Monday, May 31, 2010

Death On Demand by Carolyn G. Hart

28. Death On Demand - first in the Death On Demand series
by Carolyn G. Hart
mystery, 1987
library book
finished, 5/21/10

Death On Demand is a mystery lover's perfect book. Not only does it feature a mystery bookstore, but it constantly refers to mystery writers, old and new.

For all of us who have dreamed about owning such a store, the description is simply heaven. Annie Laurance has inherited it from her uncle.
Under his stewardship, Death On Demand had been a wonderful place, a pipe-smoky, dim, comfortable, welcoming center for writers, but she had taken the shabby, down-at-heels interior and fashioned it into a bookstore even Carol Brener and Otto Penzler might envy, discarding Uncle Ambrose's functional steel shelving for the softer orange-brown gleam of gum, reflooring with heart pine, and creating, on the right, between the diagonal shelves slanting off the central corridor and the south wall, an enclave of American Cozy, a cheerful space scattered with rattan chairs with soft yellow and red chintz cushions and cane-topped tables.
... hanging beads marked the arched doorway that led to the children's corner, and its stock of all of the Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys, plus lots of nail-biters by two-time Edgar winner Joan Lowery Nixon. Annie had pined for just such a corner full of treasures when she was a kid.
She didn't believe in lumping all the books together alphabetically. Cozy readers would never dream of picking up a horror story. Hardboiled enthusiasts would prefer the Yellow Pages to romantic suspense. The first case held Agatha Christies because, quite simply, these were and always would be Annie's personal favorites. She never tired of Dame Agatha's perceptive eye and clever plots. On the left side, the shelves held true crime books. These had been Uncle Ambrose's specialty. Everything from Lizzie Borden and Jack the Ripper to the Boston Strangler and Capt. Jeff MacDonald was represented here. Annie passed the spy novels and thrillers on the right and the caper and comedy mysteries to her left. ... The south wall held classic mystery books, John Dickson Carr through Edgar Wallace.

Annie offers a weekly event called Sunday Night Specials, when the store is open only to local writers. Each week one of them presents a program connected to mystery literature, such as 'tracing the history of the comedy mystery.' Though these evenings sound wonderful on the outside, the reality is that there are some unpleasant personalities who are causing friction within the group. And then on a particular Sunday, the lights suddenly go out and one among them is murdered. And another murder had taken place at a veterinarian's business not too long before this one.

Annie finds herself in the position of being suspected by the local policeman. She has motive and opportunity in his way of thinking. So, of course, Annie and her old boyfriend Max, who had just come to visit must find the perpetrator(s) before Annie is arrested. Max is trying to woo Annie again, but she feels they are just too different to ever become a serious couple. Part of the fun of the book is their relationship.

Death On Demand takes place on an island off the coast of South Carolina, a particularly beautiful location with 280 growing days a year! There is some tension between the original population and those who have come to the island and built mansions.

There are many instances throughout the book where Annie's knowledge of mystery books and movies serves her well, and offer pure delight to the reader. Some I recognized, while others were new to me. At the end of this post, I have offered a few links. Click on any of the names for information.
Annie felt a surge of adrenaline. Her body recognized danger. In a flash, she remembered the boarder in Mrs. McGinty's Dead. If it hadn't been for Poirot, the boarder would have been hanged for a murder he didn't commit.
"I'll bet Dr. Thorndyke could have found some traces if he'd been there with his small green box."
The last time she broke into someone's house, the results - for her - were catastrophic. Think of what happened to Grace Kelly in Rear Window.
"Everyone in the family kowtowed to that horrible, domineering old monster. It was just like Mrs. Boynton in Appointment With Death.
"And don't worry, Ingrid, Max and I are working on it."
Ingrid's face brightened. "Like Pam and Jerry North."

The book has humor, romance, and a good mystery. And it has maps which I love.

There are now twenty books in the series, with the latest published this year. I have the second one on my desk, which I'll begin today, and I look forward to hours of reading pleasure in the Death On Demand bookstore, in the company of Annie and Max. Carolyn Hart's homepage tells a bit about the books as well as other series which she writes.

Though this series has been on my reading radar for years, it was Marcia's excellent review of the latest book which convinced me to finally begin.

