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Rain and work

August 1, 2017

It rained intermittently all afternoon and into early evening. As I left the office it was raining pretty good, and I did not have an umbrella–and I am NOT complaining.  The rain also cooled things down and it was 74 degrees.  Way to start August!

A month from today, 35 Master Gardeners will join me on our horticulture study trip to Italy. Today Holly mailed out all the bags, luggage tags, letters, health forms and maps to the travelers.  I took a peek at the weather and it was hotter there than here.  Let’s hope that changes in a month.  

I did have an entire day at the office, and I got a lot accomplished.  We did extend registration for our September PNG Leadership conference because we seem to have some computer glitches.  Some people are hitting the back button and getting a partial registration done and then others are getting an error code when they try to pay by credit card.  The deadline for the early bird discount is now August 15.  When technology works, it is an amazing thing.  When it doesn’t it is frustrating. Please let Julie or I know if you have problems.  We want ALL counties represented.

I also got several columns written, my PowerPoint for Friday’s Rice Expo is done (please come to Stuttgart and bring plant samples of diseases or insects as we will have staff members there to diagnose your woes), we got out a Save the Date for the MG Appreciation day in El Dorado – October 9, plus we worked on the logo and t-shirt orders. I also worked on some details for our MG trip to Mississippi, put together some slides to promote horticulture, lined up some speakers for our 2018 MG conference and worked on some details for our A to P events slated for later this month across the state.  I reserved Bob Byers and my hotel rooms, and have my PowerPoint almost done.  In addition I worked on the national azalea conference I am helping with, answered a slew of phone calls and emails and got organized for my upcoming trip to the Garden Writers Conference in Buffalo, NY.  Time flew by but so much got done!

The rain has really helped our gardens, and while it has been spotty in my yard the past month, many parts of the state have had a lot of frequent showers.  Some of the plants have responded well.  The pineapple sage at Garvan looks like it is on steroids:   The gizzard plant –Iresine also is the biggest I have ever seen.   


A break in the weather and Garvan Gardens

July 31, 2017

I think we all awoke thinking we were in a dream Sunday and Monday mornings.  The temperatures were in the 60′ at 6 a.m. and even as it started warming up, the humidity was quite low.  I will take that any day in late July/ August or even September!  This break in the weather was a boon to me, as we were taping TV outside this morning at Garvan Gardens. I never even broke a sweat in the two hours that we were taping spots.  The gardens look great.  The summer annuals are really thriving–shows you what good fertilization looks like. 

Some of the water features are getting a bit clogged and the normal flow is down to a trickle. This allowed me to get in to the middle of the stream for a standup.     The Encore azaleas are beginning to shine in the garden, and in my yard I still have quite a few blooms.  

Everywhere you looked the gardens were a seas of color.  Visit often.

I was back in the office all afternoon, writing and organizing.  Too much to do in too little of time.

Saturday MG Training, and supper club

July 29, 2017

I was asked a few years ago if Hempstead County could host a Saturday MG training. It was in the general area where we were rotating classes, and I told them if we could get 20 folks we were good. We got 33 people from over 10 counties and it is going strong. I wish every county had a facility like UA Hope!  Not only is it state of the art for lighting, technology and space, but they help make coffee, monitor bathrooms and just help overall.  What a deal! Each week a different southern county is hosting the snacks and it appears that they are each doing an amazing job.  Today Nevada County hosted but in addition, we had homemade cinnamon rolls and chicken spaghetti for lunch and that came from  a new trainee!  We seemed to have chosen well.  In addition to that  Nevada County MGs’ provided a wide range of snacks.  We will never go hungry with these groups around. We had a bit of a glitch in the timing of the schedule plus one of the speakers couldn’t come, so I talked for about 5 hours. We started off with Nevada Co. Agent Darrin on lawns and I filled in for the rest followed at the end by MG James on cool season vegetables.

I want to go on the record to say this is a phenomenal facility. Not only are they a joy to work with, but they go over an above their support of our programs.  I just wish every county had such a facility.

I left as James was starting the last program–he was gracious and switched a time slot with me so I could make it back to LR for our supper club at 6.  We had a great meal and a happy to  connect with our  good friends.    

It was a full, but productive day. 



