Parterre at Deep Cut Gardens

Click for a nicer view!

Are you wondering what a parterre is? Don’t speak French?


A parterre is a symmetrical garden, often with roses or perennials and boxwood hedges. They’re meant to be viewed from above, to better appreciate the pattern of the design, but I preferred the ground-level view of this still young planting.

I’ve been watching this one take shape for a couple years now at the local horticultural park. It was nice the other day to find that the park system had reached the final stages of restoring this treasured part of the many display gardens at Deep Cut.

I think the view will be gorgeous in the wintertime from the top of the hillside by the rockery – the weeping hemlocks there laced with snow – and the curving lines of the boxwoods in the parterre outlined in white, too.

A pic of the parterre from two summers ago is here. I can’t imagine how much nicer it’ll be two years from now.

Fish stories

Update: Susan had a bit of fun at Delia’s expense also. Delia, of course, knows we make fun of her only cause we love her so. You know that Delia, right?

This pic of Delia, unashamedly stolen from her blog (and a definite contender for next month’s cover of “Field and Stream”) reminded me of this pic of the DH:

Apparently the size of the fish has nothing whatsoever to do with the goofiness of the fisherman’s grin.


A year later

It’s the Spring of your life,
I laugh at your foolishness,
protect you from danger,
make sure you grow and glow with health,
practice and play until…

It’s the Summer of your life,
What a beauty you’ve become!
You’ve (almost) grown into yourself,
You live at full tilt, with a passion for life.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

It all started innocently enough. Heartbroken and dog-less for the first time in 12 years, we found this adorable pup to ease our lonesomeness. He’s brought joy and a good amount of laughter, but also a sense of déjà-vu; that we’d done this all before, that we know all the pitfalls, have fallen for these same tricks and devilment sometime in the past. There is no better way to forget, or remember, than a puppy.

I imagine I’ll always think of them linked this way; the leaving of one so close to the coming of the other. Today is Luka’s Gotcha-Day and this past Friday marked a year since Buddy passed away.

Dogs, especially old dogs, are a treasure. They are more than themselves, they are us. Part of us. They live our life, are the calendar of our joys and sorrows. We run our fingers through our past when we caress their broad chest and velvet ears.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

In the Autumn of your life,
you grew more sedate;
your troubles so far in the past,
I’d almost forgotten
the Spring of your life.
Your colors still vibrant, but
a tinge of silver frosted your muzzle
and foretold…

The Winter of your life,
your eyes as clouded as a December sky,
You passed as gently
as snow falling on frozen fields.
I weep now and remember all the seasons of your life
and the years of mine that you carried away with you.

*Poetry adapted from Pieces of My Heart by Jim Willis

A postcard

Summer has its windows open: listen to the crickets and smell the thick breath of the sea. There’s not a cloud in the sky and miles of warm sun-scented beach ahead. We could walk for hours… leave our shoes on the boardwalk, skip stones by the jetty, trace our dreams in the sand.

That magic place where the sea meets the sky… I want to look at it forever, watch the slow progression of waves and listen to the dune grasses strum, laughter carried across beach blankets, the laughter of gulls rivaling ours, that old longing in me now so familiar as the waves roll in.

My sense of time and distance is lost to the lullaby of the surf, to an egret stalking the salt marsh on angel’s wings, the beckoning breeze and its thoughts of you.

Take my hand, stay for a moment, taste the sea’s kiss on my lips.

A postcard scene… wish you were here.

It rained today, all day.

I daydreamed.

Good thing I like potatoes

For Vicki’s Saturday Shopping Challenge this week, I thought I’d try my luck at one of the U-Pick places. Other than apples and pumpkins in the fall, there’s not much local for picking yourself, so the DH and I drove an hour or so west to a U-Pick farm that I used to visit occasionally to buy greens for the bunnies.

Collecting our buckets for picking felt something like standing around in the international arrivals terminal at the airport; I registered at least five different languages being spoken. Apparently, many farms and CSA’s in the area are catering to the 1.5 million immigrants that make their home in NJ by growing produce from around the world. At least 2/3 of the farm fields today were planted with vegetables that were unrecognizable to me: African eggplants like Kittaly and Bitter Ball, greens like Sour Sour and Callaloo, Thai peppers and eggplants. Judging by the carloads of families there picking, I think I must be missing out on something good… and according to the manager of the place, more traditional (less ethnic) vegetables rot in the fields because (white) people are too lazy to spend a day picking them, so they’ve made a business of planting what can’t be found in most supermarkets.

Potatoes and onions were ready today and I recognized them, so that’s how I spent my $20. A bucket of red potatoes went for $10 and I had the most fun digging them out of the dirt. Has anybody else ever pulled a warm potato out of the sandy ground and been amazed with the way things grow? Very cool.

I’m easily amused, I know.

A dozen or so big sweet onions went for $4.18 and the DH grabbed some odd melon from the farm stand on the way out and we called it a day for $20.17.

