Sunday Dinner: Fire and Ice



Fire and Ice


Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire,
I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate.

To say that for destruction ice,
Is also great

And would suffice.


Robert Frost




“Ice contains no future , just the past, sealed away.

As if they’re alive, everything in the world

is sealed up inside, clear and distinct.

Ice can preserve all kinds of things that way-

cleanly, clearly.

That’s the essence of ice, the role it plays.”


Haruki Murakami




“Keep a little fire burning;

however small, however hidden.”


Cormac McCarthy




“The greatest gift of life on the mountain is time.

Time to think or not think, read or not read,

scribble or not scribble –

– to sleep and cook and walk in the woods,

to sit and stare at the shapes of the hills.

I produce nothing but words;

I consume nothing but food, a little propane,

a little firewood. By being utterly useless

in the calculations of the culture at large

I become useful, at last, to myself.”


Philip Connors




“Everybody has a little bit of the sun and moon in them.

Everybody has a little bit of man, woman,

and animal in them.  Darks and lights in them.

Everyone is part of a connected cosmic system.

Part earth and sea, wind and fire,

with some salt and dust swimming in them.

We have a universe within ourselves

that mimics the universe outside.

None of us are just black or white,

or never wrong and always right. No one.

No one exists without polarities.

Everybody has good and bad forces working with them,

against them, and within them.


Suzy Kassem




“Fire tests gold, suffering tests brave men.”






Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017





Our Latest Experiment: Milorganite

Connie Hansen Garden, Lincoln City Oregon

The Connie Hansen Garden, in Lincoln City, Oregon, where deer roam freely through the beach front community.  This beautiful garden remains open to the public – and the deer- year round.


A friend and neighbor, allies in our battle against hungry deer, first mentioned Milorganite several years back.  I’d never heard of the stuff.  She said she was trying it as a deer deterrent with some success.

She and her partner garden on one of the most exposed water front lots in our part of the community.  We collaborated together on our list of deer resistant plants, but I never followed up on her suggestion to try Milorganite.  Now I wish we had…..milorganite

A year or so later, a Gloucester based landscaper suggested it to me again.  He recommended creating a barrier around one’s entire garden by broadcasting a 3′-4′ wide strip of the smelly stuff around the perimeter of any area you need to protect.  He swore deer wouldn’t cross it.  Sounded like a good idea; which I filed away to explore in more detail later.

Meanwhile, our personal battle to protect our garden from the deer continues.  It’s not just the plants we want to protect from their grazing.  Deer carry ticks, and ticks carry Lyme’s disease and other nasty infections.  We’ve both had several bites over the years followed by expensive visits to the doctor, tests, and prescriptions.

Lyme’s disease is one of those infections one never truly gets over; it can linger in the body and flare up later in unexpected ways.  It changes people’s lives in unpleasant ways; another reason to stay away from deer and ticks.  We figured this out, of course, only after we fell in love with the community  and bought our little forest garden.  We’ve learned a great deal since then.


August 27, 2014 Parkway 021


After nearly seven years of finding ways to foil the deer, a few somehow still slip into the garden from time to time.  And once in, they find tasties to nibble while spreading ticks and leaving their little ‘gifts.’   We’ve both had ticks latch onto us this spring, already.


By mid-August of 2014 surrounding shrubs shade the actual raised bed..

By mid-August, our garden grows in with plenty of temptations for grazing deer.


But a casual conversation with one of the garden experts at Lowes, earlier this week, reminded me of Milorganite.  She gardens on the Northern Neck, along the Piankatank River slightly north of Williamsburg.  And she contends with herds of deer, too.  She highly recommended Milorganite as a deer repellent in the garden.


August 7, 2014 garden 040


Now, before we go any further in this story, I need to share with you our real reason for avoiding Milorganite all these years.  I was all set to try it years ago until we learned its true nature:  municipal sewage sludge.  Somehow we just didn’t want to spread dried sewage all around our garden, despite its potential benefits.

Since 1926, the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has processed the sludge from its sewage treatment plant to produce a 5-2-0 natural fertilizer known as Milorganite. Milwaukee Organic Nitrogen” was devised to reduce material in landfills while recycling this natural source of nitrogen as a safe fertilizer for lawns, golf courses, and agriculture.  The dried sewage is heat dried to kill bacteria and other pathogens, then pelletized to produce an easy to apply, dust free organic fertilizer.  But all the processing doesn’t completely remove the odor, which is why Milorganite repels deer.


Rose scented Geranium

Rose scented geranium has proven a more pleasant deer repellent than sprays.  We plant scented Pelargoniums all around the garden to protect tasty shrubs and perennials.  They also repel mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects.


