Help, says the Plant. Save Me!

Plants are so easily fooled by the weather. It’s sad that they can’t be bothered to carry a pocket calendar. That’s silly? Well so are plants trying to bloom in mid-March in Michigan!! All you southerns are probably giggling, but this is some serious business for the plants up here where it is still supposed to be chilly and it’s up to us to save their pretty season.

Sure we are setting all kinds of new record high temperatures but problems are looming on the horizon!! We may not get our typical last snow of the season this year in early April, but it is a safe bet that several frost will visit my town and yours between now and Memorial Day.

What to do? The lilac buds are already appearing, but the pretty flowers are not yet here…it will frost before they bloom…no lilac blooms this year…and that scenario gives me the ugly face.

There are several options actually. I’m going to give you the 3 I am familiar with: bring inside, cover or water. These tips are important this year, but keep them in mind for anytime you have vulnerable plants and frost decides to visit.

  • Bring inside: easy if your plant is in a pot, not so easy when your plant is in the ground. Simple solution: don’t plant in your pots until you are sure frost is done for the spring. If you want to pot early prepare for some lifting or continue reading for the other two options.
  • Cover: burlap works best but a sheet will do. Be careful with the sheets. Do not allow the sheet to touch the delicate new life on the plants, since the harsh gold will seep through and still cause damage. Use polls, sticks or what ever you have to keep the fabric up and off the plants.
  • Water: I’ve had great success with the water option. Water the plant the night before the expected frost and BEFORE the sun goes down. Watering when the temperatures are still warm will keep the warmth in your plants. Be sure to cover the plant and the soil around the plant with a water.

If you forgot to bring in, cover or water the night before a frost you do have on last chance. WARNING: this may or may not work. Before the sun shines down on your frost covered plants drench them in water, rinse away signs of the frost and cross your fingers that while the frost was on your plants it didn’t do any lasting damage.

Good luck plant lovers, now I’ve got to go weed. It’s only March, gosh this is so weird.

Random Thoughts Monday v7.0

One week until Halloween.  I can imagine a lot of folks will be enjoying scary movies and haunted houses this week, will I be one of them?  I’m pretty much a scaredy cat but I love Halloween.  I’m sad to say that my Halloween decorations are not even out, we don’t even have our pumpkins yet.  Well today I’m getting on the ball.  I’m going to finish my work asap and when my youngest goes down for his nap in a few I’m getting the decorations out!!!  I will.

  • My youngest is 2 and loves Yo Gabba Gabba, I found him a costume with his favorite character.  I tried a few times in the last week to get him to try it on and each time he has run from me.  Last night was my last shot (b/c if I return today I’ll get a full refund).  I pulled the costume out and I wish I had my video camera on.  He ran from me like a cartoon character, a couple steps straight ahead and then a few to the right and then the left and finally another two forward and he was out of the room.  He was not screaming, but the expression on his face was priceless: oh no, I know what you are trying to do to me and it aint going to happen lady.  My husband is returning the costume today and I hope to get my youngest to wear at least a hat next monday, we’ll see, I’ll let you know.
  • Tomorrow we are going to visit Gene the pumpkin man, he is supposedly a 5th generation pumpkin farmer and he’s a hoot.  Everything around his farm is accented orange.  His place is out in the country and I always get some of the best pictures of my boys.  I wonder what colors I’ll see on the leaves tomorrow?  Pumpkin pickin is a lot of fun at Gene’s place and it always ends with donuts and cider, well not for me this year, but it will still be a lot of fun!!
  • My Lions have now lost two in a row, but they are NOT done yet.  Calvin Johnson had another great game, but it wasn’t enough again yesterday.  To make matters worse our QB limped off the field near the end of the 4th quarter.  It sounds like he will be fine, but I’m going to be worried until I see him on the field doing his thing next Sunday.
  • Gardners, hello you still out there?  Don’t put your gardening gloves away just yet.  Now is the perfect time to move things around in your garden!!  Do you have perennials that are getting a little too big or not in the right place?  Did you plant any veggies this year?
    • Perennial Movin: take a big shovel make a big hole in your new spot (just a little bigger than what you plan to dig up) > dig up all or the part of the perennial that you want to move (make sure to dig deep, most roots will go down 6-12″, get as much as you can) > place your plant in the new hole, cover and pack in with dirt and that is it.
    • Veggie Feed: don’t dig up and pitch spent veggie plants, they are the perfect thing to feed your soil.  Chop your spent plants into less than 6″ pieces and bury them in your garden, leaves, branches, roots and all.  Come spring you will have nice rich soil.