Carol Brener

Otto Penzler

Joan Lowery Nixon

Dr. Thorndyke

Pam and Jerry North

Addendum, June 10, 2010:

I began the second book, Design For Murder, and was at first pleased because it didn't follow the pattern of the first one. The murder didn't take place until almost halfway through the book, though I did know the identity very early on. But then when the murder victim was found, there were police again doubting Annie Laurance's innocence, just as in the first book. It drove me crazy. I thought, here we go again. I looked ahead a bit wondering if this scrutiny of her continued and it did. I closed the book. I also found her personality a bit grating. Things I found okay in the first book became more annoying in the second. Sadly, I doubt I'll pick up another in the series.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Joanne's Rhubarb Coffee Cake

I've pretty much stopped picking rhubarb because I probably have enough in the freezer to last the months until the next crop. But that doesn't mean I can't make some desserts with the fresh rhubarb that's still growing great! When I saw Joanne's Rhubarb Coffee Cake recipe, I decided to make it right then! I had some heavy cream in the fridge for whipped cream, and I just bought sour cream yesterday. I picked the rhubarb, and then proceeded to put the ingredients together. Let's see, what did I do differently? You're right. I used butter instead of shortening. I also used my Sugar in the Raw for both brown and white sugars. And I had one cup of strawberries left in the freezer from last summer, so I threw them in too.

When our youngest child moved out, we got rid of our microwave. I never used it except to warm butter to bake with. Well, since it's been gone I just plan ahead and take the butter out of the refrigerator for a while before I want to bake. Because this was so spur of the moment, I had to melt the 1/2 cup butter, and then mix it with the sugar and egg. It worked out just fine.

This is a fantastic dessert, which we actually had before our supper tonight because we couldn't resist!

Joanne's Rhubarb Coffee Cake

1 1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. shortening
1 egg
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. (8 oz.) sour cream
1 1/2 c. rhubarb, chopped

1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. white sugar
1/2 c. pecans or walnuts, chopped
1 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. cinnamon

In mixing bowl, cream sugar and shortening. Beat in egg. Combine flour, baking soda and salt, and add alternately with the sour cream to the creamed mixture. Fold in rhubarb. Spread in greased 9 x 13 x 2 pan. Combine all topping ingredients and sprinkle over batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. Great served warm with vanilla ice cream.

Reading Habits meme

I saw this at Cornflower's blog this morning and here are her words about where it came from.
Here's a meme from Bookish NYC via Life must be filled up; do take it to your own blog or answer the questions in the comments on this post if you wish.

Do you snack while reading?
Not ever. When I eat alone in the house, I always read magazines.

What is your favourite drink while reading?
I don't drink while reading either.

Do you tend to mark your books while you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
I never mark my books, though I enjoy reading markings when I buy used books. I just can't do it myself. I don't even dog-ear a page.

How do you keep your place? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book open flat?
Always a bookmark.

Fiction, non-fiction or both?
I enjoy non-fiction but lately have been reading much more fiction.

Do you tend to read to the end of a chapter or can you stop anywhere?
I can stop anywhere.

Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?
I have never thrown a book. If it's a library book, I bring it back. If I've bought it, I donate it.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?
Yes, usually.

What are you currently reading?
The Torso by Helene Tursten. Excellent but not for the faint-hearted, which I usually am, but can't seem to resist this author.

What is the last book you bought?
The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham; the first Albert Campion book.

Do you have a favourite time/place to read?
Whenever and wherever I can. I just bought an incredibly comfortable chair and I've been spending a lot of time there.

Do you prefer series books or stand-alones?

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?
There are so many.

How do you organise your books?
Absolutely no order whatsoever, except that my mysteries are all in the same area. I move my books around as I get new ones, but I always seem to know just where a certain title is.

Barbara's additional question: background noise or silence?
Complete silence.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Making of a Home

Of all the things I love about spring, I think what I love the most is open doors and windows, welcoming the outside sounds and smells into the house.

These are a few of the beautiful birdsongs that I hear every day now.

song sparrow

But wait, what is that other song I hear? It isn't a sound that everyone thinks beautiful, but I do. It is the beepbeepbeep of a big truck backing up. This isn't a sound we hear very often out here. But this year the spring air is filled with it because Margaret and her boyfriend, Matt are building a house! Well, they aren't actually building it, but it is being built for them.

