27 February 2010

Spotlight Saturday: Have you visited This blogger?

We have had some amazing participation in encouraging people to visit new, or new-to-them bloggers since we all began the conversation about encouraging our fellow bloggers about a month ago. There were some very good suggestions and actions made by people who left comments here, and once again, I thank you all for being such good blogger-neighbours around the world.

I took up Teza's method of promoting other bloggers, but I've found two problems in it for me. One has to do with my blog template, which has some flaw in its code so that titles of widgets etc on the sidebars often run into the widget, photo, etc. I can control that with some sidebar items, but with the 'Have you visited this blog?' photo/link on the right side, I can't make it any larger or space it better than it is. And being a chickenheart when it comes to template code...I don't dare tinker with that, or I'm apt to warp the whole thing into Tralfamadore, and I'm not ready to go there yet.

More importantly than that wee bit of tidiness quirks, my brain is somewhat cluttered with a lot going on right now, as you know from reading previous posts. And like I forget to take something out for supper some days, or where I've put my iPhone, or that I was supposed to finish writing a letter I drafted two weeks ago to a friend...I am afraid that I'll forget just who all I've put in that side 'visit' link, and put the same person in twice, or neglect to put up someone because I think I've already done so.

This is my solution. Once every couple of weeks, I'll do a 'Spotlight Saturday' post, introducing you to a fellow blogger who I've encountered and whose blog I really enjoy. That way you'll get to 'know' them a bit before you pop over to visit (and I KNOW you'll all visit because you're awesome that way) and I'll have a regular record of who I've spotlighted. And of course the blogger will get some new visitors and then go visit other bloggers and it will all be good.

Without further ado, let me introduce you to Ceara, who lives and gardens on the beautiful Gaspé peninsula in eastern Quebec. Ceara's garden is zone 4, so you can imagine the various climate challenges she has to deal with in her gardening adventures. She just started her blog a few weeks ago, but she visited here and left a comment about sea holly, so I returned to write a comment in answer, and was delighted with her blog. So please go visit.

One other thing you might be able to help with. Ceara wrote in her comment on my Eryngium post that she has been unable to get seed or plants of this genus to try in her garden. I've offered to send her E. planum seedlings, but I'm also curious: has anyone in a zone 4 garden been able to grow any of the Eryngiums? I've seen various zone reports on E. planum as being hardy to zone 4, others say zone 5, so I'm throwing it open to what Mr. Subjunctive always calls The Hive Mind: what say you, fellow gardeners? Can Ceara find happiness with one of the sea hollies in her Gaspé garden?

Oh, I'm sure you're wondering what the sunflowers have to do with this post. Not a whole lot. The bucket of sunflowers WERE at a market in Montreal that I visited in October during my visit, and I just thought we could all use some cheerful colour on what's another dreary weather weekend here.

One MORE thing. (sorry, I told you my brain sometimes is like swiss cheese.) If you haven't done already, please consider taking part in Jan's (Thanks for Today) Sustainable Living Giveaway challenge. She's extended the deadline and got some very cool prizes to give out (sadly, only in the USA, boo to companies who won't ship outside the US). But even without being eligible for prizes, I hope you'll take part in her challenge. There have been some very wonderful posts about living sustainably already, and that in itself is reward enough for many of us--if we find even one small way in which to make our lives more green, it's a very good thing.

26 February 2010

Skywatch Friday: Still thinking about summer...

Thank you to all for the congrats and good wishes as I gallumph towards the deadline on my (second) book. I deeply appreciate them, and wish I could make more hours in the week for all the things I need to do and like to do. Although I'm missing the regularity of keeping up with people on Blotanical, and am sorry that Stuart's been having so many challenges in rebooting the site, there are deadlines that are glowering at me. So not having Blotanical to distract myself with supposedly means I can work that much more, right?

