Peculiarities – Snow Squalls

We had a quick snow squall blow through yesterday; brilliant sunshine preceded and followed the showers of white. I grabbed my camera and ran for the path in the woods. The last few weeks of winter photos have all looked the same, a photo in flying snow would be something new. Before I could reach the broken tree stump where I take the photo each week, the snow stopped, the sun emerged, and my desire for capturing the snow squall with my camera was denied. But wait…dazzling in the brilliant sunshine, snowflakes, gathered on old spider webs strung between barren twigs, resembled blossoms of Queen Anne’s Lace.

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The blue sky with the snow-laden spider web was the perfect choice for the Color Your World – 120 Days of Crayola/Sky Blue challenge. It also worked out well for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge – Looking Up At Things.

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The moral of my tale: When things don’t go the way you hoped, look around, there might be a blessing, somewhere close by, in disguise.

Planting – Coleus Cuttings

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Coleus are one of my favorite garden plants to grow from seed, but that is another post, perhaps later in the week. This small cutting is rooting on my windowsill now. Did you know there is a rumor that cuttings root faster in green glass with sun shining through it? I don’t know if it has been proven, but why not try if you have green glass around the house. (Perhaps a green soda bottle would work too!)

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The coleus I’m rooting for Spring, is a cutting from a rooted and transplanted cutting I took in the Autumn. That’s a bit of a tongue-twister, isn’t it? I took about a dozen cuttings of my favorite coleus before the first frost, and they are rooted and growing strong on my windowsills. They will be replanted outside in pots in the first few weeks of May and be grown beneath the pine trees in the ivy beds. Coleus thrive in this area and add a lot of color to the gardens.

I’m partial to the light yellow colors that several of my coleus have developed over the years, and tend to plant and root more of these each season. Rooting coleus cuttings is easy, cut a sprig from the mother plant 4 -6 inches tall, place in water, and wait a few weeks for roots to develop. When the roots fill the container, plant in potting soil. I have great luck doing nothing more than these easy steps.

 

Quick Tip – Flexible Garden Ties

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I’ve checked the garden section of my local dollar stores for weeks, hoping to find a new supply of flexible ties. Today, I found what I’d been seeking. These ties are absolutely the best! Last year I bought two packets, this year I bumped up my total to three, and I am wondering now if I should have bought double that amount. What a bargain! Sixteen and half feet for only a dollar. I’ve also seen the same packets in other garden centers, but they are a few dollars more. These ties are available for a limited time in most dollar stores.

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I took this photo today, just minutes ago. The support I created for my climbing roses withstood late summer heat and winter weather and is still holding the arching branches of the rose with ease. The cushioned exterior, the strong wire within, are the perfect tie for most garden plants.

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I also had great success last year protecting emerging seedlings and lettuce patches with small cages of wire created with the flexible tie. This lettuce plant survived the winter, and since hungry rabbits abound in my yard, I’m protecting it now before they begin to nibble on it.

If you are a gardener you can’t go wrong buying a few packets of flexible ties to have on hand. Hmmm…now I’m wondering what I can use the ties for in the house.

Praise – God Leads His Dear Children

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Daffodils trumpet out Spring, these two pointing in the direction of the sun are a ‘Good Match,” and perfect for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge.

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The patch of daffodils is blooming in the gardens of The Church of the Good Shepherd, a local Episcopal church in my community. I appreciate the bench they have included in their garden for contemplation and prayer.

Today the lyrics of the hymn, ‘God Leads His Dear Children Along,’ came to my mind when I sat down to write a blog post. The hymn is based on two Bible verses…

“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” ~ John 10:3

“He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” ~ Psalm 23:3

I’m including a small portion of the lyrics of this hymn, written by George A. Young in 1903, and a beautiful rendition of a Mennonite Church congregation singing the song. I chose this video out of several because it made me feel I was part of the congregational singing.

“God Leads his Dear Children Along,
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.”

Pheathers & Pages – The Life of Birds and Bird Cams

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I can’t remember where I found this book on ‘The Life of Birds,’ written by David Attenborough, most likely on a library, thrift shop or yard sale treasure hunt. I’ve read through the first chapter, and have found the accompanying BBC/PBS series available on Amazon. This weekend I’ll watch the coinciding show of the series and then read another chapter in the book.

