Showing posts with label Olivia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Olivia. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Birds Butterflies and Bees in the Garden, What you Need to Know

How to successfully attract birds, bees and butterflies to your garden and enjoy them all season long!

Everyone that I know is so tired of winter.  Once the clocks have moved ahead for Daylight Savings Time, all of us are just counting down the days until we see those first signs of spring.
I have not yet had the delight of my first Robin or Blue Birds.  I know though that they will be coming very shortly.  And I am ready to welcome them all with some special treats that I know they will love.
birds, butterflies and bees in the garden, attracting wildlife, garden birds
Monarch Butterfly and bee on Asters
                                          

Three Basics That Are Essential

If you want the birds, bees and butterflies to come to your yard, you need to provide some of the things they will want.  
Like any other living creature, these little marvels of nature are looking for shelter, food and water.  Those are the essentials for any living being that you would care for.  Garden visitors are no different in that regard.  The only other thing that they may be looking for, would be a safe place to nest.  Trees and bushes are great for that!


Flowers are food!

Bees and butterflies and yes even the birds are looking for flowers to feed their appetites.  Pollen laden plants are a bee's best friend.  Butterflies and bees like nectar laden flowers too.  Birds are more attracted to seed heads that will come later in the year.  But they will use petals, and leaves to line their nests.  


Attracting different kinds of birds.

If you set out bird houses, you will certainly get some feathered friends calling your yard their home too.  Feeders for finches and hummingbirds will almost guarantee their arrival at your doorstep.  Plant the right kinds of flowers and you will have an abundance of these lovely little creatures to watch and enjoy.

Butterflies, birds  and bees will enjoy a bird bath.  The birds will splash around cooling themselves off in the heat of the summer, while the butterflies and bees will also stop for a drink and a little rest.  Butterflies and bees can also make use of the sugar water that is in your hummingbird feeders, so don't be surprised to see them there too. 

Having a place that is rich in flowers and shrubs with a few trees for their safety will make all of these creatures very happy to call your home, their home too!

Picking the flowers and shrubs to enhance your garden!

If you really want the butterflies, bees and birds in your garden, here is a list of some of the best ones to plant.

  1. Butterfly bush, as the name indicates is a magnet for many different types of butterflies, but they are also a magnet for hummingbirds too!
  2. Sunflowers, their flat heads are wonderful landing pads for all garden critters.
  3. Coneflowers will attract bluebirds, bees, and butterflies as well.
  4. ServiceBerry Bushes will attract cardinals, robins, cedar waxwings and more.
  5. Phlox is another great plant to attract birds and butterflies.

If you enjoy having these critters in the garden with you, make their lives easier by planting lots of the flowers that they love.  The list above is just a small sample of what plants are great to encourage wildlife in the yard.  It is by no means a complete list.  For that I refer to my book produced by Birds and Blooms Magazine.  


Gardening for Birds, Butterflies and Bees!



You can get your own right here! It is a great resource book and one that you can come back to and reference for future garden projects or additions.

You might also like to take up photography when you see how beautiful it is to have these creatures in your garden.  Mary Beth (another writer on Review This) shows us what it's like to take pictures and how to do it too!  You can check out her article right here: Bluebird Facts and Photography

Having a natural flower filled garden will surely bring you and all the visitors to your garden a lot of joy and happiness.  The colors and scents, along with all the activity will inspire you to enjoy the beauties of nature.

butterflies in the garden, attracting butterflies into the garden, garden flowers
Swallowtail Butterfly
attracting bees into the garden, garden bees, garden flowers
Bee with sunflower






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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Excellent Gardening Advice from The Old Farmers Almanac

Gardening Advice


Gardeners are a wonderful bunch of people who just can't seem to get enough dirt under their fingernails and still have lots of fun. February and March are the months when their fingers get really itchy to be in that soil and moving it about!