I'm actually (don't tell this to very many people) really glad that it's currently winter, because I can justify staying indoors for days on end working on articles, and profiles for the book, and sorting out photographs. This means I don't have to worry about the weeds overtaking the perennials or the shrubs needing pruning or where I'm going to put all the new plants I'm hoping to acquire this year.

That is, I don't have to worry about these things...YET.

But by the same token, I do look forward to the days of monarch chrysalises, and bees drunk on nectar, and yes, hummingbirds in search of the best of flowers to sip from, as shown in this photo for my Skywatch Friday offering. It's a hard call to make--so much to do, but only so much time in which to get it all done, and yet a longing to be able to dig in the dirt and rejoice over blooms and foliage and all the joys of fair weather. For now, I'll work like crazy, and enjoy the harbingers of spring that many of you are sharing. And sneak in to visit blogs on weekends.

24 February 2010

Wordless Wednesday: "Days of Future Past"...Summer will come again

23 February 2010

jodi's gotta-have plants: Eryngium, the holly of the sea

Although I haven't said a great deal about this, I signed a contract a few weeks ago to produce a book on great plants for Atlantic Canadian gardeners. Although I had been working on it intermittently for some time prior to signing the contract with my publisher, the work has begun in earnest as the manuscript is due in July. Thus I'm going to be somewhat spotty in blogging in the common weeks and months, and may on occasion offer up some archival articles. For today, however, let me share a bit from a conversation I had the other day with a friend who asked me which perennial I absolutely had to have in my garden. Naturally, I couldn't offer just one, so I rattled off about ten. In the top five, however, or even the top three, is Eryngium, also known as sea-holly.

What’s not to love about eryngiums? They have terrific texture and structure in their leaves, all spiny and bristling with fierceness. They have really cool flowerheads, cones of small flowers in shades of blue, silver, green and amythest, depending on the cultivar and species. And to really accent the flowers, sea hollies have these gorgeous ruffled bracts around the cones. You’ll see them described as looking like the ruffled collar of an Elizabethan costume, and that’s about the most apt description there is.

Sea hollies besotted me before I ever saw one for real—I came across a photo of one in a book on perennials. I think it was E. alpinum, or one of the others with really blue flowers, and I was instantly smitten.

We have a garden that I refer to as the sunset garden, because for much of the season, the colours red, gold, orange and yellow predominate. Daylilies, Asiatic and oriental lilies, rudbeckia, evening primrose, euphorbia ‘Fireglow’, a striking red rose, ‘Robusta’, the big yellow Macrocephala centaurea, and a host of jubilant red lettuce poppies hold court in this garden. What cools it slightly, or perhaps sets it off more, are a few things in cooler colours; Echinacea purpurea, Centaurea montana (purple-blue flowers), C. dealbata (pink flowers), blue lobelia (Lobelia syphilitica), Rosa ‘Souvenir de Philomen Cochet’ (a pristine white rugosa similar to Blanc de Coubert) and a wash of flat sea holly, Eryngium planum.

This faithfully, year after year, produces sprays of flowers, masses of them, shimmering blue, and lasting for a long, long time. They get quite tall, nearly four feet in some spots in the garden, so they make quite a presence. I leave them standing all fall and winter until they are finally worn down, seeds long gone (some back into the garden), and I wait eagerly for the next batch to begin. Occasionally I cut a few stems and bring them indoors to use as dried flowers, and they hold their colour for months on end.

There was a new cultivar released several years ago to great fanfare, E. planum 'Jade Frost.' The excitement with this plant was the variegated leaves, green edged in cream with pink highlights during spring and autumn, and of course the lovely blue flowers. I have one which was given to me last year by a nursery (I don't want to mention the nursery because they appear not to be carrying it this year), and it settled in well, but of course didn't flower. I can't tell if it's survived until the two feet of snow still covering it finally melts away. But I know Nan Ondra had this and had it bloom for her several years ago, so I'm optimistic.

