Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Scene of the Crime

It didn't take CSI-type detective skills to figure out what happened to this little rose ... a baby plant of 'J. C. Thornton' that I planted last month.

The little stub on the left is now only an inch tall ... the one on the right is a whole two inches tall.

The evidence was right there to one side of the remains of the plant.

Rabbit poop!  Some rascally rabbit ate my little rose almost down to the ground.

To protect the remains of this rose, and two other small roses that were also eaten, I made some little wire cages out of hardware cloth.

This should help convince the bunnies that the snack bar in this rose garden is officially closed.

Monday, October 28, 2013

TJ, the Big Red Dog

I haven't mentioned this before now, because I wasn't sure that I could get through it ... I'm still not sure, but I'm going to dive in and say it and see how this goes ...

Our friends Kim and Andy's greyhound TJ, the dog that I loved as if he were my own, was sent to Heaven on October 1.  Four weeks ago ... it feels like yesterday.  A friend of ours said it best, "the world is a little quieter and the light is not so bright."

TJ was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma and had amputation surgery in July 2010, at the tender age of 8.  In the face of a disease that has a 12-month or less average survival timeline, he defied the odds and lived 39 fantastic months ... showing everyone he met that life on three legs was just fine with him.

Here he is, already up (with a little bit of help) the day after his surgery

Look at that smile, right after his stitches were taken out.

Getting a drink, after working a long day at our GRF benefit in 2011.

I have so many stories I could tell about TJ.  What I remember most is that he loved people, and how he was such a clown

Working with other Therapy Dogs, at the Santa line at the mall.

Gathering toys while at a Greyhounds Rock planning meeting.

TJ, and his friend Oscar, at GRF's event in 2011.

TJ touched thousands of hearts in his time on earth in his work at schools, hospitals, festivals, fairs, and other events ... and so many of our hearts are breaking now that he is gone.

Blessing of the Hounds, 2011

Blessing of the Hounds, 2010

My favorite photo of TJ.

Those of us who love TJ are channeling our grief into energy and working hard on the final details of this weekend's 8th annual "Take a Bite Out of Canine Cancer" benefit.  We are dedicating it to the memory of TJ, and my sweet boy Daniel, and all the other dogs who lost their battles with cancer in 2013.

Fly free on your angel wings, TJ ... your work here is done.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Flowers on Friday: Unexpected Gifts

As I walked to the mailbox yesterday, I was surprised by a flash of pink in an unexpected place.  "Pink Van Fleet" is a once-bloomer that has never rebloomed for me after its spring show, and it had a flower!  

I went over to take a closer look, and saw that there were actually TWO flowers!

This rose is special to me for two reasons.  Walter Van Fleet is my very favorite rose hybridizer ... creator of 'American Pillar', 'Silver Moon', 'Alida Lovett', 'Glenn Dale', 'Birdie Blye', and others.  His most popular rose is 'Dr. W. Van Fleet', which everyone's Grandma probably grew and was named for him against his wishes.  (He wanted to name it 'Daybreak').  The fact that I have an entire garden of roses dedicated to his creations tells you how much I admire him.

This rose also represents the beginning of a rose friendship that I treasure.  In 2007, I was looking for 'Bess Lovett', a rare Van Fleet rose that seems to have disappeared from gardens and nurseries.  In an attempt to perhaps locate someone who grew this rose, I posted a query on GardenWeb's Antique Rose Forum.  I received a lovely response from a gentleman in Maryland, also a Van Fleet admirer, who had a rose that he was fairly certain was the elusive 'Bess Lovett'.  He rooted it from cuttings taken with permission at the USDA test fields (where Dr. Van Fleet worked until his death in the 1930s) before everything was bulldozed in the 1970s.

Within a week, I received a package containing 16 beautifully packaged cuttings.  The rose in my garden came from these cuttings, as did roses that I later shared with friends. 