If you’ve bought a spray bottle of deer repellent lately, you know it’s very pricey.  Whether you buy Plantskydd , Repells- All, or some other product; you make an investment which often washes away in the next thunderstorm.

After resisting Milorganite these last few years, we finally decided to try it earlier this week.  The little guys have been slipping through our ‘deer fences’ and have already grazed some favorite roses and Camellias just as they leafed out this spring.  We are weary of chasing them out of the garden with no clue as to how they get in or out….

A 36 pound bag of Milorganite, enough to treat 2500 square feet, was only around $13.00 at Lowes.  On Monday afternoon we decided to give it a try, and bought a bag. Produced as a ‘slow release’ fertilizer, it lasts a long time before it completely dissolves into the soil.  How long will it work for us?  That is part of our experiment….


April 5, 2016 070


I suited up in my usual garden ‘get up,’ covered head to toe, with hat and gloves; and broadcast the first strip of Milorganite along our street.  Using a recycled plastic quart food container, I shook a light application in the spaces between our shrubs, and especially around the Camellias, from the pavement back to our deer fence behind the shrubs.

It wasn’t bad, really.  It didn’t smell as bad as the sprays we use, and was so much easier to apply.  Our single bag proved sufficient to broadcast a 4′ perimeter around our entire garden, and also to make barriers around vulnerable beds of Azaleas, roses, Hydrangeas, and perennials.  I laid a stripe everywhere we know the deer frequent in our garden.


Azaleas once filed our front garden. In recent years, a growing herd of deer graze on what little remains.

Azaleas once filed our front garden. In recent years, a growing herd of deer graze on what little remains.


Although the University of Georgia has published studies on Milorganite as a deer repellent, it isn’t marketed as one.  Its use to repel animals is a ‘word of mouth’ sort of thing between gardeners.  And how long a single application will last depends on any number of variables.  We plan to spread it again by the middle of June, then again in September.  Based on what we’ve read, it should last close to 90 days during the growing season.

Now we watch and wait.  My daydreams of full, lush Azalea shrubs and un-grazed roses may finally come true.  Our hopes to finally watch our Hostas mature, un-nibbled and full, may be realized this year.  Faith, hope and love wax strongest in a gardener’s heart in early spring, before realities set in.


June 21 Lanai 022~

I’ll let you know how it works, of course.  If Milorganite performs as well as other gardeners have promised, we might actually plant a few vegetables later in the season with hope to harvest a cucumber or two!  I’m curious to learn whether it deters squirrels, rabbits, voles, and other mammals, in addition to deer.  If it does, we will use it faithfully from now on.


May 15, 2015 roses 010~

We may be holding our noses, metaphorically speaking, but we’ll gladly support the city of Milwaukee in their recycling efforts.  And we’ll spread the word as broadly as we spread the Milorganite!

Have you tried Milorganite in your garden?  If you have, how well does  it work for you?


It was almost 9 PM when I took these photos of our rabbit on Wednesday evening. A long day, indeed.


Woodland Gnome 2016

In recognition of Wildlife Wednesday

(Tina has posted some lovely photos of birds visiting her garden this month. 

Please visit her for links to other Wildlife Wednesday posts this April.)



April 5, 2016 051

A mother Cardinal built her nest by our kitchen door. We feel honored by her trust.


Wednesday Vignette: Defiant Compassion

College Creek

College Creek


“Your Garden is Defiant Compassion

Your garden is a protest. It is a place of defiant compassion.

That space is one to help sustain wildlife and ecosystem function while providing an aesthetic response that moves you.

For you, beauty isn’t petal deep, but goes down into the soil, further down into the aquifer, and back up into the air and for miles around on the backs and legs of insects.

You don’t have to see soil microbes in action, birds eating seeds, butterflies laying eggs, ants farming aphids –

– just knowing it’s possible in your garden thrills you,

it’s like faith, and it frees you to live life more authentically.

Your garden is a protest

for all the ways in which we deny our life

by denying other lives.

Go plant some natives. Be defiantly compassionate.    “


Benjamin Vogt:    The Deep Middle


The cardinals feast on Wax Myrtle berries in our 'biohedge' all winter long.

The cardinals feast on Wax Myrtle berries in our ‘biohedge’ all winter long.


Benjamin Vogt visited Forest Garden this morning, and left a link to his “Defiant Compassion” post in a comment on my review of Ken Druse’s The Natural Habitat Garden.  Benjamin writes, speaks, designs native plant gardens, and maintains his own 2000 square foot prairie style garden in Nebraska.  I’m honored that he visited Forest Garden and left a comment and link to share his site.

His words move me, as I hope they move you.  He has cut through all of the chatter and spoken truth:

“- just knowing it’s possible in your garden thrills you,

it’s like faith, and it frees you to live life more authentically.”

