Phlowers & Problem-Solving – Calendula and Whitefly Deterrents

I love this shade of yellow and am pleased that many of the Calendula seeds I sowed in the Spring are growing in my garden. Calendula are easy to grow. You can sow them indoors for early bloom, they also do well direct-sown into the ground, and are often part of wildflower seed packets. There are many medicinal uses for Calendula, making them a powerhouse plant when you consider the beauty they add to the garden. I’ve planted Calendula in hanging baskets, in pots, and in the ground. Calendula also bloom in a lovely cantaloupe shade of orange.

Unfortunately, that lovely yellow color and bright green foliage makes the Calendula a prime target of whiteflies and aphids. Aphids are easy to control with a dousing of the hose or handpicking. Whiteflies are not as easy, and need a bit of baiting to be trapped. I used the same beautiful yellow color to lure them to their demise.

I gathered a few items together, a yellow plastic cup, clear packing tape, string, scissors, and a paper clip.

I punched a hole in the bottom of the cup with the scissors, and strung the string into it with the paperclip opened up to keep it in place. I wound the tape around the cup, sticky side out, covering all the sides.

I hung this near the area of whitefly infestation.

Success! The whiteflies, attracted by the yellow, landed on the sticky tape and met their fate. It has rained, and the tape is a little less sticky now, but it’s easy to replace. This is a low-cost fix for pests with the plus of using no harsh chemicals. Brushing the plants near the trap several times a day causes the flies to swarm off the plants and helps the trap capture more of the pests.

This post is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.

If you don’t want to make your own traps, whitefly sticky traps are also available in hardware stores and garden centers.

Problem-Solving – Tuesday Rerun/Cleaning Ugg Boots and Suede Shoes

Here’s a remedy for cleaning stained suede. If you’re like me and forget about cleaning seude boots when flip-flop weather arrives this might be the perfect problem-solving post for you today.

Cleaning Salt Stains from Ugg Boots

My Ugg Boots were stained by salt last year. I don’t know why I waited a whole year to clean them off, I suppose it is the classic, out of sight, out of mind syndrome. Thankfully, I do know a good way of cleaning them by applying shaving cream and rubbing with a soft cloth. Below you can see my progress. As I write, the boot I treated is sitting beside a heater vent drying. If there is any residue still left I will repeat the steps.


Dampen the entire boot so there is no line of demarcation when they dry. Apply the shaving cream and gently rub the soiled area with a soft cleaning cloth. Spread the shaving cream lightly around the entire boot with the cloth. No need for a heavy coat, just a light touch of the shaving cream will keep the color and texture of the boot uniform. Wipe the excess shaving cream away with a clean damp rag.


The boot on the right was previously treated. You can see the slightest bit of salt stain around arch of the boot, but all in all, unless someone was looking for the problem area, I don’t think it is very noticeable. Give this money saving tip a try. It certainly is a better choice than spending $15.00 or more to have your boots professionally cleaned.

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Problem-solving – Time to Cut the Snowflakes

It’s time…time to cut the snowflakes. I started even earlier than normal this year; I want to have 100 ready to place on my windowpanes by December 1st. My problem is one of my fingers has become a trigger finger. According to the Mayo clinic…”Trigger finger is a condition in which one of your fingers gets stuck in a bent position. Your finger may bend or straighten with a snap — like a trigger being pulled and released.”

I have found the description to be true of my finger. I can still use my hand, but the finger will become stuck in a bent position without warning. Just like every other physical limitation in life you learn to adapt to what ails you. I’ve found that I need to pace myself where repetitive hand movement is concerned, so instead of cutting several snowflakes each day, I will cut one or two. It’s working for me so far.

Stretching the finger in the opposite direction seems to help me out. For some people the condition can be severe and surgical intervention might be needed.

Exercises for stretching a trigger finger. I have found the finger extensor stretch has worked well for me.

Here’s a Youtube video with easy to follow instructions for cutting paper snowflakes.

Plants & Problem-Solving – Yellow Mushrooms in Potting Soil

One of my African Violets has been showing signs of blight. I transplanted it several months ago to a larger pot, but now realize I didn’t do enough to prepare its long neck of a stem for the move. According to The Bump/How to Transplant African Violets with Long Necks, I should have removed some of the outer brown tissue from the stem before burying it in the potting soil.

