Perspective – Thanksgiving

My grand-daughter, aged 6, is a good reader at a young age. Sunday morning, she stood beside me in church services and read, with the rest of the congregation, the responsive reading, Psalm 100.

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. ~Psalm 100

I listened to her sweet voice as we read the words together. I was reminded of my second grade teacher, Mrs. Ware. This lovely Christian lady taught our class to memorize Psalm 100. I remember it still, near sixty years later, and I am ever grateful for the treasure she gave us. It was a different time, the 1960’s, there had not yet come banishment of anything Christian from the curriculum.

I felt so blessed to have both my grand-daughters with me in the service, and began to remember all the times I worshipped alongside my parents, grand-parents, in similar services throughout my childhood. How blessed I am that generation to generation the Lord remained forever with us. He is eternal. I know that my grandparents prayed for me, my children, and probably as I do now, for all the generations that will come after us.

I see within this certificate for the Cradle Roll department that my grandfather’s parents were also believers. These would be the great, great, great-grandparents of my own grandchildren. It fills my heart with Thanksgiving, that through the last century and longer, prayers have been spoken by my family for their descendants. These prayers are still being answered today. How could I not make a joyful noise, speak prayers of Thanksgiving, to my Father in Heaven on this special day? I am resolved to pray even more fervently in the coming year for all of my family, and for those as of yet unborn, who will come after us.

Thou, O LORD, remainest for ever; thy throne from generation to generation. Lamentations 5:19

Projects – Drying Out Gourds/Bird Houses

At this time of year many farm markets are closing down until Spring. After the pumpkin and Christmas tree season is over, large gourds are on sale for next to nothing in our area. Recently, I bought two large goose neck gourds, and one apple gourd, for $1.00 each.

I already have two bird houses created with gourds hanging in my garden. If you look closely, you can see the swirl of twigs inside, brilliantly constructed by small birds.

I’m not sure if the babies made it to maturity. There are small chipmunk/squirrel bites around the entrance. We also had a wily black snake in that area of the garden this year. While I was happy to have the small rodent population kept in check, I once caught the four/five foot long snake hanging out in the pine trees. From that vantage point it would have been possible to get into the gourd bird houses. I will have to come up with a solution to the snake and chewing problem before the birds begin building nests again. (I’ll make sure to update with any results I find.)

I use bath puffs to hang the gourds for drying. When you cut the inner tie the puff opens up into a long tube.

Knot one end of the tube. Place your hand over the stem as you slide the gourd into the tube or the sharp edge will create holes. Knot the other end of the tube and hang your gourd on a hook outdoors. It will become moldy on the outside in a few weeks, and begin drying on the inside. This is normal.

Dried gourds are a natural and inexpensive material for creating crafts of all kinds. If you find a good sale give bird house-making a try.

Praise – Sing

This post was originally posted in 2011, and is now buried deep, deep, deep within the blog archives. I stumbled upon it recently and thought it was worth another look. I can still remember the moment I heard the “Whoo-Hoo” from the jogger. It has reminded me once again to SING, SING, SING!

I also looked up how many times the Bible tells us to sing and found the answer in Answers.com.

121 times. It is the most recorded of the commandments, to sing to the Lord. The count rises to 209 if you use the New English version of The Bible. ~Answers.com

Creek at Hickory Run

I try to walk daily. Often as I walk I will softly sing songs of praise. A few days ago, as I happily strolled and sang, I heard another singer down the road a stretch. He was a jogger, with earphones, singing along to the tune. Suddenly, he let out a happy whoohoo in the midst of the song, and I smiled with happiness at the joy in his voice. The thought of his unabashed singing has uplifted me many times throughout the week.

I love this Bible verse: “For he (Jesus) says in the book of Psalms, ‘I will talk to my brothers about God my Father, and together we will sing his praises.’ ” Hebrews 12:2 (The Living Bible)  I like to think that when I sing songs of praise I am singing a duet with Jesus. Singing songs of Praise and Thanksgiving often ignites the presence of God within my life. It doesn’t matter if I harrumph along like a frog or trill melodious as a bird. The Lord God will inhabit the songs of his people.

I wonder how the world would change if people all around the world would stop throughout the day, lift up their voices in songs of praise, and sing a duet with Jesus.

Quick Tip – Fels-Naptha

I like Fels-Naptha soap because it works at removing stains and has been around a lot longer than me. Invented in 1893, the original soap actually contained Naptha, but it was removed due to a risk it could cause cancer. I use Fels-Naptha soap in the laundry room. In the winter, my light-colored shirts get filthy around the cuffs. Before laundering, I run the Fels-Naptha bar along the grimy edges. It works great breaking up the ground in dirt.

