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Archive for May, 2008

Each time I toss an empty laundry soap bottle in the recycle bin I wonder and wish I could use it for something meaningful and beneficial.  I am a huge fan of recycling and when I witness others with no concern (even family and friends) who don’t recycle …… I cringe!  So looking at these laundry soap bottles I can only image how many end up in the landfills … thousands!  My dilemma was the hard plastic and the spouts they make – simple scissors won’t make it through the plastic and rinsing with water is a major task with those spouts!  So for years I have added them to my recycle bin knowing there must be a use somewhere somehow for them!

Enter…….. my new Dremel Tool which I recently purchased –

  I am clueless how this fantastic tool works but I have been tabbing through the instructions and realized it can “Cut” plastic so I attached the cutting attachment and tried it out!

  

I cut around the top of the bottle and as I was working on this … laundry soap came spilling out with more left in the container.  This was always something I knew – all the soap I was just throwing away thinking the bottle was empty .. but knowing it wasn’t really.

   Well, there’s the finished project BUT it doesn’t work … the water pours out around the spout also.  I took that spout and hot glued it where it is, but it needs refinement.  I have to think about this … I can try cutting out a hole lower down and inserting the spout or I can forget about that spout and just make a V cutout for the water to flow out.  That spout is so perfect for a garden watering can – I just have to figure out how to make it work.  You can never have enough watering cans …… as any gardener knows!

Goodness knows where this Dremel tool will take me next … OH, and here’s a picture of Mrs. Cardinal in her nest warming those eggs!

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Today was a totally off day for me … every single thing I did or tried to do didn’t work – it was bizarre!  I can’t remember a day like this EVER .. I won’t go into detail since I surely don’t want to relive all the mishaps,  I will point out the Good things that did happen.  I spotted a Cardinal egg in the new nest right outside the window … there may be more than 1 egg but it was hard to get a good shot

  

No matter how bad a day can get – this sighting made it all worthwhile!  Remarkable!

I have started to grow my own asparagus which takes 3 years time before you can harvest a crop to eat and spring time is when asparagus is up and growing.  Great sales take place now since it is harvest time and I am buying asparagus and freezing it up so we have plenty for our summer dinners.  First a picture of my baby asparagus –

 

  

Three years and the harvest will begin – in the meantime,,,,

  I buy asparagus on sale and blanch – first I do peel the outer skin which I find tough and then cut in pieces about an inch in size, boil a pot of water and throw the asparagus in for 3 minutes – then I remove and immediately rinse in cold water –

   peelings for worms in the compost bin – they do love this!  Once the asparagus is blanched it’s time to vacuum seal it and freeze.  I have learned with vacuum sealing that if the item has too much moisture it won’t seal ……. at all.  So the answer is to freeze the product in the bag first and then seal it up …… soups, stews, tomatoes, asparagus    many many items have alot of moisture and will not seal up.

 

Asparagus in bags freezing up first          then vacuum sealed   make sure to date

Lastly, I make our own beef jerky which is really simple and if you check the prices at the grocery store for jerky they are High!   I buy a round steak on sale, cut in strips and marinade for a day.  You can use your own marinade – I usually just use teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, worchestershire sauce or a combo of things .. maybe a spicy tabasco or something garlicky.  It all works!

 

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I ventured outside today to trim up the lilac bush that is right in front of the kitchen window so we could watch the new bird feeder in action BUT I noticed the Cardinal pair were pretty active themselves.  They seemed particularly interested in this same lilac bush so I backed off and observed and to my delight … they are building a nest right smack dab in the middle of the bush!  I thought it was a little late in the season but I have never witnessed a cardinal building a nest and having babies…the Cardinal is the state bird for Illinois so this is really cool!  Here are the pictures I was able to capture – they were certainly flitting around like crazy!

   Mr. Cardinal and “the lilac bush”

  Framework of the nest

  There SHE is!

Some time passed and I didn’t see either of them.  I was leaving and noticed both of them in a nearby tree ……. watching

 Mrs. Cardinal

 Mr. Cardinal

Now for the update on the Swans – haven’t seen the female out of the nest for a while now but the male is sure protecting his turf from those Geese!

  In flight … he IS Serious!

I wonder who will have the babies first … the Cardinals or the Swans??  I just hope with the 4 dogs and 2 teenagers we don’t scare the Cardinals away … I need to make a Sign!

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I have mentioned in the past the weather in Southern Illinois is quite different than up North – although we had rain and high winds in both locations this weekend, we arrived down south to 5 ½” of rain which came down in 24 hours.  We were fortunate enough to miss driving in the downpour and I realized I need to find an accurate weather site to check before heading down – I had NO clue what we were heading into.  We are limited to the local radio stations when we are actually down there since we don’t have TV or internet hookup as of yet.  We found out Sunday morning as we listened to the winds whipping around outside that we would have to stay another day!!  Since we have been hauling the trailer back and forth it was too dangerous with winds at 35 mph and gusts of 50 mph to even attempt the trip.

