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A busy Easter weekend

April 16, 2017

It was a rare weekend that I did not have to work, so I had two days to get a lot of things accomplished. I did do some of the mundane things like laundry and grocery shopping, but I also finished taxes. We also purchased the last of the items (minus the light fixtures over the island) for the kitchen.  Now it is just a matter of getting things done.

I had about 3 hours to work in the garden both days and did get a lot accomplished–but so much more to do!  I pruned, planted, weeded, watered and fertilized.  My vegetable garden is looking great with the cool season plants coming along well.    I did buy one heirloom tomato plant Friday, so I planted it. I will wait and do the rest of the warm season things as I keep harvesting.

I have a ton of blueberries on my bushes and blackberries are setting well for new plants, plus many blooms on raspberries.    The pomegranates are blooming so I hope I get some fruit this year.   I would have a better shot if I had more than one plant, but time will tell.

After church, I cleaned a gallon of Arkansas strawberries to take to our Aunt’s house for Easter lunch. They were great and all gone when I left. I saved some for us to make a strawberry tart for dinner which was tasty.   I am getting quite adept at cooking and prepping in every room in our house!   We had a great family lunch at Aunt Eloise’s. 

I was home late afternoon and spent the rest of the day gardening.  I got most of the plants planted that I have been buying.    I fertilized, weeded and watered at the end.  I still have some perennials and shrubs to plant, but most of the seasonal plants are done.  Now I can buy more!

The confederate jasmine is perfuming the entire yard with its luscious fragrance, and it in combination with the clematis and final honeysuckle is glorious.   I have a variety of roses that don’t need sprays throughout the yard and they are all in full bloom.   The itea are just popping 

and the Chinese sweetshrub is loaded with blooms in the shade. 

The garden is looking good. I could use about 100 more hours in it, but I don’t have that many so it will have to make do.  

Time spent in the garden is time to reconnect and unwind! I love it, although I am pooped this evening.

I had all the kids for dinner tonight and Katie and I tag-teamed our meal. We had grilled Tuscan ribeyes with goat cheese and a fried egg, grilled smashed potatoes and roasted corn on the grill plus fresh strawberry tarts!  A feast, made better with family. Unfortunately it was so late I did not take any pictures!

I hope you all had a happy Easter weekend. I am off to bed!

Office and PLANTS

April 14, 2017

I did spend some time in the office today writing columns and doing PowerPoints, but I also got to visit some local nurseries and support a local horticulturist in Russellville. Today was Dr. Jim Collins, horticulture professor at Arkansas Tech University’s last plant sale of his career. Whatever was left will be sold tomorrow. I have known Jim for a long time and I know today was bittersweet for him.  He has had two plant sales a year during his career–poinsettias and spring plants. He had a huge crowd, many more than usual and I am sure because they all knew it was the end of an era.    Jim is retiring at the end of this school year but will stay active with the Miss Arkansas pagent.  He will also be the ending speaker for our 2017 MG conference–of which today is the last day to register for. If you plan to come you have a bit less than 3 hours to register!

We also stopped in at a couple of other nurseries to see what is out there.  So many plants and so little time!    I also stopped by one of our state MG conferernce sponsors Hocott’s to discuss bus parking. I was duly impressed by how much work they have done cleaning out the site and adding plants.  So much to see and such nice people.  There are parts of the property I have never seen this cleaned out.   This Bradford pear was in a gallon container probably 20 years ago and it still is, albeit rooted through the pot! 

I got plants unloaded tonight and I realize I have a lot to plant. I found some great plants while I was out and about.   Are these impatiens not impressive:

 along with a new lantana and callibrachoa. 

This weekend I hope to have time to spend in the garden, but taxes must be done too!


NC, home, kitchen, work and Diamond Chef

April 13, 2017

Yesterday was a great wrap-up for me for the national volunteer conference. I had someone ask that after as many years as I had worked, was there anything new, and surprisingly there was, and more than I expected.  Our keynote speaker yesterday was phenomenal–Jones Loflin.  Jones is President of Helping Others Prepare for Excellence, a business centered in NC.  He is a horticulturist in his past life and he shared his leadership talk with an analogy to gardening–right up my alley.  I will be copying some of his work for our leadership training. We all got a copy of his book so that will make it even easier. (I read over half of it on the ride home).

