Thursday, May 24, 2012

FP&P merges with WilliamsWrite

Keeping two blogs is a real pain in the posterior. So until further notice, Forgotten Plants & Places will be merging with my other blog, WilliamsWrite.

Thanks for reading! See you on the other blog.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: 5/23/12

My hens average nearly a dozen eggs per week—and I'm very grateful, too!

Fresh eggs from my backyard hens in a glass quart measuring cup
LaGrange, Georgia21 Feb 2010

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: 5/16/12

They once belonged to my great-grandmother, Mae Barrett Williams

I've always adored these antique cut-glass buttons from my mother's vast sewing stash. My great-grandmother gave them to Mom when I was a toddler, adding that she'd never used the buttons on any dress she'd ever made. "The edges of the buttonholes are sharp, and wear out the thread," Maw-Mae said.

They probably date from the late 1890s through the 1920s. Mom's kept them for nearly 40 years, preferring not to use them despite major advances in sewing thread technology. We've seen many gorgeous buttons in fabric stores, but none quite like these.

Antique cut-glass buttons from my mother's collection
Heard County, Georgia—11 July 2010

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday. Meh.

Today's post is co-hosted by my other blog, WilliamsWrite.

It's Monday, and for whatever reason, words aren't coming to me as easily as usual. Don't know why. I mean, it's not as if there aren't a lot of forgotten plants and places around here to document.

Poke salad, no Annie.
(LaGrange, Georgia—29 April 2012)

That's one of the downsides to blogging: Even if I don't feel very inspired, I still have to post new content on a regular basis. Of course, as I tell my students, there's nothing to get you inspired like writing when you're not inspired. Sounds counterintuitive, but it really works. Just as with plumbing work, you have to flush all the junk from the pipes before the clean water can flow. Write a little while, get the junk and fragmented thoughts out of your brain, and the good ideas begin to flow onto the page. Trust me.

Currently, I'm working on a couple of exciting projects—one involves a historic home, and the other involves highways. For fear of jinxing myself, I won't divulge more. But if these ideas turn out, they'll make for great reading and interesting photos.

I don't know why I took a photo of the poke salad (phytolacca americana) leaves above. I also don't know why I thought it would go with this post. But I stumbled upon it while looking for interesting Nearly Wordless Wednesday pictures, and then started humming "Poke Salad Annie." My late father sang that song all the time. Okay, so he knew only part of the first verse and the chorus, but he still sang it.

Heed the Alabama Extension Service's warning, though, and don't carry any poke salad home in a tote sack.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Let it rain! Doppler radar shows storms moving in (9 May 2012)

It's delightfully stormy here today. After a rather dry couple of months—uncharacteristic of a Southern springwe've had quite a bit of rainy weather over the last week. Thank goodness! The plants were already beginning to look droopy. Local lakes, which I watched refill with water during January and February, seemed to be slipping back down again. But I think they'll be all right after the inch or two of rain we've had lately.

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: 5/9/12

Once ripe, they made the best homemade peach ice cream ever.
Tiny green "baby peaches" on the ancient peach tree in my mother's yard
Heard County, Georgia25 April 2010

Previously featured in "The Little Peach Tree That Could"

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: 5/2/12

I reuse commercial egg cartons to store my own chickens' eggs.
My little brown hens lay brown eggs. And pink eggs. And suntan eggs. And café-au-lait eggs.
LaGrange, Georgia4 August 2011

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: 4/25/12

The blemished ones made excellent plum jelly.

An early summer harvest from the plum trees surrounding my mother's house, with some fruits looking a little better than others.
Heard County, Georgia7 June 2010

Doc Speer's Place

Green paint on the outside brick wall of Doc Speer's Place, LaGrange, Georgia (14 April 2012)

Today's post is co-hosted by my other blog, WilliamsWrite. 

Like many small towns, LaGrange is full of interesting photo opportunities. The Hillside neighborhood, in the southwest part of town, is particularly interesting. Over the last decade, DASH for LaGrange has rehabilitated several dozen old "mill houses," saving them from destruction while revitalizing a shrinking community. Doc Speer's Place, the wall of which is pictured above, is among the buildings DASH has salvaged.