One of the most famous of sea hollies is the delightfully named ‘Miss Willmott’s Ghost.’ Ellen Willmott was a Victorian or Edwardian (born 1858) British gardener with a reputedly eccentric and prickly personality. Her legacy includes a number of plants, but the most famous is Eryngium gigantium; Miss Willmott, in her younger years, would carry seeds of this plant in her pocket, and casually cast them in the gardens of friends and acquaintances. Being of a biennial habit, the plant would germinate and grow quietly, then suddenly in the second year it would erupt into an amazing plant, covered in ghostly silver-green flowers.

I've said this before, on a regular basis, but I'll say it again: If you get a chance to visit The Rock Garden at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in mid-late summer, go. This marvelous garden includes a splendid expanse of Miss Willmott’s Ghost, which in autumn turns to a handsome tan colour.

One of the more unusual of the sea hollies goes by the equally unusual name of Rattlesnake Master, Eryngium yuccifolium. As you might suspect from the botanical species name, this has yucca-like foliage, and it puts up stalks a good five feet tall, festooned at the top with greenish grey cones (they're actually umbels, but you get the point). It's a native of the tallgrass prairies, and I saw it growing in its native environment in Missouri two years ago, but it also does fine in a well-drained location in my front garden. It's come back reliably for three years, but hasn't spread unduly. Not that I'd worry about seedlings of any member of this genus.

At a talk one day, I encountered an audience member who told me, with a sour expression, that sea holly was NOT a favourite of hers because it produced seedlings and kept increasing in numbers. I was about to suggest that she just mulch quite well around hers to reduce germination, when several other members of the audience offered to come relieve her of those dratted seedlings. Problem solved. You need to dig seedlings of Eryngium early in the season, however, careful not to break too much of their tap roots, and allow them to sulk for a year to recover. There could, however, never be too many eryngiums in my garden, as they make me intensely happy.

They also make my friends the bees intensely happy—all the sea hollies are regularly awash in bees, bumble and honey, and bee-mimics too. Talk about a ‘bee-loud glade!’ Well, not a glade, perhaps, but Yeats would no doubt appreciate the song of bees in our garden.

20 February 2010

Winter flower by the seashore: Gardening Gone Wild Picture This Photo Contest

For months now, our friends at Gardening Gone Wild have been presenting the Picture This Photo Contest, which challenges bloggers to open their eyes to the wonder of the world around us, and to catch a little of that wonder with our cameras. Then share it with others.

I haven't entered before, partly because I'm in Canada and even if I had a winning shot, they couldn't ship plants here without going through enough security checks (phytosanitary certificates, etc) to put us in qualification for a G20 conference. But I wanted to participate just to show support for the folks at GGW and all the information they, and their guest judges, have given us over the past months.

So I'm offering up this little picture for the theme "Winter Light".
I went down to the wharf here in Scotts Bay a couple of weeks ago, on a day when the sun was out, it wasn't blowing 95 miles an hour, and it wasn't as cold as our priminister-bot's heart. It was getting close to sunset and the shadows were long, but I encountered this frozen stem of a Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota) flowerhead while walking along the rocky shoreline above the water, and took its photo.

What I especially like about this photo is the glistening hints of rainbow in the crystals of snow behind the plant, and the echoes of light in the relatively calm waters of the Bay just behind this cliff. Plus although the seedhead is frigid, its seeds all but gone, there's a whisper of spring promise in the fact that the seeds ARE gone. Plants will bloom again here on this stony promontory.

It works for me. I hope you enjoy it, too.

19 February 2010

Skywatch Friday: The Lookoff, Summer and Winter

For this Skywatch Friday, two views of basically the same marvelous area.

I live in this most amazingly beautiful place: Kings County, in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley. Actually, I live on the North Mountain, one of two ridges that form the sheltering backbones overlooking the Valley. From some parts of the North Mountain, you can see down into the Valley, and actually into three counties (maybe four).

