6/26/2012

Oh so long it has been since I published here. Moving to an urban area without a garden of my own has not been easy. On top of this, I was preoccupied with my parents' illnesses, both of whom have now passed away. Almost two years ago to the day, my mother quietly slipped away after a month in a state of bare awareness. This followed a final stroke. A year and a few months later, my father died from heart failure, barely more than a month from his 82nd bithday.

I started my new job not long after my mother's funeral. Then I moved into a new apartment. No garden, only a few houseplants. Gifts from my sister. I gave away my previous houseplants when I moved from Bellefonte to Scranton. I see so many reasons now why it was a good move, and I know it was time for a change.

Sharing so much detail was not my intention. I hope I haven't lost you, the reader, with the personal update. My intention was to share photos of what I'll call botanical safaris, which includes the Philadelphia flower show, local hikes and walks, and most recently a trip to a botanical garden in Austin, Texas.

These photos are forthcoming. I'm a tease, eh? For tonight, I will conclude by highlighting the metaphor of how the seasons of life can be like the seasons of a garden. Sometimes, the soil rests untilled, recovering its nutrients and whatever character unworked soil has. Packed? Affected superficially by winds, but soaked by rain. Mum except for native grasses and herbs while other areas of ground, perhaps acres and acres away, are worked by human efforts.

So the parallel in this may be, spiritually speaking from my Christian perspective, what is already expressed in the famous verses from Ecclesiastes: to everything, there is a season. And time to every purpose under heaven. There's a lot of wisdom in that book, making it easier to tolerate its fatalistic passages and often dark point of view.

He makes all things beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

There is a time(A) for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,(B)
3 a time to kill(C) and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent(D) and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Have a good night and rest well.

5/11/2009

BUTTERFLY BOX

Crafting is another hobby of mine. Since I'm not doing as much gardening this year, I may feature more of my projects.

This item started as a plain paperboard box (similar to cardboard) with a raised butterfly design on the lid. Black and gold look wonderful together, and those are the only two paint colors I used. The gold is a metallic finish, and the black makes it more outstanding.


I painted the gold areas first. In case of a mistake, it's easier to cover gold with black than the other way around without bleed-through. Indentations on the butterfly are visible in the photo. Those near the middle of the butterfly's body I filled in with a line of gold paint, then sprinkled glitter on it before the paint dried. This added an extra sparkle to give the butterfly more definition.

On the bottom I blended black and gold in a marbling pattern.


This easy technique creates an attractive look. It only takes paper towels (or napkins) plus the paint. Crinkle one paper towel, dip a section in black and dab the entire piece (in this case the box bottom). Repeat this using another towel dipped in gold paint. Follow with a clean towel to blend the colors.

Allow it to dry a little, just until it's tacky. Repeat the paper towel "technique" until you get the effect you desire. It may take some practice, so try it first on items you won't be using or giving away.

Marbling can be done with more than two colors, but it can also be a little tricky. It's never a bad idea to try an idea on scraps first.

This has nothing to do with gardening or crafts (other than the fact that I often listen to music while I work on a craft) but I like listening to these Philly guys:

Everything Your Heart Desires

5/02/2009

ANTS IN MY PLANTS!

Surrendering my garden plot* meant that I had to dig out the flowering bulbs, blueberry and raspberry plants, and some herbs. They are now in containers on my porch and growing well. My blueberry plants have flowers on them. It takes five years or more for blueberry plants to grow to a stage where they produce abundantly.

Early March was still very cold during the day and freezing at night. Plants in the ground have natural insulation of the surrounding soil that containers do not provide. I used straw to insulate my containers. In order to keep it from scattering -- a very undesirable thing as I live around more pavement than grass and more parking lots than yards -- I placed it in plastic garbage bags. They molded snugly around the containers, which I grouped together in a protected corner of my porch for additional warmth retention.

I ran out of containers when I finished planting approximately 15 of the twenty or so bulbs. I took the leftovers indoors for protection. Wouldn't you know it, they were infested with ants, small brown ones. They subsequently took over my houseplants' soil. These ants do not create the sand-dunelike mounds we call anthills. They nest underground. Multiple times when I'd dig in one of my raised beds, hundreds of them would spill out, sometimes covering my foot and biting. Fortunately I had no reaction. Other times I turned over soil to find it filled with the white eggs. Thankfully, this region is too cold for dangerous fire ants and harvester ants.

I don't think they damaged the plants, and maybe they were even beneficial to the soil. However, I could not keep them inside. I joked with my sisters that I couldn't keep my ant farm going as a kid, but now I can't get rid of them.

One bit of information I have that may apply is that ants are drawn to the sticky substance known as "honeydew" created by aphids (see this link). So, if aphids are a problem it may draw ants. This did not apply to my houseplants. In my community garden plot, it may have been hard to eliminate aphids.

