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Holiday Entertaining and First Hard Frost

December 10, 2016
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Last year we had our first killing frost in my yard January 7, 2016, and this year our first killing frost was Dec. 9.  It got to 23 in my yard this morning and it zapped a lot of plants.  basil-before-and-after-16-1 basil-before-and-after-16-2

I was running some errands today and I saw where one sprinkler system got frozen and was spouting water. sprinkler-blitz-16

Do check your systems to make sure  you don’t have any problems.

I had the past two days off to get ready for our annual holiday party.  Entertaining is as much a hobby for me as gardening, reading and cooking. I love to have people over.  I got all my food cooked yesterday and just reheated it this afternoon. It makes for a pretty easy day. pork-sous-vide-16-1  Petals was worn out watching. dogs-dec-16-2

It was a big crowd today but it seemed much more crowded than last year since last year it was 60 degrees or more and everyone was outside on the deck. No one even wore a coat last year and this year both beds were covered in coats.  holiday-party-16-1 holiday-party-16-5 holiday-party-16-6 holiday-party-16-7 holiday-party-16-8 holiday-party-16-13holiday-party-16-19holiday-party-16-20

In addition to our regulars, we got some guests from Mississippi and Kentucky.  Martha Ray’s sister and friend fit right in. holiday-party-16-18

I take a few pictures at the beginning and again at the end. In the middle it is a bit of chaos and nothing but putting out food and drink happens. It was a fun night with a bunch of hungry folks!  I think this is what the holidays are about–visiting and sharing, eating and having fun.

Winter is coming!

December 7, 2016
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The National Weather Service is predicting some of the coldest temperatures we have had in a while Thursday and Friday night.  The predicted low is 21 -23 degrees.  That is COLD! We can only hope for overcast nights with a brisk wind to keep the heavy frost to a minimum.  I did go out late this afternoon and harvest the remaining lettuce.  lettuce-dec7-16  Lettuce is not as cold-tolerant as other winter vegetables, but even the cold tolerant ones  usually won’t go without damage below 26-28 degrees  and they are predicting 21, so  I covered most of them with either old pots, row covers or modified tunnels. winter-plant-protection-dec-16-1 winter-plant-protection-dec-16-2 winter-plant-protection-dec-16-3  It is not a pretty site but I hope to have living plants after the cold snap.

As I was out in the yard protecting plants I realized I had maligned my other Japanese maple yesterday. It is not flamboyant, but it is still  pretty. jap-maple-dec7-1 jap-maple-dec7-2 jap-maple-dec7-5

It sure felt cold all day today but more is coming! I also moved quite a few plants behind the shrubs adjacent to the house. Hopefully this will be enough of a buffer to keep them alive during the cold weather.  I had to take a picture to say goodbye to those summer annuals that won’t be with us past tomorrow. holidays-16 impatiens-dec7-16 periwinkle-dec7-16

Take stock of your garden and anything that you think may stand a chance with a little bit of help, do so in the morning, because “baby it is cold outside” and it is going to get colder!

Last MG Training of 2016 and preparing for the cold

December 6, 2016
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The weather cleared up today and it was fairly mild this afternoon with clear sunny skies, but the forecast is showing all that is going to change drastically Thursday night.  Right now they are predicting lows between 21-23.  If you are growing winter vegetables you need to consider covering them.  Most of them will do fine until we get below 28.   All of the summer annuals that have been lingering and blooming will also be a thing of the past if it does get that cold.  penta-and-sage-nov-26-16 my-yard-nov-5-163I have roses with flowers and buds, but they too will get nipped. roses-dec6-16The recent rains should help protect the hardy trees and shrubs, with ample moisture inside the plants to serve as a buffer.   If you still have tropicals outside that you just plan to overwinter in a garage, they need to make the move tomorrow.

I picked the last of my eggplants today eggplants-dec-6-16and will cover my winter vegetables tomorrow.  chinese-cabbage-16 learning-fields-dec-16-1

They can be covered with row covers, a cardboard box or even an overturned pot.  Hopefully the cold won’t linger too long.

I did spend the day in Cleburne County today with the final MG training of 2016.  This training is composed of Cleburne, Searcy, Stone and Van Buren Counties.  They rotate each week where they train. The church today was in view of Sugarloaf Mountain.  sugarloaf-mtn-16-1 and had the brightest colors inside. It was a great location for a training session. mg-training-cleburne-16-1 mg-training-cleburne-16-3 mg-training-cleburne-16-4 mg-training-cleburne-16-5

Local Master Gardeners provided snacks and lunch and as always it was tasty and plentiful.

