Saturday, November 21, 2015

Home Ownership

You’ve just closed on your new home (new construction or just new to you.)  And now you’re ready to put your own style on everything from bathroom floors to landscaping.

I’ve never seen one single new homebuyer satisfied with the previous owner’s landscaping. You name it and someone will hate it or wonder why you didn’t do it.  It’s human nature. 

Here are some considerations for the whole landscaping gig at your new home:

1.    Don’t do any major changes to your yard the first full year.  There may be seasonal reasons for what does or doesn’t exist.
a.     Those trees may be in that odd place because they provide a windbreak from those crazy nor’easters or as a sound buffer.
b.    That huge bush might be a rare hundred-year-old survivor.

2.    Understand what’s underground and overhead:
a.     Locate the sewer, water, gas, electric, phone and cable. 
b.    What you plant over/under utilities today may be dangerous or removed in a few years.
c.     There is a free locating service – use it.

3.    Feel free to ask the neighbors the history of the landscaping.  Not ask them what to plant but they do have historical data plus you’ll get their gripes up front.  (The fence that’s on the property line, the tree that always gets their drive dirty with mulberries, the bush that doesn’t allow them to peak in your windows.)

4.    Use a diagram to plan changes.   Whether using a contract landscaping firm or doing it yourself, having an overall plan allows you to see what it will look like down the road. 

5.    Respect the history of your property.  Some things work for new construction but would look woefully out of place at an older home.

6.    Plan hard scapes FIRST.  Even if you can’t afford to put in everything in the beginning, having hardscapes in the original plan will keep you from removing important plants later. 
a.     Hard scapes are sidewalks, porches & decks, steps, edging, kids’ play areas, garages, driveways, mailboxes, clotheslines, fire pits, gates/fences, downspouts/rain barrels, irrigation systems, pool & other water features and any other large permanent structure.

7.    Large trees:  Know the measurements of the MATURE tree canopy and root system.  If these are placed wrong, it will forever be an expensive maintenance problem. 
a.     What is the purpose of the tree?  Shade, windbreak, privacy, decorative, sound buffer or wildlife habitat?
b.    What are the tree’s maintenance requirements?  Nuts, fruits, leaves, sap, susceptibility to disease & wind damage, invasive root system and will these things be a problem where you plan to locate?

8.    Bushes:  Considerations are much the same as when planning trees.
a.     Use bushes that are complementary to the age of your home.
b.    All bushes need some maintenance.  Understand all their requirements.

9.      Do NOT plant things too close to buildings – ever. 

10.   If you’re putting in a new landscape, amend the soil FIRST. 

11.   To sod or to seed?  It’s a money and speed choice.  Both will need water to establish.

12.  Now is the time to realistically calculate how much you’re willing to work or pay others to work.

13.   Edging:  Easy to mow around.  Will it require heavy weed pulling or herbicides?

14.   Consider how much light/shade – water/drought a piece of ground gets in ALL seasons.  It can make or break a plant.

15.   Landscape fabric/mulches:  Landscape fabric and mulches help control weeds but can become unsightly and difficult to remove.  Chose well. 

16.   I’ve covered this before, but unless you live where there are legal restrictions to what can and cannot go in your yard, you can pretty much design as you want.  Others may hate your 20 foot pink elephant bought at a bargain from Nature World but if you truly can’t live without it, put it in but then try to shield it from others.  It’s called “being a good neighbor.”

17.   If you want to remove the previous owner’s landscaping, instead of trashing, consider giving it away to other gardeners.  It’s the old:  One person’s trash is another person’s treasures.
There’s nothing wrong with getting ideas from Pinterest, neighbors and decorating books.  Then adapt what you love and put your own personality on the landscape.  

Wait a year, make a plan, do your research and happy gardening!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Stop and Smell the Roses

Some folks spend so much time complaining, 
analyzing and hating the thorns on a rose bush
 they never see the beauty of the flowers.
My comment (above) isn't terribly original but it still holds true.  I'll see someone has written a lovely thought about their favorite whatever and invariably the grinches of the world must point out all the pitfalls.  

Call it political correctness, negativity, mean spirited, reading too much news or the inability to see goodness and beauty.  