Added to the long neck syndrome and dying leaves was the growth of yellow mushrooms in the soil. Mushroom Appreciation has a very informative article on yellow mushrooms in potting soil. The problem is quite common and won’t hurt your plant, but the mushrooms are toxic and if you have pets or small children you should replace the soil or toss the plant.

“Leucocoprinus birnbaumii (also known as Lepiota lutea) is quite common in potted plants and greenhouses. This species is considered inedible, although the exact toxicity is unknown. So don’t eat them, no matter how candy-like they appear!” ~ Mushroom Appreciation

Since my plant was failing to thrive I opted to discard it. I will watch for mushrooms in my remaining houseplants and scrape the top layer of soil away if the problem recurs.

Problem-Solving & Photograph – Weather Vane Wednesday/What’s on Hand?

It pays to think ahead is a cliche’ for good reason, because it’s true. I ventured out this morning, camera in hand, ready to walk toward a neighborhood lake where I knew a good weather vane could be found. I walked about a hundred yards and immediately turned around. There is a terrible junkyard fire raging miles and miles away across the Delaware River and the smell and smog are reaching New Jersey. When my head started to ache within a few minutes, and I began to cough, I knew taking a long walk was out of the question. I am thankful I have air-conditioning to filter most of the smell out of the inside air.

Long story short, this is a weather vane, perched on a home built beside the Delaware Bay, photographed and tucked away for just such a day as this one.

I miss the WordPress Photo Challenge and thought an interesting alternative would be to offer one of my own on Wednesdays. Weather Vane Wednesdays is just what the title implies, a photo of a weather vane.

Create a weather vane post, the name doesn’t have to be in the title. If you would like others to see your post leave a link to your blog in the comment box. You can also tag the post #weathervaneweds. If you place a link to my post in your post you will create a pingback that will appear in the comment section. Thanks so much for taking part in my challenge

Problem-Solving – Hornet’s Nest

Today, while working in the garden I was stung. My first words were a startled, “What was that?” I thought right away it was a bee, but because I didn’t see the culprit, wondered if it might have been a spider of some kind disturbed by my earlier weeding.

Later in the morning, another pass near the spot drew my eyes up to the robin’s nest in the crape myrtle. She was gone, probably looking for some food, and then…I saw it, a few feet away from the empty nest, a hornet’s nest. NO!

I apologize for the fuzziness of the photo, but I took a quick shot…not willing to risk getting stung again. These hornets are bald-faced hornets.

I didn’t want to douse the nest with insecticide in hopes the robin might come back. Instead, I squirted a small amount into the opening and RAN. Of course they swarmed out; the insecticide didn’t seem to affect them other than make them angrier. I was righteously indignant too, and returned when things settled down with a large-lidded coffee can and pruning shears. When the hornets went back in the nest I quickly snipped away the branch, and let it fall into the can. I sprayed anything still flying into oblivion with a hard spray of water from the hose. I saw the queen escape, but don’t know where she went. Since this hornet’s nest was small and low this worked for me. I would never try it on a large one.

I filled the can with water and hopefully that is the end of the dilemma and hornets in my yard. Since I never provoked them, and was only walking by the bush when stung, I am so glad I saw it before more hornets hatched out. I have five grandchildren, and one has life-threatening allergies, he has never been stung as of yet so multiple stings could have been a disaster. Thank you Lord for eyes to see hazards around me.

Problem-Solving – Cleaning Stains from Ugg Boots and Other Suede

I repeat this post almost every year when I pull out my Ugg Boots.

Cleaning Salt Stains from Ugg Boots

My Uggs Boots were stained by salt last year. I don’t know why I waited a whole year to clean them off, I suppose it is the classic, out of sight, out of mind syndrome. Thankfully, I do know a good way of cleaning them by applying shaving cream and rubbing with a soft cloth. Below you can see my progress. As I write, the boot I treated is sitting beside a heater vent drying. If there is any residue still left I will repeat the steps.


