Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

In the Garden at Dawn…..

June 23, 2012

I am not much of a gardener, but each year attempt something to cover a nice, fertile space that has, over the years, transformed from a driveway to a garden.

This year I planted only Brandywine tomatoes and Cinderella pumpkins….not knowing that Brandywine gives HUGE tomatoes but not many of them.  It’s a bust for canning, this species of tomato,  best for sliced tomato sandwiches with mayonaisse and a good, thick peasant bread. 

I had no idea how much realestate pumpkins took, as I have never been able to harvest even one.  Looks like this year I will have four, from two plants.  Considering the spread of the vines, and the invasiveness of these two, well, the Brandywines have been looped around with Cinderella, and they have grown so heavy I have had to fashion slings for them.  They insist on growing four feet above the ground, and using the trellis for the cucumbers.

I am posting some pix of both….two weeks ago of each, and of today.  And today, I will harvest that huge tomato that I have coddled into existence.  That is my garden glove under its butt so the wire doesn’t molest its tender fruit.

Spring has been good, not hot like last year, but since the first day of Summer, it has been broiling.  This weekend expected 93-95 degrees, and this is usual now with the weather. We have to get through July and August before any cool down, and I am praying for September.

To make it more bearable, my dear husband made a wonderful outdoors shower today, right across the tomatoes, and sheltered by the ordamental ginger.  I can go out there at any hour and strip, unseen by mortals except the birds, and cool off.  We had a few pools years ago, but they were impossible to maintain.  Our goose ended up using them, and he didn’t share well.  So, the shower, where the water can replenish the tomatoes if I direct it right, is the answer.

Lady Nyo



In the Garden at Dawn


Dawn moon appears

Low in the eastern sky,

Like an idiot’s grin

From cheek to cheek,

A glow so intense

It startles the eye.



My hands deep in soil

Planting tender shoots of life

With reverence that feeds the soul

As seedlings feed flesh later to come.


There is God in this black soil,

Earthworms and tiny bits of life

Independent of will or wishes.


Moonbeams spill on this tilled earth

Like a benediction or blessing,

And bathes plants and planter with expectation,


Gardening and Belly Dance!

April 11, 2010

Oh Hell.  I’ll combine both themes today.  There is ‘fruit’ in both I see.

This week I started teaching again. This is the second year for me to teach belly dance.  It is an iffy proposition at times, but seems to be bearing a bit of fruit finally.

I have a few students, but Friday I scheduled a first class with a new student.  I think this is a good thing when you don’t have a lot of students….even when you do and can expend the time.  This student was more advanced and it was a PLEASURE to work with her.

Oh God.  She could move.  She had classes before….she understood the language.  And best???  Her heart and mind is completely IN it.  There was no trying to convince her about the benefits to belly dance.

She is Italian, and has a wonderful, fiery temperment.  She will do well.  She is dedicated to belly dance and can take what I throw at her without whining.

The main thing is this:  She DOESN’T JUST STAND THERE AND WATCH ME.  She can move herself.  Of course, since I am a ‘hands on’ teacher….I literally position her arms, hands, hips, feet….and she picks it up fast.  But that is just in the beginning.   This is such a relief!   She had many years of ballet when young so there is a bit of discipline in her.  She will do fine.  She will practice…and she will eat everything I throw at her. Or most of it.

When you are teaching someone who is more advanced, you have a lot more freedom.  I want women I teach to develop to the extent that their bodies can…pick up rhythm, etc…where THEY come into their own in terms of choreography.  They go home and develop their own.  They bring it back to class, even if it’s only a few moves…but it is THEIR ideas of belly dance.  It’s not all out of the package of the teacher.

And this is what I am thinking about American Belly Dance classes.  How much do we leave room…EXPECT our students to BE dancers..independent of what we are teaching them?? They shouldn’t mirror what we are doing…and frankly, they can’t.  They aren’t us. They are them…and either they have it inside or they don’t.  I think most do have it inside…after all…what is belly dance?  It’s natural movements (and yes…birth movements in the tummy) that all women are capable of doing.

I always demonstrate my own dance techniques when I have students….not so they are supposed to do like I do…but so they see the layers of movements that are necessary to DANCE.  It’s not just hips, or arms …or legs….it’s the combination of all these things.

I do have to slow down though.  I was dancing a riotous beladi and that is very, very individual.  My students look at my feet and they say:  How many beats are you hitting with the left and why the kick out, and how many with the right?

