Thursday, September 30, 2010

October is upon us!

Yes, ma'am! We have our first pumpkin! I had all but lost hope that I would get any fruit, as I've been watching these amazingly large and colorful yellow-orange blooms all over the vine and not one forming bulb. Some of the vines haven't looked too good lately either. Such a puzzle, these creatures. My research told me that too much fertilizing can cause excessive flowers without fruit. No more food for these babies, at least for now. It'll be fun to watch it grow and change color. Hope we get some more! We've got pumpkins to carve!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Just Texture Two

Didn't want to leave out these beauties from the front yard! Amazing!

morning glory vine

                                   elm bark


                                yucca                                                                               grapevine

                                        aloe vera

                                                                   sago palm

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Just Texture

 Anyone who knows me, knows I love colorful blooms. 
But one thing that I've noticed as my passion for gardening has grown, 
is my affinity for texture. 
I am amazed at
the variety of shapes and contrasting tactile surfaces 
that abound in the plant world. 
My garden is small, and maybe why it seems more noticeable. God has provided us with so many different and wonderful plant species. 
The more I see, the more I want to know...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Autumn is Here!

Listen, I live in Central Florida. 
We don't get much cause to whoop it up with the changing of the seasons. My homage to fall can't be beautiful scenery blessed with every color of the rainbow. We just don't get the metamorphosis of foliage that other areas of the country experience. Some day I'd love to take one of those train tours that take you through the best of New England's fall foliage show. But for now, I've gotta be happy with what I have. 

Hot coffee and oatmeal laced with walnuts, honey and dried cranberries. I love to start my mornings off with this combination. And knowing it's good for me makes it even sweeter.

Okay, okay, so it's not a forest of gorgeous trees or apple blossoms sprouting, but it's the best that I can do here in my neck of the woods. Just knowing that cooler temperatures are around the corner does my heart good. There are so many things to look forward to in autumn. 
Home-grown tomatoes, lettuce, leeks. Fall festivals. 
Open windows to enjoy the fresh air through every room. Trips to the park where you can spend all day and not worry about the heat taking over.
Yeah, fall is the best season for someone like me who likes needs to be outdoors. 
It's a wonder I get anything done inside at all!
Happy Autumn!


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Making the Garden My Own

Well, imagine my surprise, when I was just minding my business checking on things in the garden, and who should I come upon but this lil' guy? What a wonderful discovery!

My neighbor found him somewhere in her travels this weekend, and decided he needed a garden to watch over. We're happy to provide just such a place. We haven't come up with a name for the little cherub yet, but it'll show itself to us in due time.

We were thinking of starting a neighborhood game of "The Visiting Gnome". We would choose a neighbor we know, place him in their garden with a note that gives clues as to where his home is and see if they could figure it out and return him when he's done visiting with them. Doesn't that sound like fun? I love writing limmericks, so I could customize it for each household he visits. I'll keep you posted...


I've been acquiring a few things either handed down or bought at the thrift store to use for planters. This old wicker laundry basket was in our house for the longest time. It is planted with an array of seeds that I hope will give lots of color to the garden.

I found this old roasting pan at the thrift store one day and thought that it would give me lots of room to plant in. I wonder if bulbs would work in it? I might have to cut out the bottom, instead of keeping just the drainage holes I have in there now.  The lid is even deep enough that I might be able to use it separately and just nestle it into the mulch.

This is a black spatterware pot I found that contains a colander-type insert. I'm using flower seeds in it and I would like to place it by the front pathway. I'm hoping that I don't get any guff by the HOA for having unusual planters. They seem to be bothered by things like that. I just love reusing things and creating surprises in the garden.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rate My Space

I have several posts on this site (just click on the title of this post). It's a great place to not only share your garden, but get inspiration from others who share the same passion for plants. I'm always amazed at the variety of combinations people can put together to make their garden unique. It's fun to learn about what grows in different parts of the country too. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Bowling Me Over
Yesterday we went bowling with friends we haven't seen in a while. Last school year, we had free passes, so we went quite regularly. After finding out that the price has been lowered to $3.50 per game (and no charge for shoes), we'll be going again this year. Especially after our experience yesterday.