This is part of the view from The Lookoff, a popular destination for visitors to our part of the world. I have to pass the Lookoff every time I go to town (Wolfville, Canning, New Minas, etc) and I never get tired of the view, winter....
...Or summer.

Stormy days are particularly interesting.
My own view is slightly different, facing the opposite direction to this, but no less beautiful. But that's a sky for another day.

I miss summer, have I mentioned that lately? Even a thunderstorm day would be more than welcome.

18 February 2010

Accidental synchronicity

I'm a wholehearted believer in zen, karma, synchronicity, and other such inexplicable wonders. When I posted my exquisite green flower yesterday, I had only two things in mind; the need for seeing something green, and one of my favourite short stories ever, Ray Bradbury's "The Green Morning," from The Martian Chronicles.

I read that story for the first time in grade 8, and thrilled to the thought of trees growing even more quickly than beanpoles (or goutweed). Even though the logical part of my mind knew that Mars wasn't hospitable to life as we knew it and that we weren't gonna get there by 2001, despite the best efforts of Stanley Kubrick, Bradbury, Clarke, and NASA...I loved the concept.

For Valentine's Day, I did not want the traditional roses. Hubby didn't have to get me anything, actually, but what he did was tell me to go pick out some flowers I wanted. I didn't want red, or red and white, or pink. I wanted rich, brilliant, soul-drenching colours. Hot magenta orchids. Brilliant, sizzling gerbera daisies. And deliciously green chrysanthemums.

Not exactly your traditional Valentine colours, are they? When it comes to chrysanthemums, which are meant to mean optimism and joy, I actually only like the green ones. It's no secret that I absolutely love green flowers, so it figures that green mums would suit me perfectly.

It happens that Valentine's Day was also Chinese New Year, kicking off the Year of the Tiger. Chrysanthemums are often used in celebrations, although usually in red and yellow rather than green. But this was all accidental synchronicity, remember. Hopefully my Chinese friends will excuse me celebrating with green chrysanthemums rather than other colours.

The most striking little tidbit of synchronicity, however, is that green chrysanthemums are part of the bouquet given to Vancouver Olympic medal winners. The bouquets include green spider mums, green hypericum berries, all wrapped in a sheath of green ferns and grasses.

I've never been a huge fan of the Olympics, and I don't like the hype and politics that goes along with. But watching the athletes, and the enthusiasms of the crowds, and the camaraderie even in competition, I found myself feeling optimistic. Proud of my country, and of the youth who have worked so hard to come to this point. I feel cheery. This, despite sordid politics in my own province, tiresomely cranky weather everywhere, and assorted other irksome travails.

We're over halfway through February. March is next, which will herald spring for some. We will make it.

I wish you all green chrysanthemums. Or green mornings. Or other colour-drenched ways to feed your spirit as we slouch towards spring.

12 February 2010

Skywatch Friday meets Memory Lane: The Skies of Labrador

It's no secret that I'm a little bit in love with the sea. I was born near it, raised my whole life beside it (except for one eighteen month stint in Ontario as a teenager). I live beside it now. I watch it, sail on it in lobster boats and coast guard vessels, occasionally swim in it. There is sea in my blood, though my father was a jet pilot. 

Two years ago, in the summer of 2007, I had the chance to go with fourteen other plant-crazy botanists and horticulturists to northwestern Newfoundland and south-eastern Labrador, to Battle Harbour in the  Battle Island. A dear friend who is a senior horticulturist and amazing plantsman led an annual trip plant-hunting for interesting variants of hardy native plants. Finally, things worked out so I could go on this epic adventure. 

