My Little Herb Garden

I’ve had so much fun taking care of my little herb garden this summer, but even better, I’ve really enjoyed tasting the “fruits” of my labor. Almost every day for the last two months, I’ve brewed a batch of sun tea, which, of course, was the perfect vessel for mint. I grew two varieties–chocolate and variegated. I didn’t really have a favorite, both smelled and tasted delicious.

I grew multiple batches of dill from seed, and I also grew basil, oregano, chives, and rosemary which started from small plants.

Fresh from the garden…

My first dill plant finally hit the end of its growing cycle, but fortunately I began to grow another batch a few weeks ago to replace it. I’ve enjoyed the dill all summer, and today I was able to get slightly more than 1 TB of dill prior to pulling it up and discarding it. You may laugh, but I chopped it up and froze it. I can throw it in a batch of carrot soup, or some other creation this fall. My plan is to freeze most of what I can harvest from the new plant.

One lone cube of dill (1 TB) LOL!
Although not an herb, I also grew a pepper plant from seed…
Proud Mama! Two little peppers are forming & several blooms seem to be close behind.
I dehyrated the last of the Rosemary…the smell…heavenly!
Some of my homegrown produce from 2020


When I realized that traveling for work was going to be severely limited this summer because of Covid-19 and it’s related travel issues, I decided to plant a (small) garden in my back yard. I bought several herbs (oregano, chives, basil, two kinds of mint, & rosemary), and I grew a few pots of dill from seed. I also bought a little tomato plant.

I don’t know why I didn’t take a picture of TomTom after he was first planted. I think this is the earliest picture I have, and he’s already getting big!

Looking back, I have to laugh because I wanted to buy two tomato plants and Pierre talked me out of it, telling me that I would have more tomatoes than I would know what to do with. That little plant is now huge, and has been abundantly producing–I’m glad that I listened. Around mid-summer, when I was in full-gardening mode, I decided to try to grow a pepper plant from seed. It’s growing and it’s beautiful and healthy, but I’m hoping it will be able to produce at least a few peppers before the first frost in the fall. Lesson learned….plant early!

Before his first haircut…

Pierre and I tend to nickname our favorite plants and flowers in the yard, and so I naturally started calling my tomato plant, TomTom from the moment he was in the ground. TomTom was little when we bought him and he has grown bigger than I could have ever imagined. The plant is HUGE! I’ve trimmed it back three times already, and he already needs another “haircut.” It’s a Big Boy variety, but I thought the name referred to the size of the tomatoes, not the plant! LOL!

Instead of putting TomTom in a tomato cage, Pierre put a stake in the ground. TomTom just laughed at the stake and grew sideways in both directions, even though I tried to train the branches upwards. My tomato plant looks unique, to say the least.

Trimmed and looking good…

I decided early on that I was going to keep track of TomTom’s yield, and the easiest way to do that is through pictures. The count has begun…

The tomatoes labeled 10-18 are earmarked for tomato soup. I’m going to let them ripen in the window, and maybe add a few more. I’m planning to freeze some of the soup, so I can have it later this fall.

Let the count continue…

19, 20, 21, & 22…
23, 24, 25, & 26…
Homemade roasted tomato soup w/Debbie’s homemade bread!
Ready for his 4th trim! He’s getting wild!

The dill that I grew from early summer, has finally hit the end of it’s growing season. I harvest the last bit of dill (pictured above), which I’m going to freeze for future use. The good news is that I planted new dill about 3 weeks ago, and very soon, I’ll have fresh dill again!

30 & 31…
I can barely believe that this is one tomato plant (8/23/2020)!
I made homemade baked beans with TomTom’s tomatoes
#32….this one went straight from the vine into a pot of homemade zucchini soup that called for one ripe tomato!
This soup is delish! I found a series of cooking videos on YouTube called, ‘Buon-A-Petitti,’ featuring an Italian grandma named, Gina. I FEEL Italian when I watch!
#33–I knocked this little guy off the vine when I was watering. I placed it on the windowsill so it will continue to ripen–it turned out great! Yum!
#39 & 40…
I cut TomTom way back today….he’s still sporting at least 20 more tomatoes that I hope will ripen before the temperature drops too much.

Mystery Walk Challenge

It had been in the mid-90’s for days, and this week’s upcoming forecast was going to be more of the same–hot! It’s been really hard to get a walk in the extreme heat, so I came up with a challenge for the week, which I proposed to Debbie on Sunday. I suggested that we take turns Monday-Friday, planning and surprising the other with different walking locations. The rules–shade after 5:00 p.m., and we needed to walk a minimum of 2 miles (which would also fulfill my ongoing Camino Coronavirus Walking Challenge). She accepted and we had a great week!