Dampen the entire boot so there is no line of demarcation when they dry. Apply the shaving cream and gently rub the soiled area with a soft cleaning cloth. Spread the shaving cream lightly around the entire boot with the cloth. No need for a heavy coat, just a light touch of the shaving cream will keep the color and texture of the boot uniform.


The boot on the right was previously treated. You can see the slightest bit of salt stain around arch of the boot, but all in all, unless someone was looking for the problem area, I don’t think it is very noticeable. Give this money saving tip a try. It certainly beats spending near $15.00 to have your boots professionally cleaned.

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Problem-Solving – Conquering Houseplant Pests Part II- Spider Mites

Spider Mites are a pest I hate to see indoors or out. They are microscopic in size, and usually, they have caused quite a bit of damage before you are even aware they are on your house or garden plants. Here is some good information on what a spider mite can do to your foliage. Spider Mites


This week I noticed some yellowing leaves on my Mandevilla Vine. Because I have had problems with spider mites in this area of the basement in the past, they were tops on my list of possible pests. Instead of peering at each stem individually, I used my quick and easy solution. I sprayed the entire plant with a mister. Sure enough, the webbing the spider mites leave behind on the leaves caught the droplets of water and glowed in the sunlight. Since I want to keep all my pest control organic, I have found that the best approach to controlling spider mites is to spray the plant with water every day. This keeps the spider mites under control until it is warm enough for me to take the plant outside and really douse it with a hard spray of the hose. Daily sprays of the hose for a week or two will obliterate the spider mite colony. This technique also works on aphids. The only other solution is to spray with dangerous chemicals or toss the plant in the garbage heap.


Spraying the infected plant with water will allow you to see how badly infested your plant has become. It is a good idea to spray all your houseplants to see if there are any errant mites on surrounding greenery.

Problem-Solving – The Uncollectibles

I posted this for the first time in 2012, but it’s a good reminder now that Autumn is here once again, and I thought it was worth a repost. It’s fun to collect colorful leaves to press or use in projects, but there are still some plants to be aware of as you collect.

Many adults and children collect colorful Autumn leaves for projects and pressing, but beware, poison ivy is still growing,  and it’s leaves are now cloaked in a gorgeous array of crimsons and golds. The urishol oil stays active on the leaves and vines. Picking up even one leaf for pressing can cause a nasty rash. When the poison ivy leaves fall off the vine, they fall solo, not in groups of three. This makes it impossible to follow the wise proverb of, “Leaves of three, let it be.” It is much harder to identify poison ivy when it has fallen off the vine. One thing to look for is an oblong shape, and many of the leaves have a notched appearance. Take a good look at the veining on the leaf in the above picture…that’s a good clue too.

If you see a leaf that might be poison ivy, take a look around to see if you can spot a vine with berries that look like the sample in the photograph above. If you see these berries, don’t pick up or brush against any of these vines or leftover leaves.

Problem-Solving – Slogging Through


It happened yesterday as I uploaded photographs for Cee’s Photo Challenge, the photos I was attempting to post became red-rimmed, and a dialog box informed me:

Looks like you have used 3.0 GB of your 3.0 GB upload limit. ~ WordPress Media Library

I knew I was close to reaching the limit, but now it is thrust upon me, and today I need to find some solutions and continue deleting posts and photos from past years. In the meantime, I thought as I search through the blog archives I would repost a couple of Autumn ideas that might be buried there.

Wish me luck as I slog through years of posts. I like the word slog, it almost has the ring of onomatopoeia to it. When I say or think of slog I imagine myself in a stinky swamp, shoes sticking in the muck, every step forward accentuated with a schlurping pop as I pull my feet out of soft, wet earth. “Onward!” I say, I won’t be stopped by a little blog housecleaning. To all my blogging friends…have the happiest of days.

Plants and Problem-Solving – Sunflowers in Bloom

sunflower 1

Every year I attempt to grow sunflowers. Quite often, the animals that live in my yard will dig up the seeds before they even sprout. I’ve stopped this natural tendency of the critters by sprinkling chili powder on top of the soil that covers the seeds. Even so, if they sprout, the tender green shoots are a delicacy to chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits, and when I’ve checked the progress of the sunflowers I find them nipped away and ruined.