I did have time for two concurrent sessions before heading to the airport. I did leave a bit early. There were more sessions late yesterday and this morning, but I needed to get back.  I had easy flights that were all on time, and I lucked out with an empty seat next to me on both legs of the flight.  I was home by midnight.

I did get to see the kitchen remodel and found out we needed to empty the hallway, so Clay and I did that at midnight! I made it to bed slightly after 1 a.m. and was up early with workers and dogs claiming an early rise.  They stripped wallpaper and flushed out the walls and put on a primer coat today. 

I helped a few friends dig plants this morning for a plant sale, and there are more to be taken! I also did have some chores for the kitchen to be completed. The doors to the cabinets should arrive I think tomorrow, and today they measured for countertops, and I purchased the backsplash tile.   I also picked out paint colors.   My poor cleaning ladies did the best they could do amongst the chaos that is my house.

I did spend some time at the office going over upcoming events, creating powerpoints and making lists of what needs to be accomplished.

Then tonight I went with friends to the Diamond Chef event at Pulaski Tech. It was great fun, seeing folks we knew, visiting with friends and eating great food prepared by students and staff.   We also got to watch the competition of the chefs as well as young chefs competing on cupcake wars.   There were multiple food stations serving French, Southern American and Eastern European foods.  They were all tasty.  The Arkansas Soybean Federation was well represented with an edamame curry which was quite good. 

It was a great, packed day.  It did warm up and I am running my AC to get the heat out of the house tonight.

Don’t forget–tomorrow and Saturday are Jim Collins last plant sale at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville. He retires in May.


Volunteer conference day 2

April 11, 2017

We have had a full day of seminars today with the largest group they have had at the national extension volunteer conference. I am energized after a day of ideas on how to make our MG volunteer program better.  One of the things we often struggle with is how to share our program’s impact. Today we had several outstanding sessions on how to do that. I have gotten a lot of great ideas and even some potential speakers for our own leadership program.

One quote I loved was: Goals are dreams with deadlines!  Isn’t that a great thought?  We also need to think of our volunteers as Extension ambassadors.

I learned several new concepts today from implicit bias to digital competency and that we need to create an infographic.

We also need to focus not just on years of service–which are important, but also we need to differentiate between commitment versus contribution.

One of the breakout sessions on showing impact was taught by a young county agent–only 5 years into her career.  She did an outstanding job.  It got me to thinking.  When I started as a young county agent, funding for our programs was pretty much considered a given.  We didn’t have to be out beating the bushes for grants, or extra funding, in fact we weren’t even to talk about charging for anything–our services were free.  Times have changed, and our younger agents have had to sell their programs, look for funding and justify their existence since they were hired.

Volunteers have also changed.  We learned a lot about the differences across generational lines, and that to stay relevant we all need to be willing to change and move with the times.  There has been a lot of food for thought today.  And good food!  As I started off with, I am energized!

This evening a group of us again walked downtown for a great meal.  The redbuds are glorious here right now, from common to Chinese to weeping. 

It was warmer here today than at home!

It was a pretty morning sunrise here and I have been impressed both mornings that the technology in my bathroom mirror doesn’t fog up in a small square in the center. How did they do that?

For a kitchen update, my cabinets got installed a day early, so my husband has been sending me photos to share the progress and get my opinion.   I had thought I would be home before the final install, but that is not to be, so I will get to see the end result late tomorrow night. I am scheduled to leave here at 5:40 p.m. and arrive home at 11:30 p.m.  Hope my flights are on time.

Collaboration and gardens

April 10, 2017

While I believe you always should strive to learn something new every day, coming to national meetings is not just about the education that you get but the collaboration and networking you do with folks in other states.  We have not stopped talking all day–those of you who know me, wouldn’t doubt that!  Sharing what works, what doesn’t and learning how other states operates is fascinating.  I have also invited several to join us at our PNG leadership conference this fall.

This conference is a volunteer conference for both the Master Gardener program and 4-H.  They are also adding in a few other volunteer extension programs, but these are the primary focus. Today was a pre-meeting and we were divided between MG coordinators and 4-H folks.  We spent a half day in a classroom discussing national programs and opportunities, and then loaded in buses for the afternoon with a guided tour of the NC State Arboretum. t

Their tulips were just beginning to bloom and many plants had not leafed out yet.  The Florida folks were gaga over the tulips and the Minnesota folks were envious of the hollies–one it is too hot for and the other too cold!  Not only do we have different programs but different plants as well.  They were growing epimediums in full sun and they had a bonsai display with most of the shelves for their overwintering bonsai in full sun. I was surprised by both. We saw an interesting small fence made of red twigged dogwood cuttings and their famous patchwork quilt garden, which was all pansies at this time of year.  Thanks to Natalie for identifying it for us!

