Friday, August 16, 2013

What's Blooming on Shore Drive - August 16th Edition

Yes, things are still blooming here. I haven't reported on my garden in a couple of weeks, so I thought I would give you all an update. Things still look very nice, maybe not quite as thrilling as they did a month ago, but I still have plenty of blooms. We are entering the time of year that I find most frustrating as a gardener of flowers. Its a great time to be a vegetable gardener, since the cucumbers, tomatoes, beets, eggplant and kohlrabi are producing like mad and I get to reap the benefits of all my hard work. But try as I might, I find it very difficult to keep a steady stream of blooming plants throughout the summer.

But before I complain too much, here are some of the things in my garden that are doing very nicely in the late summer time frame.

The purple cone flowers surrounding our deck are starting to fade and look a bit tired, but I still like them. For one thing they are pretty carefree, and self sow profusely. I've put a few of them in my new meadow garden, and I plan to put more next spring.

In the corner of the deck I planted dill and purple hyssop (which smells like licorice but is not edible). They look really pretty together. Hyssop is a great late summer plant.

I have giant purple hyssop growing in the front flower bed, but it is way too huge and tall for that bed. I really like it, but I'm moving it into the meadow in the spring. I'll have to think about what I should put in its place....

Maybe more phlox? I LOVE the phlox I have growing in the front - white, purple and pink-candy cane. I wouldn't mind more, and its a wonderful late bloomer here.

I'm so pleased that the black-eyed susans have finally gotten themselves established. It took a lot of coddling, and much sprinkling of deer and rabbit repellent, but I think they are okay now. Now I just need them to spread around in the meadow garden too!

By diligently discouraging the blackberry brambles and pokeweed in the meadow, its given other wildflowers a chance to get established. I have a wonderful stand of Joe Pye Weed in the back of the meadow. Its a beautiful late summer bloomer.

Here is a surprise! My grandiflora peach roses bloomed earlier this summer, in June. They stopped blooming and I went ahead and fertilized them like the instructions say. Then they started blooming again! I don't mind at all!

Along the driveway great swathes of jewel weed are blooming. It has a very interesting flower that looks like a little orchid, but the plants themselves are kind of spindly. But they are in an area where, at least for now, nature gets to do whatever it wants.

On the other hand, the lobelia on the right is a bit of a disappointment. I grew it from seed, and I thought it was the red cardinal flower type lobelia, but its turned out to be purple. Its pretty but I wanted red! Oh well.

Finally, here is a mystery. Why do the native hydrangeas, pictured above, bloom and spread like crazy, but the cultivars I planted don't bloom? This is the third years without hydrangea blooms.  I have no idea why.

And, my rose of sharon bush died last winter, but I have a nice collection of volunteers that I'm nurturing, at right. Will they make it through the winter? We'll just have to wait and see!

Friday, August 9, 2013

New Ports of Call

One of Lee's birthday presents this year was a sailing trip of 4 or 5 days duration. What this really means is "a sailing trip where Lynn doesn't grumble about pump toilets or freak out unnecessarily". He eagerly took me up on this offer, so here we are.

We considered a couple of different scenarios. Buzzards Bay is too far to go in less than a week, ditto for Maine. We'd love to go to both of those destinations, but they will have to wait. We'd love to go to Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod, but it is a pretty far trip over open water, not quite out of sight of land, but close. So those destinations will happen sometime, but not right now.

Then, depending on the wind, we decided we would either go north or south. As it turned out, we headed south.

The first morning it was calm, and rainy. The rain stopped luckily just as we got to Salem Harbor, where our boat is moored. As we headed out we realized that we had left the car charger in the car, so we had no way to charge our electronics.  Oops!

We did without both phones and ipads (for the most part, I did call my mom) all of that day and that night, until Lee was able to buy a replacement charger. It really had me thinking about how dependent we have become on those devices. They have revolutionized so much of our everyday behavior. I didn't really miss them while we were off line, and I did find myself reading a lot more, but as soon as we could charge them again I was right back online, checking Facebook and email, writing blog posts, researching where we could walk the dogs on the beach, where I could go for a run.

Unfortunately the wind did not pick up, so we had to motor to Hull, south of Boston Harbor. Just as we got to Hull the wind that we had been expecting that afternoon arrived so we picked up our mooring in a howling gale. We were afraid the night would be bumpy and uncomfortable, but it wasn't too bad. We took the dogs for a nice long walk and enjoyed a beautiful sunset peeking through the clouds.

In the morning we enjoyed their marina's very comfortable showers and then headed out. The wind was still very strong which meant two things. First of all we would make good time to Plymouth, our next destination. Secondly, steering would be challenging. We were sailing at an angle to the wind, so the wind wanted to push us one way and whoever was at the helm had to keep the boat from turning. We have autopilot, but it was malfunctioning, so it was all up to us.