 

We did have two gorgeous days to Garden and I was out there at 7 am in my “new boots” hacking away at the Clay Soil….a definite challenge after all the rain – heavy clumps!  I did find this wonderful information on clay soil which also has a list of plants that do well.  I planted more ferns, purple coneflower, yarrow, another sedum, moved some blanket flowers that weren’t doing well, several types of hostas and some more lavender.  The luffa transplants I had planted several weeks ago were shriveled and gone – the flower plants seemed to make it through the weather, but not the luffa, so more will have to be planted.  I laid down a layer of wet newspaper and dumped topsoil on this (12  40 lb. bags of soil disappears quickly).  This will smother the weeds that were as healthy as ever!

 

I took my new paddleboat out on the lake and was Very Happy when I spotted several Purple Martins.  It was hard to miss them since they were swooping right at me – probably because I was close to the purple martin birdhouse.  They sure are bold birds!  Spotted some Bluebirds also – very cool sightings!  We ventured out to a new town  and were quite impressed with the Grand Opening that was taking place at a new farm and garden store….they even sold baby chicks and geese!  The geese I don’t understand since we have thousands here up North and they are considered a nuisance.  Also we spotted a dead cow in a pasture – legs straight up and he appeared bloated … the other cows were out in the pasture chewing grass, but this guy was definitely done in – Never saw that before!

 

 

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I will be using my other wordpress blog Garden Swan which is also listed in my Blogroll for my “Picture of the Week” using the new Monotone theme.  It works pretty neat the way it adjusts colors so I figured might as well put that blog to good use.  How it works is you add one picture per post and there are arrows to move forward to the next photo which is added when you make another post (one picture per post).  I need to work with it more, but for now I feel organized and that is Key for me….. I need to “at least feel” organized!

My newest garden purchases this week –

 I needed a lightweight pitchfork tool for turning our newest compost area (made from the old trampoline left down south) and I am pretty sure I will find other uses for this new tool!  The boots are a Must … flip flops do allow for even tanning but they are just not practical and the other shoes just get ruined.  I did get some of those garden clogs but we have some serious brush and other vegetation growing wild … and lots of ticks!  The magnifying glass is probably causing a big question mark in your mind …. it’s for the Bugs!  I will be out watching the activity in the gardens and watching for those beneficial bugs who rid the garden of the damaging bugs.  The only problem I have is … Which bug is which??  My logic always ran along the lines that a “Bug is a Bug” – not SO, in the world of Gardening!  I searched around on the internet and found this great link on Farmer Fred’s website and it took all the guesswork out of the bug mystery for me.  Actually, last year I did have a couple run ins with the tomato hornworm …

 They can be very damaging and notice the droppings on the deck – hard to see in the soil, but this tomato plant was in a container on my deck.

 At first I had no clue what this was – now I know … the beneficial wasps laid eggs on this hornworm who will eat the worm causing its death.  Best to leave this alone as the new wasps will continue the good work.

I picked this for my “Picture of the Week”

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Mother’s Day is fast approaching and each year many of us try to give Mom something unique to show how much she means to us … this year is no different.  Gardening season is upon us and will be in full swing sooner than we know!  The local nurseries are advertising all their beautiful flowers and plants that many will be flocking to purchase  …  and give to our special Mom this weekend.  I start my plants from seed and I have a ready supply to work with for creating this “Companion Gardening ” gift as a thoughtful surprise!  I gathered seedlings that will work well together when planted out in the garden and potted them up all in one big pot.  There they can grow for another week or two or they can be added right to the garden.  If you can’t find the plants already growing, you can substitute with seed packets or even start the seeds in the pot and add plant markers for identification.

 

The companion plants in this plan include Tomato, 2 different Pepper plants, 2 different Basils and Marigold.  Great combo!

Another idea that was easy to put together is this “Birdseed Pot and Flower” idea.  I filled a terra cotta planting pot with birdseed, added a few dried flowers that I had previously dried (and what a great way to use them!) and topped off the idea with a packet of Songbird seeds … any type of flower seeds can be substituted.

 

You can enclose with the clear plastic that you gather at the top and tie with ribbon and a bow so the birdseed doesn’t create a mess.  The recipient can also plant the birdseed and see what type of plants grow …. How exciting!

Lastly, since most gardeners love to photograph their works of art in the garden, you can use some of these to create pictures as gifts.  Add words or just leave blank, print out on 8 x 10 photo paper and frame up.  Gift tags and cards can also me made this way!

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The magazine Country Living has a short article entitled “Plight of the Honeybee” and offers … What You Can Do In Your Backyard –

“Replace some of your lawn with flower beds.  Plant native plant species, which are well-suited for local bee populations.  A wealth of honeybee resources – including a free Pollinator Garden Wheel and a poster depicting North American bee species – are available at pollinator.org.  Reduce or eliminate pesticides and insecticides in the garden whenever possible.  Visit organicgardening.com for eco-friendly alternatives.  Choose plants that flower at various stages in the growing season to provide a consistent source of food for pollinators.  For a free packet of bee-friendly flower seeds, visit burtsbees.com”

Excellent advice I agree and I did check the sources for the free items and the Free Seeds are gone … clicked on the Community link and followed through to find 50,000 seed packets are gone, but it does list the seeds that were included – Calendula, Shasta Daisy, Lance-Leaved Coreopsis, Plains Coreopsis, Purple Coneflower and Sweet William Catchfly – so at least, we know what to plant.  The Garden Wheel and poster on the other site I couldn’t locate, but I may need to spend more time searching for it.  I did see that there is a free download offered starting June 22 and the site itself seemed to offer alot of good advice.

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