Image by kmicican on Pixabay
Everywhere they look, they see the signs of spring to come.  Maybe the weather has had a few nice warm sunny, or there has been a small thaw.  The ground under the snow is peeking out and just teasing the heck out of all.  Most of us are tired of the winter and are ready to move on.  Then there are the gardeners who look out on that frozen wasteland and just know that in a few short weeks, everything will change for the better.


So What is a Gardener Supposed to Do Until Spring Arrives?

Well I know that I have been spending the last couple of days with the seeds that I have saved from last year's plants that I really loved.  I'm just checking that they are still looking good (they haven't got mold on them or rotted from being mishandled in the fall.  So far my seed stash is looking great.    The next thing that gets my attention is all my plant catalogues** from several different suppliers.
When I have exhausted all these lovely reminders of the season to come, I sit back and enjoy the musings from the Old Farmer's Almanac!


Wisdom, Planting Tips and Tricks,  and so much more!

For many years, the Farmer's Almanac has been a source of tips and tricks, planting advice and so much more. Every gardener I know has either heard about it (and really wants a copy)  or has a copy somewhere in their stash of garden related books.  If you have a gardener or two in your family, I know that this little desk calendar from the people at the Farmer's Almanac, would be an asset to them.  Filled with daily hints, facts, folklore and pictures of beautiful flowers, it will certainly brighten up a corner of their desk or workspace. What I love about these Calendars is that they are each so lovely and even though we are already into the year 2019, the dates that have already gone by, are still pretty to look at and have some interesting or funny anecdotes on them.  

Farmer's Almanac calendars are full of useful information too.  When to trim plants, moon phases and schedules for planting and replanting too.  This is one handy, beautiful and practical gift or just a necessary gardening tool like a new hoe or spade.  

Dreaming about what is to come is something Gardeners at this time of year can really excel at.  I know I have my visions  and dreams in place!

**Here are some handy links if you would like to receive some gardening catalogues:
In the USA:
Stokes Seeds :


40 Free Garden Seed Catalogues
https://www.almanac.com/content/garden-seed-catalogs-mail

In Canada:

Canadian Seed and Plant mail order Sources:

These are just a couple of links, you can "google" seed catalogues and come up with many more.  

The time to dream is now and in just a little while, your dreams will start to take shape.

Image by Hans on Pixabay






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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

December 26th, Time to Write a Thank You Day

Boxing Day Blues can sometimes strike when all the awaited  festivities are over.  

And they do seem to be over so quickly.  All the hustle and bustle of preparing for the BIG day gives way to feelings of let down and down right depression.  Knowing this before hand might just help you to get through those feelings and come out the other side with a new sense of wellbeing and a new purpose too.


thank you note, mental health, Christmas let down, coping mechanisms
Christmas time and all the build up to this holiday can make some people really "crazy".  There are all the lists for food, drink, presents, guests and so much more to attend to.  Then there is the cleaning and other preparations for the BIG day.  

By the time it arrives you are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.  And just when you think it's perfect, it's  over in a heartbeat.  

The let down can be so significant, that many mental health agencies start to prepare for the fall out early as well.  But it doesn't have to be this way if you do just a little more preparation for this amazing holiday gathering.

Having a plan in mind to help you cope with the let down will significantly make the holidays much happier.  To that end, I am going to make some suggestions that just might help you, or someone you love, get through that post holiday let down.

Today, on the Calendar of Days, is Write a Thank You Note day.  Now, you may not think this is a good idea, but I'm here to suggest it's a great way to relive the excitement, joy, and happiness of the Christmas gathering.  It will help you to capture what was really important and let go of the myriad of small disappointments that may have happened to make the day less than perfect.

After all, getting the family together and enjoying each other's company is the real beauty of Christmas.  The gifts and the food and everything else is secondary to just being together.  

Sitting down and writing a thank you, will let you put into words how much you enjoyed and appreciated all the efforts everyone made to make this Christmas special.  It really acts as a way to relive the excitement and the funny things that happened during the previous day.  

