Paint Class

So I have been thinking about painting some of the —eeewww brown— furniture in our house for some time.  I am not someone to whom design and matching colors comes naturally so ii have been following Pinterest boards and paint groups on facebook for some time.
Finally, I was ready to take the plunge and try out some painting techniques on an olf board.  I started -per the info I learned from the paint groups- by going to some ACE hardware stores and buying sample paints (on sale 1.99) in the colors I liked, plaster of paris powder, sandpaper, wipe on finish coat, and java gel.

I think it was my good luck to see the ad for the painting class at Redbriar Antiques when i was out shopping.  ‘bring a piece of furniture and leave with it finished’. I signed on the dotted line!

So rather then trying out painting on a scrap board, I jumped in head first and painted this gossip bench.

gossip bench

before

gossip bench

getting ready to paint

gossip bench

painting!

gossip bench

java gel top, purple and cream paint

gossip bench

home again – all finished

Snow, Ice, and Strawberry Dreaming

Some people love winter. They say things like, “Snow! Sweaters! Hot chocolate!” and smile. I’m not one of those people. I don’t own the proper clothing — it seems crazy to buy expensive boots that I might need for one week out of an entire year. No. I’m a thin-blooded southerner who handles heat far better than cold!

For me, the absolute worst part of winter is February. The majority of this week in Chattanooga the temperature is unlikely to rise above freezing. At my house there is a thin blanket of snow on the ground. The few, sad flower stalks leftover from last year in my garden are coated in ice. The little pond is frozen over.

icy garden

What is a gardener to do?

Plan, of course. And dream. I’m using part of this week to draw a map of the berry patch my family will build this summer. We have blueberry bushes, wild raspberries and blackberries to tame, and we are ordering strawberry plants. We will have a much larger garden this year than usual so there is quite a lot of planning to do. This forced “thinking time” is probably a good idea!

Eventually, we hope to be able to offer a “U-Pick” berry option, so we are trying to think about the future as well as the upcoming season. With all of that in mind, I’m going to plant the strawberries in gutters. I will set three foot tall posts every ten feet or so, drill holes in the gutters for drainage, and attach them to the posts.

Then, I will fill the gutters with soil and strawberry plants. The benefits of this system are that weed control will be much easier, no bending to pick berries will be required, and it will be easy to snip the runners.

There are drawbacks, as well. Watering will be an absolute requirement. There are several irrigation systems that could work, and I will be investigating them this summer. One intriguing design I’ve looked at included a second set of gutters running beneath the one with the plants in it. The bottom gutter would be filled with water with some sort of mechanism that would allow the roots to wick up water.

Strawberries themselves are a promise of spring. Already, we are getting some pretty good Californian strawberries in the grocery stores. That alone is enough to give me hope that the ice, snow, and freezing temperatures will soon be gone!

Here are some places you can learn more about growing strawberries in gutters, if you are interested:

http://www.hometalk.com/3481953/planting-strawberries-in-old-gutters

http://www.harryhelmet.com/strawberry-gutters-forever/

http://www.organicauthority.com/organic-gardening/grow-a-gutter-garden.html

 

My Firefox is Sluggish and Crashes Fix

Are you about ready to throw your Firefox browser in the garbage and go back to MSIE?  It’s slow, it uses up all your memory and then – to add insult to injury – the #$%@#$ plug-in container crashes.

There’s two things that are responsible for your woes.

