Midsummer’s Eve Skies

Midsummer is one of those words that I always heard, but for a long time I didn’t actually know what it meant. I just assumed that it was another way of saying “the middle of the summer” and didn’t mean anything specific. I later learned that Midsummer actually is a specific day; it coincides with the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and the official first day of summer.

So why is the first day of summer also called Midsummer? As it turns out, the traditional first day of summer used to be on May Day, or May 1. This makes sense, when you think about it. At least here in Tennessee the weather is usually pretty summery by the beginning of May, and the longest day of the year certainly seems like a fitting midpoint to the sunny summer season.

Midsummer has a bit of a magical reputation and a traditional connection with the fairy realms (for example, it’s when the events of A Midsummer Night’s Dream take place) so I thought it merited a bit of a twilight frolic in the out-of-doors. I wasn’t disappointed; the sunset-filled sky was a wonder to behold.

Last night may have been Midsummer’s Eve, but today is Midsummer proper. If you’re feeling a little down or stagnant, today is the perfect day to get outside and soak up some rays (with the proper sun protection, of course!) and fresh air. You will feel refreshed and restored!

A Lucky Find

img_7340

I love farmers’ markets. There’s just something about heading out early on a Saturday (ok, midmorning on a Saturday) to walk around and look at all of the produce and products available in the different stalls. I think the trip is really half the fun!

There are many reasons to support your local farmers’ market. For one thing, just think of the convenience – it’s nearby, and you have experts on hand to help you with any questions you might have. After all, who could possibly tell you more about available produce than the very people who grow it? The stalls are run by individual farmers or farming families, and they are all happy to help you select items, tell you how to prepare fruits and veggies that you may be unfamiliar with, or suggest food pairings.

Take this rope of hot peppers, for instance. It caught my eye at the farmers market with the gorgeous red color and shiny skins of the dried peppers. Just looking at it lying on a table, I didn’t really know what to do with it, but fortunately there was a farmer on hand to help me out! She showed me that there is loop at one end so that you can hang the peppers up in your kitchen, then you just pull the peppers off from the bottom as you need them. Not only do the peppers look beautiful hanging in a garland in your kitchen, but she said they also bring good luck to the kitchen where they hang.

So far, these peppers have been great in tomato sauce for pasta and pizza and for flavoring beans. I can’t wait to see what other uses I can come up with for them!

Pretty, delicious, and lucky? This peppers were a deal that I couldn’t refuse!

What’s the Story, Morning Glory?

img_7391

It may seem strange to think about flowers blooming in October, but morning glories bloom until they’re killed off by frost. Since we are having the hottest fall on record, they are still going strong! (There has to be at least some sort of silver lining to all this hot weather, right?)

img_7393

Morning glories bloom in the early morning, so you have to get out before the blooms are spent in too much sun if you want to see them. (Note: Morning glories do need a lot of sun to grow well, so trying to extend the blooming time with a shady area probably won’t work.) These were already starting to wilt by the time I got to them.

img_7394

As you can probably tell from the tall grass, weeds, and overgrown lettuce, these morning glories are wildflowers growing over a spent section of the garden. No one planted them; they showed up all on their own. A lot of people might say that this looks like a mess, but I’d say it’s a good argument for not over landscaping; if you leave a few wild areas, you’re sure to get some interesting wildlife that you might miss out on otherwise.

img_7395

Want to know more about morning glories? The Old Farmer’s Almanac has an information page about them, and Southern Living’s The Grumpy Gardner has tips for growing these easy care flowers on The Daily South.

Busy Little… Spider?

This is Charlotte. Charlotte is a garden spider (Argiope aurantia) who annually makes our home her home. Though of course it isn’t the same spider year to year, we always call her Charlotte. She used to always make her web on or beside the back porch, but she has moved to a sunny spot in a corner over the past couple of years.

img_7173

Each year, female garden spiders lay eggs, which they enclose in durable webbing sacs to protect them through the winter. Then, in the spring, these eggs hatch, and tiny spider hatchlings come out to make their own webs or fly away on bits of thread to find new homes – just like at the end of Charlotte’s Web.

Normally, you see one big brown egg sac on Charlotte’s web every fall. This year she’s been especially busy, however. Not one, not two, but three egg sacs adorn Charlotte’s web. We may have a whole family of Charlottes next spring!

img_7172

Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun

The light is getting that mellow, golden quality, the smell of dry leaves fills the air, the weather gets cooler (some days)… And the dogs want to go outside and gallop around playing. Of course Jake couldn’t resist joining in. Florence is even getting into the fall spirit with a festive bandana!

img_7180img_7181img_7183img_7185img_7191

May Day

Today is one of my favorite holidays: May Day! Beloved of the cavalier poets, I always think of May Day as a time to revel in nature and seize the joys of life. I always make sure that I spend part of May first outdoors every year, feeling the sunshine (or wind, or rain) on my face, and reading some of my favorite carpe diem poems. Their message – live life to its fullest, because sooner or later death comes to us all – is a great reminder to make time for the pleasures in life, and, though bad things are often unavoidable, not let them obscure everything else.

So go outside, take a deep breath, and remember to look for the beauty all around you. Maybe even take a few minutes to read some Herrick!

Snow Days

Over the past week some much-publicized snow storms have blown across the country, bringing thick blankets of fluffy white snow to cover the land. Here, we were at the outskirts of the storms coming across Kentucky and Tennessee, so we missed the majority of the snow, but still got enough to leave us snowed in for a couple of days.

Walter, of course, loved having everyone shut up in the house with him for much of the week. He thrives on companionship and, given the choice, would require it at all times, with the possible exception of during his late morning-noontime nap. He was perfectly content to just look out the window; the couple of times he was given the opportunity to get out in the snow, he was actually afraid of it, and turned tail and ran back inside as soon as he got the chance.

IMG_5942

There was certainly plenty to see outside, though. The snow and cold brought out all manner of wildlife. The bird feeders are always popular, but during the snow they were absolutely covered. Though they are less immediately recognizable in their winter plumage, the goldfinches were out in full force. I don’t think I have ever seen so many in any one place at one time. That’s right: all of those round beige splotches in the tree will soon be gloriously dressed in bright yellow.

IMG_5943

Even though it isn’t much snow volume wise, it was enough to make roads icy and close schools. I almost slid down twice in one trip walking the dogs, and Florence actually did slip and fall on her walk. Needless to say, there isn’t a whole lot to do besides stay inside. We’ve perfected the art of relaxing; it’s going to be a shock when the world starts going again.

IMG_5938

IMG_5788