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Merry Christmas

December 25, 2018
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Merry Christmas to everyone. I hope you have had time to spend time with family and friends this holiday season.

This past holiday weekend has been a flurry of activities at our house, and I was so busy that I took very few pictures.  Our annual holiday party was Friday night and since it was such a nice night we had over 100 friends drop in.  It was a madhouse at times but so good to see and catch up with so many people.     Then Saturday was cleanup and celebrating our son-in-law’s birthday.    Sunday was the Carson side family Christmas.    Then it was our family Christmas Eve, then an early Christmas breakfast with the family and extended family Christmas Day dinner tonight.    I have gone from one event to another and have cooked seemingly non-stop.  Tomorrow I don’t plan to do a thing!  Luckily the weather has been delightful–a bit warm for Christmas but better than snow or ice or heavy rains.   Once the ovens got things heated up we had to open doors and windows and some suggested turning on the air conditioner–which we did not do.

The holidays are a hustle and bustle, and a time to spend with family and friends, but to coin a phrase “Merry Christmas to all and to all a GOOD NIGHT!” I am off to bed!

The Christmas Spirit

December 20, 2018
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We read so often about all the bad things that people do to one another, but rarely do we highlight the goodness of humanity.  Today I worked all morning preparing for a party, and then I left to do some holiday shopping.  I vaguely remember talking to Julie yesterday about a low-level on one of my tires but I totally forgot about it.  I was out shopping at several stores with my last stop at Target. I shopped for a bit and when I came out to load my car, my tire was flat–flat! I hate to admit this, but I have never changed a tire on a car, and I don’t think it is something I want to learn about at the age of 60.  So I called my husband, and he was on his way.  I was busily moving everything out of the trunk to make way for the spare tire and jack.  In the interim, I cannot tell you how many men offered to help.  One who parked next to me wanted to give me his cell phone number in case I needed him to come move his car or if I changed my mind.  My husband arrived and began the process.  He had not changed a tire in years, but was quite proficient.  A younger man stopped to ask us if we needed his help and he jumped out of his truck to help Clay with the lug nuts.  Neither one of us asked for help, but so many offered.  It definitely registered on the Kindness Matters scale!

The tire had a huge staple in it, so the men at Goodyear said it could not be repaired because of two puncture wounds, so I got a new tire.  An unexpected gift for me for the holidays, but all in all a better gift from the kindness of strangers.

Holiday events, plants and condolences

December 19, 2018
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This is a busy season with a lot of hustle and bustle.  Yesterday, Julie and I were invited to an event put on by the Little Rock Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.  We have worked with them closely over the years for many events, from the Arkansas Flower & Garden Show, to the 2007 International MG Conference, to the 2017 State MG conference, and most recently the 2018 National Azalea Conference.  I was honored to receive one of the first “Rock Star” awards.   This is a new program that the LRCVB is implementing to thank local folks for bringing conferences and as a result, revenue to the city with hotel rooms, food and shopping.  It was a very well run event where they were cognizant of everyone’s time.  We had a nice meal, and then they passed out the awards which were done by our local glass artist (and one of my personal favorite artists) James Hayes.  It was held on the stage of Robinson Center, so you had the feel of being a rock star, complete with red carpet.  Hosting these events we have gotten to know the staff of the LRCVB very well and they are an excellent resource.  The president and CEO Gretchen Hall I have known since she was quite young–her mother worked with me for years at Extension and her uncle John graduated with me at college.  She is doing an outstanding job!

I have also been trying to get some shopping done and preparing for many parties and family functions this weekend.  I like to give plants to gardener friends, and was buying an Amaryllis bulb for a friend’s birthday brunch this weekend.  You really need to pay attention when buying the pre-packaged bulbs. I opened up the box of several, and even the loose bulbs on the shelf are sprouting and beginning to grow.    Just sprouting shouldn’t be a problem, but you can see the first one in the picture has already bloomed out–so no more flowers this season.  I did find one that was just beginning to show a peep out of the bulb and went with that one. Amaryllis bulbs can last for years and rebloom easily each year.  However, a trend that started in Europe and made its way to the US a few years ago is waxing bulbs.  They are still selling them.   With a waxed bulb, you don’t need to plant it in soil, because the bulb has been sealed in wax.  This is supposed to keep it moist long enough to let the bulb bloom.  All you need is sunlight and they will bloom. The problem is, it is a one time bulb.  The wax prevents the roots from growing and once you enjoy this years flower, you just throw it away. I think an unwaxed bulb makes a lot more sense.

While I am on my soapbox, today as I was shopping for groceries, my local grocery store had a new display of “Christmas” trees outside.  Unfortunately, these were potted Norfolk Island Pines which are houseplants and will not survive freezing temperatures, and they were OUTSIDE.     Unsuspecting shoppers may buy one and move it indoors and decorate it and it will drop its needles, or even worse, try planting it outside.  It is in a pot and it is outside now so that would be the message.  Someone needs to do some training.

In addition to joyful holiday events, I have had two friends who lost their sons this week.  One was 35 and one was 22.  I cannot imagine anything more difficult than losing a child, regardless of the age.  I was able to attend the service for one today, and it was truly uplifting.  The young man was a brilliant, lifelong scout and his Scout Master spoke quite eloquently.  I was duly impressed, and only sad that I never had the opportunity to meet this young man whose life was cut way too short.  My heart goes out to his parents.   I read something this morning that I thought was quite appropriate for the day:

Grief never ends. . . but it changes.  It’s a passage, not a place to stay.  Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith, it is the price of love.

Every day is a blessing, so make sure that you live it to the fullest.

