Friday, October 29, 2010

Strawberries

We are taking a stab at growing our own strawberries this year. I got this plant from Debbie at Barefoot Gardener quite a while back and have watched it come into bloom. It's delightful as it is, even without the gift of delicious pleasure it provides.
I am thinking it might be best to keep it out of our square-foot vegetable patch,
as I've read that it should not be grown where you've had tomatoes, eggplant
and other types of crops.
Guess that leaves maybe a pot or a separate plot within the backyard bed.
I found a great deal of information about growing these sweet treats here: http://smallfarms.ifas.ufl.edu/crops/fruits_and_nuts/Growing_Strawberries_in_Florida.pdf
Strawberries are one of the most versatile fruits, lending themselves well to desserts,
fruit salads, smoothies or just plain 'ol noshing. I remember my mom always telling me
that fruit here in the states didn't taste like it did back home for her.
Strawberries were supposed to be red
all the way through.
Since diving into the world of organics, I now see the difference.
The price you pay for organics is worth the investment.
Being able to grow our own was the next logical step.
Guess I have some more reading to do!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I.D.required

Thanks to Susan at Simply Susan, for helping me identify this plant
with its lovely seed pod.





She steered me toward this website: http://www.flwildflowers.com/gallery/,
which has a treasure trove of information on Florida wildflowers. Learning something new always propels me to research even more. There is so much great information on the web just for the asking. This green-thumb wannabe never tires of finding out everything I can
to enhance my daily meditative practice in the garden.
When the garden is in harmony, it can't help but envelope everything around it.
I think that's why I visit Susan's and Meem's gardens so often. They always have something to teach me and just seeing their gorgeous edens inspires me to keep learning and experimenting. Gardeners are a generous bunch in thought and deed.

The Crotalaria is a member of the pea family, and shares the name "rattlebox" with the moth. This species is Crotalaria spectabilis. It is poisonous to livestock because of its alkaloids. Its name comes from the same Latin name that rattlesnakes have. When the pods of the plant are ready to seed, one can shake the pod, which has changed from green to brown, and hear the seeds rattle around.

"Orange" you ready for Halloween?



What would Halloween be without the annual ritual of pumpkin carving? 
Our boy has graduated to doing his own carving with help from his dad.
He enjoys choosing the pattern and seeing the "after". 
 
Pumpkin guts, however, have never been his thing.

 
Here's the final product. 
Cheerful faces usually win out over anything creepy.

 

Last year we came upon this idea in Family Fun magazine. 
It's so easy, but very dramatic. 

We take a large cardboard box, carve a picture on it, place orange tissue paper behind it, 
and light it from behind with a desk lamp. 
It really adds to the festivities.
Simple ideas are always the best. 
Being easy on the budget doesn't hurt either!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The ADHD & Autism Cookbook by Pamela J. Compart and Dana Laake
*****
The Kid-Friendly ADHD & Autism Cookbook

This book does a fantastic job of explaining the theory behind the diet, why it works for some kids and what symptoms it helps with. Interjected within each chapter, are testimonials from parents who have used the diet to aid their children. There is also an overview of food allergies and sensitivities as well as a brief summary of a few alternative diets (Feingold, SCD). Over half of the book is filled with recipes that can be adjusted to fit your child's likes/dislikes. Each recipe clearly indicates which common allergens are omitted (gluten, milk, soy, egg, etc.). This would be a great resource book for someone just getting started with the diet. The fact that a medical doctor and a nutritionist collaborated on this project makes it a unique source of information.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Updates and seeds

It worked! A little while back I did some first-ever pollinating and it took!
Here's the sweet lil' cherub which resulted. Whoo-hoo! This is the original pumpkin that has now turned a buttery shade of orange.
At least we got one that will be carving sized!
It looks like the avocado plant that wasn't fairing so well after our vacation is bouncing back with very little care. Another tree for our yard and food for the family!


I've been trimming these off of one of the mystery plants out back. Lately, the seed pods have been drying on the branch, so I have been clipping them and drying them on the patio, so that I can harvest the seeds. When you shake them and they sound like maracas, they're ready to be harvested. I would like to find out what exactly they are. I'll see if I can find someone at the extension center who can identify it for me.



I know it's blurry, my camera doesn't take close-ups too well. This is what's inside once they are left to dry. Nature is continually providing more beauty in every pod. I like having seeds to share, so that will motivate me to identify this one. Looks like I will be able to give quite a few away. I'm gonna plant a few out back in different areas and see what comes up. The flowers have stopped blooming now, so it seems it's harvest time. Just as in nature, we all have our own cycles. The more we learn to accept and go with what's natural, the easier and more pleasant our experience seems to be.