Monday–Debbie opted to go first and we headed to the Hagerstown City Park, which is located in Hagerstown, M.D. We’d both been there before, but it had been a long time since our last visit. It was still hot, but there was a cool breeze and we were in the shade for the majority of the time. The park is home to many types of water foul, including swans and several varieties of ducks and geese.

Are we in London?
Hurry up and take the picture–there’s no shade!

Tuesday–I picked Spruce Pine Hollow Trail for my ‘shade walk.’ Debbie had never been here before, which surprised me, because it’s so close to where we live. It was shady which kept the sun from beating down on our heads, but it was hot & HUMID! The best part of this hike was that it was a NOHOT, which in my lingo means: No Humans on Trail! As you can probably tell by the exclamation marks, this is my favorite kind of hiking!

Wednesday–It was Debbie’s turn again and she took us to the Yankauer Nature Preserve. The back end of the Preserve is situated high on the banks of the Potomac River, offering a nice overlook. Again, we enjoyed another shady location, and we scored another NOHOT!

Thursday–It was my turn again, but we had previously made plans for the day, including a road trip to Debbie’s favorite liquor store in PA (Yes, it’s true, she has a fav! LOL!), and lunch with my sister, Missy. On the way home, we stopped in Williamsport, M.D., so we could meet the requirements of the week—walking in shade!

They had a nice French selection! LOL!
Plenty of shade…

Friday–Debbie opted to stay local for today’s walk and she took me to Poor House Farm. We’ve been here many, many times over the years, but today offered a surprise…the hilltop trail was lined with wine berries, which are an edible invasive related to raspberries. We filled up two water bottles with berries as we walked.


Saturday–Not much of a surprise, but I was really excited about the wine berries, so we went back to get more, and this time we came armed with buckets! We walked and picked for almost two hours…yes, we were in the shade!

Honey? Yes, it’s our New Adventure!

While we were gone, our friend Philip checked on our property and pruned many of our fruit trees for us. During that time, he talked to his friends, Judy and Adrian (who happen to be beekeepers) about our orchard. When they heard about the low fruit yield on a few of the trees, they suggested that we should put a hive on the property. They felt that bees kept near the orchard would help with pollination, and of course, the added bonus would be honey.

Judy and Adrian offered to install and take care of the hive(s), as we would be providing the land. To us this seemed like a win-win proposition. However, we needed to let them know that there was an old rotting hive that they probably didn’t notice, tucked under some overgrown trees on the side of the property. We could see that bees still came in and out of the old hive, but we had no idea what non-care for many years had done to it. We could see (from a distance) that it was in pretty bad shape, even to our untrained eyes.

Beekeeping is one of the things that I have secretly been”geeked up” about for a long time, but Pierre had always said, “If you want to keep a hive, go for it, but I’m not interested in doing any of the upkeep.” Fair enough, but I travel for work, so beekeeping didn’t seem to be in the cards for me….until now!

Judy grabbing some dry grass for the smoker…
Checking things out near the hive…
The lid is off, and now a little smoke to settle the bees down…
Honey comb from the hive…

Judy and Adrian came over to check out the existing hive, and we suspected, it was in very bad shape. It’s rotting and falling apart, and ants have moved in, which is a definite no-no! The original plan was for Judy and Adrian to establish a new hive/colony on the property, but now they plan to move the existing hive, which apparently is even better.

A new hive (bee box) will be brought over, and the bees will be transferred into it. The old box will be removed and probably destroyed. If it’s not destroyed or moved, it will confuse the bees. The bees in the new hive will be temporarily be removed from the property as well. The hive can’t be moved to a different location on the property initially, because the bees will fly to the old site, and not be able to find the new site. Taking them off the property will allow them to “forget” the old location. In simple terms, this will allow them to “reset” their internal “GPS” devices.

This is the honey that was extracted from the honeycomb in the picture above.

I learn best by doing, in other words, getting in and doing it myself, but that isn’t an option right now. Instead, I’ve been watching beekeeping videos in the meantime. I’ve watched lots and lots of videos, and I’m amazed at how much information is available, if you just take the time to look for it.

I’m not able to become a beekeeper yet, but that idea is certainly rising higher and higher on my bucket list! For right now, I’m happy to be a part of this new adventure (from afar!), and I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can from Judy and Adrian.

Enjoying the Simple Things…

The Coronavirus has hit everyone hard in different ways. For me, it stopped me in my tracks regarding travel. I had eleven weeks of international travel planned for 2020, all of which had to be cancelled. My job has radically changed as well, switching from traveling all over the United States conducting face-to-face trainings, to virtual trainings. In the beginning I felt stuck…not just stuck at home, per se, but stuck because I couldn’t really adventure anymore…or so I thought!