I’m thinking of French onion soup and mashed potatoes. Lots and lots of mashed potatoes.


Fair time

Like a ten-year old, I love the county fair. I love the lights and the clowns and the racing pigs. The blue-ribbon vegetables on display, the 4-H girls and their horses, the masses of people waiting in line for deep-fried twinkies (ick!)… it’s an absurd scene and I just can’t get enough of it.

I used to do a lot of my Master Gardener volunteer hours at the fair. I’d go every day and stand around watching the people go by. I had to stay in a little booth most of the time, under a sign that said, “Have a garden question… ask a Master Gardener!” Can you imagine the crazy questions people would dream up to ask? I loved it though, loved to talk with complete strangers about what it was that was killing their prize dahlias or whatever. I’d sneak away for ice-cream or lemonade or zeppoles and to pet the horses or visit with the 4-H bunnies.

I like to watch the kids on the rides, too. Tonight I laughed at a mom with her little son on the kiddie roller coaster, shaped like a dragon or an earthworm maybe; she was screaming right along with the rest of the kids.

I’m trying to think of an excuse to go back again tomorrow…

Garden of green

The garden is planted with the best of intentions each year; seedlings artfully arranged by height and shade tolerance, careful rows of tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, peppers, a small colony of sweet basil, off to the side a rambling mass of cucumbers and squash.

This abundance is always reduced in the same manner. Lettuce and cabbage are the first to go (rabbits) followed by broccoli and kale if we braved them. The cucumbers and tomatoes are pruned early by something too young to know better (groundhogs) but grow vigorously to fruit until they ripen and are sampled yet again (squirrels). The peppers and basil are ignored (thank heavens for that), but the squash is ravaged (mystery bugs) and the foliage repeatedly eaten down so that there’s nothing to shade what’s growing below and the squash ends up sunpocked and dirt encrusted.

Every year we try again, build the fence a little higher and hope the critters might go for a neighbor’s garden instead.

The tomatoes, if I get to them before the squirrels, are sublime. Just this week I did a little quality control work with the first couple ripe grape tomatoes. I love them and could make a meal of it, no washing or cooking required. We plant so many that it gets to be hard to keep up with what ripens each day. Always a nice thing to have too many sun-warmed tomatoes; nicer still is the watching and waiting for them to be red and ready for picking.

How’s your garden growing? Who’s eating what?

Sit for a spell, but not here

I visited a client today who didn’t have a single chair in the house. A big flat screen TV and a nice car in the driveway, but nowhere to sit.


No table either, but then that would require at least one chair, I guess.

The #1 Social Worker rule when making home visits is never to sit on any soft surface.

You can use your imagination to sort out the why.

The #2 Social Worker rule is to have an exit in view at all times.

Laugh all you like, but this was about the extent of my training on *how to conduct home visits* without bringing home bed bugs or getting kidnapped by a psychopath.

These rules usually find me doing business in the client’s kitchen. Today’s kitchen had a couple bicycles, a washer/dryer combo, and the most fabulously neat collection of shoes I’ve seen yet. In the kitchen that had no table or chairs.

I wanted to ask, but it felt really rude… where do you sit to eat? Where do you sit to put on any of those fabulously neat shoes?

There was no couch, either.


Oh! I also visited this lady… remember the one who likes to call me over and over and leave the same exact message a dozen times, at three-minute intervals, on my voicemail? Very, very nice lady who lives in the most awful of neighborhoods. Very organized, too, apparently. Her kitchen didn’t have a table either, but the fridge was covered with post-it notes. As was part of the bathroom mirror and most of one wall in her bedroom. In big block letters on one of those post-its was my name and phone number. Next to it was my business card, labeled also in big block letters, “CASEWORKER”. Next to that she’d printed out my field and office schedule.


Explains a lot though, probably.

Mind you, I’m not making fun exactly… just sort of pondering what to do with these glimpses into other people’s lives and homes.


in the clips of its feet,
a slim and limber

silver fish, a scrim
of red rubies
on its flashing sides.

from The Osprey, Mary Oliver

The ospreys in the neighborhood have been very conspicuous the last week or so; I think this year’s young have just fledged.

I watch their cell tower nest while I wait for the light to change or the train to pass. My view is better, closer, while waiting on the train, but it lacks the perspective the other side of the intersection offers. From there I can appreciate how massive the nest is and just how precariously it’s placed.

They drift by my car on their way to the river or over the backyard on their return, the fish face-first in golden talons. Last week, two dark bundles with checkerboard wings outstretched, awaited delivery. This morning the nest was unoccupied and the sky taken.

Adirondack round-up

Our last day in the Adirondacks (three weeks ago already!) was the best weather-wise for a visit to Whiteface Mountain. We’d waited around for a couple hours for the clouds to clear, visited a few favorite bug-infested spots, and then made our way to the toll road entrance at the bottom of the mountain. The weather board didn’t have very promising news: zero visibility and a balmy 52 degrees at the summit.

