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Plants – Spearmint

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Spearmint Mentha spicata

My spearmint patch has spread around the borders of my Square Foot Gardens. I love the fragrance the plants release as I work in the raised beds. It’s impossible to dislike weeding when a cloud of spearmint-scented air wells up around me as I pull out crabgrass and other persistent weeds.

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I’ve posted in the past on making delicious teas with fresh spearmint leaves. Place a few sprigs in a teacup, add boiling water and a bit of honey, and you have an invigorating cup of tea. Seriously though, I have to be aware of the time of day when I drink Spearmint tea. The herb is a stimulant and can keep me awake if I drink it too late in the day.

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My spearmint reached the flowering stage this week. To enable the plants to branch out I harvested the tops of the tallest stems. I decided it was the perfect time to try a new idea I recently stumbled across: making my own herbal extracts.

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The first step is to buy a good vodka. I was thrilled to find an organic variety.

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After a gentle rinse and drying time, chop the spearmint leaves (or whatever herb you are using) into small pieces, place in a glass jar, and cover with the vodka. I found a great tip that advised on putting a plastic bag between the lid and jar. If rust forms on the lid it can contaminate the extract. The plastic keeps this from happening. Let the jar sit in a dark place, shake it every now and then, for four to six weeks. Strain off the herbs and place the finished spearmint extract into dark bottles. The extract will keep for three to five years.

Terrific directions and information can be found at this site: Mountain Rose Herbs: How to make your own liquid herbal extract.

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I had quite a few sprigs of the spearmint left over. I removed the leaves from the stems and placed them on a parchment-covered drying rack in my turkey roaster. I set the temperature on the warm and let the herbs sit for twenty-four hours. This is a quick way to start the drying process. You can read about other techniques for drying fresh herbs at: Mother Earth News – Six Ways to Dry Fresh Herbs.

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They leaves dried nicely, most retaining an appealing green color.

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I put the leaves in a brown paper bag. A good place to continue the drying process is in a dark closet. When completely dry, I can store the spearmint in glass jars until I am ready to use it.

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Pride – You’re a Grand Old Flag

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You’re a grand old flag,
You’re a high-flying flag,
And forever in peace may you wave.
You’re the emblem of the land I love,
The home of the free and the brave.
Ev’ry heart beats true’Neath the Red, White and Blue,
Where there’s never a boast or brag.
But should auld acquaintance be forgot,
Keep your eye on the grand old flag.
~ George M. Cohan

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Photograph – Wordless Wednesday/Sibling Squirrels Dodging Raindrops

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Place – Delaware Bay Part II/Bivalve, New Jersey

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“New Jersey and oysters. It’s not widely known now, but in the first half of the 20th century, Delaware Bay was home to an abundant oyster population and a significant fishing industry to capitalize on it. A vibrant business community settled in Shellpile and Bivalve to harvest and process oysters, shipping them in long freight trains to markets in New York and Philadelphia.” ~ Hidden New Jersey Blog – Find more on the blogspot: Hidden New Jersey

We recently revisited the town of Bivalve, just a mile or two from the center of Port Norris, New Jersey. The museum surprised us, we had no idea Bivalve had a museum dedicated to the history of the Oyster Industry.

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We enjoyed the displays. My two favorites were the old gallon-sized oyster cans and a natural weaving on the dock walls.

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I fell in love with the swallows swooping among the rafters of the docks.

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I just happened to take a lucky shot of one swallow at the same moment a Coast Guard boat passed by the docks.

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If you are in Southern New Jersey, along the Delaware Bay, visit the town of Bivalve.

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Place – Delaware Bay Part I/Fortescue, New Jersey & The Landing Cafe

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Fortescue, New Jersey is one of our favorite local destinations to visit in warmer weather. The beaches are a terrific place to fish. While we were there the couple we were watching caught a Croaker.

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Croakers are a good fish for eating. My husband and I have a goal this year to go fishing a few times along the Delaware Bay.

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Lunch at the nearby Landing Cafe at Sundog Marina in Newport, NJ was our next stop. We love their delicious crab bisque soup.

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We enjoy our weekend outings alongside the beautiful Delaware Bay.

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Quotes – Rotten at the Heart

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
And prudent in their own sight!”

~ Isaiah 5:20-21

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“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart.
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!”

― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

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Pain – Summer Storm

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My area of New Jersey has experienced a devastating summer storm. We usually don’t get twisters, and if they do touch down, thankfully, they are quite small since we are near the coast and sea breezes break up their rotation. Unfortunately, we do get something called straight-line winds.

