Problem-Solving – Cleaning Stains from Ugg Boots and Other Suede

I repeat this post almost every year when I pull out my Ugg Boots.

Cleaning Salt Stains from Ugg Boots

My Uggs Boots were stained by salt last year. I don’t know why I waited a whole year to clean them off, I suppose it is the classic, out of sight, out of mind syndrome. Thankfully, I do know a good way of cleaning them by applying shaving cream and rubbing with a soft cloth. Below you can see my progress. As I write, the boot I treated is sitting beside a heater vent drying. If there is any residue still left I will repeat the steps.

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Dampen the entire boot so there is no line of demarcation when they dry. Apply the shaving cream and gently rub the soiled area with a soft cleaning cloth. Spread the shaving cream lightly around the entire boot with the cloth. No need for a heavy coat, just a light touch of the shaving cream will keep the color and texture of the boot uniform.

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The boot on the right was previously treated. You can see the slightest bit of salt stain around arch of the boot, but all in all, unless someone was looking for the problem area, I don’t think it is very noticeable. Give this money saving tip a try. It certainly beats spending near $15.00 to have your boots professionally cleaned.

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Problem-Solving – Conquering Houseplant Pests Part II- Spider Mites

Spider Mites are a pest I hate to see indoors or out. They are microscopic in size, and usually, they have caused quite a bit of damage before you are even aware they are on your house or garden plants. Here is some good information on what a spider mite can do to your foliage. Spider Mites

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This week I noticed some yellowing leaves on my Mandevilla Vine. Because I have had problems with spider mites in this area of the basement in the past, they were tops on my list of possible pests. Instead of peering at each stem individually, I used my quick and easy solution. I sprayed the entire plant with a mister. Sure enough, the webbing the spider mites leave behind on the leaves caught the droplets of water and glowed in the sunlight. Since I want to keep all my pest control organic, I have found that the best approach to controlling spider mites is to spray the plant with water every day. This keeps the spider mites under control until it is warm enough for me to take the plant outside and really douse it with a hard spray of the hose. Daily sprays of the hose for a week or two will obliterate the spider mite colony. This technique also works on aphids. The only other solution is to spray with dangerous chemicals or toss the plant in the garbage heap.

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Spraying the infected plant with water will allow you to see how badly infested your plant has become. It is a good idea to spray all your houseplants to see if there are any errant mites on surrounding greenery.

Problem-Solving – The Uncollectibles

I posted this for the first time in 2012, but it’s a good reminder now that Autumn is here once again, and I thought it was worth a repost. It’s fun to collect colorful leaves to press or use in projects, but there are still some plants to be aware of as you collect.

Many adults and children collect colorful Autumn leaves for projects and pressing, but beware, poison ivy is still growing,  and it’s leaves are now cloaked in a gorgeous array of crimsons and golds. The urishol oil stays active on the leaves and vines. Picking up even one leaf for pressing can cause a nasty rash. When the poison ivy leaves fall off the vine, they fall solo, not in groups of three. This makes it impossible to follow the wise proverb of, “Leaves of three, let it be.” It is much harder to identify poison ivy when it has fallen off the vine. One thing to look for is an oblong shape, and many of the leaves have a notched appearance. Take a good look at the veining on the leaf in the above picture…that’s a good clue too.

If you see a leaf that might be poison ivy, take a look around to see if you can spot a vine with berries that look like the sample in the photograph above. If you see these berries, don’t pick up or brush against any of these vines or leftover leaves.

Problem-Solving – Slogging Through

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It happened yesterday as I uploaded photographs for Cee’s Photo Challenge, the photos I was attempting to post became red-rimmed, and a dialog box informed me:

Looks like you have used 3.0 GB of your 3.0 GB upload limit. ~ WordPress Media Library

I knew I was close to reaching the limit, but now it is thrust upon me, and today I need to find some solutions and continue deleting posts and photos from past years. In the meantime, I thought as I search through the blog archives I would repost a couple of Autumn ideas that might be buried there.

