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Rain, cooler weather and party

October 22, 2017
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I awoke to a welcome sound just before 4 a.m. –rain!  We had a nice steady rain for a few hours and it was a good thing.  It was still pretty humid this morning so we were running the air conditioning with the windows open to get the humidity out.  The temperatures dropped quite nicely all day.  It feels delightfully cool outside.  Have you looked ahead at the forecast? They are predicting a day or two in the upper 70’s but by next weekend temperatures in the mid 30’s for central Arkansas.  If it is supposed to get that cold here, what about NW Arkansas?  I would suggest that you start moving those tender plants and houseplants inside this week.  Even if it doesn’t freeze, if your plants get exposed to cool nights, the transition to a heated house is tough.

I walked my garden late this afternoon and it is amazing how much greener everything looks after a good rain.   My crazy petunias are still blooming, as is the red Mexican petunia.   It is a true perennial and not invasive at all, unlike other ruellias. The Soft Caress mahonia is beginning to bloom  , the leaves are beginning to turn red on my itea  and my camellias are beginning to bloom.  The rain will definitely have helped the gardens.

This afternoon we also had a fun party celebrating my daughters upcoming wedding. She had a Mary Kay party and we all got to play with makeup. It was a fun afternoon with good friends, good food and lots of laughs. 

My boss day flowers added to our decor, and they just get better each day.  Now all the lilies are opening. 

We also did some cooking this weekend–for the party today, for dinner tonight, for County 76 on Tuesday, and for dinner tomorrow night. Clay smoked pork barbeque and made homemade sauce.  I did appetizers, shrimp bisque and short ribs. Fun times in the kitchen.

Senior Expo, gardening and supper club

October 21, 2017
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Today was the annual Senior Expo hosted by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and sponsored by UAMS.  The headline was “A Living and Health Event for Seniors and Baby Boomers 55 and up”.  Guess what–I am in those demographics!!  Somehow time just keeps creeping along and I am now 59.   One of the lawyers came to our booth today as I was answering gardening questions and signing books, and she asked if I had my will in order. I told her I needed to update things as I was retiring next year when I turned 60 and she proclaimed shock that I could not possibly be that old–maybe she just wanted my business! LOL.   Folks were out at all ages today at the expo where there were many health related booths, along with senior living, windows and doors, retirement planning and more.    I got to see a really cool display called the mega brain and meet with the director of  Arkansas Saves, Renee Joiner to talk brains and strokes.     The Arkansas Art Center had their mobile art museum–akin to the book mobiles of my youth.   Artist John Deering was on hand to draw sketches of you,    They also had a good line-up of seminars from health issues to politics. A powerhouse group of political commentators were speaking as I left.  It was a good event and I got to visit with a lot of gardeners.

I came home and borrowed a friends power washer to clean off patio furniture and things on the deck. I wish I had taken before and after pictures, because it was impressive.  Then I did plant some more pansies and violas trying to get ahead of the rain.  And speaking of rain, where is it? I did water again this afternoon, in spite of all the gloomy clouds, so far not a drop of rain has fallen.

Then tonight was our supper club at our friends the Zoldessy’s. Another great meal and fun with friends.  Their garden was looking pretty good too. Amazing peppers.   In spite of their scarecrow, something ( I suspect an armadillo) is coming in and doing a lot of digging.  Aurian is also getting her collection of amaryllis ready for the winter. She has them all labeled by color. The foliage will go dormant soon and she will move them into the sun porch and then enjoy glorious displays of color all winter and spring.    I am also envious of her lemons which are nearing maturity. Mine are getting bigger but still green as a gourd.   It was a fun evening, and after I got home I went to my son’s to see an old friend of the family who was leaving town tonight.  It has been a full day.

Gardening

October 20, 2017
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The morning was spent working on zoom planning,  and getting in supplies for next weeks meetings, but I had the afternoon off to garden.  I pulled up some of my summer annuals to make way for fall and winter color.    I hate to pull plants that are still doing well, but I had so many things that I had to make some changes.  I left half of the torenia (wishbone flowers).  They are so-called wishbone flowers because the stamens merge together in the center to form a wish bone.    I bought a pot of Society garlic a few weeks ago and I decided to divide it as I planted it.  It was so root-bound that I had to cut the pot off to get it out of the container.   I use a serrated bread knife to divide my perennials and I ended up cutting this one into four separate plants.    The name, “society garlic” comes from the assumption that, although it tastes like garlic, you don’t get bad breath from eating it. The leaves and rhizomes of society garlic smell like garlic, but the flowers are sweet, smelling like hyacinths, and some people say they are too sweet! I did do a little more planting in the vegetable garden too.  And I fertilized and watered.

The bees were everywhere on the camellia sinensis (tea camellia).    In spite of the lingering drought, I do have beautiful blooms still on erythrina  and Japanese anemone  and buddlea.   I saw numerous butterflies in the garden today, including a few monarchs.  In spite of it’s invasive growth habit, I still love the Harlequin plant,  Clerodendrum trichotomum. 

My pineapple guava is also one of my favorite shrubs with glorious flowers in the spring, and I have up to 30-40 fruits now. I am beginning to harvest. I like the flavor and am going to experiment on other uses besides just eating them fresh. 

I did water as well today, since my garden is really dry.  I hope the rain they are predicting does materialize.

Come join me tomorrow at the Senior Expo at the Statehouse Convention Center. I will be there from 10-12.

An almost full day in the office.

