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It’s a wrap!

May 23, 2017
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The 2017 Master Gardener State Conference was a huge success and ended on a high note with great speakers today, recognition of our committee and length of service awards, and the kick-off to the 2018 event.  I hope someone took pictures and can share, since I left my purse in the office and my camera was in it.  I have received a lot of photos from the conference and hopefully will have time to go through them and sort and share.   Erica Glasener kicked it off with a great presentation.   and Jim Collins had us entertained as he reminisced about his horticulture career from beginning to recent end. 

It was a fabulous event and I had an outstanding committee, led by these two spectacular volunteers:   Joellen was the lead, but Valerie was her co-chair and loved her some signs!   They led by example and did a top-notch job, making me look good.  We had excellent pre-tours, seminars, garden tours, art and garden fair, silent auction, and special events.  We did not have any major glitches except for the downpour Saturday morning, (which I told everyone was going to quickly end and wonder of wonders it did!).  We had fabulous weather from that point on.  Blessed!  While I cannot control the weather, I also cannot control the speed or efficiency of elevators, which were a nightmare.    We made the best of it, but it was even worse this morning with folks not wanting to lug their luggage down stairs. It was quite a wait.

It is always amazing how fast an event tears down versus how much time it takes to set up.  After the final announcements the room emptied quickly and the committee was loading vehicles fast and furious.  We got our cars packed and said goodbye to the volunteers, then Randy and I drove the Extension vans back to the office. On the way we were joined by Julie, Valerie and Fred so we could drop off the stuff we store in the warehouse.  That done, we filled the vans with gas, unloaded them, and then parked them and drove back to get our personal vehicles.  We got those back and then unloaded them.  We were getting pretty tired and hungry by 2, so we left the carts in my office to sort through tomorrow.  I got home and unloaded and unpacked.

Then I walked MY garden.  The recent rain and mild temperatures have things looking great. I had quite a few raspberries and blueberries but as I was picking I found I had a visitor competing with me for the raspberries.   He made a mad dash and thought he was camouflaged well enough, but finally ran off when I got closer.  He had obviously been eating quite a few as I saw some remains.

My yard not only looks good but smells good–the gardenias are in full bloom, the confederate jasmine is still blooming and the Little Gem magnolia is blooming and has more buds coming on. 

My hydrangeas are still going strong with the big leaf in all shades of blue, purple and pink, and the paniculata ‘Strawberry Vanilla’ have the strongest stems I have seen since I have grown this one. 

And for those of you who were distraught with my lack of orange clothing this week, I got home to my orange cone flower beginning its glory.   and my milkweeds are blooming nicely as well.    I did harvest some things, but I really need some time to transition more warm season vegetables in and I have more plants that need planting.  I did place my new bromelliads in the front planters and they look great!   These gorgeous plants will last all season with minimal care.

Kitchen Update: it is getting closer. I now have cabinet doors and trim, and they come Friday to install the soft-close and hardware.  I hope the knobs make it in.  The electrician is scheduled and they start on back-splash tomorrow.  Painting of hallways is also done.  They got a lot accomplished while I was gone. 

I start moving everything in late Friday or Saturday. Can’t wait!

Now for an early bedtime.

 

 

Master Gardener Conference 2017 Monday

May 22, 2017
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Another great day. The weather was outstanding. We loaded 5 buses out front and had 4 concurrent educational sessions inside. 

The folks on the all day tour had lunch at Wildwood, but the rest of the folks had lunch at Robinson Center. 

The afternoon was a repeat of tours and seminars, plus our silent auction ended.

When the sessions and tours ended we took the buses to Heifer International for a sustainable feast.  It was a glorious evening with wonderful food and tours.   

I think a great time has been had by all, and there has been a whole lot of learning going on.  These conferences are heavy on education, but also on connecting Master Gardeners with other Master Gardeners and sharing what they do.

Tomorrow is our closing day with keynote sessions and the final pass the torch to the River Valley Master Gardeners.

 

Opening day Sunday, MG Conference

May 21, 2017
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What a great day this has been. I was thrilled to see the sun rise this morning and it was a beautiful day all day.  The first thing this morning was the set-up for the art and garden fair.  We have some great vendors and they will be here all day tomorrow and open to the public.  Come join us from 9-3.

