“How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?”
Photos by Woodland Gnome 2o14
Tips, tricks, and tools for gardening in a forest community
On New Year’s Eve I’m reminded that the new is always born out of all that has gone before.
The ghosts of our past both comfort and haunt us, traveling with us into the newness of each day, each new year.
Our roots run deep into the soil of our life experiences, and our parents’ and grandparents’ experiences. Our roots live in the knowings and acts and loves of all of those who came before, and all those who journey with us now.
We draw the energy and motivation to move forwards from the richness of our past .
As we reflect on our lives up to this moment, there are moments of sorrow as well as joy. Disappointments mixed in with our accomplishments.
There are those loved ones we’ve lost along the way, friends estranged, colleagues left behind.
And of course there are those friends and loved ones with us still, who have been our companions for much of our lives.
Each of these relationships, each of these experiences has enriched us in countless ways.
They are all our mentors.
So let us bless it all. Let us recollect all of those people who have been our companions along the way. Because our history also shows us our path forwards.
Whether our memories are bitter or joyful, or mixed; let us bless them, forgive them, appreciate them, and acknowledge what we have learned from each one.
Let us recollect the many experiences of our lives. Let us accept them, the painful as well as the positive ones, as part of our story. Each one has played its part in bringing us to this moment, at the cusp of a new year.
Our lives are infinitely enriched with the people and experiences of each passing year.
Let us move forwards in peace, accepting what has been, and forming a clear vision of the life we intend to live moving forwards.
It is our inner vision, our power of imagination to create the life we desire, which moves us forward.
On this New Year’s Eve, skip the resolutions and instead envision the life you intend to live from this moment on. Determine what you want to hear, and see, smell and feel in your daily life.
Our dreams and intentions are the seeds which create what we desire.
Planted in the rich soil of our life, nurtured with awareness and intent, our vision will grow into reality.
May you walk in beauty and happiness through all the days to come.
Posted in Camellia, Container flower gardening, Ferns, Four Season Garden, Garden Resources, Gardening addiction, Gardening How-To, Gardening in Williamsburg, Holidays, Ice crystals, Ivy, James City Co. VA, moss, Nandina, Nature art, Nature Photography, Perma-culture, Plants which feed birds, Rose of Sharon, Rosemary, Roses, Trees, Use of Native Plants, Vines, Viola, Winter Garden, Winter Solstice, Zone 7B Cultural Information
Posted in College Creek, Gardening addiction, Gardening in Williamsburg, James City Co. VA, moss, Nature art, Nature Photography, Pine, Plants which feed birds, Silent Sunday, Use of Native Plants, Winter Garden, Winter Solstice, Zone 7B Cultural Information
We are chin deep in preparations for Christmas today.
The morning was devoted to writing cards and wrapping gifts. We have brought our cut tree inside, and the last hour was devoted to getting last year’s lights working. We will enjoy unpacking the ornaments and hanging them this evening.
In the meantime, you might enjoy a little post I wrote this time last year about Christmas trees. Like so much of the holiday traditions, it is hard to imagine a time when families didn’t decorate a Christmas tree each December. But Christmas trees are a fairly modern innovation in the Yuletide celebrations.
And I’m so glad Christmas trees gained acceptance in the United States, because I’ve always loved having a tree full of lights and color at Christmas! It took only a few minutes for the fresh, crisp aroma of our tree to fill the house.
This is the wonderful smell of Christmas we enjoy so much.
It is evening of the seventeenth of December. Those of us who celebrate Christmas have entered “crunch time.”
The preparations feel endless sometimes. Our shopping lists and “to do” lists telescope. After the second visit this week with our friends at the main Williamsburg post office, I am breathing a bit easier that “Christmas” is in the mail to loved ones who live far away.
It is, perhaps, the repetition, year to year, of those small family rituals of the Christmas season which make this such a special time. Every December we are drawn back to the music, the aromas, the tastes, and the much loved Christmas decorations we have enjoyed so much in years passed.
Saturday’s task was making fruitcake for my parents. They love our recipe, passed on from Grandmother, based on an applesauce spice cake she loved to make when my mother was a child. We add many different fruits and nuts, jam, cherries, and pineapple to this basic cake recipe.
I found my notes from the epic batches I used to make in the 1980’s. That recipe called for two dozen eggs. The other ingredients were measured in pounds. It took an entire day of effort, and yielded at least a dozen cakes.