If that doesn't work for you there are many other ways to get through that post holiday letdown.  Here is my list of ways to do that and maybe you can add some of your own ideas.

  1. Write that Thank You note to someone who went out of their way to make the holiday special.
  2. Plan a trip to the zoo. Christmas antics aren't just for people.
  3. Arrange some time to go for a walk in the neighborhood to enjoy the lights, decorations and all the sights.
  4. Let yourself relax with a good movie or go out to a show.
  5. Invite someone you haven't seen in a while for coffee and a good chat.
  6. Go out and play in the snow (if you have any).  Bundle up with those new scarves, hats and mitts.
  7. Start a new hobby.  Scrapbooking, knitting, crocheting, drawing or woodworking.  Coloring pages are still a great way to relax too.  
  8. add your own ideas here.......

dealing with emotional let down, Christmas let down, emotional exhaustion 
All the expectations, disappointments and let downs seem to disappear when you have a plan in mind.  Just writing a note can help you get through that emotional build up of the past month.  Going out to park, zoo, or being with a good friend,  can give you a release for all the frustrations you may have felt or are still feeling.  It's hard to stay disappointed when you are at the zoo checking out all the Christmas treats the zookeepers have in store for the animals in their care.  Just watching the Polar Bears, penguins, monkeys and more,  get their treats can be a delight for your overworked body and spirit.  The walking and exercise are good for you too.  Too much food and drink can be the trigger to make some people feel cranky and "out of sorts".  Drinking water and walking can help undo all the overeating and indulgences that took place the day before.  If you can't do the exercise, then just sitting back and watching a favorite movie, with full permission to just enjoy it, can also revive the drooping spirits.  A new hobby will keep your mind and hands occupied while you try to figure out just what you are supposed to do. An active mind doesn't have time to dwell on things that didn't go as planned and that's a good thing.   

If this all fails, then you can always go to the internet and start planning something different, a vacation in the new year, places you want to see or books you want to read.  On Review This Reviews, you can find lots of book reviews, Do It Yourself projects, movie reviews and more.  I dare say you could spend the better part of a day just checking out all the articles and I'm sure you will find a few that will trigger some ideas of your own.  


The most important thing on December 26th is to relish and relive, enjoy and form the memories of the day before.  Writing that note may be the first step in some well deserved "self-care" that will keep you from drowning in some very powerful negatives that could be plaguing your spirits.  Don't let Christmas let-down, get you down.......there are plenty more good times coming your way. 

don't let Christmas let down get you down......coping mechanisms, depression,

**Olivia is not a health care specialist, if you are feeling down or depressed, please check out your local  health professionals.




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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Are Your Ears Up for an AMAZING AUDIO REVIVAL?

Technophiles, audiophiles and all like minded people are realizing that old records have never sounded better!

Many changes have occured in the music industry over the years.  From the types of music that are being generated, and to the way we listen to it.

Music in my heyday was listened to on a small, possibly portable turntable.  We were not allowed to use the big "STEREO" in the living room.  That was our parent's domain.  Mine was all in one and had a couple of small speakers attached on either side.  I spent many hours listening to my favorite records on that turntable.  When I grew up I had a similar stereo like the one below, with really good speakers mounted on the walls.

I have seen the advent of many different portable listening devices and the changes in the way things are recorded.  I went from records with  speeds of 78 , 33 and 1/3 or 45's, to cassette tapes, 8 tracks and CD's.  Now you don't have to admit that you fully understand all of this.  ( You'll be giving away one of your best kept secrets if you do!)  Portable turntables all looked something like this:
vinyl record players, audio lovers, record revival

Now I have to tell you that in my house music is very important.  My husband is constantly playing something and I'm never sure what is going to come out of his music room.  One thing is certain, when the music is playing, the memories are also filling my mind of days long ago.  Every song brings a smile to my face and sometimes one or the other will bring a tear or two as well. 

