Give the Dandelions a Break

I love dandelions.  I don't care if they clog up the lawn. Once you mow a few times they stop blooming. Mind you, my lawn isn't really true grass, so if yours if, you might be more selective. As proof of my love of dandelions and to explain why I love this quaint, prolific plant, I have these pictures to share.



You fight dandelions all weekend, and late Monday afternoon there they are, pert as all get out, in full and gorgeous bloom, pretty as can be, thriving as only dandelions can in the face of adversity. ~Hal Borland



If dandelions were hard to grow, they would be most welcome on any lawn. ~Andrew V. Mason


Every child is born a naturalist. His eyes are, by nature, open to the glories of the stars, the beauty of the flowers, and the mystery of life.  ~R. Search



Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them. ~ A. A. Milne,  Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh

~Brenda

Changing the Way We Garden After 50

I have been gardening for over 25 years. I started when we bought our first house, and my boys were toddlers. I love gardening.  It soothes my soul to sow seeds and tend my flowers and herbs. My body is another story.  I have two types of psoriasis, thankfully it's mostly confined to my hands and feet at this point.  I'm fairly healthy besides the psoriasis--my blood pressure is above normal and I need to lose weight, but it's under control.



I've always been a creative introvert with social and generalized anxiety.  Gardening soothes me, and meds take the edge off so I can work through the panic and worry.  When I can't write, and my brain is insists I take on the problems of every person I know because they NEED me to help, no matter what they say, I head out to my garden. I sit. I breathe.  I pull some weeds, and I settle.


It is only when you start a garden - probably after age fifty - that you realize something important happens every day.~Geoffrey B. Charlesworth 

Gardening is hard work, and sometimes you'll feel like you' ve taken on too much.  Perhaps, you are doing too much.  You'll need to be honest about how many hours a day, or week, you can dig, pull weeds, plant and maintain your garden.  It's not an all or nothing situation. Perhaps you'll decide to grow a few culinary herbs, a tomato plant and your favorite flowers. Downsizing your garden is not a bad thing.  It's about quality instead of quantity.


In my case, I have decided to focus on herbs and flowers in an area in the backyard I'm working on with my husband. The rest of our landscaping will be trees, shrubs and perennials that won't have too much physical maintenance. Maybe you'll need to limit yourself to a container garden close to the house, or a raised bed outside the back door.  It doesn't matter if you have more or less, as long as you are honest about what you have the time and energy to maintain.

Here are a few things I've changed in the last two years or so:

1. ALWAYS cover feet and hands with garden gloves and sturdy shoes.  No more casual weeding and digging in the soil, exposing skin to bacteria.  (Last year I had two infections.)

2. Sunscreen is NOT an option. Make yourself use it every time you're outside.

3. Drink water!  Before you head out into the yard, grab a large cover cup with a straw and fill it with ice and water. Dehydration is no joke at any age, but when you're older it can be very very bad.

4. Sit,  if you need to take a break from working.  Don't keep weeding, planting, digging or sowing seeds when you get a pain in your back or vertigo makes an appearance.  I start off standing, then grab a stool and sit while I keep working.  If that doesn't do it, then I take a break and stretch out.

5. Make lists and learn to focus. Figure out what needs to be done, then break it into sections, and work on one thing at a time. Work in the mornings and again in the evening when it's cooler. Everything will get done if you make a plan and stick with it.

Most of all I've learned that it's important to be honest with myself about the type of gardening I want to take on now that I'm older.  The truth is that my body has limitations, but as long as I work with them it will be fine. I won't double dig the soil, or weed for hours at a time because I know it's too much for my back. I like the feel of soil running through my fingers, but I also know wearing gloves is safer and better for my cracked skin.


Growing things brings me joy.  Overworking my body brings pain and injury, which is counterproductive. It's not an all or nothing situation.  



I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden. ~Ruth Stout

I want to be like Tasha Tudor or Ruth Stout, two gardeners who adapted and changed throughout the years so they could continue to garden as they aged, sharing their joy and expertise with those around them. They both gardened into their 90's, writing and sharing their wisdom with others.

Lastly, always ask for help when you need it. Family and friends can't read our minds. If we need help in the garden, we need to ask. Grandchildren can be amazing garden helpers.



~Brenda

Mother's Day Greeting



A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts. ~Washington Irving
Happy Mother's Day!
~Brenda

Lessons From My Herb Garden

The new herb garden I started last year was as lovely as I had hoped. After a year of hospital and doctor visits because of my psoriasis which led to infections and a nasty drug interaction, I was ready for a round of stress relief. Growing and harvesting herbs has always been relaxing and peaceful. 