I only doubled the basic recipe this year, a modest effort. Yet from cooking down the apples for applesauce to wrapping the finished cakes felt like a day’s work.
Fruitcake is one of the flavors of Christmas in our family. Tomorrow I’ll make another batch of blond fruit cakes, which Mother calls “Dundee Cake.” It will be rich in cherries, walnuts, pecans, and dates; perfumed with a little fresh orange zest.
We’ll have this cake ready to serve friends who stop in and to enjoy ourselves with a cup of chai.
Wreathes speak of this repetition; the unbroken circle of the year turning back to Christmas once again.
Every December I go out early in the month to cut fragrant Cedar and collect pine cones. I cut herbs, and sometimes roses, for the year’s Christmas wreathes. Cedar is one of the aromas of Christmas which speaks to me most poignantly.
We always went out to cut a cedar tree from a friend’s field when I was a child, and then brought it home on the roof of the car, and set it up in the living room where it filled the house with its fresh spicy green aroma. We knew it was finally “Christmas” once our tree was lit and decorated in the living room.
Every family has its own cherished customs. Our expressions of Christmas are as unique as our thumbprint.
And in the spirit of sharing our unique expressions, I offered a Holiday Wreath Challenge this year for anyone willing to share photos or a post about the wreathes and decorations you have created this year.
One of the first responses came from Jenny, who hosts the One Word Photo Challenge on her photography blog. Jenny created a beautiful wreath from the clay she uses to construct her amazing miniature scenes.
Please visit Jenny’s post to see how she constructed her wreath, step by step.
Then a dear friend and neighbor shared photos of the wreath she made around Thanksgiving time for her front door.
The berries came on a vine she found in the New Town area while shopping one day in mid-November. She was amazed to find them lying on the sidewalk under a tree.
I’ve since found the same vine in the same area, but don’t know its name. It makes for such a beautiful wreath of multicolored berries mixed with cones. An unexpected gift from nature; so beautifully used!
It was several weeks more before Eliza Waters shared photos of her Christmas wreathes.
Eliza lives in Massachusetts, and has already enjoyed snow. In fact, snow over Thanksgiving weekend brought down some large branches of Balsam Fir which she salvaged to use in a whole series of gorgeous Christmas decorations, along with pine and pine cones. Please visit her post to see them all.
Next, Barbara Scott, who lives in Amelia County, Virginia shared photos of her elegant Christmas decorations. Barbara and her husband have breathed new life into a grand Virginia country home. She has used Blue Spruce, sent by a friend along with Magnolia and other evergreen materials in her garden to craft several stunning arrangements indoors and out.
These are pure eye candy, so please take time to enjoy Barbara’s posts.
Speaking of “eye candy,” you may also enjoy seeing photos Chris VanCleave, The Redneck Rosarian, posted of some stunning Christmas arrangements featuring red roses and red poinsettias. Gwennie, at Gwennie’s Garden has also pulled together some elegant and lovely Christmas decorations. She and I share a love for luminous blue glass, which she has used so beautifully here.
It always fascinates me to see how friends and loved ones celebrate Christmas, and what is important to their joy each year.
I love exploring trees full of antique ornaments, and seeing the keepsakes friends bring out to enjoy each December.
I like tasting cherished family recipes and trying new concoctions with chocolate, nuts, and fruit.
And I’m always fascinated with the wreathes, door decorations, and light displays which brighten up the neighborhood in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
It brings us full circle.
We close the year by re-visiting those things which bring us joy and comfort.
We reach out to those people we hold dear.
And we celebrate all things bright and beautiful in this season of light.
Posted in Blog Tour, Cedar, Christmas holidays, Container flower gardening, Crafting with plant materials, Floral Arrangement, Garden Resources, Gardening addiction, Gardening in Williamsburg, holiday wreath challenge, Holidays, Moss, Nature art, Pine, Plant photos, Use of Native Plants, Vines, Winter Solstice, wreathes, Wreathes, Zone 7B Cultural Information
Tags: Christmas and holiday season, Christmas holiday houseplants, Evergreens in wreathes, Ferns, Forest Garden, Holiday Blog Hop, Holiday preparations, Holiday Wreath Challenge, winter garden, Wreath
12/13/14. Have you noticed the date today? My partner tells me this date won’t repeat this century.
Our world is structured by numbers in so many ways. Even the ancients explored the mysteries of number, and expressed their understanding through architecture, music, sculpture, and engineering those monuments which have survived for centuries or more to intrigue us still today.