You can see from the condition of this very old piece of soap that I really do use it quite a bit. It lasts forever. The Frugal Navy Wife Blog has quite a few tips I hadn’t heard before. Check it out for some new uses for this versatile soap.

Plants & Photo Challenges – Bald Cypress Tree

When I saw Cee’s Pick a Topic challenge today, my front yard Bald Cypress immediately became my focus. Planted about the time my first grandson was born, it has probably been growing for about fifteen years.

The challenge, November Pick a Topic, included orange, along with other words, vintage, cast iron, etc. Orange is my choice, because it is easily accessible, blazing in the sunlight; my Bald Cypress glows russet orange.

The tree, although an evergreen, is a deciduous evergreen and loses its leaves in the Autumn. The leaves, when they fall, are like velcro and stick to whatever they touch. Small evergreens in my front garden are now wearing a garland of rust. The lawn becomes carpeted, making it fun to mow, turning the grass from orange to green again.

Whenever we drive down our road on the way home from outings, and I spy this majestic tree, I can’t help exclaiming, “What a beautiful tree.” It has grown from a six foot sprig, to a towering giant, and is now beginning to dwarf the house. Bald Cypress trees can grow to 120 feet and can live for 600 years.

In a corner of my garden a small sprig of a Bald Cypress tree is growing. Planted by way of the wind,or a foraging squirrel, it now stands about a foot. In the Spring, I will have to decide what to do with it. It needs to have plenty of space. In twenty years, it might be on its way to becoming a giant too.

This post is part of Skywatch.

Percolated/Quick Tip – Recycled Bubble Wrap and Padded Envelopes

It’s been quite awhile since I came up with a new category, or re-blogged an old, but still timely post. My new category is titled “Percolated.” In short, it means the post is still a good one, but over time I tweaked techniques, or found new uses for what I’ve blogged about. It’s all a matter of percolation.

My original post now includes extra uses I found over the years for padded envelopes I can’t bring myself to throw away.

Cut off envelope corners create a perfect piece of roundabout padding to protect the corners of picture or fine art frames you want to move or store.

Another way to use these cut off corners is on the edges of steel bed frames. Anyone who has cracked or gouged their shin on the sharp edges will appreciate this tip. A bit of double-sided tape holds the padding firmly in place.

Original Post: In the Autumn of the year, I hang this sweet welcome sign on my front door. The scarecrow and greeting are painted with acrylics on a heavy piece of slate making the piece very durable. My problem over the years is the racket the plaque makes by banging to and fro when the door is opened or shut. At some point, after years of bouncing around, I’m concerned the slate will crack and be ruined.

Bubble wrap to the rescue! Cut out cushioning strips and put them on the back of items that might be broken by movement. To safeguard the plaque, I cut a few bubble wrap envelope strips and glued them to the back with my glue gun. The whole process took about five minutes, and the strips work great. The racket is diminished and the plaque is protected.

Inspired by my success, I googled recycling bubble wrap. The Secret Yumiverse: 9 Poppin’ Uses for Bubble Wrap gave me two additional ideas. One was practical: put bubble wrap inside empty handbags/purses to help them keep their shape. The second just made me laugh: make a primitive burglar alarm by putting bubble wrap under the doormat/rugs near your front door. Funny, but hey, it just might work!

Quote – Seasons

Ralph Brownrig (1592-1659)

“Trees have their seasons at certain times of the year, when they bring forth fruit; but a Christian is for all seasons — like the tree of life, which bringeth forth fruit every month, Christ looked for fruit on the fig tree when the time of fruit was not yet. Why? Did He not know the season for fruit? or, did He do it “altogether for our sakes?” For our sakes, no doubt, He did it, to teach us that Christians must always be fruitful; the whole time of our life is the season for fruitfulness.” Ralph Brownrig

Based on Mark 11:13

Photo Challenge – Sycamores

I love the beautiful bark on Sycamore trees. Although, the actual tree Zacchaeus climbed in the Bible story was a Fig Sycamore, I am still reminded of the children’s chorus when I gaze at a sycamore tree. In our area Sycamore leaves begin drying out and falling long before other trees. We don’t find them very colorful, although I have read in other areas of the country they will exhibit a bit of gold.