That’s all for this week folks.  My baby is sleepin and it’s time to get out those Halloween decorations.  Have a good one and Stafford: rest up and lets kick some Bronco butt on Sunday, ROAR!!

Random Thoughts Monday v3.0

Happy end of Monday ye all, the day has gotten away from me, but I’m full of thoughts to throw out

  • Goals: I have so many goals at the moment that if I don’t get them all written down I think my head might explode.  I have several long-range goals that have been in the works for some time, one you know and another I’ve known for some time but have not told you.  Tune in on Wednesday for my breaking news :).  In order to make my long-range goals I have had many smaller goals creep their way into my life.  Most of my goals revolve around my health and fitness level.  But, life such as it is, things are never simple, I have many goals that have nothing to do with my health and fitness.  All my goals seem to be competing for my time and the feeling of frustration is sinking in deep.  Stress is not a good thing, I don’t enjoy it at all!!  All of my goals were added to my life to enhance my life, not to freak me out…perspective…big breath
    • It’s not only important to determine your goals, but to ensure you know WHY it is important to YOU.  What will happen if you don’t reach your goal?  Will the world end, probably not.  Will you stop moving forward?  Hopefully not.  Will you still want that goal and be sad and disappointed if you don’t give it your all and keep pushing forward?  If your answer is a resounding yes, then you have some work to do.
    • My homework this week is to write down why I’m working for each of my goals, the whys for my short-term goals and a plan to keep me on track…
  • By the time I write my next Random thoughts post it will be October!!!
  • Go to my 20 year high school reunion or not???
  • I bid so infrequently on eBay I forget the strategy every single time.  I still remember the auction I lost by just mere seconds.  My fingers working hard to get my next bid in and then seeing the clock run out, urrggg.  It turned out to be a good thing actually.  Two days later I found a cheaper option and I won.  This week I’m in the hunt for a Halloween costume that apparently is no longer made, making it crazy hard to find and the prices kind of obnoxious on ebay…but here I am searching and hoping to find AND win the it costume of choice for my oldest.  Wish me luck, thankfully he has a 2nd choice that can be found at most Halloween party shops for $19.99, hmmm, maybe I’m hoping I wont find his 1st choice, shhhhh, don’t tell him.
  • Do you have perennials that weren’t in the best place this year?  Start planning your garden for next year, because in the next couple of weeks it going to become prime season for moving/splitting your perennials into a new home.
  • The Detroit Lions are 3 & 0!!!  believe it.  I don’t want to think about how many more they will need for a winning season or to get into the playoffs.  I’m just enjoying the glow of seeing my Lions kick some butt!!  Did you see the catch that lead them to a game winning field goal in overtime?  Wow, very nice, them boys got some talent!!  We meet up with the Cowboys next and they’ve already lost one, to the Jets, oh boy, I’m not nervous, I’m a Lions fan

Basil Pickin

It’s hard to believe that those of us in the northern states need to start thinking about harvesting our Basil and other herbs because cold nights are headed our way fast.

Below is a quick how to, this applies for any and all herbs that can be frozen.  I’ve successfully frozen: Basil, Rosemary (on and off the stem), Sage, Thyme (on and off the stem)  and Oregano.  Freshly frozen herbs are a much better and cheaper alternative to store-bought dried herbs.  If you have not done it before you’ve got to try it!!!  Your spaghetti, soups, stocks and so many recipes will be so happy for the freshly frozen herbs.

Most herbs can handle the 50s and most the 40s too, but Basil is the first you should consider chopping down.  Basil will be the first to get limp and ugly black spots all over their leaves if they deem it to be too cold, which is well before a frost hits.  Rosemary on the other hand can be the last you harvest, it’s pretty hardy.  If you get a cold frost don’t write Rosemary out, you might be surprised.

For all the herbs start by collecting everything:

  • pair of gardening shears
  • bowl for those small herbs
  • towel/paper towel/salad spinner
  • freezer ziplock bag
  • pen
  • some time, you don’t want to chop the herb down if you don’t have the time to process it and get it in the freezer!!