We gave them almost four acres of land down at the bottom of our dirt road, bordering the main road. It is a beautiful, sunny, flat, open meadow surrounded by woods. Just behind where the house will be is a logging road that goes all around our land. The east border is our pasture.

Margaret and Matthew got a great deal on this log home. The sellers and the builders are all in the same family. Apparently they build all over - one of the latest is in Ireland!

Though this view doesn't have the cellar foundation their house will, I wanted you to see the side view with the sliding doors.

It has a great front porch facing north, sliding glass doors opening east onto what will someday be a patio, a loft and two bedrooms upstairs, and an open plan living, dining, and kitchen downstairs. Also downstairs is their bedroom and bath, and a combination laundry room/half bath.

Last winter in the midst of the worst white-out snowstorm we had, all of us and Matt's mother all drove to the log home company, and from there went to look at a house. It was someone's vacation home, and they allow the company to show prospective buyers around when no one is there. We all five fell in love with the place. It felt so spacious, beautiful, and homey. It is also the type of house that will look like it belongs on that piece of land, as if it has always been there.

There have been many steps along the way that had to be taken before work began.

Deeding 3.9 acres to them.
Perc test which was done last year. The numbers go from 1-5. 1 is sand, and this land is 2, so that's very good.
Hiring septic design person who submits design to state for approval.
Building permit from the town.
And then of course the loan.
One of the fun connections in the whole process was that the lawyer was in Tom's first eighth grade class.

Before land was even broken they had to get an address, which nowadays is obtained at the local police station for 911 purposes. Margaret was given a choice of a few numbers and chose one I love (I admit I'm a bit of a number person).

The first activity down there was the phone company fellows putting in the telephone pole. Later they will connect the pole to one in our north pasture across the dirt road. In the meantime, there is a temporary electric hookup while the house is being built.

The most recent work was digging the hole for the foundation, and there occurred one of those things that will be told as a building story for years to come. They asked Margaret which way she and Matt wanted the house to face, and she said the road. After the hole was dug, Margaret and Matt stopped by and thought it looked a little odd, and then the next day she talked to the digging men. They thought she meant the main road not the dirt road, which is the road we always, always mean when we say 'the road.' So they proceeded to redo the hole, and now have it ready for the foundation.

We were all down there last evening looking at the big hole, and all the piles of sand, and the debris from the inside of the hole. Lexi was home, but little Piglet had a great time exploring. She made her way down into the hole on the short side, and then wandered around a bit wondering how to get out. Matt came to her rescue.

The main topic of conversation was not, however, this new home. It was all about the end of LOST. Here is Tom telling everyone what he thinks happened!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Clarice's Buttermilk Biscuits

I saw this recipe at Clarice's blog this morning, and had to make the biscuits today! In truth, I like them much better than Bad Blake's Biscuits. They are sweeter, less tart, and more crumbly. They are perfect! It may be a matter of personal taste, so try both yourself and see which you prefer. This is what I love about baking. There are always new tastes to discover in recipes that are just a bit different. Without further ado, here is her recipe.

Buttermilk Biscuits

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 TBL milk or cream for brushing biscuits

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F.
Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a bowl. Blend in butter till it is the size of small peas. Add buttermilk and stir with a fork until a dough just forms (dough will be moist).

Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and gently fold over, press down in an even square till 1 inch thick. Do this 6 times. Pat out dough on a floured surface with floured hands, reflouring surface if necessary, cut, flouring knife between cuts. Transfer biscuits to a greased baking sheet, arranging them 2 inches apart. Set in fridge one hour for butter to firm or freeze. Brush tops with milk or cream. Bake until pale golden, 12 to 15 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool to room temperature.

Makes 6 biscuits

Nan's notes:

1. You will see she made them into squares since she was making them for strawberry shortcake. I just cut them out and put them in a greased 9 x 13 pan like I did with Bad Blake's Biscuits. There were 9 biscuits.

2. I didn't knead them on a floured surface. I never do. I just pat the dough down and cut the biscuits. I have a very inexpensive marble board I use.

