Gardening: and so it begins

This is the time of year when the weather turns warm for a brief period and reminds me that spring is just around the corner. And being reminded of spring brings the realization that I have a LOT of work to do!

My favorite time of year to be a gardener is in the dead of winter when the first seed azaleacatalog arrives. It’s during this season that my garden exists in sublime perfection. The beds are without weeds, the destructive insects have chosen to bypass my little part of the world, the pollinators are plentiful, the flowers are beautiful and neatly arrayed, the vegetables (all 20 or 30 varieties of them) are hearty and producing large and vibrant produce that would be the envy of any self-respecting farmer.

Of course, it’s all in my imagination.

The true state of my garden in winter is one of neglect – sad, pathetic, dismal neglect.

So, as the robins fill my yard heralding the arrival of spring, I am spurred into action. So much to do and less and less time to do it!

Today, I picked up 10 bags of mulch, probably 1/3 of what I’ll end up needing when it’s all said and done. That was the only thing I had planned to purchase, but somehow I came home with two azaleas and a gardenia.

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If you buy the bags of mulch that  have been split and are re-bagged, you get them discounted!

I tackled one of two front beds on either side of my porch. For years it has had lantana which has steadily looked worse and worse and I’m pretty sure finally died of natural causes (neglect is a natural cause, right???). I’ve wanted to do away with the lantana and replace it with something a bit more structured for some time, but I tend to focus my limited gardening attention span on plants that produce things that I can eat.

Since the lantana had mostly died back and I had actually done a pretty thorough job of weeding the bed already, I decided today was the day.

partly coveredAfter digging the holes and planting my new little shrubs, I covered the rest of the ground with several layers of newspaper and topped with about 2 inches of mulch. I’m hoping, with that special kind of optimism that only a gardener can muster, that it will be enough to keep the future weeding to a minimum.

I’m thinking of filling in some of the bare space with perennial herbs like thyme and oregano for some ground cover and maybe a couple lavender plants for some varied height. I’m also going to keep an eye out for something interesting and artsy to place toward the back of the bed for some additional height and interest. (Since I can’t plant back there because there are no gutters to divert the watershed.)

The bed on the other side of the porch is still a work-in-progress,  in my mind, that is. I’m limited to what I can plant there because it is entirely shaded. I am thinking of putting hydrangeas there, which I love, but have never grown successfully. Any thoughts or suggestions on shade loving plants that work well in Zone 8? (Oh, and that don’t mind too much if they are somewhat neglected?)azalea bed

Speaking of neglect in the garden, I do find that sometimes it works quite well in my favor. Especially with organic gardening, it can provide some great benefits.

Plants left in place will die and return their nutrients to the soil where they fall. The layer of debris protects the soil from erosion and drying out, it also provides a place for many beneficial insects to winter over. Some plants will generously reseed themselves. The little volunteers pop up and are often a pleasant surprise. (Though the time I had 20 volunteer Mexican sunflowers in the vegetable bed felt a bit more like an invasion than anything else.)

At any rate, I prefer to think of neglect as a clever plan rather than a dereliction of duty on my part.

One bed taken care of, but it is just the beginning…

 

 

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Jarrell Plantation: beauty and brains

Jarrell Plantation is located in the gently rolling hills just north of Macon. One of Georgia’s historic sites, this antebellum homestead was owned by the same family for more than 140 years before being donated to the State. IMG_4477

Ok, that’s all I know about the history. If you visit, there is much more that you can learn if you choose. I opted to skip the informative video and not be bothered with toting around the notebook full of facts and figures… I was there to take photos!

IMG_4513With a beautiful natural setting, historic buildings, and early industrial machinery, there are lots of things of interest to look at (and photograph). The plantation is beautifully maintained and staged. It’s like the inhabitants and workers have just stepped away and you are the nosy neighbor who gets to poke around and see what’s what.

IMG_4506I love that! The freedom to wander and spend as much or as little time as you’d like, and since I often “see” with my hands, I enjoy that there are plenty of things there that I was able to get up close and personal with.

It’s the kind of place where history takes on physical form providing the opportunity to see, touch, feel and experience things that may have only been seen before as an image in a book or in the mind’s eye. There are lots of teaching/learning opportunities, especially if you have kids.

I love to see how things work, so for me, it was fun to be able to get close to some of the machinery and get a good look at the gears and levers and chains and various accouterments, visualizing how they must have functioned back in the day.

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I also love architecture and it was quite fascinating to look at how these buildings were put together and to marvel at the fact that they are structurally sound and still standing after more than a century.

 

Things to know before you go: this is what I would refer to as an “outdoor museum” so the weather will greatly influence your experience, there is a small admission fee, picnic tables are available on site but there are no restaurants or stores once you turn off the main highway so go prepared, bathroom facilities are available, and there is a calendar of events on the website.