The photos I posted on Wordless Wednesday were taken in Labrador on that trip. We travelled well over 3000 kilometres (about 2200 miles) over the span of nine days. To give you some idea of how far we were from home, and how big Newfoundland and Labrador are in comparison to other provincecs and states, just click on the map above. I've marked our journey from the Valley to Battle Harbour in green. Newfoundland could eat Nova Scotia and PEI for lunch. Nfld and Labrador are a very big province, bigger than most states. 
Here's a more relative explanation of the trip we took. To get to the wilds of Labrador from my home in the Valley, we had to leave Canning, then go to Falmouth to pick up a friend; drive to North Sydney and take a ferry six hours across the Cabot Straight to Porte aux Basques. Then we made our way gradually up through Gros Morne National Park, the most stunningly rugged and gorgeous wild space I've yet encountered. At the top of the Northern Peninsula, we took another ferry across the Strait of Belle Isle to Blanc Sablon Quebec, from which you could sneeze into Labrador. 

The next leg upon disembarking from MV Apollo was to make all possible haste to Red Bay, where we said goodbye to pavement and drove over gravel roads for 86 kilometres. Along the way, three Highways plow sheds. That's it, folks, til we hit a small community called Mary's Harbour, from which we were to take our last ferry, out to Battle Island. 

Have I mentioned that there was nothing there but rock, tundra, scrub trees, water, and sky? It was starkly beautiful. Emphasis on the 'stark.' 

I don't seem to have a photo of the boat we took from Mary's Harbour to Battle Harbour, but she was a lovely refitted fishing vessel, and I knew who had built her (she'd come from Nova Scotia). The captain and I shot the breeze about fibreglass boatbuilders, 2:1 reduction gears, the benefits of Cummings over Detroits over John Deere diesels, and other worthy talks. It comes in handy to be hitched to a (now retired) lobster fisherman. I talk boat fairly well, so long as it's a Cape Island type fishing vessel. 

Finally, (I think the trip was about 65 minutes), we navigated in among the shoals protecting Battle Harbour from the elements. This remote national historic site was once a crucially important fishing station, with its own Marconi wireless station. 

Once we were squared away in the residences where we'd be sleeping, we were off up the stony cliffs behind the settlement to look at plants, and collect seedlings, and photograph more plants. And gaze at the scenery and the peacefulness around us. 

One of Battle Harbour's claims to fame is that in 1909, Robert Peary arrived to cable back to New York that he'd successfully been to the North Pole. Imagine, a press conference from this fishing station off the coast of Labrador, hanging off the coast of Canada, talking to scientists in New York! It turned out Peary hadn't been the first to reach the Pole, but it was still an accomplishment nevertheless. 
We spent two nights here, and the second day had to delay our leaving because we had a bit of a storm come through. That worked out fine as a day to sort of rest, tell stories, sleep, eat awesome meals at the cookhouse, drink a little wine, tell more stories, and sleep some more. Of course, we had more weather when we got back to mainland Labrador, as you saw in Wednesday's photos. 

It's hard for anyone who has never been to someplace remote to grasp both the remoteness and the beauty. I could go back there again for a few days, armed with just my computer, camera and my eyes. We all spent a great deal of time looking, from peering at plant seedheads to examining lichens to gazing at the countless shades of blue in both sky and water. Some great friendships were made on that trip, and others strengthened, and we all learned a great deal. 

If you get the chance and are at all adventurous...GO. First, to any part of Newfoundland island, then particularly to Gros Morne and the Tablelands, then up to the Labrador, even just to do the scenic loop from Forteau to Red Bay. But if you're really adventurous, off to Battle Harbour you must go. You'll be treated magnificently by the staff of the site, left to your own resources, and...it's a good place to think. 

By the time I finish this post, I'm ready to pack up and move BACK to Newfoundland, where I was born (on the eastern side at St. John's.) Funny how my three favourite places to live would be St. John's, Montreal, and where I am right now, on a windy hill overlooking the Bay of Fundy. 

Guess I'm where I'm meant to be. Are you? That's my post for this Skywatch Friday. 

07 February 2010

You are all my Valentines...following up on last week's discussion

As is very typical, life got extremely busy over the past week or so. Appointments in other areas, car problems, interviews for projects I'm doing, plus this one big project that will have me quite occupied until August, all conspired to keep me from doing a whole lot in the way of followup on the post that has generated a huge amount of discussion and feedback. That post, of course, is about encouraging other garden bloggers.