And this wonderful technology we use is all based on numbers. Not that I understand binary code.
Frankly, it seems like modern day “magic” to type this on my computer and know that a friend in Belgium, Indonesia, or Australia can read it as quickly as my friends down the street. And what pure pleasure to come to my computer at any hour of the day or night and enjoy photographs and ideas just posted from people all over the planet!
I began this morning by sharing photos of the dragonfly which visited LiJiun’s garden, with my partner. It brought back such warm memories of the time I spent photographing dragonflies in our garden this summer. (Dragonflies don’t startle easily, and don’t mind having their photos taken, I’ve found.)
Now in the WordPress Community, the link I just created for you to see LiJiun’s photos is called a “pingback.” WordPress bloggers frequently create these to link the reader to another interesting blog we want to share with you for some reason. And up until recently, they’ve always worked just fine.
And part of the way they work includes sending a message back to the other blog’s author, so they are aware of the link you’ve created.
I’ve asked fellow bloggers who want to participate in the Holiday Wreath Challenge to just create one of these “pingbacks” in their own post about wreathes, so I know they are participating. Then I’ll include links back to their blog in a post early next week; so we can all find and enjoy one another’s photos of the wreathes we’ve made this year.
And then last night, my friend Barbara sent me a message in the comments about her beautiful post. And she had a link in her post back here to Forest Garden. But no pingback ever turned up.
And that is when I realized that the pingbacks aren’t working properly on WordPress in general.
Some of us have been aware that WordPress pingbacks haven’t worked properly for some of their own challenges in recent weeks. But now I realize that pingbacks aren’t working at all…. and probably haven’t been for some time now.
It’s all in the numbers…. My guess is that the volume of traffic has grown so much on WordPress in general, that the sheer number may have overwhelmed this part of the system. But that is only my guess.
But it leads me to wonder whether I might have missed some of your posts about your wreath and holiday decorations…..
If you have posted, and created the pingback I suggested to join in, just know that I didn’t get it. Please follow up with an email or a link in the comments. I’ve responded back to everyone whose posts I’ve found thus far.
I hope you are planning to share in this holiday wreath challenge.
What fun if we could travel all around the world sharing the beauty of the season with one another, through the magic of the internet and our vibrant blogging community.
If you have already posted, please just send me your link (again) even though you created that “pingback.” If you plan to post sometime this weekend, please just send me a comment or email with your link.
If you don’t have your own blog, you can still join in. Just attach your photos to an email. Please tell me know whether it is OK to use your name and location in the photo credit.
The excitement builds little by little all through December. Each day brings us closer to the beauty and fun of the Christmas season.
Please watch for a compilation post of photos of all your beautiful creations, and links to your posts about them, by next Wednesday, 12/17/14.
Let us all share in the joy and beauty of the season.
Posted in Blog Tour, Colonial Williamsburg, Color, Crafting with plant materials, Garden Resources, Gardening addiction, Gardening in Williamsburg, Geometry, holiday wreath challenge, Holidays, Nature art, Plant photos, Symmetry, Use of Native Plants, Winter Solstice, wreathes, Zone 7B Cultural Information
Tags: Christmas and holiday season, Christmas decoration, Colonial Williamsburg, Colonial Williamsburg wreathes, Forest Garden, Holiday preparations, Holiday Wreath Challenge, Photo Challenge, winter garden, Wordpress, Wordpress pingback problem
Posted in Camellia, Colonial Parkway, Gardening addiction, Gardening in Williamsburg, Holly, James City Co. VA, Nature art, Nature Photography, Plants which feed birds, Platanus occidentalis, Poetry, Sunset, Trees, Use of Native Plants, Weather, Winter Garden, Winter Solstice, Zone 7B Cultural Information
Our friend, who is an amazing cook, made these beautiful cranberry orange biscotti for our coffee group yesterday.
They are delicious. But even better, they are absolutely gluten free and vegan. There is no added fat in the recipe, beyond what occurs naturally in the nuts.
Even though I’m the sort of cook who keeps a bag of Vital Wheat Gluten in the fridge at all times, more and more of my friends and extended family maintain gluten-free diets.
It is always a challenge to stick to a restrictive diet, although recovering one’s health and well-being serves as a powerful motivator!
And it is especially challenging at the holidays. So many of our warm memories and good times with loved ones involve our favorite seasonal foods. It is hard to enjoy family gatherings when our favorite foods are on the table, and we can’t enjoy them.