3. I didn't refrigerate because frankly, I couldn't wait that hour!

4. I didn't brush the milk on top.

5. Somewhere else on her blog, Clarice mentions cutting in the butter with a food processor. This worked great. In fact, I used it as my mixing bowl. I put all the dry ingredients in, pulsed it a bit, added the chopped up cold butter, and pulsed some more. Then I put the batter in a bowl and stirred in the buttermilk with a fork.

This buttermilk adventure is taking me to some wonderful new culinary places. I love the stuff and buy it every week now. If you want to check out the other buttermilk recipes I've tried, you may type buttermilk into the search bar.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Detective Inspector Huss by Helene Tursten

27. Detective Inspector Huss (Swedish title, Krossade tanghästen) - first in the Inspector Huss series
by Helene Tursten
translated by Steven T. Murray
mystery, 1998; English translation 2003
finished, 5/17/10

Well, here I go again! Another Swedish crime fiction author!

Reading this book felt a bit like being on a real case - slow moving, many details, thoughtful, dead ends, useful and useless information. I've read police procedurals aplenty but not one has ever made me feel a part of the procedure as this book has. The reader sees the police department working as a team. They get assignments, and then come back and have a group meeting which they call, 'morning prayers,' and try to make sense of all the information obtained. This is the 1990s, and sexism is still a palpable thing on the force. One policeman is quite aggressively awful, but even a kinder man has a hard time getting rid of old prejudices.

Detective Inspector Irene Huss is the one we follow along in her daily work in Göteborg. She is approaching forty with a bit of trepidation. She is a judo champion. She has twin thirteen-year old daughters. There is a family dog. And she is very happily married, a state I've seen infrequently in this sort of book. The reader learns how very difficult it is to balance family life with work when Irene comes home after a very stressful day dealing with unsavory types. One of her daughters joins a skinhead band, and tells her mother the Holocaust never happened, which as you may imagine causes much fear and anxiety in her parents. The problem is solved in a unique and meaningful way.

The crime in this book is the murder of a very rich man. Slowly, we meet his family and his friends. We learn of his past, and the pasts of the other characters in the book. The police must make some connections in order to solve this case. Early in the book the police go into his home.
Irene gazed up in wonder at the walls of the stairwell. The frescoes were amazing, with children romping among wood anemones and an allegorical figure of Springtime, flying in a cart drawn by huge exotic butterflies. It was all done in light, elegant, springlike pastels. On the opposite wall was a full Midsummer Eve celebration done in considerably richer and more intense tones. Grown-ups and children danced in the summer twilight, and the fiddler sawed away at his instrument for dear life. His face was shiny with sweat; his eyes glistened with the joy of making music.

"Carl Larsson did the paintings, in the early eighteen nineties."

Can you imagine! I've long loved Larsson's paintings of his home and family. This one is called Spring.

The book shows us how very difficult it must be to live a regular life when one's work life is so often full of the very worst of humanity; terrible crimes, terrible people. Once an investigation begins, the police have no idea what they will uncover, but they know it won't be pleasant. Their own lives and emotional well-being are on the line every day. We all know this, but Detective Inspector Huss brings home that truth to the reader. I won't go into more detail, because I know that I like to discover a story rather than know what it's all about beforehand. I'll just say that I found myself absorbed and fascinated. The book, the way the case is explored, and getting to know Irene and her co-workers held me in thrall. I've just received the next two books in the series from the wonderful Book Depository, and have already begun the next one called The Torso.

If you, too, are finding yourself simply wild about Scandinavian and Icelandic crime fiction, here are some sites you will enjoy. Euro Crime, which isn't limited to just Scandinavia and Iceland; Scandinavian Books (scroll over to the right if you don't have a big computer screen), and their blog, Nordic Bookblog; and Scandinavian Crime Fiction.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Farm and Garden Weekly - week of May 16

It's been a quiet week at Windy Poplars Farm. Vegetables and flowers are growing nicely.

Finally the sweet peas have broken through the ground!

The mountain bluet has opened. Almost three years ago to the day, I did a little piece on this flower.

The lilacs are coming along, as you see in the blog header, but the heavy snow and/or the 18º F. night we had a while back did some damage. Some of the buds droop and won't open into flowers. The big oak tree we brought from our previous house was injured. The bleeding heart flowers broke off.