Next, jump in

  • Use those shears and start chopping down the herbs and bring them in the house, or where ever you are going to clean them.  If you do bring herbs in the house be aware you may be brining in bugs and dirt
  • For Basil pinch of all the good-looking leaves, look for the leaves with the best deep coloring.  Skip the bug eaten or light-colored leaves.  My mom says to only pick the large leaves and my aunt says that you can pick the flower buds (that have yet to bloom).  I’m not sure either of them are right, ok, please don’t tell them I said that!!!  I say pick any leaf that looks good to you.  For Thyme I suggest going two routes.  Pick out the best looking sprigs and continue onto the next step and also take the leaves off of several springs and continue with these herbs on their own.  TIP: to remove Thyme and Rosemary leaves hold the stem upside down and pull your fingers along the stem, you’ll pull leaves off as you pull.  For Oregano  and Sage follow the Basil advice above and for Rosemary follow the advice for Thyme (i.e. create two batches, one with leaves still on and one with the leaves pulled off).
  • Rinse the leaves well.  For Basil and the springs of Rosemary and Thyme you can rinse in a standard colander.  However, for the Oregano and the Thyme and Rosemary that have been pulled from the stem be sure to use a mesh strainer.  You don’t want all your herbs to go down the drain!!
  • Get as much water off the herbs as you can.  For the Basil and springs a salad spinner works great.  For the small leaves (or if you don’t have a salad spinner) scatter them in a single layer on top of a paper towel or kitchen towel, place another paper towel or kitchen towel on top.  Roll the towel up and press a little, try not to crush your leaves too much.
  • Take a freezer ziplock and label the bag with the type of herb and the date harvested.
  • Add all the clean dried herbs you can into the bag, really pack them in.  Zip the bag closed 75% of the way.  Roll the bag to get all the air out and then finish zipping the bag
  • Put bag in freezer
  • When needed, pull your bag from the freezer, break off a piece, chop and add to your pot.  Of course if your recipe calls for a sprig of Thyme or Rosemary just pull those out and place right into your pot, they are already washed, so nice :).

Hope you’ll consider saving your herbs for winter use or if you don’t have any, consider growing them next year!!!

September 1, 2011

Fall maybe just over 20 days away but my garden is showing no signs of slowing down.  I have several pictures for you below.  Although perennials do not flower all summer like the annuals, so many of them are so worth the wait, like the hibiscus, wow!!!  Before I get to the pictures I want to write about how much I’m going to miss our hummingbirds when they leave.  We have our feeder right outside the window next to our kitchen table.  Our family, who I swear have been visiting us for the last several years.  It seems we get the same 3 birds every year.  I’m pretty certain because they look the same and have the same eating habits.  We have “perchy” (who I refer to as momma) who likes to sit on the feeder and look at us through the window as she eats.  We also have the “big guy” (I think this is dad), he comes up all big and round, gorges and flies away.  Lastly we have “spaz” (or junior, I think this is their little boy), he flies quickly around the feeder, taking a quick drink from each entrace and he’s off.  They’ve eat the same way every year.  They are so predictable, it’s so comforting.  The last several weeks they’ve been eating like crazy, they are fattening up for their trip south for the winter and I will miss them.

I found the following information at a hummingbird site, if you currently do not have humming birds where you live, they may be headed your way as they travel to Mexico for the winter.

Little is known about fall migration routes in RTHUs. It was once thought that nearly all RTHU from the U.S. flew to Florida in autumn before crossing the Gulf of Mexico to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Some migrant RTHUs apparently do fly from Florida to the Yucatan; however, many RTHUs gather in Louisiana or Texas in mid-September before flying across the Gulf, and some may take an overland route through Mexico.

Consider putting out a feeder with some nectar (1 part sugar to 4 parts hot water (some sites recommend 5 parts water), stir until sugar is dissolved, once the nectar has cooled place in a clean feeder (use water and lysol wipes, rinse well) and hang in a place you can easily see.  I make my nectar a 1/2 cup at a time, but you can store extra nectar in the frig for 5-7 days), I promise, if they come, the little effort will be so worth it.  If you have a problem with attracting bees with your feeder, it’s good to know that bees are actually not that smart and if you move your feeder just a little, i.e. just a few inches, they wont be able to find the feeder, they’ll give up and go away.

Now for some pictures.

First up is the Hibiscus, the mean japanese beatles did some real damage to their leaves before I got rid of them, but luckily the flower buds were unharmed.

I also have butterfly bush, purple and green cone flower (I need to get some black-eyed susans, right now I just have the annual version) and upright phlox blooming right now.  I’m attracting a lot of butterflies and other bugs, I think there is a constant party going on in my garden.  I have a few flowers that have yet to bloom, like my mums and one I can’t remember the name, but you’ll see the buds in the pictures below.  I’m hoping I’ll be able to remember the name or find out once it starts to bloom.  I think the butterfly below has earphones on, wonder what he’s listening to?

August 31, 2011

The last day of August, wow, summer is going too fast!!  Tomorrow I’m going to post a bit about my garden, it’s a great time of year as fall blooms begin to show their colors.  Today I need to write about my weight loss journey.

