Pat posted on August 9, 2010 12:39
Weed-Free Watering Blanket

This heat! What a year! We were seeing 90 degrees at the beginning of May, and while there have been a few mild weeks or days, the last three and a half months have been brutal in their heat and aridity. Oh, for last year's rains! It seemed then that every time we really needed rain, it came. This year, predictions of some fair percentage chance of rain, or even more welcome thunderstorms, just tease us with so-very-rarely realized promises. Much of what I planted last fall and this spring has succumbed, especially the plants at a distance from the house, that I had no time to water. A season for the survival of the very fittest.

"Xeriscape," my mind's ear can hear friend Richard Satnick say, with no sympathy for foolish choices of resource-hungry plants. But we here in the east are used to abundant water and are shocked when wells go dry. I'm just planting things I grew up with ... and a few more plants that needed this milder climate, but those are also more drought-tolerant.

Yet it's very clear, we're all going to have to be more conscientious about conserving water. Drip irrigation is a familiar idea, such a good practice, delivering small steady amounts of water just to the plants that need it. But if you're not ready to start laying tubing throughout your garden, setting emitters just so, I have a terrific alternative.

EvoOrganic makes a "Weed-Free Garden Watering Blanket" with built-in drip irrigation. It's 8' by 10', with irrigation lines spaced a foot apart, and planting guidelines drawn in-between. There's a header hose ready to connect to your standard garden hose, and a dozen stakes to anchor the blanket to the ground. And about that blanket: it's two layers of weed-block fabric, with the watering system in-between. Guaranteed to last 3 seasons if you don't cover it with mulch, and may last a decade and more if you do. How great is that?

I didn't get this product installed myself this spring, rather too much parent-care to finish my garden projects, but I'll be using it when I do plant again. This puts in one easy installation just the kind of system I rigged for myself when I planted my first strawberry beds here. I prepared the soil, made mounded rows, laid sprinkler hose and anchored it in place, covered the whole bed with lightweight landscape fabric, then put a top layer of red plastic landscape cloth, and finally cut an X for each little plant and put it in, spreading the roots over the mound. Worked great and the beds lasted 3 years. But that sprinkler hose can have a mind of its own when you bend and shape it, and it wasn't a perfect fit, bed to bed. I love this new version, ready to go in one piece, and using water only for exactly the shape of your planting bed.

Guests and visitors can buy the product in Heaven Scent's lobby gift shop, at $45 plus 5% tax. Email me for shipping costs. (MSRP is $59.95.) BTW, you can link one blanket to another, for a larger garden, or I can get you the same product in any configuration you need, as it's also sold by the foot, in narrower widths.

Posted in: Garden , Inn Business , Kitchen  Tags:
Pat posted on July 29, 2010 23:06
Buddy at the beach on the Rappahannock at WakeOur "local" Daily Press (Newport News) cheerily boasted today, "Virginia beaches among the best." Their article reported that the National Resources Defence Council, having analyzed data from thirty coastal states, has rated Virginia fourth for water quality. The cheer may be somewhat moderated by the knowledge that last year, our state's ranking was third. But it's still good news. New Hampshire, Delaware and Oregon are the states that beat us.

Now, on a strictly local basis, no one claims that tourists flock to Deltaville - or anywhere in Middlesex county - for the beaches. We all know that Virginia Beach rules in this region, if it's a beach vacation you're after. Wide sands, real waves, no contest.

But on the other hand, we do get Virginia Beach residents as guests, who come to Deltaville for the calmer, sheltered waters, and the peace and quiet, the absence of traffic and clubs and noise. Whether you want to kayak, or sail, or fish, the local waters: Broad Creek, Jackson Creek, the Piankatank, the Rappahannock, and the Chesapeake Bay itself, can hardly be beat.

Go ahead and smile, but we do also have our patches of beach. I think the three little beaches at Wake are really sweet, and the views are wonderful. Just three miles up the road from Heaven Scent, you can enjoy a tiny patch of sandy public beach, possibly all to yourself, likely with a public you can count on the fingers of one hand. I had a German guest for a week who went there every day to read, sun, and swim in the wide Rappahannock, and she found it delightful, too. Buddy approves, as you see. No facilities, of course. If you're staying with us and haven't brought beach gear, we'll lend you towels, floats, and coolers.

Posted in: General , Travel  Tags:
Pat posted on July 28, 2010 11:16

Urbanna, Virginia, based Schooner Serenity sailing near the coast at twilight

Guests here who don't have their own boat nearby now have a wonderful option for getting out on the water: the schooner Serenity has made its home at the Urbanna town marina. Two-hour sails in the afternoon or at sunset run $35 per person. Advance reservations are strongly recommended, as the maximum load is 30 passengers. You can even buy tickets online. This is a lovely way to enjoy seeing dolphins, eagles, and our beautiful coastline, on a peaceful, uncommercialized sail with no narrative spiel. Just enjoy and relax on this 65' schooner.

BTW, if you're heading to the Historic Triangle, the 105' schooner Alliance sails from the Riverwalk Marina at Yorktown three times a day. $30 daytime, $35 sunset tour. On August 22 and again on October 3, you can enjoy a 2-hour cruise (departing 6 pm) while tasting seven reserve wines presented by Williamsburg Winery. Those wine-tasting cruises run $57. As with the Serenity, you can reserve online. Cheers!

