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Italy reunion and where did our weather come from?

November 18, 2017
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I had the group of MG’s who went to Italy over today for a reunion and to recap our trip.  We had 26 of our 36 who could make it and everyone brought a dish that reminded them of Italy.  We had SOOO much food, and it was all quite tasty.  As always I have great intentions to take lots of pictures and had my camera out and took some before folks arrived.  Then people started arriving, then kept arriving and we needed serving pieces, spoons,  or refills and before you knew it, the event was over and I had taken a handful  of shots.  I missed half the people who were here.  People had to keep going back to the table as more food arrived.  We had the table and island overflowing.  Photos were running on the TV and we critiqued what worked and what didn’t on the trip.  It was a great day and so good to reconnect. Traveling together makes great friendships.  Folks came in from Paragould and Batesville to Grand Lake, Lake Village and Mena with all points in between.

Yesterday early evening Katie and I worked on the leaves in the front yard and on the deck.  Other than one pile that  I left to shred for the garden, it looked pretty good and the deck was clean. We woke up to hot temperatures and wind and you could not tell we had done anything with the leaves.  The yard and the deck were covered.  The wind was fierce all day and at mid-day it was really whipping.  In spite of having all the windows open all day, it was hot inside the house. It was up to 78 and we were about to get a houseful of people, so I turned on the air conditioner with the windows open!  I have now gone from air conditioning to heat, to air conditioning and heat and now again air conditioning with probable heat by morning.  Never has this happened before to me.  It has gotten nippy outside again, but I have closed all the windows except in the bedroom.  Many said driving in was dicey with things blowing all over the place.  Some even went through heavy downpours of rain. I just had a sprinkling for a few minutes.  Very weird weather and what does it portend for winter?  It is anybodies guess.

Ground breaking for new project and evaluation

November 16, 2017
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Today was the ground breaking ceremony for a new edible display garden at the Arkansas 4-H Center.  This outstanding project is being led by Pulaski County Master Gardeners.  They have conceptualized raised bed vegetable gardens, fruit trees, a composting display and beehives.  The entire area will be fenced to keep out the local deer population and hopefully any bears as well.  The board of the Pulaski County MG’s plus Randy welcomed many dignitaries from the 4-H Foundation board, extension administrators, County Judge,  LR Federation of Garden Club members and a whole slew of Master Gardeners.    President Kathy Ratcliffe welcomed everyone and shared their vision.  This garden will be a boon to the county and state.  It will be a teaching garden for students of all ages.  I can’t wait to see the results of this effort.  They had a reception following the ground breaking and the Pulaski County Master Gardeners were excellent hosts.    Before heading out to this event, I worked on columns but more importantly surveys or evaluations for the participants of the MG zoom training from the perspective of the students, the agents and the instructors.  We will use these results to begin planning for next year.  I also have put together a short template that will be going to counties for each county to write the history of their MG program–when their program began, who their agents have been over the years, first project, etc.  I want to create a device to document where we started and where we are, so we can continue to plan for the future. The goal is to have this finished by the Oct 2018 birthday celebration.  MG’s out there, start scouring your archives and get ready to start putting this information together.

Zoomed Out!

November 15, 2017
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It has been a great 5 weeks and we have graduated over 60 new Master Gardener members from 14 counties and they attended via zoom!  Whenever you try any new technology you aren’t sure what will happen, but I think we have all been pleasantly surprised at how well it went.  We also gave a very standardized training via extension experts to a lot of counties at one time.  We are in the process of putting out evaluations to attendees, agents and speakers to get the various perspectives, and then we will begin to plan for next year.  Some positives for me were the fact that we didn’t have to travel to 14 locations to speak, and volunteers did not have to travel to another county to be part of a multi-county training.  We were able to teach to smaller audiences, so no cancellations if minimum numbers weren’t met, agents did not have to line up speakers, and we will have recorded sessions to use at future events (eventually)!  This would not have been as smooth a process were it not for Zoom guru Mary Poling!  

Julie has also been instrumental in getting out handouts and organizing our days.  She also spoke today on our on-line record keeping.   In addition to Julie, John Hopkins started us off with insects   then John Boyd on lawn care and weed control.    After lunch Randy spoke on warm season vegetables  and I did cool season vegetables and the MG program.  I have been quite impressed with the level of committment by our specialists and agents, and how much they prepared and wanted to do the best job possible.  I think it wore some of them out!   I hope it has been as good of an experience for all the attendees and agents as it has been for me and my staff.  Congratulations and welcome to all our new Master Gardeners!    And I got one graduation picture: 

Celebrating the past and present and planning for the future

November 14, 2017
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It was a pretty amazing day today. I spoke to the Pulaski County Master Gardeners at their monthly meeting but also their annual awards program.  Today they honored all their nominees for MG of the year, rookie of the year, project and friends.  They also celebrated the length of service for all the 5, 10, lifetime (15), 20 and 25 year members.  Next year they will have a 30 year member.  I was asked to speak on my 29 years of MG experiences, and I had such a great time putting the PowerPoint together. I spent countless hours looking at digital images and some that were scanned in.  As a special surprise, they had asked many of the lifetime members who I trained the first few years of the program. It was so good seeing them again.  Nancy (in blue) was in the original class of 1988 while the men sitting next to her were in the class of 1989.  We had many of the first 10 presidents there as well.  The group as a whole presented me with a gorgeous orange vase of flowers in an etched glass vase with a wonderful sentiment.    I am about to begin the countdown to retirement–January 2018 will be the start of the last year, and they wanted to get the ball rolling.  It was a great day with a huge group of dedicated volunteers.   It has sure come a long way from our humble beginnings in 1988.   Our zoo gardening project was a big effort for a small group, but they got it done and laid the groundwork for what was to come.  I am so proud of the achievements of all of the volunteers and their dedication, enthusiasm and support of the program.  The results of their efforts are truly inspiring.  It was also great to visit with both the new and the more seasoned members.     Randy’s new lamb stole the show.