LOL~ Hell if I know.  It’s just a natural pattern that all dancers develop over the course of a few years of dancing that sets some patterns to the muscles…and involves a rhythm the body relys upon.  So you can’t teach the EXACT moves…and shouldn’t. THAT should be what each new dancer develops for herself.

This new student moved left and right….but she MOVED…and that is what is so good.  She didn’t stand there like a drying lump of clay and look confused ….or blank.  She tried….as much as the music…which she loved!….answered to own rhythm internally.

We broke class to watch on YOUTUBE….Fifi Ado…an  older Egyptian dancer…and a video sent by Phil from Egypt this week.  Both were absolutely natural dancers…which is why they are popular….Fifi Ado is such a natural dancer: there is no positioning herself and it’s not that you are watching her struggle with patterns in her head:  “Oh, let me do this now…and I’ll switch to that….on a four sided direction, and let me concentrate on a shimmy here and and now bring in more pelvic circles…”

No….Fifi Ado just dances.  She just uses her body in the most natural ways possible.  And she has some of the WORSE costumes possible…but that is funny!  Look beyond the skin tight mini dress and see the naturalist movement of a real dancer confident in her craft.

And that is it:  it’s a craft.  Developed over many, many years.  One man asked me how long it takes to become a belly dancer:  I said 15 years, but it’s not that at all.  I think women can be dancers from the cradle.  I think women can belly dance from the first year…month…but it’s perfected and made more natural over a life time.  And that is the rub.  Or non-rub.  Belly dance is a life time delight.  I have seen Lebanonese women in their 80’s creep up to the dance floor and when they start to dance?? They are transformed.  They are amazing!  The spine straightens, the arms are lovely, and they have lost NOTHING by age.  The music takes them, seduces them….and they seduce us!

We make too much of our patterning in class. We sweat and worry over too many missed beats, too many forms where we are trying to imitate the woman in front of us…or the teacher.  We expect to do this…but there comes a time when we feel the music in our bodies, our muscle memory wakes up! and we are dancing as we are capable.  And with more of this??? We get ‘better’.

I am so happy to be teaching this wonderful woman!  And this weekend I was asked to teach a class weekly at the local library.  This is the third time these women of the library have asked me in the last few months…and I have been avoiding it like the plague.  I don’t know that I can give the individual attention to each new student in that setting…and right now….I am so hands on that I can’t see how else to do it.  But perhaps I will….this summer, because they have air conditioning….and I don’t.  LOL!


Gardening!  This weekend I got potatoes/tomatos/cukes/strawberries/carrots/chives/lettuce/radishes/parsley plants/other stuff I can’t remember in….actually my French Breakfast Radishes are about a week old already..mulched and about 2″ high.

To me…..either cold pizza in the morning for breakfast or fresh French Breakfast radishes with a dish of salt to dip into are the perfect breakfast.  Go figure.

But I am glad I have done it.  And I am sunburned, too.  The Winter-White look is gone and at least the Vitamin D is circulating in my blood, now.

I am proposing a Garden Exchange with other friends and neighbors in the three closest neighborhoods ….and I am the one with the EGGS!  I also have the chicken shit, and will give that out in buckets to urban gardeners for manure tea.

Spring has sprung and I am happy for it.  Though I can’t breathe because of the pollen count.  But that will pass and the garden will grow…and so will my students.

Lady Nyo



I took a walk this morning.

The season has changed here

Though where you are they don’t.

The dried, brittle grass beneath my feet

Made a consistent crackle,

Echoed by the gossip of sparrows above.

The leaves are gone now from the birches and maples.

They fell like rain on a fallow ground one day

And I didn’t see them go.

I think of your rounded arms when I see the Shedding birches, the smooth bark like White skin with a faint pulse of the river beneath.

Do you remember that river, where it scared you to stand close to the bank?

You thought the earth would slip inward,

Take you on a wild ride downstream where

I couldn’t retrieve you,

And I saw for an instant your raised arms to me, imploring me silently to save you,

though it never happened and you never slipped down the bank and I never could save you.

But imagination plays with your mind when it is all you have left.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010

Fall cometh and gardens need work

October 23, 2009
looking outside the front door into the garden

looking outside the front door into the garden

West side of front garden

West side of front garden

East side of front garden

East side of front garden

Chessie coming through a flower bed of zinnias

Chessie coming through a flower bed of zinnias

It was so wet and humid this summer, we didn’t do much in the gardens.  We have three separate gardens, and they all have different purposes.  They are not large gardens but they have enough work and plantings attached to them to make us pay attention.

