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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August Observations: The Ugly Truth

WARNING: THIS POST ISN’T PRETTY

The month of August has had me thinking – thinking deeply, big, small, expansive, narrow, in circles, with direction … I breathe a huge sigh just “thinking” about the thinking I’ve done. I used to find solace in the garden. It used to quiet my mind. It was my church, my sacred space, my meditation, but now all I see is chaos – much like my office/studio. I can’t help but feel that I am falling apart and my tower, my world, is overrun and toppling down.

Bishop’s weed always gets away from me. It engulfs this poor beautiful Fernspray Cypress. This poor cypress that endures heavy loads of snow and ice through winter, and tangles of bishop’s weed through summer. Should I give in? Move the cypress to a better spot – oh, but where would that be? Start over with something more pyramidal that the dreaded weed can’t grow through? The bishop’s weed takes over the cypress, the jewelweed takes over the Dogwood (that badly needs more pruning), the bindweed takes over everything else. A catchy little verse: the bishops weed is connected to the cypress, the jewelweed is connected to the dogwood, the bindweed is connected to everything …
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This is just the beginning of my garden. I walk on. And what’s this? Oh, MORE bishop’s weed setting up shop under the maple.

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Under this muppet monster of a flowering raspberry shrub is a spice bush fighting for its life, a Pagoda trying to rise above, flag iris that have succumbed, a big bluestem that has well, never become big. Yes, I cringe each time I walk by. After all, I am walking death row.
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Under all these rudbeckia and cup plant? Three winterberry and what used to be a lovely river rock path. I can’t even plant beneath the repurposed trellis as I can’t get to it.

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Walking on, still checking off what seems a nearly impossible list of things that need to be done, I stumble upon the strawberry invasion. Yes, I have to walk upon strawberries – that is my path – better than burning coals, I suppose. More rudbeckia. More cup plant. More violets. More? … too much.
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Moving on to the greenhouse which I lost the courage to enter for this past month because of hornets: now wild with weed. More weeds. So much for weed fabric – a complete hoax. I hate the stuff. Untitled

The Asparagus forest holding out against perilla. The horseradish losing the battle.

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Hosta row? Completely covered in clematis.

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That weed patch I so picked apart and destroyed last year? Back with a vengeance.

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The ugly truth is my garden has gotten away from me – far away from me, and breaking up is hard to do! I try to console myself that it is wild, natural, evolving but the ugly truth is that my garden and I are growing apart. I have lost touch with it somehow – that spiritual connection is waning – and I feel, well, lost. Will we ever “get back together?” We need therapy! Blood, sweat, and tears.

My dream summer gardening job is taking its toll on my own garden even though I swore it wouldn’t. I fear a few more years decline and I can’t help but think … what will become of my own poor garden???  The ugly truth is that my dream gardening job is nothing more than “glorified weed laborer” and it is the last thing I want to do when I get home, or on a Saturday. Yes, there, gardening has become work and therein lies the problem.

What should I do? I love my garden, I need my garden. I need to restore my faith.

My last grit of fight is to take a LOT of time this fall to rip out, edge, weed with the hopes that I can jump ahead of next spring or at least maintain a steady pace. I am thinking about taking out ALL the rudbeckia and most of the cup plant. I am thinking I will move the spicebush in a last ditch survival method. I am thinking I will dig up those strawberries and contain them in a new, raised bed. I am thinking I will mulch, mulch, mulch. I am thinking I will hire myself! Then, I will have to think about ways I can get back together with my garden.

What about you? Has your garden ever gotten away from you? Please share your comebacks!


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July Observations: I Heard it Through the Grape Vine

The vines are conspiring to swallow up my garden: Grape, bind, Clematis, Creeper, Hops, Dutchman’s. Out of all of them the bindweed is the worst (notice I didn’t even give it the honor of a capital B).

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This formerly thought of as fern, smooth sumac, Mountain Ash! – another story in itself and probably planted by birds – is engulfed in Grape, Creeper and I wouldn’t doubt, bindweed.