Last Day in the Office

December 17, 2018
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Today was the day.  While I will show up on January 2, it will be to sign papers, turn in keys, phone, computers, camera, etc.  Today was my last official day in the office working.  We started the day off with the last MG Monday zoom session. We had great attendance from Agents and Master Gardeners.  We shared important dates, answered questions and took a walk down memory lane talking about some of the highlights of my 38 years.  I don’t think I have aged a day since I started! 

A lot has happened over 38 1/2 years, and I have accumulated a lot of stuff along the way too.  It has taken me a couple of weeks, loads of stuff hauled home and even more thrown away, but the office is cleaned out. I am leaving behind some books which the new person may want, but if not, they can give them away.

Not only was today my last day in the office, but it was also Holly’s last day as the horticulture secretary.  She starts a new post working for Beth Phelps on the second floor tomorrow.  Big changes are happening in horticulture.  Tonight we celebrated our horticulture team and the holiday season. I took Julie and Holly, and Jim Robbins our commercial horticulture specialist out to dinner.  We had a fabulous meal and time reminiscing about out years together, sharing stories and laughing.  We won’t end our friendship just because we are ending working together.  It was a fine end to a bittersweet day.   

Reporting Hours Update

December 14, 2018
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It has been 24 hours since the last blog post concerning reporting hours for the Master Gardener Program.  Here are the latest numbers.

 

The hours have increased.  156,044 work (project) hours and 88,465 education hours.  Those are still short of 2017 totals of 170,000 plus work (project) hours and 94,000 plus education hours.

Last day to report your hours is Saturday, December 15, 2018.

To report your 2018 volunteer hours, go to the link below.

https://www.uaex.edu/yard-garden/master-gardeners/

Then click on “Click here to Enter Your Volunteer Hours“.  (it’s in red on the website)

 

Master Gardeners hours needed

December 13, 2018
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If you are an Arkansas Master Gardener, this is a quick reminder that this Saturday is the deadline to get your volunteer hours in.  Your hours are important to us in so many ways.  It shows involvement, program growth (or lack thereof), and it is a great tool to help assess a projects viability.  Here is a comparison today of where we are with numbers with a comparison to the past two years:

As of today you can see we are a good 150 members shy of our 3400 MG members and 40,000 work hours behind last year, with 30,000 education hours.  That is NOT GOOD!  Please take time to report.  I know for a fact that our program is growing not failing–but if you look at this report you would think that our program is falling off.

Report all your hours, not just the required minimum.  We want to know everything you did.  The reason we moved the reporting date up to December 15 and not December 31, is that we aren’t here after December 22 or 23 (depending on when Christmas falls).  If you need help with the system, Julie is here now.  We also are lucky that we have two MG’s who are helping with the online reporting system.  Glenda Bell and Jane Burrow are also available to help.  They have been holding zoom trainings throughout the year to help county managers, but they are also here to help you!  So take a few minutes and report.  It does not matter if you know the specific day of the week or month that you worked, but we need the total hours that you worked.  Remember, you can not log in more than 24 hours in one day on one project.

Packing up and cleaning out

December 12, 2018
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I probably should not have waited as long as I did to start the odious process of cleaning out my office.  As a child, we moved every 3 years or so, and my parents were more involved in the process than I was.  I just had to limit how many Barbie dolls made the move.  We did not get to keep every item we ever owned stored in an attic, so my mother tried to streamline what was saved and what was not.  That has not been the case in my office. I found boxes I had moved from the county office in 1992, with items I acquired when I started in 1980.  Going through 38 1/2 years of stuff can be a bit overwhelming.  When I started cleaning out last week, I tried to read through things, look at all the pictures deciding what stayed, what went home and what went in the trash. It was a walk down memory lane.  I am being a bit more cavalier as my final days are upon me.  I have filled two dumpsters already, and I have boxes of things I have moved home that need to find a place (probably after the holidays).  Anyone who stops by my office gets to go home with a prize–I am finding treasures they didn’t know they needed.  Julie’s office unfortunately has become the depository for many things.  I am trying to take pictures of the many newspaper clippings, certificates and awards.  I am sorry to say, but I think  the idea of giving plaques might be getting dated.   This was in a box on my shelf.  One that was particularly interesting was this one:   It is dated 1988 and signed by president Ouida Wright.  Ouida is a longtime Master Gardener today and very involved in County 76. I do not remember her from 1988 when I received this award, I wonder if she does?  Small world!  Some awards were from before I was married and half of those have my name spelled wrong–Bierman instead of Biermann.   I have taken two big loads home and hopefully I am in the final stretch.  

Since my retirement party was early, many people think I have already retired. I get countless comments in the halls saying: “you’re back!” or “you just can’t stay away!”  I have three more days in the office, then I will be on leave until January 2, when I will come in and turn in all my stuff and be done for good.

Today, I did find my Chelsea program from the first time I took an international Master Gardener trip in 1998.    I thought it was appropriate that my first international trip as a retired person would be to Chelsea too.  Our 2019 Chelsea trip has filled up, but they will start a waiting list in case someone has to cancel. Even though we are at 40 people, one of our folks is interested in finding a roommate, so we will take one more person if you are willing to share.  If you are interested call Sue Smith Travel and talk to Kathy Primm – ​501-771-0987

Gardeners, give me your thoughts on what this plant is:  It is a compound leaf, and the information we received was that they purchased it at a yard sale in Baxter county (Mountain Home) a few years ago.  They think it is a tree or shrub, but not sure if it is winter hardy so they have it in a pot and have been moving it inside for the winter.  Any guesses?

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