The green paint still clings to Doc's brick wall, decades after the last business vacated the premises. The floor and roof of the old store rotted and fell years ago; by the time DASH came along, six-inch-thick magnolia trees grew through the foundation and up the inside walls. But the basic structure was in decent shape, and it was a shame to tear down one of the last old-fashioned store buildings in LaGrange.

So the DASH team and community leaders decided to transform Doc Speer's Place into a sort of open-air meeting place. The vines still grow up the walls, along with privet hedge saplings nearly 20 feet high, but now they hang over picnic tables and chairs set about the 1,500 s.f. space. It's a strangely peaceful place to have a bake sale or street fair.

More photos of Doc Speer's to come, after I post final grades next week.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring has sprung...back to normal

Near freezing tonight? Weird for this year, but definitely more spring-like.
(From local forecast - 23 April 2012)

I probably shouldn't be surprised at anything the weather does, having seen so much strange weather over the last four decades. Nevertheless, it catches me every time. And like most human beings, I'll probably never learn to expect the unexpected when it comes to weather. Oh, well.

Spring 2012 has been early and mild, so a forecast low of 35 degrees tonight is pretty surprising. On my daily walk yesterday evening, I noticed a wild blackberry cane already weighed down with half-ripe berries. But I resisted the temptation to sample them. Wild berries provide food for birds and small animals, so I generally don't pick fruit from brambles I didn't plant myself. Since they're protected in a drainage ditch, they'll probably be protected from frost. Those in my yard, though, I'm not so sure about.

More interesting weather and fruit reports in a few days, after final grades are in.

Spring perfume on the porch

Trachelospermum jasminoides 'Madison' (Confederate jasmine) blooms on my porch - 13 April 2012

Today's post is jointly hosted on my other blog, WilliamsWrite.

It's semi-evergreen, makes a great groundcover for difficult-to-mow areas, offers hundreds of gorgeously-scented flowers every spring, and needs little care. Trachelospermum jasminoides may not be a real jasmine, but that's okay with me.

This cultivar's full name is Trachelospermum jasminoides 'Madison.' It's native to southeast Asia, but this variety (so the story goes) got its name when a botanist traveling with General Sherman's army discovered the plant growing beside one of Madison, Georgia's, famously beautiful old homes. 

Don't be afraid to prune T. jasminoides if it gets out of line. It's a woody vine and responds well to pruning. When it decided to grow into my native azaleas, I grabbed the gardening shears and gave it a nice trim. It didn't seem to notice, or care, and went right on growing.

A mulch around the roots does help in the heat of summer, though. You may want to give it a little extra moisture by way of a once-weekly soaker hose treatment when the weather is especially hot and dry. T. jasminoides grows best in Zones 8-10, so if your winter low temps regularly fall below 20 degrees, it probably won't do well. Here in LaGrange, Georgia, on the border between Zones 7-B and 8, I have to protect it from occasional cold snaps and ice storms. The fragrant spring blooms are well worth the trouble, though.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Every place is a sacred place

Beauty, calm, and peace.
(Near Blue Ridge, Georgia—19 May 2010)

Oak, hickory, dogwood, mountain laurel, sassafras, tulip poplar, elm, sweet gum, locustI wished I'd brought my tree book along on the hike. New fern fronds carpeted the forest floor with frothy green, but not so much so that I couldn't easily identify the poison ivy leaning out onto the trail. Leaves of three, stay away from me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: 4/18/12

He's gorgeous, and he knows it.

Leroy the rooster is loud and proud in my backyard chicken run.
LaGrange, Georgia20 June 2010

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sycamore lace

It's amazing what a change in perspective can do.

Here's looking up the trunk of a sycamore tree in my mother's yard on Easter Sunday afternoon. When I sat down on the earth beneath it and pointed the lens upward, I was amazed at how the leaves started to resemble fine green lace. The branches radiate outward at just the right angles for the photo (and photosynthesis). The trunk's randomly-peeling bark echoes the leaves ever so slightly.

