The Dance of the Daffodils: A Carding Chronicle

SH-DaffodilsIn Carding, Vermont, Edie Wolfe is well-known.

She’s the daughter of Danielson Wolfe, the only Senator Vermont’s ever elected from this part of the state.

And she’s the long-time executive director of the nationally renowned Carding Academy of Traditional Arts.

When I asked if she would be willing to take over the Carding Chronicles so I could devote all my time to my next book, she very kindly agreed.

I hope you’re enjoying Edie’s stories and sketches about her hometown.


As I age and my knees grumble whenever I weed and hoe, I’ve come to believe that my favorite time to garden may be winter.

Actually, winter gardening in Vermont is more a fantasizing than factualizing. But it’s a fantasy that keeps you going when it’s gray, grayer and grayest outside.

My friend Agnes Findley is a devoted fan of winter gardening. Her season starts way before Christmas when her mailbox sags with catalogs—seed catalogs, bulb catalogs, hard-to-find shrub catalogs, tool catalogs—you name it. If it’s colorful and flowery and enticing, chances are good that Agnes can lay her hands on a catalog with “just the very thing” in its pages.

Another friend, Ruth Goodwin, likes to draw and re-draw her flower beds, filling them with mounds of daffodils and bleeding hearts and zinnias, all at the height of their colorful power and nary a weed in sight.

If only.

Me, I straddle the line on this fantasy gardening stuff just a bit. I do draw up lists in the fall of what needs to be moved from here to there, what plants succeeded and which should never be attempted again. Then I scour a select few of the many catalogs that Agnes recommends and bookmark all of the plants I want to add to my outdoor collection.

Then I put them aside for a while to see if I really mean it or if the mood will pass. My gardens are pretty mature so I can usually let the mood pass without a qualm.

However, I did make a purchase the year before last when I renewed my crop of daffodils, grape hyacinth, and narcissus, a hundred bulbs of each. My back and knees grumbled from the middle of September through mid-October as I filled in every patch of open soil with bulbs but I was determine to have lots of yellow in the spring.

I forgot all about them as soon as Thanksgiving hit and my flowering cacti decided to bless me with elongated pink and white blossoms stretching out to impossible lengths on every windowsill in my kitchen.

It was quite a show, I have to say.

And then I found a great deal on poinsettias with variegated leaves so instead of my usual single plant, I brought four of them home.

In January, I visited every gardening shop and florist I could find just to inhale the scent of moist earth and in February, I joined a bunch of other folks at the Tennyson farm to boil sap into syrup. I swear, if anyone ever figures out how to bottle the scent of steaming maple sap with a hint of wood smoke, I’d buy it.

March is a long, long, long month in Vermont, the longest on the calendar, in my opinion. So I bought primroses at the grocery store. They helped a little.

In April, I started spreading out the snow piles in my yard with my metal rake. By that time of year, it’s no longer snow but ice crystals. I’ve never been quite sure whether spreading them out makes them melt faster or it’s just a way to deal with our frustrations over the pokey pace of spring.

Everyone’s yard looks pitiful in April with the grass yellow and prostrate and the new molehills glistening in the sun. But in addition to cursing the leftover snow, I also spent time wandering slowly among the thawing flower beds and that’s when I remembered the daffodil bulbs from the previous fall.

At first they’re nothing more that tiny green tips hovering close to the soil. But then…and then…I had the most glorious display of yellow ever seen in my yard. And the scent was heavenly.

Now we’re back to January, the time of year when I tell myself to enjoy the fact that there are no weeds and no sore knees.

But I will confess to daffodils dancing in my head. 


Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

The Dance of the Daffodils

In Carding, Vermont, Edie Wolfe is well-known.

She’s the daughter of Danielson Wolfe, the only Senator Vermont’s ever elected from this part of the state.

And she’s the long-time executive director of the nationally renowned Carding Academy of Traditional Arts.

