Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crafting Mojo - Part Two

I was reading "Dave's Garden" on-line today.  There was an article about making pine cone wreaths.  That took me back in the old Christmas memory bank.

When I was a very young mom, with little financial resources to spend on Christmas gifts and decorations, I always made many of both.  Not that it was a burden, I enjoy this kind of thing.  My problem is I never quite analyze if a project will become repetitive.  I don't do repetitive well or with a joyful heart.

I decide to make mother, mother-in-law, and sisters-in-laws each a pine cone wreath.  I bought the wire forms, the wire and gathered a blue zillion (blue zillion is larger than just a zillion for you non-math students) pine cones.  I'm so ready.

Each cone must have a length of wire wrapped around the bottom portion and then tied to the frame.  Pretty simple.  And then it moves into repetitive.  To look good, full, and totally covered, it takes a red zillion (that's about half a blue zillion) pine cones tied to the frame.  I finished all five and haven't done another since.  I had mine for years, occasionally changing the ribbons, until it simply dried to disintegration.

Other years I've made Christmas aprons, purses, painted pictures, painted cards, and on and on.  I've finally stopped making large batches of any one thing because I've finally stopped long enough in the excitement phase to remember more math:   We have a big family + repetitive tasks = B O R I N G.  This year I'm making a patch quilt - oh my goodness talk about repetitive - but that's another subject.

If you too enjoy making Christmas gifts, here are some good projects:

  1.  Orange scented pomander balls:  Prick the orange skin with an ice pick to make it easier to insert whole cloves.  Insert cloves in a pattern.  Tie the entire orange in coordinated netting and tie the top with a bow.  Wrap in tissue and insert in a plastic bag to keep the scent until it is opened by the recipient.
  2. Neck wrap:  Double stitch soft fleece fabric in a pillow case type bag.  Bag should end up about 12 x 4 inches.  Leave one end open.  Double the fabric if it is thin.  Insert dry rice (not instant), flax seed and natural lavender until it is about half to 3/4 full.  Sew (very securely) the open end.  This can be heated in the microwave and put around the neck for a calming sensation.  Make sure it's not too hot by heating in 30 second intervals BEFORE placing on the skin.
  3. If you have access to cedar shavings, save them for a scented closet hanger.  Sew three sides of a colorful (not heavy) fabric.  The size should be about 4" wide x 6" tall. You may sew lace or other trim around the top.  Fill the bag with the shavings, tie the top closed with a ribbon (including a loop for hanging) and I like to add a simple sturdy ornament.   You could make your own stuffing with cinnamon sticks, dried roses petals, or other fragrant dried herbs, flowers, or barks.  Cedar does have moth repellent qualities.
  4. Build a birdhouse from found or salvaged items.  Just needs to have drainage holes in the bottom, a vent near the top and has the capability to be cleaned out at year end.  If they are for birds, make sure all components are weather proof and functional for the birds' needs.  If it is simply decorative - glue guns and whatever are fine.  I have loads of plans if you want a copy or there are free plans on the net.
  5. Bird feed ornaments:  Some of the ready-made have bird feed glued to Styrofoam balls or wreaths.  I'm not sure that is wise for the bird's sake.  None of the examples will last in a lot of moisture but hopefully, the birds will eat them first.  Mix seeds, peanut butter, lard, corn meal, and flour until it is the consistency of very stiff dough.  (You can also add nuts and fruit)  Form into balls with a loop of twine embedded in the middle and coming out the top for a hanger.  Don't make any larger than your two hands can go around or it will be too heavy to hang.  Lay on a wax paper covered cookie sheet and freeze for a couple of days.  Wrap in net or discarded onion/potato mesh, and tie a ribbon at the top.   Wrap in plastic wrap to give as a gift.  Don't let it get too warm before giving.
  6. Dried flower uses:   For those of you that save and dry flowers and leaves, this is the perfect time to use in gift arrangements.  A simple little 4 inch grape vine wreath or a small bouquet tied with a pretty ribbon for a table are good uses.   A small canvas painted a color that coordinates with your flowers, then glue the dried flowers in an artful arrangement, frame and sign.  The smaller, the more charming.
  7. Canned goods:  For those in your family, a jar of your canned tomatoes, pickles, etc. is always a welcome treat come winter.  You might want to include a ribbon around the top and an old family recipe.
  8. Then there's that pine cone wreath . . . 

Use your talents and your garden supplies and your gifts will be original, perhaps inexpensive, and from the heart. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Shed Is A Shed

I've never seen a garden shed as well organized as the magazines and HGTV garden program examples.  I'm sure there are some out there - I've just not seen them and especially in my own back yard! 
This little area came about when my daughter moved and gave us her little storage shed.  In the winter, it holds everything that can get cold and is piled to the top.  Since it doesn't get water, it works well.  I did learn to NOT store the hanging basket liners inside the shed  - the mice thought it was nesting heaven.  This area also has my potting bench.
Some sheds are tiny and some are large.  Farm properties usually have barns and like-sized sheds which can hold the additional garden tools.  City/town lots must use garages or erect little utility sheds.  Both in-garage storage devices and the utility sheds can be simple to expansive. 
Even the most simple shed (as pictured in the oil painting by my mother) serve the purpose as long as they are dry.

I've got the organizational device called "20D nails".  I came from the 1900's barn type of organizational methods for hanging tools.  All my "handled" tools hang in the garage by two of these big nails supporting the rake or whatever.  I admit, it's not as pretty as the metal hanging devices sold at hardware stores.  I also admit, it still works.

I still use a bucket of kitty litter with used motor oil for my garden shovels.  Since a metal tool will rust if sitting on the cement floor all winter, it solves that problem along with the oil coating.  Plus, it's a least harmful place to dispose of the oil.