Sunflower 6

This year I’ve had a bit more success. The sunflower in the photograph is growing outside my kitchen window. My husband measured it and the stalk was well over eleven feet. The plant is still growing and now has two blooms and many buds. So far, no adventurous squirrel has climbed to the top to bite away the buds and flowers.

sunflower 4

I owe my success in growing sunflowers this year to empty water bottles. After the sprouts broke through the soil I placed a bottomless water bottle, with the top cut away, around the shoot. In a few gardens, as the sunflower grew, I added another bottle for more protection. (Bunnies are very good at standing up on their hind legs to reach the top of a tender plant.) If you live in an area that stays warm through November, there is still time to plant a crop of sunflowers.

Pheathers & Problem-Solving – Cutting Back on Success

IMG_2031 (2)

I love feeding the birds. I have suet and seed feeders spaced out across my back yard. Standing at the kitchen window, or sitting on the porch, watching the feeding birds brings me joy…until this past month. Within a matter of a week my yard was overtaken with “bully” birds. Large grackles, still feeding their adult-sized babies, descended upon my feeders. Now at times, I must admit, I did enjoy the exuberant cackling chatter of the grackles, but as the days progressed, more grackles arrived, and soon my beautiful songbirds moved on to areas less consumed by the flocks of big birds.

I remedied the situation by removing all feeders for a few days. I’ve recently put up a very small, squirrel proof feeder again, and it has been visited by the birds I desire. Yesterday, I once again saw a goldfinch, and even a hummingbird felt safe to visit my gardens. Grackles can be fun for a few moments, a bit like a wild and raucous party, but for my yard, I choose the soft soothing sounds of the songbirds.

Problem-Solving – Wanted for Garden Mischief

Photo courtesy of WetCanvas Reference Library
Photo courtesy of WetCanvas Reference Library

Years ago, it was a rare day I saw a groundhog. Now, they seem to be thriving everywhere I go. These animals are beautiful, but very destructive to gardens. The groundhog who tears mine apart has a penchant for devouring my cruciferous vegetables.


This is the kohlrabi I posted about on June 27th. It has been ravaged by the front incisors of our local groundhog. The kohlrabi itself is still intact, but I am having a few qualms over eating it after the obvious close encounter with a wild animal’s mouth and saliva. Hmmm…washing  thoroughly works, but will I be able to eat it and enjoy it?


I know it is almost impossible to protect some vegetables from this hungry groundhog, but today  I’ve put a few barriers in place I hope will help. As a start, I’ve unwound a dollar store bath puff. Did you know these are a long tube of nylon gathered together? Unwound, they have many uses.

puff 2

I snipped the tube into small lengths and placed these over my ripening tomatoes for protection. The elasticity will keep it in place, and the leftover scent from soap will also be a good deterrent. Squirrels are very fond of taking one bite of my tomatoes and moving along to the next one, and  to the next one,  and then to the next. Argghhhh!


Another idea for newly emerging bean sprouts is a few branches of vitex laid across the ground. The sprouts make their way through the twigs, but the strong scent of the vitex, and the sharp edges, will hopefully keep hungry critters away until the beans are big enough to set fruit. At that time I will have to find another solution, but at least for now the branches give me a little time for planning. I love gardening, but sometimes it can be frustrating!

In the comment section Alli Farkus added such a great idea for keeping groundhogs out of the garden, I knew I must add it to the original post. Thanks Alli!

There’s only one (labor intensive) way to stop groundhogs. Their digging abilities make rabbits look like pikers, and they also have pretty good climbing ability. My guy and I spent three summers (working intermittently) putting up a 5′ high barrier of 4 x 4 posts and horse fence. Along the bottom of it I dug a trench and put rabbit fence from about 1 1/2 feet above ground to 1 1/2 feet below ground and then bent it into an L shape at the bottom to extend away about a foot from the fenceline and thwart digging. Along the top rail of the fence I installed wire and an electric fence charger. The critters still dig burrows all over the place, but I have never had one get into the garden since the fence was completed. Along the top of each of the five raised beds I also run the electric wire. It teaches the squirrels to stay out, and by the time the plants get so big they ground out the wire the invaders have already been “trained” to stay away. Lots of initial work, but pretty much zero frustration. Now if only I could solve the destruction of the cruciferous crops… 
~ Alli Farkus

Problem-Solving – Broccoli Gone to Seed


My four broccoli plants are going to seed. They never produced heads of broccoli, and were destined for the compost bin. Before I got around to pulling them the buds bloomed into interesting and colorful flowers. Hmmmm? Would it be possible to press these beautiful florets? I have tried to press lettuce flowers gone to seed in the past, and they were too delicate and thin? I am always on the lookout for yellows; would the broccoli work in book or microwave?