Accessibility is somewhat limited. There are pathways that make all of the buildings relatively accessible from the outside for most. However, those with mobility issues requiring a wheelchair or other type of mobility device will not have access to the inside of the buildings which all require the use of stairs.

http://gastateparks.org/JarrellPlantation

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Check out that saddle notch joinery!
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I think this is my favorite photo of the day. I’m calling it, “Balancing Act”!  🙂

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Confluence: the flowing together of two or more streams

It’s funny how you can go along making seemingly random choices about disparate elements of your life only to reach a point where those elements converge into an “aha” moment of clarity. In hindsight, it could almost look like all the pieces of a well-laid plan finally came together, just as I had always known it would. A well-laid plan, perhaps, but not one I was fully clued in on.

Let me back the truck up for a moment, so I can take you on this little side trip with me.

I have recently taken a HUGE leap of faith and made a deliberate and not altogether comfortable decision to be a writer.  Not to write, which is something that I have always done, not even to say that my job is to write; but to fully embrace what I believe is my calling and, come hell or high water, to boldly proclaim – I am a writer!

I don’t know about how it works for other people, but for me the process of getting to the point where I could make that statement about myself, took a lot of time, self-reflection, attitude adjustment and not a small amount of courage.

Shortly after I made my proclamation to myself, I launched my new website, http://www.carefreewriting.com, to help me shout it from the web-tops! And shortly after that, I started this blog as well.

So, this point in the narrative brings me to another seemingly unrelated decision made back in October of last year – to join a leadership program in my local community. As part of the program, we were recently required to complete the Gallup Strengths Center survey to discover our top five strengths.

Without boring you with too many details, I’ll just say this: my top five strengths all lend themselves nicely to a writing career (as opposed to some of the other careers I’ve given a whirl over the years).

What does any of this have to do with being a South Georgia Transplant and the purpose of this blog? Just bear with me, I’m getting there.

When I saw my strength results and read the descriptions of each, I had to chuckle over one in particular, Input. Simply put, a person with Input as a strength likes to collect things, especially information. One characteristic mentioned was that someone with this trait might enjoy reading dictionaries and encyclopedias (to the confoundment of others).

About five days before taking this test, I had ordered a book called, Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape. I had been nerdily awaiting its arrival because I could not wait to dive into this dictionary of landscape terminology which I had ordered, in part, to help me do a better job of writing on this blog.

As I read the introduction, something I’m not particularly prone to do, I was stopped in my tracks when I came across this passage written by Barry Lopez that so eloquently sums up the purpose of this particular journey that I am on as the South Georgia Transplant.

“What many of us are hopeful of now, it seems, is being able to gain – or regain – a sense of allegiance with our chosen places, and along with that a sense of affirmation with our neighbors that the place we’ve chosen is beautiful, subtle, profound, worthy of our lives.”

How beautiful is that?

Three relatively unrelated decisions, the results of which came together on this day to reaffirm, reinvigorate, and reassure.

(I would like to state here that I am not affiliated in any way with this book or with the Gallup Strengths Center. I have embedded the links to the official websites to both should you like to read more about them.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Civil War Culture: the south will rise again

I was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, so Civil War history was practically ingrained in my psyche from birth. It may seem odd to say, but though I can remember studying the Civil War in history class, I cannot remember far enough back into my childhood to remember when I first became aware of its significance.

DSC_1288Having said that, it was not until I moved back to the South and to South Georgia in particular, that I was fully struck by the impact that historical war still has on society today. Racial and political discourse stemming from the war aside, physical reminders of the Civil War abound.

Confederate flags fly proudly, monuments commemorating the lives of Confederate soldiers or the feats of Confederate heroes can be found in towns big and small all across the state.

I have always been a lover of history. And I believe it is important to know and remember where we’ve been so we can set a path to where we are going.  And as Edmund Burke is often quoted, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

And it’s great when history can be brought to life. This brings me to Civil War battle reenactments.

DSC_0044I had heard of an annual battle reenactment that takes place just a few miles from my current home and for many years I would have every intention of going without ever actually following through.

But last year, I was writing for the local newspaper and decided, this was my year!

So, I invited my Dad to come along and we headed out to the Battle of Manassas (right here in South Georgia – Tattnall County, to be exact.).

DSC_0813I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. From walking among the tents and watching the soldiers prepare for battle to having (literally) a front row seat to a battle scene, I was fully engaged. Gunfire, canonfire, the thundering of horses’ hooves were more than just heard, but experienced.

DSC_0981As a photographer, I absolutely loved the rich array of photographic opportunities (I think I took around 1,000 photos – thank God for digital photography!). In fact, it’s because I had so many great shots from this experience that I wanted to include the reenactment in this blog. How often do you get the chance to take pictures of history?

So, I hope you enjoy these photos! This annual reenactment takes place near Manassas, Georgia (not to be confused with Manassas, Virginia where this battle originally took place). The event is always scheduled for the 3rd weekend in March and is hosted by the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

This particular battle was not only chosen because of its name, but also because the South which initially loses its fort, comes back victorious in the end!

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Robert E. Lee, is that you?