Just knowing that it is possible to help sustain the food chain, the ecosystem, and the planet through our own small efforts on our own bit of land speaks to a powerful realization.  Each of us, through our own consistent choices and efforts may contribute to the great work.  We don’t need 100 acres and conservancy status to make a difference.  We can make a difference even in our small suburban yards.

And even better, when we can enlist the participation of a friend or two, together we have a far greater impact.  This awareness spreads from person to person, heart to heart, and garden to garden.


February 16,2016 sunset 022


This morning, I finally made the time to visit the National Wildlife Foundation’s website to register our garden as a Certified Wildlife Habitat.  This is something I’ve intended to do for months now.  I don’t know why I thought it would be a time consuming project.  It was really very simple, and took less than 10 minutes to complete.

To certify, you need to provide sources of food and water for wildlife, cover, safe areas to raise their young, and a healthy environment.  The website asks specific questions in all of these areas.  When you can certify that your garden provides the resources wildlife need to live, you qualify as an official habitat.

A minimal donation of $20.00  also brings membership in the National Wildlife Federation, its newsletters and magazines.

It is a symbolic step, you realize, but we are very happy to have become a part of this growing movement to support habitat and wildlife.

I intend to encourage my gardening friends, and maybe you, too, to certify your own garden as a Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation.

It shows our commitment.  But it also shows our intent to work together with others to preserve native plants, native habitat, and the myriad creatures who share our gardens with us.  It is too great a task for any  of us to accomplish alone.  But in fellowship with others of like mind, we can make a significant impact.

~ September 4, 2015 garden 018


When I finished registering, the National Wildlife Federation kindly sent me a press release which we could forward on to our local newspaper.  Here is part of what it says:

“We are so excited to have another passionate wildlife gardener join us and create a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Over the last 40 years, nearly 200,000 wildlife gardeners have joined NWF’s Garden for Wildlife movement and helped restore wildlife habitat right in their own yards and neighborhoods,” said David Mizejewski, naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. “Whether you garden in a suburban yard, an apartment balcony or a 10-acre farm, a schoolyard or a business park, or anything in between, everyone can create a home for local wildlife.  Turning your space into a Certified Wildlife Habitat is fun, easy and makes a big difference for neighborhood wildlife,” he added.

NWF’s Garden for Wildlife program encourages responsible gardening that helps pollinators and other wildlife thrive. It encourages planting with native species like milkweed and discouraging chemical pesticide use. With nearly 200,000 locations and growing, NWF’s Certified Wildlife Habitats and Community Wildlife Habitats recognize individuals, schools, groups and whole communities committed to providing habitat for wildlife, including pollinators.

Each of the nearly 200,000 certified locations provides food, water, cover and places to raise young. This makes yards, schools, businesses, places of worship, campuses, parks, farms and other community-based landscapes into wildlife sanctuaries. For more information on gardening for wildlife and details on how an entire community can become certified, visit or call 1-800-822-9919.  For more National Wildlife Federation news, visit:


September 30, 2015 Parkway 016


Don’t you want to be a part of this, too?  Please leave a comment if you already have a certified Wildlife Habitat.  And please also leave a comment if you decide to certify your yard as a habitat.  The process is structured to be feasible for gardeners in all sorts of living situations.  The Federation’s website offers many helpful resources to get started.


July 20, 2015 garden 005


Here are some resources from Forest Garden which might prove helpful, too:

Bringing Birds to the Garden

Butterfly and Hummingbird Gardens

Native Plants


August 29, 2015 turtle 004


“Wildness is the preservation of the World.”


Henry David Thoreau


July 1, 2015


“The Holy Land is everywhere”


Black Elk




February 16,2016 sunset 055~

Woodland Gnome 2016


Sunday Dinner: Alive

January 24, 2016 snowday 045


“He was mastered by the sheer surging of life,

the tidal wave of being,

the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint,

and sinew in that it was everything

that was not death,

that it was aglow and rampant,

expressing itself in movement,

flying exultantly under the stars.”


Jack London


January 24, 2016 snowday 049


Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016


January 24, 2016 snowday 051

Sunday Dinner: First Snow

January 17, 2016 snow 039


“My religion consists of a humble admiration

of the illimitable superior spirit

who reveals himself in the slight details

we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.”


Albert Einstein


January 17, 2016 snow 020


“Age has no reality except in the physical world.

The essence of a human being

is resistant to the passage of time.

Our inner lives are eternal,

which is to say that our spirits

remain as youthful and vigorous

as when we were in full bloom.

Think of love as a state of grace,

not the means to anything,

but the alpha and omega.

