Photographs, Perspective & Place – Cedar Lake or Missing the Window

We revisited Cedar Lake over the weekend. I posted about this place in February 2022, and meant to showcase it again on the blog in its Springtime glory and spectacular Summer abundance, but somehow, missed my window of time and once again am writing a piece when all the growth has fallen away. Whatever the season, it is a perfect place to revisit and blog on Jo’s Monday Walk and Skywatch.

If I had visited when undergrowth was growing wild and lush, I would have missed this sight. “Look, through these trees,” my husband said, pointing the way. I didn’t see much at first, but then saw the gleam of sun on a living creature.

I zoomed in with my camera, and since the doe was resting, and unafraid, I was able to take a good photograph through the twiggy protection around her. She must live in the park, accustomed no doubt to many people walking by her on the criss-crossing paths. Can you see her eye?

Further along the path we saw some robins, hanging around long after the first frosts. They never leave our area to fly south; they Winter over here, finding berries and other fruits. I need to remember to place a bit of fruit on the platform birdfeeder and maybe draw them in.

A few mallards swam within a small pond hidden in the woods. There are creeks, small ponds, and larger bodies of water every hundred feet or so in the park surrounding the lake. A perfect spot for a ‘Water, Water, Everywhere‘ post.

Cedar Lake and Washington Lake Park, Sewell, NJ, is the setting for this post.

Product and Pheathers – Birdfeeder

I love birdwatching of all types, seabirds, raptors, backyard birds, all fascinate me. We live in an area where I can seek out all three. Years ago, I had a secondhand platform feeder I enjoyed filling and watching. This year, my husband bought me a new one for my birthday. I love this view of the inner roof with the Sapphire blue sky above it. Somehow, it reminds me of the ceiling in my grandmother’s church, the memory is decades old, but still so sweet. I hope the birds feel a sense of ‘sanctuary’ here too.

It took a day or two, but the birds have found the feeder. Typical of brash birdy personalities, the first to hover and land were the blue jays. Yesterday, I saw a couple small birds, a redpoll finch, and a junco. The same afternoon, a curious squirrel dug beneath the feeder, but thankfully didn’t climb up.

We are so pleased with this beautiful hand-crafted birdfeeder. You can read the link on the tag if you want to visit the builder: great product, prompt delivery, wrapped/shipped safely.

This post is part of Skywatch.

Phloral Arrangements – Lilies Extraordinaire

I think the ‘extraordinaire’ in my title fits this lovely vase of lilies. The bouquet is still going strong 10 days after the purchase of the flower stems. Most of the buds were closed when I brought them home, but a diagonal cut along the bottom, a bit of flower food in warmish water, and several lilies unfurled within 24 hours. Arranging each stem opposite another, giving the vase a turn before continuing on, creates an intricate design aspect through the glass vase rather than a bunched-up mass. Today, I cut away the first of the faded blossoms. There are still many flowers left in bloom, and a couple of promising buds still ready to burst. The fragrance is strong and distinctive of lilies.

You might be wondering why the open blossom is missing the dark anthers that are within the bud beside it. I learned this tip while taking classes on floral design: lily anthers are staining. If the pollen dust on them touches clothing, table coverings, or upholstery, the stain is usually impossible to remove. As the lilies open, I remove the anthers and dispose of them. I love the way they look, but I know from experience, remove them.

If you like the ‘freckled’ appearance the pollen gives the petals, gently tap the anthers over the petals before removing. Be aware though, even this small amount of pollen can cause a big stain.

My vase of lilies is part of Cees Flower of the Day Challenge.

Product – My Pillow Slides/Sandals

I love my new ‘My Pillow‘ slides. I wore them in the storm-drenched grass this morning, and found they are still equivalent to walking on top of clouds when the conditions are wet.

What I love about the product: super comfortable, basic design and colors, excellent support, ease in walking, true-to-size. I like Mike Lindell and admire the fact that he is not afraid to speak the truth and supports conservative values. I’ve bought several of his products over the last year for this reason.

What I dislike about the product: not made in the U.S.A., the smell of the slides was horrendous when I opened the plastic-bag package. The shipping was not free and added a large amount to the total. Today when I went to the website I found the sandals are being sold for an even lower price. Bah!

