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MG Appreciation Planning, Rocks and Hope

July 28, 2017

I awoke to something I hadn’t seen in a while—RAIN!  It was raining off and on all morning and more is predicted this weekend.  Yippee!  I drove down to El Dorado this morning and by the time I left Pulaski County the rain had stopped.  It was actually quite pleasant as we walked the South Arkansas Arboretum.  Master Gardeners need to mark their calendars now for October 9 and MG Appreciation Day in El Dorado.  It is going to be fantastic!

The gardens look great and there is a whole host of plants you may not be familiar with.  They have a slew of topics for stations throughout the gardens including making your own tea from a tea camellia, butterflies, tree walks(–the gardens are loaded with a great collection), propagation, bulbs, and native plants.  They also are planning a small trade show where you can buy plants that are growing in the gardens, along with bulbs, crafts and art.  They will have painters in the garden.  First thing in the morning you can purchase a local favorite–spudnuts (come find out what they are–but they are tasty!)  You will be able to order lunch if you want to or a t-shirt.  If you want to explore the town, they will give you options to go to the square and look at the quaint stores downtown and eat at one of their unique restaurants or go to the original Minute Man.

They have so many plans.  Other than paying for lunch or an optional t-shirt, the event is free to Master Gardeners to show our appreciation to you!  Start planning now,  there is plenty of parking and we can handle bus loads too!

I pride myself on staying current with trends, but I am way behind on Kindness Rocks!  How many of you have heard of this?  It is a world-wide movement to leave painted rocks in public places.  It was created to spread inspiration and a moment of kindness for unsuspecting recipients through random inspirational rocks dropped along the way –random acts of kindness!  And my motto is Kindness Matters, so I am inspired.  We found all kinds of rocks in the gardens in El Dorado and I found some in  Hope later that day.  

Kindness is contagious and I have been missing out. We plan to do Gardeners Rock with Kindness at this event and you can paint a rock to take home and spread some cheer in your own counties.

We sampled some of the local lunch options and made lots of plans before doing a quick driving tour of choices to see.  Union county has come up with a great idea to make a sign to display in front of local businesses and homes to thank them for a good landscaping job.    Here is one example:

Then I was on the road heading to Hope.  I met with their staff chair to talk about downtown improvement and landscaping ideas.  It definitely warmed up–and we walked the downtown after business closing time.    There are big plans to revitalize the downtown since the local bank is being converted to their new courthouse which will be changing over soon.   Big changes are coming.  Can anyone explain this piece of art to me?    Fun!

I finally made it to my hotel and checked in.  Since Hope is home to the watermelon festival coming up in August, watermelons were everywhere, even in my hotel lobby.  A full day with a lot accomplished.   Consider this a Save the Date for MG appreciation, but we will soon be getting information out about all the details.  Tomorrow is MG Saturday training, then home.

Fort Smith and Planning

July 27, 2017

It was a full day in Fort Smith yesterday for planning the 2018 State MG Conference and I didn’t make it home until 10, so I was too tired to post.  We started out meeting with our two host hotels the Doubletree and the Courtyard by Marriott.  The Doubletree is attached to the Convention Center and the Marriott is on the other side of the parking lot of the convention center.  Once you arrive you won’t have to move your car.    They are both hotels that have recently been upgraded and they are equally nice.  The Marriott is smaller, but each room does come with a refrigerator, while there are limited availability refrigerators at the Doubletree.  Both rooms do come with breakfast included.  There are still rooms available at both host hotels.  Be sure to ask for the MG rate when making reservations.

After we got all our accommodations covered, we drove to the Learning Fields for a round-robin of discussions with individual committees.    We got a lot accomplished this way.  Each committee had their own 15 minutes to ask questions and visit.  We finished slightly after 7.

In between, I did have time to go walk the gardens, but boy was it hot!  In spite of the heat, the gardens do look good.     We have a lot of great learning opportunities planned, so make sure you have reserved the date in your 2018 calendar.  Gardeners with Grit–You are Wanted on the Border  in Fort Smith, May 31 – June 2 (with 2 great optional pre-tours May 30).  This year we plan to send out the details about all the tours and speakers 2 weeks BEFORE registration goes live on Feb. 1.  That will give Master Gardeners time to review and READ the details of what they are signing up for BEFORE they sign up.  In reading the evaluations from this years conference, many of the things people asked for–I wish we had known the tour was steep or hard walking, or I didn’t know that is what the speaker was going to talk about–all was in the information sent out with registration.  I do know there is a lot to read and we all skim things but we are really changing up the schedule this year with some innovative ideas, so we will give folks plenty of time to digest the information.




A full day of Master Gardening

July 25, 2017

Today was our third quarterly meeting of County 76, our statewide Advisory group.  We had almost 70 people from 23 counties in attendance and we changed the format slightly, to doing committee work first, then programs.  I think it worked quite well.  There was a lot of program planning with several big events in the not too distant future.  First up will be A to P (annuals to perennials) for our first year Master Gardeners and their mentors.    We have 4 sessions across the state August 18-21.  If you have not gotten information about this, let me know.  Their committee got a lot of work accomplished and they are highly organized.  Next up is PNG Leadership at the Arkansas 4-H Center September 26-27.  The deadline for early bird registration is August 1, so get your registration in. This is an event you do not want to miss.   They will need a large ink pad for this stamp they had made!   We had a tasty salad lunch followed by our general session.   Meg from RRR (Recruitment, Retention and Recognition) committee did a great job presenting a program on the MG awards program.  

Each committee gave an update on what they are planning and then we inducted 8 new members!    Linda also recognized Marcella for 5 years of service to County 76 and Ouida for 10 years of service (Darlene who is recovering from surgery also is a 5 year member).   I am sure I am sharing pearls of wisdom with agent Steve from Drew County. It is great to have agent participation. 