All my hanging lanterns hang on a 20D from the garage rafters.  It takes no work bench or cabinet space and they risk little breakage. 

I don't have an inside potting bench - mine is outside as pictured above.  Although I contemplated those lovely commercial designs for inside, there is just no way I'm neat enough to keep the mess off the floor.  In the summer, I simply store my bags of potting soil in that little outhouse style shed since it's been emptied of all the garden things earlier in the spring.  

If you have a greenhouse type shed, an actual shed constructed for gardening, and if you have them all organized - good on you!  I'll admire yours and may even dream about emulating your neatness.  In the end, Diane will hammer a few more nails and feel fortunate if at the end of summer my tools are all hangings and clean. 

Pretty - not so much.  Barn functional - yep. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sweeter Than Wine

This October we toured the rose gardens at Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. And as the country song says, “I had to stop and smell the roses along the way.” I took many photos of the beautiful roses; many heirloom and All-American winners.

And there in the middle of my tour, I reached for a red rose and my day became something more. It was a fragrance that can transport one to marvel. This beauty was the Hybrid Tea Rose “Chrysler Imperial”. It was seriously the high point of my garden walk.

In the modern hybrid flower world, plants have often been bred for larger flowers and more color choices. Rarely have they been bred for fragrance. The result has been many flowers no longer have their original if any fragrance.

Heirloom and open-pollinated flowers retain fragrance that past gardeners nurtured for their essence in cooking and for healing. Perhaps fragrance for the simple enjoyment was secondary in the early days, but, I’m sure it was enjoyed never-the-less.

Commercial marketing labs have discovered fragrance can sell. Think of the candle industry, a restaurant that fans their fresh baked bread smell out to the sidewalk, the hotel industry scenting their bedding with lavender to calm and relax, department stores pumping floral scents have increased sales, and research is currently finding certain scents may help diagnose and treat some diseases.

As far as roses, the Scented Geranium True Rose fragrance is said to improve recall and enhance the formation of memories. Perhaps for me the Chrysler Imperial was actually a recalled memory of some long forgotten event. As Louise Beebe Wilder wrote, “The gardens of my youth were fragrant gardens and it is their sweetness rather than their pattern or their furnishings that I now most clearly recall.”

Smell is one of the most powerful stimuli known. The olfactory receptors in the nose connect directly to the part of the brain responsible for memory and emotion. Our sense of smell affects 75% of our moods and emotions on a daily basis, and we are capable of detecting 10s of thousands of fragrances.

Given choices when choosing a plant for your garden, choose one that has scent. Next, put those scented plants where you will enjoy them. A single Oriental Casa Blanca Lily planted beside your porch or deck will perfume the evening air. Herbs such as rosemary, basil, or lemon balm planted beside a path will release oil and fragrance each time they are brushed.

Some plants wait until evening to release their perfumes; some will scent the entire garden and others need to be picked and placed in a vase for enjoyment. Think of a room with a vase of old fashioned peonies or lilacs.

Every flower that releases a wonderful fragrance, is handing you a gift. Heinrich Heine said, “Perfumes are the feelings of flowers” and I tend to agree.

You don’t need a $500 an ounce perfume when a bouquet of violets is just waiting to be picked in the back yard. Put away the sleeping aids and put the essence from lavender on your bed at night. Never be in such a hurry you don’t bend to smell a rose.

As a gardener, cut a few flowers and take them along on visits to others. Little kitchen glass flavoring bottles, old votive candle holders, or found containers washed and ready to hold flowers for your friends. Add bit of ribbon around the top. “A bit of fragrance clings to the hand that gives flowers.”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gobble Gobble

This is a wild turkey I photographed at Brown County State Park in Indiana.  Not quite the picturesque version we see in most Thanksgiving pictures.  This old boy is the real deal much like the early settlers and the Native American Indians used for food.  

This pre Thanksgiving week has been an interesting mix of November weather.  Yesterday, we set the record high temperature of 71 degrees.  Thrown in for good measure was severe storm watches and then warnings, tornado watches and then warnings.  Eight tornadoes were sighted in Illinois and Wisconsin.

At one point, we were warned there was a tornado sighted at the Kewanee airport (not far from us).  Look as we might, we did not see it although friends in that area had some damage.  

At our place on the hill, we had significant hail and wind and thankfully no damages.  We did loose power for over two hours and I noticed Ameren and Corn Belt workers busy into the evening hours in Galva.
Looking forward to Thanksgiving:
According to WQAD's Anthony Peoples':  70% of our Thanksgivings have had no snow, 14% have had flurries or a trace amount, and 16% have had measurable amounts 0.1 inch or more.  If you remember back to Thanksgiving 1968, we had 5 inches of the white stuff.  

This Thanksgiving I thank God for my family and friends.  I'm thankful for living in America and pray we take our many Blessings, this land and it's bounties we have inherited, and share with those who aren't so fortunate.  I ask God to guide my hand to cheerfully help others as He has always helped me.  As the gardener's hand guides the trowel into the earth, may our love of others guide us to be helpful and thankful.

To Pumpkins at Pumpkin Time

Back into your garden-beds! 

Here come the holidays!
And woe to the golden pumpkin-heads
Attracting too much praise.

Hide behind the hoe, the plow,
Cling fast to the vine!
Those who come to praise you now
Will soon sit down to dine.”

By: Grace Cornell Tall
Billie Creek early Indiana log cabin.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Busy Busy Busy

Anyone remember the late Terry Thomas' famous line, "Busy Busy Busy"?  I always loved that line because it was a tongue-in-cheek joke of our modern busy lives.  And speaking of busy, I've a couple of more things going on in the area for the Christmas season.

