Category Archives: Home and Garden
Read more about the beautiful, and healthy beneficent properties of, Pussy Willows Here: Looking for Pussy Willows.
Posting hurriedly today. My darling daughter is arriving Friday for a wedding dress fitting, and I am sooo behind in wedding dress making that I am sure I will be up half the next two nights!
Recently brochures from Rain Forest Publications arrived. Don’t you love pocket guides, for the very reason the name infers–so easy to tuck along when traveling and hiking. That’s my photo on the cover of “Mexico Butterflies.” The photo was taken not in Mexico, but in Gloucester!
Be on the lookout for the first butterfly of spring, which will most likely be the Mourning Cloak Butterfly. Mourning Cloaks do not spend the winter in the cool volcanic mountains of Mexico as do the Monarchs, or as a chrysalis in our gardens, like the Black Swallowtail, or as a caterpillar rolled up in a tight little ball under a leaf, as does the Wooly Bear, but as an adult butterfly!
During the winter months Mourning Cloaks live tucked away in cracks and crevices, between chinks of tree bark, for example. At the first warm breath of spring they begin to take flight, searching for a mate. You’ll often see them on the wing around Pussy Willows, one of the Mourning Cloak caterpillar’s food plants.
Outside my office window is a pair of stately hollies, our “Dragon Ladies;” aptly named for their prickly foliage, and adjacent to the hollies is a sweet scented flowering crabapple. The autumn fruits of this particular crabapple are chunkier than most and, I simply assumed, must bear the worst tasting fruit imaginable because year in and year out, the fruit is never, ever eaten by the birds. When flocks of robins arrive in our garden in late January, the winterberry and hollies are stripped bare of their fruits in a day, or two, at the most, after which the robins head to our neighbor’s sumac and then further down Plum Street to our other neighbor’s smaller and much better tasting crabapples.
Not this year! A pair of robins is setting up house along the garden path and they vigorously defend the crabapples from other robins. In late winter, robins typically switch over to worms, but with the ground still frozen solid, they are continuing to look for tree fruits. Unfortunately, much of it has been consumed.
Repeatedly, I noticed that our robin couple was struggling to eat the crabapples. They would snip off a stem and then drop it onto the brick path below and peck and peck and peck. A robin’s bill did not evolve to crack open grains and as it seems in this case, nor for penetrating our unusually hard crabapples. A great deal of energy was being spent to get a morsel of food, which is never a good thing because it can leave a creature weakened and at risk of freezing to death.
I picked a few berries and made a crabapple mash, placed it under the tree and, within hours, all the fruits were devoured! Now when feeding the pets and filling the bird feeders each morning I pluck a small handful of crabapples, mash, and place in the pie tin below the tree. I’ve experimented with adding blueberries and raspberries to the dish, but the robins prefer the crabapples.
If we move very slowly when walking down the path, they now allow us to come quite close—and what a treat to observe from this distance—beautiful, beautiful robins!
Do you think we will be rewarded with a nearby nest? I hope so!
The event is free.
RSVP to email@example.com.
For more information: Planting an Essex County Pollinator Garden
Kim Smith Event for Essex County Greenbelt, Thursday March 5th: Planting An Essex County Pollinator Garden
Please join me at the Essex County Greenbelt’s Cox Reservation headquarters on Thursday, March 5th, from 6:30 to 8:30. I will be presenting my pollinator garden program. The event is free.
RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to seeing you!
Painted Lady Butterfly and New York Ironweed, Gloucester HarborWalk Butterfly Garden
From the ECGA website:
Our second session to our pollinator film/lecture series will feature local designer, writer, filmmaker and gardening expert Kim Smith. Kim specializes in creating pollinator gardens, as well as filming the butterflies that her plants attract. She will present a 90-minute slide show and lecture about how to create a welcoming haven for bees, birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Native plants and examples of organic and architectural features will be discussed based on their value to particular vertebrates and invertebrates. Kim will also discuss specific ways to be sure your gardening practices are not harming pollinators. There will be time for questions from the audience about particular problems and quandaries they may have with pollinators and their gardens.
To learn more about Kim Smith’s work, visit her website here. This lecture will take place at our headquarters on the Cox Reservation in Essex, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Light refreshments will be served. Please RSVP to email@example.com.
In preparation for the upcoming season of programs that I give, which are centered around designing gardens to support pollinators, one of my jobs is to refresh and update the photos that are an integral part of the presentation. This past month I have been immersed in colorful images and tomorrow I am giving my new monarch butterfly presentation at (the other) Cape. Here are some of the outtakes from my pollinator habitat programs for our winter weary eyes.
Phlox and Luna Moth
Sunflower and Joe-pye Weed
Monarch Butterfly and Cape Honeysuckle, Goleta California
Happy Valentine‘s Day!
A chocolate lover’s delight ~ handmade truffles, super simple and kid fun-favorite-to-make, too!
