The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making


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Welcome to the Carnival Ride

Well, I realize it’s been over a month (!!!) since I have posted … some crazy ride. October, already, and whereas I usually looked to the Fall with dread for the dead, I now look forward to my next ride to Cedar Key, FL. Becoming one of the migrating instead of one of the observers of migration has completely changed my life. Speaking of which, the Grackles, the Red-wings, the Hummingbirds – all gone – hasta la vista baby! (or as us gardeners like to say hosta la vista!). The bitch is back, though – Wicked Wind of the West – oh yeah, she’s moving right in and the leaves are beginning to change, and the weeds are making seeds and more weeds and being spread around – such LOVE.

So, since it has been so long I thought I’d catch up with you. Let’s look at some of the highlights and what’s ahead on my crazy carnival ride.

The nights are getting cooler, Halloween and Thanksgiving are looming and and it’s just about freezer pesto time! I am still Vegan, and probably will be for life.

This is how I “Veganize” my freezer pesto:

I am not one for measuring and I have a small mini food processor but it makes a big enough batch for two small jars of pesto. I just keep making batches until I run out of basil. In spite of my neglect, I have a good patch of basil this year. The purple has such an intense and insanely delicious taste.

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Recipe per batch.

I soak about a cup of raw cashews in water and then throw it all into the food processor.

I add about two to three cloves of garlic. (I had a successful garlic harvest, too. Here it is drying in my shed.)

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Squeeze in the juice of about half a lemon.

Add about a 1/4 good quality EVOO (I pour and count to four)

Add about 2 Tbs nutritional yeast

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Mix to perfection (add a little water if too thick)

Place into small glass jars and freeze

Surprisingly tricky, a lot of candy is Vegan but I am not a candy girl and have taken to shutting off all the lights, making myself scarce instead of scary, and sitting out Halloween in some dark bar. Scrooge-like I know, but hey, it keeps me from eating and serving candy – a food (???) I do not feel good about. I would rather hand out seeds! I am hoping to catch the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Clayton Opera House for a little bit of scare, though.

Thanksgiving I hope to adopt a turkey again, rather than eat one, through Farm Sanctuary. In fact I am conducting a fundraiser to raise farm animal awareness if you are at all interested you can donate – even the tiniest amount – HERE. I am passionate about this lifestyle change and feel Fantastic with a capital “F.” Feel free to ask me any questions about adopting a plant-based/Vegan lifestyle. I am way too happy to share.

We (my husband, I, and my furry compadre Mojo) have taken to traveling Thanksgiving day – the traffic is minimal and I now prefer to celebrate what I dub “Food Fest.” Looking forward to stopping, with a very empty stomach, in Asheville NC on my ride down to Cedar Key where there are more breweries per capita than any other U.S. city and LOTS of art galleries, and crazy good Vegan eateries. Two of my favorites are the Laughing Seed Cafe and Plant. You can bet I will be indulging (in lieu of Thanksgiving and traditional holiday gluttony) in both of these fine establishments.

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View from the Blueridge Mountain Parkway in/near Asheville NC

Next stop Tiki Bar in Cedar Key! My favorite, Low Key Hideaway. Now that’s grateful celebrating folks!

I still have not found time to reconnect with my garden but this afternoon I plan to reintroduce myself.

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Doesn’t Mojo look like a little ghost out there in the garden? Boo!

Thank you to all who gave me great advice on how to manage my garden. It is certainly appreciated and I cannot wait to get into action soon. I did manage to machete some of the vines growing into the Spruce tree and Maple. Tweaked my back a bit doing it – ladder yoga with pruners – but nothing I can’t recover from and there’s no stopping me. I have to redesign my garden for minimal maintenance and you can continue to follow along to see how I do it. I just don’t have the stamina to garden at Thousand Islands Park days and then come home and weed some more or tend to my own garden all weekend when I would rather be … drumroll, this is the BIGGEST attraction on this ride … at the LAKE!

My unbelievably lucky husband and I came across a 5 acre lakefront property on one of the Indian River Lakes here in Northern NY. It has been our dream to own a lakefront property and I thought we were quite a few years away from that, but our dream is happening now! We plan to build as we go, and as the cash flows, an off the grid cabin that is a role model of lakefront preservation. Since we do not have children, and dependent upon the interest of my nieces, we plan to donate the cabin for learning/education to the Indian River Lakes Conservancy when we have passed on. The conservancy already owns an island on the lake with hiking trails. Our goal is to not tax the lake in any way. For now we camp it. Our first night there we heard quite a few coyotes (!!!), owls, and there are two nesting pairs of loons on the lake.