Posted in: General , Local Events , Travel  Tags:
Pat posted on July 14, 2010 11:48

Loose leaf tea, tea brewing bags and filters for sale at Heaven Scent

I've been a fan of properly-brewed loose leaf tea for ... longer than I care to realize. I found my favorite unscented, plain black tea decades ago (!) at Mariage Frères in Paris: it's from Yunnan province, China, has a wonderful full flavor that stands up to milk and a touch of sugar - although many of my friends like it just as it is. For a while, Bloomingdale's carried it, so I could buy it right in NYC. But once I moved to the countryside, I started searching online for fine teas, and after trying several companies, found a source for Yunnan tea that made me very happy. Tried a few dozen other teas from the same source and was hooked. I've been offering a wide selection of scented and unscented, regular and decaffeinated black and green teas here at Heaven Scent since the B&B opened. Lots of guests have enjoyed discovering new tastes with these teas, and I'm frequently asked where to buy them. So, I have taken the plunge and started buying for resale. To start, we have a number of guests' favorites, plus a couple of new offerings to try out.

Guests' favorites now for sale include the plain black Yunnan; an unusual variation of Earl Grey with cornflowers and vanilla; a delicate, decaffeinated apricot-scented sencha (green tea) - a great late-night favorite here; lemon-flavored Rooibos ("Red Bush") which of course, is not tea at all, but a naturally caffeine-free, antioxidant-rich plant from South Africa, and in this scent, is often enjoyed as iced tea; and a tropically-flavored green tea blend known as Sunny Dream.

In addition, we're offering a new organic green tea with a delicate orange flavor; black-currant scented black tea, an old favorite flavor of mine; a light-bodied black tea flavored with ginger, peach and apricot; and an all-fruit Red Berries blend, no tea at all, so again, naturally caffeine-free.

We offer two products to make brewing loose tea just as convenient as teabags - and much more satisfying! One is a permanent filter that sits in a cup, mug or pot. Just compost the tea leaves and rinse the filter for re-use. The other option is a package of 200 disposable paper filters, shaped to fit inside a mug with handle-tabs for easy removal.

The complete product list, with prices, is posted at our main site, Oh, and note that the tea itself is packaged in handsome, reusable oval tins, glossy black outside, gold inside. An attractive, tasty and tasteful gift, certainly!

Pat posted on June 10, 2010 09:04
Myxer logo

Seems nearly two years since I learned about and I'm glad to say it's still functioning and still free. You identify your cellphone (their files apparently will work with any model and service), upload your own music clips, edit the clip to a 60-second file (used to be longer) and send it to your phone as a ringtone. The cost is whatever you pay your service for receiving a media file (could be part of your package, or likely 10¢ or 25¢). I used it to customize my first cellphone (yes, came to them rather late) so completely that I had a different ring for every family member and good friend. Since that phone died, I've never gotten around to remaking and reloading so many tones, but it's very nice to hear Albinoni when my phone rings, instead of those horrible synthesizer tones. OK, so I'm fussy about sounds (too). Elgar's Salut d'amour played when my parents phoned, isn't that sweet? Now they have separate phones and when Mom calls I hear, "Oui, c'est elle, c'est la diesse" in the caressing tones of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers (Les pêcheurs de perles). I used to have a clip of Handel's Arrival of the Queen of Sheba identifying B&B arrivals: hey, it's joyous music, nothing more intended.

You can download the files to your computer as well as send them to your phone, and of course I wish I had, so that I wouldn't have to remake them all after the first phone failed. The trick is, once you get the file ready, go ahead and send it to your phone, but then hit your browser's back button so you still have the ready file and can send it to your computer (which costs nothing). I like to play a music clip with Windows Media Player or any other that lets me watch the timeline, so that before sending the clip to Myxer, I can write down a couple of good starting points for the ringtone, keeping in mind that 60 seconds is all that can follow. Then, at Myxer, I can put in a starting time, listen to see that it's OK, and run through it a few times to set a good stopping point. The interface is the usual pair of sliders and a count window, typical for sound or video editing. Couldn't be easier.

So, help eliminate cellphone noise pollution. Put some good music on your phone!

Posted in: Web  Tags:
Pat posted on June 2, 2010 19:20

Butterfly on linden blossomsIt's been very hot again today and with Dad feeling very badly, I skipped mowing and stayed in. But now that the day is winding down, went out for a stroll to check on things. Filled some birdbaths and ran the hose out to fill the fountain. Gathered the last of the red currants and went on to collect some ripe black-raspberry type brambles; could only get to small, near berries as I'm running around barefoot. Can wait till the weekend to really collect, but will make a very small bit of jam later tonight. Found the dog trying to decide whether or not to snack on the squirrel he'd killed. Checked the fruit trees and was pleased to see there's hope for the apples and peaches: so what to treat them with to protect them? Perhaps Surround, again (kaolin spray, non-toxic, a physical barrier to pests); and soon, but the next two mornings, it's off to doctors with the folks, and just now there's a bit too much breeze to get started. Figs look like they'll have a good crop. Found mourning doves on the east side of the barn as usual, robins pecking around the north side, plovers in the grasses up the road. Came into the yard to check the linden blossoms: yes, they're opening, and full of all sorts of pollinators, from butterflies to bees, so many bees and so many types of them, it's hard to get close. The scent fills the air, but I wanted a small bunch to bring in to Mom, and finally found a handful of 'unoccupied' blossoms. Heard the frogs 'honking' near the fountain and the boxwoods. Saw the dog had brought his kill up to the yard, so called him in, to leave it. Found FedEx had come and gone leaving 2 boxes on the front benches. Turned the fountain hose off and came in to check on the folks: napping peacefully.

Magnolia in bloom in front of the house Southern edge of herb garden and nice lawn for badminton
Looking at the fountain from the north Filling the fountain

Posted in: Diary  Tags:


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