Wish me luck as I slog through years of posts. I like the word slog, it almost has the ring of onomatopoeia to it. When I say or think of slog I imagine myself in a stinky swamp, shoes sticking in the muck, every step forward accentuated with a schlurping pop as I pull my feet out of soft, wet earth. “Onward!” I say, I won’t be stopped by a little blog housecleaning. To all my blogging friends…have the happiest of days.

Plants and Problem-Solving – Sunflowers in Bloom

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Every year I attempt to grow sunflowers. Quite often, the animals that live in my yard will dig up the seeds before they even sprout. I’ve stopped this natural tendency of the critters by sprinkling chili powder on top of the soil that covers the seeds. Even so, if they sprout, the tender green shoots are a delicacy to chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits, and when I’ve checked the progress of the sunflowers I find them nipped away and ruined.

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This year I’ve had a bit more success. The sunflower in the photograph is growing outside my kitchen window. My husband measured it and the stalk was well over eleven feet. The plant is still growing and now has two blooms and many buds. So far, no adventurous squirrel has climbed to the top to bite away the buds and flowers.

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I owe my success in growing sunflowers this year to empty water bottles. After the sprouts broke through the soil I placed a bottomless water bottle, with the top cut away, around the shoot. In a few gardens, as the sunflower grew, I added another bottle for more protection. (Bunnies are very good at standing up on their hind legs to reach the top of a tender plant.) If you live in an area that stays warm through November, there is still time to plant a crop of sunflowers.

Pheathers & Problem-Solving – Cutting Back on Success

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I love feeding the birds. I have suet and seed feeders spaced out across my back yard. Standing at the kitchen window, or sitting on the porch, watching the feeding birds brings me joy…until this past month. Within a matter of a week my yard was overtaken with “bully” birds. Large grackles, still feeding their adult-sized babies, descended upon my feeders. Now at times, I must admit, I did enjoy the exuberant cackling chatter of the grackles, but as the days progressed, more grackles arrived, and soon my beautiful songbirds moved on to areas less consumed by the flocks of big birds.

I remedied the situation by removing all feeders for a few days. I’ve recently put up a very small, squirrel proof feeder again, and it has been visited by the birds I desire. Yesterday, I once again saw a goldfinch, and even a hummingbird felt safe to visit my gardens. Grackles can be fun for a few moments, a bit like a wild and raucous party, but for my yard, I choose the soft soothing sounds of the songbirds.

Problem-Solving – Wanted for Garden Mischief

Photo courtesy of WetCanvas Reference Library
Photo courtesy of WetCanvas Reference Library

Years ago, it was a rare day I saw a groundhog. Now, they seem to be thriving everywhere I go. These animals are beautiful, but very destructive to gardens. The groundhog who tears mine apart has a penchant for devouring my cruciferous vegetables.

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This is the kohlrabi I posted about on June 27th. It has been ravaged by the front incisors of our local groundhog. The kohlrabi itself is still intact, but I am having a few qualms over eating it after the obvious close encounter with a wild animal’s mouth and saliva. Hmmm…washing  thoroughly works, but will I be able to eat it and enjoy it?

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I know it is almost impossible to protect some vegetables from this hungry groundhog, but today  I’ve put a few barriers in place I hope will help. As a start, I’ve unwound a dollar store bath puff. Did you know these are a long tube of nylon gathered together? Unwound, they have many uses.

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I snipped the tube into small lengths and placed these over my ripening tomatoes for protection. The elasticity will keep it in place, and the leftover scent from soap will also be a good deterrent. Squirrels are very fond of taking one bite of my tomatoes and moving along to the next one, and  to the next one,  and then to the next. Argghhhh!