1. Flashplayer.  nearly every webpage nowadays  has some ad on the page which uses flashplayer.
2. plug-in container.  It came along in the early (think single digit) version of FF and really isn’t needed in the newer versions (24+)

This is a 2 part fix and will work on machines running Win7 and Win8.1, i can’t speak about any other OS. You have nothing to loose if you run other versions of Windows and have googled for a fix, tried all the other ones you found and none worked. I certainly have spent hours looking for help and have tried most every suggestion I have come across.  This solution below is the ‘magic combination’ that  works for the computers I have encountered with this problem.
The images shown were taken from my Win7 system.  For Win8.1 use the search to find system properties.

open add onsStep #1.oen option  turn off autoplay for flashplayer.
open FF >>
Go to options >> click on add-ons >> set flashplayer to ‘ask to activate’

ask to activateStep #2. turn off plug-in container

propertiessys set
>> rightclick ‘computer’ and select ‘properties’

>> click on ‘Advanced system settings’

 

>> click the ‘Environment Variables’ buttonenvironment

variabl

>> click ‘New…’
in the user section if you want to set this separate for each account or in the system section if you want to set for all users on this machine

edi var
>> type: MOZ_DISABLE_OOP_PLUGINS in the ‘Variable Name’ box and set value to 1
>> click OK. OK. OK. to exit.  Restart Firefox.

2014 Fall Sale & a Friendly Plant Swap

Have you ever been to or hosted a plant swap? A few of my friends have started getting together in the spring and in the fall to trade plants and I attended for the first time a couple of weeks ago. It’s a really nice way to get rid of the plants you need to thin out.

plantswapplants

photo credit: Modern Sauce, the lovely hostess of the 2014 fall plant swap

I took oregano, lemon balm, sedum, bee balm, lilies, and cannas. Others brought hostas, hellebores, and iris. Everything found new homes, and then we piled in a car and went to the wonderful Green Thumbs Galore Fall Driveway Sale. Everyone bought a few plants and we joked that next year we’ll be bringing cuttings from our purchases to the swap!

There are lots of reasons plant swaps are fun. You get to hang out with people who have at least one common interest. It’s a fun way to get ideas on how to deal with problem areas in your yard or garden. We talked about things we’d like to do, someday. One person wants to learn more about propagation; I want to learn more about fruit trees. Plus, you might end up with some new plants!

One attendee said the best thing about a plant swap is that if the plant dies, you can blame the person who brought it. That seems reasonable enough to me!

From the plant swap, I brought home some hellebores, for the only shady area in my yard, and some rosemary cuttings. The hostess had a big rosemary plant. It’s the only one I’ve seen that survived last year’s extra hard winter. I’ve got 10 cuttings in water. If they root successfully I’ll take most of them to the next swap in pretty little pots.

greenthumbssaleplants

Photo credit: Emily Fazio, plant swapper extraordinaire!

At the sale, I got Russian sage, a crocus, and some gaillardia. I’ve wanted Russian sage for years. It is a beautiful color and has a really wonderful texture. A friend used to grow it and include it in gorgeous bouquets of cut flowers. Gaillardia is simply cheerful. I love the bright color and long blooming period. The crocus was completely an impulse buy — I’m not even really sure what the bloom of a crocus looks like!

The combination of the plant swap and going to the sale was great. I hope that it becomes a set in stone tradition.

 

The Apple Jelly Saga – Part 1

Last winter, I planted several apple trees — two in my yard, and four at the family farm. Of the two in my yard, one is doing spectacularly. It needs to be pruned, but is healthy and growing well. The other was the victim of a small accident — my husband cut down a small mimosa growing on our fence line and it fell directly onto the apple tree, breaking most of its tender branches and splitting the trunk all the way down to about a foot off the ground. But it came back! I couldn’t believe it when I found new growth all around where it had been split. We’ll see what it does next year.

Of the trees at the farm, one appears to be dead, another is living but suffering, and two others are doing well. I’ve tried to identify the pests and/or disease that killed the first one, but apples are susceptible to so many different things. We are lucky to also have two fully mature, producing trees at the farm! They are old — they’ve been there as long as I can

They may not be grocery store pretty, but they are farm fresh delicious!

They may not be grocery store pretty, but they are farm fresh delicious!

remember — and no one is sure what variety they are. The fruit is small, splotchy red, and very slightly tart.

This year, they both produced heavily so I decided to try my hand at making apple jelly. Then I read some recipes and decided to try apple preserves instead! What I actually ended up with could be more accurately described as apple flavored syrup with pieces of apple…Here’s the recipe I (sort of) followed: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/caramel-apple-jam.