I like fall plantings anyway, and clearing away the summer foliage gives a sense of the design and structures in the gardens.  You can see what you have and what possibilities there are.

This fall is very early, there are only a few species of trees changing. We need a harder frost I believe for all that to happen, and though we only have random maples this far south, the sumacs and dogwoods, the scyamores and willows have their own magic of color.  We have some species of oaks that turn russet and some trees turn downright purple in foliage.

But we have only a red maple in the front garden besides a large apple tree to root everything else around them.  So our plantings are generally topiary, made up of bushes and of course the ivy that has grown over the very high wood fence.  That makes a wonderful background for beds and and vines on trellis.

Every year I go out and am overwhelmed at what to do.  This year I have help:  Florid and over-the-top ideas and examples but there are some good ideas in there even for small gardens.

I am reading  “Gardening at Sissinghurst” by Tony Lord, and though we don’t have acres and acres to look across, we do have 9 acres of fields and far away woods once the frost has cleared the kudzu and the leaves have fallen.  It’s enough of a vista to please and delight and beautiful even if it isn’t ours to dig up.  We do have enough on our hands if we apply ourselves to our own small property.

I have always designed the property into small rooms….mostly developed by shrubs and plantings with outdoor  furniture.  It takes some pushing around those ‘rooms’ before you get a feeling of comfortable usage, but it is worth doing.  They they should stay put and be further developed by just tending to the plantings and letting them develop the atmosphere of the area.

We have been doing this for decades, and it’s sad that the weather this summer didn’t cooperate, but hope springs eternal.

Today I went out in the rain and pulled many dozens of Iris, intending to plant them in another bed all together.  That is part of the problem with beds, they have to be well tended or at least filled for the best effect.  I have one large bed with a statue of a little boy in the middle on a plinth, and a large crepe myrtle blocking the sun to the back of it.  I will, once again, have to cut down the lovely lavender flowers and foliage, but it over powers the bed.

I dug and replanted all my peonies into the front of the bed and hope that they will give more heads next summer than they gave this time.

I decided that no one needs 30 tomato plants again, so I am planning a permanent herb garden that will take fully 1/2 of the main garden parterre.  It’s already a walled garden, and will share this space with a grape vine.

I am thinking  I am over my rose period and there are other things to plant, but I still have about 30 roses.  They are, unfortunately…scattered over the property and either need to be brought together in drifts of color and species….or hacked out of the earth.  But I can’t do the latter because they are still healthy and give good blooms….especially the David Austin varieties, like “Heritage” and “Graham Thomas”.  I have a tremendously vigorous “Madame Alfred Carriere” growing up the side where the siding is going, so I cut that back severely this summer.  It’s growing again, but at least it will be easier to lay on the ground when the siding gets done.  The bonicas have woven themselves through the archs and pickets in the back and there is no cutting them back.

Roses lose their leaves in the south after the first good bloom in the spring, so they need the underplantings of zinnias, peonies, cosmos, and perhaps iris.  I think I will plant a lot of very low growing roses in the front of beds just for the beauty of them.  Once one does begin to love roses, it’s not something one leaves off easily.  Decades of roses create such expectations that you never get it out of your bloodstream.

The ivy on the surround fences have to be cut severely back in and outside the property and I did reseed the grasses and they have taken well with all our rain.

I will plant tulips again in three beds, (and in all the window boxes) just because looking outside in the very early spring, through rains and  gloomy skies,  there is nothing more uplifting than seeing those brave tulips waving their colors  in the spring winds.  Because there are cats and puppies and a few (very few) kittens buried in my tulip beds, I don’t dig.  I just put wheel barrels of composted soil over the beds to a height of 8 inches or more.  Don’t want to disturb the peaceful dead.

Last night some friends and neighbors down by our beautiful and too -dark park were robbed, at gun point.  I wrote a blog entry about it, and then decided to delete.  They came for breakfast this morning, both of them still in shock and with other mutual friends as supporters.  They were lucky they weren’t killed.

We sat outside in the side patio at first and then in the front garden amongst the 4 o’clocks.  Since it was early and overcast, the multi-colored 4 ‘oclocks were still fragrant and open and I think it helped us all to be outside, safe and drinking coffee, juices and eating pastries.  It was a sense of normalcy where their lives were so disturbed by the sudden violence of the night before.

I realized how much my fenced property has brought me calm and serenity over the years. But it’s also brought me some structure to my environment.  Having the delight of changing the plantings, of cutting topiary  and planting seeds to see how they will look when they are massed together and blooming…well, that is the life that comforts.