Quite by accident, I found a classmate of my daughter, Laura Birr Brown, on Facebook.  Laura is the talented daughter of the talented Jan Birr.  If you remember back quite a few years, Jan was a great influence upon the newly formed Galva Arts Council.  Anyway, back to the story:

Laura married Jim, who is one of the owners of Distinctive Gardens, Inc. in Dixon IL.  Until today, I had never heard of DGI.  Now that I have, I must get there!  Check out the web site - it looks lovely.  http://www.distinctivegardensinc.com/

For those of you who don't mind last minute plans, DGI has a free "Holiday Decorating" class tomorrow, Saturday November 20 at 10 AM at 2010 Cowell Pk., Dixon.   The class teaches how to make "charming holiday decorations with plants found in your yard. Evergreen pots, hanging baskets, and window boxes creatively designed will be detailed. Great for the do-it-yourselfer."

Otherwise, they are open Monday through Saturday - 9 am to 6 pm - March through December.  Sundays - 11 am to 3 pm April to June and November and December. 


Hoerr Nursery, 8020 N. Shade Tree Dr., Peoria IL  http://www.hoerrnursery.com/
Holiday Hours: Mon-Fri: 9am - 6pm - Sat: 8:00am - 5:00pm - Closed on Sundays
Hoerr's is having  two days of workshops (Call to reserve a seat):

Saturday, Nov 20:
Christmas Curb Appeal :: 11am
Light posts, porch containers, window and mailboxes, oh my what a difference a little holiday cheer makes. Quick, classic and fresh ideas on creating some serious curb appeal for you and your guests.
Entertaining Guests :: 12pm
Join us for easy, affordable ways to add beauty and festivity to any occasion, from simple swags to stylish centerpieces and wreaths, fragrant accents, and seasonal surprises.
The Center of Attention :: 1pm
Bring your dinner party to life with a handmade centerpiece. We’ll supply everything, including the container, fresh greens, seasonal accents and plenty of inspiration. $39 includes all materials.

Saturday, Dec 4
Christmas Curb Appeal :: 11am
Light posts, window boxes, mailboxes, oh my what a difference a little holiday cheer makes. Quick, classic and fresh ideas on creating some serious curb appeal for you and your guests.
Tiny Tots with their Eyes All Aglow :: 12pm
A great chance for you to shop (or sit) uninterrupted! Kids can enjoy story telling (for all ages!) with our guest speaker, mingle with the Big Man himself, get a picture together, and create a seasonal surprise with
Hoerr’s elves. $10 includes all materials.
Why the Wreath Seals the Deal :: 1pm
When they see the fresh, over sized wreath on the front door, they’ll wonder what holiday magic lies just inside. We’ll provide everything you need to create one of your very own. $39 includes all materials.
Yesterday I visited Green View Nursery, 2700 W. Cedar Hills Drive, Dunlap, IL 61525 - Phone: (309) 243-7761 - http://www.greenview.com/

Celebrating the Season Events

Photos with Santa - Saturday, December 4th - 11am to 2pm
Take a picture with Santa! Green View will be doing photographs. Bring your kids, grandkids, or pet. Priceless photo for only a suggested $5 donation to a local animal shelter.
Make & Take Event - Holiday Centerpieces* Saturday, December 11th - 10am
Our in-house designers will help you create a centerpiece that will add the perfect touch to your home. *Participants of this event must purchase materials used to make their centerpieces.
(Call to reserve your seat for the Make & Take, by Wednesday, December 8th)

Creative Holiday Seminars
Saturday, November 20th, 10am "Wreaths, Swags & Garlands"
How to use fresh or artificial greens around your home.
Saturday, November 27th, 10am "The Grand Entrance"
Welcome your guests with an entryway that compliments your home.
Saturday, December 4th, 10am "Holiday Sparkle"
How using reflective items can make all your decorating shine.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

When You Wish Upon A Star

It’s the time of the year for me to offer some Christmas gift ideas for your favorite gardener.

Many nurseries & garden centers have fresh greens: Wreaths, garlands/roping, trees & grave blankets. Kewanee’s Lamb family Dew Fresh Market on Tenney Street. Galvan Diane Nelson’s Prairie Country Gardens. Many of the big box stores & florists have live Christmas cactus, centerpieces & fresh flowers.

Others have gift certificates available: Kewanee’s Sheila & Jeff Johnson at Sunnyfield Greenhouse & Nursery may be called at 309-852-5172. Sheffield’s Ruth Draper & Martha Owyer at Red Barn Nursery 815-454-2294.

Cost for mail order greens start at about $50 for wreaths, about $12 a ft. for garlands & trees start at $50.

Garden tools are available locally from Galva’s Mary & Jack Hathaway’s True Valu. Good quality is necessary for experienced gardeners. Many of the new tools are ergonomically designed. Catalogs & big box stores also carry a variety.

Garden lighting, for functionality or decorative, has become a big item recently. Solar is great for ease or no electrical source. One catalog has solar outdoor Christmas lights & solar candy canes & ornaments.

Clothing for the gardener may be gloves, aprons, & hats.

Bird and animal supplies are at most of the above stores & decorative ware stores. If your selection is for outdoors, make sure it’s weather proof. Houses, feeders, baths, heating elements, & food come in a wide range of uses and prices.

Recovery from garden labors might include a spa, message, thermal, manicure, yoga or pedicure gift certificate. Oils or candles for aroma therapy. A membership at an exercise facility to keep fit during the winter.

Ornamentals may include seasonal things such as Christmas lights, bird feed ornaments, gazing balls, statues, & structures.

The unusual could be a picnic basket, small blanket, napkins & a gift certificate from the Galva Food Center IGA grocery store & a customized box of candy & fresh coffee from Bishop Hill’s Colony Store. Weather centers, weather vanes, & temperature monitors.