I was getting our shoes at the counter, and of course, my lil' guy noticed a machine working nearby. He tends to do that. We watched for a little bit, then I asked him if he'd like to find out more about it. Of course, his answer was "yes". All this time, our friends were just watching and patiently waiting (they're not as into machinery).

Not only did the man running the machine, "Mr. Chuck", show us how it oils the lane automatically, he opened it up and showed us each component and how it all goes together. Fascinating! To top that off, my friend told me she knows the family who owns the company that makes it and their factory is in Sebring, just a little ways down the road! And they give tours! I know my lil' guy would love to go there to see how things work. God just never tires of providing.

This nice gentleman also took us to the back of the alley to show us how the pinsetter works. It was nothing like I thought it would be. It just amazes me that someone figured out how to make these incredible machines. And then I think, wait a minute, my boy has the same kind of mind. I wonder what he'll come up with in his lifetime? The possiblities are endless!

After being treated so kindly, we will be going back to this place. Sometimes people are too busy or distracted by other things to take the time to help us further our education out in the real world. Sometimes they distance themselves from a boy who needs to wear headphones in public places. Most people we've found aren't willing to take the time to understand our world as we know it. We always appreciate people who are willing to take the time to explain things of interest to us. The world is a fascinating place, if you're willing to ask the questions.

So, not only did we learn about something we were interested in, that was the least significant aspect of this lesson. More importantly, my boy had a positive social interaction with this man. We are really focused on social skills this year and this was a wonderful example of how homeschooling helps kids prepare for the real world much better than any brick-and-mortar building can do. Not only was the social exchange a positive experience for my son, I'll bet "Mr. Chuck" felt pretty good about himself. Not everyone, I'm sure, takes notice of what he does every day. I'm glad that we could give him that feeling of validation, that what he does matters. One of the gifts of autism is that my boy notices things that others' don't. He's helped me appreciate so much more of this world because I can see the details that I would have otherwise paid no attention to.

This was another affirmation for me of how great unschooling can be. Who knows what is in store for us tomorrow!

So Long, Old Friend

I'm a little frustrated these days.
It's amazing to me how this rain barrel has
gotten so many feathers ruffled. The HOA here
has condemned it to the backyard. They claim that
it detracts from the "aesthetics" of the neighborhood.
Have they looked around lately? We have houses
which have been abandoned, yards that are unattended,
even one whose slider was broken many months ago
and has yet to be repaired. And they're concerned
about my water collector? All I can say is, get a life!

Actually, that's not all I can say. I plan to say a lot more
when I can sit down and compose a letter in a civilized
tone. I just fail to see how something as benign, and indeed,
utilitarian, as a rain harvester can be on anyone's Ten Most
Wanted list. I think it speaks to the lack of forsight, the
shallow nature of peoples' thinking, the difficulty in folks
realizing that we have only so much water to go around! It's
not like we have a direct line to some far-off oasis in space
that will replace our water supply when we run out! We need to use it wisely and reuse it whenever possible! Because these 9 people on the Board find it physically unappealing, I am bullied into compromising my personal values. It's just plain not right.

For now, I have it situated in the back of the house, as demanded by the Board. It looks fine here, but doesn't serve its intended
purpose. Out front, I was able to water all of my ornamentals and potted plants. I even used the water to tidy up recycle bins and garbage cans. It also helped with run-off, as we do not have gutters on our eaves. Now I will have to tote water from the back of the house to supply the needed moisture out front. Being painfully pragmatic, this goes against everything that feels right to me.
All I can say is, it ain't over 'til it's over...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bok Tower in Lake Wales, FL

Bok Tower Gardens is in Lake Wales, Florida. 
Aside from the vast gardens, there is a large koi pond where you can feed the fish and swans, 
and carrillon music which plays haunting music throughout the day. 
A visit here is relaxing as well as inspiring. 
The display of color is outstanding and every season carries with it a different vantage point. 
Concerts and other special events take place periodically.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Highs and Lows

Not sure what this is, but it's got lovely yellow blooms all over the top. I had moved it from the East side of the house to the backyard to add some height. I never anticipated the gorgeous color! Wonder if I can take a cutting from it and get another one? My limited knowledge of plant species can be frustrating at times, because I don't know what type of conditions the plants need. I guess it's all an adventure and I can just see how things go.

