Plant – Stevia

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I grew Stevia this year in my Square Foot Gardens. The plant, purchased at a local farm market, grew into a beautiful, large plant. A few weeks ago I harvested the leaves by cutting entire stems and drying them on a tray inside my car. The summer heat and sun quickly dried the leaves to the perfect crisp texture. When dry, just a few crumbles from a small piece of a leaf filled my mouth with sweetness.

Tips on Growing Stevia

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I will soon harvest the remaining stems of the stevia and take some cuttings to root and grow through the winter. Natural stevia has few side effects, but don’t confuse the plant with the Stevia-based sweeteners on sale in grocery stores. ‘Food Babe Investigates Stevia: Good or Bad’ is a good article that compares the natural plant with mass-produced product.

Another precaution is for those who have allergies:

In some cases, stevia can cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, but this is a relatively rare occurrence. According to the New Health Guide website, however, those with pre-existing allergies to chrysanthemums, marigolds, ragweed or daisies are at greater risk of a stevia reaction. ~ Livestrong.com

 

Phun & Pheathers – Funny Fowls

A few weeks ago I was sitting in my back yard, minding my own business, when lo and behold two chickens strolled into the yard as if they owned it. I was instantly IN LOVE with them, grabbed my camera and documented their visit. (Their home is on the street behind mine.) Their visit provided me with quite a giggle.

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I’ve wanted chickens or ducks of my own for ages. Town ordinances have changed in many areas and it’s now permissible to have “pet” chickens or ducks in the backyard. On the other hand I am thinking of the feistiness of Blue Eyes the goose. Maybe a pair of geese would be a better idea. I wonder if it’s true that geese can be good “watchdogs?”

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“Police in rural parts of China’s Xinjiang Province are no longer turning to dogs to stand guard at police stations at night. They’re using geese instead. And it works.” ~ Honk if You Think Geese are Good Guard Dogs – National Geographic

I’ve had most of my gardens devastated this year by a horrible groundhog who invades my yard weekly to eat my foliage and garden plants. Would a big white goose honking like mad and chasing him do the trick? The key word might be big. Should I get a goose now and coddle it all through winter, and have a big, big bird come Spring? Hmmm….I’ll have to think on it a bit and let you know!

“Chinese geese, like Africans, are a more talkative breed of geese. Due to this characteristic, they are the best breed if you want to be alerted to intruders or other strange occurrences. They love to talk back to you – especially if you have raised them from babies.” ~Metzer Farms

Plant – Holstein Cowpea

Holstein Cowpea – “Very unique, this pea is mottled half black and half white, just like a Holstein cow. The small bush plants yield well and are easy to grow. Very rare.” ~ Baker Creek Heirlooom Seeds

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One of the delights of my 2016 garden has been the heirloom Holstein Cowpea. I have eaten the offerings of this plant as a snapped green bean, and also harvested the cowpeas when the pods are dry. I will grow the dried cowpeas I’ve saved in next year’s garden. I’m also storing a few to eat as a specialty bean in winter soups. The cowpeas did well grown in the ground and in a hanging basket.

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I will definitely grow this variety next year, and hope to plant and harvest a bumper crop. An added benefit of the cowpeas is growing legumes adds nitrogen to soil.

Project – Shadowbox

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I recently put together a shadowbox of Boy Scout memories with books, scarves, patches and a National Council card dated 1943. These items belonged to my father-in-law and husband, and together they created a perfect assortment of memories to be treasured in a shadowbox.

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My first step was enlarging and printing out a cute photograph of my father-in-law as a boy onto a piece of cardstock. I cut close to the actual image on the right side, but left some of the background to the left. Cutting completely around a head in a photo creates a distracting helmet-like appearance. My father-in-law’s hand in the photograph was in the perfect position to hold an item, allowing me to cut around the outline of his hand and part of his wrist.

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To keep the photo upright I reinforced it with a strip of thin cardboard cut away from a piece of recycled cereal box. It worked perfectly.

