Plant – Cinnamon Fern Fiddleheads

Cinnamon Ferns (Osmunda cinnamomea) have unfurled during the warmth of the last few weeks. I love walking along woodland paths bordered by these feathery green plants. The fronds appear stately as they hold their spiky ‘cinnamon’ spores high; a scepter covered with the possibility of new life.

Quite often I will find Cinnamon Ferns and Skunk Cabbage growing in the same area.

“The Osmundastrum cinnamomeum fern forms huge clonal colonies in swampy areas. These ferns form massive rootstocks with densely matted, wiry roots. This root mass is an excellent substrate for many epiphytal plants. They are often harvested as osmunda fiber and used horticulturally, especially in propagating and growing orchids. Cinnamon Ferns do not actually produce cinnamon; they are named for the color of the fertile fronds.”
~ Wikipedia

Cinnamon ferns are called fiddleheads in the beginning stages of their unfurling. Here are a few photos of the stages of their growth.

Chefs can create gourmet dishes out of fiddleheads. I’m not sure which variety of fern they use, but think it must be a well-remembered dining experience by anyone who tries this culinary treat.

Project & Phlutters – Butterfly Feeding/First Swallowtail Part II

Creating my butterfly feeder was quick, easy and inexpensive. I had much of what I needed on hand. A dollar store windchime with four attachments where the chimes hung was the perfect piece of mechanics for hanging a shallow container filled with Gatorade or boiled sugar water. (4 parts water to 1 part sugar)

No instructions needed, use what you have on hand. The secret lies in the wire and plastic container: a plastic dish scrubber. The butterfly can land on this and use his long proboscis to dine on the nectar. I created holes in the plastic dish with a hot ice pick.

When I added the wire for hanging I let the end curl upward. These make the perfect spear for rotting/old fruit. I was going to use a strawberry, but remembered they are heavily sprayed with insecticide. It is better to use fruit that is within a peel unless it is organic.

Phlutters – Butterfly Feeding/First Swallowtail Part I

I watered a patch of newly planted grass yesterday, and was delighted when I saw the first yellow swallowtail butterfly of 2017 ‘puddling‘ in the dampness.

He fluttered around the yard searching out more patches of damp earth for sipping, making use of the nutrients, salts and amino acids the earth contains. I was surprised upon searching the Internet to find products to purchase for ‘puddling’ butterflies. These butterfly feeders are easy to make yourself. Today, I’ll gather up some materials and post my creations tomorrow.

Quote – The Lily of the Valley

I love this beautiful old hymn. Yesterday, I was reminded of this description of Jesus, and the Bible verse it was based on, when I noticed the first flowers blooming in a nearby patch of naturalized Lily of the Valley. Years ago, I first noticed sprigs of it that had taken hold after someone dumped their garden clippings at the edge of the woods. Those small sprigs have multiplied over the years into a large swathe of plants. As is so often the case, persistence wins the day, and the Lily of the Valley has thrived.

The hymn was written in 1881 by Charles W. Fry

“I’ve found a friend in Jesus, He’s everything to me,
He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul;
The Lily of the Valley, in Him alone I see
All I need to cleanse and make me fully whole.
In sorrow He’s my comfort, in trouble He’s my stay;
He tells me every care on Him to roll. Refrain:
He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star,
He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.”
~ Charles W. Fry 1881

“I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.”
~ Song of Solomon 2:1

This Bluegrass rendition of the hymn is by The Cluster Pickers.

Pheathers – Oh Happy Day!

This morning I spied him/her for the first time. The hummingbird circled around the shepherd’s hook where the hummingbird feeder hung last year. I shouted out the happy news to my husband. When I’m finished this post I’ll take my feeder off the garage shelf, soak in hot sudsy water, rinse it well, fill it with boiled sugar water, and place it back on the hook. Oh Happy Day…the hummers have returned.

While I’m readying my yard for hummingbirds, take a look at the Cornell Lab West Texas hummingbird feeders in Live time.

Planting – Throwback Thursday/Granny, Groundhogs and Chipmunks

I’ve planted like a whirlwind this week. It’s been rainy, but I’ve mustered on, wearing a large-brimmed hat to keep the raindrops out of my eyes. I’m hoping my sprouts will develop strong roots before the heat gets too high.