Tomorrow I have a lot to do. I pulled up all of the African Iris from the
front walkway and I am transplanting it to the backyard as a filler. I
find myself having a hard time knowing where to place things because it's difficult for me to picture the final result. I'm not good at drawing out
plans on paper (which is very unlike me). I think I have an idea about how I want it to look, I'm just not sure how to get there. Most of the gardening blogs I admire are full of mature plants and trees, so it's difficult to see the steps it took to get them where they are. I'm in the beginning stages of exploring this gardening passion, and I think I get impatient with myself.

The volunteer I had transplanted a couple of weeks ago is looking much better. It has plenty of leaf growth and the color is good. I'm tellin' ya, you can't kill this stuff! Soon we should have some brilliant orange and yellow blooms.

This is the tallest sunflower so far! It's gotta be 8 feet tall! I'm amazed!
It's been so fun seeing all the varieties of sizes and colors we've gotten this year. When I start feeling discouraged about my progress in the garden, I look out and see the sunshine growing in my yard. It's been wonderful to be able to have freshly-cut flowers in the house.
It always makes me feel better.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Homemade Gravy (Tomato Sauce)

28 oz. diced tomato
(canned or fresh Romas)
1 medium carrot
1/2 medium onion
2-4 cloves garlic
2 T olive oil
1 t red pepper flakes
2-3 t Italian seasoning
fresh basil leaves
salt to taste
1-2 t brown sugar

Sautee the onion and carrot in olive oil for 3-5 minutes in a large saucepan or stock pot.  Add the garlic and sautee for 1 minute. Add seasoings, except for brown sugar, then add tomatoes.  Simmer on low heat, covered, for 10-20 minutes.  Taste for seasonings, and add brown sugar if it tastes too acidic.  Sometimes the carrots will balance the flavors, so you don't need the sugar.  If you like your gravy chunky, leave as is.  If you like a smoother consistency, puree in processor or with a hand-held immersion blender.
Makes 3-4 cups.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mel's Magic Mix

 Here's the mix I use for all of my veggies and ornamentals.
I got the recipe from Mel Bartholomew of the Square Foot
Gardening series. (There's a link on the main page of this blog.) The ingredients are vermiculite (I get it at the feed store), Black Cow manure, and peat moss. I mix them on a large sheet on the grass. Equal parts of each component make a good soil that holds moisture, yet drains well. 
(Figure that one out!)


This is how it looks before it's thoroughly mixed. You can see all the elements inside the pile. The vermiculite really adds aeration, so I don't recommend doing this on a windy day, as it will be visiting your neighbors' yards. Just mix by hand and lift the corners of the sheet to keep it all together. I shovel most of it into my container and then take up the sheet on the corners and dump it into the bin.


Voila! Here's the final mixture. 
I keep it in a rubber trash can
on my patio. That way, I have it whenever I get the itch to plant.
(When don't I get the itch?)
Rather than amending the entire bed, I just add some of this mix
whenever I plant anything. I figure, over time, it will end up
throughout all the beds as I fill them in with plant material or
seeds. I'm wondering if this bin will even last through the week.
I feel an itch comin' on!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Seed Savers Delivery!


I ordered some heirloom seeds for the vegetable garden. It's the first time I'm ordering from them, but I really feel a pull toward saving heirlooms. Included were 2 types of lettuce, 2 types of tomatoes (homemade gravy!), onions, leeks, carrots, beans, peas and lemon balm. Many of the packets contain more seeds than I can use, so I'll be happy to pass them on. What a wonderful variety of fresh produce we should have in a few months' time. I guess I'm feeling pretty ambitious at the moment, as I've only had a tiny bit of experience bringing up veggies. Even if things don't go as planned, it's a lesson in diligence and valuable knowledge that can't be gained any other way. 
I'm all about learning...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Wonders

1 3/4 C gf flour
1/4 C Heather's Tummy Fiber
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
3/4 C brown sugar
1/3 C oil
1/2 C vanilla rice milk
1 3.5 oz. pkg. Organic Pear Sauce
1/2 gfcf chocolate chips

Step 1
Add dry ingredients to large mixing bowl.
Stir with wire whisk to aerate.