Not always as easy to do though...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Push Is On





This week we received yet another violation notice from the HOA. This time it said our sunflowers out front were too tall (overgrown vegetation is how they described it). That about did it for me. It looks like the time to move on has come. I will send a letter of appeal, as I always do when this occurs. I just don't want to spend my time and energy dealing with people who don't see the bigger picture. It's more important to me to use my resources toward continuing the journey we have started as a family.
That's what's important.



We will be working on getting our house ready for the real estate market and pray that Legoland coming is enough of a draw to sell it soon. I'm choosing to see it as a positive in our lives. We will be relocating out of state and starting over on our terms. We will be with family and begin work on realizing the dream of starting a theraputic farm for kids on the spectrum. I'm so looking forward to my boy having his tinkering shed out back. And having room to plant whatever I want, wherever I want.
I foresee a lot of whimsy in our future garden.

I'm grateful for what we've accomplished here and especially the folks that we've met and come to know as friends. It's time for the next stage, scary as it might seem.
Faith will see us through.
It will work out. It always does...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Stop, Look and Listen

This birdbath is a big part of the reason I started the garden. I got it from a lady
on Craig's List who has since moved to the California desert to live off the grid.
It's solid concrete and I paid $10 for it. She even threw in some gizmo that
moves the water around. When I look out in the yard and see birds enjoying the water, it just makes me stop and make sure that I am here, in this moment. It's a wonderful way to start the day, hearing birds singing near your window. I never tire of hearing their beautiful lilting voices carried through the air. I am thinking of planting one of the two crape myrtles behind it, so as to make it easier for our avian friends to take a drink and wash up before supper. It would be wonderful too, to have more plants that can feed these critters, as birdseed prices make supporting them that way presently impossible. I think I'll look for a bird identification book on bookswap, so that we can enjoy our nature watch and learn a thing or two. I suspect we'll see more birds soon, with the approaching cooler temperatures further north.
God has created so much for our eyes to behold, our ears to appreciate.
If only we remember to stop, look and listen.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pumpkin Whoopie



I've gotten several different viewpoints regarding the lack of fruit on my pumpkin vines. One person has said too much fertilizer will produce lots of flowers and not much fruit. I read something else that said pumpkins are heavy feeders, so I'm not sure what to believe. Another gardener told me that it's probably a pollination problem.
 One of his suggestions was to pollinate by hand. I figured, why not? It would make a great homeschool lesson as well. After all, I've got nothing to lose and I love learning new things. So, here goes!


 
Here's the female blossom with fruit forming.
Fair warning: the next picture is not for the faint of heart...

 
I did find some curious critters inside the male blossoms. One was a worm-like creature, the other was some sort of luminescent green flying thing that was feasting on the pollen. I also found evidence of what seem like perfectly round holes in some of the blossoms.



What to make of all of this? I wish I had time to research it! I'm just hoping that my matchmaking will do the trick. Hopefully, we'll know soon. 
When I went to check on the recipient of today's experiment, she had closed up around herself, so I'm hoping it took. It's all so amazing. I'll be looking for more candidates tomorrow so I can try it again. 
My own fertility clinic for pumpkins.
 Oh, where my garden has taken me...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Natural Learning




Today was a great day for homeschooling. 
We started by finishing up our latest installment of The Boxcar Children. We've read over 20 of the books in this series, and always enjoy them. In fact, my boy is now writing his own version with a modern twist. He's been working on it most of the day. 

It's amazing to me how when I leave him to his own devices, 
he comes up with ideas 
that I would never have seen on any lesson plan. 

The story we finished over breakfast took place in New Orleans, so we had an opportunity to discuss the culture, food, climate and language of the area. 
He also decided to complete his wooden puzzle of the U.S. map, noting the connection between several southern states. We discussed capitol cities, state sizes and shapes, the Nation's Capitol and a myriad of other geographical and science-related topics. 
It's really amazing where books can take you.

Thinking about what his typical day in a public school would have been, I'm grateful that he can have time to study what he enjoys while incorporating all subject areas. He's got all day to let his interests take him where he wants to go, learning what he needs to learn at this time of his life. 
Such freedom is not taken lightly. I relish the thought that he never has to "perform" for strangers on a test that will probably have no relevance on his life. His
day-to-day life is preparing him for "real life". 
His creativity can flourish with his thoughts.