A book I recommend for general reference about garden and household insects is the Ortho Home Gardener Problem Solver. I grabbed it for a dollar at a book sale, but it is worth much more. This comprehensive reference provides multiple ways to identify and look up types of insects and animals that show up in the garden and home. Additionally, it describes the regions where the creatures are common, why they are present, and ways to deal with it.

* After being laid off last December, I don't know where I'll get a new job. So, I didn't know whether I'd be able to maintain my plot.

11/30/2008

If you like chili with vegetables and a little spiciness, you might like this. One of the nice things about chili, soups and stews is that the recipes can be easily adjusted. Perfect if you want to use what's available. More or no meat, fewer beans and other vegetables can be used. Light red kidney beans, black beans or a mix would probably taste as good as the dark red kidney beans.

I used a container of the *sun gold *tomatoes I grew in my garden. I had cooked them with garlic, green peppers and a little basil, then froze them, so they had a lot of liquid. I drained this to add later if needed.

If you want to use leftover turkey from Thanksgiving, skip step 1 then saute the onion and garlic together briefly (just to soften the onion) with a little of the creole seasoning (1/2 tsp) in water or oil. Then go to step 2, adding bite-size pieces of the leftover turkey.

Ingredients:
Tony Cachere's Creole Seasoning (other brands may work, too)
1/2 pound ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 can (15 ounces) dark red kidney beans
1 1/2 cups frozen (or fresh) corn (off the cob, of course)
1 can (15 ounces) sliced okra
1 can (2.5 ounces) tomato paste
5 cups of sungold tomatoes cooked (see * above)

(1) Cook the ground turkey in a skillet or slow cooker. Sprinkle the creole seasoning on it, then break it apart. (I use a good tablespoon of the seasoning.) Drain any fat. Add the onion and garlic, then sautee a little longer to soften the onion. You may want to add just a little water to do so.

(2) Add all of the other ingredients to the onions and garlic, draining liquid off the canned items before adding. (I rinse the canned beans multiple times.) Don't drain all of the fluid from the crushed tomatoes; save this in case you need it in step 4.

(3) Simmer the mixture for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes; if using a slow cooker, adjust time accordingly. If the chili is not spicy enough for your taste, add more of the Creole seasoning until satisfied.

(4) If the tomato "broth" is too thick, add some of the reserved liquid from the canned tomatoes. Heat a little longer then serve. A salad and pieces of pepper jack or other cheese would be good accompaniments.

10/21/2008

H.O. SMITH BOTANIC GARDENS

I believe that quite a while ago, I mentioned in a blog entry about the botanical gardens being built at Penn State University. There's not a lot to see yet -- just dirt, construction equipment -- but there are some foundations being placed. They are visible in this shot from the webcam across Park Avenue.



According to the site http://www.arboretum.psu.edu/index.html, this is what is happening now:

• October, 2008 – Work will begin on stone and stucco for the garden walls, masonry and steel for the pavilion’s portico and two wings, and plumbing for the fountain.

• November, 2008 –The rose arbor, a major structure, will be built and the fountain will be completed. Work will commence on the irrigation system and on the roof of overlook facilities.


Here's an interesting feature about a historical "prairie" in Pennsylvania:
http://www.arboretum.psu.edu/research/prairiepatch.html

10/20/2008

"STAY-CATION"

This is one of my favorite places to vacation. Atlantic water is warm in September and October because the sun heats it all summer. I won't be going there this year, but it's nice to think about.


One of my sisters and her husband spent a week in Cancun. So, thanks for the pictures, Nancy!








Hibiscus -- a beautiful flower.







Another sister and her hubby spent roughly a week motorcycling from central Nebraska into the mountains of northern Arkansas with a bunch of fellow bikers. (I have no pictures.)


I haven't been to the beach or anywhere in a while for vacation. This year is no different. I'll have to enjoy my garden, back porch, fall foliage and maybe a little hiking or a drive. So, I may have more pictures in a few weeks. (If I'm not just recovering from dental work, that is. Oh joy.) Leaves are changing color. There are a lot of reds and striking orange trees.

Sometimes relaxing at home with the pets, taking a few naps, reading, and spending time with friends and family when not rushed is a good vacation.

10/15/2008

A FEW PESTS AND WELCOMED GUESTS


Something sees your garden from this point of view. A well-tended and productive garden is an invitation to bugs.


True to their name, cabbage moths seek out cabbage; they like other plants in the same family such as broccoli. The moths lay eggs on the underside of the leaves. When the eggs turn to larva (worms), they eat holes in the leaves. They have smoky white wings with a black dot (or multiple dots) that some think looks like an eye.

On the underside of potato plant leaves, orange eggs indicate potato beetle infestation. Adults are large enough to hand pick and crush as are the egg bunches.