Right now, we are busy cleaning records that we haven't listened to in a long time.  Most of the music we really love has been repurchased on CD's.  After all, we were lead to believe that this was the ultimate sound for any recordings.  I think we were wrong! It was a great marketing ploy.   After all everyone now was rebuying all their favorites in a new format.  The one truth about CD's is that they are much more portable than record players ever were.  So there is room for both formats in most people's homes.

Now this is where this review is going to get right down into the nitty gritty grooves!  One word of caution,  start doing this on a record that you really don't care too much about.  I don't want you to ruin your prized and priceless favorite record right from the start.

But, did you know that you could clean your old records in an easy and inexpensive way?  They will sound so much better than they ever did.  It's easy, doesn't require any special tools or talent and everyone can do it.  

The secret?   Carpenter's glue!  There are many different name brands that you can try, but make sure it's carpenters wood glue and not some "super glue".   There are many different brands of "wood glue", and the favorite seems to be the Titebond, but all of them work and none have been found to have an adverse effect on the records. 



Super glue will get you into all kinds of trouble. So let's not do that! In the pictures below you will see how easy it is to clean your old vinyl records, so that the sound coming out of the speakers is just the way it was recorded.  Full sounds that some CD's just can't match.

removing dust from record albums, glue removal of dirt from LP's,  new uses for carpenters glue
1. Glue spread out over record album.

carpenters glue, dust free records, new uses for carpenters glue, audio revival
2. My other half using his fingers to spread the glue over the record.

audio revival, record cleaning, carpenters glue new uses
3.  Records that have been treated, now drying!


new uses for carpenters glue, audio revival, LP's
4.  Dried glue being peeled off the record face.

5.  The negative "glue" of the album in its entirety.




That's how easy the process is. It takes about 8 hours to dry completely.  You can use a toothpick to carefully lift the glue at the edge and then slowly peel the rest of the dried glue away from the face of the record.


Now why would you do this? Old records get dusty. It was one of the reasons that records sometimes sounded so scratchy. When you do the glue treatment on your albums, the glue gets right down into the grooves of the records and lifts out any impurities (dust and dirt)  that may be lurking there. You don't have to do this everytime that you want to listen to a record! Get your favorites out (after a test run on another record you don't really care about) and give them a good cleaning. Then after listening to the difference, carefully place the record back in its dust cover. Store your records where they won't be affected by dust, dampness, sunlight and heat. Ours are in a rack, almost like the ones they had in the record stores at the time, and inside a closet. It's a nice cosy place for our favorites and every weekend you can hear the likes of The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Melanie and a few more playing in our wonderfully music filled home.  We love the scores from old musicals so have many of them on LP's as well.  So you know you'd be in for a treat musically, our records have never sounded better!



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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Cool Nights, Crafty Nights, How to Get Through the Fall

When Summer gives way to Fall, all of a sudden we find ourselves looking for ways to keep busy indoors instead of outdoors.  It seems the older I get the more I like the idea of hunkering down in the quiet comfort of my home.  Let's Review some ways to make this time productive and fun!

Looking back over the last few months I realize that I did not want to come indoors at all.  Summer was glorious this year, with warm sunny days and warm evenings too!  Alas, all good things must come to an end, especially when you live in the north!

Fall is a great time to get cracking on all those things you wanted to do but didn't.  Fall is also that gateway to all kinds of Holidays that require your time and talents. It's a wonderful time to try your hand at making something crafty too.  Decorating your space was never easier, with themes provided by the Holidays.  So to that end, we will start getting all our crafts in order! Or we will try something new!

hobbies, crafts, learn how to draw




Crafting gives our hands a chance to make something unique and beautiful.  It lets us express some of our hidden talents.  We see something we like and we just know that we could do that too!  So when we are indoors instead of running around outside, we can sit and give our hands a chance to make something that we have never done before.

Halloween and Thanksgiving are great times to try our hands at crafty ideas. We could start by  making special goodie bags for the children that visit our door on Halloween night.  If you have a little more time, maybe we could make something a little more personalized for our family who will visit during Thanksgiving.
Both of these holidays can launch us onto a new hobby.