Heard County, Georgia8 April 2012

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Little Peach Tree That Could

Peach blossoms on the elderly tree in my mother's yard
Heard County, Georgia—4 March 2012

I like trees because they seem to be more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.
—Willa Cather

My great-grandfather planted this dwarf peach tree in the early 1940s. By the late 1950s, when my mother was old enough to remember the family's yearly trips South from Michigan, the tree was bearing heavily every year.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ummm...about that blackberry winter... forecast for LaGrange
(11 April 2012)
Okay. So I was wrongnot the first time that's happened, and it won't be the last. But I haven't had to wear a coat since March 10, so it seems a little weird. Back to normal April weather, and not a moment too soon!

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: 4/11/12

Like miniature cabbage roses, no?

Deep pink blossoms on my mother's crabapple tree
Heard County, Georgia11 April 2010

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Fragments of days gone by

I'm 11 feet tall! Raaaawwwrrr! (6 April 2012)

I've talked before about what people did a century ago with their broken dishes. It's the darnedest thing, but I find dishware fragments nearly everywhere I go—including my own yard. Last weekend was no exception. Nearly every place is an archaeological dig, so to speak.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

The last daffodil of spring

Or so it would seem, anyway. Narcissus poeticus always blooms in very late spring, just when most of us have forgotten daffodils and moved on to the charms of irises and azaleas.

Poet's daffodil, narcissus poeticus, blooms in very late spring
(my yard, LaGrange, Georgia—27 March 2012)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Saturday Beauty: 4/7/12

The duck-billed platypus of the gardening world

The Oregon grape holly (Mahonia aquifolium) holds on to its gorgeous fall leaves and grape-like fruits until well into spring. This one stands about four feet tall in front of the Comfort Inn, in Warner Robins, Georgia.

As I checked out of the hotel and prepared to head home after my overnight business trip, I couldn't help snapping a photo of the matte bluish-gray "grapes"—they look as if they're covered in frost—and how they jump out against the warm reds, oranges, golds, and light greens of the foliage.

Warner Robins, Georgia—10 April 2010

Friday, April 6, 2012

As close as we'll get to "blackberry winter" this year

Downright chilly weather, once you get used to the high 80s in early April

A few minutes ago, I walked around the house closing all the windows that I've had open for going on three weeks. High temperatures have already climbed into the high 80s here in LaGrange in early April53 degrees feels kind of cold. And 43 tonight? Brrrr! Looks like a three-cat night. On the other hand, though, this is normal April weather for the Deep South. You know things are off kilter when normal feels like weird.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Earl Scruggs and Southern food tradition

Country music banjo legend Earl Scruggs passed away last week at age 88.

No, this isn't a music blog by any means (although I'm a country music researcher). But bless the Southern Foodways Allliance for reminding me of Scruggs' connection with traditional Southern foods—Flatt & Scruggs' rendition of the 1953 Martha White jingle. It's still in use today. 

Now you bake right (uh-huh) with Martha White (yes, ma'am)
Goodness gracious, good and light, Martha White
For the finest biscuits, cakes and pies,
Get Martha White self-rising flour
The one all purpose flour,
Martha White self-rising flour's
Got Hot Rize
Rest in peace, Earl.  

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday Beauty

The colors come alive with light shining through the petals

This was a very lucky shot. On a rainy afternoon, the sun finally came out from behind a cloud and illuminated this iris bloom. I love how the light brings out the saffron-like golden "beards" hanging down the side petals. Absolutely glorious!

Iris blooming in my mother's yard
Heard County, Georgia25 April 2010

Friday, March 30, 2012

My kind of weather

Weather Channel "classic" Doppler radar
30 Mar 2012, 7:35pm EDT

Tonight in LaGrange, there's a steady rain with occasional thunder. The window next to my desk is open; I can smell the rain as the cool, fresh air flows in through the screen. Perfect evening, perfect weather.

Many people have a personal crisis when it rains. Not me. I'm delighted on wet, stormy days. Why not be happy? Water is life, after all.