“Typically, we think of severe storms as producing rain, lightning, and damaging winds with the occasional tornado. However, a severe thunderstorm is also capable of producing winds with speeds faster than 100 mph, even without a tornado. These powerful winds can be just as damaging and are known as straight-line winds.” ~ MidlandUsa

I lost a branch from my crabapple tree, and also the trumpet vine that held the birdhouse I featured in one of this week’s posts. When I first saw the trumpet vine on the ground (see photo collage) I was sure the baby birds had been killed. When I picked it up and peered inside, I must have resembled a predator; one of the baby birds promptly jumped out and ran across the grass. (They are still not able to fly.) I caught him and put him back in the safety of the house and tied it with leather strips into the tree nearest the fallen vine. I wasn’t sure if the parent birds would accept this new arrangement, but they did, and the next morning were once again feeding their offspring. Hooray!

Many people are still without power in our area. Gigantic trees are still lying across major roadways. Electric and cable lines are still torn away from their supporting poles. I have been through a few hurricanes, and many N’oreasters, but seriously folks, this was the worst ever. I have never seen or heard wind with so much power. Thankfully, the oak tree in my yard that needs to come down withstood it, and so did other larger trees. The good news: no one lost their life.

What I learned…
* A generator is a very, very good thing…even if they do make dreadful noise.
* I need to print out more of the preparedness articles I have filed on my computer. When a storm or other natural disaster takes out Internet, television and electric…information filed on your computer will do you no good.
* Have first aid supplies on hand at all times. Scrapes and cuts can easily get infected during the clean up due to overflow from the street and blocked storm drains. Always remember to wear gloves when picking up storm debris.

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Pheathers & Phun – Birdy, Birdy In the Tree

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Sometimes I am in the exact right place, at the exact right time, with camera in hand. This is the second brood of sparrow nestlings raised in our birdhouse this year. I have enjoyed watching the parents flit back and forth feeding the voracious young ones.

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Quote – Happy Father’s Day

“Any man can be a father. It takes someone special to be a dad.”
— Author Unknown

To My Wonderful Dad: “HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!”

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Four Paternal Generations: Clockwise from Top Left – My Father, Grandmother, Great-Grandmother and myself as an infant/My Grandfather and Grandmother/My Great-Grandfather and Great-Grandmother/My Great, Great-Grandfather.

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Quote & Photograph – A Wish, A Prayer and Two Shoes

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“The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.” ~ Billy Graham

One Wish & One Prayer to spread the GOOD NEWS  = Two Shoes

How long has it been since you dusted off your witnessing shoes?

“Last of all I want to remind you that your strength must come from the Lord’s mighty power within you. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand safe against all strategies and tricks of Satan. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies—the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world.
So use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks, and when it is all over, you will still be standing up. But to do this, you will need the strong belt of truth and the breastplate of God’s approval. Wear shoes that are able to speed you on as you preach the Good News of peace with God. In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. And you will need the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit—which is the Word of God. Pray all the time. Ask God for anything in line with the Holy Spirit’s wishes. Plead with him, reminding him of your needs, and keep praying earnestly for all Christians everywhere.” Ephesians 6:10-18

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Plants – Nasturtium

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The Nasturtium in my photograph was not only beautiful, but tasted yummy too! Nasturtium flowers and leaves can be used in salads and as edible garnishes. The leaves and flowers have a peppery taste, and blend beautifully with other fresh greens for a spectacular salad. The flowers when newly blossomed and small, can be frozen in ice cube trays. The leaves resemble small lily pads and work as pressed foliage for those who enjoy pressing flowers.

How to Grow NASTURTIUM

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Perspective – Cutting Back

Cutting Back

Into every life at some point there comes a need for cutting back. I am at that point. I pictured myself recently as Marley’s Ghost in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” No, I’m not burdened with my misdeeds, but I am burdened with too much going on…too many tasks, too many possessions, in reality, I also have too many dreams and goals. Time to cut back on everything, including a daily blog post.

Oh…you are not through with me yet though….I still want to post a few times a week, but the daily post I usually attempt to make will have to be put on hold indefinitely, perhaps forever. The good news, I probably won’t repeat myself quite so often, after all life for most of us is a circle of oft-repeated tasks. BUT…when I find something new and exciting…I will post it! AND…I will always attempt to share the GOOD NEWS! The good news that Christ is King and Lord of my life and that HE offers SALVATION  to one and all. Another good point is I will have more time to visit the blogs of friends I’ve made through these posts. I’ll be stopping by at your blogging homes more often my blog friends. God’s blessings be with you all today.

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Quick Tip – Removing and Using Volunteers

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Over the years of blog posting, I’ve written many times of “volunteer” seedlings, small plants that spring up in early summer, self-sown by the previous year’s garden vegetables or flowers.