Step 2
Add wet ingredients and stir until moistened.  
Batter will seem very loose.        

Step 3
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Use a small ice cream scoop to transfer the
batter onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.
Bake 12 minutes.

Step 4
Let cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet 
placed on cooling rack,
then transfer cookies to cooling rack 
to cool for 5 minutes.
Eat and enjoy!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Grateful for the Co-op

This is just a smidgen of some of the beautiful organic produce we got from our first order with the newly-formed produce cooperative. The potatoes look amazing, the nectarines smell sweet and the apples are crisp and oh-so-juicy. I had already made quick work of sauteeing the plump button mushrooms. They will be ready for our supper of linguini tomorrow. The cantaloupe should be ready for devouring tomorrow. It was about 2/3 the size of the one I had purchased at the store last weekend. The prices are so reasonable too. For the same price or just a few pennies more as conventionally-grown produce, we get luscious, pesticide-free yummies for our tummies.

We had already been active in the co-op that serves our need for cleaning products, toiletries, household items, and even clothing. I'm grateful that we have this opportunity to support companies that provide clean, organic and responsibly manufactured products.
Any chance to give back to the planet is the least I can do. Gotta take care of Mother Earth!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Unschooling Conference

I have to say that attending this conference changed my whole perspective on homeschooling. I've been on the fence about unschooling, having come from a traditional learning background. After hearing presenters, especially Cindy Gaddis, speak about how unschooling can work for kids with special needs, I started to think about it differently. And as the summer went on, I could see my boy flourishing in the more relaxed atmosphere of self-directed learning. He has been able to focus on what makes him happy, and that's made all the difference. I'm blessed that he loves to read anyway, but giving him that extra freedom to make his own choices about his learning has made our home more balanced, more centered. Having worked in traditional schools most of my adult life and having gone to school to become a teacher, it was hard for me to let go of the mindset that conventional learning is the only way to go. I now see that Lil' Guy will learn what he needs to learn to be who he is meant to be. I just need to get out of his way! He is an avid reader, absorbs anything visual (books, videos) like a sponge, and has a memory that won't quit. So many gifts in one little package. How could I ever doubt that he will fulfill his purpose in this life? It took the conference to convince me that he is on the right path.

The other workshop that really helped me get clarity on learning was Cindy Gaddis' presentation on right-brained thinkers. Being left-brained myself, it's always been a struggle for me to connect in certain ways with Lil' Guy and some of the kids I tutor. Now I realize it's the lack of understanding I had about how they learn. I figured out a long time ago that we learn differently, but I couldn't put my finger on just how best to reach them. Now I'm researching techniques that add so much more meaning to my lessons. Not only is it helping my kids, it's quietly nudging me toward being more creative.

In May, when we finished our 3rd grade year, I was not looking forward to fourth grade. Now, I can't wait to see how far he goes with his own ideas and limitless possibilities! We're both going to have a fantastic, stress-free learning experience. Bring it on!

Possum Living by Dolly Freed

Possum Living
The subtitle for this book reads, "How to Live Well Without a Job and With (Almost) No Money". Who could resist a title like that? Especially if one is prone toward frugality or a move toward simplifying one's life. It proved too much for me, and I found myself fascinated by the words of this (then) 18-year old girl and her perspective on simple living. So many of her ideas ring true for me.

The book begins by espousing the philosophy of living on practically no money, forgoing the usual route of career climbing in order to acquire more stuff. She states, "Many people, perhaps you among them, are not temperamentally suited for the 9-to-5 rat race but assume there is no other way to live."
The author then proceeds to discuss subjects from growing a garden in order to feed your family, to shopping at thrift stores for clothing, to making due with a bicycle or horse for transportation. These ideas have long been laid to rest until the recent financial difficulties in which many in our country find themselves. Although this book is over 30 years old, its concepts and basic pragmatism bode well considering our present economical situation. It bears reading, pondering and sharing.