This meeting followed on the heels of the annual County 76 board retreat.  We finished up yesterday afternoon and have got dates set for District Dig Ins, A to P, PNG Leadership and a few advanced MG classes.  Once locations are firmed up, we will share.    We also got County 76 merchandise going to locations around the state.  This is a hard-working group and the Arkansas MG program and I am lucky to have them.

While a lot was achieved and celebrated at both locations, the events were a bit bittersweet for me. I am planning the last events of my career for 2018.  While I am getting more excited about retirement beginning Jan. 2019, I am also going to be sad to say goodbye to a career that has been a huge part of my life, and a very happy part.  I have truly been blessed with what will be a 38 year adventure.  I can’t really call it a job, since it means so much more to me.  Aside from my family and friends, this job has shaped me and become a part of me.  I have made many deep friendships over the years, and those will continue.  Although it will be time to go, it will definitely be an adjustment, but I can’t wait to see what happens–for both Master Gardeners and me!

County 76 Retreat and plants

November 12, 2017
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Today was the beginning day of our 2 day board retreat for County 76.  We started at 12:30 and just ended.  A full day with loads of information being shared and plans being made.  I think everyone is tired, since many had a long drive in as well.  One even drove in from a family wedding from Ft. Worth.  We have a dedicated group of volunteers!    To keep our kindness theme going since PNG leadership, there were kindness sayings around the room, and even a message with candy on our pillows!  President Linda also gave us all a little extra “Thyme” to help us get all our work done.

Before heading to the 4-H center, I did spend a little time checking out my garden this morning.  I don’t want to brag, but I will–for the first time ever I have a fuchsia plant that not only survived the entire summer but has had at least one or two blooms all summer long.  I now have a dozen or more blooms and I am so happy.    I absolutely adore these beautifully gaudy blooms but they usually won’t survive an Arkansas summer.  I know they don’t compare to those at Butchard Garden or other northern locales, but I am happy to have what I have.  I also have a snapdragon that is starting its second season on my deck with flowers.  I also have blooms reappearing on the Sonic Bloom Weigela.  This is a spring bloomer and it blooms again usually in late summer to early fall. This is the 3rd set of flowers for this year.   Another confused plant on the deck is my hosta.  It has its 3rd blooming as well. 

The roller coaster weather has a lot of things confused.  Last night as I was getting ready for bed, I found a baby lizard in my sink. I thought it was dead, but when we went to examine it, it slithered off into the drain.  Not sure where it went from there, but I used the other sink so I didn’t drown it. 

Tomorrow we have another packed agenda and will hopefully have a lot to share with the rest of the state. We got dates set today for next summer’s A to P.  Exciting times ahead!

A busy Saturday

November 11, 2017
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Today was a full day. I spent the early morning hours cleaning up from our dinner party.  It took 4 loads of the dishwasher, 2 last night and 2 today, plus some hand washing to get the house back in order and everything put up.   I also had to work today for a bit at the Holiday House downtown.  I was there to answer gardening questions and sign books, but our supposed booth was in an odd place to the left of where you walked in the door, and no one noticed us. I saw a dozen or more MG’s and friends who even glanced our direction but no one noticed us.  They had been sitting here for 3 days with the same results.  People walked in and looked to the right at all the booths and just walked on.  We could have engaged and called to folks, but I think they were there to shop and not talk gardening.  Our spot wasn’t even on the official map.  When I got there this morning the folks putting it on sent me to the DG booth where they were selling subscriptions.   We did get to people watch, but not a very good use of time.  After that, I ran some errands, came home and finished cleaning up and did laundry before heading out to a wine tasting, a memorial celebration of life party for the late Tom Moerman, and then an open house at Gallery 26 which features a lot of great Arkansas art.   It was a fun and friend-filled day.

While I have been out and about the past few days, I have seen some unique things.  At a local Kroger they had a free fruit display for kids.  We are always encouraging people to eat 5 a day, and how great to entice kids to eat more fruit.  I wish that had been available when my kids were young. I used to hide the bananas in the shopping cart from my son, because he wanted to eat them immediately.

Once again, the Thanksgiving poinsettias are on the market.   Of course I had to buy one. In fact, I bought another tonight to take to the memorial event.  The unique color blends in nicely with my decorating and they will last well into the Christmas season.    It is sitting in a bright, sunny window and the colorful bracts will continue to give me color for months.

I moved my lemon tree inside several weeks ago, and now it is blooming indoors and I harvested my first lemon tonight.  2 more to go! 

Tomorrow I head to the 4-H Center for our annual County 76 board retreat.  This will be our jump-start to the year ahead in MG programming. I can’t wait!

Some free days

November 10, 2017
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I took a  couple of days off to help celebrate my husband’s birthday, and to prepare for our monthly supper club which was at our home  tonight.  I did get a lot of the prep work done for our dinner party yesterday, but last night was a lot of fun at Dave and Buster’s for our celebratory dinner for Clay’s birthday.  We ran in to the Bemis family celebrating a birthday too.  They had 3 generations of family there, and I got to see Jeremy’s new baby too! 

I did spend a lot of time the past two days cooking and preparing for a Mexican feast for our monthly supper club which was at our house.  We started off with empanadas, mini enchilada cups, fresh guacamole and salsa, then a corn and pepper soup, followed by skirt steak with chimichurri, chicken and mole sauce, pinto beans, jicama slaw, cilantro  lime rice, ending with tres leches cake.   I had great plans to take pictures but remembered at the end of our meal.  It was a great evening with fun and friends.

 

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