Regular rain means plentiful crops, beautiful gardens, thriving wildlife. Those are reasons to be happy when the forecast calls for showers. Okay, so having to be out in it isn't fun. But eventually, you'll get home, where you can watch the rain while staying warm and dry. 

Last summer's Southeastern drought was terrible. It was heartbreaking to watch West Point Lake and other local reservoirs drop to historic lows. The crayfish in the small creek near my mother's house were nearly dried out of their home, and saved only by a couple of early-fall downpours. Animals, plants, crops, communities, you and I need precipitation more than we can ever know. Without a storm now and then, life ceases to exist.

Rain means that life continues. Now that's a reason to be thankful!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

THIS JUST IN: Heirloom tomato seeds!

Very quick shipping from Maine...thanks, Pinetree Seeds!

Yesssss! The little manila envelope from Pinetree Garden Seeds was waiting when I opened the mailbox this afternoon. It took my order just three days to get here all the way from Maine. Impressive!

I have roughly 100 seeds of Mortgage Lifter, Brandywine, Druzba, and Cherokee Purple tomatoes. Between work and graduate school, I won't have a chance to pot them up until the weekend. That's all right, because it gives me time to decide where I'll put the seedling trays.

That "grape soda" smell means wisteria

It's springtime in the Deep South, and the air smells like grape soda. Not name-brand grape soda, but the cheapest-of-all-cheap-store-brands grape soda. Or maybe it smells more like year-old grape bubble gum, the wonky kind that nobody will even shoplift off the clearance rack at Big Lots.

Whatever sticky grape confection it smells like, that smell means wisteria, also known as the Other Vine That Ate the South. Say what you will about wisteria, but I always look forward to its glorious Pointillist creations draping the trees.

Greens, purples, lavenders, smokes...wisteria's got 'em all.
(LaGrange, Georgia—21 March 2012)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Just for Fun: An FP&P word map

Commonly used words and tags from FP&P in a common farmyard silhouette.
Created with Tagxedo on 23 Mar 2012.

Funny how real life and blogging life sometimes cross paths!

Working on an assignment for Information Graphics class, I stumbled upon Tagxedo, which bills itself as an online "word cloud [creator] with styles." Enter any text, URL, news story, or other document, set a few parameters, and voilà! You have a visual representation of the doc's most commonly used words. The bigger the word, the more often it appears in the original text. 

As part of my assignment submission, I used this blog's URL as the text source, and chose the rooster shape you see above. Of course, you can upload your own .jpg file to set the shape on your Tagxedo cloud.

Head over to Tagxedo to see what kind of fun you can create. If you choose to post your word clouds on your blog, I hope you'll leave the URL in the comments section so we can see what you whipped up.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tomato dreams

On Tuesdaythe same day I blogged about the Tomat-O-Match—I ordered my tomato seeds from Pinetree Garden Seeds. This Maine-based family operation offers an amazing selection of hard-to-find heirloom vegetable, herb, and flower seeds at great prices. Their mission is to help preserve old-fashioned plant varieties, and they've been doing it for nearly 40 years. Staffers test every seed before listing it in the catalog, and those catalog descriptions are often written with wry humor. All these qualities make me happy to do business with Pinetree.

After much hemming and hawing, and a consultation or 12 with the Tomat-O-Match, I settled on four old-fashioned tomatoes.
Why these? They're all good for fresh eating or canning, and are indeterminate (they grow and bear all season long instead of stopping in mid-summer). My gardening friends have recommended these varieties or similar ones; these tomatoes hold up pretty well to our punishing summers. They bear heavily all summer long, and sometimes until frost, putting out as many fruits as a gardener can eat. And they produce interesting-looking tomatoes in varying shades of red, maroon, pink, and purple.

My mother bought a pack of seedling pots, but I have the feeling we're going to need more than a dozen. Thank goodness I have a PotMaker and a few months' back issues of the Market Bulletin.

My seeds should arrive by the end of next week. Mom has already set aside an area in her laundry room for our seedlings and a grow light. Last month, she and my stepfather tilled a half-truckload of composted leaves into the dormant garden soil. At least 30 days lie between potting up and setting out; at least 90 lie between now and the first harvest. It will be a while yet—and the wait is worth all the trouble.