MG Appreciation Planning, Rocks and Hope

July 28, 2017

I awoke to something I hadn’t seen in a while—RAIN!  It was raining off and on all morning and more is predicted this weekend.  Yippee!  I drove down to El Dorado this morning and by the time I left Pulaski County the rain had stopped.  It was actually quite pleasant as we walked the South Arkansas Arboretum.  Master Gardeners need to mark their calendars now for October 9 and MG Appreciation Day in El Dorado.  It is going to be fantastic!

The gardens look great and there is a whole host of plants you may not be familiar with.  They have a slew of topics for stations throughout the gardens including making your own tea from a tea camellia, butterflies, tree walks(–the gardens are loaded with a great collection), propagation, bulbs, and native plants.  They also are planning a small trade show where you can buy plants that are growing in the gardens, along with bulbs, crafts and art.  They will have painters in the garden.  First thing in the morning you can purchase a local favorite–spudnuts (come find out what they are–but they are tasty!)  You will be able to order lunch if you want to or a t-shirt.  If you want to explore the town, they will give you options to go to the square and look at the quaint stores downtown and eat at one of their unique restaurants or go to the original Minute Man.

They have so many plans.  Other than paying for lunch or an optional t-shirt, the event is free to Master Gardeners to show our appreciation to you!  Start planning now,  there is plenty of parking and we can handle bus loads too!

I pride myself on staying current with trends, but I am way behind on Kindness Rocks!  How many of you have heard of this?  It is a world-wide movement to leave painted rocks in public places.  It was created to spread inspiration and a moment of kindness for unsuspecting recipients through random inspirational rocks dropped along the way –random acts of kindness!  And my motto is Kindness Matters, so I am inspired.  We found all kinds of rocks in the gardens in El Dorado and I found some in  Hope later that day.  

Kindness is contagious and I have been missing out. We plan to do Gardeners Rock with Kindness at this event and you can paint a rock to take home and spread some cheer in your own counties.

We sampled some of the local lunch options and made lots of plans before doing a quick driving tour of choices to see.  Union county has come up with a great idea to make a sign to display in front of local businesses and homes to thank them for a good landscaping job.    Here is one example:

Then I was on the road heading to Hope.  I met with their staff chair to talk about downtown improvement and landscaping ideas.  It definitely warmed up–and we walked the downtown after business closing time.    There are big plans to revitalize the downtown since the local bank is being converted to their new courthouse which will be changing over soon.   Big changes are coming.  Can anyone explain this piece of art to me?    Fun!

I finally made it to my hotel and checked in.  Since Hope is home to the watermelon festival coming up in August, watermelons were everywhere, even in my hotel lobby.  A full day with a lot accomplished.   Consider this a Save the Date for MG appreciation, but we will soon be getting information out about all the details.  Tomorrow is MG Saturday training, then home.

Fort Smith and Planning

July 27, 2017

It was a full day in Fort Smith yesterday for planning the 2018 State MG Conference and I didn’t make it home until 10, so I was too tired to post.  We started out meeting with our two host hotels the Doubletree and the Courtyard by Marriott.  The Doubletree is attached to the Convention Center and the Marriott is on the other side of the parking lot of the convention center.  Once you arrive you won’t have to move your car.    They are both hotels that have recently been upgraded and they are equally nice.  The Marriott is smaller, but each room does come with a refrigerator, while there are limited availability refrigerators at the Doubletree.  Both rooms do come with breakfast included.  There are still rooms available at both host hotels.  Be sure to ask for the MG rate when making reservations.

After we got all our accommodations covered, we drove to the Learning Fields for a round-robin of discussions with individual committees.    We got a lot accomplished this way.  Each committee had their own 15 minutes to ask questions and visit.  We finished slightly after 7.

In between, I did have time to go walk the gardens, but boy was it hot!  In spite of the heat, the gardens do look good.     We have a lot of great learning opportunities planned, so make sure you have reserved the date in your 2018 calendar.  Gardeners with Grit–You are Wanted on the Border  in Fort Smith, May 31 – June 2 (with 2 great optional pre-tours May 30).  This year we plan to send out the details about all the tours and speakers 2 weeks BEFORE registration goes live on Feb. 1.  That will give Master Gardeners time to review and READ the details of what they are signing up for BEFORE they sign up.  In reading the evaluations from this years conference, many of the things people asked for–I wish we had known the tour was steep or hard walking, or I didn’t know that is what the speaker was going to talk about–all was in the information sent out with registration.  I do know there is a lot to read and we all skim things but we are really changing up the schedule this year with some innovative ideas, so we will give folks plenty of time to digest the information.