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Our campsite

The lake doesn’t allow jet skis or any motors over 10 horse even if you are a resident of the lake. We ourselves invested in two used kayaks – hello my new favorite pastime!

The Blue Bomber (hers) and the Red Rocket (his)

The Blue Bomber (hers) and the Red Rocket (his)

It is W-I-L-D and I absolutely love it there. There will not be a garden per say. I probably will plant some opportune natives (along with some native plants that I’ll be ripping out of the Violet Fern garden so they can roam large and in charge across all that space), but there will not be any mowing of grass or lawn, or weeding. Of course, I will have to plant a tree or two in spite of the forest only because I love trees. Here are a few photos of my new found paradise on Grass Lake.

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This looks almost like a deliberate moss rock table garden doesn’t it? But I found it on the property just as is.

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In spite of working like a dog through the dog days of Summer – I literally sweat buckets, I did manage to get some camping in a couple weeks ago with my sister (who also is adopting a Vegan lifestyle) before closing on our lakefront property. We had such a great time making Vegan camp food. Here is our camp breakfast of chickpea flour omlettes and hash browns before hiking up Bear Mountain (sorry, I ate half of it before remembering to take a photo!).

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We camped at Cranberry Lake in the Adirondacks – a campground I highly recommend if you want to camp lakeside without property taxes. It is a well maintained, scenic campground with lakeside sites and the trailhead up to Bear Mountain right within the facility.

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Our campsite #47 at Cranberry Lake

The hike is moderate (maybe even difficult to some), but the view is a great pay off.

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I love to celebrate Autumn (Donna at Garden’s Eye View!) by camping out in the woods where one can feel, taste and breathe in the change of the seasons. It is my favorite season to camp.

I also managed to squeeze in an online workshop on building a freelance illustration business this summer. I would like to freelance illustrate more in the future. Less physical and also something I really enjoy. In an effort to become more adept I have embarked upon a self imposed 100 day challenge where I complete one illustration/drawing a day. Today is Day 33. Originally I wanted to draw plants or something from the garden but I am discovering that I really enjoy drawing food, too! I post my illustration on instagram daily. If you are not on instagram you can also receive an update now and then on my Facebook artist page. Here is a summary of my first 30 days of the challenge:

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This winter I plan to work on a personal project and that is an adult coloring book with pictures themed around the beautiful St. Lawrence River. This fall and winter I will also be reorganizing. November I will be reorganizing, purging, moving my horrendous office into a larger room of the house.

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Look for changes to the Violet Fern blog. Down in Cedar Key where I can actually stop and think, I will be reorganizing my blog and artist web site into one. One day I hope to open the Violet Fern Garden complete with art studio to the public. The new organization will begin to set the stage for that to happen.

So, the name of this carnival ride? Spinning wheel! Whoopie!

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What’s Blooming: Glory Glory Glory!

Hallelujah! It’s Spring! This cute little ray of sunshine arrived Easter – thanks Mom! – and can’t wait to be out there in the garden but patience, we did have a light frost this morning.

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Gerber Daisy

I have spent glorious days in the garden but have yet to finish Spring clean-up. I’ve made great progress, though. The Potager is ready. I put up my wire panels and even moved the Raspberries from behind the greenhouse. Next “leaf” day (biodynamic calendar) I will plant kale, swiss chard, lettuces … it’s just so wonderful to be back in the garden. I feel like skipping about.

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The calm before the storm.

Plants are arriving … these beautiful vines from Easy to Grow Bulbs arrived yesterday: Passion Flower Betty Myles Young and Corkscrew Vine. I couldn’t be more pleased and I’ll definitely be ordering from them again. Considering what it takes to germinate and grow either of these from seed, the cost seems very minimal. They are making a slow and easy recovery (from shipping) on my back porch before I move them to the greenhouse until danger of frost has passed. In spite of our lightly frosted morning, the temperature in the greenhouse was 60° F! I spent a portion of yesterday afternoon constructing a beautiful trellis for the Corkscrew Vine. (I’ll post about that soon.)