You might wonder what the strange towers and sticks are in the back of my garden. These are my sunflower towers created with soda bottles. They worked well last year, and I was able to grow sunflowers in several gardens. I’m hoping they will protect my young sunflower plants from rodents large and small.

I used some of the shells I have on hand for labeling plants. The shells are doing double duty for me and work as rodent repellents. I added a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil inside the inner recesses of each shell. I’m hoping this strong fragrance will discourage four-legged varmints of all sizes.

I’ve already had to replant some seedlings chipmunks and squirrels unearthed in their constant quest for seeds. Last week, I saw my nemesis for the first time this season, that dastardly groundhog who mows down my beautiful plants like a John Deere tractor. He was wary though, I think he remembers his close encounter with the marbles I sent his way last year with my trusty slingshot. Or does he remember the time I chased him yelling like a crazy person and swinging a broom? When I saw him this time I yelled, “GROUNDHOG!” He heard me and ran before I could chase him down. I ended up laughing at myself, when did I start hollering like Granny of Beverly Hillbillies fame? I sounded just like her when she used to get aggravated with Jethro and yell his name.

Oh my! Granny once looked like an old, old woman to me. How did she grow so young, and how did I grow so old? Life…it goes so fast. Now, back to chasing that groundhog…that will keep me young!

Project – Ivy Hanging Basket

One thing I have in abundance is ivy. My backyard has a dry area of ground beneath the pine trees and the only thing that will grow there is ivy…so ivy it is. Good thing I like ivy. Each year, two or three times during spring, summer and autumn, I must pull the ivy climbing the tree trunks away from the bark. This year I found a good use for the long strands.

I saved the cuttings and used the longer pieces to create a living hanging basket. I wove the ivy through the wire mesh of the basket, tucking the ends to the inside.

I cut the bottom off of two brown paper bags and lined the basket with them, carefully trimming away the excess paper level with the top of the basket.

A few petunias finished off the project. I gave it all a good watering and hung the basket from a hook beneath the crabapple tree.

The cooler weather and frequent misting with the hose has kept the ivy alive. I’m hoping the roots will eventually pierce the paper bag and the ivy will begin to grow again. I’ll update in a month or two.

Phlutters – Earth Day – Two Days Late

The tiny size of the Azure Blue butterfly often causes it to be mistaken for a moth. When it lightly skims by, floating on the air, you glimpse a flash of blue. As it touches down on foliage or flowers, the blue is folded inward, hidden by the white undersides of the wings.

I’m so grateful for the zoom feature on my camera and the ability of my computer to crop and enlarge photos. In a world without technology it would be hard to get a close-up look at this small butterfly.

I was lucky, at just the right moment the Azure Blue opened his wings and I pushed the shutter-release button. I have some nice views now to study and admire.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” ~ Genesis 1:1

Earth Day was rainy here in Southern New Jersey, so I am celebrating what Earth Day means to me the whole week through: harmony between men and the beautiful earth that God created.

Place – Philadelphia in the Fog

The fog surrounding Philadelphia transforms the city and surroundings with a metallic silver hue. These sights were photographed from the opposite side of the Delaware river on the shores of National Park, New Jersey.

National Park is a great place to watch planes arriving and departing from Philadelphia International Airport.

Cee’s Foto Challenge this week is Metal. Think how many metal water towers we pass each day, never notice, but depend upon for their durability.

Project – Tripod Birdhouse

Fallen branches create an easy and secure tripod for a bird house. The bottoms are stabilized by placing them about ten inches in the ground. The top of each branch leans against the others securely fastened with floral wire and leather ties. The bird house rests within the three branches and is secured with floral wire and leather through screw-eyes attached to the bottom of the house.

The bird house stands about seven feet tall. I’ll plant several vining plants around the bottom: Moonflower, Cardinal Flower, Morning Glories and Climbing Nasturtiums.

Quick Tip & Pressed Flowers – Pink Leaves or a Baggie, Camera & Notepad with Pencil

I press flowers throughout the year and often create miniature gardens on cardstock to use in the place of overpriced greeting cards. Today, as I was walking, I noticed the Wild Grape leaves were beginning to emerge. The samples in the photo range in size from a quarter to about a dime. They are thick, but press well, and keep their beautiful Spring colors.

I often use the underside of the leaves for my compositions. The pink tints of Spring are deeper on the back, and I love the added texture of the veining.