In the meantime, I'm dreaming of luscious, home-grown heirloom tomatoes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: 3/21/12

How many pops would a maypop pop...

Maypop (also called passionflower) in bloom on wire fence
Heard County, GeorgiaEarly September 2011

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Choose an heirloom tomato variety with Tomat-O-Match

After three disappointing seasons of tomato FAIL, last summer my mother and I gave up on the garden. One of the Ten Commandments of Gardening is, "Thou shalt know when to give up." Or at least give it a rest.

Along with hot peppers, tomatoes are supposed to be the idiot-proof plant in the vegetable garden. "Anyone can grow tomatoes!" the garden guides proclaim. Evidently not. The last few summers have been incredibly humid, even for the Deep South, and nearly windless. This does nothing to aid tomato pollination. Add to this unusual summer heat and a reduction in the number of bees around to visit our 'mater blossoms, and you have much gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair. And no tomatoes.

This spring, we're back and hoping for better luck. "Let's try heirloom varieties," I suggested. "We'll grow them from seed. Maybe they'll be better adjusted to the yard and weather when we set them out."

Mom sighed. "Well, why not?"

Believe it or not, I've had a tough time choosing heirloom tomatoes. So many different kinds, and so many variables: canning, fresh eating, or cooking; indeterminate or determinate; paste or sandwich; early yield or later yield...the list goes on. So thank goodness for Fine Gardening's Tomat-O-Match

Here are six of 61 potential heirloom tomato varieties to try!
(From's Tomat-O-Match game, 19 Mar 2012).

Amana Orange and Bison look particularly hardy and interesting. Heirloom varieties were developed before the age of hybridization to stand up to harsh weather and unexpected drought, and are particularly suited to the weird weather patterns we've been seeing the last few years. I'll still ask my fellow gardeners' advice, though. A friend in north Georgia suggests Mr. Stripey. FarmGirl Susan suggests heirloom varieties like Brandywine, but adds, "Just see what works for you." 

We'll see how this goes. Tomato updates are forthcoming...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tiny. Early. Purple. Heirloom.

These muscari aren't much bigger than the bee at center-right.
(6 Mar 2010 - Denver, Colorado)

I've been seeing Muscari in plant catalogs for years. They're called grape hyacinths becausewell, you can see why. Their upside-down-bunch-of-grapes form lends unexpected texture to the early spring garden.

Purple and blue are also unexpected flower colors. When I think about it, I can name many more plants boasting red, orange, yellow, pink, or white flowers. But there don't seem to be as many purple or blue flowers in the garden. Hmm...grape hyacinths, dephinium, Virginia bluebells, Texas bluebonnets, wisteria, hydrangeas, a couple asters, smoke bush, maybe a purple Buddleia, lavender, periwinkle. Oh, and I think I've seen a light-lavender foxglove somewhere before.

Lord knows I'll come up with more later. Still, I could spend nearly all day naming non-blue-or-purple flowering plants. Warmer colors naturally attract pollinators. That makes sense in nature. In the garden, though, blue and purple are eye-catching because we don't expect them.

Speaking of things we don't expect—even though I'd seen Muscari dozens of times before in photos, I didn't realize how small they are. In the photo above, the individual flowers are half the size of the bee who's dropped by for a snack. Even Barbie would look huge next to them. Now I understand why catalogs sell them in orders of 100 or more: they're tiny! You have to plant at least a hundred to get the full "river of blue in my garden" effect.

Grape hyacinths are native to the Caucasus, in countries such as Turkey and Armenia (hence Muscari armeniacum). Muscari neglectum was introduced to Western gardens around 1568, according to Brent & Becky's Bulbs. That's definitely heirloom. And as with many older plant varieties, it doesn't need constant care. After all, its name ends in neglectum.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: 3/14/12

Last year's drought was the worst in many years.