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Another idea for newly emerging bean sprouts is a few branches of vitex laid across the ground. The sprouts make their way through the twigs, but the strong scent of the vitex, and the sharp edges, will hopefully keep hungry critters away until the beans are big enough to set fruit. At that time I will have to find another solution, but at least for now the branches give me a little time for planning. I love gardening, but sometimes it can be frustrating!

In the comment section Alli Farkus added such a great idea for keeping groundhogs out of the garden, I knew I must add it to the original post. Thanks Alli!

There’s only one (labor intensive) way to stop groundhogs. Their digging abilities make rabbits look like pikers, and they also have pretty good climbing ability. My guy and I spent three summers (working intermittently) putting up a 5′ high barrier of 4 x 4 posts and horse fence. Along the bottom of it I dug a trench and put rabbit fence from about 1 1/2 feet above ground to 1 1/2 feet below ground and then bent it into an L shape at the bottom to extend away about a foot from the fenceline and thwart digging. Along the top rail of the fence I installed wire and an electric fence charger. The critters still dig burrows all over the place, but I have never had one get into the garden since the fence was completed. Along the top of each of the five raised beds I also run the electric wire. It teaches the squirrels to stay out, and by the time the plants get so big they ground out the wire the invaders have already been “trained” to stay away. Lots of initial work, but pretty much zero frustration. Now if only I could solve the destruction of the cruciferous crops… 
~ Alli Farkus

Problem-Solving – Broccoli Gone to Seed

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My four broccoli plants are going to seed. They never produced heads of broccoli, and were destined for the compost bin. Before I got around to pulling them the buds bloomed into interesting and colorful flowers. Hmmmm? Would it be possible to press these beautiful florets? I have tried to press lettuce flowers gone to seed in the past, and they were too delicate and thin? I am always on the lookout for yellows; would the broccoli work in book or microwave?

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Oh YES! I picked several florets and pressed them both ways. The microwave and book pressing both worked perfectly. The florets greatly resemble wallflowers after being pressed, but instead of fluorescent orange, they turn a brilliant yellow. I can’t wait until the rest of my broccoli plants go to seed, in fact, I might plant a few more mid-summer just for the blooms. Go figure!!! Aren’t the unhappy surprises that turn into blessings one of the things that makes life grand? YES!

Broccoli florets, lower right, with wallflowers and pansies.
Broccoli florets, lower right, with wallflowers and pansies.

Problem-Solving – The Flip Side of Moths

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The flip side of moths is the damage many can cause if they get into your cupboards or drawers. I once found  a cherished wool sweater ruined by moths. A few years later my pantry became infested with moths, and I ended up throwing all dry goods and pasta away.

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Three herbs I grow in my garden are good moth repellents. Bundled with a rubber band, rosemary, lavender and sage,  hung inside a cupboard or laid in a drawer, will work as a moth repellent.

Plants & Problem-Solving – Defeating Damping Off Disease

Spring-cleaning my blog has yielded a few posts that should be bumped back toward the front of the blog. Here’s a good one for this time of year, preventing/treating damp-off disease.

The fluffy white substance on the surface of the potting soil is a seed sprouter’s nightmare. Damping Off is lethal to newly sprouted seedlings. Since I am trying to be as organic as possible this year, I wanted a remedy that would not break my resolve so early in the season. I searched the web and found some odd fixes: lemon jello, ground up moss sprinkled on soil, cinnamon & sand. There were also two remedies I decided were the most logical for me to use. One idea was weak mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water, and the other was a weak solution of chamomile tea. I opted for the chamomile tea.

I went to my local grocery store and picked up a box of tea with ingredients of chamomile alone. There were many other mixes, some with lemon, which probably would also work, but I was taking no chances. When I arrived home I boiled water, steeped one bag in two cups, and let it cool down. I used an old hair spray bottle to treat the affected area. These bottles produce small droplets. A bottle with a heavier spray might beat the small seedlings into the soil, killing them even quicker than the damp-off disease.

Twelve hours later there is no sign of the damp off disease on the soil. To read more check out this forum on Gardenweb. Gardenweb Damping-Off Forum Responses.

