Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Late GBBD: Giving Thanks

I was going to sit down Sunday afternoon and write a late post for the monthly Garden Blogger's Bloom Day.  I was too busy to get a post out on time on November 15, and I wasn't feeling very inspired anyway.  The weather has been crazy this past week from snow and temperatures in the teens on Wednesday to blustery temps in the 60's with rain this weekend, and frankly, there is nothing blooming here anymore.  (If you are here to see some pretty photos, look at my last post from the week before.) If I had been on time, I probably would have complained a little or at least been somewhat apologetic for the lack of interesting material, but all that changed on Sunday

A shy pansy shivering in the snow last week.
My husband and I were coming home from dinner at a local restaurant when his phone went off, alerting us to a tornado warning in our area.  We managed to get home just as the wind picked up and raindrops began to pelt our heads.  I quickly corralled the dogs and headed for the basement and turned on the weather reports.  I watched as the announcer showed all the red areas on the map and explained the likely path of the different tornadoes around us and saw a few early photos of the devastation in East Peoria and the nearby small town of Washington, Illinois.  Just as the all-clear was given, the power went out, plunging me and the bewildered dogs into darkness.

Fortunately, daylight was still streaming through the windows upstairs, and I surveyed the aftermath of the storm--not much, just a few limbs down, a piece of siding pulled off a shed, and an empty garbage can blown across the driveway.  Relieved that the storm was over, I sat on the couch with my Ipad, but with no internet access and no TV to watch the Bears' game, after awhile I decided the best thing to do was to take a nap.  The sudden sound of the football game awoke me some time later as power was restored.

The only "real" bloom at the moment--a geranium overwintering in the garage.

It wasn't until later when I opened my Ipad again to search for weather reports and news of the storm that I discovered a nearby small town had been devastated by the tornado. News reports were sketchy, but Facebook posts provided up-to-date information as many of my local friends posted their concerns or confirmed the safety of friends and family; a few even shared photos they were able to take, showing the destruction.

Needless to say, my Bloom Day post was forgotten, and I am certainly not going to complain about something so trivial as lacking blooms today--it is November, after all!   I spent the evening watching the local news and keeping up with reports on Facebook.  Gifford is a small town about 15 miles from us, but even closer to the town where I grew up and lived for most of my life, and I know many people who live there.  It is part of a close-knit community of small farming towns, people who share similar values and a strong work ethic.  Even as residents surveyed the damage to their homes with dismay, they gave thanks that no one was seriously injured. Reactions from others have been heartening and a reminder of all that is good about small town living where people are always willing to help their neighbors.  Nearby farmers brought in tractors with loaders to help clear the debris.  An outpouring of support and offers of help have come from all the surrounding communities. Individuals are organizing donation drives, and some businesses are donating a portion of their sales to the relief effort.

A surprise bloom from two weeks ago--Cyclamen hederifolium.  I had forgotten I planted these!  A sweet little bloom rising above the dying shade garden.
I am thankful today to live in such a caring community where neighbors look after each other.  Even as residents of Gifford and the other areas hit by the tornado pick up the pieces of their lives, they are making plans to rebuild.  I know this town will bloom again.

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is hosted the 15th of each month by Carol of May Dreams Gardens.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Colors of Autumn

The "S" word is in the forecast for this week.  It's far too early for wintry landscapes, in my opinion; I want to enjoy the remaining colors of autumn for as long as possible.  Predictions of snow and temperatures in the teens always remind me of Frost's poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay."  We've had a beautiful fall, and although the colors have not been as dramatic as some years, there has been no shortage of golden hues.

The locust tree in the front yard is nothing spectacular during the summer, but in the fall it glows.

Is there anything better than gold sparking against a blue, blue sky?

Amsonia Hubrichtii proves why it's more than just a pretty spring face.  We have a very large specimen of this in the section of the Idea Garden where I volunteer, and I noticed this year how many visitors were drawn to this plant and asked about it.  In the late fall everything in the garden is cut down for the winter, even the amsonia.  I understand those in charge want a public garden to look tidy over the winter, but it makes me sad that they are missing out on a beautiful late-season show of color.  I'm almost glad I didn't have time to help on "Putting the Garden to Bed" day--I wouldn't have had the heart to take the pruners to this lovely.

For the last month, I've enjoyed the spectacle of autumn at its finest around town and while driving to meetings and appointments or running countless errands, but never the time to stop and capture the scenes, even if I had a camera handy, which I didn't. But it doesn't matter--I'm not a great landscape photographer, anyway, and there are small scenes of beauty to be found even in my own back yard, like the foliage and fluffy seedheads of the asters.

Or the glowing foliage of the spirea.

Even the hostas go out in a blaze of gold.

Gold is definitely the predominant color of fall in my area, surrounded as we are by fields of ripe corn. For a time, spots of green (or red, depending on the farmers' preferred brand of machinery) were also seen throughout the fields.

The harvest was completed a few weeks ago, but not before a little boy had the ride of his life.  I posted this photo on my Facebook page, but thought it was worth posting here, too.  My youngest grandson, now 2, is obsessed with combines, and so Grandpa made arrangements for him to get a ride on a real combine and see the harvest up close as they made two rounds through the fields.  It is all Grandson has talked about ever since--his favorite fall color is definitely green!