The story of Zacchaeus – Luke 19:1-10

This post is part of Friday Skywatch.

Plants – Autumn Superstar – Tithonia/Mexican Sunflower

In my back garden you’ll find a towering plant near eight feet in height. I didn’t know Tithonia (Tithonia diversifolia), often called Mexican Sunflower, could grow so tall. The petals open up for me in late summer and are surprisingly velvety to touch. The seeds were part of a Wildflower Mix by Botanical Interests. The plant grows in a plot of ground once prepared as a square foot garden. The amended soil, vermiculite, mushroom soil, etc., must still have some ‘POW’ remaining; the plants within the confines grew much larger than average.

The size the plant reached in one season amazes me. Unfortunately, Tithonia is an annual and won’t survive my southern NJ winter. I saved mature/ripened seeds and will replant in Spring. The ground hasn’t frozen yet and is still soft and workable; this week, in addition to the seeds I saved, I will also scatter a few Tithonia seeds throughout my garden beds in hopes they will grow when warm weather returns. Seeds overwintered in the earth always grow best.

The flowers blossom at the end of a long stem, perfect additions to floral arrangements. The stems remain sturdy in a vase, the flowers, if picked at peak bloom, stay fresh and lovely for over a week. The stems can be cut short or tall for height.

Requirements for growing Tithonia:

*7-10 days for germination

*Sun for most of the day

*Needs at least three feet of spread room

Will I grow Tithonia again. Oh yes…I am saving many of the seeds and intend to leave the remainder for the birds to nibble through the winter. I will leave the plant in place instead of cutting away. The branches and any leaves that stay on the plant will provide shelter for the birds and also give them a chance to land and check for predators in the area around the bird feeders.

This post is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day and Friday Skywatch challenge.

Perspective and Plants – It Is Well.

My new rose garden is in a full flush of bloom. The roses thrived from the start, but the warm days of summer, and a season of good rain and fertilizer, bumped up the amount of Autumnal blooms. Also a help was the waning of the pest attacks that decimated the foliage in early Spring. My Mother loved asking about the rose garden throughout the Spring and Summer months. She frequently called me in the early morning to chat a bit and often asked about the roses.

Mom is no longer with us. You might have noticed I have not posted for months. During that time my Mother struggled with injury and failing health, and she went to heaven in early September. When she passed into the presence of Jesus, a small bouquet of my roses lay upon the tray near her bed. My sister and I were with her at the end. It was peaceful, yet so hard; we were aware by her deteriorating condition there was no coming back from the strokes she suffered in the last three days of her life.

When we left her, we took the elevator up two floors to where my Father was also a patient. Yes, both of my parents were in the hospital at the same time. The nursing staff allowed Dad to be brought down in a wheelchair to visit with Mom, and he sang to her the old beloved hymn, ‘It Is Well.’ My Dad is recovering. I am grateful for that, and we hope with some Physical Therapy he will continue to improve.

The photograph above is how I remember her in appearance when I was a little girl. I am in the middle. I believe from my size this photo was taken in the early 60’s, and I would have been between four and five years old. She was beautiful until the end of her life.

The photo was taken on my back porch this summer on the Fourth of July. We had no idea at the time it would be the last Fourth we celebrated together? My Mom is on the left, my Mother-in-law on the right. They became good friends over the years.

In the early years of this century my mother fought breast cancer twice. God healed her and gave her twenty more years to live and spend with family. During that hard time of chemotherapy and radiation she was encouraged by Jeremiah 29:11. The verse is engraved on the cross I took from her desktop and placed amid the roses. 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~Jeremiah 29:11

While I was packing up her devotional corner, near her chair, one of those faith-boosting divine mysteries occurred. The devotional she had been reading had a bookmark inside. It wasn’t at the date she would have stopped reading, instead it was on the date July 17th. I read the words, wanting to connect with the place she had marked, these words were at the top of the page. “It Is Well.” A devotion based on the the hymn my father sang to her. It is well! I know I will see her again one day.

 

Phlowers – Amaranth/Love Lies Bleeding

Amaranthus caudatus – Love Lies Bleeding, is a beautiful annual plant. Mine self seeds and comes back every year in the same spot. It is a heavy plant, bending over in summer storms when laden with flowers.

The flower heads droop down, in a deep magenta/crimson shade. Often the strands will touch the ground.

My Love Lies Bleeding grows in full sun. When the flowers reach a good length I often cut them where they join the stem, rubber band them together, and hang them in a dark closet. Harvesting and drying them is that easy…but wait…I should have put something beneath them to capture the seeds that fall out as they dry.