Coleus update: Almost all of my initial coleus plantings have four leaves. It’s time to begin potting them up into individual cups. I use Solo brand 3 oz cups. the seedlings are potted up in Miracle Gro organic potting soil as the growing medium. The coleus are already beginning to show amazing colors. This time of year is very exciting as I watch my sprouts and seedlings develop.

Plants & Problem-solving – Sage/Treating Powdery Mildew Naturally

I love cooking with fresh herbs. I have several on my windowsill at the ready for use in my favorite recipes.

Sage Powdery Mildew

Recently, I was shocked to find my sage plant covered with powdery mildew. How did this happen so fast? While researching,  I read mildew is spread by water. Oh no! In an attempt to keep the plant spider mite free I had sprayed with water. I should have used a solution of chamomile tea, a natural fungicide, when I sprayed the sage.

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The affected leaves could not be saved. Drastic measures needed to be taken.

Sage Powdery Mildew Solution 1

I plucked away all the spotted leaves and discarded them, leaving what I hope are mildew-free leaves. I will check the plant daily, and if I find the same problem I will try a spray of chamomile. Placing the sage alongside a rotary fan will help with quicker drying time. If the plant is still diseased I will be forced to discard it and try again. In the meantime, I must remember to keep it in “plant quarantine.”

Problem-Solving – Bunnies…Again!

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I wrote a few weeks ago about rabbits nipping off the leaves of my lilies. When the clover thrived in my backyard they left their garden bed nibbling for better grazing amongst the sweet flowers.

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My lilies recovered, grew, and began to bud, but alas and alack, my husband mowed down the high grass in the backyard for our Memorial Day picnic. I didn’t think much about it until a few days ago when I noticed a bunny sitting in the garden bed, very still. The plants nearby his location were gently swaying in a strange motion and there was no breeze.

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OH NO! It dawned on me the strange swaying was being caused by the front incisors of the rabbit’s teeth. I ran out, but not in time, the bunny had bitten down three of my lily stems and eaten them.

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I immediately grabbed my wrist rocket slingshot, but couldn’t seem to bring myself to use it. I wanted to sting the bunny, but not harm him, and I had no idea what ammunition would work but cause no lasting pain. I asked my husband if a craft pompom wet down with hot sauce would work and he just laughed at me. I think I hear you laughing too!

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I’m putting my pest repellent skills in play, instead of trying to shoot pompoms or pebbles, and simmering some dried Chile de Arbol in water with garlic and onion to create a potent, smelly hot sauce mix that will repel those Wascally Wabbits. (This said for the benefit of those old enough to remember Elmer Fudd. 😀 )

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My crockpot, placed outside on the porch, is the easiest way I’ve found to cook this potion. The smell is very strong. After a few hours, I drain off the water, strain several times, and spray the plant being eaten. This natural solution works, but has a few drawbacks: it washes away in the rain and must be reapplied, it is hard to strain finely enough to spray out of a normal spray bottle, and worst of all…the peppers can burn eyes, skin, and even the lungs.  Please be especially careful not to inhale the fumes.

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I also grind the peppers and scatter them among the garden beds. This is the most likely way you will inhale the dust so wearing a mask is not a bad idea.

Dangers of Chili Powder

If it works, it will be worth it to me, but if you try it, please be cautious when handling the peppers. Updates will follow.

Problem-Solving – Repairing Resin Figurines with Bread Dough

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I love Willow Tree Figurines . I have quite a few and display them on a living room shelf.

Willow Tree is a line of figurine sculptures created by artist “Susan Lordi in January 200. The Willow Tree line specializes in rustic faceless people and angels intended to represent feelings or life events. The figurines are made from hand-painted resin which is cast from Lordi’s hand-carved wooden sculptures.” ~ Wikipedia

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Because of their delicate nature, Willow Tree Figurines will lose a hand if dropped or knocked down. Because of my nature, I lay the loose hand aside, promising myself to glue it back on soon, and often lose the hand. I could buy craft store clay and fashion a hand, but why spend money when I have what I need at home.

