How can a whole month and more have flown by since I wrote here? I don't get it. So very much has happened. My friend Sharon finally prodded me into action. I do wish, even though I think of this blog daily, that I could get myself here to post more often. A new resolution.
I have purchased my ticket to Italy in September! Well, I bought a ticket from Nashville to Zurich, actually. I will stay one night in Einsiedeln, home of one of the world-famous black madonnas, then I will ride the train down through the Alps to Milan. I hope that my one non-madonna stop in Italy will be to see The Last Supper in Milan. Then one madonna close by to Milan. I've also made a tentative itinerary for my trip, 26 visits to black madonna sites in 21 days. A whirlwind. This is not a "rent a palazzo and enjoy the wine" trip -- it's definitely a work trip, to see these madonnas and take pictures of them.
I have also whipped my veggie garden into shape. There's always more that I could do, of course -- that's the nature of any garden, I think. But I've planted 11 tomato plants, 8 bell peppers (4 green, 4 red), 3 lettuce seedlings, 2 parsley, 2 basil, 4 watermelon, 3 cucumber, and a great number of beans. I've weeded, fed, and mulched a bunch of perennial things (grapes, rhubarb, asparagus, strawberries, herbs). They need more feeding. But everything has survived 2 years of neglect, and things are growing. I still want to plant some more lettuce from seed, and Swiss Chard, which I hear is very heat and cold tolerant. My kind of plant! We've been lucky to have plenty of rain so far this year, with more due later this week. My most pressing task now is to get the cages over those thriving tomato plants, before they get too big!
Here is half the garden. You're looking east. In the far, end bed are rosemary (far right), thyme (just to the left of that, too low to see), and asparagus, with one rhubarb crown. The next nearest bed, with green on the right and yellow straw mulch, are strawberries. I'm harvesting a few every few days. They are sweet and delicious, but I need to feed these plants once they stop producing. They are a little sad for neglect. Can you also see how I've mulched the paths with newspaper and wood chips? The far path (between the asparagus and strawberries) has some re-growth of ragweed and wild violets, and I must nip them in the bud. I know I'll never win the weed war -- if I neglect for a year, it will look like I never gardened here. But I can win daily, monthly, annual battles, and I'm determined to do so. The closest bed has 4 watermelon plants. I can't wait to harvest those sweet, small "Sugar Babies" in August. They'll be such a pleasure. And when I visit friends, rather than taking the requisite bottle of wine (especially loved in a formerly dry county -- our first three liquor stores recently opened!) -- I'll take a sweet, small, ripe watermelon. The bed at the far left has raspberries and grapes, and further to the west than pictured, cucumbers and lettuce. All of it is thriving, amazingly.
My labyrinth has nearly overgrown with weeds and poison ivy. Today I spent a while pulling up stuff and beginning my newspaper-and-wood-chip mulching process. Eventually I'll have helpers, I know (someone offered to help today). Then it won't be so much work. I'll probably do the first, hardest work, though. But I love it. I think I told you that I heard God's voice about this labyrinth. I owe it care.
My roses are blooming prolifically, promiscuously! I can't possibly deadhead all of them. Anyone want to come and help? I have a guest room, and will be especially hospitable to garden helpers!
This is only one small sample of the roses that my predecessor in this blessed rectory planted. I think the "candy-stripe" nature of its blossom is fun. I have pink, red, white, cream, all variations, all sizes. Some are more like trees, some are more like fountains of beauty. They'd climb, if I could get trellises up. I bet there are 15 plants here, and I can't keep up with deadheading them. But I love them, nevertheless.
I've done a couple of what I'm calling "guerilla blitzes" on the perennial beds. I pledge 1/2 hour to just rushing outside and pulling or cutting whatever doesn't belong there. I've made some improvement, but there are (almost literally) miles and miles to go. I'm also thinking about some major "remodeling," removing or transplaning things that aren't where I'd have them be, re-shaping (downsizing) some beds. My veggie garden has encouraged me -- if I devote even a little regular time, I can conquer what seems like Mt. Everest!
My laptop at work gave up the ghost a few weeks ago. It still runs, but internet access is compromised. It seems like the cheapest "fix" would have been $60, and no guarantees. That seemed like a big cost for a 9-year-old laptop running Windows 98. New ones aren't as expensive as they once were. A beloved geek-friend advised me to try a new Dell mini-notebook, so I did. It's teeny. It's elegant. It fits in my purse. I love it. I use it mostly only at work. I wrote this week's sermon on it, then sent it here at home, so I could do the final revision this morning, as I like to do. This baby is small enough to carry to Italy in my knapsack. It also has a built in web-cam and a card-reader for the memory card that goes into my camera. I can take pics to my heart's content, then load them from the card to the mini and start over.
I'm doing more research and planning for my trip to Italy. The more I plan and research, the more excited I get.
Today is Pentecost. It was a lovely service in the church, though the congregation did not know one hymn (sorry, people), and the organ quit in the middle of the (sung) Creed (organ problem, or organist problem? Not sure -- but the people SANG! -- I'm so proud of them!). I love the Calvin Hampton music that I learned 10+ years ago in seminary; we only use it during the great 50 days of Easter, then we go back to a spoken Creed. This was the last week for the sung Creed, and for certain other liturgical variations that I use to make the point that the church celebrates Easter for 50 days, ending this very day, in fact.
This afternoon we had a big celebration for our adult literacy program. This was something started by a parishioner, with my encouragement. It is much needed in our area, and it has exploded in size. Everyone wants to help, and we get more and more students. Individual tutoring can really help a lot of people learn to read, especially those with learning disabilities, or otherwise having difficulty in a public school classroom situation. I'm moved by the folks who simply hope to get a GED diploma for high-school equivalency; but I'll admit I'm most moved by the people who want to be able to read the bible, or those who want to be able to read books to their grandchildren. The Bishop was here for our service, and he was very complimentary about what he learned about it. His great gift is to make everyone feel like important contributors to the mission of the church. Even me. Even our little reading program. Bless our Bishop for this great gift of his.
Tonight has cooled off considerably, here on the mountaintop. It was pretty hot today -- about 80, which makes for pretty intense heat in my upstairs bedroom. But I think I'll make it at least one more night without the air conditioning. In these tough economic times when my retirees are really frightened and sometimes already suffering, I try to keep my own (church-paid) utility costs as low as possible, to do my own part. Besides that -- I want to be as "green" as possible. I figure even a fan on all night for air circulation is better than the air conditioner. Anybody know the "green facts" on this?
There's always more to show and tell. But this is enough for tonight. I'll try to post more than once a month, for goodness' sake!