We opened registration early and in addition to the art and garden fair, we had seminars, garden walks and silent auction.

Then tonight was our opening special event at the Old State House, the first ever Master Gardener project. 

It was a great event and we also recognized our award winners.  Then tonight was the kick-off opening banquet.  County Judge Barry Hyde welcomed us, County 76 President introduced our scholarship winners and Jessica Wesson wowed us all with her comments and poise. Valerie Smith introduced Craig O’Neill who introduced his wife Jane Hankins.

Tomorrow is a full day of tours and seminars ending with our special event at Heifer International.

 

An auspicious beginning

May 20, 2017
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I awoke to overcast skies and I quickly loaded my car.  Rain was imminent and by 7 a.m it was pouring down rain and lightning and thundering.  I drove downtown feeling optimistic that it would come and go quickly.  We had 2.5 inches of rain in a matter of hours and while we were trying to unload our cars there was a deluge of rain.  Master Gardeners arrived early and were waiting patiently to board buses.

By the time we were loading buses it was still raining, but not as hard. Master Gardeners had rainboots, raincoats and positive attitudes.  I can’t tell you how many said, I have a positive attitude, I am happy and am ready to learn!  This is what I LOVE about Master Gardeners.  While we may have a few who get upset about things, the most go with the flow and love what they can learn.

We loaded buses and had two heading to Moss Mountain and two to Pulaski Tech. 

Folks had a great time on both tours, touring Moss Mountain, Pinnacle Mountain State Park and two nursery tours or Pulaski Tech Culinary School and two nursery stops. Our local nurseries deserve a medal.  Not only were all of them sponsors but they welcomed Master Gardeners with open arms today.  I so appreciate them all.  While Master Gardeners were out touring, volunteers were busy decorating, setting up registration, putting together goody bags, and setting up plant holding and the art and garden  fair.

This afternoon, it was a well-oiled machine that unloaded the buses and got them to the well-organized plant holding area.

It has been an amazing day working with an amazing group of volunteers. It doesn’t get much better than that!

 

Kick-off is tomorrow!

May 19, 2017
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Today we are at the finish line.  Tomorrow begins a whole day of set-up and pre-tours.  There will be plenty to do to get ready for the whole crew arriving on Sunday.  We have about 150 going out on pre-tours tomorrow and we will start the day early. Today we bagged up caladium bulbs which will be in the goody bags.    We used to pass these out at the end of the conference when you turned in your evaluation, but since we now do the eval on-line, we decided to trust our volunteers to fill out the evaluations when they get home and give them their bulbs early.  MG’s who are coming , look for your caladiums in a white paper bag inside your goody bag.  They are white and will do best planted in the shade.

Once we got them all bagged and boxed and loaded into my car, we regrouped in my office and then loaded my car with more stuff and went to the storage building to get even more stuff.  Then we went to the Doubletree Hotel to take our first load of the weekend. We had banners and signs that we needed to deliver early for them to hang, and I asked permission for us to bring a load.   I think when I asked they didn’t realize they would be moved too. The sales staffs offices were temporarily moved to our plant holding site for their office remodeling.  They thought they would be moving back in this afternoon.  They are in flux but will be out of our space by noon tomorrow.  They have a big job ahead of themselves. 

We were fortunate that the conference that was in residence allowed us the use of some of their space. They were so gracious as we marched through with our stuff! 

I think they have the right attitude, you go with the flow when you are doing a conference.  It is always in a state of flux.

Once we were done there, Joellen and Valerie went one way and Julie and I headed back to the office to load another car full and make sure we had everything. I also got the keys to the Extension vans which will be our shuttles and did a quick tutorial with our van drivers of what is needed.    This is the beauty of extension folks.  Regardless of their job description, when help is needed, they are there, and with a smile on their face.  Meet Andrew and Mary Beth, our two shuttle drivers for Sunday – Tuesday!