I found these gems as I took a morning walk around the block today. I wish I had thought ahead and had a small baggie in my pocket. I also would have enjoyed taking a photograph of the tenacious vines in their native setting, and of course, a pencil and notepad would have been great to jot down my thoughts at the moment. I need to keep these things at the ready in the desk near the front door, easy to grab when on the run or starting a walk.

If you press flowers, or want to try, this time of the year is a perfect starting point. Trees are unfurling leaves, maple keys, and other bud-like growth that won’t be found again for a year. Happy Pressing! For more information on pressed flowers click on the title in the category cloud in the right sidebar of this blog.

Plant – Violets

I love violets in the Springtime, not only do they add color, they are gently fragrant and a scent I seek out at this time of the year. Violets self-seed and will pop up in unexpected places, like this one under my hydrangea bush. I have violets everywhere, offspring of the dozen or so I transplanted from the creek bed years ago.

“Do you think amethysts can be the souls of good violets?”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Violets are one of those wonderful garden plants that will grow in between the cracks of stones and in other tight places. They are also perfect for arranging in miniature bouquets.

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” ~ Mark Twain

Quick Tip – Losing my Glasses/Tip on Tuesday

I lose my reading/weeding glasses everywhere. Gardening brings about a constant loss and drop of my dollar store spectacles. I place them on the top of my head for safekeeping, but then I need a hat to shade me from the sun and must move them. I carry them in a shirt pocket or tuck them into my collar, and they drop out unbeknownst to me and blend into the weeds. I have a string to hang them around my neck, but it gets caught on bushes and twigs, and besides, I’ve lost that somewhere too.

I found the solution in a simple large safety pin. I attach it to my shirt, and the earpieces slide smoothly into the side, firmly held, but easily removed too.

Here’s a few more Quick Tips for using safety pins:
Safety pins eliminate static cling in clothing: Reducing Static Cling
Zip your dress: Alone and can’t zip, attach a safety pin with a piece of dental floss tied to it and zip away.
Avoid pickpockets: For added security in crowds, safety pin zipper to fabric of purse or pack.
Fix a broken flip-flop: Pin through stem underneath the sole. This will not last long, but might get you to where you can get a new pair.
Keep keys safely in pocket during an amusement park ride: Pin your keys to your inside pocket to avoid losing them when that roller-coaster goes upside down and around.
Keep spare buttons organized: When a shirt/blouse/coat comes with a little packet of replacement buttons, thread them on a safety pin and store in a safe place.
Hide bra straps: Use a safety pin (or paper clip) to hold the back of your bra straps together.

Added tips:
Sherry – Wearing a safety pin can be a way to show solidarity.
Prior – Has used a creative repair for broken flip-flops – a piece of silicon from pool goggles.
Derrick – Great idea for glasses…have a few pairs in different strengths for different needs.

Know another? Tell me in the comment box and I’ll add it to the list.

Peculiarities – Cat Snack

Sunday, I was getting myself ready to go to church and enjoy the Easter cantata, when I noticed my cat behaving oddly. He was crouched near my fireplace, intently studying something on the floor. I watched his odd behavior for a moment or two, then noticed, whatever he was watching, he was also eating. The clue is the small speck of beige on the big blue pillow.

Did you guess? Yes! My praying mantis pod hatched on Palm Sunday.

I was lucky to notice before I left for church and took the pod outdoors to my porch. At this point in time, it seems only a couple dozen or so of the mantis babies escaped the cat and are roaming the house. I have let these mantis go about their business on my walls all day, and they have darkened up in color, and most seem to be okay. Since I’m not squeamish about non-biting, benign insects, I will wait until tomorrow and then give them a ride outside on a sheet of paper. To try and handle their fragile bodies would crush them.

Most of the remaining mantis babies were born outdoors on the back porch. Thankfully, the weather has shifted, and the coming week is going to be warm and without heavy rains. They have a good chance to survive if they can find smaller insects to consume. If not, they will find each other, and it will be a matter of survival of the fittest.

By the time I arrived home from church, most of the mantis babies seemed to have disappeared. I’m hoping they are in the yard already. I know that their small size allows them to slip through the mesh of the screening.

There are still a few lingering on the pussy willow branches, but by tomorrow they will probably have found their way into the great outdoors.