I've been growing herbs since we lived in the city almost 20 years ago. I learn something new each season, which, for me, is part of the joy I find in gardening. Below are the herbs I grew last season. I've included the good, bad and the ugly in growing each plant. 

Nasturtiums:  I've grown this beautiful herb from seed every year in whatever plot of land served as my garden. I find they do better in the ground, rather than in pots.Nasturtium will trail far and wide with optimum conditions. In my excitement, I ignored this lesson. They will also crowd shorter herbs such as thyme or oregano. The picture below was taken after I pulled up an entire plant that had grown to cover half of the oregano plant. This year I will plant fewer nasturtiums and sow them next to the outer edge where I can guide them to trail over the edging blocks, so they won't crowd other plants. Lesson: Sow nasturtiums where they can trail and wander without crowding other herbs.


Calendula: This is another of my favorite annual herbs, which is why I lost my mind momentarily when I planted TWO packets of calendula seeds.  Honestly, this size herb bed only needed 2-3 plants. They grew fast and furious, giving me more blooms than I could keep up with in the deadheading department. I ended up making four small tins of salve. (I'm tweaking the recipe this season before I share it.) The picture below shows both blooms and seed heads. Lesson: Sow LESS seed.


Lemon Verbena: The first time I grew lemon verbena was at least 13 years ago. I bought a small pot, knowing it wouldn't survive our Zone 5 winters. The fragrance of lemon verbena is unlike any other lemon scented herb. I can only describe it as delightful and uplifting. Last season I bought the same size pot from a local nursery, planting it in my herb bed. I watched in amazement as it grew to at least 5 feet tall and about 3 foot wide. The main "stem" by the end of the season was thick and woody, much like a small tree. Lesson: Give lemon verbena it's own space. 


Oregano/Lavender/Catmint: The only problem these three herbs developed was a lack of growth because of overcrowding that resulted in shade from the nasturtium and monster lemon verbena. They should recover this year.  Lesson: Pay attention to the spacing requirements given for an herb or flower. It makes a difference.


Other herbs grown last season:
Sage
Oregano
Lemon Thyme
Assorted Pansies
Moss Rose (Portulaca grandiflora)
Lavender
Chives
Catmint

From seed:
Basil (pots)
Nasturtium
Calendula

Lastly, the pansies and moss rose were a pretty addition to the herb bed, adding color while I waited patiently for the herbs to bloom. The pansies needed watering quite often, but the moss rose LOVED the heat and sun. They do well in the hottest part of the summer and rarely need watering.

I can't wait to apply these lessons this year!

I hope you all have a lovely day,
Brenda

Wild Asters in Autumn


Mrs. William Starr Dana admires the autumn aster in her book from 1900, How to Know The Wild Flowers:

This beautiful genus, like that of the golden-rod, is one of the peculiar glories of our country. Every autumn these two kinds of flowers clothe our roadsides and meadows with so regal a mantle of purple and gold that we cannot but wonder if the flowers of any other region combine in such a radiant display. 

Asters are lovely, whether wet on a dreary day, or bright and cheerful on a gorgeous, sunny day, they always make me smile. 

~Brenda

The Beauty of Weeds


When life is not coming up roses


Look to the weeds

and find the beauty hidden within them.




Daisies are one of my favorite wildflowers, a.k.a. weed. This is a wild, or OxEye daisy that grows in small bunches on our property. I never know when they will pop up, or where I will find this sunny flower. I did have some success transplanting a couple of roots to one of my flower beds, but they seemed to be fairly short lived. This year I found a small grouping near our large oak tree. It was a lovely, bright spot in a meadow of green.

~Brenda

Edible Flowers in the Herb Garden

When buying herb plants and seeds I always look in the flower sections. Many herbs are also considered edible flowers. They are beautiful and can be used in salads, as a garnish, in vinegar, herb butter and much more.  

Calendula and Nasturtium varieties will often be listed in the flower sections of seed catalogs. 

Below are some of the edible blooms I'm growing in my garden.

I've planted three lavender plants in my herb garden. Lavender can be dried easily and used in teas, dessert, sachets and balms.


Calendula petals are edible and medicinal. The flowers turn to seed fairly quickly, but at the stage shown in the picture they can be harvested by snipping them off the plant at just above the first set of leaves. The petal pull away from the center easily and are ready to use in salads.  They also can be used in recipes for lotions and balms.