I've said this before, but it bears repeating: THANK YOU to all who have read and commented, brought suggestions to the table, put your own suggestions into action, inspired others. With more than 80 comments, it was obvious that this topic matters to many people, and that there are great ideas on giving a helping hand to others. I call it blogging karma, helping out others the way some of us were encouraged when we began, but I wasn't surprised that a number of people mentioned that they wished they'd had some sort of a mentor or feedback when they were starting out.

Starting out has its challenges, to be sure. How do other people know where to find you? Well, although it's not a perfect answer, one great place to start is by registering at Blotanical. Many of us who are active there regularly go through the list of new bloggers, and while it's impossible to read all blogs, we do what we can to visit other plots, welcome new bloggers/Blotanical members (because you don't have to be a new blogger to register there, of course) and encourage them to participate and have fun. There are drawbacks to the site--it grew rather quickly, and Stuart IS working on navigation and speed issues, but he does this as a volunteer project, not a fulltime job, I stress, so it takes a while to revamp something as large as the site.

A number of people have come up with their own ways of drawing attention to newer blogs. This can be a challenge, because so many of us read many online now, have our favourites, and wonder how we can possibly add any more (I'm abandoning housework, personally). Some are choosing to adopt a few blogs. Jean at Jean's garden is doing a Garden Blog(s) of the Month post, an excellent idea. She picked out three blogs from the newer ones listed on Blotanical, and highlighted them so that others can easily visit.

Charlotte, our intrepid Galloping Gardener, writes entertaining and delightful posts as she gallops around the world visiting places many of us will only get to see through the joy of reading blogs. She's chosen a handful of blogs to promote on her blog, and you'll find at least one or two or five that you'll want to follow regularly, too.

Teza was the first to take up my little challenge request, and promptly put up a sidebar on the righthand column of his blog with a different blogger being promoted every week. I liked this idea so much that I’ve done it myself. You have to check weekly and mouse over the photo to see what the blog of the week is, mostly because the widget he and I are using doesn’t allow a lot of editing. As neither of us told the blogger of the week who they are, it's a surprise for them when new visitors start arriving. I like giving nice surprises to people. Sort of like Valentines. Hence the pink-flowered collages in this post--pink and red are known as Valentine colours, and I thought I'd start with pink just because it's a nice contrast to the snowy days many of us are having. I'd give you all chocolates, or blue poppy seeds, or something if I could. A virtual hug and a floral sign of gratitude is the best I can do for now.

Jen from Muddy Boot Dreams suggests that people pick out a link or two from her blogroll and visit those; also a good idea, especially for someone like Jen who keeps her blogroll regularly updated. Drop by some sites and they have all kinds of blogs listed, some of which no longer exist, or haven't posted in months, etc, and that gets annoying for those looking to visit new-to-them blogs. I've been guilty of not housekeeping mine at times too (note to self--do that!)

Cindee at Moonstone Gardens is including the link to a "Blogger of the Week" at the end of her posts, too. I like what she says: "I'm hoping it will funnel some readers to new friends around the world." Nicely done, Cindee!

I know there are others doing similar things, but I'm supposed to be writing plant profiles right now so I can goof off later tonight, so I'll leave you with two things. If you're doing something cool to promote other bloggers, please leave me a comment, and I'll add you to this post with a link, of course.

Speaking of links, ways to get others participating, and just plain fun, I was really glad when Jan at Thanks for Today began blogging again. It both meant she was feeling better, and that we’d get to enjoy her heartfelt posts and stunning photography. In her typical generous spirit, Jan is thinking about the planet and about other bloggers, and is focusing on Earth Day, which is 22 April in the US and Canada alike. Jan believes that every day ought to be Earth Day, which is a good point, but as a way of encouraging lots of dialogue on the topic, she has created a giveaway to entice bloggers to write a post for Earth Day and sustainable living. Pop on over to Thanks for Today and see what she’s offering and what she’s asking.