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AAAAND things are beginning to wake up and BLOOM! Just in time for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens on the 15th of each month. And wouldn’t you know, I’m home in my garden to enjoy it all! So, what’s blooming in the Violet Fern garden right now?

Mostly Crocus. It’s too early for these guys, they haven’t woken up yet. The crocus I have are mixed snow crocus and I didn’t diligently label their locations in the garden, but I do believe these are Blue Pearl, my favorite.

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When they’re awake, they look like this!

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Blue Pearl

Snowdrops are also blooming now that the snow is GONE, FINIS, BYE-BYE!

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Glory of the Snow, chionodoxa just started blooming. I want to rename them Glory of the Spring!

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Chionodoxa in the SUN!

Chionodoxa – what a difference lighting makes.

Disappointing is the Aconite, Eranthis Hyemalis, I planted last fall – not a sign. I thought this might have been one but upon closer inspection it looks more like a Daffodil. Maybe she’ll open later today!

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Daffodils are really making a push! It won’t be long before they light up the ground.

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Tulips are popping up everywhere, too, after these few warmer, SPRING-like days. I usually only plant species Tulips because Big Fat Rabbit likes to eat the fancy pants Tulips – I’m surprised he’s left me so many Crocus this year! – but I think this one is a fancy pants carefully hidden under Low Gro Sumac. The Woodland Tulips and Lady Jane’s are coming up, too.

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Next month (gasp) Poppies? They’re really growing. Don’t you just love all that fuzz?

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I hope your garden is waking up, too, and the sun is on your face! All smiles.


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Project: Winter Green

Each year I like to dress up my window boxes and containers with greens and other natural elements. Last year I didn’t quite get it together in time before the glacial ice and snow. This year, even though I migrated, I still made a little time to dress up my containers. To me, there is nothing worse, aside from dirty snow and road slush, than dead or empty containers that call to mind the Nightmare Before Christmas.

Normally, I make a dump run and spend my time picking through all the prunings before they are mulched. I have found some beautiful greens at our local dump – cedar, white pine, spruce, birch branches … See what I have put together in years past here, here, here, and here. This year, because I was a bit earlier than usual, I didn’t have anything to choose from so I resorted to a back state road. I was a little nervous that I might get stuck since there was snow on the ground at that time and the road is not plowed. I was also a little nervous that it may be hunting season of one kind or another. However, it was a beautiful sunny day and I went to work clipping some bows – actually the trees I chose could have used a little pruning. A stand of cattails also caught my eye and the fuzzy red “horns” of the Staghorn Sumac. I didn’t make the large haul I usually do but I have a stash of pinecones, too. I didn’t have nearly enough green for the whiskey barrel but I did have a stash of bamboo tiki torch remains. I arranged them in a Christmas tree-like shape. A red bow will hopefully keep them from falling apart from the blows of the Wicked Wind of the West.

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I salvaged these baskets from my gardening job and thought they would dress up our workshop garage. These may very likely get blown apart since our driveway is the runway for the Wicked Wind of the West. I really like the cattails.

The back entrance to our newly enclosed porch gets a basket. I pruned some of my yellow twig dogwood (because I want to be better about it than my cardinal dogwood which has grown too thick), and saved the not-quite-turned-yellow branches for baskets. A handful of pinecones and some sprigs of hops from the garden add a finishing touch.

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I used more hops in my cedar window box on the front porch. Each Spring I am sure to find peanuts in these baskets from the Blue Jays I feed them to. I just love the golden hops.

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My favorite baskets are the “Michael’s find” that sit atop the pillars to our front steps. I think I purchased both of these metal baskets for around $14 and still remember a woman stopping to ask me if they are antiques. I found them almost immediately after we moved in, or I should say I think they found me. The Sumac berries add a little punch to these. I had dreams of cutting my own Winterberry branches once my bushes mature, but now realize that the birds will always beat me to the berries each Autumn and that’s okay.

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At least our house will look a little festive for those who remain in the Northern climate. Christmas here is much more understated than in my Northern home. I think in the North we are bombarded by Christmas because of the darkening grey skies and colder temperatures. People need that Christmas cheer. Here, well the sun still shines. Still, I found an empty cement urn on the driveway to our rental and lots of fallen pinecones during a bike ride. I put the two together – there’s nothing worse than a dead or empty container … And I love the green backdrop!

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