An end in itself.”


Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez


January 17, 2016 snow2 019


“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression,

it must come completely undone.

The shell cracks, its insides come out

and everything changes.

To someone who doesn’t understand growth,

it would look like complete destruction.”


Cynthia Occelli


January 17, 2016 snow 036~


“You do not need to go

to any temple or church to worship God.

The whole existence is God’s temple.

Your own body is the temple of God.

Your own heart is the shrine.

You do not need to subscribe

to any religion to experience God.

The only religion you need

to experience God is love,

kindness and respect to all beings.”


Banani Ray



January 17, 2016 snow2 016


This is our first snow of the winter.  First forecast as rain, then as ‘a dusting,’ the  weather forecast is changing yet again.

As the storm intensifies and the temperature drops, now we are hearing that we may get a few inches of snow.  Nearly an inch has gathered in the grass now; and puddles on the patio, from our early morning rain, have begun to freeze over as snow landing there lingers in the slush.

Winter has finally blanketed our garden in penetrating cold.  It is the way of things, and a necessary passage of rest and dormancy before the coming of spring.


January 17, 2016 snow 041


My dad and I attended an opening at a local gallery in mid-December, and were interested in an eclectic collection of bird feeders made from re-purposed glassware.  We purchased a few as gifts.  And since then it has remained my intent to construct a few myself.

A trip last week to the Re-Store, with a good friend, yielded the odd bud vases and hollow ware needed.  And so on Friday, I constructed a few glass feeders by gluing the pieces together with a special glue made to hold glass and ceramics. 

I also made a batch of “Ron’s Suet Cakes” from the recipe the artist sent along to re-fill his glass ‘sculptural’ bird feeders.  This easy recipe is laced with Cayenne pepper to keep squirrels, and other rodents, away from the feeders.


Here is one of the feeders I constructed on Friday.

Here is one of the feeders I constructed on Friday.


Like many, we prefer to ‘feed the birds’ naturally through a garden planted with those berry and seed producing trees, shrubs, and perennials they prefer.  Knowing that song birds need a diet rich in insects, we expect this rich habitat provides them with an abundance of tasty insects, too.

But we also provide additional food to sustain our birds during winter storms.

And so this enriched ‘suet cake’ project has proven timely. 


january 17, 2016 feeders 004


I’ll share Ron’s recipe so you can make a batch of this special winter bird feed yourself, if you are interested.  I was pleased with how quickly it set up.

After filling the three feeders I made on Friday, there was enough left to fill two small plastic cups to use as ‘re-fills’  for one of the original feeders my parents kept.  Thirty seconds in the microwave was enough to let me pour the mix easily from the plastic cup into their glass feeder yesterday.  I swished a little fresh birdseed in the plastic cup to clean it thoroughly, then piled that seed on top as an extra offering to their garden birds.


This feeder, made on Friday, will be shared with a friend.

This feeder, made on Friday, will be shared with a friend.  The vase sits over a dowel or a spike of some sort to hold it steady in the garden.  Additional seeds can be added to the saucer. 


This recipe yields about 4-5 cups:

1.5 cups of lard

Several good shakes of Cayenne pepper and an additional shake or two of red pepper flakes, if you have them

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 cup plain cornmeal

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup birdseed mix

Any ‘extras’ you want to add, such as shelled sunflower seeds, dried insect larvae, Niger seed, etc.  I added about 1/2 cup of shelled sunflower seeds.


Melt the lard in a small pan on the stove over a medium heat.  Add the pepper as the lard melts so that it is well flavored.  Squirrels hate hot pepper and won’t eat seeds treated with Cayenne.

Turn off the heat, and add the peanut butter to the melted lard.  Stir as the peanut butter melts.  Finally, stir in the cornmeal, oats, and seeds.

Pour the mixture, before it sets up, into any glass, metal or plastic mold.  You can also use this mix to coat pine cones.  Attach a wire for hanging to the cone before coating it.

I like this recipe for winter feeding because of the fat content, which will help the birds survive the cold weather coming.  This is a neat alternative to feeders filled with dry seed, which often gets wet and mouldy after a hard rain.  It will also keep rodents away from the feeders, if that is a problem in your garden.


january 17, 2016 feeders 003


Our first snow of the season came quietly, almost without warning, and has left the garden transformed.  So beautiful and cleansing, snow invites us to stop and take notice.  We break out of the routine to simply sit and watch it accumulate.  A magical winter light fills the garden, bouncing off each icy flake. 

Listening carefully, we can hear it falling, piling up softly but steadily on every leaf and branch. 


January 17, 2016 snow2 011


Winter finally has arrived in our Forest Garden.

Woodland Gnome 2016




Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues

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