Here are some specific ideas:

1. A garden basket with a bottle of wine, garden gloves, gift certificate for a manicure, & some lavender scented hand lotion.

2. A bird feeder, bag of sunflower seeds, a bird identification book & a pair of binoculars.

3. A fresh pine wreath, spool of ribbon, a few Cardinal bird ornaments, & boughs of red berries.

4. A small “Northern Pine” tree, lightly spray with hairspray & dust with glitter. Wrap the pot with a Christmas dish towel, tie with a ribbon & add a gift certificate.

5. A centerpiece made from pine & boxwood, a large red candle, ribbon & berries is especially nice for someone who no longer puts up a tree.

6. A garden pot packed with a coffee cup, a bag of spice-flavored coffee, & a bag of candy canes. Perhaps tuck in a favorite CD of Christmas songs or the soothing sounds of nature.

No matter where you live, check out your neighborhood selections. It’s a chance to make the local merchant, your gift recipient, and you’re shopping a nice Christmas experience.

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” ~ Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


This Monday, the USDA reported, "15% of U.S. households lacked enough money to feed themselves at some point last year.  In addition, 608 million of these households (with as many as 1 million children) had ongoing financial problems that forced them to miss meals regularly."
 In the on-going desire to political correctness, the report termed it "food insecure homes".  I found "food insecure home" a trivialization of the fact some people go to bed hungry because they don't have food.   
Data reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, "42.4 million are getting food stamps - a 17% gain over last year.  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program jumped by 17.5%.  Congress is debating funding of the food subsidy programs."

Once I got over my aggravation on so many points in this report, I realized I had two options:
  1. Write my representatives in Congress and make my wishes clear.
  2. Plan to locally help those who are not able to feed their self or their family.
Both options require knowing the entire story. 
  1. Exactly what is being debated:  funding?  methods?  how to determine eligibility?  amount?  stop the programs?  This one will require some digging.
  2. Helping locally is, in part, easier: 
    1. Donate to the Lions Club's Thanksgiving basket project.
    2. Donate to the Salvation Army Christmas fund or a homeless shelter.
    3. Donate to the local Food Pantry (food, paper products, money).
    4. Send a grocery store gift card anonymously to someone who is struggling to feed their family.
    5. Ask around, at your church for example, if there is someone who needs help.
    6. Not only young families with children, but, the elderly often have trouble having enough money to buy food when other high dollar items take all their monthly income. 
Then, there's the little judgemental issues that can make giving to the needy more difficult.  How do you feel about giving to folks who:
  1.  Don't spend their dollars wisely which leads to repeatedly getting in financial dire straits?
Although I'm not suggesting you (or anyone) should follow my way, I'll put it out there as an option:
  1. If someone or a family is hungry when they go to bed because there is no food, then the why of it isn't my first immediate concern.
  2. Am I enabling?  I'm not set on this earth to withhold food from the hungry while they learn. 
  3. I either give through a responsible philanthropic organization or anonymously.  
  4. If I give anonymously, I usually give a gift certificate at a grocery or if the needs are broader than just food, I may give a Chamber of Commerce city-wide spending card.  
  5. I figure I'm responsible for my own motives and charity.  I'm not responsible for "making" others responsible.  It would "feel better" if they were, but, sometimes they aren't.
  6. If my gift is grossly abused, I don't need to give to that person next year - there is always someone needing help; that list will not go away.
This Thanksgiving and Christmas while we're cooking the bounty from our gardens and income, I hope you will consider feeding the hungry this winter.  Especially, those who fall through the cracks of food assistance programs or even those too proud to admit they go hungry. 

I've found I'm always Blessed when I help another in need and give thanks "But there for the Grace of God go I."  


Monday, November 15, 2010

Bitter Medicine

Male bittersweet vine at about 5 yrs. old near a walnut tree sapling.

Not long after we bought this place, I purchased two bittersweet plants (a male & a female) from the Henry County Soil & Water Conservation District (HCSWCD).

I planted one near an old fence and one of our zillion walnut saplings.  The other I planted on the front picket fence.  The picket fence location thought was it would be pretty spreading over the fence and laying over on the unmowed portion that is viewed from the road.  Dang those best laid plans - again.

Climbing Bittersweet aka American Bittersweet Celastrus scandens is from the Staff-Tree Family.  Other names you may hear are climbing bittersweet, false bittersweet, climbing orange-root, fever-twig, fever-twitch, staff-vine, and jacob’s-ladder

Fruit and flowers are on the female plant.

Bittersweet has a really beautiful benefit:  In the fall the berries (actually fleshy seeds) are beautiful in decorations.  The fruits are yellow-orange and open to expose the scarlet berry-like interior.   By then, most of the leaves have fallen off and the stems remain  pliable to weave into arrangements and wreaths with ease.   It's a great winter food and cover for wildlife.  It is sometimes used for erosion control.
The flowers are small and green - not really much to call attention to the vine in the spring.  The leaves are 2-4 inches and a nice bright green.  It's a native plant.

A perennial, the twisting vine climbs from 20-50 feet.  Is considered poisonous but not toxic (apparently purging from both ends is a result.)  Native American Indians and in India, it is used as a herbal cure. 

This is the same (male) vine as the first one and the photo was taken this summer.  Note the vines twisting around the trunk.

This year I decided tough love was the only answer for the one on the picket fence.  We trimmed every vine down and out of the crab apple.  It loved the haircut and has rewarded us by becoming much more thick and really covering the crab apple. 