Now unless you are reviving a hobby that you once invested in, I would not suggest that you go all out and purchase all the items you might be needing for a new hobby.  Head to your nearest  Dollar Tree! It's a great place to start a new hobby and you can do it on-line.  You just never know what you will find there that will twig an idea!  There are hundreds of items available that you might be able to use to fuel your creative genius.  From yarns, to paints, beads, canvases and findings, you know you will have a great time picking out the things that will be transformed under your hands.  Don't spend a lot of money on a craft or hobby until you are sure it is something that you will continue to do.  

There are a great number of "How To" books that will walk you through all stages of a new hobby.  Knitting, crocheting, leatherwork, macrame, rug hooking, drawing and so many more hobbies can be learned through the pages of a great How To book!  I've chosen just  a few to get you started.  There are also many You Tube videos that will give you a "working" look at how to make some things.  I guess what I'm saying is that your indoor time during these upcoming cold months can be productive and fun.  You just might find that you have a talent for a certain hobby. 



I have several writer friends right here on the REVIEW THIS team, that are so talented they have their own ETSY  shops, where they turn their hobbies into a small business.  All the contributors here are passionate about some form of hobby!  Greeting Cards, knitting, crocheting, photography it's all covered by our contributors.

If you don't feel inclined to make things yourself,  I would suggest that shopping at the Etsy Mall will help you find something beautiful, hand made and will help to support someone who is working hard to make things beautiful.   

crafts, hobbies, learn how to make anything





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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Amazing Things to Do Between Christmas and New Years Day

One of my Favorite times of year is Christmas, but once it's over you can feel let down.  So let's Review Ways to keep that after Christmas Depression at bay!

If your family is anything like mine, the days leading up to Christmas have been full of all kinds of trips, errands to run, parties to attend and a host of other fun and time consuming activities.  Depending on the ages of your children or grandchildren, there will also be more than one Christmas recital to attend as well.
This is not a complaint, but, it is a reality.  We get so wound up with places to go and people to see, that when it stops, we feel lost!  Some of us will only feel that way after the New Year because we are still in the middle of all the partying still.  Others, who do not go "all out" for New Years will feel that way sooner.
The bottom line is, it doesn't have to be this way at all!

Part of your planning for the holidays should include that time between the holidays, so that holiday let down is minimized or completely obliterated.  No one really wants to be depressed at the best time of the year. 
christmas party, depression, let down, emotional times, familySo let's make those plans now!  If the plan is in place,  you will actually follow through.  

So let's get down to some concrete ways to stave off any negative feelings.

First of all, if you have family visiting, make arrangements to go somewhere on an outing.
  • visit the downtown area and look over the lights and Christmas Displays
  • Go sledding or skating, if your body allows that kind of seasonal fun.
  • Make Snow Angels (with the above caveat)
  • Go to a park with a handful of bird seed, for those birds who don't have a feeder close by
  • Pick up some small gift cards for a coffee shop and give them to "Street People" to enjoy
  • Visit a local church and see their Nativity Displays
  • take lots of pictures while out and about
  • when you come home, make some Hot Chocolate and watch a favorite movie
  • Be Thankful for the Blessing of Family and Friends.
Between Christmas and New Years is a great time to make some plans for the next year too!  Many a lively conversation could be had over those plans.  Will you make resolutions for 2018?  Will you decide to travel more or less?  How about making a resolution to get together with friends more often?  It is a great idea to look forward, but also take some time to look back and be thankful for all the good things that happened in the year just past.  

gratitude, family, visits, make plans
When the hustle and bustle has come to a standstill, it's no longer a dreaded fear, rather it's a time to take stock.  Look ahead at what might be coming your way, and look back to see where you have been.  If things weren't the greatest, find ways to make this year to come, better.  If the year past was wonderful all around then celebrate this wholeheartedly, and pray that the year to come will be as blessed as the one just past.  Gratitude for everything is a great way to live.  You don't become nearly as disappointed and you really don't let yourself become engrossed in the things you have no control over either.  