Oh YES! I picked several florets and pressed them both ways. The microwave and book pressing both worked perfectly. The florets greatly resemble wallflowers after being pressed, but instead of fluorescent orange, they turn a brilliant yellow. I can’t wait until the rest of my broccoli plants go to seed, in fact, I might plant a few more mid-summer just for the blooms. Go figure!!! Aren’t the unhappy surprises that turn into blessings one of the things that makes life grand? YES!

Broccoli florets, lower right, with wallflowers and pansies.
Broccoli florets, lower right, with wallflowers and pansies.

Problem-Solving – The Flip Side of Moths


The flip side of moths is the damage many can cause if they get into your cupboards or drawers. I once found  a cherished wool sweater ruined by moths. A few years later my pantry became infested with moths, and I ended up throwing all dry goods and pasta away.

herbs 2

Three herbs I grow in my garden are good moth repellents. Bundled with a rubber band, rosemary, lavender and sage,  hung inside a cupboard or laid in a drawer, will work as a moth repellent.

Plants & Problem-Solving – Defeating Damping Off Disease

Spring-cleaning my blog has yielded a few posts that should be bumped back toward the front of the blog. Here’s a good one for this time of year, preventing/treating damp-off disease.

The fluffy white substance on the surface of the potting soil is a seed sprouter’s nightmare. Damping Off is lethal to newly sprouted seedlings. Since I am trying to be as organic as possible this year, I wanted a remedy that would not break my resolve so early in the season. I searched the web and found some odd fixes: lemon jello, ground up moss sprinkled on soil, cinnamon & sand. There were also two remedies I decided were the most logical for me to use. One idea was weak mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water, and the other was a weak solution of chamomile tea. I opted for the chamomile tea.

I went to my local grocery store and picked up a box of tea with ingredients of chamomile alone. There were many other mixes, some with lemon, which probably would also work, but I was taking no chances. When I arrived home I boiled water, steeped one bag in two cups, and let it cool down. I used an old hair spray bottle to treat the affected area. These bottles produce small droplets. A bottle with a heavier spray might beat the small seedlings into the soil, killing them even quicker than the damp-off disease.

Twelve hours later there is no sign of the damp off disease on the soil. To read more check out this forum on Gardenweb. Gardenweb Damping-Off Forum Responses.

Coleus update: Almost all of my initial coleus plantings have four leaves. It’s time to begin potting them up into individual cups. I use Solo brand 3 oz cups. the seedlings are potted up in Miracle Gro organic potting soil as the growing medium. The coleus are already beginning to show amazing colors. This time of year is very exciting as I watch my sprouts and seedlings develop.

Plants & Problem-solving – Sage/Treating Powdery Mildew Naturally

I love cooking with fresh herbs. I have several on my windowsill at the ready for use in my favorite recipes.

Sage Powdery Mildew

Recently, I was shocked to find my sage plant covered with powdery mildew. How did this happen so fast? While researching,  I read mildew is spread by water. Oh no! In an attempt to keep the plant spider mite free I had sprayed with water. I should have used a solution of chamomile tea, a natural fungicide, when I sprayed the sage.

Sage Mildew Close Up

The affected leaves could not be saved. Drastic measures needed to be taken.

Sage Powdery Mildew Solution 1

I plucked away all the spotted leaves and discarded them, leaving what I hope are mildew-free leaves. I will check the plant daily, and if I find the same problem I will try a spray of chamomile. Placing the sage alongside a rotary fan will help with quicker drying time. If the plant is still diseased I will be forced to discard it and try again. In the meantime, I must remember to keep it in “plant quarantine.”

Problem-Solving – Bunnies…Again!


