Friday, July 20, 2018

Garden Friday

Welcome to Garden Friday!
It's been a steamy summer,
but we have a few things that don't mind one bit!

The cantaloupe should be ready in a couple of weeks.
This will be the first time in a while we've grown melon.
The trellis has worked well
and I've already decided to try some other varieties next season.

 Watermelon, too, has enjoyed the sizzling heat.
We will be increasing our varieties here too.


The turtle beans have germinated and grown well,

and are starting to dry on the vine.
Another first-time crop, it hasn't had any issues with pests or disease.

 The Japanese eggplant will soon be picked
and pan-fried in a cast iron skillet.
I could eat this stuff everyday.

 Even with all this insect damage, it still produces.
We grow organically, 
so I'm hoping the beneficial insects will do their job.

Cucumbers have been enjoyed everyday in salads.
Dairy-free ranch dressing pairs well with them.

 Although one of the banana peppers seemed to have been damaged
(probably by a squirrel),
we still have a couple of other plants to harvest.
Eggplant, onions and peppers is one of my favorite combinations!

Even the tomatoes showed up this week!
I learned from my farmer friend Lynn in Florida,
that I may have fertilized them too soon.
It's best to wait until the fruit is set on the plants
before fertilizing for the first time.
Lesson learned.

 The okra doesn't seem to need much of anything.
Except heat.
It is almost doubling in size every few days.
For some reason, the plants in the foreground bed
are getting much bigger than the raised bed to the rear.
Haven't figured that one out yet.

The sweet potatoes seem to be pretty happy.
The vines have taken off and are starting to climb the teepee.
I think they were just ready.

Out of several pots of pumpkin seeds that were sown,
one pot germinated.
The others were disturbed by something
(those dang squirrels again, no doubt),
and never took off.

 This is my way of dealing with those varmints.
It's just household screen draped across the pots
and secured with bricks on the ends.
Take that, you rascals!

This week some dismantling was done on the garden.
All of the pots that were between the straw bales got moved
and soon the used bales will be piled up to use as mulch.
The garden was measured, so that I know where I want to add on
and drafts of several ideas concerning design were recorded in my garden journal.
The aspect I'm mostly focused on with the new layout is irrigation.
I want to make it as easy as possible to water.
Drip irrigation and a timer would be ideal solutions.

 I'm hoping to get to this project on the weekend.
The idea is to line these (free) crates with screen
and plant flowers in them.
They could be placed in various spots in the veg garden
to attract pollinators to our crops.
Incorporating flowers and veggies seems like a marvelous idea.

With no planting in sight for the next couple of weeks,
there is time to reflect on design and function.
It's one thing to dream,
it is another to bring it to fruition.
If I can see it, I can make it happen.

"A dream doesn't become reality through magic;
it takes sweat, determination, and hard work."
~Colin Powell

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Breathe Easy

I have a history of getting sinus infections.
In fact, I limit my dairy consumption,
as it is known to be a problem for anyone who suffers with sinus issues.
A doctor once told me that because of the bouts of sinusitis in the past,
I will never regain my sense of smell.

A sinus infection is more than just a clogged or dripping nose.
It affects folks in different ways.
In my case, I have difficulty breathing through my nose, yes,
but my main complaint is fatigue.
Being stricken with a sinus infection just 
In the past I have had to take antibiotics to knock it out of my system.

Always looking for a more natural way to handle illness,
a friend recommended that I try a sinus rinse.
This is different than a Neti Pot, which I tried in the past without much success.
This particular kit came with a bottle with a spray nozzle
and about 30 packets of saline solution to use with it.
I've been using it regularly for about 2 months now,
and I have to say that it has made a difference.

(Can I just say that I miss the simple days 
of being able to jump into bed without having to do a thing?
Wash face, brush teeth and you were done.
After 50, [and I'm well beyond that], 
there is a whole routine that must take place 
in order to be able to go to bed at night.
Who's with me on this?)

I still have a deviated septum, which makes breathing clearly a challenge,
but for the most part, my respiration seems improved.
I didn't want to keep buying those packets of solution,
(packaging concerns and costs add up),
so I found a recipe that I'm happy to pass along.
Even if you don't suffer with sinus infections,
it's a natural way to deal with allergies or colds.
Hope it helps you breathe a little easier!

Saline Solution for Allergies

1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 baking soda
8 ounces distilled water

Combine ingredients in squeeze bottle, shake,
and discharge into one nostril at a time.
Be sure to allow solution to drip out
and then gently blow your nose.
May be used several times a day.
Dr. Tieraona Low Dog has 
many other suggestions for dealing with seasonal allergies
using natural approaches.
You can find her website here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Let's Go Wild!

We've always encouraged wildlife in our backyard.
There is nothing quite as satisfying 
as knowing that you are helping Mother Nature's creatures
by simple creating an inviting habitat.
With an email handle like,
you know I'm gonna do my part!

A few years ago, we became an official Monarch Waystation
by fostering monarchs with necessary resources in our Florida backyard.
You can read about that here: 
Monarch Waystation Certification

One of the goals on this new property
is to go beyond nurturing only butterflies.
We are actively working toward becoming a Certified Wildlife Habitat.
By following certain guidelines, we can become an official habitat, sponsored by
The National Wildlife Federation.
You can even download a checklist 
to ensure that you have the necessary conditions needed.
Here's their website.

For caterpillars and butterflies,
both host and nectar plants are needed.
The monarch caterpillar, for example,
spends its whole life on the milkweed plant.
When it has grown to its full size,
it wanders nearby to form a chrysallis
and the transformation is complete.