Thankfully, he can become more of himself every day, instead of having to figure out who that is down the road. 
I'd say that's a worthwhile thing...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

10/5/10


Special Needs Homeschooling Group
I decided to actively invite folks to join the homeschooling group I am working on. I hope to meet other like-minded families who enjoy being with their kids. We've joined other hs groups before, but it just didn't stick. Having a child with special needs is like a whole different reality. It's been my experience that most typical families have a hard time understanding and sometimes accepting our world as we know it. We cannot take part in some things that hs groups do because of sensory issues or behavioral challenges. My intention in forming the group is to create a place where families can be themselves and feel welcome. If we happen to make some new friendships along the way, even better. I know God has a plan for me, and the motivation I have to branch out a bit more is something I've been wanting to pursue for a while. No time like the present!


www.OAKSCentralFL@yahoogroups.com

Monday, October 4, 2010

It's Coming Along...

The plumbego does a pretty good job of disguising
the rain barrel in the backyard. Guess it doesn't mind
having wet feet, as it is located directly under
an angle of the roof.


I've mostly transplanted gems from the front yard. Everything
else is from seed. I don't really buy plants anymore, unless
I feel a maternal yearning to nurture a specimen on the
"dead" rack at the nursery.






Here I've got visitors from the front yard of African Iris and a couple
of mystery plants that I have yet to identify. The tall bushy plants
are some kind of tree that keeps cropping up in the front bed. It
has white flowers on it in spring. That's one thing I wish I had more
time for, identification. I often find volunteers and don't know what
they are. As long as they are growing, I don't worry about it too much.
Eventually, I'll figure it out.




I transplanted the pineapple plants I had out front to frame the
area around the newly relocated rain barrel. Another plumbego
has started to take off. I've got my bamboo sticks ready for tepee
making later in the week. A few pots are growing seedlings, but
aren't quite ready for the front walkway.





The vegetable garden is in the processof being revamped. I staked
my beans on the newly acquired bamboo poles.The basil was
pruned back and I like the standard look of it. I think
I'll do that next year when I replant it. I'm still getting
eggplant from the same two plants I bought
from Debbie at Barefoot Gardeners.
The stakes are in for the tomatoes and there's
a pepper plant doing well. It looks like jalepeno,
so I guess we'll have salsa! On the left side,
I just left the same trellis-like structure
for the peas to climb.


I bought a beautyberry bush from Debbie at the
Lakeland Farmer's market this weekend. It already has berries on it, so I'm hoping the birds will find it


and stick around our yard a bit longer. I want to find
the best spot for it so that it will get lots of visitors!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Florida Natives

I've been wrestling lately with the idea of actually planning a garden. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a planner. But with the garden, it's been different. Up to now, I'm just kind of placing plants where I have an empty space, keeping in mind the Florida-Friendly principal of right plant, right place. I'm not sure if I find it daunting, or if it's a matter of letting my creativity come out, but I'm resisting drawing up a formal plan for the backyard. It's kind of fun just seeing what happens with each new installation.

I found this information on the NSiS website and found that I'm basically following these guidelines already. In the next year, I hope to acquire some taller trees to add some privacy and a nesting place for more birds. The one thing I really missed after our move up here to Central Florida, was the birds singing in the backyard. I'm working on providing a safe haven for these wonderous creatures to take up residence. When I go walking in the mornings, one of the things I like best is hearing their beautiful trilling from way up yonder. It would be lovely to have these critters serenading us all day long, not to mention the lessons that could be learned from observing them in their natural habitat. It's a give-and-take relationship, I guess. I want to provide a safe place for them, as they add so much to the quality of our lives. I'm so grateful for my connection to the Natural World.

Wildlife Garden Design
First of all, don't panic! If you have no trees, you're not going to be able to create a forest canopy tomorrow. Look at the big picture and concentrate on your personal slice in it. Consider the design as your ultimate goal and focus on steps toward that goal.

Basic habitat design includes groupings of tall trees, evergreen and deciduous, to provide a forest canopy. Smaller trees planted near them provide an understory. Plant large groupings of shrubs of various heights and ground covers around the smaller trees. A variety of plant heights and densities will meet the shelter requirements of many different species.

Examine the natural areas nearby and use them as models. Also, look closely at your neighborhood and the property that adjoins yours. If your neighbor has trees along the property line, you can incorporate them in your design. If there are hedges through the neighborhood, adding on to them on your property will provide a line of continous cover for wildlife. Continuous cover to a water source is especially important.

Select a variety of native plants to provide food year-round. It's tempting to pick plants that bear fruit for most of the year, but shorter season plants, such as blackberries, may also provide excellent cover.

Arrange plants in beds with irregular, rather than straight, edges. Not only will they look more natural, but they will be more attractive and useful to wildlife.

If your outdoor area is confined to a balcony or patio, container gardening will provide a small habitat. Select blooming plants that are particularly attractive to birds and/or butterflies. Perhaps you have room for a trellis to support a vine or two. A water source will add substantially to your habitat's value.

When exotic plants die, consider replacing them with native plants.