I say “sort of” because I did things out of order, which, no doubt, was the downfall of my preserves. I put everything in the pot together and simmered it until the apples were tender, then brought it to a boil and then put it in sterilized jars. It didn’t gel. Live and learn,

The jars look nice, anyway!

The jars look nice, anyway!

my friends.

On a positive note, that apple syrup will be perfect for sweetening oatmeal and for eating with pancakes. AND — there are plenty of apples left to try again. This time, I’m going to go with a traditional jelly recipe, and follow the instructions much more closely. I’ll let you guys know how it works out!

 

Growing Daylilies from Seeds

Are the pods ripe? If it’s been about 7-8 weeks since fertilization and the pods are beginning to turn brown or open up at the tips, the seeds are ready to be harvested.

Collect the seeds and soak them in warm water overnight. The next day, put them in a zip-lock type bag and place the bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.  Daylily seeds require a minimum of 4 weeks cold stratification before they will sprout.  Important: Label your bag prominently so your harvest won’t accidentally end up on your dinner plate.

daylily seeds

daylily seeds

When you are ready to plant the seeds, remove the bag from cold storage.  Check first.  Have the seeds already started to sprout?  If yes, you can go ahead and plant them.  if no, add some water to the bag and leave out in a dark and warm location. For the next week, check daily to see if seeds are starting to germinate.  If there are no white feet popping out, put the bag back into the crisper for a week as the cold period needs to be extended a bit more.

It’s time to plant, what to do?
Plop seeds into pots filled with potting mix and place in a warm and sunny location.  How deep to plant?  Some sources recommend covering with about an inch of potting mix, others suggest they will do fine gently pushed on top of the mix as long as they are kept moist.  I either bury them or cover the pot loosely with piece of plastic kitchen wrap because I tend to forget to mist them as frequently as they like.
Watch for green leaves and once the plants are about 5-6 inches tall they can be planted out in your garden. Soon, you’ll have completely new daylily varieties – that may or may not look anything like their parents – growing in your garden.

Saving the Heat

Have you enjoyed a plentiful pepper harvest this year? Are you wondering what in the world to do with all your peppers? Recently a Green Thumbs Galore customer mentioned that he and his wife uses ice cube trays to freeze peppers. Over the winter they use more cubes for hotter dishes. We thought it was a brilliant idea!

One lesson that I learned the hard way is that it is best to wear gloves when you’re working with peppers. Some people say that rubbing lime juice on your hands will protect them, but Belle has had no luck with this method and I’m not willing to take any chances. It’s also a very good idea to not touch your face. I was making salsa with fresh, hot peppers one time and ate a tomato. I inadvertently touched my lip and it burned for hours!

If you’d like to try the freezer method, chop your peppers finely, put them in the trays, then top the trays off with water. After they are frozen solid, remove the cubes and put them in freezer bags. You can then just add the cubes to soups, chilis, casseroles, or whatever you want throughout the winter.

Peppers can also be frozen whole or sliced in half. Wash them and make sure they are completely dry. If you are slicing them, you can either remove the seeds or not — the best thing to do is whatever you would do if you were using the peppers fresh. You’ll want to freeze them individually before putting them in a bag in order to prevent them sticking together in the bag. Spread them out on a cookie sheet and stick them in the freezer for a couple of hours, then put them in freezer bags, date them, and pop them back in the freezer.

Another way to make your pepper harvest last all year is to make pepper sauce. Pepper sauce is so simple and so versatile you’ll wonder why you haven’t made it every year. All you need is a glass bottle with a cork or a cap, vinegar, peppers, and whatever spices you like. We usually use garlic cloves and black peppercorns. Heat the vinegar but not to boiling. Stuff your peppers, crushed garlic, and about a teaspoon or so of black peppercorns in your jar. Fill the jar with hot vinegar. The mixture doesn’t have to be refrigerated, and if the vinegar runs low, just add more. Pepper sauce is excellent with greens, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, and cornbread.