These unexpected fall flowers on "Pink Van Fleet" are a gift ... and so is the friendship that they represent.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Coming Face to Face With My Ancestors

I was skipping around the Internet the other day, looking for things and trying to find inspiration for the program that I am writing about Hollywood Cemetery.  One thing led to another, as it always does, and I found myself on a blog that I had never visited before.  The writer mentioned something about Googling her ancestor's name and finding newspaper articles (or was it court records?).  I have a few ancestors with unusual enough names, so I thought I'd give it a try.

I typed a great-great grandmother's name into the search box, Tranquilla Ann Brady.  I was practically blown out of my chair when I clicked on one of the search results.  This is the page:

I clicked on a photo, one of Tranquilla and her son Arnold (my great-grandfather).


Each person in the photo is tagged, and the tags are on a menu on the right of the screen.  Clicking on Arnold's tag gave me a drop-down menu, and I selected 'Photos and Stories'.  This brought up a page with photos of him, like the one I found with Tranquilla's photos.

There was a photo of Arnold and his new wife, Augusta Martina Amundson,

and a photo of their house!

Back on Tranquilla's photo page, there was a photo of her house, too.

Here is a photo of Tranquilla and her first husband (my great-great grandfather) Ransom Abraham Stevens.

Following the link to photos of Ransom Stevens led to this gem:

I could have sifted through this stuff all day, but I had to force myself to stop and get back to the real work at hand. is from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It is free, though you have to register to use the site. has come a long way since I last visited there.  These must be user-supplied photos, but I couldn't find any indication as to who may have uploaded them.  (I didn't look too hard for this info right now, but you can be certain that I will later.)

I started researching and recording my family history when I was 16, and I have traced most of the lines of my family through the last two centuries.  Most of this was done before the convenience of the Internet, using old-fashioned resources like pencil and paper, telephone calls, snail mail, and countless hours looking at microfilm in dark library basements.  When it was launched, I subscribed to, but I let the subscription lapse when I had done all I needed to at that time. 

This new resource, with the potential for stories and photos, is going to be a great way to discover new info on ancestors ... and I can't wait to have time to waste to see what else there is out there for me to find.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sunday Snapshot: Flowers in the House and at the Party

After I accomplished a few things around here on Friday morning, I skipped out for the afternoon to go to Hollywood Cemetery.  I need to have some additional photos for the program I am presenting at the Heritage Rose Foundation Conference in Florida in November ... some photos of the cemetery itself, not just my usual close-ups of flowers and monuments. 

I had my pruners with me, as I always do, and I snipped some cuttings of a few roses that I really want to propagate.  Two of the cuttings had lovely flowers on them, which I put into a bud vase to enjoy in the house and to use on the table at yesterday's Pot Luck Garden Social.

The Garden Social was small and very, very enjoyable.  The rain that was predicted for the afternoon stayed south of us, though the temperature was a bit on the cool side for a garden party.  We had a delightful afternoon, meeting new friends, reconnecting with old friends, walking through the roses, eating good food, and enjoying each other's company.

Later this morning, I'm heading north to DC to speak to the Potomac Rose Society about Rose Rosette Disease.  This means that I have to dress nicely and behave myself ... which can sometimes be a challenge for me.  Wish me luck.

I hope your Sunday is a good one.

Happy Sunday, Everyone!!

(sharing this with all the folks at Jane's for Flowers in the House)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Catching Up on the Week That Was

It's been a really good, very productive week in Hartwood.  Settle in and I will tell you about it.

Monday.  This was our first day of sunshine since the middle of the week before ... five straight days of rainy gloomy weather.  Monday morning, I was sitting on the sofa, working on my laptop with Dorothy snuggled beside me as usual.  All of the sudden, a sunbeam came through the window behind us, and it startled us both ... the unfamiliar object that it was.  I am so glad that I had my iPad on hand to capture Dorothy's reaction.

Tuesday.  With an end to the rain, it was a good day to set the trap to see if I could nab the groundhog that had taken up residence underneath our pavilion.  This was a wary one ... not so wary as to resist the lure of my best bait, APPLE.  Within two hours after I set the trap, I was victorious!!  (yes, Folks, this is a war ... with winners and losers.)  I can't get to the hole under the pavilion to fill it in with dirt, so I've been lobbing rocks and chunks of concrete into it to make it unsuitable for another groundhog to come in and take up residence.