I can’t change the fact that they are not made in the U.S.A. What I did change was the terrible smell that clung to them when I took them out of the plastic bag they were stored/shipped in. I used a diluted amount of dishwashing soap, washed/scrubbed them well with a soft rag, rinsed in hot water, and then placed them outdoors in the sunshine for a few hours. Anyone who has bought any type of rubber shoes will know the smell I am speaking of, and how repulsive it is. My fix worked, about 75% of the odor disappeared. I think the last bit of smell will work its way out as I wear them.

Pheathers & Phlowers – Hummingbird Plants

If the tomato cage and bell didn’t give you a clue to actual size, this bird would appear to be just a common bird perching on a wire. Not so, the hummingbird in the photo was very annoyed with me. I disturbed its meal of delicious nectar.

Hummingbirds have visited our yard since Spring. I had a nectar feeder, but when it gets hot, and my flowers begin to bloom, I take it down. The feeder is glass, the liquid inside becomes quite hot. Besides being a possible burn problem, the heat contributes to the nectar going bad. I change the contents every 48 hours, but I don’t trust it to stay pure when the temperatures rise.

Firecracker flowers are a perfect shape for a hummingbird’s tongue.

The inner disk florets are where the hummingbird finds the nectar on a zinnia plant. This zinnia is part of Cee’s Midweek Madness Challenge/Macro.

The cardinal vine flower is trumpet-shaped, another perfect feeding blossom for the hummingbird.

Cardinal vines are climbers, they wrap their quickly growing stems around anything within reach. I usually have to cut, rather than pull, them away from their support. The vines have the strength of steel filaments before the growing season is over. The vines against the sky are part of this week’s Skywatch.

Blue Salvia is another flower that draws the hummingbirds to our garden. I know, in a few weeks, they will have their last sip of nectar in my gardens, but I am already thinking of what to plant next year to bring them back again.

Plants – Brazilian Plume Flower

I wonder how I have never before noticed this beautiful plant in my local nursery. Perhaps this is the first year they have offered it, or maybe the quantities are limited and they are quickly bought by those who, like me, adore finding a unique specimen. I know I would have walked right by it if it had no bloom. The leaves are typical of so many common flowering plants, and on their own not that attractive.

I potted the plant instead of planting in a garden bed. I want to bring it indoors and keep it growing through the winter months. One annoying problem is the plant came with a load of mealy bugs. Yikes. I have been painting them with rubbing alcohol, but they are still winning the battle. I might have to resort to systemic insectide, always a last choice for me. I don’t want to lose this beautiful flowering plant.

Brazilian Plume Flower is posted as part of Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge.

Instructions for growing this plant can be found at The Garden Helper.

Planting – Square ‘CONTAINER’ Gardening

Early Spring Planting in the Square Foot Container Garden

Square Foot Gardens are a terrific choice for gardening in small spaces. After planting Square Foot plots for several years I gave them up to grow a beautiful rose garden. With food shortages looming, and prices skyrocketing this Spring, I decided the time was right to grow a few vegetables again. I didn’t want to dig another garden into the yard, and wanted to try something temporary. I’ve combined Square Foot with container gardening and it is growing well in the first days of June.

The Square Foot Container Garden at Present

The garden needed a border; the largest expense was the fencing. This keeps the area neat and also helped in laying out the proper measurements. Dollar store buckets, two and a half gallons, were an inexpensive choice for the containers. I created drainage holes by thrusting my spading fork once into the buckets as they sat on the grass. The holes were perfectly spaced, and my lawn aerated a bit too. Garden fabric cut large enough to cover the area keeps the grass from growing up between the pots. Filling the buckets with a mixture of organic container soil and vermiculite was easy using the wheelbarrow to mix it.

Twelve Tomato Plants Along Back/Trellis supported
Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard, Kale, and Bok Choy have been very plentiful. Steamed with carrots, mixed with a little butter, and ladled over Jasmine Rice, oh my, so delicious.

Kale

The tomatoes already need watering every day, their stems appear more like small tree trunks than normal sized garden plants. I have them in the back of the gardens, braced against trellises for support. Small palettes between the plots keep the grass down also. I’m growing a large variety of vegetables to take note of how each plant performs. Too early to know what will succeed as of now, but the green beans, four plants to a bucket, are getting small beans after flowering. I’ll update as the summer progresses.

White Squash

So far, the only antagonist to my garden joy is the yellow squash. There have been many flowers, and several small squash, but all developed blossom rot. I’ll read up on this problem and apply what might help. If I find a solution that works I will post the results. Here’s a photo of another squash, white squash, I am hoping it will perform better.