Many years, the little stone building there has a wonderful collection of moths in attendance, including Luna moths, but there were none this year. I’ll never forget the time we watched a little chickadee carry off a Luna twice its size.

The views of balsam and spruce going up were lovely; we’d stop every couple turns around the mountain, add a layer of clothing, listen for birds and pile back into the vans.
Scott found a nice patch of Clintonia for me, also called Bluebead Lily. A poor picture of a very pretty little wildflower.
The higher we went, the more the clouds encroached on us. At this point, some of the group hiked the rest of the way to the summit; us really bird-oriented people stayed behind and listened for Bicknell’s Thrush.

Our view from the summit: somewhat disappointing considering how far one might see from this spot. I did manage to spot a speck bird that turned itself into a Bald Eagle; that was nice to add to the trip list!
The obligatory group photo at the top of the world.

Trip List (compiled by Scott):

Birds (1st # indicates the # of days recorded/2nd # indicates highest daily total or estimate):

Canada Goose (4/30)
Wood Duck (2/4)
Mallard (4/6)
Ring-necked Duck (1/2)
Hooded Merganser (2/8)
Common Merganser (2/2)
Ring-necked Pheasant (1/1)
Ruffed Grouse (1/3)
Wild Turkey (3/3)
Common Loon (1/1)
American Bittern (1/1)
Great Blue Heron (4/15)
Black Vulture (1/2)
Turkey Vulture (3/x)
Osprey (3/2)
Bald Eagle (1/1)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (1/1)
Cooper’s Hawk (2/1)
Broad-winged Hawk (2/2)
Red-tailed Hawk (3/2)
Am. Kestrel (1/4)
Killdeer (2/5)
Ring-billed Gull (4/4)
Herring Gull (2/1)
Rock Pigeon (4/x)
Mourning Dove (4/x)
Chimney Swift (4/18)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (3/4)
Belted Kingfisher (2/2)
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (2/12)
Hairy Woodpecker (2/3)
Black-backed Woodpecker (3/3)
Northern Flicker (4/5)
Pileated Woodpecker (3/2)
Olive-sided Flycatcher (1/2)
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (2/2)
Alder Flycatcher (2/2)
Willow Flycatcher (1/1)
Least Flycatcher (2/5)
Eastern Phoebe (3/2)
Eastern Kingbird (2/2)
Blue-headed Vireo (3/12)
Red-eyed Vireo (4/15)
Gray Jay (1/1)
Blue Jay (4/x)
American Crow (4/x)
Common Raven (4/3)
Tree Swallow (2/4)
Barn Swallow (4/12)
Boreal Chickadee (1/2)
Black-capped Chickadee (3/6)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (3/20)
House Wren (2/2)
Winter Wren (3/12)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (2/10)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (2/4)
Eastern Bluebird (4/6)
Veery (2/2)
Bicknell’s Thrush (1/5)
Hermit Thrush (2/10)
American Robin (4/x)
Gray Catbird (2/4)
Northern Mockingbird (1/2)
European Starling (4/x)
Cedar Waxwing (4/14)
Nashville Warbler (3/20)
Northern Parula (3/14)
Yellow Warbler (1/2)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (3/5)
Magnolia Warbler (3/10)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (3/6)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (3/15)
Black-throated Green Warbler (3/8)
Blackburnian Warbler (3/12)
Pine Warbler (3/4)
Palm Warbler (2/3)
Blackpoll Warbler (1/4)
Black-and-white Warbler (1/2)
American Redstart (2/2)
Ovenbird (3/8)
Mourning Warbler (1/3)
Common Yellowthroat (4/10)
Canada Warbler (1/2)
Scarlet Tanager (2/2)
Eastern Towhee (1/2)
Chipping Sparrow (4/x)
Field Sparrow (1/1)
Savannah Sparrow (2/8)
Grasshopper Sparrow (1/2)
Song Sparrow (4/x)
Lincoln’s Sparrow (2/5)
Swamp Sparrow (3/15)
White-throated Sparrow (3/x)
Dark-eyed Junco (3/10)
Northern Cardinal (1/2)
Indigo Bunting (2/3)
Bobolink (1/4)
Red-winged Blackbird (4/x)
Common Grackle (4/x)
Brown-headed Cowbird (2/x)
Baltimore Oriole (1/1)
Purple Finch (3/5)
Red Crossbill (1/1)
American Goldfinch (4/x)
House Sparrow (4/x)
105 species

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail
Black Swallowtail
Cabbage White
Pink-edged Sulphur
Summer Azure
Great Spangled Fritillary
Atlantis Fritillary
Silvery Checkerspot
Northern Crescent
Question Mark
White Admiral
Northern Pearly-eye
Common Ringlet
Arctic Skipper
European Skipper
Indian Skipper
Long Dash
Hobomok Skipper
Common Roadside Skipper

White-tailed Deer
Snowshoe Hare
Eastern Cottontail
Eastern Chipmunk
Red Squirrel
Gray Squirrel