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Saturday, August 28, 2021

For the Love of Lavender

 “The air was fragrant with a thousand aromatic herbs, with fields of lavender, and with the brightest roses blushing in tufts all over the meadows.” ~ William C. Bryant

(lavender in our garden)

I'm happy to report success with lavender these past few years and I've been encouraged to plant more varieties. Phenomenal, which has lived up to its name, is an outstanding introduction in the lavender world. The shorter Munstead variety has proven reliable, and an even smaller one called Lavance Purple has made it through the spring and summer. The true test awaits it. My thoughts as to why lavender has survived the past two winters here with its tendency to freeze and rot is because I planted it along my rock border, a low wall I'm building by adding every rock I find. The stones absorb the sun's heat and give the plants some warmth and shelter from icy winds. I also mixed small stones into the planting hole for better drainage. Fingers crossed for this coming season.

If asked to choose my favorite herb, lavender would be at the top. The scent is wonderful, transporting even, and has a calming effect. Some enthusiasts take lavender internally, but I have not done this. I'm probably missing out. I've also used lavender oil to heal cuts and skin ailments. The oil helps ward off biting insects and mosquitoes.

(bees visiting our lavender)

Lavender is a perfect companion plant for roses and beloved by bees and butterflies. When I envision old English gardens, lavender comes to mind, but this antiquated herb goes much farther back to ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece. It's a biblical herb. There is a heated debate as to which plant is meant by 'lavender' in early references. A costly oil made from the rhizomes of Spikenard, a plant native to the Himalayas, is called both spikenard and nard and sometimes confused with lavender. That is believed to be the perfume Mary Magdalene poured on Christ's feet, unless it was made from true lavender or 'nard' as the Greeks called it. And then there's an aromatic herb called spike lavender, related to lavender, also used by the ancients that enters into the debate. 

I'm not sure we can know for certain which plant is meant unless we go back in time. It's also unclear exactly when lavender arrived in England as the herb we know, but it seems to have been in common use by the sixteenth century. Some monasteries grew lavender much earlier, as monks were the keepers of herbs and the knowledge of their uses during the dark ages. Bless them. It's not worth a knock down drag out fight over lavenders arrival in England. As a local country woman once said of her toddler's moods, it's all 'right mixy.' So if you used lavender in an English historical and have gotten some flack over it, don't worry about it. You can justify its use well back if need be. Lavender is a fascinating herb with an amazing legacy stretching back into the mists of time.

I grow lavender, enjoy its beauty and fragrance, and use the lovely oils. I also use it in sachets, but you can do more. Let me know if you do.

Monday, August 23, 2021


by Judy Ann Davis

In 2020, according to Statista data, adults in the United States spent more time reading on weekdays than in the past seven years. The average time spent reading in the U.S. amounted to 0.34 hours (approximately 20 minutes) on weekdays, while daily time spent reading on weekends and holidays reached 21 minutes or 0.35 hours.

And before we get too excited, in 2019, the time spent reading for personal interest varied greatly by age. Individuals 75 and older averaged 48 minutes of reading per day, whereas individuals 15-54 read on average 10 minute or less per day.                                              

Recently, Better Homes and Gardens (BH&G) magazine verified the above statistic, stating in their August 2021 edition that “the average 15-44 year old spends only 10 minutes or LESS reading daily.”

Disheartened, I dug into articles about reading. What did I find? The only logical conclusion I can make is that electronic devices, radio, and television have replaced reading—even though reading strengthens a person’s mind, and boosts memory and thinking skills. Again, according to BH&G, research shows  reading also reduces stress levels by 68 percent. Avid readers know even a few minutes before bed time with a good book helps a person to wind down and find sleep easier and faster. Reading also increases vocabulary, allows a person to better understand the mental state of others, and can make a person more self-confident.

I’m throwing this out for no other reason than to enlighten everyone that authors today have an even harder task of gaining readership in a changing world now that it’s electronically driven. It makes authors wonder where, when, and how should they target advertisements or social media posts. It makes us wonder about the intelligence level of our nation as a whole. It makes us wonder where we might be headed in the future. And it makes me somewhat dispirited.

What do you—as a reader, writer, or author—see as we navigate these new waters? Are you concerned? Or do you just see this as our ever-changing world?

I’m highlighting my new cover for Under Starry Skies again. It’s designed by Silver Sage Book Covers. The dog’s name is Swamp, a mutt rescued by rancher Tye Ashmore from a river. It's Book 2 of the Ashmore Brothers. Red Fox Woman is Book 1.


Hired as the town’s school teacher, Maria O’Donnell and her sister Abigail arrive in the Colorado Territory in 1875, only to find the uncle they were to stay with has been murdered.

Rancher Tye Ashmore is content with life until he meets quiet and beautiful Maria. He falls in love at first sight, but her reluctance to jeopardize her teaching position by accepting his marriage proposal only makes him more determined to make her part of his life.

When their lives are threatened by gunshots and a gunnysack of dangerous wildlife, Tye believes he in the cross-hairs of an unknown enemy. Not until Maria receives written threats urging her to leave does she realize she is the target instead of the handsome rancher.

With the help of Tye, Abigail, and a wily Indian called Two Bears, Maria works to uncover her uncle’s killer and put aside her fears. But will she discover happiness and true love under Colorado’s starry skies?

                             CLICK HERE FOR:   Judy Ann Davis's Amazon Author Page

Sunday, August 22, 2021

My Time Spent at Home by Bea Tifton

Rain Trueax is in a no wi-fi zone, but she will be back in her regular spot in October. 

A few days ago, I was watching an interview on TV. I wasn’t familiar with the entertainer, but he was talking about what he did during the lockdown. He cut a new CD, collaborated on an independent film project, and started a nonprofit. Very prolific and using his time in solitude well. It made me ponder what I my friends and I have accomplished during the Pandemic. 

A friend of mine has lost 25 pounds. It seems that she normally dines at restaurants a few times each week, so being forced to cook at home made for healthier eating. I, um, dug into the comfort food and gained the Covid 19 (pounds). 

Another friend has reorganized and cleaned out her entire house, stopping to ask herself frequently if each object she owns brings her joy before deciding either to keep it, donate it, or sell it. I spent an entire day gluing wiggly eyes to the packages and jars of food in my refrigerator. Now when I open it to graze I feel accusing stares as my food silently judges me for my dietary choices.

One of my friends discovered her inner baker. She perfected her banana bread recipe. Her family loved it, and she baked so much that she began to share it with her friends and neighbors. I experimented until I perfected the ratio of cereal and milk to my breakfast bowl. Not an easy task, I assure you.

My Sunday school teacher watched podcasts and Ted Talks, learning new skills and discovering what makes people successful. I binge watched every episode of Third Rock from the Sun and laughed at the foibles of extraterrestrials and their experiences on Earth. Those silly aliens. 

Okay, so I haven’t exactly used my time as wisely as I’d hoped. Just like everyone else, I am learning as I go. And who knew this thing would go on so long. (Get vaccinated, people.)  But one thing I did do, and am still doing, is read. I attacked my precarious stack of To-Be-Reads and am continuing to devour great books. Lots and lots of books. 

Huh. Guess I did use my time well, after all. 


Did you accomplish anything or learn new skills during your time at home? Leave a comment below. It’s not over, people. Be well and stay safe.