Friday, February 27, 2015

Plant Profile-Loquat

The loquat tree is a native of China, 
but fares quite well here in Central Florida.
These beauties scale up to 30 feet tall,
 so ample room is required for growing.
They prefer full sun, and produce fruit from mid-February to May.
We have been patiently waiting to savor this thirst-quenching and unusual fruit.

The fruit grows in clusters from 4 to over 20 per stem,
with a thin, fuzzy skin, similar to a peach.
One to two pits can be found inside.

 The fruit ripens right on the branches, 
turning from green to golden yellow to bright orange.
The middle stage offers a tart bite of freshness.

The taste resembles a peach combined with a plum,
 according to Lynn.
I think it's more like a cross between a peach and a nectarine.
It does have the consistency of a peach,
but the unique flavor is hard to describe.
In one word-refreshing!

If you like them on the sweeter side,
pick 'em when they are a warm orange color.
So juicy and tender.

This established tree will offer up treats for weary gardeners,
but is also enjoyed by a variety of birds.
It will withstand temperatures all the way down to 10 degrees F.
If space allows, it's a fantastic addition to any garden.

For more information about this natural wonder, read this.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Maple Hill Hop 69

Maple Hill Hop

Welcome to 
The Maple Hill Hop.
This is a hop for folks who love the outdoors.
Feel free to post about anything that's going on
in your neck of the woods,
no matter the season.
(Please share only outdoor posts.)
*Please link back to Maple Hill 101.*

Our winter has been mostly mild this year,
but we recently endured a bit of a chilly blast.
With temperatures predicted around freezing,
measures had to be taken to protect our crops. 
The practice of covering up ornamentals was stopped years ago,
when the garden became more Florida-friendly and less at risk for damage with cold temps.
The native plants will take whatever Mother Nature can dish out,
but with all the food we have growing, 
we wanted to be sure that something would be harvested in the next few weeks.

Here's an eggplant that will soon be flowering.

It got bundled up in a sheet and clothespinned to keep the drafts out.
The stakes surrounding the plant help to support the sheet,
so that the plant's delicate leaves aren't stressed.

My lone Roma tomato plant got covered with a feed sack
and anchored with some bricks.
It had just shown the first flower the morning before.

Another feedsack protects a potted eggplant.
It sure came in handy to have these sacks around!

The new border of lettuce was draped in old towels.

The veggies in the square-foot garden and adjacent bed were snug as a bug.
Here's where we have more eggplant, lettuce, broccoli and thyme.

These bricks were taken from a footpath that I had just redesigned.  Oh well...
We also used some filled water jugs and terra cotta flower pots.
You use what ya got!

Looks like some strange stuff growing in this garden, huh?

The next morning, the welcome sunshine was able to
warm us up and dry the covers out,
so that we'll have them for the next time.
With the full moon coming next week,
this should be the last chance of a frost or a freeze for this season,
but it's always a possibility.
A quick check on the garden showed us that everything survived just fine.

We may just get some tomatoes yet!

Although we haven't experienced anything close to
what our northern neighbors have this winter,
we are grateful that Old Man Winter is on His way out.

What's been going on outside where you are?
HOP on!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Learning to Sew

At 54 years of age,
I've decided to take up sewing.
But then, I've always been a late bloomer.

It's not something I gave much thought to
before I started on this homesteading journey.
But now, I feel the need to connect with my past,
and learn skills that can last me a lifetime.

Being a big believer in the value of all things handmade,
it was important for me to start with the basics,
so that I learn the proper way to do everything from threading a needle,
to adding decorative details to my projects.
I'm still in the baby stages right now,
but I know that if I stick with it and continue to practice,
eventually it will become part of the fabric of my life.

The need to foster a sense of self-reliance is vital to me.
We are advocates of the notion of maintaining what you have,
and then finding another purpose for it once it's been used up.
We also enjoy creating what we can to serve our own needs,
thereby conserving resources and instilling a sense of independence.

This was my mom's sewing tray.
Opening it up brought back memories of her creating so many wonderful projects.
It was bittersweet, as I never took the time to learn her craft.
Taking up this avocation is my way of paying homage to her
and the qualities in her that I so admire.

She used to make clothes for me and my older sister,
as well as household furnishings such as curtains, pillows and slipcovers.
She was such a talented seamstress.