PS Between the time of writing the first draft of this post, and now, the small green beans grew large enough for a first tasting. Delicious! Food grown in a dollar store bucket: an achievement that might come in handy if the world keeps spinning toward higher inflation and food shortages in the future.

Phlowers – Yellow Nature

Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Forsythia on an overcast day.

The forsythia seemed to be the only sunshine as I watched the sky on this day of April showers.

Creeping Jenny

I find a sense of security in the burst of color from garden perennials. I rely on the plants that green up and blossom with the warmth of the springtime sun. They give me hope that winter is truly behind us.

Double Daffodil

I planted dozens of daffodils in the Autumn. Even against an angry sky they glow.

Hyacinth

This pale yellow hyacinth might not have strong color, but it still has the same glorious scent as the varieties that sport brighter hues. This hyacinth is my choice for Flower of the Day.

Johnny-Jump-Up Violas

Rounding out my collection of yellow flowers are these sweet Johnny-Jump-Ups.

Phlowers – Camellia Blossoms

Camellia flowers – what a perfect way to start the week. Cee, host of Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge, posted a beautiful camellia today. Inspired by her photograph, I looked through my flower files and found a few vibrant Camellia photos taken in the Longwood Gardens Conservatory. Nothing banishes winter blues quite as well as the indelible hope and beauty of flowers in bloom.

Even the buds are beautiful.

What’s better than a perfect Camellia blossom? Why, two of course.

Plant – Mother of Thousands

When I purchased this succulent, I had no idea it was a kalanchoe, or that it was one of a variety called Mother of Thousands, and sometimes the Chandelier Plant. It has thrived in a terracotta pot in my sunny kitchen window. The plant is about eight inches in height at this time. Since it is growing so tall I will transplant it to a bigger pot soon to avoid top-heaviness.

When I first noticed a new plantlet near the base I assumed it was growing from the main plant root. Now, after seeing small plantlets clinging to the uppermost leaves, I realize the new growth developed from one of these small sprouts.

Of course, I couldn’t resist planting a few of the larger sprouts. I am attempting to get good results from two different mediums to see which works best. On the left is a mixture of vermiculite and seed starter, on the right a peat pellet. I’ll update in the future.

My baby chandelier plants are in the inchoate stage of life. I love it when challenges make me stretch a bit. When I saw the Ragtag Daily Prompt today, the word inchoate was a unknown to me. Now I know the meaning – will I ever use it in a sentence, well, first I better learn how to pronounce it.

Inchoate – (ĭn-kō′ĭt, -āt) Being in a beginning or early stage; incipient.
Imperfectly formed or developed; disordered or incoherent.
Recently, or just, begun; beginning; partially but not fully in existence or operation; existing in its elements; incomplete.

This oddball plant is also perfect for Kammie’s Oddball Challenge.

Phlowers – Tulips for a Valentine

Beautiful ovals, egg-shaped, the flowers open above the slender green stems into a gorgeous blossom with interesting centers. I like tulip flowers in all their stages. Even as they begin to dry and become papery, they have subtle beauty. Their vase life is well over a week in my cold winter house, and as a bonus, they grow taller as they age. I sure wish I was growing taller as I aged. 🤔

Valentine Tulips – Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge.

Planting & Quick Tip – Simple Pleasures Seed Sprouting

One of my simple pleasures in life is sprouting seeds in the house under lights. I’ve started the large seeds of Moonflowers early. They grow quickly, but are slow to blossom outdoors. The moonflower sprouts are large now, and growing through the netting of their pots. This morning I transplanted them into large size cell packs saved from last year’s planting.

Lack of humidity in the house sometimes causes the sprouts of larger seeds to become trapped within the seed coat. When this problem occurs I give the seedling a chance by dribbling water over it several times through the day. If I try to remove the seed coat by hand, almost always, the plant inside is torn and ruined beyond saving. Keeping the seed coat wet gives the sprout a better chance of survival.

Perspective – What Do I Save?

The Ragtag Prompt today is the word Save. Without even a minute of thought my post almost wrote itself. Throughout the day, 5:00 a.m. to now, 1:16 p.m. (EST), I set aside the trash in the photograph to save. I realized, that without trying, the items followed a theme: things to recycle for gardening.