A full day of Master Gardening

July 25, 2017

Today was our third quarterly meeting of County 76, our statewide Advisory group.  We had almost 70 people from 23 counties in attendance and we changed the format slightly, to doing committee work first, then programs.  I think it worked quite well.  There was a lot of program planning with several big events in the not too distant future.  First up will be A to P (annuals to perennials) for our first year Master Gardeners and their mentors.    We have 4 sessions across the state August 18-21.  If you have not gotten information about this, let me know.  Their committee got a lot of work accomplished and they are highly organized.  Next up is PNG Leadership at the Arkansas 4-H Center September 26-27.  The deadline for early bird registration is August 1, so get your registration in. This is an event you do not want to miss.   They will need a large ink pad for this stamp they had made!   We had a tasty salad lunch followed by our general session.   Meg from RRR (Recruitment, Retention and Recognition) committee did a great job presenting a program on the MG awards program.  

Each committee gave an update on what they are planning and then we inducted 8 new members!    Linda also recognized Marcella for 5 years of service to County 76 and Ouida for 10 years of service (Darlene who is recovering from surgery also is a 5 year member).   I am sure I am sharing pearls of wisdom with agent Steve from Drew County. It is great to have agent participation. 

We got everything cleaned up and organized.  I was home for a brief spell and then headed to Faulkner County for their annual Meet the Masters event which showcases their programs and entices potential volunteers to join. Not only was it educational, but as always, there was tasty food and a very welcoming group of volunteers.  I even got my own reserved parking place!  This is an excellent way to recruit new members. After our presentations, there was a lot of visiting between new and old members.  A great event!   

The county office is right next to the fire station and this shows how prepared firefighters always are.    Maybe I should take a page from this book.  If I laid out my clothes like that the night before, just think how quickly I could go from bed to car!

It was another scorcher today and the sunset even looked hot!    We need a break and some rain!


Monday meetings and preparing

July 24, 2017

When a county hosts a state MG conference it takes a lot of planning, teamwork and meetings.  One of my favorite parts of the process, besides organizing it all, is getting to know the various members of the county better.  The individual chairs we work with quite closely and it is great to develop a lasting friendship. Such was the case this year in Pulaski county with Joellen and Valerie. They worked tirelessly, leading their team with over 1900 hours of reported volunteer work and they did it with encouragement and a positive attitude and  a lot of their own blood, sweat and tears.  Their style of leadership was to set an example, encourage and let their teams run with their tasks.  It worked.  Today, Julie and I met with them to wrap up the final budget and go over their evaluations and assess what worked and what didn’t.  I have missed our seemingly daily conversations that led up to the final weeks of the conference planning session.    It also helped to have a great county agent.  It was a great experience.

Julie and I also worked getting everything ready for tomorrow’s County 76 meeting.  We have 73 folks coming in from across the state.

Afterwards, Randy and I went to the Heart Hospital in Little Rock to meet with some of their top cardiologists, administrators and their chef to discuss a vegetable garden at their clinic.  Since this chef joined their team several years ago, he has changed the way they cook in their cafe. No more processed foods, but fresh ingredients are used. They want to take it one step further.  Their goal is to provide fresh produce to use in their cafe and eventually lead to market baskets that could go home with patients.  The entire key is to show the benefits of eating healthy and growing your own produce.  What a great idea!  We had some great discussions and then we went to view their site.  I was not dressed appropriately for the climb up so I let Randy walk up and possibly get chiggers!  They have some lofty goals and a strong determination and I see it happening in the near future.     I also think some terracing should be in their future plans as well.  I can’t wait to see the outcome!

While I mentioned clouds and thunder yesterday, no rainfall came my way, but I heard Saline County got a good shower as did parts of NLR.  Did you?  It clouded up again today for a bit, but again, no moisture fell in the Carson yard.  Could use some!

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