Tough love next spring will probably be cutting to the ground.  Perhaps, we can dig it all up and I can replant where it won't kill something valuable.  It will kill the crab apple because it becomes so dense it can't absorb the needed benefits of the sun and it strangles the trunk.  We'll see, although, I suspect it has resources that may make "tough love" more like army warfare. 

The seeds do not have high germination rate like the very invasive Asiatic  Bittersweet C. orbiculatus.  If you plant bittersweet, make sure you DO NOT get the orbiculatus.

The name is aptly applied, as is so many native plant names.  It is beautifully sweet and bitterly deadly if planted near the wrong place.  

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Crafting Mojo

Christmas 2008
If you have a creative flare, now is certainly the time to get your crafting mojo working.  (Is "mojo" really a word???) 

There are great projects for Christmas that most anyone can accomplish with a good pair of clippers and some pine branches.  If you shop in stores that have beautiful wreaths, you might be tempted to splurge on one, but, making your own takes these beautiful ideas and allows you to haveone at a fraction of the cost. 

Either from your own pines -or- purchase a bundle from a local retailer.  Shake off any insects and debris.  

Lay newspapers on your table to prevent sap from getting on things.  Use wire and wire cutters for outdoors.  Glue guns work for indoors.

For an outside wreath, I like to have one of those wire forms instead of the Styrofoam forms because they are sturdier in winter weather and wind.  Some use pre formed grape vine wreaths as a base.

For wreaths, cut the pine branches into no more than 8 inch lengths.  Tie these in one direction & to the form with wire.  Make sure the end product is full and all the wire is covered.  Shake it to make sure you have all the branches totally secured.  Add a small wire loop, at what will be the top as a hanger.  Now you're ready for the fun.

Decide the color theme for your decorations.  Lighter colors show best on the greens.

Weather warnings:  Many glass balls/ornaments have the outside painted and will get damaged in rain/snow.  If painted on the inside, they must be secured tightly to prevent breakage.  Fresh fruit will only last a few days before they start to rot.  Plaster berries and fruit will start to dissolve in moisture.   The die in velvet may run and stain house/trim paint.  Dried flowers, grasses, & grain work, but, may fall apart or get limp.  Anything heavy will eventually droop.

Some ideas: 
  • Other evergreen foliage such as barberry, boxwood, and holly. 
  • Using different kinds of pines add color variations:  fir, blue spruce, arborvitaes, cedar for example.  
  • Natural pine cones, Canella berries, Juniper berries, lavender, Eucalyptus, & wheat.  
  • Plastic ornaments, fruit, candy, leaves and berries.
  • Outdoor twinkle LED lights if there is an outlet close.

Example #1:
  • Wrap red and white striped wired ribbon lightly around the wreath.  Tie firmly to the wire frame.  Weave it in and out of the pine so as not to mash or bind up the pine branches.  Don't use so much that the greens are hidden.
  • Tie a large full bow of the ribbon at the top securing with wire tied to the frame. 
  • Wire sprays of artificial red berries and secure into the greens by tying into the frame.
  • Wire plastic candy canes onto the frame (even though real candy canes are wrapped in plastic, moisture will soak in and they will start to melt.)
  • Spray-on artificial snow gives it the winter look.  (Should be done outside or in the garage) 

Example #2:
  • Hide twinkle lights in the greenery.  Make sure they are securely wrapped.  Using an outdoor extension cord in the same color as your house paint helps it not detract.
  • Insert gold colored artificial leaves, using the wire method. 
  • Attach a large full gold bow.

A photo of Christmas decorations at Hobby Lobby 
Example #3:
Lay 3/4 of your greens going in one direction, lay the other 1/4 in the opposite direction.  Wrap wire around the smallest spot where the two meet.  Make a loop on the back for hanging.  Add a ribbon over the wire.  Wire pine cones to hang from the bottom/larger portion.  Tuck in red berries or other red decorations.  Hang upright.

Examples are only limited by what you have, what you want, and how expansive you want the greens.  The wind and rain today remind me all winter decorations need to be really secure or they might end up mojoing into the next country.  The pre decorated wreaths pictured were from $50 to $400 - another reason to do your own mojoing!

Found this while looking for wreath pictures:
Green View Nursery
 2700 W. Cedar Hills Dr., Dunlap, IL 61525
Phone: (309) 243-7761

Make & Take Event - Holiday Centerpieces*
Saturday, December 11th - 10am
Our in-house designers will help you create a centerpiece that will add the perfect touch to
your home. *Participants of this event must purchase materials used to make their centerpieces.

10am "Wreaths, Swags & Garlands"
Saturday, November 20th
How to use fresh or artificial greens around your home.
Call to reserve your seat for the Make & Take, by Wednesday, December 8th

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The G.A.R. and You

This is a photo of one my family's G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) metal.  Hard to believe it was only my grandparents' era where the Civil War was active.  My Great Grandpa came home injured and always walked with a limp from that injury.  Considering the conditions on the battle fields, the existing medical treatment, the internment camps - he was one of the fortunate ones. 
The G.A.R. was first organized in Decatur Illinois by and for Civil War veterans to stay in touch.  At one time, there was a G.A.R. post in every state and boasted a membership of almost 500,000. 
Members of the G.A.R. were a patriotic group and over the years became more involved in the public life and welfare of all veterans.  They were the first veterans' organization to promote membership of blacks, they established "Memorial Day", and eventually established alliance with the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (which is still active.)
At one time, they became involved in the Republican party and five of our Presidents were members of the G.A.R.  After the last original Civil War member died in 1956, the official G.A.R. organization was dissolved.
Once I researched my family's membership, I began to realize there were memorials, public and private buildings, and cemeteries donated and dedicated by the G.A.R. 
Today, we thank our veterans and pray for the families who have lost sons and daughters while serving our country and for veterans who returned injured and scarred.  Take a moment to reflect on all our veterans, throughout the history of this country, and what it means to your way of life today.  Thank God they cared enough to protect that way of life, our land and our way of government.