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Shadowboxes can be expensive. I purchased this one at a local craft store with a 40% off coupon. There are also good ideas on how to create a shadowbox yourself on Pinterest and other websites.

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The shadowbox came with four pins in a velvet background. I’m glad it did for I found this was the perfect way to stabilize the items inside the box. I moved my memorabilia around until I was satisfied with the appearance, and then pinned everything to the velvet backing with long straight pins.

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I found that lowering the shadowbox frame onto the backing, rather than trying to fit the backing into the frame was the best way to fasten the two together without marring the arrangement. This step is easier with two people, one to hold the pieces, the other to fasten the bottom and top together.

Even though most of us are all grown up, a shadowbox of memories can immediately take us back to a happier time and away for a moment from the cares of the day.

Plant & Phloral Arrangements – Bargain Elegance

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Page through any high-end magazine or decorating book and you will often find Phalaenopsis orchids as a main focal point in the decor. The long stems, large green leaves, and gorgeous flowers are the perfect plant for any home. Phalaenopsis orchids are my first choice for an elegant flowering plant or gift.

I worked for several years as a floral designer. When an order was placed for an orchid delivery, I often put together floral pieces much like the orchid in the photograph. These plants had a big price tag, usually $50.00 – $60.00, not including a large delivery fee. A better choice is to make your plant a DIY project.

Phalaenopsis orchids are available just about everywhere. I bought the one in the photograph for $7.99 at my local Aldi Grocery Store. I have a stash of thrift store and yard sale ceramics set aside for dressing up houseplants. The one in the photo was a $2.00 purchase.

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One drawback of most Phalaenopsis orchids is their tendency to lean. To straighten the pot I use foil wedged in around the orchid pot. Since the orchid and the potting medium is light, this works perfectly to hold it in place.

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The moss that covers the top was an item gathered near my home. Dried for a week or so, excess dirt brushed away, the moss perfectly dresses up the top of the pot, and hides the mechanics beneath it. This orchid brings elegance to any room, yet is very economical at just $10.00. Give this design a try the next time you see orchids for sale at a great price.

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Perspective – WordPress Discover Challenge/Here and Now

Here and Now:

“Choose a moment and capture it in the medium of your choice.” ~Wordpress Discover Challenge

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When I wrote this post I was sitting on my back porch pecking away on my laptop, listening to the symphony of crickets and other singing insects all around me. The sun was shining, my wind chimes were swinging, a light breeze lent a bit of coolness to the early September air. For some reason I wondered what the opposite of here and now would be called. I looked it up, googled it, and didn’t really come up with too much, so instead, came up with my own: Elsewhere and Later.

Hmmmm…where will I be in my Elsewhere and Later? Here is a list that came to mind:

1. In the Caribbean
2. In a public garden
3. At a local park playing with my grandchildren
4. Gathered around a table, having a meal with my family
5. At the beach ( Or as we say in southern NJ, ‘Down the Shore’)
6. Walking woodland trails
7. Riding my bike
8. Watering my gardens and pulling weeds
9. At a desk, with paintbrush in hand, creating a masterpiece
10. Pressing flowers and creating cards
11. In a library or at a book sale

Elsewhere and Someday in the Future:
12. In the heavenly realms with my Lord and Savior, praising God, filled with the Spirit and singing ‘Hallelujah!’
AMEN! (Let it be so Lord!) – Translation of Amen

Pheathers – Hummingbird

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I plant nectar-producing flowers each year in hopes of attracting hummingbirds and butterflies. This has been a banner year for both. Our gardens are visited daily by dozens of butterflies and at least three to four hummingbirds.

We’ve noticed the tiny hummingbirds are the bravest birds in the yard. One hummer seems to know our habits, and when the feeder is removed for cleaning and refilling, he/she will hover near the kitchen window doing its best to prompt us to hurry and bring out the nectar.