Yes, I know there are horrible and evil things in the world and we mourn and despise them; we are scared and we have compassion.  

The lasting sadness when someone we love dies, the lasting horror of violence and the lasting depression when hopes are shredded makes it so very hard to stay positive.  Staying positive isn't about forgetting - it's about choice.  

There isn't a week that goes by I don't think about our grandson who passed away.  I'm sure his parents don't have a moment where Nick isn't in their thoughts.  He won't be forgotten.  Something that isn't happening is we're not punishing others by trying to steal their joy for their own children.  We aren't throwing the blue blanket of unhappiness upon others' roses.

When stepping back and looking unemotionally at negative comments thrown on positive thoughts, it really is all about the naysayers getting satisfaction, a measure of happiness, by showing the world there are so many awful sides to a picture no one should rejoice.

We all have those moments of negative thoughts.  If you simply can't get negativity out of your thoughts to the point you only see sadness, talk with a professional who can help you. 

Step back from negative comments and consider exactly what you're trying to accomplish.  Do you think the world won't consider these things unless you're there to save them from unwarranted happiness?

When I posted on social media that my grandson had passed away, every single comment was positive.  I didn't need someone pointing out their disappointment in God or in medicine or in a world of heartaches.  By friends and family only lifting us up, we were able to take strength and celebrate Nick being in our lives.

Roses have thorns.  Don't plant them near a walkway.  Wear thick gloves when working on the bush.  Pop off the thorns when bringing them into the house.  But do your best to celebrate the gift of the flower.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Salad for One

Red cabbage - just because it's pretty!
My husband went from eating robust meals to eating dietary supplement drinks.  He can venture out into real food occasionally but his throat won't allow much variety.  So now I'm making food essentially for one.  A whole new adventure in buying food and cooking.

When I can't seem to make small portions, because it's hugely difficult to buy and cook for one, I farm out food on my children.  I rationalize they are young busy working parents and appreciate having something they don't have to make.   I also know there are times they take it and really aren't all that keen on what I've fixed.    I've been trying to buy smaller portions.
Green cabbage just because it makes a beautiful picture.
One thing that's difficult is buying lettuce or fresh leafy vegetables that don't get icky before I can eat it all.  Plus, how many of us voluntarily eat a whole bag of greens or head of lettuce in a few days without our noses twitching like a rabbit?

I've found a substitute green:  "Italian Vegetable Blend" by Green Giant.  This contains chopped washed cabbage, brussels sprouts, carrot, kale, broccoli, celery and onion.  Zero fat, and zero cholesterol. High in Vitamin A and C.   I feel virtuous just telling you about it.  These vegetables don't go bad as fast and have substance.  Substance helps because it requires chewing.  Chewing satisfies part of the whole eating healthy process.
Chinese cabbage cause I needed a 3rd picture.
Here's my recipe for a substantial and healthy meal.  This is for one but as a side salad, it could be for two.

2 handfuls - Italian Vegetable Blend
1/2 Cup - Dried soybeans
1/2 Cup - Frozen peas - microwaved to tender
1/4 Cup - Pepper Jack cheese - cut into small cubes
2 handfuls - Seedless green grapes - halved

Top with:
1/4 Cup - Hellman's Mayonnaise
1/8 Cup - V8 Juice
Sprinkle with Kosher Salt and Fresh ground pepper

Toss to coat.

You can eat with toast, crackers or chips but I warn you this is a very filling salad by itself.

The trick is once you have the Italian Vegetable Blend, you can use any nut or seed, fresh or frozen vegetable, with or without any kind of cheese and most any small cut fruit.  When "IVB" isn't available, I buy a bag of mixed shredded cabbage.  If you change out the dressing, you risk taking away from the flavor.  I like the balance of flavors and textures with the above list.  But then, it's your salad so experiment and enjoy.

I used the 10.5 oz. bag of vegetable blend for six days with no wilting or spoilage.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Human Nature

Bitsey Oh, you wanted your keyboard?
Sometimes I can get a whole column from just reading my morning dose of Facebook posts.  Thank you friends and family; you inspire laughs, concern and amazement.

Why is there a need to add that little bully comment at the end of a nice thought?  Example: “ God loves you.  If you don’t share this, your nose will fall off.”