Fly your garden's flag with pride and thanksgiving today, it's through the sacrifice of our veterans that you have the honor.
For more G.A.R. information, visit their museum and library site:    http://www.garmuslib.org/

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pink For Sissies?

When I was young (yea, I know), only girls wore pink.  It's so much nicer now that everyone embraces such a beautiful color for clothes, paint, and in the garden.

Pink can be soft, shocking, soothing, lively, bright, pale, an accent, or a neutral.  You get the picture - it can be everything!

A fruit tree blooming in the spring, with dark to light pink blossoms, can be one of the most welcome sights after a long hard winter.  My crab apple (above) simply glows on a warm spring day.  Even if you never have plans to use the fruit from your trees, one planted as an accent really puts a punch in the landscape.  There are the full sized (standards), dwarfs, weeping, non fruit bearing and those pruned to espaliers.

Daylilies have pink varieties that span the entire descriptive process.  They are an example of the color wheel's many varieties and combinations.  Pinks may have overtones of purple or orange.  It may lean towards red or white. 

Many flowers may have subtle or strong accents of other colors.  They can blend (as in rose and pale pink) or they can contrast (as in yellow and pink).  These accent colors can pull a grouping of different pinks together with other colors or they can bring in a color that enhances.  For instance, dark purple will make a pale pink more visible.

Annuals have many beautiful pink colors, such as:  Zinnias, inpatients, petunias, nasturtiums and the list is almost endless.

The color of surrounding leaves can make a pink stand out or add to the existing color theme.  The dark maroon leaves of the above crab apple provides a backdrop for the pink blossoms.  Dark green evergreen shrubs behind pink inpatients allows the inpatients to steal the show.

Nature is full of pink colors (vines, bushes, trees, annuals, perennials, bi annuals, spring flowering bulbs, wildflowers, and on).  For that matter, the setting sun often throws pinks on the surrounding clouds. 

Our neighbors to the West and the Southern Americas have always embraced pinks - paint on their stucco homes, clothes, furnishings and allowing vines of shocking pink on every available structure.  Although we Midwesterners may still tend to be more reserved about the use of the bright colors, the introduction of pink is a sure sign we're embracing nature's pink possibilities.  Nature has always embraced pink - we just needed to realize that beauty, too. 

"All gardeners live in beautiful places because they make them so."
- Joseph Joubert, French essayist, 1754-1824

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Wile E. Coyote

We've had multitudes of coyotes close to our house this fall.  Tonight their yiping could be heard over the ten o-clock news.   (Canis latrans), the American coyote, is a member of the canine family just like our pet dogs (well, sort of.)    Coyote means "barking dog" in Latin.  No kidding, on the barking or yiping as we heard it tonight.
Photo of a coyote from Wikipedia.

Coyotes around here are not usually very big, but on average may be 34 inches long w/o tail and weight from 15 to 46 pounds.   If you want to creep out:  They have been known to be five foot long and weight up to 75 lbs.  And forget about out running them:  In pursuit, they can reach speeds of 43 mph and jump a distance of 13 feet.  They can climb a fifteen foot chain link fence if hungry enough.

Most are in a pack of six but they tend to hunt in pairs.  They can dig dens or use dens and burrows of other animals.  They stick to a territory using the same paths (swell, I suppose we are now on one of their territorial paths.)  Their life cycle is usually ten years but can live longer and actually can be trained in captivity.  No thanks!!

Coyotes are mostly nocturnal but only because it's easier to hunt when humans aren't out and about.  Thet average six pups per litter; typically only half survive.

I found the following:  "When a coyote calls his pack together, he howls at one high note. When the pack is together, he howls higher and higher, and then they yip and yelp and also do a yi-yi sound very shrill with the howl."   Sooooo, that's what this orchestra of caterwauling has been - just a little conversation between the family.

Mostly carnivores, they are opportunist as to what and where they find food.  In the winter, they will also eat fruit and vegetables.  Items like garbage, pet food, and sometimes feeding stations for birds and squirrels will attract coyotes into backyards.  Yes, they prefer wild meat (especially rodents) but are not above attacking cats and smaller dogs.  A pack, in the wild, can pursue a deer (or other larger animals) for up to 21 hours until the animal is exhausted.  The population explosion in the Midwest is because the Midwest does not have the natural predictors of the coyote (wolf and cougars). 

The good news:  Attacks on humans are few because the coyotes are so much smaller and are typically afraid of adults humans.  They have been known to stalk small children in urban areas.  They cause the most domestic cat, sheep, goat and cattle losses of any predictor in the Midwest.

Tobeepornottobeep.jpg  Wile E. Coyote nose-to-nose with the Road Runner.  And with that, I'll say that enough said about the coyote and "Beep Beep".

Here's a good hint to do every Fall when Daylight Savings Time ends:
  1. Change the batteries in your smoke and CO detectors
  2. Check the batteries in your flashlights and radios.  (keep an extra supply of batteries for emergencies)
  3. Put emergency supplies in your vehicles: 
    1. Bag of Kitty Litter, flashlight, flares, ice scraper, blanket, power bars and always take a fully charged cell phone.
  4. Plug in the cat and dog water heater bowls and make sure they have warm dry bedding protected from wind and rain/snow.  (Bring them in a protected warm area if the temps get too cold.)
  5. Start your snow plow, generator, snow blower and make sure they are fueled and ready to go.
    1. Have enough extra fuel on hand to last through a prolonged outage.
None of these particularly apply to gardening, but having one day set aside to do these things makes sure you aren't caught when "the going gets tough."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Memories Are Made Of This

I have my mother’s recipes. They are in various forms: Notes in an old cookbook, 3 x 5 recipe cards, and scrapes of paper. You can tell the ones she loved most by the amount of food stains. Many are simply titled by a person: “Lizzie’s Angel Food Cake” or “Betty’s Meringues”.