The best behaved is, believe it or not, Virginia Creeper, sticking to the chain link  fence and not sashaying over to any trees or shrubs. The perennial star is of course, Coral Honeysuckle. Untitled

The youngest, hardy Kiwi.
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The slowest growing, but surely worth the wait if I can keep a clear area, Hydrangea Firefly. Untitled

Then there is annual Grandpa Ott’s Morning Glory that grows with abandon, reseeding itself everywhere.

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Grandpa Ott’s growing with and among squash.

And poor, poor Cardinal patiently waiting in “step land” along with a few others, to be planted. (I recently toured a garden that had a low wall of plants still waiting to be planted and I felt much better about my little step land).

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Step Land

Newly added this year Passion Flower, Gloriosa Lily and Corkscrew who is sporting buds (trying to contain myself!).

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I didn’t expect Passion Flower to grow this large, outgrowing the bamboo tripod and right up to the roofline of our back porch. The other day I counted 6 open blooms – beautiful!

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Corkscrew vine, along with another Grandpa Ott’s Morning Glory, has outgrown the 10 ft copper piping. Gloriosa Lily is tucked in here, too.

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Gloriosa Lily bloom

But I have to step back a minute as the realization dawns, when did I become such a vine addict? I remotely remember in some dark corner file of my mind, “vines bridge the gap between the mid layer of the forest and the canopy completing a layered habitat” or some thought similar. I associate vines with birds and I love the birds. (I also love this song “I Like Birds” by the Eels.)

I remember finding a small bird’s nest in clematis Comtesse de bouchaud when cutting it down one spring for regrowth. It is still running wild. And handsome Dutchman’s Pipe seems to be suffering this year. I would love to transplant him to the front porch.

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Clematis Rooguchie is also running rampant among Bee Balm and Ninebark. Seems he prefers to ramble among the plants and not on the fence.

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Clematis Claire de Lune has taken off this year and has also outrun her support.
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Clematis Claire de Lune

Bindweed has plans to make me blue. The devil has wound its way up my Blue Spruce. The Grapevine is not far behind I see. Untitled

I will PAVE a path into this jungle so that I can keep the vines trimmed if that’s what it takes. My new strategy is to make a path with these 2 inch thick stepping stones. That old path of the nice river rocks? Not a trace of it left. Untitled

I know a man ain’t supposed to cry, but I fear I may. I’ve made so many mistakes. That bindweed? Oh, in my naive days I thought it was “wild morning glory.” It came bound with my Blue Spruce – irresponsible nursery I say. I have never been back to purchase from there. I actually “saved” it to grow on the then chain link fence. I remember writing on this blog how I would rather have bindweed than an ugly, bare chain link fence! Well, we all have our regrets. Another mistake; behold the Wall of Grapes on its second surge after being brutally cut back. Wouldn’t Dutchman’s Pipe be beautiful here instead? How I wish I could “plant it back.”

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The other side of the Wall of Grapes.

Admittingly, however, I love the grapes in winter (not that I’ll be here – ha!) with their cinnamon colored bark and deep, dark berries (if uneaten) drying on the vine. Plus when they flower the whole porch smells like fresh grape juice, kind of a nice feature. Forgiven.

Did I know that Trumpet Vine suckers before I planted it to grow along the rustic arbor? I am not sure but I am not one afraid to make mistakes, obviously. I am sure I would have planted it anyway because I find it so tropical and lush for such a cold, harsh climate. It seems almost a miracle. It is suckering of course, up through the garlic, the raised beds, and on. I still have the dream of it becoming an aged, living arbor kind of magic form in the garden. UntitledUntitledI may even lose my garage to Clematis Virginiana and Hops, if I believe half of what I see. The Clematis actually toppled earlier in the season but she is still loaded with blooms. I have to think metal support soon. Untitled

I still have grand plans for my favorite contractor to build a pergola across the garage above the door to support the Hops. Right now it is growing on parachute line strung up to the roof of the garage. The Hops is also loaded with blooms. Untitled

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Hops

All these vines and this vertical stairway to heaven transport me. I often have visitors to my garden exclaim that it feels like we’re not even in the village – a very welcome compliment! It’s this surround sound of vine and bird that lose you in my garden. I can’t imagine not growing these lush ladders full of life.

Losin’ you would end my life you see, ’cause you mean that much to me … I heard it through the Grapevine.