If you're keeping score, this is Groundhog #9.

Wednesday.  All the rain made for perfect weed-pulling conditions.  I spent a good part of the day on Wednesday (and Tuesday) sitting on the seat of my pants pulling bushels of weeds in my garden of English roses.  It was tough, physical work, but the results are keeping me optimistic ... perhaps I really CAN conquer the weeds at this place.  (there we go again, with the winners and losers analogy.)  This photo is what the garden looked like before I removed any of the weeds.  I will show you some comprehensive After photos soon, I hope.

Thursday.  It was another nice day, and I worked outside ... big surprise, huh?  My hands and shoulders were sore from pulling weeds, so I worked to continue to tidy the place up a bit in preparation for my Garden Social tomorrow.  The Rose Field is still on the brink of ruin, but everything else is coming along very, very nicely.  In the midst of all the work, I always take some time to appreciate the beauty that is around me ... like this flower on 'Kathleen'.  This rose blooms mostly in the spring, so fall flowers are not to be expected, but she puts out a killer crop of beautiful orange hips that practically glow in the sunlight.

Today.  I have a few final preparations for tomorrow's party.  Most of these things need to be done anyway ... moving potted roses to a single location, clearing the driveway beside the house of the accumulated crap, wiping down yard furniture, a trip to the grocery store, etc.  I like having the motivation of invited guests to keep the process moving. 

I haven't decided what I will wear for the party, but I do know that I will certainly wear my new boots.  They were a to-me-from-me present for my birthday two weeks ago, found at Class and Trash (one of my very favorite stores!).  As far as I can tell, they were probably custom made for someone, because there is no label or size info on them anywhere, and they are superbly well made.  (The only marking on them at all is a molded name of the company that made the heel.)  These babies are so comfortable, and I love them!!!

Photo taken earlier this week, as I sat on the back porch with Ruby and a cold, long-necked beverage.

Now it's your turn ... how has your week been? 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Ugly Duckling Jelly Cupboard

A few months ago, I saw a truly ugly cupboard in a preview at Shumate's Auction in Warrenton.  I could tell that it was once a lovely little jelly cupboard, but a prior owner did some pretty awful things to it.  I have been looking for a jelly cupboard ... one on the smaller side ... and I knew I could transform this one into something special.

The other auction-goers must have been terrified of the awful appearance of this cupboard, despite its solid construction and great proportions, because I bid WAY less for it than the maximum that I had set for myself.

No one appeared to be willing to look past the horrible 70's green antiqued paint job.  The cupboard once had some sort of feet, which were long gone, and the glass in the doors was definitely not original.  (Notice that beaded detail in the drawer?  Remember it, because you will see it again in a minute.)

The first step in the cupboard's transformation was to scrape and sand the surface to get rid of the drips and debris that were in the green paint.


The olive green was a great starting point for my plan of multiple layers of color.

I painted the inside and the outside of the cupboard with a base coat of Annie Sloan's 'Country Grey'.  Once this was dry, the outside of the cupboard got a coat of 'Duck Egg'. 

I sanded the whole cupboard with my fine-grit sanding block, then heavily wet-distressed it with a Scotch Brite scrubbing pad ... just like I did to my brother's kitchen cabinets.  (Click HERE to see that project, if you missed it or need a reminder.)  Always remember that distressing replicates natural wear that a piece would have received over time!

You can see all three colors of paint, and a bit of raw wood, after the door is distressed.

The cupboard needed a bit of patina added to its new paint job.  With previous pieces, I have used clear and dark wax to achieve this.  One day recently I had a realization ... clear wax becomes part of the finish and is repairable and fairly permanent.  Dark wax, however, stays on top of the finish and can be removed.  (I'm not careful with my furniture, so I don't want anything that I may have to baby.)  To achieve the look on this cupboard, I thinned my custom-mixed chocolate brown chalk paint into a glaze, painted it onto the surface and quickly wiped it off.  The effect was perfect!