We got everything cleaned up and organized.  I was home for a brief spell and then headed to Faulkner County for their annual Meet the Masters event which showcases their programs and entices potential volunteers to join. Not only was it educational, but as always, there was tasty food and a very welcoming group of volunteers.  I even got my own reserved parking place!  This is an excellent way to recruit new members. After our presentations, there was a lot of visiting between new and old members.  A great event!   

The county office is right next to the fire station and this shows how prepared firefighters always are.    Maybe I should take a page from this book.  If I laid out my clothes like that the night before, just think how quickly I could go from bed to car!

It was another scorcher today and the sunset even looked hot!    We need a break and some rain!


Monday meetings and preparing

July 24, 2017

When a county hosts a state MG conference it takes a lot of planning, teamwork and meetings.  One of my favorite parts of the process, besides organizing it all, is getting to know the various members of the county better.  The individual chairs we work with quite closely and it is great to develop a lasting friendship. Such was the case this year in Pulaski county with Joellen and Valerie. They worked tirelessly, leading their team with over 1900 hours of reported volunteer work and they did it with encouragement and a positive attitude and  a lot of their own blood, sweat and tears.  Their style of leadership was to set an example, encourage and let their teams run with their tasks.  It worked.  Today, Julie and I met with them to wrap up the final budget and go over their evaluations and assess what worked and what didn’t.  I have missed our seemingly daily conversations that led up to the final weeks of the conference planning session.    It also helped to have a great county agent.  It was a great experience.

Julie and I also worked getting everything ready for tomorrow’s County 76 meeting.  We have 73 folks coming in from across the state.

Afterwards, Randy and I went to the Heart Hospital in Little Rock to meet with some of their top cardiologists, administrators and their chef to discuss a vegetable garden at their clinic.  Since this chef joined their team several years ago, he has changed the way they cook in their cafe. No more processed foods, but fresh ingredients are used. They want to take it one step further.  Their goal is to provide fresh produce to use in their cafe and eventually lead to market baskets that could go home with patients.  The entire key is to show the benefits of eating healthy and growing your own produce.  What a great idea!  We had some great discussions and then we went to view their site.  I was not dressed appropriately for the climb up so I let Randy walk up and possibly get chiggers!  They have some lofty goals and a strong determination and I see it happening in the near future.     I also think some terracing should be in their future plans as well.  I can’t wait to see the outcome!

While I mentioned clouds and thunder yesterday, no rainfall came my way, but I heard Saline County got a good shower as did parts of NLR.  Did you?  It clouded up again today for a bit, but again, no moisture fell in the Carson yard.  Could use some!

A great weekend

July 23, 2017

It was a great family weekend in St. Louis.  Last night after we were back in our room, it started thundering and there were some pretty heavy rain storms that rolled through overnight, which cooled things off.  Unfortunately, we were not able to stay and enjoy the cooler temperatures. Clay and I were on the road early because we had things to do back home and those cooler temperatures did not follow us home. This time, the further south we drove, the warmer and more humid it got.  Our first stop on the way home was Whole Hog Barbeque in NLR.  Our good friends Nancy and Rich started this franchise 10 years ago, and while they are passing the torch, today they had a big celebration to honor their 10 years.  We were at the tail end of the party, but it was still packed with friends, family and good customers.     We got to visit with Rich and daughter Peggy, plus got a tasty lunch.   I missed getting a picture of Nancy, but we visited with her too.  We then made it home, unpacked and I was back out picking up lunch supplies for 73 people for our County 76 meeting on Tuesday. I have a full day tomorrow so I got it done today.

After everything was unloaded, I watered, watered and watered.  I also did a bit of prep for a meeting tomorrow.  Now I am hearing rumblings of thunder and hoping it means rain is headed our way.  We could use it.  It is going to be a full week with a lot of events.

A great family day! 

July 22, 2017

Unfortunately our family doesn’t live close enough to get together with any regularity so it is a reat when we do, especially when it is accompanied by a good occasion like a 75th birthday of two cousins. I got to spend the whole day with my cousin (who is not 75). We started off at a chocolate tour where we channelled our Lucy and Ethel.

They were not in production today, but we did learn a lot about chocolate.

After that, we went to see City Garden on the suggestion of a LR friend whose daughter had a lot to do with the reality of this garden. Not only was it a beautiful oasis in the heart of downtown, but it was a happening place with families. 

We also explored more of St. Louis before chilling at her house in the pool this afternoon. Tonight was the big celebration where we met up with more family. A great time reconnecting.

Tomorrow we head home. A quick but fun trip!

It is hotter in St. Louis

July 21, 2017

Clay and I were headed out of town today, but when I was watering last night I was appalled by the weeds and grass that were growing in my beds and it was just too hot to tackle late in the day. So, I got up early and spent 2 hours in the garden weed-eating , deadheading and pruning before I took a shower. We were on the road to St. Louis by 10!

The further north we drove, the hotter it got. The actual temperature was 104 when we arrived and tomorrow they plan to break a record and get to 106!! Needless to say, we don’t have plans for outdoor activities. We are here to visit with family and celebrate  some birthdays tomorrow night. 

Tonight we caught up with my uncle at my cousins house and went out to dinner. It was still 97 at 8 pm as we walked her garden to identify and talk plants. Although it is hotter here now they can grow some plants beautifully that we struggle with. Look at this lilac

And lily of the valley

She also had ostespermum still doing well in full sun 

The fan flowers (scaevola) were doing spectacular 

Tomorrow we will spend time exploring with them before a big gathering tomorrow night. If it was cooler, we would go to the botanical gardens, but we are looking for indoor activities! 

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