Making truffles for my friends and loved ones tonight and keeping my fingers crossed that despite the ominous forecast, we’ll still get together this weekend. Please stay warm and cozy and safe!
Reposted from 2011.
Mini baking cups
2 ounces Baker’s sweet German chocolate, broken into small bits
6 ounces Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
¼ C. Disaronno Amaretto liqueur
2 Tbs. strong coffee
Few drops almond extract
2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
½ C. pulverized Jules Destrooper almond thins (or Anna’s, or any super fine, thin cookie)
Confectioner’s sugar to taste (approx. ¼ cup)
½ C. Ghiradelli unsweetened cocoa powder for final powdering
Melt sweet chocolate bits and semi-sweet chocolate chips over a gently simmering double boiler.
Whisk in liqueur, coffee, almond extract, and vanilla. Whisk vigorously, over gentle heat, a few minutes more until mixture is shiny and smooth. Gradually add the butter by tablespoons. With a wooden spoon, beat in the pulverized cookies. Beat in sifted confectioner’s sugar, to taste. Remove the pan from the double boiler and place in a bowl of ice with water. Stir until well chilled and firm enough to form into balls.
By teaspoonful, gather up a gob and form into a rough, truffle-like shape. Roll in cocoa powder and drop into frilled paper cup.
Makes about 22, depending on size. Refrigerate in an airtight container. They will keep for several weeks or they may be frozen. Very loosely adapted from Julia Child’s Chocolate Amaretti Truffles The Way to Cook Page 485.
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The robins in our community have several different habits for surviving winter. There are year round resident robins that breed throughout Cape Ann during warmer months and also spend the winter here. A second group only breeds in our region, then migrates further south during the winter months. A third group, the robins that we see flocking to our shores beginning round about January 28th, are migrating from parts further north. They are very hungry and are looking for berries, fruit, and small fish.
In early spring, robins begin to disperse from flocks. The ground thaws and worms, insects, and snails once again become part of the robin’s diet. Spring, too, is when we begin to hear the beautiful liquid notes of the male robin. He is singing to attract a mate. The robin’s song is one of the of most beloved and it is his music with which we associate the coming of spring.
With several edits and updates since I first wrote the following article, I think you’ll find the information helpful in knowing what to feed and to plant for the robins.
Food for the American Robin
During the winter months Cape Ann often becomes home to large flocks of robins, and we have had the joy of hosting numerous numbers in our garden. I can’t help but notice their arrival. Their shadows descend, crisscrossing the window light, followed by a wild rumpus in the ‘Dragon Lady’ hollies. This pair of hollies is planted on opposing sides of the garden path, alongside my home office. I have learned to stealthily sneak up to a window, as any sudden activity inside startles birds that are investigating our garden, and they quickly disperse. Dining not only on berries of the ‘Dragon Ladies’, but also the ‘Blue Princess’ Meserve holly and winterberry bushes, I find dozens of noisy, hungry robins.
These winter nomads flock to trees and shrubs that hold their fruit through January and February, feasting on red cedar, American holly, Meserve hollies, chokecherries, crabapples, sumac, and juniper. Robins traveling along the shores of Cape Ann also comb the shoreline for mollusks, and go belly-deep for fish fry. Depleting their food supply, they move onto the next location. Gardens rife with fruiting shrubs and trees make an ideal destination for our migrating friends.
Year round resident robins will call your garden home when provided with trays of chopped fruit and raisins, supplemented with meal worms.
What to Plant for Robins
The garden designed to attract nesting pairs of summer resident robins, as well as flocks of winter travelers, would be comprised of trees and shrubs for nest building, plants that bear fruit and berries that are edible during the summer and fall, and plants that bear fruits that persist through the winter months. Suburban gardens and agricultural areas provide the ideal habitat, with open fields and lawns for foraging insects as well as trees and hedgerows in which to build their nests.
The following plants, suggested with robins in mind, will also attract legions of songbirds and Lepidoptera. The list is comprised primarily of indigenous species with a few non-native, but not invasive, plants included.
Trees for nesting ~ American Holly (Ilex opaca), Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida).
Summer and autumn fruit bearing trees, shrubs and vines for robins ~ Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), Blackberry (Rubus spp.), Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida), Gray Dogwood (C. racemosa), Red-osier Dogwood (C. sericea), Silky Dogwood (C. amomum), Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), Apple (Malus pumila), Virginia Rose (Rosa virginiana), Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), Wild Grape (Vitis spp.).
Trees and shrubs with fruits persisting through winter ~ Winterberry (Ilex verticillata), Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana), Crabapple (Malus spp.), Sargent’s Crabapple (Malus sargentii), American Holly (Ilex opaca), Meserve Hollies (Ilex x meserveae), Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), Common Juniper (Juniperus communis), Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra), Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina).
Our hot cocoa party quickly became a chocolate party when Nicole Duckworth arrived with a platter of chocolate-dipped-and-delicious strawberries, pineapples, and bananas (and I had as usual doubled the amount of chips in the chocolate chip cookies). I so hope the kids fall asleep tonight!