Garden equipment and lore can have the same kind of memories. Some of us had parents and grandparents who were frugal or maintained and saved equipment long after new inventions made them obsolete. If you are the recipient of these garden gems, you are indeed fortunate.

I might add a disclaimer: Having a bunch of old stuff might be fortunate to some, but, if you’re married to a neat freak (a term we holders of sentimental stuff use) it might not always be termed fortunate…

I’ve copied my collection of old recipes, put them in plastic sleeves and a three-ring binder. The old recipe fits behind the new copy. It protects the old and allows me to find a recipe when needed – or – just browse for the memory of it all.

Garden items and lore can be treated in the same manner:

• Hand write or type notes and stories connected to different garden tools and lore.

• Include a picture of items, plants or people.

• Arrange in a plastic clear sheet protector w/ 3 holes and add to a three-ring binder.

• Subject dividers may be added with categories. Use subjects that make sense to your collections and make it easier to find.

• The “Lore” part can be the most fun. Add stories of how the owner used it or stories that had been told over the years. A note of how this item or story became important to you.

Some people make copies and give a “book” to their loved ones as a way of preserving family history. Others simply enjoy the book for its trip down memory lane. A word of caution: Some will treasure it today and always. Others will put it away and only realize its joy as they, too, age. And then, there are those that will eventually let it be trashed because they aren’t sentimental.

As the freeze of winter settles upon our Midwest, it’s a great time to gather those family and friend gardening stories and make sure they don’t get lost. I included friends in this statement. As an example, I plant blue bachelor buttons because they bring a smile to me at the thought of my dear friend, June. A picture of these pretty flowers and of my friend with a note to why I included in my book makes the story complete.

Some say gardening is over after the first freeze, but, only if you want it to be. Winter is the time for planning, organizing and memories. To preserve these treasures is a way of saying “Thank you” to those that instilled a love of gardening.

“Gratitude is the fairest blossom that springs from the soul.”

- Henry Ward (Harry) Beecher, American clergyman (born 6/24/1813)

Goodnight Tree

One of the favorite books of my little grandchildren is "Goodnight Moon".  For some reason, it made me think of our old apple tree out in the woods. 

This old tree was oddly shaped, probably from lightening strikes.  It had character.  The first few years we lived here (about 14 years ago) it produced these juicy tart green apples.  Just right for making applesauce.

It was a favorite of one of our cats, Boots, who was forever climbing up the inside and examining the world from his perch.  

The tree then started a steady decline and had no leaves this past summer.  During our recent heavy wind storm (40 to 60 mph winds), it finally toppled.

I hadn't noticed until I was planting my daffodils bulbs and I'm kinda sad about loosing this old tree.  It takes a long time for a tree to have character as beautiful as this old apple.  It was so beautiful, we positioned a little bench under it and kept the area mowed.  It was the perfect spot to sit a bit and enjoy the quiet of the woods. 

I suppose we'll have to reconfigure the little area, but today it's "goodnight tree".    

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hippy Dippy Weatherman

The one that gets a red flag:  The Whitetail does rut (their first estrus or in-heat) peaks by mid-month.  For male deer this is a time for them to run crazy through the country side seeking "female companionship."  For humans this only means one thing - deer vs. vehicle collisions peak (in 2008 there were 24,212 vehicle/deer accidents and two human fatalities.)
Massachusetts Car Accident  Picture of a deer vs. vehicle windshield taken from the net.

Other animal love life:  River otters breed and the great-horned and barred owls court.

Moving on:  Crow migration peaks, Bluebills should be migrating as I'm writing, Canvasback and Mallard migration peaks, and the Lesser Scaup migration occurs.  I've been hearing the honking of large flocks of geese almost daily.  Quail form coveys in preparation to finding winter cover. 

Most doves are en-route to winter areas along the Gulf Coast, but, I always have several that tough out winter in our woods and visit our feeder when it really gets nasty.  Doves prefer to feed on the ground or our seed catch all under the feeder.  This photo shows them picking away at stale cereal and popcorn after one particularly nasty overnight storm - note the ice on their feathers and beak.

Moving in:  Winter birds, such as juncos, tree sparrows, and purple finches, start arriving this month.  If you fill your bird feeders with sunflower seeds, they'll find it almost immediately.  All three are active and entertaining birds and provide hours of "bird watching" enjoyment outside my computer room window.

Dipping a pole in the water:  Sauger/walleye are good in rivers this month. 

Turkey talk:  Turkey flocks split up and the males group up into "jake flocks".    I saw an unusually large number of turkey this summer in most every location we ventured.  I'm guessing the price of Thanksgiving turkeys will be reasonable - noticed about $0.89 per pound at our local grocery.

Weather talk:  Average snowfall for November is three inches, although in 1974 we received 15.6 inches.  Now that would wake you up to winter!  Record low temperature was in 1977 with minus two and in 1891 at a nasty minus ten degrees - burr farbs!  Record high temperature was in 1950 at a nice 81 degrees.  Average low is 25-37 degrees - average high 41-57 degrees.  The 1970s were more unpredictable than a hippie at a Pink Floyd concert!  

(Remember the "Hippie Dippy Weatherman"?  Most famous line:  "Tonight's forecast: Dark. Continued dark throughout most of the evening, with some widely scattered light towards morning.")
Go to fullsize imageGeorge Carlin performing a Hippie Dippy routine - taken from web.