I got home with time to walk the yard and take inventory of what I have.  I have plenty of things still blooming and great fall color on itea itea-dec6-16and the blueberries. blueberries-16dec-2   I have a couple of Japanese maples and their color is diverse. One has multiple shades on the same tree. japanese-maple-dec-16-1 japanese-maple-dec-16-2 japanese-maple-dec-16-3

while the other is never outstandingly colored. japanese-maple-dec-16-4

I still have seed pods on the cleredendron cleredendron-dec6-16-1 cleredendron-dec6-16-2and the Manhattan euonymus. euonymus-berries-dec-16

When I got home I also had an early Christmas present. Clay ordered me a year of participation in the Urban Food Loop.  You save your food scraps in the kitchen container, and then transfer them to a larger plastic container which is picked up weekly.  It all goes to a local composting operation and then you can receive compost to add to the garden.  Sounds interesting and I can’ wait to start. the-urban-loop-dec-16-2 the-urban-loop-dec-16-3  I have had several friends talking about it, but saw it Saturday night and we got signed up.  I will keep you posted.

Take stock of your gardens tomorrow and protect what you need to.  This is our first taste of winter weather, and it looks like we have more in store next week.

Annual State Faculty Conference

December 5, 2016
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Our state faculty for the UA Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service (and yes, that is a mouthful) only get together once a year for an annual meeting at the state extension office, and today was the day.  It was the largest attendance I have seen in many years and the room was packed with state staff from our office and all the satellite sites as well. faculty-conference-16 faculty-conference2 Today was a different format, because we have new leadership.  In August, our director Tony Windham retired and went to a different venture, and Rick Cartwright took the helm.  He has a very different style of leadership which I think is refreshing.  If two people are too similar it is hard to compare, but when they are quite diverse there needs no comparison–they stand alone.  Today Rick took the helm and shared his vision for all of us and spread the message live via remote broadcasting to county offices and I am sure those who want may watch it later.

Rick is by nature a storyteller and a rambler, and he did not fail today. His positive message was uplifting and he set the bar high for his expectations.  He will give no less.  Across the country and within our own state there are many naysayers about the future of extension, but Rick did not buy into any of it. He told us that we are a strong organization with some hurdles to beat, but they were beatable.  As an organization we stand at 620 employees across the state, down 25% 20 years ago, but no programs have suffered. We work smarter, more efficiently and with more technology, but we can always improve.  He has one of the most positive attitudes we have ever seen as a leader and I believe it is contagious.  I think we all left the meeting motivated and energized to give even more.  He said the two things he doesn’t want to hear from whiners is I can’t, and That is not my job!

In addition to getting a sense of our new leadership mantra, today was also a day of celebrating staff.  Many folks were recognized for their outstanding efforts across the state.  Our beekeeper extraordinaire Jon Zawislak got the Lynn Russell lynn-russell-award   award for professional excellence, which will help him on his road to a doctorate.  Cleveland County staff won the team award and team-award the county innovation award.  They also recognized all the length of service from 5-40 years.  length-of-service-awards The final awards were the Awards of Excellence honoring early career awards to the final Extension Employee of the Year, which I was humbled to receive.janet-carson-award-16-2 

I am honored to work for an organization that I have loved since the day I started work over 36 years ago.  It doesn’t quite feel like a job, but a place like home.  I have been blessed with strong leadership from the day I started which continues today. I think we are in for a great ride under the guidance of Rick Cartwright and I am glad I am still on that rollercoaster.  I have wonderful colleagues to work with along with the best staff and volunteers anywhere in the country.  This award is not about me, but about all of them who have helped me along the way.  I am honored, humbled and thankful for this accolade.  What a delightful early Christmas present!

When I got home my family was as excited as I was and they brought me champagne to celebrate.  janet-carson-award-16-1Life is good!

shopping, socks and celebrating

December 4, 2016
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The rain stopped today but it was an overcast and cold day.  Looking ahead to the weekly weather forecast it looks like cold weather is on its way. I still have not had a killing frost, but that may change this week.  While it was not a spectacular fall foliage year, right now the Japanese maples are absolutely glorious.  jap-maple-16-1 jap-maple-16-3

It is interesting that we say you should pick a tree in the fall to determine what color it will be, but this one has bright red on one side and a deep orange on the other, and it is the same tree.

There was some discussion this week when I mentioned how fabulous the fall color was on the ginkgo trees that they are not as good for wildlife as some natives.  I suppose the Japanese maples would fit in that same category, but I guess you can strike me down for choosing beauty over habitat.   I am not a purist, and probably look at a garden from a different perspective.  I don’t think it has to be all or nothing with any category of plants.  I like a diverse mix of natives, non-natives, perennials, annuals, evergreens, and deciduous plants. The only thing I would choose to dissuade folks from planting are those things that are invasive.