We did see some of my favorite shade perennials from woodland poppy mazus, crested iris, and mertensia that I have never seen nor heard of before. This one is Stachyurus praecox  and this one we couldn’t find a name for.   If you know what it is, tell me.

It was a beautiful day to be outside and I think the 4-H folks were envious of us.   We made it back with a bit of time to catch up on emails before registering and then the opening event.  After that a group of us walked downtown for dinner. It is a quirky downtown with tons of restaurants and shops with art! Unfortunately the stores were closed, but there is always tomorrow!

Tomorrow we start with a keynote and then it is concurrent sessions all day until 4 then the evening is free again.

Asheville NC and volunteer conference

April 9, 2017

I rushed around at home all morning finishing up last minute things.  I got started on our taxes but just barely.  I almost lost track of time, but glad to have an excuse to stop doing them!  Made it to the airport and we left on time and things looked good. I made it to Charlotte and they said my connecting flight was on time, but things changed and we ended up leaving almost two hours behind.  Once I landed I got my luggage and the friendly folks from NC state were waiting to shuttle us to the hotel.  There were 5 on my plane–most coming from much further than me–Idaho and Colorado.  I am surprised at how far behind us they are. Spring is just starting with most trees just leafing out.

I am in NC for a volunteer conference. Tomorrow is the pre-conference meeting for MG coordinators.  There are a lot of interesting sessions and I am hoping to get ideas for our programs.

Before I left I had so much in bloom in my yard and I am sure 4 days will make a huge difference.  I had buds all over the confederate jasmine the red buckeyes were blooming

and some of my clematis were getting started while others are almost over.

The figs  are really growing quickly too.   As I was planting yesterday, I did notice some seedlings coming up in some of my pots, not sure what they are, so I will have to keep watching.

Tomorrow, we start with meetings and do have a chance to go to the arboretum in the afternoon for a bit. It will be interesting to see what is in bloom, since they told me the azaleas have not quite started on the Blue Ridge Parkway yet.


Sharp County and so much to do1

April 8, 2017

We had a great crowd this morning in Sharp County at their annual garden expo.  They had a good mix of men and women, and all ages, plus plenty of questions.     I was first up and then on the road home.  They had two more speakers after me.

I made a quick stop to pick up some supplies I needed at the WalMart in Ash Flat and saw an interesting site in the parking lot.  Neither dog made a peep, but they were on vigilant duty waiting on their masters. I also picked up the first Arkansas strawberries of the season from Bald Knob (we ate them for dinner and they were great!) and saw an interesting display in their parking lot as well. 

It was an easy drive home and I was unloaded and about to take the car to the office when I was informed I had 4 boxes of perennial plants to pick up at the Democrat, so out we went. I got them home, unloaded and took the car back to the office. It was now 3:30 p.m. and I had a lot to get done. I got laundry done, unloaded the 4 boxes and since I didn’t have time to plant and I am leaving for North Carolina in the morning, I found a large pot and have them all together and watered in.  I did try to get as many of the annuals I have been collecting planted or at least grouped together for easier watering. Family has their marching orders for plants that need to be tended until I return.  I am sure they are thrilled. 

While I was out watering everything, I noticed I have my robin family back on the deck. They have relocated nests around the yard too, but ever since we dislodged them two years ago to put up the new siding, they have been AWOL.  She is back and totally comfortable with me coming and going watering and planting.    Petals was thrilled I was home and followed me all over the yard planting, watering and checking on things–she had to check out the fish as well.  The kitchen is coming along– I now have no sink, stove or cooktop—not that I have used them in the past few days but I do have can lights in three of the four rooms they are slated for–I have lots of light!  The new cabinets should arrive the day I return, so I can’t wait to see them upon my return. They will not be stained, but should be in.  Since I was only home tonight, Katie and I cooked dinner together downstairs and outside.  I showed her what can be picked while I am gone and we had a great salad fresh from the garden along with homegrown grilled giant red mustard and cabbage, lemon pepper tilapia and gnocchi.  Followed by Arkansas strawberries, it was a feast!  Now I need to finish packing. I leave in the morning for a volunteer conference in Asheville, NC.  A busy day!


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