It was tough for me when I shifted to a fully vegetarian diet in the 80’s. I suddenly felt very out of place at social events from cook-outs to cocktail parties. Hostesses were nervous in inviting me to dinner. Some still are, although there are far more of us vegetarians and vegans these days. There are many more options everywhere you go to eat well and avoid meat.
It is a much tougher thing for those who require a gluten-free diet. Traditional family holiday meals are full of gluten, from appetizers to desserts. Gluten is a protein found in all wheat products. Anything which contains flour, or even comes into contact with wheat, becomes “contaminated” with gluten. That covers an awful lot of the holiday table, doesn’t it?
That is why I was so excited to enjoy these wonderful biscotti yesterday. They are everything I love in biscotti: crunchy, delicious, and totally satisfying. They hold up when dunked in a cup of coffee, and then melt in your mouth at the next bite.
And they are also very healthy to eat; as cookies go….
When I asked for the recipe, my friend sent a link to the recipe on the “elana’s pantry” food blog. Please follow the link to the recipe if you are interested.
These wonderful biscotti are gone now, but certainly not forgotten. I plan to make a batch for Christmas, as a gift to those in my own family who eat a gluten free diet.
Whether you follow a restrictive diet or not, this recipe is well worth the effort to try it. It is actually an easier preparation than traditional biscotti, with fewer ingredients.
I would make only one change to this delicious recipe…. and it involves drizzling melted dark chocolate over the finished biscotti as they cool….
It is December in Williamsburg, and wreathes are appearing on front doors everywhere.
I love early December when it is still warm enough to walk around the colonial area and enjoy these unusual and beautiful decorations.
Known as “della Robbia,” these unique decorations are made from natural, easily accessible materials which would have been available to the residents of Williamsburg during the 18th Century.
These wreathes, garlands and sprays reflect the evergreens and berries available in our Virginia woods, shells collected from the James River and Chesapeake Bay, feathers from local birds, dried flowers and pods grown in Colonial gardens, and the many fruits and vegetables either imported from the Caribbean colonies, or grown locally.
No, we don’t grow pineapples, lemons and oranges in Virginia. But these exotic fruits were readily available to the colonists through trade with the rest of the British Empire.
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation produces all of the wreathes and decorations used on their buildings each December.
It is a huge undertaking for their staff each year, and draws visitors from across the United States and around the world.
I was in good company with lots of other photographers as I took photos on the eastern end of things, near the Colonial Capitol, yesterday.
We’ll make another trek to capture the decorations on the western end of Duke of Gloucester Street, near The College of William and Mary, one day soon.
Some of my companion photographers planned to use their photos to produce their own Christmas cards. Others just wanted souvenirs.
I’ll share photos with you over several posts during December.
I’ve made the first of my own wreathes for this year, in the della Robbia style, and they are hanging now at our neighborhood community center.
These are made on purchased straw wreath forms. I begin with a base of Magnolia leaves, then add mixed bunches of evergreen which includes Cedar, Rosemary and Lavender from our garden, and trimmings from the Christmas tree we purchased on Saturday. Step by step instructions, with photos, may be found here….
These wreathes are trimmed with pine cones collected near College Creek on Saturday afternoon, Red Delicious apples, and some feathers from the craft store.
I hope you’ll construct some beautiful wreathes of your own this year, using whatever materials you can collect locally.
Please send me photos of your creations (by December 13) to include in a round-up post later this month. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!
If you blog, please send a ping back and I’ll include a link to your post from mine.
This is a tiny little rebellion against Christmas “Made in China.” Let’s make our own Christmas cheer, from the materials close at hand, just as our grandparents did.
It is a lot more interesting, and a lot more fun!
Posted in Christmas holidays, Colonial Williamsburg, Color, Crafting with plant materials, Floral Arrangement, Garden Resources, Gardening in Williamsburg, Geometry, History, holiday wreath challenge, Holidays, James City Co. VA, Nature art, Trees, Use of Native Plants, Williamsburg, Winter Garden, Winter Solstice, wreathes, Zone 7B Cultural Information
Tags: Christmas and holiday season, Christmas decoration, Colonial Williamsburg, della Robbia wreathes, Evergreens in wreathes, Forest Garden, Gardening in Williamsburg, Holiday Wreath Challenge, Making a Christmas Wreath, Perma-culture, winter garden