One of the joys in my life is the birds that I see and hear throughout the day. This week I took my camera with me on a walk around the block. The trees were filled with red-wing blackbirds, grackles, starlings, and other birds that flock with them.

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I have included the Cornell Lab of Ornithology bird cams in my posts many times, and will probably point the way to them in the future also. They are amazing, and just about now some of the birds might be ‘feathering’ their nests in preparation for new life.

Take a look at the Sapsucker Woods Bird Feeder. I enjoy the sounds as much as the sights of these live cams.

All the bird cams can be found here: Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bird Cams. Some aren’t online now, but will probably be back soon.

Plants – Looking Down At Things

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Nothing is growing tall, or looming large, in my gardens now, except maybe, the dried out stems of last year’s blooms. To find patches of green I must look down, a perfect pose to find an answer to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge of “Looking Down At Things.”  Wild Cress, even in the middle of February is thriving. This small weed, in shades of shamrock green, grows all over my yard and garden beds through the winter. It is a favorite of mine for pressed flower crafts. The foliage is lush, probably due to the insulating Styrofoam pot and rocks it is growing between and near. At this time of year I’m not picky, I take delight in green plants wherever I can find them.

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I was thrilled to discover this small volunteer sprout of Larkspur, growing in winter against the odds. Larkspur need a period of cold for germination success. I will soon plant a milk carton for winter-sowing. Plants that need cold for growth do well when winter sown.

I’m sure the next few weeks will find me in my garden, looking down…and dreaming.

Peculiarities & Place – The Atlantus and Cape May Diamonds

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Sunset Beach in Cape May, New Jersey, has two unique draws: The Atlantus and Cape May Diamonds. The Atlantus is a concrete ship sunk here in June of 1926. Slowly, the ship is being claimed by the sea.

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Cape May Diamonds are quartz pebbles polished to a diamond-like clarity by their passage down the Delaware River. The man in the photograph must be a serious beachcomber; he brought along a small rake to search for Cape May Diamonds.

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I enjoy sorting through all the beautiful pebbles. Most are polished to a lovely smoothness.

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I didn’t come home empty-handed. Here are a few of the ‘diamonds’ I found on a piece of moonshell. For us, a visit to Cape May always includes a quick stop-over at Sunset Beach.

Place – Cape May/Points of Interest

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Near the Cape May Point is a small pond. A beautiful duo of swans were swimming in the water. I hoped to capture a wonderful photo of their long necks regally extended, but they were intent on feeding, and this was the view they gave us.

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On the way home we stopped at the Cape May Zoo.

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I had never seen it so crowded. We saw an opposite image of our pond swans, black swans in one of the zoo’s pond enclosures.

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The giraffes are always a favorite…

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…as are the zebras. The animals have very large areas to roam and run in.

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The zoo was very crowded, we had forgotten it was a holiday weekend. I wished I could fly like a peacock and set myself above the commotion.

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By the time we left we felt as exhausted as this napping camel. Isn’t he/she cute?

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If you are ever in the Cape May area take a few hours to visit this amazing zoo. It is a free zoo, if you would like to make a donation you can do so when you enter for parking, but it is not required.

Place & Quote – Cape May, New Jersey/Solitude

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“And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” ~ Mark 6:31

One of the best aspects of towns along the seashore in the off season is the ease of finding solitude. For those of you who see shapes and faces in objects, do you see the shape of bird wings on either side of the sun? I do.

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The shoreline of the Cape May Point State Park is a perfect place to walk, do a little bird-watching, or admire the Cape May Lighthouse.

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Cape May, New Jersey is a lovely place to spend a week or a few days for a seashore getaway. More to come on this southernmost tip of New Jersey to follow this week.

Photograph – Screamin’ Green Smiley Face

I love a challenge, and today I am taking part in four challenges with this post. Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge asks for ‘Things That Look Like Faces.’

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Can you see the smiley face on the ‘Screamin’ Green’ moss? Screamin’ Green is today’s Color Your World – 120 Days of Crayola Challenge.

When I began this post I had no idea what expectations to have. Expectation is one of the challenge words for this week’s WordPress Daily Post.

The shadows in the rock help create the face. Shadow was this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge. I wonder what challenges I will face in the week to come. Have a lovely weekend my blogging friends!

