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Archive for April, 2008

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With all the scare today of identity theft and the nightmare of having our important financial information stolen and used by others, I thought I would share this thought.  Alot of folks have jumped at the idea of shredding their personal data – purchasing a small shredder for the task is not expensive, but once the papers are shredded and bagged up, put out to the trash … then what?  It’s an open invitation for a thief!!  The shredded jumble of paperwork simply states that this information needed to be shredded because of its importance to me and here it all is in this bag for you – all you have to do is put the pieces together and your in business!

  If you have ever watched CSI or any such crime show, you know that they can put this back together in a few hours and know everything about you!  So my solution is to “Feed the shreds to the Worms!”  I happen to compost with red wiggler worms in a worm bin I purchased last year.  I have seen many versions of making your own worm bin handmade by others (on WordPress and other internet forums).  The shreds make a great addition to the worm bin and there is nothing left that can identity all your financial secrets except some wonderful worm castings that can only enhance your gardens!

 

We also have a 3 compartment compost bin outside that could be used for the same purpose, although I have never tried it yet.  I would soak down the shredded papers and stir them in so they don’t go flying around the neighborhood.  Once they start decomposing they should be all set in there.  Keep the compost moist and stir around at least once a week or so.

  Now if you see a stranger shifting around in your compost bin there may be reason for concern! 

One last idea on composting is for all those who have those gigantic trampolines for the kids and the kids have since outgrown.  We have one that was left at our newly purchased home down south and after much discussion what to do with it, we decided to make a compost bin out of it!!  We rolled it out into the field, flipped it over, encased it with chicken wire and tossed the tarp over it.  The tarp lays on the ground over the leaves!  It is huge but if you have the space … it is space well used and an old trampoline with renewed purpose!

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I grew Luffa last year for the first time and I am growing alot more this year – it was interesting, educational and I like growing something that has a “purpose”.  The luffa sponge grows in the garden and not the ocean like many people believe – I always thought that myself until I came across it in one of the garden seed catalogs.  It does require a somewhat longer growing season and quite a bit of space since the vines really take off.  I did read somewhere to cut the vine after a certain point (I think it was 10 ft) and let the energy go to the growing luffas.  I will experiment with that this year.  The seeds are hard so they should be soaked in water for at least 24 hrs. before planting and then nicked (or slightly cut) with scissors to encourage the growth to begin.

 

Luffa seedlingsLuffa flower

The actual luffa looks like a cucumber or zucchini and last year I let them just grow on the ground, this year we will be making a trellis for them to hang – they can grow 2-3 ft. in length.  When they are smaller, they can be eaten but I haven’t dined on any myself.  The practice is to let the luffa dry on the vine (turn brown) and then take it from the vine.  I ran out of time last year and brought them in when still green and let them dry inside.  It took a couple of months for this and then I peeled the skin off and found a luffa sponge inside!  I did soak the sponge and remove the seeds which I am growing this year!

luffa-harvest-3

luffa-peeling-2

 

The sponge can be used as it is or you can craft with it – I will be creating some more luffa crafts this year.  Luffa soap was my fun undertaking last year – just in time for Christmas gifts!

 

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We headed down south with the new mower and a whole lot of 40 lb. bags of black dirt!  It amazes me the difference in soil from here to there AND the weather, we left behind some nasty storms and arrived to 80 degree weather!  The next day was milder in the 60s and since we planted non-stop it was a blessing.  What is equally amazing is the change in scenery as we drive – the last hour is a drastic change and one of the reasons we decided on this area.  As you enter Effingham, IL you are greeted with this huge white cross

 and this trip there were purple trees all along the rest of the way – not quite sure what they are yet, but they are Beautiful …

We started the planting with the 18 Blue Spruce pines we had left there in buckets of dirt, which I do not recommend –  leaving plants out in buckets or pots for an extended length of time.  The neighbor told us it rained like cats and dogs, but the pines were Dry and it looks like we may have lost a couple.  We planted them all since the root systems were well established and hope they make it.  Next we worked on the Luffa area which we had to use blocks as a retaining wall since this area is on a slope.  We only dug up the spot to plant the luffa and filled it with black dirt.  The blocks we also added dirt and planted marigold and alma paprika pepper – every other one.

The Shade garden in the side yard was next on the agenda –

Both areas we need to fill in with additional compost, dirt, leaves, etc. and the luffa area will have a trellis on both sides and overhead for the vines to grow and the luffa to hang.  Luffa plants need quite alot of space and they require a longer growing season.  I also planted the sedum next to the house

 and it looks this way since I plan to expand this whole bed – this side of the house is blocked from the extreme winds that whip through on a regular basis!  There are hosta and foxglove along with blanket flowers planted last trip which seem to have taken hold.  I have 2 lavenders planted to test out the grounds and a lupine and some tomato plants.  SO all we can do is hope that everyone makes it – the concern being that the neighbor said a “frost” may occur next week …No!  that would be bad.  Lastly, we did plant the 6 rose bushes we brought down and I have a good feeling about them …

  We were exhausted but it was good!  The fish were jumping in the lake, the birds were loud and I even saw a Huge black snack and a little lizard!  Great trip … now we keep our fingers crossed the new transplants all survive the weather and the critters!

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For those wondering if the Swans succeeded in claiming their nest …

In the last 2 pictures Mr. Swan joined Mrs. Swan in the nest and I think he is flirting with her … not sure what she is doing – you think he woke her up??

Next …. the ferns are starting to emerge and these pictures are great!  They look like little creatures …

 

Lastly, anyone who has ever tried to make chocolate covered strawberries knows the frustation of getting the technique right so the end product looks appetizing and not all messy!!  I read this tip not long ago and it actually makes the job FUN!  Keep the stems on the strawberries and grab the berry by the stem, melt your chocolate and swirl the berry around covering as much as  you want while holding the stem …

  Yum!  Wait for the chocolate to harden and you can cut the stem off or just leave it on!!!

 

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Most of the seeds that I start I have been using black flat trays filled with soil and scattering the seed or in some cases laying the seed in rows with space between each other.  Some seeds I have never grown before (well, alot of seeds for that matter) like this Blue Columbine which I scattered throughout a tray of soil.  As  you can see, they did very well!  Since we are headed down south I want to take some of these (since I have so many) and also to see how well they do down there, so I KNOW when transplanting seedlings it is of utmost importance to handle “the roots” very very carefully.  Pulling and tugging these apart would have done more damage than good in separating these guys, so I decided to use scissors and just cut the part out I want to take.  Then what I am doing is putting the soil and seedlings into a plastic bag, watering them and handling carefully.  It is much easier to transport this way – taking trays of seedlings on a roadtrip is not smart .. I can only image the end results after 5  hours of bouncing around.

Blue Columbine Cutting out my section In plastic bag for transport

 Alma paprika pepper & cayenne pepper Also ready for transport

I am also taking Shasta Daisy, Luffa and the Rose bushes I bought earlier in the week.  I have waiting 18 Pine trees ready to go in the ground.  I have a few other “test” plants I will sneak along but I do have to keep reminding myself that I won’t be there to monitor the progress or water these plants so I have to keep it simple.  Rain is predicted for the weekend but I plan to plant anyways … what a true gardener eh?

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