The can full of water is soaking the label off a cinnamon spice jar. I can use this to hold my own dried herbs. The can itself will be put on a shelf in my garage, ready to hold bacon grease or other refuse. Empty cans are indispensable in the garden, and in previous growing seasons I’ve used several for small plants. Larger-sized crushed tomato cans are a good one to keep, perfect to measure out a daily portion of bird seed. The mesh bag, cut off a ham that is even now simmering on the stove before baking, can be used to dry vegetables, suspend melons or squash above the ground, and can also store bulbs in the Autumn.

The cheesecake container, empty now, (wish it was still full) can hold expanding peat pots. They make a great instant greenhouse. I have quite a few Moonflower vines sprouting in one I saved a few weeks ago. Hmmm? I wonder what I’ll save next.

Phlowers – Deluge of Pink Flower Showers

Who would believe this gorgeous deluge of pink florets is atop the humble herb Oregano? I have quite a few Oregano plants in the front of my herb garden border. Not only flavorful, this member of the mint family is a healing herb. Oregano is a wonderful herb to use for its preventative/medicinal qualities. As with most foods and herbs, organically grown Oregano is the best choice.

Oregano florets draw pollinators by the dozens. Today, along with the honeybee, I also spotted wasps, bumblebees, cabbage white butterflies, hoverflies and sweat bees on the blossoms.

The Oregano blossoms are my entry into Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Project – Tin Can Upcycle Part III

I’m grateful for the requests I’ve had for a part three of this project to show how the tin can rack was put together. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I kept my eyes open for wiry baskets for weeks when I visited thrift stores. I found a set in the local Goodwill for $3.99.

I used a Shepherd’s hook for my hanging apparatus and placed it near the corner of the porch where I intended to display the cans. This was a providential choice explained later in the post.

Painting the cans was easy. Rain also created a ‘happy accident’ while they dried.’

“We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.” Bob Ross

The moisture, on paint not yet set, rippled the finish, and gave the cans a crackled appearance without the purchase of an expensive crackle medium.

Leather strips, purchased long ago in a large bag of scraps, were the best choice for hanging the cans. I threaded them through the side holes and knotted the ends. Leather is durable and withstands tearing on the sharp edges of the can as they pass through.

My hardest problem to solve was how to hang the cans on the rack. Threading the leather strips around the weave of the baskets was an option, but if a plant dies, I want to be able to remove the can, re-pot with another, and attach to the rack again. S-hooks would work, but are expensive; I searched for an alternative. I found this in a 12-pack of wire shower hooks. These were inexpensive, easy to use, and matched well when sprayed with a coat of matte black spray paint. I needed 2 packs of these.

A few baskets seemed wobbly at their junctures, so I strengthened them with long plastic strip ties and cut the extra length away once attached.

I ran into a problem once I had the cans planted; the weight of all eighteen was too heavy for the Shepherd’s hook and the structure began to lean forward. NO! An oversized eye screw was needed to stabilize the contraption. This is where my location proved providential. I attached the eye screw into the wooden porch railing and secured the Shepherd’s hook with two plastic strip ties.

Out of necessity I will check each plant daily. The growing area is small and will dry out quickly. Updates will be posted later in the season. This strange tower of wire baskets and cans is certainly worthy of being entered into Kammie’s Oddball Challenge.

Quick Tip – Stinky Scare Sticks/Repelling Pests in the Garden Organically

A chill is still in the air, but I know that as the temperature rises the pesky critters will wake up too. Right about the time I plant out small sprouts and plant seeds they will be roaming about with voracious appetites. This year I am prepared in advance with a new idea: Stinky Scare Sticks.

I gathered some good repellents: eucalyptus essential oil, cayenne or chili pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and garlic powder. Organic coconut oil mixed with the eucalyptus oil was my glue. A toothpick dipped into the oil, and then into the spice mix, made the perfect stinky stick. Placed in garden pots and beds, the haze of pungent smells will hopefully hinder the munchies of the chipmunks and other pests.

I made quite a few and stored them at the ready on a garage shelf.

Another idea I’ve used in the past has been rocks and shells with a drop of eucalyptus, peppermint, cinnamon or other essential oil loathsome to small critters placed somewhere on their surface.  This also works as an unobtrusive repellent.

This post wouldn’t  be complete without a bit of a giggle. I also wrapped some of my kitty-cat’s  fur (rodents recognize the smell of a predator in the fur) around a toothpick, added some googly eyes, and placed it in the same pot for added scare appeal. I wonder if the chipmunks will run or just laugh at my silly creation.