For the second straight year we have a crow family. I love crows. I love how they seem to prefer walking to flying, and I love the way they walk. I don't have pictures because they fly off when I open the door.

Honestly, I think plants are almost as beautiful before they blossom as when they are in bloom. The green is just so wonderful, so bright a color after months of gray and white.



And the daylilies which are all over the garden.

The big bird news is that the bluebird I showed you two weeks ago has stayed. There is now a nesting pair in the bluebird box we put up years and years ago. We've had swallows in it for ages, but this year, though we saw swallows around they must be nesting somewhere else, and the bluebirds have set up housekeeping there. What a gift.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Saturday Sally on a Thursday

Sally: a brief journey; an excursion or trip.

I haven't been posting this wonderful picture very much lately. I've decided today that though the name will remain the same, I will 'sally forth' on other days of the week as well because usually on Saturdays I'm doing the new Farm and Garden Weekly. Here is the original Saturday Sally post which explains what this is all about. The Saturday Sally postings by year are listed on the sidebar under Letter Topics.

My internet friend Joanne has started a very special blog called Seasonal Hearth. Each post is interesting and accompanied by excellent photographs.

Barbara's blog is her own diary from fifty years ago! It is called Mid-Prairie HS and Park College 1960-1965.

The third visit this week (I only do three at a time) is the author Dominique Browning's blog called Slow Love Life. I have loved her books, Around The House And In The Garden (2002), Paths of Desire (2004), and now am halfway through and so enjoying her new one called Slow Love. She is thoughtful and funny and warm-hearted and very honest.

So, that's it for this day's sally. Hope you have fun on your visits.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


After just telling someone that I have no luck with forget-me-nots, a little group came back from last year! Which reminds me of one of my favorite songs sung by Frank Sinatra.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Today's poem by Walt Whitman

Out of May's Shows Selected
by Walt Whitman
published in The New York Herald, May 10, 1888

Apple orchards, the trees all cover'd with blossoms;
Wheat fields carpeted far and near in vital emerald green;
The eternal, exhaustless freshness of each early morning;
The yellow, golden, transparent haze of the warm afternoon sun;
The aspiring lilac bushes with profuse purple or white flowers.

Another poem by Whitman on Letters from a Hill Farm here.

The winner of Mrs. Malory Investigates is...


Monday, May 17, 2010

The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear

The Mapping of Love and Death - seventh in the Maisie Dobbs series
by Jacqueline Winspear
mystery, 2010
library book
finished, 5/4/10

There's something about a Jacqueline Winspear book that slows me down. I barely notice turning the pages. I am transported back to Maisie Dobbs' time and place, and I almost become part of the story. We are now in 1932 and there are still echoes of the First World War. In this book the remains of a young American cartographer in the British army have just been found. His parents hire Maisie to try and find the nurse they believe their late son was in love with during the war. The father gives Maisie a post-mortem report, and as she studies it she sees that this young man, Michael Clifton, was not a casualty of war, but was murdered. Soon after their arrival in London both parents are badly beaten in their hotel room.

This is a series in which Maisie gets older and times change. I suppose they could be read out of order but the reading pleasure really comes from following this woman through her life. In The Mapping of Love and Death big changes occur which have greater meaning if we have read the earlier books.

I cannot praise the series highly enough. The books are categorized as mysteries, but really they are the story of Maisie Dobbs. Because of her work as an investigator, there is always a mystery going on, and as interesting and intriguing as it may be, what this reader loves is the character and her life and times, and the people around her. I already find myself worrying about the approach of the next war. Maisie's dear friend Priscilla lost three brothers in the Great War, and now has three sons who could grow up to fight in a war they know nothing of as yet. I think about her assistant Billy whose wife has had mental problems of late. The reason for them occurs in an earlier book. Will she recover? Billy's goal is to move his family to a new life in Canada. Maisie's mentor, and second father, is aging; as is her own dad. Rich. That's the word for these books. Rich with detail, history, and most importantly, character. And I love the covers!

Addendum: I should have given you the author's excellent website for those new to the series.

I'll leave you with a few passages.

