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Zooming is sometimes better than others!

November 19, 2018
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I have been bragging on the zoom technology all year–how much time it saves us, how connected we are without driving hours, etc.  Today we had a zoom meeting for the 2019 MG State Conference. We had folks from all across the state and we could not have done it face-to-face, but we had a lot of glitches, that we don’t normally have.  We could not get the powerpoint to work once we shared the screen, it kept freezing, and then we had multiple people who we could not hear for their reports–their mouths were moving but no sound was coming out.  They were not muted from our end, but something happened.  When technology works, it is amazing, when it doesn’t quite the opposite.  Luckily, that only happened with three of the reports, so we got to hear the rest.  Poor Terrie James had to keep running from her office to Stacey’s office when she needed to talk. She got her exercise in!  In spite of our technical difficulties, we did get quite a bit accomplished, and have set the date for the last session before the new year.  Registration goes live January 15, and that will be here before you know it!

We went straight from one zoom meeting to the next, for a session with chair of 2020 and the hotel/conference center site in Jonesboro.  We went over the contract and negotiated terms, so we can get that locked in before the end of the year.  Luckily that session went a little more smoothly–at least for the technology part. We had some major points to negotiate and that worked out well too.  I can’t wait to see a logo for this one–the theme is quite catchy.

With so much going on, the day flew by.  I also took a load of books home and sent another load of stuff. I emptied out a few drawers and am sad to say, I have a LOT to go through.  Maybe I should have started sooner!

If you are out shopping for the holidays, take a look in the produce section for the Moon Drops Grapes.  They were previously called Witch Fingers, but I guess the name put some people off. The genetics for these elongated grapes started with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture grape breeding program.  I found them at my local Kroger.  They are by far one of the best grapes I have ever eaten, and they last a good long while.  The fruit is large and quite long.  

It has an excellent flavor and a great texture.  They are from the same company who sells the Cotton Candy grape (also UA genetics) but that one is too sweet for my taste.  If you can find them, give them a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed.  They are a tad more pricey than the other seedless grapes, but I have had them a week sitting on the counter and there is no decay and they are still just as firm as the day I bought them–and there aren’t many left.

Flower, Garden & Nature Society

November 17, 2018
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Two more lasts to add to the list! My last official Saturday to work, and my last official speaking gig. The 2018 Janet Carson farewell tour of speaking engagements has come to an end. I have been told that once you retire, every day feels like a Saturday, and it will be a nice change instead of working! This year I was away from home overnight over 100 nights, and worked 75% of the Saturday’s, so this will be a treat to be at home more.

It was a beautiful day for a drive, and one of the prettiest sunrises, but my camera was in the back seat, so no driving photos! It was an early start to the day but we arrived in Fayetteville with time to spare. Today was the November meeting of the NW Arkansas Flower, Garden and Nature Society and they held it in the new Tyson center on the UA farm. Such a nice facility. We had a great crowd and it was a very fun topic for me to present–38 years as an extension horticulturist—interesting questions, common questions and favorite plants, plus favorite moments in my career. I think I spent more time on this Powerpoint than I have on any other the past few years. It was a walk down memory lane for me putting it together and great fun presenting.

We had a chance to look at the plants outside the building–all native plants. The early cold has caught them unaware and the fothergilla were shutting down before their stunning fall foliage. A few were making an attempt at color, but it won’t be much. The oakleaf hydrangea were still green, but I will be surprised if they turn their brilliant color either, and the leaves may not fall off on these deciduous plants if the abscission layer can’t complete its job.  Time will tell.

After a nice lunch, we were back on the road home.  Interesting that early in the week we had 23 degrees and snow, and today it was 69 and I had the air conditioner on in the car driving home!  It must be Arkansas!!

Retirement Reception

November 16, 2018
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I want to thank Julie and Holly and the Horticulture Department for my wonderful retirement reception today.  Julie and Holly worked hard putting together a fabulous spread and decorations, and some lovely gifts.  I was touched that so many of my close friends including many Master Gardeners and co-workers came by to wish me well.  It was nice to see the retirees that I worked with in the past come to give me some pointers!  There were many touching tributes and the most special was from my husband Clay. It was a great afternoon.  Here is a link to some of the pictures that our staff photographer took: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmw33Use

My last official day is January 2, and my last real day in the office will be December 17.  Time is flying!

Planning, cleaning and speaking

November 15, 2018
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We are trying to get a lot of pre-planning done for the 2019 State MG conference as well as putting together as much as we can for 2020 state conference before I leave.  We have been meeting with the Angela Rogers Group to handle registration for us–online registration, website design, and printing name badges and tickets–what the LRCVVB has done for us for 11 years.  They no longer are providing the service so we have found a great alternative–I hope they think our conference is great too–but we have locked in rates for 2 years.    We had an executive planning session today for 2019 to prepare for our general committee zoom meeting on Monday.   Julie, Jane and Glenda also had open office hours today from 10-12:30 for anyone who needed help with their online hour reporting.  They did it via zoom and helped numerous folks across the state. 

I also started on the arduous task of cleaning out my office.  I am being selective on what books I really need at home.  My replacement will then get first dibs on what is left and then we can decide where to go from there. I have a LOT of books. I am also finding some hidden treasures of years gone by.  It is probably going to get worse before the end. I am dumping a lot of paper too.  I am also letting Julie look at things to see if she needs them. You can accumulate a lot of stuff in 38 years.  