When I asked if she would be willing to take over the Carding Chronicles so I could devote all my time to my next book, she very kindly agreed.

I hope you’re enjoying Edie’s stories and sketches about her hometown. There are daffodils in your future if you stop by tomorrow. Here’s a sample.

SH-Daffodils

 

Thonk!: A Carding Chronicle

SH-Pileated woodpeckerOne of the best-known folks in Carding, Vermont is Edie Wolfe. Handcrafters and artists from all corners know her as the president of the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts. Teenagers Will and Faye Bennett know her as “Grandma.”

Edie kindly agreed to take over my Carding Chronicle duties while I’m working on my new book. I’m sure you’ll enjoy her foray into big bird watching this morning.

Glad you stopped by.


I love birds. They are my favorite dinosaurs and every season has its feathered charmers.

In early spring, I start cocking my ear toward the trees lining the Corvus River, listening for the telltale “scree” and chatter that announces the annual arrival of the redwing blackbirds. They crowd the bare branches of late March, exchanging news and gossip from their trip back home to Vermont.

And then, about a week later, they all seem to disappear. We do occasionally hear them but they’re mostly busy pairing up and nesting among the river willows and cattails that line the Corvus.

In summer, it’s the flashy yellow of male goldfinches and the songs of robins and wrens plus the serene gliding of Canada geese, mergansers, and mallards across Half Moon Lake. We’re still eagerly awaiting the first appearance of nesting loons.

That will be a thrill.

Sometimes I wonder if I enjoy the birds of winter most of all. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, most of my work has moved indoors so I get to spend more time at my windows contemplating my feeders. There’s a three-part turnstile full of sunflower seeds that’s drained regularly by the neighborhood chickadees, tufted titmice, and the now-olive-green goldfinches. 

I scatter corn and more sunflower seeds on the ground for the cardinals, blue jays, and juncos.

And then there are the suet feeders, two of them, right outside my kitchen windows. They have lots of visitors but the most regular are woodpeckers, downy and hairy in particular.

I often hear their “thump, thump, thump” against the suet before I get down to the kitchen for my first cup of tea. But this morning there was a different sound, one I don’t hear very often.

“Thonk. Thonk. Thonk.”

Loud and unmistakeable.

I lifted my bedroom curtain just a smidge so I wouldn’t startle it into flight. It was raining—yet again—the guarantee of a bone-chiller day, the kind that makes you drink cocoa while hugging the wood stove.

“Thonk. Thonk. Thonk.”

I swept up my robe with one hand, not bothering with the light, and quietly toed down the stairs to the kitchen. The pileated woodpeckers may be the big bird of the woodpecker world but it is notoriously shy, hying off at the least sound. I should know. I’ve tried and failed to take its picture many times.

I have a dying ash tree on the edge of my yard and it’s a favorite of woodpeckers and nuthatches in summer. Andy Cooper keeps telling to take it down before it falls on my house but the bigger branches are taking care of themselves so I’m not that worried. 

I figured this was the pileated’s target.

I fumbled around for my camera in the dim light of sunrise then got down on my knees to scoot across the floor to the back window. I was right. There was a magnificent pileated pounding away near the base of the ash, wood chips and icy raindrops flying in all directions. 

I raised the camera and zoomed in, struggling to get a clear picture through the window and the rain.

Thonk, thonk, thonk. Click, click, click.

The sounds of a satisfactory winter morning in January.

I watched and took pictures until the cold made moving imperative and it was time for cocoa.


Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

Thonk!

One of the best-known folks in Carding, Vermont is Edie Wolfe. Handcrafters and artists from all corners know her as the president of the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts. Teenagers Will and Faye Bennett know her as “Grandma.”

Edie kindly agreed to take over my Carding Chronicle duties while I’m working on my new book. I’m sure you’ll enjoy her foray into big bird watching tomorrow morning.

Hope you can stop by.

SH-Pileated woodpecker

Author of the Carding, Vermont novels, quilt books, and book publishing guides.