Friday, August 31, 2018

Garden Friday

Welcome to Garden Friday on this final day of August!
We are still working on the new design of the garden.
There is always a project to do!

This bush on the Southeastern corner of the house had to go.
Not only did it block the light into the bathroom,
it was so massive that it was impossible to trim.
Plans for this area include our rain barrels
and a garden work station for me.

Before 7 a.m. on Sunday, I had tackled most of it.
Big K was still sleeping and had no idea I was out there.
I think he was a bit startled to see most of it gone by the time he rolled out of bed.
He later helped with some of the upper branches,
and a chainsaw will take care of the rest this weekend.

It does bother me a bit to remove a potential home for the birds,
but we do have an abundance of trees on the property,
with more to be planted over the next few years.
These branches will be stripped of leaves
and used in a multitude of ways in the garden.
One idea I'm toying with is creating a perimeter wattle fence.

We hit pay dirt, folks!
This week we were able to borrow a trailer
(thank you, friends),
and pick up a fresh load of organic compost.
It always feels like Christmas watching that luscious loam
filling the bed.
This load will be used to fill in our newest raised bed,
along with a pollinator bed we will be planting near the veggie garden.

Speakin' of which...
Here is our hugelkultur bed almost topped off.
It needs just a bit more soil added
so that when it settles after a rainfall,
it will be the exact height for planting.
We're getting closer to sowing our fall crops.
(Everything has been late this year,
as we have been getting the garden established.)

 This was a sandbox that was left on the property when we took possession.
C helped me move it to the corner of the veggie garden,
and it will be used to sow pollinator plants.
Since I am not sure about the origin of the wood,
it seemed like a good idea to keep veg out of it.

The legs will be cut off so that it is closer to the ground,
and then we will fill it with brush, twigs and leaves
before adding soil for planting.

While working on our rain barrel project,
(which we hope to finish up this century),
we pilfered these long 2 X 4's and decided 
to use them as a frame around the veggie garden.
We will keep an eye out for anyone giving wood away
on Craig's List or Next Door to complete the border.

 In the veggie bed,
this is the state of most of the tomatoes.
Gorgeous globes of goodness,
just waiting to ripen and be enjoyed.
I've read that optimal temperatures for ripening are between 70-75 degrees,
and it has consistently been hotter than that,
so I'm thinking that it's slowing down their progress.

We have gotten a few morsels so far.
Patience is indeed a virtue.

The okra is still flowering
and kicking out pods.
It felt good to be able to share a bagload with our neighbor,
who is a native North Carolinian and avid okra consumer.

This crop of okra has performed well
with no disease or pest problems.
Some of the leaves have holes in them,
but they just keep right on producing.
Next year, I believe I'll be planting more,
so I have plenty to pickle.

The sweet potatoes are performing double duty.
Not only are they growing some tasty tubers to harvest,
right now they are providing shade 

for the broccoli starts.
These were sown a while back and became leggy.
They had been on the back deck, where it is even more shaded,
so this should give them a bit more sun, 
but still protect them from the scorching summer sun.

 The pumpkin is flowering,
teasing us with the promise of fruit.

 Unfortunately, the first female flower that I spotted dropped.
We have a number of male flowers,
and I'm hoping the gals show up soon
so that we will be able to have pumpkins for autumn.

Some of the Tithonia (Mexican sunflower) are coming up in the okra bed.

Over in the butterfly garden,
the first berries of the beautyberry are sunning themselves.

 This gorgeous Euphorbia was on my wish list for a long time.
It hasn't disappointed.
With very little care, it has continued to flower through the hot, dry summer.
The photo really doesn't do it justice.

The lantana adores the heat.
It flowers nonstop and attracts so many beneficials to the garden.
I'm curious to know if it will come back in the spring.

 Aside from providing nectar and host plants for butterflies,
we contribute scraps such as the rinds from melons
so that they can get nourishment and moisture from them.
Placing rocks in shallow receptacles filled with water 
is another easy way to support wildlife in the garden.

Another week of summer has ended,
bringing the promise of cooler days 
and new crops on the horizon.

May you find the blessings in every season.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Homemade Shampoo

 After discussing with my amazing physician my dermatitis issues,
she suggested that all SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) products
be removed from my hygiene routine.
SLSs are foaming agents that can be found
in everything from shampoo to toothpaste to floor cleaners.
Although it hasn't yet been proven that they cause major illness,
folks respond to ingredients differently,
and it's easy enough to "test" your own reaction.
You can read more about SLS-free products here.

In my doc's personal experience, 
eliminating SLS products improved her own bout with the condition.
That meant switching out soaps, lotions,
shampoos and conditioners, even toothpaste.
After looking into some of the options,
many alternatives were more expensive than what I had been using.
The good stuff always costs more.

The no-brainer was switching to Dr. Bronner's for all of our soap needs,
including dishwashing soap.
I had a couple of bottles under the bathroom sink
that I had bought on clearance some time ago,
and put them into service right away.
Searching for some relief
from the discomfort and complications the condition precipitates,
I thought I'd give diy shampoo a go.
It's very satisfying to be able to
create your own personal care products, 
and I couldn't be more pleased with the results.