I think we have about half of my office loaded for the conference, but we are ready.  The weather has been the talk of everyone, and we have worked on weather contingency plans and placed orders and put in prayers!  Today driving home from the hotel we left with full sun, drove through a deluge of rain and arrived at the office in sunshine–a distance of 5 miles.  I have not had a drop of rain at my house and actually watered the garden.   A minute ago the skies were black and the wind was blowing and now we have full sun!  Who knows what is in store, but we will marshal on, just like the postal service.

I did just walk the garden and it is looking good,   but could definitely get some attention, which it will not get for a while. I did harvest some spinach and lettuce for dinner and ate some blueberries and raspberries. The blackberries are showing color so I hope the hold off until Tuesday night.   The lime tree has three limes but more blooms are coming on. 

I have about finished laundry, then I need to finish packing and then I should be set to jet tomorrow morning.  I can’t wait! The Pulaski County Master Gardeners have outdone themselves planning for this event and you will not be disappointed.

A flurry of activity, garden and friends

May 18, 2017
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My head was spinning when I left the office today.  The phone did not stop ringing, nor emails stop flying.  I had both lines ringing much of the day. SO many last-minute details come together the last few days. Regardless of how organized you are, nothing stops the flurry of activity leading up to a big event. I got out and picked up a few last-minute supplies, and tomorrow we start loading cars to be ready for Saturday morning.  We have sent out some final emails with tips to remind folks going on the pre-tours and everyone about parking, rain gear and a few details about events. If you tell people too early, they tend to forget, so we will probably send one more email tomorrow.   I feel like a general rallying the troops before we head into battle–albeit a much nicer event than a true battle.

The storms that were promised for today did not materialize and it warmed up.  I should have watered a bit when I made it home, but I really didn’t have time, and I suspect we might be getting some rain. I am just hoping it tries to jive with our outside schedule.  We are keeping our fingers crossed but bringing rain gear just in case.  I am getting quite a few vegetables, but don’t want to pick too much before I get done with the conference, because I don’t think it will be used. I am getting about 10 blueberries and raspberries a day right now.  Do you see the pink ones?   That is their mature color–it is a variety called Pink Lemonade and I love the flavor. I tend to eat them as I pick them so not a whole lot are left for later use.

The kitchen is beginning to look like a kitchen and I got my dining room back tonight.   I won’t have any time to do much of any moving things around until after the conference is over so I will be surprised to see what is done when I get back.  Even though the conference is in LR, I stay at the hotel, because we work long days and it is easier to be on-site.

Tonight we went out to dinner with some of Clay’s high school buddies. One of them was in town from Atlanta, so it was a pleasant evening reminiscing and catching up.  

It is going to be a busy day tomorrow and then we start with pre-tour.  We have 600 Master Gardeners converging in Little Rock over the next few days.  The Art and Garden Fair is open to the public Sunday afternoon and Monday all day, so even if you aren’t registered for the conference,  you can still shop.  It will be at the back of the Doubletree outside under the cover of the parking ramp.  Come join us.

 

 

Planning, weather, and conifers

May 17, 2017
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Today was a series of phone calls, emails and meetings pertaining to the MG conference which starts Saturday with a pre-tour.  Everyone is really focused on the weather forecast right now, and rain is predicted for parts of our conference, even though we have ordered sunny skies.  If you are scheduled for an outside tour, bring a raincoat (and maybe a poncho) because tours go rain or shine. If there is lightening we will reconsider!  Hopefully the forecasts are wrong.    Regardless of the weather, it is going to be an amazing conference.

This morning was our 3rd What’s up Wednesday horticulture zoom session. We had good participation and covered a lot of current issues.    These sessions are for county agents only and they are a way for us to communicate statewide with all our counties at once on current issues.

This spring our junipers got pruned hard to try to keep them from encroaching on the sidewalks.   You need to be careful when pruning needle-type evergreens because they don’t rebound nearly as quickly as broadleaf plants.  They have very few buds on old wood so they look fairly ugly for awhile.  Here is what they look like 2 months later:   Your best bet when pruning junipers or other needle plants, is to try to do a little every year so you can leave some green growth behind.  Eventually some will fill in, but it does take time. 

Rain is coming once again, with more in the forecast.  Let it rain tomorrow and Friday but then let’s do the non-rain dance for Saturday -Monday.  We have 600 gardeners converging in Little Rock for our state conference with several outside tours and events.

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