The beaded detail on the cupboard's drawer provided the perfect clue for me to replace the glass in the doors with beadboard.  I cut panels to size, painted them (using Olive for the first coat, since there was no ugly green paint to start with in this case).  This photo clearly shows the difference the glaze makes to the paint finish ... the door frame was glazed, the panel wasn't yet.

Replacing the missing feet on the cupboard was easy.  I bought four unfinished wood feet at Lowe's, and I went to work painting them to match the finish on the cupboard.  ('Olive', then 'Country Grey', then 'Duck Egg'.)  I distressed the feet very heavily, since feet on a piece of furniture receive lots of abuse from brooms, mops, vacuum cleaners, shoes, etc.

Painted foot on the right, distressed foot on the left.

Distressed and glazed foot on the left, and clear-waxed foot on the right.

For the hardware, I had the perfect antique knobs stashed away.  Why someone had globbed paint onto these beauties is a mystery.  It was a simple process to carefully loosen the paint by soaking them in hot water.  I picked the loosened paint off with my thumbnail, and polished the brass with 0000 steel wool.

Here is the finished cupboard:

Doesn't look like the same piece, does it?  I will always be amazed at the transformation power of a good paint finish. 

Shortly after I took the above photo in our dining room, I moved to cupboard to a better spot in our home office.  This new location is fairly dark and not so great for quality photography, but I couldn't resist snapping a shot of this little vignette of Alice posing by one of my husband's paintings.  (one day I will get around to actually attaching the painting to its new frame and hanging it on the wall ... not today, though.)

I hope the dramatic transformation of this cupboard will inspire you to take another look at those ugly-duckling items the next time you are at an auction or yard sale.  As long as the size is right, the proportions are pleasing, and the construction is solid, you can work miracles with a can of paint.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tidying the Place Up a Bit

When we first moved here, I was opposed to the idea of having a brush pile.  I quickly learned that it's pretty much mandatory to have a dedicated place on the property to put large yard debris.  The pile contains our brush and stuff from our next-door neighbors at Hartwood Winery.

We manage the pile to keep it from getting out of hand, pushing it and repiling it with the tractor when necessary.  From time to time (every couple of years, in our case) the pile needs a drastic rejuvenation ... with fire ... and fall is the perfect time to do this.

Fireman son-in-law is our designated brush pile burner, since he is highly trained and does stuff like this for a living.  Last Tuesday, the day before we were expecting five straight days of rain, was the designated day.

I wasn't home that day for the actual ignition or the big fiery part of the burn.  The pile was pretty much finished burning, with only a smoldering center by the time I saw it.

The next step will be to clean up the mess, get rid of any big pieces that are left, and smooth out the remains so I can plant grass in this spot. 
The place for us to pile any future brush and yard debris will be moving to the rear of our property, beyond that second fence line you can barely see in the photo above, where it isn't visible from practically everywhere.  We will not making a huge heap this time.  Instead, we will pile brush and branches along the back tree line to act as a natural hedgerow habitat for birds and other critters.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Foggy Flowers on Friday, and an Invitation

It's raining today.  It also rained yesterday ... and the day before.  It's supposed to rain tomorrow, too.  I'm okay with it, because the roses love the rain (and saturated soil will make for easier weed pulling next week.)

Before the rain started on Wednesday, Ruby and I went for a walk through the garden to see what was blooming.  It was overcast and a bit foggy, and I am really pleased with what this did for my photos.  I hope you like them, too.









I forgot to mention here that I am having a pot luck Garden Social next Saturday, October 19th, from 2:00 to 5:00.  I am excited to show everyone the improvements in the garden (fewer weeds, more roses, and my new garden along the fence behind the greenhouse.)  If you would like to come, please send me an email so I know ahead of time who's going to be here.  Plan to bring a dish to share, and a rose (or other plant) to trade.  (It's okay if you don't have anything to trade ... there will certainly be enough extra plants so no one goes home empty handed.)

I love a good garden party!!  I hope you can come.
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