potting mix.

I lost all my stored garden seeds.

I am actually behind on my spring planting this year. My shoebox of garden seeds was THROWN AWAY to my great sadness. It used to live in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator. Then, we got a new fridge.

Maybe you can see where this is going.

The new fridge turned out not to work, but we had already put a few things into it. We called and were able to have another new fridge delivered the next day. The replacement fridge worked just fine, and is still going strong…

You can see where this is going.

We took out the few things we had put into the original replacement refrigerator–except for the onions and the box of garden seeds in the bottom drawer. Also, I failed to realize this. Until a few weeks later when I was ready to start planting. So, now it will be a little while longer.

Anyone who keeps a stash of garden seeds will appreciate how crestfallen I was to realize that probably $40 worth of seeds including, marigolds, a variety of heirloom tomato and pepper seeds, and various annuals that we grow every year. I am not going to be able to replace all of the varieties in one go since that would be pretty wasteful.

The garden will be just fine, though.

Happy Spring!

green plant clover close up photography
Photo by Elias Tigiser on Pexels.com

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Winter Forest

There are three main ways I like to enjoy the winter forest.

There is no bad weather, just bad clothes.

Traditional saying

The first is taking a walk or run. If I run, I use winter gear including trail shoes that are just shy of being cleats; which is still no particular insurance against ice. If I walk, I may take the dog with me, and I put her jacket on her as well as protective gel on her paws before we go out.

The second way is taking photos. My favorite thing is hoar frost which does not happen as often. Someday it would be fun to get into wildlife photography.

My third way is to put out some extra dried cranberries, suet, or what have you, at the bird feeder because it is rather slim pickings for the small birds after a big snow or ice storm. They enjoy the extra calories, and I enjoy watching the increased number and frequency of different species visiting. (And practicing some citizen science on Merlin Bird ID App by Cornell Lab as a citizen ornithologist, aka amateur birdwatcher.)

I’ve always enjoyed winter in the forest for the decrease in color and the accompanying increase in texture and contrast. It also makes the Great Indoors more fun when it is inclement out. A roaring fire and hot drink is the way to go.

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Holiday Hot Cocoa

First the quick way, then the “real” way.

Basic but nice:

  1. Hot chocolate mix and hot water
  2. Tea spoon of decaf instant coffee
  3. Cream or half n half or almond milk to bring it down to drinking temperature
  4. 2 drops peppermint extract OR two shakes ground nutmeg
  5. Stir gently and thoroughly
  6. Whipped cream topping and sprinkles

Fancy way:

  1. 2 spoons baking cocoa with just enough boiling water to dissolve it
  2. Confectioners sugar to taste, gently stirred in
  3. 2-3 spoons brewed decaf coffee
  4. Cool milk or cream added to desired drinking temp
  5. (Optional: Stir in using a milk frother for more of a latte texture)
  6. Peppermint extract 2-4 drops, OR 1/2 teaspoon of 1:1:1 mixture nutmeg, ginger, and all spice (Not everyone likes the added flavor, though)
  7. Pure heavy cream, beaten until you have God’s greatest creation, homemade whipped cream
  8. Top with whipped cream and either sprinkles or nutmeg

A few afterthoughts:

  • You can leave out the coffee if you can’t stand coffee flavor no matter how slight. Most people will not even taste it, but rather it will potentiate the chocolate flavor.
  • When I say spoons I mean the ordinary eating utensil. Our cutlery set has larger and smaller spoons and we use the smaller ones 99% of the time. Ultimately those measurements are to taste and the size of the mug used will affect this, too.
  • I am experimenting with salted caramel and maple syrup versions.
  • Chocolate syrup drizzle could be a nice addition.
  • In the quantities listed, you could use regular coffee and the caffeine would still be negligible for most people.
  • For plain hot chocolate without added flavors, I’d recommend a pinch of sea salt on top. This is also a good hack for coffee that is too bitter whether from over-brewing or imperfect beans.

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The year 2020: reflections

The year 2020 was confusing

What a memorable blur of a year. Reflecting on the year 2020… Some days and weeks slid by without events to mark them. Other days, especially holidays, birthdays, milestones, and anniversaries, stand out for their stark contrast to past celebrations.

Now the weather is getting colder, it takes a little more effort to get out the door for a therapeutic dose of nature. It is worth it!

2020 theme: Appreciating nature more

Beauty is everywhere ephemeral. This year nature put on especially good displays in the garden, in the forest, and on the lake.

Reflecting on 2020, we were just more aware of the show, being on lockdown. The whitetail deer fawns arrived on schedule, and in the fall we spotted a larger buck we hadn’t seen before. The wrens and swallows that favor certain spots raised their fledglings in the spring.

Hordes of geese descended, swam, and took flight. Epic splashdowns. Honking battles. Show offs standing around and chatting on top of the thinnest ice. They are very self-important, these guys. Occasionally, a couple of mallards brave the edges of the lake. The reticent wood duck family made appearances once or twice.

There is a particular dead tree where the juvenile bald eagles roost for a few days after their parents kick them out and before they find their own territory. Red-tail hawks and Cooper’s hawks were more common, likely in part due to the proliferation of backyard vegetable gardens in 2020.

This led in turn to a proliferation of squirrels and opossums. Less so, racoons (too crafty) and rabbits (too delicious to predators, apparently). We only saw foxes a few times.

Hooting owls all over the place. I learned that it is usually a pair of owls. The male and female hoot to each other. Now whenever I hear one, I listen for the other.

I am still just beginning to learn the names of the various flora. It could take my whole life, and that just in the North American part of the world that I love so much.

The year 2020 highlighted the neighborhood

One of the things I really enjoyed this year was the friendliness of the neighborhood. We have amazingly kind neighbors on all sides, really. This is not something you can buy. It is not something you can know until you live in a place.

In a rather contentious year in the broader political landscape, people were stuck at home more.

Not having lived in a neighborhood per se growing up, and then having lived in small apartments and for a year, a rented room in someone else’s house, as a young adult; the neighborhood still feels a little novel to me. I think it always will, in the same way that winter, true cold, and the far North will always fascinate me, having grown up in the desert Southwest.

So, people were stuck at home more. But with the daily grace of living in a place where taking walks outside is a practical thing to do, even during the days of full lockdown. Reflecting on the year 2020, agree with me that walks are good.

And so we began to know our neighbors more. We had met our immediate neighbors, but now we started to know almost the whole neighborhood by sight and to say hello to.

You would just smile to see your neighbors. A break in the monotony of isolation. We were all feeling the strain.

The year 2020 is drawing to a close

Life is a bit bleak right now.

We are still hunkering down.

We are not back to normal.

We are not sure about the new normal.

But this, too, shall pass.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Dr. Maya Angelou

We will not forget how you made us feel, 2020.