Hippie Dippy might be a good term when looking at November weather:  The Midwest weather is trying to settle into winter but takes some extreme ups and downs along the way.  Those of us who actually enjoy winter, are grumbling about why it's taking so long for a good deep snow.  Those of you who really would be more happy in Arizona, start your major grumbling every time the temperature dips below fifty degrees. 

I really don't know what people do who live in areas where the weather seldom gets extreme.  What do they talk about when they see neighbors?  What would be the point of standing and looking at the sky if you're not waiting for that predicted weather change?  Aren't they deprived of the child-like excitement at the beginning of a really good snow storm?  They miss the satisfaction that comes from laying-in, hunkering down, preparing for, and complaining about winter!  Four good months of winter weather - bring 'er on!

A lot of the animal information is thanks to former Peoria Journal Star sports writer, Jeff Lampe.
Much of the record weather data was thanks to Anthony Peoples' BLOG at WQAD.   

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Gardening & Diabetes???

This November, the American Diabetes Association is sponsoring its annual American Diabetes Month to raise awareness about the seriousness of diabetes and the importance of diabetes prevention and control, and to promote its national Stop Diabetes campaign.

WHAT???   What does diabetes and gardening have to do with each other?   One of the things a diabetic must deal with is their eating habits.  Doing this can make the world of food seem like "the enemy" and they may experience the feeling of "deprivation".  

Growing your own food and herbs can help enhance the flavors of food and make those foods you do eat seem more like a gift rather than the punishment.

When I speak of herbs for diabetics, I'm not referring to herbal treatments.  I'm referring to herbs and spices being used to enhance the flavors of the food.  They allow things to taste better and allow your satisfaction to be enhanced.  It's difficult to stick with dietary restrictions when you feel deprived.  A big huge boat load of flavor can put a grin on your face and keep your sugar levels within the guidelines.

Growing your own herbs and vegetables allows you to have them available all the time so you're not as tempted to grab a quick harmful snack.  Large flavor will help satisfy your food satisfaction without large quantities.  Although some vegetables contain so much sugar and carbohydrates that they must be eaten in limited form, having that limited amount in the most flavorful fresh or fresh preserved manner adds to the satisfaction. 

Gardening is a great way to add exercise to the diabetics' routine - one of the ways to enhance your physical health, maintain your correct sugar levels and add a huge level of well-being to your life.

Although I have family-in-law members with diabetes, I'm not an expert.  I know the struggles they have experienced and how difficult the whole food thing is for them.  Get a list of the vegetables and herbs you can eat - the amount, the sugar levels and percentages you can eat - and plan on a garden next year.  Get a POW! from herbs and spices and not from fluctuating sugar levels. 

Check out the American Diabetes website (see the enclosed link) for more information. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hunker Down

I have a few "favorites" on my Facebook page.  They are actually a way for a commercial enterprise to advertise.  Since I choose to let them advertise on my FB page, it means they have more to offer than just their products.  One site is Lehman's Country Life - a catalog of products designed for those who do not have electricity at their properties.  

The Lehman's store is located in Kidron Ohio, smack in the middle of one of Ohio's Amish communities.  Because they do mail order sales, it's available to anyone who might enjoy their products.  Not only do they have home and farm supplies, they also have food products (think penny candy).  What got me there today was their recipe on how to roast pumpkins.  Might give it a try!  

The site has equipment similar to what my grandparents used.  I've ordered supplies from them, especially when I want garden, kitchen or preserving item that I can't find locally. 

The products I've used are made to last and of first rate materials.  Where my parents' items were cast iron and could rust, most now days are stainless.  Anyway, even if you aren't in the market to buy, it rather fun to look at all the stuff and the articles.

Their web site   http://www.countrylife.lehmans.com/  has an interesting blog site:   http://www.karensgarden.net/

Karen's is a simple blog about all things on their farm relating to produce: garden, farm, animal, and responsible sustainability. 

(Old walnut tree that still produces an abundant crop each year)
As we in the Midwest prepare to "hunker down" for the onset of winter - this wholesome blog is inspiring and informational. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November This and That

Our flag flying; a freedom we have in the USA.  Another is the right to vote - hope you exercise that right today.  Even though political leaders and the media like to blame everything from the economy to the weather for the county's problems, the elected officials (500 plus) are the only ones in our US that can make decisions, make changes, or improve our country.  When you think of what a mess our government is in today, it is all the more important to elect or re-elect those who will make good decisions.  That's where good government begins:  with you!

What might we do today and tomorrow?  
  • Bring in the last of the summer equipment and decorations.  Hoses in particular need to be drained and stored.
  • Why wait any longer to put up Christmas lights.  Maybe not the large twelve-foot lighted Santa, but, certainly the ice cycles on the eves, the ones on that pine, and any that require a ladder.  Unless - you just don't feel it's the Christmas season if you aren't freezing and cracking the ice off the rungs of your ladder...
  • Plant any spring-flowering bulbs you may have tossed on the garage work bench and forgot.  I finally managed to get 100 daffodil bulbs in the ground yesterday out in our woods.
  • Make sure your bird feeders are clean and filled.  Same, if you feed squirrels.  Lay in a supply of bird feed and corn so you don't have to haul in heavy sacks all winter.  I use the large plastic tubs with lids to keep away mice.  
  • Find your vehicle ice scrapers.
  • Put Sta-bil in the gas tanks of your gas motors (lawn mowers, snow plows, tillers, etc.). 
  • After cleaning garden and lawn tools, make sure the metal is covered in a coat of oil to prevent rusting.
  • Don't store tools sitting on cement - it conducts moisture and speeds rusting or rotting.
The sun is shining and it's a great day to get out and vote - see you at the polls!