Do you worry about that person who is so lonesome the only thing that will help is if everyone sends them a virtual hug?

I sometimes have someone ask a garden question.  Granted I’m far from an expert but there is always that one other person that must challenge anything I suggest to prove the fact that I know nothing.  I'm grateful I’ve given them their highlight of the day.
Bitsey doing who knows why
If women can’t support each other, not criticize each other and be an uplifting part of their life – how can we ever hope for peace on earth?

YOU are an example to others on social media.  No matter if you’re 90 or a teenager.  I know it sounds basic but so many people say and do things without considering someone is watching and listening and will incorporate that into their future.

Do not judge:  

  1. A book by its cover.   
  2. A garden by its yard ornaments.  
  3. A woman by how she looks at 5 am.  
  4. A man by his ball cap.

If some of my friends cooked, baked and ate every recipe they post on Facebook, I would have some really big friends.

Thankful the Cubs won as much as they did.  In a state that’s primarily known for it’s high number of convicted government officials, the honest citizens have been vindicated.  It’s bigger than baseball folks.
Bitsey I know I heard something up here.
I was pulled into the 21st century when I received and was grateful for virtual sympathy condolences.  It really is “the thought that counts.”

For a few of my friends/family, “Throw back Thursday” is a chance to show the world you were once wrinkle free.  I feel your pain.

I’m grateful I didn’t try to use letters to replace thoughts – like LOL.   At this age, they change before I’ve mastered it and I’ll look like I’m not into something rather than have all my grandchildren roll their eyes.

The human mind is unique and amazing.  Even people who are my soul sisters and roll models have that little quirk that lets me know they are not me.  A blessing for both of us I’m sure.
Bitsey - what is he doing in my chair?
Some people will publically post an opinion on Facebook that they would never write in a personal note or say to someone’s face. 

Monitor yourself:  That moment when you go from having an opinion to having a soapbox. 

I’m grateful for stories and pictures of towns across the world celebrating their little claims to fame.   Right now I’m looking at a large parade float in the Netherlands that has a huge DEAD Vincent Van Gogh in purple flowers.  This somehow reassures me our little Midwest town is pretty darn wonderful.
Boots had no fear and thus no more Boots.

Sometimes a family member will post something and I secretly think, “I hope those mind genes came from the other side of the family.”

There is evil in this world.  It is not running out of pumpkin or the first frost.

I don’t need to see graphic horrible for anyone to make a point.  I am capable of understanding the gravity of a situation without that visual.

I seriously worry about friends and family who post nothing but negative or worrisome comments and articles.  Can’t you be happy about anything?

I still don’t understand why someone wants to be “friends” of mine on Facebook when they don’t bother to say “Hi” in the local hardware store.
Maggie aka Buddy - relaxation at it's best (photo by Kelly L.)

Have we become so politically insecure we are forgetting to teach our boys how to be men?  I don’t want men to think like a woman, feel like a woman nor act like a woman.  I want to be able to criticize men for all their own character traits.

Realize when you post something, I may pray for you. 

Thanks to “The Old Movie Guy’s Page” on Facebook, I see there are more character actors who’ve been successful at acting than leading actors.  There’s a life lesson in there.

James Bond what do you mean you were reading.
If the only thing you post on your Facebook page is Pinterest crafts made out of wine corks, you may be hiding a problem.   Speaking of such:  Has anyone seen the cute little wine cork reindeers?  Sorry.  No really, I don’t have a problem.  Did I say “sorry”?

For all my family and friends who post beautiful pictures, I thank you.  I may not be able to get everywhere beautiful but you allow me to see places through your eyes and camera. 

I am grateful I know a few really practiced and high quality goofballs. 
J decided my daylily shipping box is her new bed.
If you were born with a cute little perfect nose - good for you.  If you were born with what we call a “distinctive nose” and still rock your attitude – even better.

There’s a fine line between respecting someone’s right to their opinion and condoning that opinion.