"The mapmaker is not only a mathematician, but an artist. He has to look at the earth and see what needs to be seen, then represent it in a way that means something - to a class, a sailor, a walker on the hills, the driver of a motor car, or those who orchestrate a battle. ..."

Soon supper was announced, and Priscilla put her arm around her husband's waist as they led their guests into the dining room. Douglas Partridge had suffered an amputation to his arm in the war, and used his remaining hand to wield a walking stick. His wife never considered the protocols of society matrons when accompanying her husband and thought nothing of putting an arm around his shoulder or waist.

"She has her bad days, but nothing like before," replied Billy. "Mind you, I wish I had a little book with instructions in it. Whenever I get worried, if I see her doing something that looks dodgy, like folding only half the laundry, then leaving the rest while she sits by the fire or something - I wish I had something to go back to, you know, a manual that could answer my questions: 'Is this all right?' 'Is she going backward?' Or, 'Is this normal?' "

Maisie prepared a simple evening meal of soused mackeral and vegetables, with a slice of bread and jam for pudding. In general, she did not mind a solitary repast, often taken on a tray while she sat in one of the armchairs, a fork in one hand and a book in the other. And she was under no illusions regarding the significance of the book, whether a novel or some work of reference. As she turned the pages, the characters or subject matter became her company, a distraction so that the absence of a dining companion - someone with whom to share the ups and downs of her day, from the surprising to the mundane - was not so immediate. Guests to her home were few, and after such a visit, during which a linen cloth would be laid on the dinning table and cutlery and glasses set for two, the vacuum left by the departing visitor seemed to echo along the hallway and into the walls. It was at those times, when her aloneness took on a darker hue, that she almost wished there would be no more guests, for then there would be no chasm of emptiness for her to negotiate when they were gone.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Buttermilk and Cornmeal Waffles

Buttermilk and Cornmeal Waffles

1 3/4 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, separated
2 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup melted butter

Grease the waffle iron with cooking spray, and turn it on.

Sift the dry ingredients together.
Beat the egg yolks well and combine with the buttermilk, and then add to the cornmeal mixture, beating until smooth.
Stir in the cooled butter.
Beat the egg whites stiff but not dry and fold into the mixture.

Pour batter into the hot iron, filling each compartment 2/3 full (about 1 tablespoon of batter in each will do this).
Cover and bake 3 to 5 minutes, until golden brown on both sides.

This was a delicious early supper on this mid-May Sunday. We put maple syrup on top. Recipe makes four waffles.

Farm and Garden Weekly - week of May 9

The big farm news this week is sheep shearing! I wrote about this event three years ago, telling the history of our shearer. At that time, our original shearer's son had taken over the work. Since then, the torch has been passed again. The shearer's daughter is now the official shearer. In the spring she drives all over the state visiting farms. She has another full time job at the family business. She's a wonderful young woman in her early twenties who loves her work.

Here is a picture of the fleece just after it was removed. Can you see the shape of the sheep?

The sheep are in one big stall while the shearing goes on.

And here she is in action! You'll see a nick, but it is impossible to avoid. Overall there were very, very few cuts on the six sheep. She is a wonderful shearer, and I told her I've never seen the sheep so calm. She grinned and said, 'sheep whisperer.'

Here is a closeup of some fleece. Isn't it beautiful? And as soft as can be.


After they are shorn, and we let them out into the pasture, the sheep baa and baa for a good part of the day. I think they're happy to be free of their heavy winter coats, just as we are.

The garden is coming along just fine despite our cool, cool month. I froze 16 1/2 cups of rhubarb this week. It snowed a bit last Sunday morning. Didn't really land, but still... ah, May in the north! Not for us the bluebell wood and soft air.

Onion sets, and those amazing chives! The latter are perennials that come up early.


Garlic we planted last fall.

Tiny carrots

and spinach

There is no sign of the sweet peas yet. And the lettuce hasn't broken through the ground either. We just need a few warm, sunny days for everything to really take off.

The mint which is thriving.

Violets are everywhere.

The monkshood has started its climb up the little trellis.

The honeysuckle have bloomed

And the first lilac flower. Our lilacs are all over the land, and they blossom over time. This one is right next to the terrace and gets the full south sun and warmth of the stones to make it the earliest bloomer.

If you are interested, there's a book giveaway going on through tomorrow!