The garden catalogs are coming in now, and I was throwing them away, thinking that there wasn’t much more I could plant this year.  But I think I will start to read and buy from them again just because the sheer mystery of what happens when earth touches bulbs and seeds is worth the wait.

It’s the stuff of life.

Lady Nyo

Summer’s blooming, and the sewer is flowing….

June 24, 2009

Hey!  That’s important stuff.

A little  less than a month ago we had a disruption to civilized life late one Sunday night.  The upshot of all the excitement was a blocked (with tree roots) sewer line and that necessitated 84 feet of dig up.

4’x4’x84′.  Quite a moat.  Red Georgia Clay that doesn’t quit and makes a mockery of all the cleaning attempts possible.  For almost three weeks.

On top of that The Husband decided to do a remodel of many parts of the house: his idea of vacation.  Which was fine but it involved drywall, drywall mud, sanding, painting and a lot of shake shingles on the back of the house.  Plus that pink fluffy insulation and walls that hadn’t been removed since 1880’s.  I think I mentioned spiders…lots of BIG spiders.

Summer has arrived in the South, and the spiders are everywhere…especially indoors.  I don’t mind them at all, those lovely black and yellow Garden Spiders, who weave large webs but between rose bushes as  God intended.  It’s the spiders that creep out of the unfinished drywall above my bed and watch me, looking like “Kilroy”….the head and hands appearing over the wall.  Waiting for me to fall asleep and then they suck whatever they suck from me.

Juice, I presume.

Well, we went on a marathon of work on the inners of the house, and then in the middle of 90+ heat, the 30 foot outside wall in the back…which has a lot of windows, but still called for a lot of shakes or shingles, whatever they are.  But The Husband is cutting them as they go up, and damn if the primer isn’t the exact color of our finish paint.  Husband says, “No, you are going to get up on that scaffolding and PAINT, but I am as afraid of heights as I am of spiders, so I am dragging my feet here.

He has been merciful and I have turned my efforts to the garden.  It’s a sad lot because this was a garden of 20 years maturity, and 20 inches of composted soil, with mature blueberries, blackberries, grapes, roses (for hips) lavender, and the usual spring/summer/autumn plantings.

This year…hits the sewer disruption, leaving that moat. My tomato plants which were already in the earth and doing fine, had to be pulled up, along with the blueberry/blackberry plants, lavender, ginger, rose bushes, etc….and we only were able to salvage the berry plants.  The lavender died, along with everything else except the roses.

I’m attempting to post two pix.  Right before they closed the moat…and two weeks later to the day.  We also lost our driveway, and in the digging and pouring concrete for the nice new one?  I lost another 20 feet of garden space.  BUT! I have nice pad for garden furniture and for the last two nights we have had dinner out there.  Us and the flies, which are biting right now.

We worked hard, my son and I….rototilling red clay, hauling off old cement left over from what they didn’t clean up, and sifting wheelbarrels of compost that we make in the back of the property.  We replanted the concrete block walls, to be replaced with something else later, but we don’t know just what yet,  filling the three parterres with fresh soil, and then….planting a least a few tomatoes, eggplants, watermellon, crookneck squash, lavender, ginger, etc.

Oh! A blessing this year!  Our 5 year old grape vine is ‘heavy’ with clusters of grapes….little clusters that look like grapes and we have never had any such thing before, and we are now trying to learn something about grape cultivation.  We are removing the top leaves for the sun to get to the clusters.  Other than that, we know nuthin’.

I know that it’s not good to get sunburned, but hell, it’s about impossible to do sunscreen and mosquito repellent on the same surface, and the amount of sweat seems to negate anything, but I will be as brown as a berry if I keep this up much longer.  Or red as a fire poker.

It’s good to have water/sewer system back, it’s good to have a new paint on some of the walls, it’s good to have baseboards and trim, it’s good to have shakes on the back of the house, but it’s best to have a garden.  There is something ‘wrong’ with land that doesn’t have the fruit of the earth growing in it.  Even if you have to buy tomato plants already with tomatoes on them.

Pride goes just so far.

The earth and the sPICT0026PICT0043eason calls out to us to attend the  bounty and we are richer for obeying.

Lady Nyo


Tarnished moon,
Cottoned in dark, settled clouds
Striated against still wintry branches
A ghost of beggar’s light spills down
Upon a fallow ground.

This pale spring orb,
Cast on a placid lake,
Mirrored mysteries of countless years
Reflects an empty alone-ness,
Yet pulls at women’s courses
And opens the womb to need.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2009

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