Pheathers – Spring-Cleaning

An ‘oddball‘ place to find a piece of Easter Grass.

The days are lengthening, the temperature is rising, the gardens are beginning to thaw, time to clean the birdhouses before birds begin nesting again. We removed the bottom of the birdhouse and discarded the debris left by the previous occupants. Two of the birdhouses were rather empty, causing me to wonder if birds have already begun renovating and tossed out the twigs inside. One house was still full of sticks and a small nest. We spotted a single sprig of Easter basket filler woven into the dried grass.

We rehung the birdhouses with new strips of leathers. The knots harden and don’t loosen up once they are wet by rain. Although they might hold up another year I like to change them when we clean the houses. The three birdhouses are ready for new life. I might add another one on a tripod near my back window as I have in the past. Birdhouses 101 advises to place houses at least five feet above the ground and keep each house twenty-five feet away from the others.

“Make yourselves nests of pleasant thoughts. None of us knows what fairy palaces we may build of beautiful thought-proof against all adversity. Bright fancies, satisfied memories, noble histories, faithful sayings, treasure houses of precious and restful thoughts, which care cannot disturb, nor pain make gloomy, nor poverty take away from us. ~ John Ruskin

This post is part of Weekly Photo Challenge hosted by Traveling at Wit’s End: Feathered Friends.

Planting – Clearance Aisle Update/Forcing Tulips

In November I posted on clearance aisle tulip bulbs stored in my refrigerator drawer among the carrots and other vegetables. This weekend, to break up another monotonous winter day with hopes of Spring, my youngest grandson helped me begin to force the bulbs. The tulips are in a mixed-colors package. Although we might speculate about which dreamy colors will unfurl, it’s totally a matter of chance as to color combination.

Forcing Tulip Bulbs for Spring

The health of a few of the bulbs was in question when we saw some greenish mold around the sprouting end. If the bulb also had a spongy feel I tossed it out. We were left with over two dozen to plant. Most of the bulbs already had about a half inch of stem growth. We planted some in soil in deep terracotta pots and others in shallow ceramics.

We covered plastic pots with moss to disguise their unnatural appearance and planted in those. My favorite display is the tall vase with black river rock on the bottom, filled with water to just over the top of the rocks, the tulip bulbs can be watched from start to finish as they develop. Since we did find a bit of mold we removed the brown covering of the bulbs that show through the glass. I learned something today, the outer layer of paper-like husk on a bulb is called a tunic.

“Tunicate bulbs, like tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and ornamental alliums, have a paper-like covering called a tunic that protects the fleshy scales from drying out. “~ Delaware Online

While researching the properties of a tulip bulb I discovered a week-long Tulip Celebration in Lewes, Delaware, April 5th – 14th. Lewes is about a three hour drive from our home. It is also accessible from the Cape May/Lewes Ferry. If you love tulips and are near Delaware at this time, perhaps you’ll find time to celebrate in Lewes and welcome Spring.

Pheathers – Lion or Lamb

DSCF7328 (2)

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” ~Charles Dickens

Beneath the blue skies of midweek it appeared March might come in cold, but beautiful and clear. I admired the migratory flock of birds dotting my neighbor’s tree. Host to an iridescent mix of grackles, red-wing blackbirds, cowbirds and starlings, the tree was the stage for a twittering cacophony of bird talk.

Unfortunately, winter has not reached its turning point, and March arrived wrapped in a mantle of snowfall. Regardless of its chilly start, I know warmer, radiant weather will eventually ensue and appease my winter-weary mood. March days will soon find me in my garden turning over the soil to once again welcome spring.

Plantings – The Joy of Pink/Kammie’s Oddball Challenge

Every year one of my gardening goals is to try one new and unique vegetable or flower. This year I chose pink celery from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

I won’t be at fault if the celery doesn’t grow. Although I’ve never grown celery before, I’m planning to start it three ways. The package says to begin 8 – 12 weeks before the last frost. That time is now. Last night I planted the celery in a milk carton for winter sowing. Tonight I will plant it in flats to grow under lights inside. Lastly, when the soil warms, I will try a few seeds directly in the soil.

Pink Celery…I think it odd enough to be part of Kammie’s Oddball Challenge this week. I can’t wait to show this oddball vegetable to my grand-daughters and their mother…they all love pink!