Just knowing that my mom used this thimble for so many years
makes me feel closer to her
I think she'd approve of me taking up her hobby,
although I don't think I could ever match her skill.

I'm hoping that through practice and patience,
and my sheer will to be more like her,
I will find my sewing muse.

I have a long way to go,
but I'm determined to do my very best to learn this valuable skill.

It's been my experience that anything can be learned
with the right attitude, a fierce resolve,
and the commitment to making the time to practice what you want to do.
It all starts with visualizing yourself being successful.
Mimi has inspired me to always to my best.
Thank you Mimi.

If you know someone who wants to learn to sew,
visit Sue's blog, called Sewing with Kids.  
It's a fantastic resource and even older folks are welcome !

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Thrifty Thursday-Tin Can Gym

We try to efficiently use what we have with regard to everything from
food to fuel to clothes and toiletries.
It's more than just making do for me,
I enjoy the challenge of thinking outside the box
to create what I need in my life,
or what can enhance my experiences.

Exercise has been a part of my life for many years.
The long lasting practices of yoga and a daily walk have helped me to sustain a healthy lifestyle.
Bike riding is a family activity that we all relish.
Recently, running has been added to some of my free time.

Having been diagnosed with osteoporosis last year,
it became clear that strength training would be necessary
in order for me to improve the health of my bones.
With no need to spend money on a gym membership,
it was easy enough to devise a workout routine for very little cost.

The Tin Can Gym.

With the assistance of these cans from our pantry,
an exercise ball we had lying around,
and a good book from our local library,
I was able to fashion a workout program that was challenging and fun.

Now, being a thrifter and yard-saler, I know that weights can often be found for a song.
I figured, why spend even a little bit to have something else laying around that I would have to find a place for, when I can use what's right in my pantry?
Love things that do double-duty.
Other containers that would work in a pinch are:
 vinegar or water jugs filled with either water or sand,
bags of brown sugar or coffee,
jars filled with grits or oatmeal,
any bottled beverage (juice or water).

So these days, two to three days a week,
I participate in a 20-minute strength-training routine
that helps me feel that I'm taking part in the long-term maintenance of my health.

someday we'll have our own

Once we have our farm, the opportunity to build strength 
will be easy enough to incorporate throughout the  day.  Lifting feed sacks, moving dirt by hand, 
and the everyday activities that need to be done will lend themselves well to increasing bone mass. 
After all, I plan to be a longtime gardener and homesteader.
Maybe we'll call it The Farmstead Gym.

What's your favorite way to get fit?

This book has jump-started my strength workouts.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Maple Hill Hop 68

Maple Hill Hop

Welcome to 
The Maple Hill Hop.
This is a hop for folks who love the outdoors.
Feel free to post about anything that's going on
in your neck of the woods,
no matter the season.
(Please share only outdoor posts.)
*Please link back to Maple Hill 101.*

This weekend on The Hill, we planted dill.
Here's what we used to get the job done.
The seeds in the jar were harvested from last season's crop.

We filled 30 small pots with Lynn's marvelous mixture.
Dill is one of the necessary ingredients in the Pickled Okra recipe
and is sold at the farmer's market as well.

A generous sprinkling of the dill seed was added to the pots.

Here's Lynn's twist on things.
We used a paintbrush to coax the seeds into the moist soil.
These seeds need very little coverage, 
and this gives them the best start.

Not all the seeds get incorporated,
but that's not a problem.
The pot to the left has been brushed, the one on the right has not.
Once they are watered in, germination will quickly take place.

The seeded pots are placed in a sunny spot in the garden.

 In a matter of days, we expect these to start popping up.
  Crops grow up to 6 feet tall, so give them space in the garden.  
They will furnish an abundance of usable leaves for dressings, pickling, salads and sauces.

When they go to seed at summer's end,
you will be provided with a burst of yellow buds.
They remind me of a fireworks show!

dried dill
Let them dry on the stem and then they are ready for harvest.


Back on my homestead, 
we grow dill to provide food for black swallowtail caterpillars.
See the tiny yellow eggs?

It is one of the host plants for this species.

Whatever reason suits you, try growing this effortless and generous plant.

I'd love to hear what's happening where you are!
HOP to it!