That's it for today, friends. Again, thank you all for your enthusiasms and wisdoms. One more round of pink festivities to everyone.

LATE BREAKING NEWS! I don't know what's going on today, but I've had a gazillion spam comments try to go through on this post. I approve all comments but it's getting annoying having to wade through to my layout section and reject the spam comments (I'm afraid of publishing one somewhere by accident and not being able to find it) I'm disallowing anonymous commenters for a day or so to see if that stops them. As far as I know, anyone with a blog, google id, etc can still post.

05 February 2010

Skywatch Friday: The World's Highest Tides...and a little history

In my Wordless Wednesday post, I put up a photo which many of you thought was quite cool, and more than a few of you wondered about. Since it WAS Wordless Wednesday, I didn't offer any explanation other than the title, so I thought I'd explain a bit in this complementary post, just in time for Skywatch Friday.

I live on the west coast of Nova Scotia, overlooking the upper Bay of Fundy, home of the world's highest tides. A couple of years ago I did a post explaining something about the geography of our area. One of the characteristics of our area is numerous tidal rivers, including the Habitant River, which flows past the village of Canning and out to the Minas Basin. Because the river IS tidal, the waters rise and fall twice daily. In the cold of winter, ice forms, of course, and that gets tossed up into chunks like giants' ice cubes, along the muddy banks of the river. The photo from Wordless Wednesday was shot early one morning when there was hoarfrost on the trees and there'd been enough very cold days to make ice, which had been shuffled around several times by tides. Mist rising off the mud, ice and water just added to the mood.

I mentioned the aboiteaux, which is an Acadian word meaning sluiceway. The Acadians who settled here in the 17th century reclaimed hundreds of acres of fertile lands along the rivers and inland from the Minas Basin by building long dykes made of earth and rock, which held back the tidal waters and made the fertile acres available for cropping. This worked with the Basin, but what about the rivers? They had to flow, but the Acadians didn't want the salt water backing up into the croplands above the dykes. Their solution was to create one-way sluiceways, les aboiteaux, built of wood and with a flap at one end to allow the river waters to flow towards the Basin, but not to allow the seawater to flood back over the croplands.

The Wellington Dyke, in Lower Canard, both holds back the sea waters and has a modern aboiteaux which keeps the tidal Canard River from flooding the agricultural lands behind the dyke walls. This dyke and sluiceway, unlike the one at Habitant, would have been built by the British settlers who located in this area after Le Grand Dérangement, the Expulsion of the Acadians, in 1755. This photo shows the tidal part of the river at low tide...

And this is it at high water. Quite a different situation.

This is all a very timely post for several reasons. During the Expulsion, the Acadians were removed from their homelands, in what is now Nova Scotia, and many of them went south...both to Louisiana, home of what are now referred to as the Cajuns...and some went on to Haiti.

In standing on the dyke walls the other day, I thought about the tenacity of those first Acadians 250 years ago, and how their spirit of determination held them together as a people even in the face of being displaced from their homes, their farms and livestock, from all but their lives. They went elsewhere, and built new lives, and in time some came back here and reestablished, and are proudly here to this day.

Determination. Undaunted spirit and will to survive. The waters didn't defeat them, and neither did the politics.

01 February 2010

Budding Comments, Blooming Ideas, and those darn embedded comments.

The garden blogging community is made of awesome. I know I've mentioned that before, and I'll mention it again. The generosity of spirit with which so many of you left thoughtful comments, ideas, suggestions to my last post...well, a giant group hug to everyone.

Of course, the absolute irony of it all is that this week I'm run off my feet with work commitments, and have little time to write posts or visit many blogs or even reply to comments. It goes like that in my world, however, and one must make assignment hay while the editorial sun is shining, so to speak. For now, I'll put up this post, which I started last night before receiving so many intriguing comments. I will be doing a further post with some of the suggestions, ideas, etc, but it might not be for a couple of days more.