I wrote a few weeks ago about rabbits nipping off the leaves of my lilies. When the clover thrived in my backyard they left their garden bed nibbling for better grazing amongst the sweet flowers.


My lilies recovered, grew, and began to bud, but alas and alack, my husband mowed down the high grass in the backyard for our Memorial Day picnic. I didn’t think much about it until a few days ago when I noticed a bunny sitting in the garden bed, very still. The plants nearby his location were gently swaying in a strange motion and there was no breeze.


OH NO! It dawned on me the strange swaying was being caused by the front incisors of the rabbit’s teeth. I ran out, but not in time, the bunny had bitten down three of my lily stems and eaten them.


I immediately grabbed my wrist rocket slingshot, but couldn’t seem to bring myself to use it. I wanted to sting the bunny, but not harm him, and I had no idea what ammunition would work but cause no lasting pain. I asked my husband if a craft pompom wet down with hot sauce would work and he just laughed at me. I think I hear you laughing too!


I’m putting my pest repellent skills in play, instead of trying to shoot pompoms or pebbles, and simmering some dried Chile de Arbol in water with garlic and onion to create a potent, smelly hot sauce mix that will repel those Wascally Wabbits. (This said for the benefit of those old enough to remember Elmer Fudd. 😀 )


My crockpot, placed outside on the porch, is the easiest way I’ve found to cook this potion. The smell is very strong. After a few hours, I drain off the water, strain several times, and spray the plant being eaten. This natural solution works, but has a few drawbacks: it washes away in the rain and must be reapplied, it is hard to strain finely enough to spray out of a normal spray bottle, and worst of all…the peppers can burn eyes, skin, and even the lungs.  Please be especially careful not to inhale the fumes.


I also grind the peppers and scatter them among the garden beds. This is the most likely way you will inhale the dust so wearing a mask is not a bad idea.

Dangers of Chili Powder

If it works, it will be worth it to me, but if you try it, please be cautious when handling the peppers. Updates will follow.

Problem-Solving – Repairing Resin Figurines with Bread Dough


I love Willow Tree Figurines . I have quite a few and display them on a living room shelf.

Willow Tree is a line of figurine sculptures created by artist “Susan Lordi in January 200. The Willow Tree line specializes in rustic faceless people and angels intended to represent feelings or life events. The figurines are made from hand-painted resin which is cast from Lordi’s hand-carved wooden sculptures.” ~ Wikipedia


Because of their delicate nature, Willow Tree Figurines will lose a hand if dropped or knocked down. Because of my nature, I lay the loose hand aside, promising myself to glue it back on soon, and often lose the hand. I could buy craft store clay and fashion a hand, but why spend money when I have what I need at home.


Aleene’s Glue and Bread Dough Technique is the perfect medium to sculpt and repair my broken Willow Tree figurines. This technique will also work on other resin pieces. Aleene’s directions recommend using white bread for the bread dough clay. For this project I used honey wheat bread since the Willow Tree is created from molds of hand-sculpted wood and is very textured in appearance.


Break off the crusts from two pieces of bread.  Tear the bread into pieces and place in a zip top sandwich bag. Next add two tablespoons of Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue and mush all this up.


At some point you will have to take the dough out of the bag and fnish kneading it. I recommend you take off rings at this point. Knead the dough until it is smooth and has pulled all bread dough residue from your hands. This is how I know it is ready to use.


Sculpt/Form the dough into the shape you need. I glued it to the Willow Tree figurines at this point with an additional drop of glue.


I also created an easy rose out of the bread dough. Add a few drops of acrylic paint to a small piece of dough and mash it in until the color is uniform.


Form small pea shaped balls.


Flatten the first pea, twirl into a cone shape.


Continue flattening pea shapes, add these in layers until you form the rose. I usually clip off the bottom with scissors to help the finished rose lie flat.


Let the repaired resin dry 24 – 48 hours. Paint with acrylic paints. Remember, you might not be able to find an exact color of fleshtone, add white or black to darken or lighten. Also, acrylic paint will be a shade or two darker when dry. I didn’t need to glaze in any way as the paint matched the matte appearance of the figurines.


Here’s a great video on how to create roses out of bread dough.