This was one of a handful of recipes I found here.
It took mere minutes to whip up
with things I already had on hand.
The lather was incredible,
which I wasn't at all expecting.
It is much thinner than conventional shampoo,
but I'm thinking with a bit of tweaking,
I may be able to remedy that.
The bonus is that I can add any one of a number
of my favorite essential oils to the mix,
to customize the shampoo to my liking.
I'm including in this post a leave-in detangler,
for those who have thick or unruly hair (hand raised).
It sure feels good knowing that I will never have to purchase shampoo or conditioner again.
Taking the time to put together a few, simple ingredients
is another way I can nurture my health.
No chemicals, cruelty-free and no extra packaging to discard,
all align with my deepest intentions.
It's a complete win, in my estimation.

Homemade Shampoo

1/4 C distilled water
1/4 C Dr. Bronner's liquid castille soap (I used unscented)
1/2 teaspoon coconut oil (you can use other oils)
5-10 drops essential oil (pick your favorite)

Add ingredients to a bottle or jar and shake well.
Use a handful at a time to wet hair,
(depending on how much hair you have),
and massage into scalp.
Rinse and repeat if necessary.

Homemade Detangler Rinse

1/8 C apple cider vinegar
1/4 C water
Few drops essential oil

Add ingredients to a spray bottle and shake.
Spray on hair before combing out.
This can be done in the shower,
if you want to rinse it out,
but it is not necessary. 

Feel free to double or triple the recipe.
I now only wash my hair a few times a week,
so I can easily make up a batch to last a few washings.
Even if this change doesn't do a thing for my dermatitis,
it fosters my sense of self-reliance.

Are you interested in making more of your own personal products?

This Is How We Roll Link Party

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Lake Norman State Park

I celebrated another year on the planet
by doing one of my favorite things in this world!

We spent the morning at Lake Norman State Park
in nearby Troutman.
This park is special to me because
we almost bought a house right in its backyard.
Much of the appeal of that house
was the location.
Can you imagine having a state park just steps away from your front door?
For a nature lover like myself,
it would have been a dream come true.
Just the photo ops alone had me drooling.
Alas, it wasn't meant to be.

In 2011-2012 when we lived in Central Florida, 
we decided to visit one state park each month.
State Parks are a phenomenal chance to get up close
with the natural world.
We have visited several state parks here in North Carolina
over the years that we have been vacationing here.
I'm hoping we will take more time to explore them
now that we are full-time residents of this great state.
You can find more on our State Park visits from both states
underneath the header.

Inside the visitor's center,
you will find information about the state park system,
as well as historical facts about the area.

Over 30 miles of hiking and biking trails await the adventurer.
We opted for two shorter trails
and were not disappointed with the views.

Although it was mid-summer,
the canopied trails had a cooling effect.

We kept our eyes open for unusual sights,
like this collection of winding branches.

Each trail is clearly marked
and is focused on educating the hiker on the local flora and fauna.
Kiosks with pertinent information keep the backpacker engaged.
This is such a wonderful homeschooling opportunity.

Boating, fishing and swimming are some of the water activities available.

With so much to see and appreciate,
even my "non-hikers" enjoyed the trek.

The trails meandered through thick brush,
keeping us in suspense about what might be lurking around every bend.
From the website:
"Though most of the park's animal species are rarely seen, at least 35 species of mammals have been found in the area around the park. Upland communities are home to coyotes, Virginia opossum, eastern cottontail, gray squirrel, red and gray foxes, and white-tailed deer, as well as the eastern mole and several species of shrews and mice. Muskrat and raccoon may be seen in the marshes along the creeks and lake."

The peaceful setting invites hikers to follow the trail,

Fallen trees abound and no doubt create 
ample habitats for the wildlife living here.

Canoes, kayaks, and paddle boats are available for rent,
and personal watercraft are welcome within the park's boundaries.
We saw one person paddle boarding and thought 
it was a stellar way to greet a summer morning.

Though most of the park is shaded,
we did spy some pollinator-friendly plants near the water.

If these logs could talk...

We made note of a medley of mushrooms along the way.
Sister (who abhors them), thought they didn't look real!
What a fabulous forest of fungi!

As I get older,
the need to slow down and reflect becomes more centering.
This peaceful place lends itself well to that endeavor.

Along with free admission to the park,
there is no charge to use picnic areas.  
Picnic shelters can also be used at no cost,
and accommodate visitors with restrooms, tables and grills.

Campsites are open to tents and trailers,
although there are no hookups at this park.
A bathhouse is located near sites for campers' use,
but no laundry facilities are available.
Those who enjoy a more rustic experience,
would no doubt be right at home here.

Found treasure!

After our hike,
we took advantage of these inviting rockers
overlooking the lake.

Someone else made himself to home.

What a blessing to be able to spend time
with those I love on my special day.
With surroundings like this,
the day couldn't help but be magical.

State Park Posts:

Crowders Mountain
King's Mountain
Morrow Mountain