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Happy Thanksgiving!

November 23, 2017
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I hope that everyone has had a great day with family and friends.  I am thankful we have family nearby, because I know others are far away from their loved ones.  We had a great day visiting and of course, eating.  We had the turkey in the oven by 9 a.m. and all the side dishes heating up for our 1 p.m. feast.

I had help getting started cleaning up the kitchen, so it did not take long to get things back to normal.  

Now I am making turkey stock to freeze for our next turkey gravy.  

My holiday cactus put on its first bloom right on cue today, with many more to follow.   and my Thanksgiving poinsettia made all the decorations more festive.   Somehow I have to figure out how to have them blend in with the Christmas decorations which I will start putting up this weekend.  It is a whirlwind of activity from Halloween through New Years. So much to do!

I think we will all sleep well tonight.  Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

Preparing for Thanksgiving.

November 22, 2017
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I had a great day cooking as much of the Thanksgiving feast as I could today.  I roasted some turkey legs and necks to make gravy.  Gravy is one of those things that is always last-minute and I now do it all in advance. The drippings left over tomorrow when I roast the turkey I will use to make some more gravy for later.  I also took the left over necks and legs with some vegetables and made more turkey stock.  I cooked up the fresh green beans and made deconstructed bundles, and the sweet potatoes are done.  Now all I have to do tomorrow is roast the turkey and make the dressing, and heat the ham and sides up.  Clay got the pumpkin pie and chocolate bourbon pies done.   Others are bringing rolls, mashed potatoes and cranberry.

I have all the tables set and dishes planned out for tomorrow.    It will be our first holiday in the new kitchen.  Can’t wait!  We only have 16 coming tomorrow, so it will be an easy day.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!  

Fall color continues and Beekeepers in Texarkana

November 20, 2017
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Yesterday was a beautiful but cool day.  I had lots of errands to run and was amazed that we still had such beautiful fall color. After the horrendous winds on Saturday it was amazing any leaves were left on the trees.  I saw gorgeous crape myrtles (just as showy with fall color as with summer flowers)   , red maples with glowing red colors,

Japanese maples in whole host of colors:   and ginkgos with the brightest yellows.   From commercial landscapes to home landscapes, there could not be a better advertising campaign for planting trees than this!

Today I spent a half day at the office before heading south to Texarkana. I spoke to the Texarkana beekeepers tonight. It was a good crowd considering the holiday week.  I talked on plants that could attract bees year-round.   They had some technical difficulties in the first 30 minutes, but eventually go the computer to speak to the projector.  Luckily they started early so it did not impact the program. 

Tomorrow I head back home and begin the preparations for the Thanksgiving feast.

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!

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