October 19, 2017
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It is kind of amazing how much work you can get done in one day if you have a dedicated day in the office.  Today I was there until 3:15 and it flew by.  We got out evaluations for programs, emails about the zoom training, finished up Power Points for next week, worked on columns and got organized for the week ahead.  We heard from both agents and participants about yesterday’s zoom training and I think it was well-received on both ends.  Here is a shot of Baxter and Marion Counties from yesterday. 

Now I am working on getting the applications ready for On-Line training which will start in January.  I think there is some confusion about the difference between zoom and on-line.  Our zoom training is not something you do from the comfort of home.  The teachers are live in the zoom room at the state extension office, but instead of presenting their PowerPoint to a live audience in front of them, they present to a live audience in classrooms across the state via the internet.  We are taping our live zoom sessions and they will be converted to an on-line platform that people can take from home.  The on-line version will not be live, but taped.  It will not be done as a group training, but individually from home.  While I think mentors are important for all new MG trainees to help them get involved in their local programs, I think it is going to be crucial for the on-line folks to have a good mentor who can engage them and keep them as volunteers.  Our goal is not just to train folks with great horticulture information, but to build a strong volunteer base for the UA Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Office.   We have our own Mimi Cox from Jonesboro–the mentor guru, coming in on Monday afternoon to do live zoom training for mentors.  We will tape it to use for those who can’t be live and then again later for our on-line classes. So much technology at our fingertips!

We are also preparing for our last quarterly meeting for County 76 which is Tuesday.  I have finished one presentation and will finish the other on Monday. We have almost 70 folks coming from across the state.  We are getting all our ducks in a row for our last meeting with elections as well.  Our fall board retreat is less than a month away.

This Saturday is the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Senior Expo at the Statehouse Convention Center.  I will be there from 10-12 to answer gardening questions and to sign my newest book.  Come join me .   There will be plenty of things to learn and do, and it all happens from 9 – 2.

I did have time to walk some gardens today, including my own.  While I am not a fan of ivy, I thought this one was pretty interesting.   The foliage is up and growing on Lycoris radiata    The foliage appears on this fall bloomer soon after the blooms. It stays green all winter and dies back in the spring.  It then remains dormant until the fall blooms.

The fall blooming hardy hibiscus include the confederate rose   which we were wowed by in Mississippi, (but it is doing very well here in central Arkansas too) and the roselle hibiscus which is used to make tea–the red zinger is one example.    I am going to try making some sometime soon!  I also need to experiment with my Camellia sinensis, or Tea Camellia.  It is in full bloom now and the leaves of this plant is where we get our black and green teas. 

Our gardens should continue to grow and bloom well into fall and early winter.  I hope to have some time in my garden to get some things planted and some maintenance done. Rain is predicted for the weekend and we could sure use it.

 

Zoom lift off!

October 18, 2017
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Today was day 1 of 5 for our first ever statewide zoom Master Gardener training.  We have 14 counties participating with 59 new volunteer trainees.  It was a new option for us and I think day 1 was a great success! Some of the speakers went a bit short on their talks, without an audience to ask questions, it is a different setting.  I do hope the attendees liked it as much as we did.  We could not have done it without Master Zoomer Mary Poling and helper and my assistant Julie Treat.  Our first speaker was Jon Barry on Botany,   me on: UA system, MG program, shrubs and herbs, Sherrie Smith on diseases  Becky McPeake on wild animal control, Ples Spradley on pesticide safety.

We had sites all over the state and tomorrow we will touch base with them all to see how things went. 

All participants will be assigned a mentor to make sure they are acclimated into their local county program.  Change doesn’t come easy to everyone, but trying new things is a way for our program to grow and help our counties.  Let’s see how this goes.

Composting Workshop

October 17, 2017
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We had a great workshop at Garvan Gardens today on composting.  I did some basics on composting, soil amendments and using compost.  Master Gardener Andrea Thomas talked about composting from a home gardener perspective and Read Admire from the Urban Food Loop gave a different perspective.  He also did a demonstration outside.  There were so many questions the entire day, so we know that people were interested and learning.   Andrea also brought compost bins and other goodies to give away. We had time at lunch (and after) for folks to walk the garden. It was a gorgeous day, so it was a fabulous day to walk the gardens and enjoy the mums,pumpkins and fall color. 

Tomorrow we step into a new training opportunity –we will zoom MG basic training to 14 counties across the state at the same time.  It will be a learning curve for all of us.

Office, Boss’s Day and Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative

October 16, 2017
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Today was a fast-paced day at the office.  We were trying to tie up loose ends for our statewide zoom MG training starting this Wednesday. I also finished up my talks for tomorrow’s compost workshop at Garvan Gardens in Hot Springs.  In addition to that I sent columns, emailed all the travelers to Mississippi and sent out thank you’s to our hosts in MS.  It was a full day.

I got home and had a surprise bouquet of beautiful flowers from Julie and Holly for bosses day.  They pretended they forgot today!

Tonight I went to a friend’s house to meet two young women who are part of the contingent of Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative. With U.S. fellowship hosts in their field of expertise, YLAI Professional Fellows gain valuable professional development skills at entrepreneurial organizations or companies across the U.S. and work jointly on a venture Action Plan to be implemented upon Fellows’ return to their home countries.They are here to learn how to expand their own projects in their home countries.  There are over 250 young people representing 37 countries spread across the country in 25 different cities. 10 young people are represented here in Little Rock.  Eda and Yasmin were delightful and we had some great discussions at this impromptu reception in their honor. It was a nice evening.

And can we all say Hooray for this delightful weather!

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