Nasturtiums are one of my favorite herbs because it's easy to sow and grow. Cherry rose, below, is a lovely variety.  


The Alaska variety is another good choice with it's pretty variegated leaves. The blooms and leaves can be used in salads, or as garnishes.


There are many other flowers and herbs that are edible such as:

Chives
Basil 
Borage
Mints
Chervil
Fennel
Dill
Thyme
Rose
Oregano

~Brenda

Grilled Tilapia With Herbs

There are many great healthy diets out there but my doctor recommended the Dash diet or the Mediterranean diet.  My husband works in a hospital cath lab and the resident cardiologists all stand by the Mediterranean diet, so we're opting for that program.  It consists of eating mostly fish and chicken, vegetables and good fats such as olive oil.  Grilled fish is one of my favorite ways to eat fish. 

First, I gather a handful of lemon thyme from the garden. I strip about a teaspoon of leaves off the stems and place it in a bowl. I add about a tablespoon of olive oil, 1/2 tsp. of garlic pepper and the same amount of kosher salt. I mix this together well and brush it on the thawed fish, which I had place on a sheet of foil. I then lay the remainder of the lemon thyme on top of the fish, leaving on the stems, as below.



I preheat the grill, then turn it down on low. I place the foil with the fish on the grill and close the lid. I turn it once, leaving on loose thyme so it was on the bottom. I continue to check it often, and turn it once more. It was almost cooked to where it was flaking, so I dotted the fish with a small amount of butter (at the most a tablespoon). When it melted, and the fish cooked, I removed it from the grill and placed it on plates. I served it with potatoes I had microwaved, then cut in chunks and sauteed in a pan with butter, seasoning with salt and pepper.



As always, I have to give you some variations you may wish to try. If you don't have lemon thyme, regular garden thyme will work, and a little lemon juice added to the mixture. You can also use minced or crushed garlic and freshly ground pepper instead of garlic pepper. I do both, depending on what I feel like. This would work with any white fish fillets such as catfish or perch.

~Brenda

Blooming Herbs and Flowers

Today I'm sharing more pictures of the herbs and flowers I planted this garden season. Everything is doing well. I do need to get out and deadhead the calendula and the snapdragons, which will bloom right up until a hard frost.


CALENDULA


LAVENDER


CALIBRACHOA


JOHNNY JUMP UP
&
LEMON VERBENA


MOSS ROSE



NASTURTIUM


Growing Culinary Herbs Again

Since leaving behind my herb garden in the city I've struggled with creating another garden. I think it's much like an artist looking at a blank canvas three times larger than they've worked with in the past.  I was overwhelmed.

We went from a city lot to ten acres in a rural area with a large field, horse pasture, a small wooded area and a bit of wetland scrub. At the time I had visions of grandeur where I created large, amazing gardens, a pond and fields of wildflowers.  While some of that may yet become a reality as money becomes available, it wasn't a realistic plan. My imagination was much larger than our wallet.

However, after much experimentation I finally turned part of our yard into a garden area, starting with a round herb bed.

Last year we placed the blocks and put down plastic to smother the weeds and grass. This year, in early spring we bought a yard of planting soil, which was a step up from topsoil. I worked in an organic fertilizer and allowed the bed to sit for about two weeks. This was the bed after I added a few pansies and the "centerpiece" of the bed, which is the top of a cast iron chiminea we've had for over ten years.




It's shaded in the morning, but only before about 11:00 a.m. or so. The rest of the day the bed is in full sun. Here is the herb bed now:



I planted annual herbs and flowers until the perennial herbs fill in the bed. I included:

Pansy
Moss Rose
Calendula
Nasturtium
Petunia

The perennial herbs include:
Oregano
Thyme 
Sage
Lavender
Catmint (Nepeta)
Chives

I also planted lemon verbena, although in Zone 5 it can't be overwintered. I simply couldn't resist the wonderful fragrance. I also planted basil in a long "windowbox" type planter and dill in another pot. 

I've been watering the herb bed in between rains. The containers always need more watering. After the perennials establish themselves they won't need extra water. Which is one of the many reasons I love herbs. They are easy to grow, lovely, fragrant and useful.

Valentine's Day is a Family Affair



Valentine's Day was always rather melancholy for me until I met my husband in 1988. No one in my life really celebrated the holiday, and it left me feeling lonely and left out. My husband changed that for me:)  We didn't have much money but I never felt as if the day passed me by because even the little things are romantic when it's the right person.  