I especially tip my garden hat to those of you who have long been doing what you can to welcome, encourage and otherwise communicate with other bloggers. Like many of us have said, there is just NO way to keep up with all of them, as much as we may like to. I don't even make it to every post of every one of my regular reads, and I don't leave comments on every post either. I do try to get back to people who have left comments here, especially those who are new or new-to-my-eyes.

Because comments are the beautiful flowers that bloom when we plant seeds with our blogging thoughts. If you're new to blogging, here's a huge suggestion: read other blogs, and leave comments on them. That way, others can see you, see that you have a blog too, come back and visit and leave a comment for you. As many have mentioned, it's a real delight writing a post and getting feedback from it. Everyone handles comments in different ways, and sometimes that depends on what blogging platform they are using. Wordpress allows an option for bloggers to comment back directly to those who leave comments; probably Typepad does too, although you'd have to check with someone who uses Typepad. Blogger/Blogspot on the other hand, doesn't give us that.

What Blogger does give some of us, however, is huge headaches when it comes to leaving comments on sites that use embedded comments. Those are the comment boxes that appear at the end of a post. It can take three refreshes or even more to get a comment to go through, depending on how the blogger has their comment approval set up.
Here's an example of what happens when I go to most of those using embedded comments. I write the comment, hit 'post comment', and get this "please try again" from Blogger.

If you're reading and commenting from within Blotanical, these sorts of pages will also cause you to lose your spot in Blotanical, by taking you out to a fresh page of the blog. I have no idea why. But if you are reading eighteen different windows like I'm known to do (okay, I admit, I am a speed reader and multitasking maniac), you might write your comment, hit "Post Comment" and carry on to another window, coming back only to find your comment is still sitting there looking at you.

So we hit "Post Comment" again, and this time we get this funny word verification box. This is how some bloggers prevent spam comments, and the Captcha words can actually be very amusing. But sometimes they can also be hard to decipher. And wonder of wonders, if you don't get back to the window within a certain span of time, that word won't work and you'll get ANOTHER refresh. Then there's often some assorted colourful language out of the person trying to leave the comment. What? I didn't say I swear at my computer. Well, maybe once in a while.

But in this case, I was sitting waiting for this, so I put in the captcha word and hit "Post Comment" for the third time...(cue dramatic music of some sort)

Well, sloppy darn and shuck the chickens, it FINALLY worked! In this case, the comment gets published. In some cases, you'll get another note telling you "Your comment will be published upon blog owner's approval". So unless you come back the next day or sometime later to see if your comment went through, you don't really know. A lot of us have written comments only to have them go into the place where safety pins and odd socks go, never to be seen again.

To my mind, it's overkill to have both Captcha and blogger's approval on. I see every comment because they're emailed to me, and I approve the real ones and send the spammers off to the place where the safety pins and odd socks are hanging out. They deserve each other.

In Blogger, we have two other options for comment posting: the popout window, which is what I use, or a whole other page for comments. Either one is pretty painless in my experience, whether blog owners use Captcha or just verify them themselves. But the embedded comment option is exasperating for many people, so I decided to write a post explaining why, if you use this option and don't get many comments, your choice of comment style might be the problem.

Whew. I feel like I'm teaching a writing class, and we've just done a marathon of discussing the challenges of getting work published. I hope this is some help to others, because it's not meant as a criticism in any way. Take a tour around the blogosphere, and check out bloggers that have 20, 30, 40 or more comments. I'm willing to bet some of those odd socks that most of them don't use embedded comments. Anyway, that's enough out of me for today, and as a reward to all who slogged through this, here's a photo of that amazing orchid cactus bud, which opened on Saturday, much to my delight. There would be many more buds but for a certain very naughty little cat...

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