This afternoon, I headed north to Fort Smith for the River Valley MG monthly meeting this evening.  They had a great turnout and it was fun seeing so many of them again and talking about the MG history.      The weather warmed up today and all remnants of snow were gone by noon, so it was an easy drive up and back.

Tomorrow is a full day with meetings, an interview for my replacement and then my retirement party (a month early).  My final day is January 2.

Last zoom training (last MG training for me) and snow

November 14, 2018
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There have been a lot of last things for me this year, as I finish up my final months as a horticulture specialist.  Today was our final zoom Master Gardener class with more than 20 counties participating.  It was also my last MG training of my career.  Over the years, there have been very few MG county basic MG training programs that I did not teach at least one or two classes for.  I have enjoyed meeting so many volunteers and touching base in so many counties.  It was a bit sad ending the training today, but gratifying as well to know that since 1988 we have trained thousands of Arkansans with sound horticulture education, and we have retained many of them for a long time.  We started back in October 1988 with 40 graduates from 4 counties, and today we have over 3400 Master Gardener volunteers in 68 counties.  Hats off to all the county agents who have recruited these volunteers and gotten them into the program, and thank you to all the volunteers who have joined our program and given 110%.  Your efforts are visible all over the state.  I appreciate each and every one of you. I can’t wait to see what exciting things the next 10 years bring under new leadership!

We had a great series of lectures today, starting off with Ples Spradley on pesticide safety, then John Boyd on lawns and weeds, followed by Becky McPeake on wildlife pest control, then Randy Forst on landscape design and last by Julie Treat and me on record keeping and the UA website.  Arkansas Master Gardeners are fortunate to have dedicated specialists and agents willing to give their time and expertise.  One of the best parts of zoom training is that it is 100% core curriculum taught by extension professionals!   We did a few other updates, and then they had time for their tests.  I expect great things from these new graduates.   We couldn’t have done it without Mary and Vonda keeping us straight –the master zoomers! 

To top off our day it was snowing off and on throughout the state–or at least the eastern and central sides.  It started in south Arkansas and moved its way up.  We were having pretty heavy snowfalls as we left today.    I drove around my neighborhood to get some pictures–it was too cold to walk.     I think the prettiest sight was the purple muhly grass with a dusting of snow.    Way too cold for November!

 

A taste of winter

November 11, 2018
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We have had our first taste of cold weather, and everyone is asking if this means it is going to be a long, cold winter.  Who knows, but sleet on November 11 is pretty impressive.  The sleet didn’t last long, but it came down pretty hard when it was.  I was at my computer and I heard a weird sound.  I was trying to figure out what I was hearing when I realized it was coming from outside! Snow is predicted in north Arkansas this week.  It is NOVEMBER!

We celebrated Clay’s birthday Friday night and he got two desserts in one night which made him happy.     After a great dinner, we went to see a space movie–Clay loves everything about space, but even he was a bit disappointed in First Man.  It was slow and dark.  But we had friends with us and a reason to celebrate, so it was a fun night.

This weekend I did do some yard work. Our deck and yard were blanketed early by leaves.  We had a load of firewood delivered and we needed to move it to the deck.  I used the blower and cleared the deck and Clay and I (Clay more than me) moved the wood out.  I moved on to the front yard with the blower.  I blew some to the side yard and others to a pile in the front to mulch for my beds.  I really do like to use the blower.  There is something cathartic about blowing leaves.   I am sure in a week it will probably look like I haven’t done anything, but for this weekend, it looked great.    Some of my plants were hit hard by the cold but others are still ok.  The peppers are toast, along with periwinkle, marigolds and impatiens.  The dragonwing begonia is 75% gone, but some parts are still lingering, but surprising the tropical tibouchina looks fine.  The winter vegetables look fine.  I moved pots of semi-hardy plants like bay closer to the foundation for added winter protection.  I also decorated for Thanksgiving both inside and out.

This weekend was also the semi-annual used book sale at the library.  I love reading almost as much as I love gardening. It is sort of like plants–do I really need any more? No, but does that stop me from buying more?  I went to the sale Saturday afternoon and came home with two bags full for a whopping $8!  I have already read one, and am 1/3 of the way through another.

While Clay watches football, I read.  We have had a fire the past two nights and it is a nice way to spend an evening.

 

Garvan Gardens Native Plant Workshop

November 8, 2018
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Today was the last Janet Carson Garvan Gardens plant workshop for 2018 and my last as an extension employee.  I have been doing quarterly workshops at Garvan Gardens since the gardens opened in 2002.  Even before the official opening of Garvan Gardens, I was doing sporadic classes at the Twentieth Century Garden, as it was called before the name change.  We used to have to ride the Belle of Hot Springs over, and walk up through the gardens to the pavilion where we held demonstration classes.  My how times change;  it is pretty amazing to see the changes and the transformation of the gardens in such a short period of time.

Today the topic was Native Plants and we had some great speakers.  I started off with native trees and shrubs, then Theo Wittsell from the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission spoke on native pollinator plants, and then Berni Kurz, Washington Co. staff chair spoke on native fruits.  After a nice lunch Pulaski Co. MG Jane Gulley spoke on Are you a yard friendly native, followed by me on native annuals and perennials.  We had a full house with a lot of questions and comments.     At the end of class, Sherre Freeman took a group photo, but I don’t have a copy yet.  I did have a quick run through the gardens with Sherre as well afterward.     They are frantically trying to finish up the holiday light display which opens in a few weeks.    We also drove by the treehouse in the children’s garden, which is pretty amazing.   The end of an era for me. 

 

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