Gold is not the only color of autumn, of course.  This time of year I wish I had a red maple, but the burning bushes at the end of our drive provide a dramatic dose of red.

The white crabapple changes its hue, too. 

Unlike last year, when fruit was sparse due to the drought, the tree is loaded with tiny red crabapples this year.

The birds are happy about this, too, and have made this their favorite tree of the season.

The old apple tree was also covered in apples this fall, and I spent a good deal of time preparing sliced apples and making applesauce for the freezer.  There were so many that I didn't get them all picked, though, before Husband gave the lawn a last mowing before winter. I guess this is applesauce for the birds:)

There are some non-traditional fall colors in the garden, too, if you look closely enough.  The purple berries on the beautyberry bush are another winter treat for the birds, but I hope they let me enjoy them first for awhile.

More purplish-pink in the late blooms of a potted mum.

Less dramatic, but pleasing all the same--the muted pink undertones of the fading 'Limelight' hydrangea.

The fall color show begins in my front yard each year with the ash tree and its purple and copper-colored leaves.

And it climaxes with the turning of the large maple which shines even on a cloudy day.

Autumn's winds are stripping it a little more each day, leaving only remnants of the colorful show--and one more fall project to do before winter sets in.

"Then leaf subsides to leaf 
 . . . Nothing gold can stay."

I hope you are enjoying the colors of Autumn wherever you are!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Book Review: A Finer End by Deborah Crombie

He held a pen in his right hand, although he didn't remember picking it up.  And the page, which had been blank a moment ago, was covered in an unfamiliar script...'Ye love full well what we have loved.  The time...to wake, for Glaston to rise against the darkness.  We have...something...long for you...it is in your hands..."

Jack Monfort stared at the strange writing in front of him, thinking at first that it was some kind of joke.  Yet it was his own writing, though in Latin, a language he barely remembered from his schooldays.  Could it be some long-dead monk was communicating with him, taking over his body to write these strange messages? Jack, a widowed architect who had grown up in Glastonbury, didn't believe in any of the "mystical rubbish" associated with the town and the Tor that cast its shadow over his own home.  After some thought, he crumpled up the paper in disgust.

Yet after several similar incidents, Jack must find some answers to this mysterious writing and seeks the help of Simon Fitzstephen, an author and local expert on the early Church in Britain and Grail mythology.  Eventually, the two form a group with an unlikely set of members, including a 17-year-old pregnant runaway who is being sheltered by an eccentric woman best described as an aging hippie. The group meets to discuss the messages, which have come more frequently, and tries to discover the meaning behind them.

Jack doesn't want too many people aware of what is going on, thinking they will suspect that he has lost his mind.  But when a good friend is seriously injured in a suspicious hit-and-run accident, he calls upon his cousin, Scotland Yard Inspector Duncan Kincaid, to come to investigate. Kincaid doesn't want to leave his own caseload of homicides to investigate a possible accident out of his jurisdiction, but then realizes this would be the perfect opportunity for a weekend getaway to mend the strained relationship with his former partner and lover, Gemma James.

Duncan and Gemma's romantic weekend suddenly turns serious as another of Jack's group is found murdered, and the two find themselves involved in a full-fledged investigation.  While the safety of the rest of the group is a concern until the killer is found, Gemma finds herself especially concerned about the welfare of the pregnant teenager, Faith, who seems to face danger of another kind--the mythical dark forces of the Tor, the "Old Ones," threaten chaos and destruction as Samhain, or All Hallows' Eve, approaches.

17th century engraving of Glastonbury--from Wikimedia Commons

Two very likable protagonists, a host of interesting and sometimes eccentric supporting characters, Celtic lore, and the setting of Glastonbury--a site associated with the myth of Joseph of Arimathea and sometimes identified as the Isle of Avalon in Arthurian legends--what more could you ask for in a murder mystery? A Finer End is one of those mysteries that will draw you in and keep you reading late into the night.

The colorful leaves of autumn are bringing the year to a "Finer End" as well.

I first discovered Deborah Crombie's novels sometime in the past year when I was looking for a new mystery. Although Crombie now lives in the U.S., her London and other UK settings ring with authenticity, and her writing reminds me of some of my favorite British mystery writers.  Gemma and Duncan are compassionate and intelligent police officers, not the hard-bitten, cynical cops often found in American detective stories--though I like to read those, too, occasionally.  They are the kind of people you'd like to actually meet.

A Finer End is the seventh of fifteen books in the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series. I started with one of her newer books and then picked up some earlier ones in no particular order.  Other than making the development of Duncan and Gemma's relationship a little confusing, it really didn't matter, although I think I'll read the first in the series next.  Let's see--I've read six, so that means I have nine left to read.  That should keep me entertained for many of the cold winter nights ahead!

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@Barrie Summy

Disclaimer: No compensation of any kind was received for this review.  I review only books I enjoy and think others would enjoy reading too.  I purchased and downloaded this book on my Kindle.