Store onions properly and grow them in loose, well-drained soil in the hopes of avoiding this as much as possible: Maggots aren't repulsed by onion odor.


When it comes to these, you usually (if not always) want to leave them "bee". Many are pollinators, besides being attractive photo subjects. They're not always obvious. When I took this portulaca photo, I didn't realize a tiny bee had landed in the flower on the left.

Even wasps, despite their reputation for being nasty, can be good. Some prey on garden pests.

If you see either of these "guys", don't worry.


Dragonflies are nice to have around.



This little fellow wheeks when I bring greens from my garden. He's very nice to have around!!

10/06/2008

PLEASANT SURPRISES

My container plants surprised me this year.

In late September, the morning glories slowed and moonflowers appeared. I did not think the seeds I planted would germinate. There's no dialog on the second video, but you might want to turn the volume down because of the wind noise.


The first and third videos have a little dialog. Taken last week, the day was quite windy, so that overpowers my voice a little.

video


video


Keep in mind that the wind was blowing (you'll hear it). I was the camera person, narrator, and demonstrator. I'm not a professional broadcaster. No special tools to reduce wind noise or stop the plants from trembling in the gusts. If you don't like the sound, just mute it.

One of my medium-size (8-10 inches in diameter) Tera cotta pots contained pennyroyal last year. I attempted to nurse the herb indoors through winter and almost made it. By mid-February it had died down and apparently returned twice with a good soaking. In March, I thought it revived once more until I realized the leaves were not the right shape. I allowed it to grow.

'Even if it's a weed,' I thought, 'It may be a pretty flower.' My curiosity played a roll, too. In previous seasons, I've had corn seedlings in containers, courtesy of the birds who visit and sometimes nest on my back porch.

Shortly afterward, I moved it outside. In the sun, the seedlings grew several inches quickly and were easily recognizable as tomato plants. They seemed to be happy there, and I don't mind this kind of freebie. So, I watered them, then transplanted some to a larger pot to grow. This video shows them as of last week. video




Click on this to see more videos from my garden. It takes much less time to upload them there than on here.

If you would like to see still photos, click this.

9/30/2008

I get to play tag in my garden.

So I got tagged. Thank you R.W. Ley for the tag. Now it's my turn to share the fun. I'm IT!!!

Okay, these are the rules;
1. Link to the person who tagged you (I did that)
2. Post the rules on your blog (I'm doing that now)
3. Write six random thoughts about yourself (see below)
4. Tag six or so people at the end of your post (see below)
5. Let each person know he or she has been tagged (I will do that)
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is posted (I'll do that, too.)

Random Thoughts About Me:

1. My Cavalier looks like I live in it most of the time.

2. Despite all of the years I've lived in central Pa after graduating from Penn State, I never got into football. I do like the highly charged atmosphere of downtown State College when there's a home game.

3. I can't pick a favorite color. There are too many beautiful ones!

4. I know how to ride a horse, play the piano, belly dance, garden (of course), ride a bike, and swim.

5. I sleep best in complete darkness.

6. My knowledge of miscellaneous facts sometimes impresses people.

Now, for those I'm tagging; be careful out there because YOU'RE IT!!

http://www.mychurch.org/fumcallen

http://queenspalace.multiply.com/

http://coyotedreams.multiply.com/

http://www.mychurch.org/debnjim

http://yjustbreathe.multiply.com/

http://incrediblyrotten.multiply.com/


Enjoy the tag game and let's share the fun!

9/22/2008

HERBS

I love herbs. They smell wonderful, add an attractive feature to a garden spot or a container, and are a great healthy way for flavoring meals and cold beverages, making soothing teas and so on.

Just yesterday, I used rosemary, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, a leek and two yellow peppers I had grown. Prostrate rosemary, the kind in my porch container, does not grow like a tree, but instead along the ground as you might guess from the name.

I roasted a small chicken. Springs of rosemary and cloves of garlic can be placed under the skin of the breast, the wings, and the legs. Also, place several sprigs and garlic inside the chicken.

In appearance and aroma, rosemary reminds me a great deal of pine trees. In colder climates, it can survive winter if brought inside in a container. However, it needs light and some humidity. I haven't been able to carry it through the dry indoor heat of February and low light of my apartment.

At least two types of rosemary exist: bush type (similar to a small tree), and prostrate.

Dill has long been one of my favorite. I think of pickles that are made pleasantly tart and tasty with dill, mustard (seeds or powder) and black peppercorn. Here are a couple of dill pickle recipes

http://www.bigoven.com/10486-Quick-Fresh-Pack-Dill-Pickles-recipe.html

http://www.bigoven.com/10464-Quick-Dill-Pickles-in-a-Crock-recipe.html