I’ve never met an amaryllis I didn’t love and ‘Lemon Lime’ is no exception. The flowers are slightly smaller than many cultivars, compared to that of ‘Orange Sovereign’ for example, however, the plant often sends up two and three stalks at the same time. The exquisite pale chartreuse complements nearly every color scheme imaginable and is wonderfully fresh and spring-like to help stave away those dreary drab winter-hued blues.
See ‘Orange Sovereign’ in a previous GMG post: Orange, Brought To You By Amaryllis
Read More On How to Grow Amaryllis: Read more
Beautiful Christmas Arrangements From Sage Floral for Your Last Minute Shopping and Special Hostess Gift
Snoods are all in vogue at the moment. The silly sound of the word makes me want to smile; they are actually wonderfully fun to wear and will keep you cozy warm when knitted in a natural fiber such as merino wool, cashmere, or alpaca.
What is a snood you may be wondering?
A snood is a softly draped scarf that can be pulled up and over to also serve as a hood. Snoods today are very different than what was typically worn through the ages and into the 1940’s. Earlier snoods were mostly knitted or crocheted net headwear designed to keep hair in place. During the 1950’s snoods began to evolve with the characteristics that we see today, that of a loosely draped tubular scarf worn around the neck and head, designed both for warmth and luxury. Because the ends are sewn together, unlike a conventional scarf, they are much less fussy and less like to fall out of place.
With 3-4 balls of leftover yarn, and a pair of large needles, you can whip up a snood in few nights. For this sample, I used baby alpaca because it is so soft and not in the least bit itchy (purchased at Coveted Yarn). The snood would be beautiful worked in a ribbed stitch or seed stitch. I wasn’t sure how much mileage I would get out of my leftover skeins, so making the mockup in a simple garter stitch, which requires less yarn than a rib stitch for example, insured there would be enough to complete the project.
Using whatever needles and yarn you have on hand, knit a rectangle to equal approximately 28-30 inches in length by 15 inches wide.
Loosely bind off.
Stitch ends together width-wise to form one continuous loop.
Knit a narrow band approxzimately 2 inches wide by 8 inches in length
The snood pictured is shown with a narrow band, to a create slightly more structured shape however, the band is optional. With needles several sizes smaller, knit a band approximately 2 inches wide by 8 inches long. To keep the edges of the band neat and clean, slip the first stitch of every row.
Bind off loosely.
Turn snood inside out. Over the seamline, center one short end of the band to the snood and stitch. Pull the opposite end around to create a bow-like affect and join securely. Weave in all loose ends.
There you go, an easy fun project for the holidays, to give to a loved one, or to keep for yourself!
Please forgive the iphone selfies–no models (daughter) readily available and I wanted to post this in time for holiday gift-giving.
One Pirates Lane Sign Beautifully Recreated by Master Woodcarver David Calvo and Question for Our Local Historians and Long-Time Residents
Next time you are heading to East Gloucester or Rocky Neck, take a look at the striking new sign at One Pirates Lane, which was recently restored by Gloucester’s own David Calvo. David was commissioned to recreate the sign as the old one had rotted through and through; made of solid mahogany, the new sign will surely last a lifetime.
David’s studio is located at 235 East Main Street. Visit his website to see more of David’s outstanding portfolio of beautiful designs and workmanship here: David Calvo Studio
David shares a bit of history about the sign: The building was owned by Howard Richardson who ran his trade show design business there. The sign was done by Alfred Czerpak. Richardson and artist Czerepak attended Mass College of Art at the same time. Howard asked Alfred to make a sign for him. The original sign went up in 1981. Al was the name he went by and he lived in one of the homes behind Richardson’s business on Pirates Lane. Al pursued a painting career and also created many multi media pieces. Thank you Colleen and David for the information!
Questions for our old-timer GMG readers: We who live in the East Gloucester/Pirates Lane neighborhood have all heard that One Pirates Lane was at one time a Russian tea house. Can any of our readers confirm that and if so, share their recollections. We would love to know more and thank you so much for taking the time to write.
With Wolf Hill located right here in our neighborhood, there’s no reason to travel to Michaels or Target for your holiday decorating whimsy. Their trim-a-tree shop is extra, extra outstanding this year, with pinecones, shells, ribbons, and much, much more.
See more photos here ~ Read more
Over half of us still have our teddy bears. My sister (painter Barb) and I were given our teddy bears in the early 1950’s, when we were toddlers. From left to right: “Brownie,” Barb’s bear, my “Get Well” bear, who speaks, my childhood bear “Whitey,” and Janet’s “Get Well Bear.” The new bears speak when you press a button on their stomachs, saying in a lithe girl or boy’s voice things like “Laugh, you’ll feel better.” At first I thought this was corny, but then realized how important It could be to one who is bedridden or gravely ill, like I was. Oh Teddy, my two Teddy Bears, I love you both.