“Produce from volunteer plants is often bigger and tastier than are intentionally cultivated crops. After all, the plants have sprouted where they want to grow, as opposed to where you want them to. Like wildflowers, unbidden edibles usually appear wherever they’ll have the best chance to survive and reproduce . . . that is, where the soil has the necessary nutrients, the proper pH balance, and just the right amount of drainage to satisfy the needs of the plant in question.”
~ Mother Earth News

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The warm temperatures of June have been a blessing, and volunteer seedlings are sprouting. Many are a perfect solution for the empty spaces in my flower beds. Unfortunately, the best sprouts seem to grow between the bricks and walkways, nurtured by the heat generated in the cement. I have found a way to get these small plantlets out and grow them on into full-sized plants. Pulling them, even very gently, never works; the roots will break away. Instead I slip a putty knife (or any type of slim metal) into the soil alongside the plant, keeping the blade pressed firmly against the cement. I do this on each side then carefully pull the plant out of its nesting spot. In most cases this technique works and the sprout can be removed with root and dirt intact.

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I immediately place the sprouts in garden beds or holding pots and drench them with water. Over the course of a week or more I will water these new plants every day. Look carefully amongst the weeds in your garden beds before you begin pulling them out. You might have a treasure lurking there that will grow into a beautiful plant before summer’s end..

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Quote – Silence

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“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” ~ Mother Teresa

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Place – Riding the Boards

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I played “hookey” today and had some fun riding the boards and walking the beach. The photograph was taken on the boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey, while riding my bicycle.

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Phlowers – Friday Flowers/Sweet Peas

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Sweet peas are a favorite of mine, an old-fashioned vine with a delicately scented bloom. Sweet peas, much like pansies, will not survive the entire summer growing season. When temperatures start to sizzle, sweetpea vines will dry out and die back.

I find sweet peas tricky to germinate and grow. This year only three seeds sprouted and grew to a good size for me. The three vines are doing a great job climbing up the string I strung alongside a butterfly house.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac has some good tips on how to grow sweet peas. It’s probably too late to grow the vines for blooming this season, but keep them in mind for next year, and if you have a friend with some vines…ask them for some seeds*.

Some terrific tips from the Old Farmer’s Almanac on how to grow Sweet Peas.

Quick Tip for Pressed Flower Hobbyists – Sweet pea flowers have never pressed well for me, but the curly tendrils make a nice addition to pressed flower compositions.

* Sweet Pea seeds can be toxic.

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Pain & Promise – The Oak Tree

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I love the oak tree in my backyard. It has always been a pleasure to me. I enjoy the sprawl of its branches, and often watch out a back window as squirrels and birds scamper and light upon it’s broad and welcoming limbs.

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Over the course of about three years the oak tree has begun to drop dead limbs to the ground. We had the tree trimmed last year, only to have more branches die-off during the summer. Last week we had the tree checked again and received bad news, the tree is in a state of decline. Even at the top where it receives plentiful sunlight the branches are beginning to die.

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We had to make the hard decision to take the tree down before any additional branches fall and cause great harm to people or property. The tree will be removed before the Fourth of July. I am a brokenhearted. I love the tree. We’ve gardened below its shade, swung from the branches, and raked its plentiful leaves each Autumn. My backyard will never be the same again.

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On a happy note, there are “babies” all over the yard and gardens, planted by the squirrels in the Fall. I think I will dig a few up and try to grow them on to a size where they can be planted outdoors. Perhaps I’ll even try to fashion one little tree into a bonsai. It’s a promise: the tree will go on.

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Pareidolia – Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge – The Number One

I enjoy taking part in Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge from time to time. Check out her wonderful blog and the entries listed in the comment section. The challenge for this week is the number one.

“We are starting a new series of topics and it’s is all about numbers. This week’s topic is One Item or the Number 1.”

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My entry in the challenge is “One Rock With Many Faces,” a perfect example of Pareidolia. How many faces can you find in my one rock.

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Problem-Solving – Easy Garden Trellis

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If you have some old frames on hand you have the makings of a perfect trellis. My cucumbers are growing at a quick rate, and I knew it was time to place some kind of support near them. Years ago I had seen some photographs of old frames strung with string and used as a trellis.

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I found two large frames in the basement, knocked the damaged pictures out, nailed in a couple of brads (slender nails), and strung them with string.

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They are functional and attractive in the garden beds. I used some dollar store hooks between them as a bit of support. Two frames are not necessary, one alone would also work to support the vines. I wish I knew who had the original idea to give them a little credit, but to track the idea’s origin down is probably near impossible. Happy Gardening.

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Quick Tip and Phavorites – Reruns

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“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
~ Ecclesiastes 1:9

If you’ve read my blog over the course of a year you will notice that I tend to repeat my best hints. At times, I might tweak them up or down a bit, but basically, a lot of my tried and true activities stay the same year after year. I write blog posts according to where I am in my own life, and when I use a hint that works for me I tend to blog about it again…and again…and maybe even again. So to those who have read this hint in previous posts, my apologies. :) For those of you who have never tried to root cuttings in green glass, you might want to give it a try.

I’m going to carry out my own experiment on what glass color roots a cutting faster after reading the two opposing opinions below. I’ll update in a few weeks. If you have some cuttings to root, why don’t you try the experiment along with me?

An Experiment With Green Glass – Yes it Works!
A “Scientific” No to Green Glass

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