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Aleene’s Glue and Bread Dough Technique is the perfect medium to sculpt and repair my broken Willow Tree figurines. This technique will also work on other resin pieces. Aleene’s directions recommend using white bread for the bread dough clay. For this project I used honey wheat bread since the Willow Tree is created from molds of hand-sculpted wood and is very textured in appearance.

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Break off the crusts from two pieces of bread.  Tear the bread into pieces and place in a zip top sandwich bag. Next add two tablespoons of Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue and mush all this up.

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At some point you will have to take the dough out of the bag and fnish kneading it. I recommend you take off rings at this point. Knead the dough until it is smooth and has pulled all bread dough residue from your hands. This is how I know it is ready to use.

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Sculpt/Form the dough into the shape you need. I glued it to the Willow Tree figurines at this point with an additional drop of glue.

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I also created an easy rose out of the bread dough. Add a few drops of acrylic paint to a small piece of dough and mash it in until the color is uniform.

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Form small pea shaped balls.

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Flatten the first pea, twirl into a cone shape.

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Continue flattening pea shapes, add these in layers until you form the rose. I usually clip off the bottom with scissors to help the finished rose lie flat.

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Let the repaired resin dry 24 – 48 hours. Paint with acrylic paints. Remember, you might not be able to find an exact color of fleshtone, add white or black to darken or lighten. Also, acrylic paint will be a shade or two darker when dry. I didn’t need to glaze in any way as the paint matched the matte appearance of the figurines.

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Here’s a great video on how to create roses out of bread dough.

Problem-Solving – Cleaning Ugg Boots

I often will re-blog a timely post…this is one for the ladies…cleaning salt stains from Ugg Boots. This technique will also work on other suede items.

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My Uggs Boots were stained by salt last year. I don’t know why I waited a whole year to clean them off, I suppose it is the classic, out of sight, out of mind syndrome. Thankfully, I do know a good way of cleaning them by applying shaving cream and rubbing with a soft cloth. Below you can see my progress. As I write, the boot I treated is sitting beside a heater vent drying. If there is any residue still left I will repeat the steps.

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Dampen the entire boot so there is no line of demarcation when they dry. Apply the shaving cream and gently rub the soiled area with a soft cleaning cloth. Spread the shaving cream lightly around the entire boot with the cloth. No need for a heavy coat, just a light touch of the shaving cream will keep the color and texture of the boot uniform.

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The boot on the right was previously treated. You can see the slightest bit of salt stain around arch of the boot, but all in all, unless someone was looking for the problem area, I don’t think it is very noticeable. Give this money saving tip a try. It certainly beats spending near $15.00 to have your boots professionally cleaned.

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Plants, Problem-Solving and Pleasure – Tomato

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My tomato plants have thrived this year. I have been diligent in removing suckers on the indeterminate plants, and now I am reaping the rewards of the time spent caring for them. I am pleased with the heirloom varieties and also the varieties I planted that are said to contain high amounts of the antioxidant anthocyanin. Indigo Apple, along with Gypsy (another dark tomato) have been welcome additions to the garden.

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I’ve had a few problems, this stem at one point in time had several leaves, now it is bare. I never found the culprit, but I am pretty sure it was a tomato hornworm. I am crossing my fingers that he fell victim to a predatory wasp. Hopefully, he is the only one of his kind to visit my plants this summer, and I won’t feel compelled to whip up an organic spray. I’d much rather hand-pick the pests away or let nature’s predators help me out.

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This is the largest tomato I have ever grown. To protect if from squirrels eager to sample its lushness I surrounded it with hair from my cats. I know it looks ugly, but it worked. Here is the harvested tomato, finishing its ripening process in my kitchen. Success!

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If you don’t have cats or dogs, I’ve read that human hair will also repel critters. Happy Gardening!