Gotta go – someone posted a picture of an endangered turtle dancing on a little kitten while three babies eat ice cream. Yes, it’s a Facebook morning.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Gonna Take A Sentimental Journey

Gonna take a sentimental journey
Gonna set my heart at ease

Gonna make a sentimental journey
To renew old memories

Got my bag
Got my reservation
Spent each dime
I could afford
Like a child
In wild anticipation
Long to hear that
All aboard
That's the time we leave
At seven
I'll be waitin' up for
Countin' every mile
Of railroad track
That takes me back
Never thought
My heart could be so yearly
Why did I decide to roam
Gotta take that sentimental journey
Sentimental journey home
All pictures are a sentimental journey home.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Good Examples

From an Amish blog I follow.
“Tradition” – a song sung by a Jewish father in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” emphasizes that some things should be transferred from generation to generation. In truth, there are many values that need to be imparted to children.  Not only values in life but in gardening as well.  I’ve collected some good ideas that still hold true.

A repellent for deer:  In a tank sprayer, mix one gallon of water, three-tablespoons Louisiana Hot Sauce, one-teaspoon garlic powder and mix well.  Then add one-teaspoon dish soap as a spreader/sticker.  Spray on your plants once a week and after rain.  Make fresh each time.

The best way to remove earwigs from the center of daylilies without damaging the flower is to hold a bucket of soapy water under the bloom and then take a deep breath and blow in the flower until the earwig drops out into the bucket. 

Killing Japanese Beetles:  Early in the morning, gently shake the flowers and the Japanese Beetles will fall into a bucket of soapy water.  They are sluggish and won’t fly away.  Squashing them releases an odor that brings more insects.

If a daylily stem (scape) is too weak it will fall over in bloom.  Use colored duct tape to wrap the stem and it should stand the season.

Men and women used to wear broad brimmed straw hats when working outside gardening and farming.  Now days the baseball cap is popular for both.  The downside is your ears, cheeks and neck are now exposed to sun and as a result skin cancer is a real threat or reality.  Cover or slather on sunscreen all day.  A word to the wise is sufficient.    

If your garden has some disease issues, carry a bucket of water with a bit of bleach to dip your trimmers into after every cut.  It will keep from transferring the diseases to other valuable plants.  A stitch in time saves nine.

If you wash your porches and decks, make sure the solution is plant friendly.  The run off from toxic and caustic chemicals will kill even large plants.  I use Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Peppermint Soap.  It’s made with organic oils that not only clean but also tend to repel insects.  I get mine at Cornucopia in Galesburg but you can find it other places. 

Clean out all hummingbird feeders with a mild bleach solution when the season ends, rinse thoroughly and hang to dry.  This will get rid of all mold and diseases.

In a baggie, save pieces of ribbon and add cut material scrapes into thin strip.  Early in the spring, toss them onto bushes and soon they’ll be gone, incorporated into bird nests.  It’s not a bird necessity; it’s for our fun.

Spread some alfalfa pellets around your daylily plants early in the spring (not touching the leaves) for a good fertilizer.  When planting a new daylily, add a handful to the bottom of the hole, cover with a thin layer of soil and water, then add the plant.  Alfalfa is hot so you don’t want them to burn the roots by directly touching.

If soil in your garden isn’t routinely given good nutrients, it will show up in disease, decreased vigor and death.  Make composting and fertilizing an every year project.

Tree leaves (except walnuts) make excellent mulch.  Do NOT bag and send off to the dump.  Chop up by mowing and then rake under bushes, on top of perennials and over beds. They will end up composting into a good yummy fertilizer plus offer winter protection for the roots.  If you have too many, consider making a simple compost pile which becomes free fertilizer.  A penny saved is a penny earned.

Be careful – VERY CAREFUL – right now burning anything outside.  Bonfires, trash and even controlled burns are risky when it’s this dry. 

Putting vinegar on plant material is another risky business.  I know there are many on-line recipes that include vinegar for a variety of outdoor purposes but vinegar is caustic and may kill a plant.

As you put your garden to rest this fall, take a moment to enjoy what a grand summer we’ve had this year.  And take another moment to wish our farm neighbors a safe and profitable harvest.  Thanks for feeding the world.

And to end with another beautiful “Fiddler on the Roof” song:  “Sunrise, sunset.  Sunrise, sunset.  Swiftly fly the years.  One season following another; laden with happiness and tears.”  Aw wisdom.