Tag Archives: wisteria

Dancers in the wind.

My reward for eating breakfast in a civilized manner was a first-row seat at the birds’ impromptu gala. Every species of little bird I’ve ever seen was in my garden at once, even the titmouse and bluebird, and the Bewick’s wren, those three that I rarely see. In whatever direction I looked, one was hopping around a tree or a path or in transit across the garden.

Instead of carrying my bowl to the computer in the corner, I sat at the table looking straight through the glass across the patio where I could take in the chapel feeder rocking more violently than usual in the wind, and the wisteria vine above it, gently dropping long yellow leaves to pirouette all the way down. The birds who like seeds flitted and flew from their chapel to their fountain spa and made up their aerial choreography on the fly, riding the current of every sudden gust and gale.

Sparrows and juncos, house finches and goldfinches, scribbled wild and invisible designs in the air as they swooped from the plum tree down to the birdbath, and to pots under the fountain to peck around for a few seconds among the hens and chicks, and or newly-planted violas.

It seemed that even their pushing each other off their perches was part of the joy of the morning, and occasionally two or three would do a synchronized pattern of fancy footwork that carried them a distance around the fountain’s rim in a chorus line. One sparrow hopped off a pot down to the ground, but made the trip by means of a high arch — maybe just to feel the lift under his wings. Because it’s fun.

Enjoy the weather!

Growing a littler fruit tree.

Ann Ralph does make it seem easy. She is all about the backyard gardener being the one in control, managing the tree, and not letting it decide on its own how big to get.

If you didn’t have to climb a ladder to tend your fruit trees or pick the fruit, wouldn’t you find it simpler to keep up with the maintenance and to enjoy the harvest? Most of us don’t need bushels of fruit from one tree, so it’s good stewardship to reduce the quantity of fruit likely to go unused anyway.

I read her book in the fall, and wished I had known about it when we were choosing trees at the nursery two years ago, because you can make the most of this method if you start with a specimen that has a couple of lower-than-average limbs to begin with. Mine are not ideal that way, but I think I can still be the boss. I pruned my plum trees severely before Christmas; but at the summer solstice, according to her plan, they should get their second pruning. I did that a day late, this morning. It took me exactly 50 minutes – I know, because I had set my timer so I wouldn’t be late for an appointment.

I had reviewed the pertinent paragraphs right before I set to work, so as I walked around the tree and made some preliminary cuts, and circled around to the other side to look from that perspective, and on and on in that fashion, I had some  phrases lingering in my mind to guide me and give me confidence:

If you see something that cries to be corrected or pruned away, prune it. As always, prune out limbs that annoy you. Picture the height of the tree you have in mind. Don’t allow the tree to get taller. As Scenic Nursery’s Jim Rogers would remind us, “insist.”

Limbs that annoy me? Well, yes, I did find a few of those, that were angled down, or toward the center of the tree; maybe there were a couple that just seemed a little pushy in the wrong direction and not beautiful…. Must we analyze every annoyance?

I wish I had taken a Before picture. In this After picture you can see I hadn’t really finished, because the clippings are lying all over. But I have just hired someone to help me in the garden on a continuing basis — my heart is dancing for joy about it — and will let him do that part (as well as trim the wisteria vines which are coming into the picture from above, hoping to twist on down into the tree).

In the foreground below are yarrow, lavender, and hummingbird mint, favorites of the birds and bees. The picture is taken from a different angle on the same tree. Both of these pictures make me wonder if I shaped my trees enough… those gangly limbs… I trimmed them less because they had the nice curve and direction I am encouraging. They are small and not getting out of hand, so I thought they could wait until the main pruning in winter.

I’m feeling so relieved and restful about the garden now that I’ve engaged my Helper Gardener, cleaned the greenhouse, and pruned the plums. I can think about tackling a few other categories of projects and tasks on my to-do list. And also, sit down in the garden with a book, listening to the hum of contented pollinators.

a contributor to the hum, on the teucrium

A bell named George.

Today and tomorrow there is so much going on! Of course, every day is like that, even in the liturgical calendar, but I noticed three of the events or commemorations secular and ecclesial overlap just now.

The second Sunday after Pascha is the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers, when we remember Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who ministered to our Lord’s body, and the women who brought spices to the tomb to anoint Jesus, where they met an angel instead. The angel told them that Christ had risen! Joanna was one of those women, so today was my name day. 🙂

Earth Day is celebrated on April 23rd, about which I once wrote an article that I don’t know how to improve upon. And starting this evening, it’s the feast of St. George the Greatmartyr, who received the crown of martyrdom on April 23, 303.

It wasn’t until I was walking to the parking lot this afternoon at church and stopped to take a picture of the bells, that I remembered that our big bell is named after St. George. All of the bells have names, but the great one bears the name of the Greatmartyr. He has wisteria adorning, and a chain protecting him from thieves who would peddle his metal. One of our slightly smaller bells was stolen once and had to be replaced.

In the morning the bell George will be rung for the saint George. One hymn of the day includes these lines:

God raised you as his own gardener, O George,
for you have gathered for yourself the sheaves of virtue.
Having sown in tears, you now reap with joy…

May we all have good reason to rejoice on this day and every one.

I like the oatmeal bread better.


A week ago I put some sourdough sponges to ferment, and on Monday and Tuesday I finished the bread from them. First was the batch made with Manuel’s Rye Sour starter. I made it with whole grain flours and lots of seeds: sesame, black sesame, poppy, sunflower, and pumpkin. Did I leave anything out? I had a vision of a nourishing lenten bread.

Seeded Sourdough

The next day I was on the Communion bread team at church, and that morning we produced the most gorgeous “lambs,” but I didn’t have my camera, so I will show you a photo of one from the past. Ours this week were much browner and more evenly browned, having baked in the new convection oven.

It was at church I took these photos of wisteria later in the week. It surrounds the courtyard where the fountain was actually working that day.

As soon as I got home Tuesday I began to finish up the other dough, made with the pineapple starter. (Of course it has no pineapple flavor remaining.) I had decided to make that batch heavy on oatmeal and had added several cups of rolled oats to the sponge the day before.

Both the breads came out pretty well — but I have decided to end my Sourdough Experiments. I think the natural yeasts in the air of our town just don’t make a sour flavor that I like. The odd thing is, they are very active and powerful yeasts, compared to the ones where we used to live, which had a more agreeable flavor.  They work nearly as fast as commercial yeast.

The pineapple starter is a bit nicer, so I didn’t throw it out yet, but I keep thinking that I prefer the smell of regular bread in the oven, and out of the toaster. (Perhaps I should try biscuits or pancakes with that starter.) And I like oatmeal bread a lot better with butter in it as well as on it, so considering the small amount of bread we two eat, I may as well just not bother during Lent. I have learned a lot from my experiments. And I think all the bread I’ve been squirreling away in the freezer will do nicely to make grilled cheese sandwiches a few weeks from now.

Sourdough Oatmeal Bread

Addendum: In the old days either Pippin or I would bake 5-loaf batches of un-sour oatmeal bread once or twice a week as our household’s basic bread. It was a more traditional shape of loaf; these loaves are flattish because I haven’t yet worked out how much dough fills my new extra-large loaf pan and it came out a bit short.