I have also dried the flowers in my dehydrator.

One drawback is the inevitable chewed leaves on the plant. The lush foliage is attractive to bugs, and is also a green that can be eaten by people. The leaves can be used like spinach and sauteed. The seeds are a type of grain and can be dried, cooked, and eaten like porridge. They can be ground into flour. Amaranth is gluten free.

I love this unique, old-fashioned cottage garden annual. Love Lies Bleeding is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge.

Pheathers – Osprey

Osprey Nest in Fortescue, New Jersey.

I was delighted when I bicycled past this beautiful home built alongside the Delaware Bay. I wonder if the ospreys and their chicks are noisy. I saw at least one chick, and most likely there is another inside the protective barrier of sticks. We also saw a Bald Eagle flying over the bay on the day I took the photograph.

Althought I’m a bit late, this post is part of the Skywatch Friday Challenge.

Phlutters – Raising Black Swallowtail Butterflies – Part V

The Dream

I had the finest of dreams, or was it a vision of sorts? One recent afternoon, while I was about my daily routines, a tiredness fell over me, and I laid down for just a moment, a catnap perhaps, a moment of rest. In that in-between time of sleep and wakefulness, I suddenly saw/dreamt of a woman, a beautiful, lovely woman, wrapped up in gossamer folds of some type, her body covered, but her face and hair fully exposed. Her hair was long, dark and luxurious, it was stirring, as if touched by a breeze. Her eyes were glowing and captivating, and I realized she was familiar to me. Love, pure love, suddenly crossed her face. I have only seen this pure, face-altering love in children, my sons, my grandchildren. They would catch sight of me, sometimes from afar, and love would alter their expression, in a way that is hard to describe, but once you’ve experienced it, you never forget the gift of that moment. I suddenly realized the beautiful woman was my grandmother who ‘fell asleep in the Lord’ several years ago at age ninety-three. She was altered, transformed, but recognizable too. I suddenly realized the perfect reality of the verse in the Bible—

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. I Thessalonians 4:15-18

When those who have ‘fallen asleep’ rise again, when the Lord wakens them, when the trumpet of God sounds, they shall rise first. We who are alive will then be caught up with them and meet our Lord in the air…we shall be with the Lord through eternity.

Did I dream of my grandmother transformed because of watching the butterflies transforming? I think it factored into it. I was concentrating on what was admirable and lovely by watching caterpillars transform and fly away with the beautiful blue of sky as a backdrop. God gives us a clue, I think, of how perfect his transforming power is in the metamorphosis of a caterpillar. I feel blessed to have witnessed these beautiful moments, the transforming of the butterflies, and a blessed reminder of the Rapture in a dream

Phlutters – Raising Black Swallowtail Butterflies – Part IV

As in all aspects of life sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Now and then, a problem arises, and I’ve had a few with this latest batch of butterflies. I related a bad choice a caterpillar made in Part III of Raising Black Swallowtail Butterflies, a chrysalis on a screen door spring is a terrible place to go through a metamorphosis. Sure enough, my prediction proved true, and after a storm shook the door, after several slams, the girdle of the chrysalis broke loose.

I knew that if left alone, further shaking, wind, and door slams would shake loose the silken pad too. I knew I needed to attach it in an unobtrusive way so that when the butterfly emerged, the surroundings would be as lifelike as possible. I had garden string at hand, and knowing it is six strands twisted together, unwound a few inches, and used one strand to tie the chrysalis back to the door spring. It worked. I was relieved and elated when a perfect butterfly emerged.

One problem I can’t fix is a butterfly that emerges with a twisted wing. In this case the best thing I can do is place it on some nectar flowers and hope for the best.

Another problem is vacationing and raising butterflies in the same span of time. When vacation is two weeks off I stop collecting the caterpillars and concentrate on finding a way to get them to attach to something I can move outside. I found two solutions, one quite by accident.

On Father’s Day this year we had quite a few people over, and I knew that the vase of fennel and caterpillars would be a problem. The caterpillars had been dropping off and creating their chrysalis for several days, but there were quite a few that would most likely drop off on the day we had company. I placed the caterpillars in a tall box and shut the lid, keeping them safe from the many feet that would pass through the porch to the backyard. The next day I found the caterpillars had indeed dropped off the fennel. Finding nowhere to go, two of them had attached themselves to the side of the corrugated cardboard box. I was pleased, and also elated, I was able to cut off a square of this and share it with a friend who needed a magical moment. If you want to share the magic with a child or friend, this is the way to achieve it.