Lee took the first turn steering and I watched carefully. This kind of weather can make me nervous, but I'm getting better. While Lee drove he would remind me that it was important to not let the boat "head up" and turn in the direction the wind wanted to push it. It can feel kind of scary, because you will heel over more as you go faster and the wind pushes you harder.

When it was my turn to steer I kept us on a steady course as much as possible. When the wind would pick up I would mutter to myself "there is nothing to be concerned about, keep a steady course." Even as the boat's speed hit over 6 knots I didn't panic. I was pretty proud of myself!

It was pretty chilly with all that wind and no sun. It even rained a little during my watch. We started out in shorts but it didn't take too long before I was wearing pants, shoes, a sweatshirt, and even a raincoat for awhile. This was more like New England than our trip with the kids a few weeks ago when we all ended up in the water because it was so hot!

Lee took another turn, and then I took the helm as we turned into Duxbury Harbor and then toward Plymouth. This is a very long and increasingly narrow harbor, and it was low tide.  I was checking the depth and the last time I looked it was 36 feet. Suddenly WHUMP! Three feet! I had wandered slightly out of the channel and hit a sandbar!

Lee quickly grabbed the helm and put the boat into reverse. No damage done, it was only sand, and we were quickly free. It shook us both up however. This area of the east coast is so treacherous. There are little islands and rocks all over the place; no wonder there are so many wrecks. Eventually I took the wheel back from Lee, but I was very careful for the rest of our trip into the Harbor.

We walked around Plymouth for a while that evening, let the dogs get a little exercise and ate lobster rolls for dinner. The following day we hung out, saw what there was to see in Plymouth, and took a day off from sailing.

I have to put in a bit here about sailing with our dogs. They are both pretty adaptable creatures. They like doing anything with their people, and they always like it when we GO, wherever that might be. They like the smells on the ocean, and Cosmo thinks he is going to have a seagull, or maybe a Cormorant, for dinner one day. When we take them ashore, they draw minor crowds because of their cuteness. "Aw! Looks at those dogs! They're so cute! What are their names? Are they twins? Can I pet them?" The only problem is Cosmo still wants to kill big dogs we meet while on a leash, but we are working on it. They bring smiles to everyone we meet. If only this was Europe and they could come to restaurants with us it would be perfect. But it's not so bad. Today we got carryout burgers and sweet potato fries from Kate's Burger Joint and ate them in a nearby park. No complaints.

That night we left our guard Westies on the boat and went out for a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant in Plymouth named Patrizzios. Highly recommended! Especially the limoncello basil cocktail and the beet salad. My tuna was really nice too. As we drove the dinghy back to our sailboat home in the dark, lightning lit the horizon, but the rain had passed. I wish I had had my camera! It was beautiful.

The next day we headed out of Plymouth Harbor and started back north. When we got back out on the ocean we were in for an unpleasant surprise. Instead of the northwest winds that Lee had expected the winds were almost directly from the north, 14 knots, with gusts to 20. We initially put up our mainsail, but not for long. Not only was the wind very strong, but it also was creating some big swells, at least 3 feet, with occasional 4 foot whoppers. Since we were trying to go north we were heading almost directly into the wind. The waves were breaking over the bow, with the spray actually reaching us back in the cockpit at times.

We put down the mainsail and put up the jib instead, and this was okay for awhile, although sailing was still hard work, and we were making lousy time. Because of the wind direction we had to tack (sail at an angle to the wind) and it was hard to make much headway. Finally we gave up, took down the jib, and just used the motor. We still were making terrible time however because those massive waves kept slowing us down. Our initial plan had been to stay on one of the Boston Harbor Islands that night, but at the rate we were going it was going to be 7pm before we got there. So Lee decided to cut the day short and we pulled into Scituate Harbor instead.

Scituate was a sweet little seaside town, quiet and not at all touristy. Now that we were not fighting the wind and the waves, we could enjoy the bright blue sky, mild temps, and the little sunfish sailboats zipping around the harbor. The dogs are sunbathing in the cockpit, Lee is busy putting up netting to make our boat a bit safer for dogs, and I'm about to find something else lazy to do. In the morning, if the wind finally turns like its supposed to, we should be able to sail right across Massachusetts Bay back to Salem. We're hopeful, anyway!

The final journey across Massachusetts Bay was a lot of fun. There was no wind, so we motored, but Lee got the autopilot working again so it was very easy. It was kind of cool going way out on the water straight across the Bay. We could see Boston in the distance almost the entire trip. We were never out of sight of land, but the land was very far away. The funny thing was we could see the smokestacks in Salem Harbor almost the entire trip, which made it very easy to select our heading.

This was a good trip. I told Lee I had a good time, and its true. It increased my confidence, enough that I think we could go to Provincetown, or up to Maine, without too much trouble.

We have a few more sailing trips planned this year, one with Lee's mother, and hopefully one more 3-4 day trip in early October, depending on the weather. I can honestly say, maybe for the first time in a long time, that I am looking forward to those trips!


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