I also think it is important that people plant the right plant in the right place.  There is often too much wrong information out there.  One good example is the Norfolk Island Pine.  It is a houseplant and is not winter hardy in Arkansas. Many people hear the pine name and assume it is a tree for outdoors.  Today at a local grocery store they reinforced that idea by still having them OUTSIDE along with the cut Christmas trees.  norfolk-island-pines-16They won’t last long if the cold weather comes this week, nor would they fare well moving indoors to a heated house right now.  Right plant, and good information.  When in doubt, call your local county extension office.

Today was a busy day for me. I spent the morning getting supplies together for our annual holiday party which is next Friday night.  Then I got food together for a sock holiday party today. I was invited to a friend’s house sock-party-16-5and was told to bring some finger food to share and holiday socks stuffed with something to exchange. It was a neat idea and a fun get together with some clever items in socks. sock-party-16-7 sock-party-16-10 sock-party-16-12

While many were dressed for the occasion including the dogsock-party-16-6, there was one who really got into the spiritsock-party-16-4

I love the holiday season and I have seen some clever themed trees today at several stops: christmas-tree-flamingo-16-3 sock-party-16-2 and a unique vented chiminia innovative-chiminea

After my party, I drove to pick up some holiday jewelry I had ordered from another clever Master Gardener.  So many of our volunteers are multi-talented.  jewelry-16

A good fun and productive day!

 

Rain and a weekend at home

December 3, 2016
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We awoke yesterday morning in Ft. Smith to a beautiful sunrise.ft-smith-convention-center-16-4 sunrise-ft-smith-16-3

We drove around the downtown area to look at some potential sites for our conference before heading out of town.  They are putting in a lot of murals and “art” all around town.  This arrow exhibit is representative of the Native American influences in the community. arrows-ft-smith-1  We had to stop in Russellville to load up our poinsettias at the Arkansas Tech greenhouses. poinsettias-at-dec-16-2and did a conference call on the way home as well.   We had a car full of stuff before we finally got back to the office mid-afternoon.  My daughter and her boyfriend got the leaves out of the yard and the outside decorations up, so we are set but we don’t have house lights this year. Not sure about that.

The temperature began to drop already last night and rain added to the mix for a cold day today. So far I have had .60 inches and more is predicted.  It is pretty brisk outside.

Today was day 2 of the 3 day Arkansas Crafters Guild at the Statehouse Convention Center.  ark-crafters-guild-16 statehouse-convention-center-16-1  I always like to do this event and the Arkansas Art Center Student sale, but I missed that one because I was out-of-town. I did get a few Christmas presents.  Then we had a lovely lunch at the Capital Hotel before heading home. lunch-capital-hotel-16 They have a fixed price tasting lunch each day, and it was quite good with small portions of multiple things.

More packages keep arriving daily from my on-line black Friday shopping, and it is fun to open up and see what is inside. From one company I had them all gift-wrapped so that was an added bonus, but I got one extra package.  It was addressed to me but there was no packing slip with items inside.  None of the items were gift-wrapped nor anything I had ordered.  I thought maybe they were sending me a gift for being such a good customer!  I called and told them of their error and they sent the FedEx guy to pick them up. Just think, if they were gift-wrapped we might have had some unusual items under the tree. I am quite getting into this online ordering!  No crowds, no parking, great fun!

Tonight after dinner with friends we stopped by our son’s place. He has been in the midst of a huge remodeling job–wall knocked down, repainting, and today was flooring. Clay helped him most of the day.  kyle-remodel-dec-16-4 He has great friends who are talented, and he is learning a lot too. They have furniture moved in, but lots of cleaning left to do and a few finishing touches, but my what a difference. kyle-remodel-dec-16-5  kyle-remodel-dec-16-1He likes color as much as his mother!

Ark. Tech poinsettias and planning in Ft. Smith

December 1, 2016
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We spent the morning in the office before loading up and heading north for a planning session with the River Valley MGs. On our way we stopped off in Russellville to attend Jim Collins last poinsettia sale at Arkansas Tech. Jim is retiring in May. These are teaching greenhouses. The students hold three plant sales a year-poinsettias in December and a spring and fall bedding plant sale. Students grow, propagate and maintain the plants along with plant sales. We purchased our plants but will pick them up on the way home tomorrow since it is too cold to leave them out in the car overnight. There is only one house of poinsettias, but three more have a jumpstart on the spring sale. Our extended warm fall has them way ahead of schedule so they will be pinching and propagating more. 

Then it was on to Ft. Smith. We checked into the newly remodeled Doubletree (formerly the Holiday Inn). 

This will be one of the MG conference hotels in 2018. It is very nice. We didn’t have much time to linger as Julie and I needed to get across town to the Learning Fields where the meeting was. We met with the chairs and treasurer to review the proposed budget before our general session.

We ended with a late dinner at a new restaurant at least for us. A good meal and now hopefully a good nights rest. 

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