Vacation time arrived, I knew several mature caterpillars would be ready to drop and form their chrysalis, and most likely would emerge while we were gone. Not wanting them to starve on the screened in porch, or be eaten before they had a chance to develop if I set them free outdoors, I crafted an enclosure out of a tomato cage. I used wide crafting mesh I had left over from Halloween, and a few clothespins. It was easy to do, and I expected to find all the caterpillars forming chrysalis on the mesh. I was surprised when most chose the steel of the tomato cage instead. After metamorphosis had begun I removed the mesh and placed the cage outdoors.

While on vacation the butterflies did hatch. I was so happy when I arrived home to find all had emerged from the chrysalis and flown away, leaving just the empty shell behind.

Why do I do this you might ask. Because every time the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly I am amazed…and…if I chose to just walk away and leave them where they first hatch most get eaten by predators. Also…

If I hadn’t hatched the butterflies this year I would have missed this extra special moment…my father holding a Black Swallowtail butterfly as it was getting ready to fly. Priceless!

Phlutters – Raising Black Swallowtail Butterflies – Part III

When the caterpillars reach their final size they tend to slow down and rest a bit. At this point they need to get rid of any food left in their bodies, and to do so means a purge. After the discharge of stomach contents, the caterpillars will be ready for the next step in life, what I call a walkabout.

The caterpillar will drop off the host plant after purging, (be prepared for a gooey mess beneath the plant) and then travel the area to find a suitable place to form a chrysalis. Don’t worry if the caterpillar climbs several feet up a wall or other tall object. Also, don’t be alarmed if they drop all the way down to the floor from their high perch. My porch is cement, and this terrible drop never seems to even stun the caterpillar. They just go on walking, searching, climbing, and exploring any object in their way.

Finally, they find a spot to transform. They spin a silken pad to secure their tail, and then spin a silken thread called a girdle to hold them steady. The Black Swallowtail caterpillars I raise harden up at this point, forming a strange, striped comma-like appearance. This stage usually lasts several hours or overnight. Suddenly, without warning, a slight thrashing motion will begin and the outer skin will be sluffed off. I’ve only managed to see this happen once or twice. Underneath the skin is a beautiful green or tan chrysalis. The color will depend on what the caterpillar has formed its chrysalis upon. I usually find the butterflies emerge within two weeks of forming the chrysalis unless they are late Autumn butterflies, in that case they will winter over and emerge in the late Spring.

Most of the caterpillars choose the window/screen area of the back porch to form a chrysalis upon. Sometimes, I lose track of their whereabouts, and then I will be surprised to suddenly find a chrysalis in a very strange place, or one outside the porch door, (there is a small opening beneath the door where they can exit if they choose) or they will completely disappear in a hidden spot and suddenly I will have an unexpected butterfly flying on the porch. I’ve included a few photos below of this year’s strange resting spots for the metamorphosis.

This one was a music lover and chose the spot to form a chrysalis beneath a window chime. When the time came, he left his melodious resting place, climbed out, dried off, and spread his wings before he flew away.

Once in a while a caterpillar will choose poorly, such as this terrible resting spot on a screen door spring. A bad choice can mean big problems, and that is a bit of a tease for Part IV.

Phlutters – Raising Black Swallowtail Butterflies – Part II

A better title for this post would be “EATING, EATING, EATING!” The caterpillars don’t lose their appetites after they are moved into the shelter of the porch. Voracious eaters, they will take large bunches of fennel down to the stem in one day.

Before trying to save every caterpillar you see, consider if you have enough host plant for them to feed on. A few year’s ago I found some late caterpillars in Autumn. I ran out of the host plant quickly, so I went to the store and bought an organic dill plant. Little did I know that organic herb plants are often treated with organic control products. The caterpillars did not thrive. Although, these treatments will not harm humans, and are considered organic, they are deadly to caterpillars.

The black cloth beneath the vases is there to capture the frass, or in easy to understand terms, the caterpillar poop. You will be completely amazed at how much they excrete. It is hard, and bounces, so be prepared to find it in unexpected places. I put a piece of garden cloth beneath the vases and that seems to help keep it in control, and also is easy to shake out into the garden beds.

The caterpillars shed their skins several times as they grow. You can see the shedding behind the top caterpillar along the stem. They also rest for periods of time, then wake up and begin again, “Eating, eating and more eating!