Problem-Solving – Gone to Seed Part II

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My Black-seeded Simpson recently went to seed due to the heat. Instead of pulling all of it out for the compost heap, I am leaving a few squares to grow on and form seeds. This will allow me to use the lettuce seeds they produce as microgreens and also give me plenty to sow in next year’s garden. A square of Cimmaron lettuce and some Arugula are now in the process of setting seed too.

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On my potting bench I have set up a seed farm to make the most of the last of my microgreen seeds.

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Most of these seeds are dated 2011, but still sprouted for me within a week. I am especially fond of the sprouting peas on top of my salads. I will let a few grow on and set some seed to harvest.

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If you’ve never heard of microgreens check out this post: Minding My P’s with Q – Microgreens

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Another good article on the nutritional aspects of microgreens can be found here: WEBMD report on Microgreens

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Problem-Solving – Gone to Seed Part One

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Such a sweet and delicate pink flower…lovely to look at, but irritating if you are trying to grow a root crop from the plant. This blossom was not supposed to show up in my garden. It is atop a radish plant. Instead of a flower the stem was supposed to yield a large and juicy radish buried beneath the ground. This year, I only harvested a piddling few radishes and they were small, very small.

I don’t feel so bad, my neighbor, who I’ve mentioned before is a terrific gardener, told me he never harvests the large-sized radishes the grocer offers. Perhaps it was the cool Spring that jumped past warm into hot weather. Anyway, long story short, my radishes have gone to seed.

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Most gardeners would pull up the plants and resow another late summer crop. I will probably do that at some point, but until then I am nurturing the seedpods…why? Well that is tomorrow’s tale. Until then…

Problem-Solving – Waiting for Perfect Conditions

“If you wait for perfect conditions,
you will never get anything done.”
Ecclesiastes 11:4

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I’ve read this verse in Ecclesiastes many times, but do I follow it’s perfect advice? Well, I’m sorry to say…not usually. And do I get anything done? Well yes, the things that matter, but do I reach for my dreams? Hmmm…sorry to say, sometimes yes, but more often than not I postpone them for fear conditions are just not right.

The cover of the scrapbook in the photo above was created by gluing squares of discarded watercolor paper to the front. Each piece is from a painting that I rejected after deciding it was just not good enough. I thought, and still think, that the effect of the squares is quite pretty. So pretty in fact that after years of having the book ready for scrapping bits and pieces of prose and art it still stands empty. I don’t want to risk messing it up.

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I did have one or two pages inside devoted to my art, but I deemed them unworthy and pulled them out. WHAT am I waiting for? I am determined to start gluing and drawing and writing inside the pages of this book…this week…perhaps today!

Plant & Problem-Solving – Campanula punctata

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I’m a little embarrassed to admit an error I have made for several years. My mistake? Cutting down and actually trying to root out the beautiful plant in the photograph above. The reason: I forgot I planted it, and the look of the foliage reminded me of a rampant weed that invades my garden. So of course, I worked hard each Spring to eradicate the intruder from my flower bed.

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This year the foliage returned, lusher and more determined than in past years. Because the extra-snowy winter we experienced had killed off many of my bushes and perennials, I decided the glowing foliage really wasn’t bad in appearance, and perhaps the green would be a good foil for the mandevilla plant I was growing in a pot nearby. Imagine my surprise when small buds began to form. I decided they were going to open into the insignificant flowers of a weed. Within a few days the buds became more interesting, opening a week or two ago into beautiful purple-flecked bells.

Oh my, I’m in love with this plant. I researched the flower image on the Internet and identified it as Campanula punctata, commonly known as a bellflower. Campanula punctata can be a bit invasive, but is also graceful, beautiful, and as my cutting revealed…very persistent in growth. Once again, I’m reminded to write every plant name and location down, and keep a permanent record of all my garden plantings.

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Here’s a bit more information on this lovely plant: Campanula Punctata