Very early on, I set up my “Camino CornaVirus Walking Challenge,” and that helped out A LOT! It got me out of the house every day, and it kept me active. As my life has changed over the last several months, I’ve tried especially hard to pay strong attention to the little silver linings or blessings that we sometime seem to miss in the hustle and bustle of our regular lives…

Since I’m home this summer instead of traveling for work & pleasure, I’ve been able to plant and take care of a tomato plant, and a little herb garden. I’m not joking, this is such a thrill for me!
I’ve enjoyed relaxing in my yard—I’ve gotten a lot of reading in this summer!
I’ve enjoyed hanging out in Debbie’s back yard and spending time with her…
I found and collected wineberries…
And of course I’ve enjoyed walking….lots and lots of it!

Does everything seem different, and does life feel uncertain at times…yes, but I’ve learned that I can still adventure and enjoy the summer, even though it’s much closer to home!

My Dad’s Favorite Rock Group–Mount Rushmore

I was scheduled to work in Wyoming for two weeks, so it really didn’t make much sense to fly home between the trainings. Instead, I decided to take a road trip to South Dakota. I actually wanted to see two things while I was there–bison and my dad’s favorite rock group, Mount Rushmore, which has been near the tippy-top of my Bucket List for a long time!

I checked and re-checked the weather forecast, because the drive was in an isolated area, and I didn’t want to add bad weather to the mix. On Saturday morning, multiple sources said, “No snow,” so I set off early, insuring that I had many hours of daylight in front of me. The landscape of southeast Wyoming is flat, flat, flat with a backdrop of hills and mountains in the distance. And trees? What trees? The ground had a bit of snow cover from the last storm, and for the most part, the roads were clear, but remnants of snow and ice came and went in patches as I drove past.

I was so fascinated by the landscape, that I pulled over several times to take pictures. At one point, I just stopped in the middle of the road to take a ‘road shot,’ because I couldn’t see a car in either direction!
South Dakota–another new state to add to my list!
This scene was so surreal that I stopped the car to check it out. Everything was frost-covered and the low lying fog and burned trees created a mystical looking environment.

I barely saw any cars as I was driving through Wyoming and into South Dakota. I finally entered the “tree zone” area of the Black Hills, which is where Custer State Park is located. While I was in park, I didn’t see another single vehicle (or person) for the entire time that I was there. It was magical and eerie, all at the same time! I was told that my best chances of seeing bison was at this park, so I kept looking and looking!

At one point, I came round a curve and I saw a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. I pulled the car over and looked out to see hundreds of prairie dogs popping in and out of their holes. I opened the window and listened to their elaborate communication system–where each would squeak and chirp, disappear underground for a few seconds, then reappear to seemingly start the process again. They looked like the ‘whack-a-mole’ game that many of us have played when the carnival rolled into town for the weekend when we were kids—pop up, squeak, pop down, pop up, squeak! The only thing missing was the whack, whack, whack! I could have watched and listened to them all day!

It was hard to capture them with my cellphone camera, but you can see three prairie dogs in this picture, and you can faintly see many of the mounds in the distance. Look carefully!
This was the only bison that I saw while I was in the park! Bummer!

One lane tunnel–Mount Rushmore can be seen on the other side!
I never knew that you could view the sculptures from outside of the park–you can! Amazing!

They say timing is everything…about 45 minutes after arriving at Mount Rushmore a huge fog bank rolled in. Check out the difference in the pictures! As I was leaving, I stopped at the visitor center and I was told that the fog was expected to stay put for the rest of the day–I was SO lucky! I felt bad to see the visitors walking in and overhearing them ask, “Where is it?”

The restaurant lined with tall glass windows, overlooks the famous rock face, and as I enjoyed the scenery I enjoyed a bowl of bison stew.

When I asked the rangers at Mount Rushmore about seeing bison in Custer State park, they agreed that was the best place to see them. I told them that I didn’t see any and the ranger guessed that the animals were probably huddling up to keep warm, and to protect themselves from the approaching snow. SNOW?

“It’s supposed to snow?” I asked, trying to hid the surprise in my voice. “The weather report said that we weren’t expecting snow.”

He smiled, and replied, “It’s going to snow….soon.”

I saw three deer on the side of the road as soon as I left the park. It was already snowing and the fog was rolling in quickly.

It was snowing by the time I pulled out of the parking garage of the park….so much for no snow! I left Mount Rushmore at a few minutes before 3:00 p.m. and I was heading for Deadwood, which is located about an hour and twenty minutes north of the park.

To sum it up–the drive was beautiful, Mount Rushmore was amazing, but no bison sightings—‘two out of three ain’t bad!’ Now I have to worry about the snow…