 Wooded areas provide cover protection from predators
and plenty of sites for nesting and hiding.

 Our Christmas tree becomes a part of the landscape
and enables all kinds of woodland creatures to use it as they see fit.
Dragonflies, lizards, toads and many bird species
take up residence in dead branches and leaf cover.
Many butterfly and moth species overwinter in leaf piles,
so it is vital to leave some of your fall leaves in place each season.

 Mature trees are integral for viewing surroundings
and birds use these perches to find food or avoid being another critter's meal!

baby wrens spring 2018

Of course, nesting spots are one of the most common
reasons to provide mature trees to wildlife.
Maintaining safe areas where species can raise their young
will keep the cycle of life moving forward.

 Providing building material encourages birds and other nest dwellers
to make their homes nearby.
Some of the items we can offer are animal hair, cloth strips (natural fibers), 
dried leaves, moss, pine straw, string, thread and twigs.

Even our open mulch piles have been known to be visited
several times a day by birds, squirrels and bugs.

 Of course, water is a fundamental element needed by wildlife.
Furnishing a birdbath or another source of water keeps critters hydrated and healthy.
Adding a stone for butterflies and pollinators is another consideration.
We have been fascinated by the wasps and bees 
that have visited our birdbath, drinking to their heart's content.

Along with native plants that may contain berries, nuts and seeds,
supplemental food is appreciated.
We will be working toward installing more natives  over the next few years.
We do have a couple of bird feeders available to our feathered friends.
This one is suspended above our back steps,
so as to dissuade any curious squirrels.
So far, they haven't figured out how to get into it,
and the height has most likely discouraged a host of others.

We also offer winter feeding using
homemade suet and feeders.
You can click on those links to read all about how we made our own.
We are in a mild climate, so many birds stick around all winter.
It's such a treat to see them enjoying the season with us.

 In the warmer months, we provide food for the hummingbirds,
making our own nectar. 
Here's the recipe.

Sharing our yards with critters
is really an easy thing to do.
After all,
this world is meant to be shared.

"In every walk with nature,
one receives far more 
than he seeks."
~John Muir

Friday, July 13, 2018

Garden Friday

Garden Friday finds us in a state of transition.
Summer is half over, 
but it is still too hot to sow most fall crops.
Here's what's going on in our summer garden.

We had an unbelievable weekend last week,
waking up to temps in the 60's.
It was a great time to spend a little time in the garden.

The melons are still flowering,
although we are awaiting our first pick.

Two vines each of cantaloupe and watermelon
are teasing us with hanging fruit.

Both varieties are on the smaller size.
Without much experience growing melon,
it seemed like a safer way to get started.
I'll be thrilled if we actually get to harvest any of it.

A few new dangling orbs were spotted on the wire tunnel.
Next year, I plan to build a more sturdy and permanent structure 
that will be used for vining crops.

The sweet potatoes got their teepee this week.
It will be fun to watch the vines climb
and fill in the space with delicate purple flowers.

Not sure how visible this is here,
but I was stunned to see a broccoli head forming.
I thought it had been far too hot to get anything out of this plant.

Hope is running rampant
as I detect the first vestiges of eggplant

 and banana peppers.
I think I see ratatouille in my future!

 The turtle beans will be dried on the plant
and stored for use later in the year.
This has been an easy crop to grow
and there are plans to expand our dried bean supply.

One curious note.
Although these are the healthiest looking tomatoes I've ever grown,
there are very few flowers and absolutely no fruit as of yet.
I was a bit late in transplanting them,
but I've also heard that our lingering winter 
may have something to do with it.

Most of the kale has been picked,
but I left a couple to use as trap crops.
These cabbage worms will enjoy sampling this kale,
and maybe leave other plants alone.

You can see how hearty their appetites are.

With my North Carolina Planting Guide in hand,
I began sowing a few fall crops.
Seeds, pots, a bucket of compost and some composted manure 
were all that were needed to get a good start.

This is the Small Sugar pumpkin variety,
which only gets to 8 pounds at the most.
They will be grown on our gazebo frame.

Planted 1" deep,
I soon found out that the squirrels easily dig them up.

I later placed screen on top of the seed containers.
I also started broccoli and Swiss chard in seed starters.
Carrots will be directly sown in a large bin this weekend.
That'll be it for seed starting until next month,
when the majority of crops can be planted.

One of the small projects we wanted to get done,
was to use our free mulch

to create a walkway alongside the west side of the house.
Our property slopes here,
and the water tends to quickly flow to the backyard.
We're hoping this will slow it down a bit
and make it a bit easier to navigate with the large pavers in place.
The stones were found on the property, 
so this cost us exactly nothing!

I mentioned the composted horse manure eariler.
A sweet neighbor brought me over a trailer load
that is ready to use in the garden.
He gets the manure from someone nearby
and adds his grass clippings to it and lets it sit.
What a great addition this will make to the fall garden!

So many gorgeous things are in bloom right now!
Heading out for my morning walk each day
allows me to drink in the color of our crape myrtle against the cerulean sky.

Our butterfly bush has been heavily visited by pollinators this season.

I just can't get enough of these coneflowers.
Pollinators of all types love 'em,
and knowing they will return each year makes me 

This year's focus has been on the veg garden.
The plan for next year will be to totally revise the veggie area as well as 
incorporate more natives into the landscape for aesthetic purposes.
My goal is to create a wildlife habitat
so that we can welcome all sorts of natural elements to the property.
One step at a time!