I have mixed feelings about hummingbird feeders. If they are not cleaned and maintained daily, they can be lethal to hummingbirds. “Top-10 Hummingbird Nectar Mistakes”

I’ve been concerned over whether I should leave my feeder up through the Autumn months. I was glad to come upon this bit of information on the web:

Some people may be concerned that leaving a feeder up will prevent hummingbirds from migrating in the fall. This is a myth. Hummingbirds (and all migratory birds) have an internal “clock” that tells them when to migrate. No healthy hummingbird would ever stick around just because you’ve left your feeder up in the fall. ~Bird Watcher’s Digest

When the hummingbirds in my yard migrate, I know I will immediately begin to stream the Cornell Lab Hummingbird Cam, and find my hummingbird joy from their amazing live cameras.  Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy = Hummingbirds

Plant – Monarda punctata/Spotted Bee Balm

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“Monarda punctata is a herbaceous plant in the mint family, Lamiaceae, that is native to eastern Canada, the eastern United States and northeastern Mexico. Common names include spotted beebalm and horsemint. It is a thyme-scented plant with heads of purple-spotted tubular yellow flowers above rosettes of large white- or pink-tipped bracts. The plant contains thymol, an antiseptic and fungicide. It was historically used to treat upset stomachs, colds, diarrhea, neuralgia and kidney disease.” ~ Wikipedia

I’ve seen this plant in the wild and found it this year at a local nursery. It is certainly nicknamed correctly…bees love it!

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I’ve also seen hummingbirds hovering over the plant.

Perspective – Your Own Backyard

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We often load our bikes into the back of my husband’s truck and search out new bike trails. Oh my, how behind the times we felt when we discovered there is a bike trail that begins/ends in our own back yard. The Monroe Twp. Bikeway runs between Williamstown and Glassboro, New Jersey, and has been available for walking, biking, in-line skating, etc., for near ten years. Sunday was the first time we rode the trail. What a joyous outing we had. While researching the trail I came upon an extensive list of other biking trails in our Tri-State area. Bike Trails in New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania. I can’t wait to try out a few more.

Moral of this tale: Check out your own town for interesting things to do. You might be as surprised as we were at what you might find.

Photo Challenge – Stoned

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Mirror
“This week’s challenge is all about reflections.” ~ WordPress Photo Challenge

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When I read the title for this week’s photo challenge this strange photograph I took on Block Island, RI came to mind. Block Island beaches are a beautiful mix of sand and gorgeous rocks. During one vacation my husband and I were on a hunt for heart-shaped rocks. Little did I know, as I gazed at this beautiful green rock and photographed it, that the wet surface would reveal my image when I downloaded the photo. If I tried to mimic this again, I doubt I would have the same result as I did in this lucky shot.

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Place – The Lure of the Shortcut

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On the way home from fishing this past weekend, we had plenty of time left in the afternoon, and nowhere we had to be, so we turned down a road that looked interesting and had the possibility of being a shortcut. We quickly realized a shortcut was not going to happen, but we came upon some really interesting sights as we headed back to main roads.

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Coastal New Jersey is home to many sand pits. This is an abandoned section of one of those. Picturesque in one way, eerie in another…a good setting for a Stephen King novel.

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Quick Tip – Did You Know? Free Audiobooks

Did you now that many classic works of fiction are available in a read-aloud fashion on Youtube? I recently listened to ‘1984’ by George Orwell, and for a happier change of pace am now listening to ‘Enchanted April’ by Elizabeth Von Arnim. The quality of the reading is very good, comparable to a library or purchased audiobook. The one change I made in listening was to purchase an inexpensive pair of portable speakers for my computer to bump up the sound just a notch.

Since most books are several hours long, make note of where you stop. At times the book will begin again where I stopped it, but don’t count on this feature. I’m near the end of ‘Enchanted April,’ and will soon be searching for a new book to begin.

A LOT OF P'S WITH A BIT OF QUIRKINESS THROWN IN FOR GOOD MEASURE.