Today is a scale day for me.  I’ll start by admitting I had a bad week for tracking my water intake and counting calories.  I don’t want to give excuses, but I’ll just say that on Sunday I hosted a 33 person birthday party for both of my boys and it was a lot of work.  Just because I’m busy doesn’t mean that my goals are thrown out the window!!  I mean how long does it take to document some calories and 5 (16 oz) glasses of water!!!  Well, I guess I need to work harder in keeping to my goals the next time I am crazy busy.  I did not skip a workout during the last week, in fact in the last 7-days I got in 330 minutes of exercise, not bad.  I do believe I got in 64 oz of water almost every day in the past week and I did at least try to count my calories.  I had a very tiny piece of cake on Sunday and skipped almost all of the icing.  But since I was not tracking my calories I fear I truly blew my limit.

I’m happy to say that I didn’t have a real hard time getting on the scale this am.  I knew a gain was likely but not the end of the world.  In the end I found out I did in fact gain .4 pounds.  I’ve started a pretty strange pattern, 3-weeks of losses and 1-week of gain.  It’s even stranger that 3-weeks ago I gained .4 pounds.  I wont say that it’s a curse, because I’m pretty superstitious and a thought like that could really mess with my head.  I’ve added a page on the blog that has my goals, I figure easy access to this list can only be a good thing.  I’ve also changed some things in my blog’s appearance, my heart feels a little lighter these days, as is my outlook and I felt my blog should reflect the change.  I hope you like.

In the end I’m reminded that this journey should not be taken for granted.  Every step in my list of goals is important, non of them can be forgotten or pushed aside.  What works is the combination of all the goals put together.  It’s a team effort.  I’m also reminded this week that you can get off track, that doesn’t really matter in the end, what matters is that you get back up.  This week I’ll renew my commitment and get back on track.  So far I’m doing pretty good, this morning I completed my hardest workout, I’ve already had breakfast and I’ve had 24 oz of water already, not bad.  Now onto the rest of my day and some good food choices.

August 1, 2011

three topics today: gardening, tv and an update on my weight loss journey

Today is the first day of August.  Tomatoes are maturing daily, zucchini and cucumbers are going crazy, don’t forget to get the last of your peas and green beans, yummmmm.  In Michigan it’s corn time, wow, local corn is so good this time of year, including the cherries and blueberries.  What’s booming in your area? Find out and go get you some!!!  Don’t forget about your annuals and perennials.  Your flowers need food all summer long.  If you can’t remember the last time you fertilized get out there today and get it done.  Your flowers will thank you by getting fuller and brighter, lovely!!  Also don’t forget about your in-door plants, they need food too.

Have you noticed that most tv shows these days are written with the same format, which is the 5-minute fix?  Most shows I watch take up the first 50 minutes building the story to its climax.  With 10 minutes left they go to commercial and when the show comes back they have 5 minutes.  5 minutes to fix the problem and wrap up everything, including the side line stories.  I’m always amazed at what they can take care of in 5 minutes, simply amazing.  It doesn’t feel rushed and everything is taken care of, I’m hardly ever left thinking: but they didn’t address this or that.  Since most shows follow this format, we the audience must like it, right?  What do we like the most, the character building, the impossible situation or is it the quick fix?  Oh boy, I’m opening a can of worms here.  I’ve often belittled the american society as liking things easy.  Although I do think the belittling can be justified, I think the bigger answer is a little more interesting.  We like the journey, seeing how we got in the mess, feeling like things are impossible and then rejoicing when we’ve over come the obstacle.  If I truly allow myself to enjoy my shows I am usually left with a can do attitude, which is really what I want out of my tv shows, not to mention escapism, excitement and some good entertainment.  Do they shows you watch use the 5-minute fix?

I’m past another summer weekend and another family party.  The bad news, no one has yet to notice my weight loss.  I’m only 5 pounds down, so I guess it’s reasonable that they wouldn’t notice yet, but gosh I can’t wait for that first comment!!!  The good news is that I kept to my calorie limit.  My kids make it easy to stay distracted and away from the food tables.  I did stay away from the snack table, had a reasonable plate of food and the smallest bowl of home-made ice cream, not bad really.  I’m also happy to say it’s been 11 days since I missed a workout.  Although I have not made my morning workout each of those 11 days, I was able to get in an afternoon workout the 3 days that I didn’t get up.  I actually only missed 4 days of workouts in July, not bad, but when my goal was to workout everyday I guess not so good, well three of those misses were in a row early in the month.   I’m renewing my efforts for the month of August.  I need to get up on time and ensure I don’t miss my workouts!!!  I’m doing well with the water intake.  Although I’ve done pretty good with my calorie limit, I think I could make better food choices.  Getting up on time and food choices are my August themes.  I’m hoping all the local produce will help me out.

Happy August everyone!!