After my children were born I loved Valentine's Day even more because it was so much fun to have little parties with them at home, and later at school. I wasn't online then, so I had no Pinterest, Facebook or We Heart It for inspiration.  I was determined that I would make the day special for everyone, no matter what their age. We had tea parties once my daughter was born, and yes, her brothers always participated. We colored, made crafts and always made Valentine's Day cards for each other.

My grandson is almost three, so now I get to include him in the festivities. His little brother is only three months old, so he'll have to wait a bit before attempting to color or craft:) 

Today I have some neat printables I found online while planning our tiny Valentine's party for my grandson. I couldn't resist sharing.  

Another grandmother blogger shared these adorable Valentine's Day cards that come with a free printable. What I love is that it can be kept simple for little hands or jazzed up by the older kids.


You'll find the printable links and instructions HERE.



The DIY Village Blog has three lovely chalkboard prints like the one above that can be printed out for free to craft with or use as Valentine's Day cards. Click here.




The print above is one of several that can be printed off from DebbieDoos blog. I especially loved this graphic. Click here for instructions and the printable graphics.





The blog at Yellow Bliss Road has several printables like the one above that can be printed in three different sizes. These can be used in many different projects for adults or children. Click HERE. 


Finally, I came across a lovely blog post from Kari Anne at Thistlewood Farms about how even adults still get butterflies at times. Her story is a must read for Valentine's Day.  Click HERE


I hope you have a Valentine's Day full of love and laughter.

~Brenda

Thrift Stores Part I: The Basics of Smart Spending

Shopping at thrift stores is not just for those that can't afford new clothing. For some it's a "hip" thing to do, for others it's about searching for vintage and collectible items. For me, it's practical, thrifty and challenging.

Most of my shopping is done at Goodwill stores because they are close and convenient. I've also found, at least here in Michigan, they are clean, organized and frequently add stock to the shelves. What do I look for when I'm shopping?



Casual and dressy clothing for my teenage daughter
Baby and Toddler clothing
Shoes for everyone in the family
Brand name clothing for my sons who are 21 and 22
Clothing for my husband and I
Baking pans, dishes and glassware
Books
Toys
Frames
Gardening items
Wood furniture
Scarves, hats, gloves, purses, wallets
Blankets, Afghans

To get the most for your money it's important to remember a few things when shopping at thrift stores. Think before you buy.  Impulse shopping will only add to the clutter in your home. It's easy to get distracted in a thrift store.  The shiny will call to you. Do not let yourself become distracted. Buy what you need. It's easy to start tossing things in the cart without thinking purchases through. Ask yourself:

Do I need this item?
Will it be worn/used?
Is it a quality item?

If you answer no to any of these questions put the item back on the shelf. If you aren't sure, put it in your cart but pause before going up to the register to consider again if you REALLY need it.

Before checking out it's also smart to go over each item for damage.

Next time I'll have more detailed tips based on my experiences.

~Brenda

Garden Dreams

I know many of you are under snow, some literally, so it's hard to look ahead to spring, but we can dream. The seed catalogs have been arriving already, and I'm dreaming of a garden makeover. I'm going to try something different this year using containers and raised beds, rather than a traditional garden plot.


Until it's warm enough to dig in the dirt,  I have a few freebies I found while browsing online that I thought I'd pass along.



FREE PRINTABLE CHARTS

When you subscribe to Lady Lee's Home newsletter (and anytime afterwards) she'll give you access to a few free printable charts for the garden season. Her blog is lovely with recipes, garden tips and do-it-yourself projects.

http://ladyleeshome.com/


COLOR UNTIL YOU CAN PLANT

For an escape on a cold day or evening, print out this adult coloring book from Botanical Interests.

https://www.botanicalinterests.com/botanical-interests/botanical-interests-coloring-book


PLANNING FOR PEONIES

I love peonies. They are old fashioned, fragrant, beautiful and once established they live for many years. Peony Envy (snicker) is a peony grower with oodles of amazing varieties of peony. They also have an in depth section on planning your peony garden that is very helpful. Since peonies are so long lived and don't appreciate moving to new spaces, it's important to place the plants carefully.

http://peonysenvy.com/planagarden.html


A WILLOW PLAYHOUSE

This isn't exactly a garden project but it would be amazing near the garden area. It's a Willow Playhouse. If you don't have a willow tree on your property find someone who does and explain what you need. It won't hurt the tree and you can share the instructions with them so they can make their own playhouse. The instructions are here:

http://www.homesteadlady.com/diy-willow-playhouse/

Stay Warm,
Brenda