Quick Tip & Pets – Cat Scratch Mat

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My cats Rusty…

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and Hans, love to sharpen their claws. This is not a good thing if it involves furniture or rugs. I’ve found a bit of catnip, a fibrous doormat, and a box of some kind makes a quick, easily moved, cat scratch mat.

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Place the mat over something that will give it some height.

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In our case we used a wooden box. Sprinkle the area that has a bit of a bend with catnip you’ve finely ground. The catnip sinks into the fibers. To stir this up for easier smell appeal my cats sharpen their claws against the swell of the mat against the box. Voilà  the perfect cat scratch toy, and better yet, it is about a third of the price what a store-bought mat will cost you.

Plant & Product – Mistletoe Cactus

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On a recent trip to Longwood Gardens I spied this amazing hanging basket filled with Pseudorhipsalis ramulosa, or as it is also known, Red Mistletoe Cactus. I love the combination of soft pink with apple green. (Granny Smith Apple – Color Your World – 120 Days of Crayola) I would love to grow this beautiful plant in a hanging basket, but have no idea where it is sold other than mail-order. Perhaps I can find a source for seeds.

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This year, for the first time, I have found a large variety of hard to find seeds on Etsy. I’ve ordered from three sellers and have been very pleased with the packaging and speed of delivery. Upon searching the site, I found seeds for the Mistletoe Cactus, but they were rather pricey at 11.95. A little high for something without a guarantee to grow. Check out Etsy for rare and unusual garden and houseplant seeds.

Project – Terrarium Part II/The Stopper

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One of the pitfalls of creating a terrarium is finding the perfect stopper, or lid, that will not detract from the beauty of the planted jar or vase. I wanted to follow through on the natural theme, but also hoped to find something entirely unique to seal in the moisture. For the natural, I placed some double stick tape on the top of the vase, and wound several strands of dried grass around the rim.

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Next I glued a few pieces of dried moss to the rim.

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I finished off the natural elements with some skeletonized hydrangea flowers. These beautiful blossoms naturally lose their flesh when left beneath the bush through the winter. I find them beautiful, and they are not as fragile as they look. I always let a few strands of my arrangements behave in an unruly manner, in this case, a few pieces of grass and buds unfurling from side give the arrangement a bit of whimsicality and movement.

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Lastly, I placed a beautiful moss green Christmas ornament on the top of the vase to work as a stopper/lid. I love the way the color of the Christmas ball mirrors the color of the moss inside the terrarium.

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The arrangement/terrarium looks good from several angles, top and sides.

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The Christmas ball reminds me of the Gazing Balls that many have on pedestals in their gardens.

 

Place – The Woods

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The weather has been a bit warmer, the snow has began to melt, a perfect time to walk in the woods and get some sunshine.

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We were surprised to see ‘No Trespassing’ signs in an area that both my husband and I played in as children, and walked in as adults. It saddened me to see that the signs had been put up by a local church. It seemed unfriendly somehow, but then, on further thought, I realized the area is within walking distance of Rowan University, and the signs are probably there to prevent late-night partying and bonfires.

I enjoyed the walk, and so did my husband, but for some reason it also made me feel a bit blue. I had that strange heaviness inside that sometimes comes when we revisit places that have meant a lot to us throughout our lives. It reminded me of friends who I used to play with in this area who are now gone on to heaven, or have moved so far away I only see them once every few years.

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Beyond the unexpected sadness, I did enjoy the walk. This small piece of land has beautiful patches of moss. The variety is amazing.

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One eerie thing about this area is the absence of birds and wildlife. It’s very quiet, no birdsong, no scurry of startled squirrels. Whenever we walk here we remark on the strange hush. We have wondered many times if it might have to do with chemicals leaching from the glass factory waste still in the ground. The Glass Factories that thrived here from 1780 – 1929 gave Glassboro its name.

When we walk in this area we always find new pieces of glass ‘culls’ or waste glass that was dumped over 100 years ago. Most of it has been covered over by years of soil, but when it rains, especially the big nor’easters that barrel through, pieces will come to the surface again. Here are a few we found Saturday. If you look close, you can see the melted bottle top of cobalt blue that was discarded here.

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I don’t know if I’ll walk here again. The ‘No Trespassing’ signs warn of prosecution, and the remembrances make me miss friends who are gone.