Dried-up pool in the waterfalls at the defunct Wehadkee Yarn Mills
Rock Mills, Alabama—August 2011

Courtesy of Gina Adamson-Taylor

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Chickens: "Old-fashioned" animals

Eggs from my backyard hens, November 2009

Every freshly-laid egg looks a little different from all the others. These were laid by my three hens in November, when the days are short, and chickens wind down the egg-laying season to begin their yearly feather moult.

Late-fall eggs are very exciting for backyard poultry enthusiasts. My friends in Minnesota and Michigan say their chickens stop laying in October, and don't start again until spring is well underway. There's a lot to be said for mild winters and a long growing season.

Since I've blogged about old-fashioned plants and abandoned old houses, it makes sense to blog about chickens. Sixty or so years ago, nearly every household included a chicken coop. Many working people raised their own meat birds, and kept layer hens too. It made sense in a time before refrigerated food transport and big grocery chains. People were close to their food sources—they were directly responsible for what they ate, and for how well they kept the livestock they would eventually consume.

I keep chickens for their eggs. It means a lot to me to know my birds are happy and healthy; when I eat their eggs, I know just what the girls ate to produce them. My hens eat cracked corn (scratch grains), insects, leftover cornbread and rolls, alfalfa pellets, steamed brown rice, watermelon and canteloupe rinds, raisins, white clover and other greenery from the lawn, and as many juicy bugs as I can round up for them. (They seem to get a special thrill out of the common garden slugs that gloopity-glop onto my porch in the summer.) My chickens also have room to roam, unlike battery-caged hens in commercial egg operations.

There's a lot more I could write about chickensand Lord knows I will some other time. Wherever you see heirloom-variety plants around the ruins of an old house, remember that "old-fashioned animals" likely once lived there, too.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: 3/7/12

Peonies may be old-fashioned, but they never go out of style.

This one's about 6" wide.

Peony blossom in my back yard (LaGrange, Georgia)
April 2011

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Daffodils up front?

Truck hauling chicken manure north on U.S. Highway 27, Carroll County
(trust me, it was chicken poop)

On a drizzly February morning, this roadside in southern Carroll County doesn't look special. The six-inch-high stubble tells me the D.O.T. mowed this shoulder in early fall; the privet and wild blackberry brambles haven't had time to break dormancy.

But the D.O.T. mows roadsides all over the state. So what?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

When a place is no more

What's it like to drive past a place you knew for many yearsand then discover it's gone
Perhaps I shouldn't say place. Perhaps building, or what used to stand at that place. The site, the location, is still there. It's not going anywhere. Its appearance, though...

Well, shoot. This is probably all a matter of semantics. And you probably understand what I'm talking about, anyway.

In my family, our longtime Labor Day weekend tradition is to spend a day at the Powers' Crossroads Festival. I pick up my Mom at her house in the cool hours of the morning, and we drive the 26 miles to the Festival grounds on the Heard-Coweta County border. To get there, we take Georgia Highway 34 through Franklin. This route intersects Bevis Road, which in turn winds past my old elementary school.

We take the same route every year. Nothing differentwell, until 2010.

The old Heard Elementary on Bevis Road, early to mid-1980s
(courtesy of Heard County Elementary School)

The hand-lettered sign at the intersection caught my eye. "Salvage sale at Heard Elementary this weekend?! What the—"

Monday, February 27, 2012

Weathered boards and daffodils

As I mentioned in my last post, roadside daffodils don't get there by themselves. It's not as if they march over to wherever they want and dig themselves in with a little bone meal sprinkled about. No, roadside daffodils are there because someone planted them in front of what used to be a house.

Looking northbound

Looking southbound

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Daffodils mean "home"

Living in a small town often means commuting a long distance to work somewhere else. In my case, I commute 45 miles one way. I've done this for nearly ten years; it's the price I pay for the relatively slow pace of life in west central Georgia. While the drive sometimes gets old, the scenery does not. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Long time, no post!

I have neglected this blog for so long, but I'm back just in time for an early spring in west central Georgia. Got the camera ready, with an extra memory card and plenty of fresh batteries...more forgotten plants & places on the way!