If you prefer hot sauce, the ingredients are nearly the same. The difference is, you cook the mixture until the peppers are soft, then you puree it and pour it into your jars or bottles. Add ingredients or spices as you like. The beauty of working with peppers is that they are so flexible. You can make your sauce hotter — pureeing the peppers makes the hot sauce HOT — or not, you can add onion, or salt, or even a little sugar. It’s nearly impossible to ruin hot sauce or pepper sauce.

What is your favorite way to preserve your pepper harvest? Jalapenos

Jalapenos

 

 

Making a Daylily Cross

Daylilies are some of the most beautiful and carefree plants in the garden.  They come in many colors, sizes and patterns.  They withstand heat and drought.  They are even edible!
They are plants that do not come true from seed. This means every seed produces a new and unique plant that may or may not look anything like its parent.
And that’s where the fun starts.  How about trying your hand at hybridizing this year?  It’s quite easy and you never know what you might get.  The 3 most common crossing types are:
1. pretty on pretty – pick two varieties in your garden that you really like
2. trait on trait – flower shape, height, number of blooms – your choice
3. intentional – using plant genetic and science to attempt to bring out desirable attributes

Daylily flower with anther and stigma labeled

How to find the Anther and Stigma on a Daylily

Making a cross is quite simple, take the pollen from one variety and apply it to the stigma of another.  Then wait and see if the mating was successful.  If yes, there will be a pod developing at the base of the flower.  Daylily pregnancy takes about 50 days from fertilization until seeds are ripe and ready for harvesting.

Turn old bottles into plant markers

Some ideas are just asking to be shared more! When I saw a post from Lorilee at Cackleberry Cottage about using wine bottles as row markers in the garden, I immediately thought about giving new life to all types of old bottles by recycling them into iris and daylily plant markers.
Being short on empty wine bottles, I used an empty beer bottle instead.  I wrote the name of my plant on the bottle with a pink, waterproof chalk pen, nail polish and a black paint pen.  Maybe I am a bit compulsive? I do like the pink chalk pen the best but only time will tell which method has the most staying power.  To help the bottle stay put, I pushed a 40D nail into the ground and anchored the bottle upside down over the nail head.

Bottle used as Plant Marker

Vertical Gardening: Up. Up. Up

There are lots of reasons to try vertical gardening. The most frequently mentioned is space, but even if you have plenty of room you might want to try it for aesthetic reasons. A vertical garden creates an attractive screen, a focal point similar to a painting on a wall, or shade.

Your imagination is the only limit when it comes to vertical gardening. One of the first times I encountered it was in reading Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. As the title suggests, space was the main concern in that book. Bartholomew lays out instructions for growing a number of vegetable garden crops vertically, including watermelon! He uses nets for the melons.

Some plants must be grown vertically for best results. Peas, cucumbers, some varieties of beans, and plenty of other vegetables — not to mention the many types of climbing roses —  require poles, stakes, or trellises. Our fence row is decorated with gorgeous (if invasive) morning glories every fall.

My own current efforts at vertical gardening include a grape arbor:

grape arborsome peas on an old cast iron gate (the pea plants are still tiny):

pea trellisand a structure for a sweet autumn clematis that appeared magically growing up a tree in my front yard last year (I haven’t moved the plant yet — just put together the structure):

clematis trellisBesides an indulgence of my unpredictable whims, all of these vertical structures are simply to provide interest in the garden. I worry about having too many plants that are roughly the same height — or the same color, or that bloom at the same time. (Sigh. The complications of haphazard gardening.)

Belle uses succulents in a really interesting vertical structure. The wooden structure creates a frame, and the succulents are a variety of color and texture. The whole thing looks like a work of art.

Regardless of how much space you have, you may want to try your hand at growing some plants up and up. The most important thing is to make sure your structure is sturdy enough to withstand the pull and tug of your plants. Before we built the grape arbor, our grape vines pulled down the flimsy gate they were growing on.