Start taking note of things you are thankful for and try to do something new in the coming year.

If you need help thinking of all the things to be grateful for, there are several different types of journals that can give you some coaching either in pictures or scriptures.  One of my favorites is the one:


If you don't have a gratitude journal, a blank book works well too. Sometimes though in our busy lives, we need a hint of encouragement and for that a true gratitude journal is a bonus. Each page will give you a little inspiration to get you started with the right attitude. If you are not a particularly spiritual person, there are journals that remind you of gratitude without scriptural readings. Whichever one is to your liking, will be a good choice and they are inexpensive.  Maybe Santa brought you one, but if not that's okay too.  You can always get your own when you feel the need for it.  It will be an investment in yourself, for your mental and physical and spiritual well being.

May I take this opportunity to wish you and all your family a most Beautiful, Blessed and Wonderful New Year!
gratitude, holidays, cheer, new year, thankfulness

pictures courtesy of Pixabay.com






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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Skeletons in the Closet, Life is Unfair

My Secret Sister: Jenny Lucas and Helen Edwards' Family StoryMy Secret Sister: Jenny Lucas and Helen Edwards' Family Story
It seems to me that many people use the quote "Life is Unfair" in a very flippant way! Usually when they don't get their own way about things. In the True Life story titled My Secret Sister, this quote really means what it says. I'd like to share this book with you and some thoughts of mine along the way, come along on my Review of My Secret Sister.


Jenny and Helen

Let's be clear, this is an autobiography of two women, who only recently became aware of each other. Their stories are on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Jenny Lee Smith and Helen Edwards only found out about each other recently. Through lots of lies, half-truths, and wanton disregard for their feelings, these two sisters are finally putting all of the questions about themselves and each other to rest. They are busy making up for 44 years of searching that finally brought them together.


Background

Jenny:
Jenny Lucas had a charmed life. Oh she wasn't born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but her parents doted on her and she was the center of their universe.  The only child in a family where mom and dad were on the "older" side, she was the apple of their eye.  When her father took up golfing, he brought his daughter along and taught her how to golf too.  He even made her the very first golf clubs she used because she was only a little more than a toddler. Golf became her driving ambition. She was such a natural with the clubs and it gave her precious time with her father, whom she adored. When her father died, she really felt lost.  Cleaning up after his death, Jenny comes across a birth certificate.  It's the first inkling that she has about the possibility that she is not who she thought she was.  Not wanting to hurt her mother, she files this information away.  

Helen: 
Helen on the other hand was abused physically, mentally and emotionally most of her life. Her mother and father were either hateful, selfish and self centered at any given time. If any of those two characteristics came together at once, Helen paid the ultimate price for their mental state. Always told she was at fault for any and every turn of bad luck, she quickly learned to steer clear of her parents or do their bidding, whatever that may have entailed. Beatings at the hand of her father were not uncommon and her mother would just watch in a state of indifference, lest she also become a target of his rage.  Helen has an older half-brother who doesn't live at home anymore, but comes around trying his best to save Helen from his step father's wrath.  He is her "knight in shining armor." 

For years these two girls each wanted a sister, a confidant, to share their stories, troubles and tribulations with. Each in their own way was longing for some sense of belonging that wasn't being fulfilled in their own lives.  It would be years though before they would find each other.
I don't want to give away too much of the story, but want to encourage you to read it. 
my secret sister, siblings, sisters and friends,  family secrets
There is nothing like having a sister in your life.


Insights from my perspective:

If you know of anyone who is adopted, or if you are part of a circle of "Family Secrets", I want you to understand that those secrets can be very destructive and divisive.  They hurt people who are looking for answers.  If someone in your family comes to you with questions and they are old enough to know the answers, I would encourage you to talk to the parents, but if they are no longer alive, then tell them the truth.  Don't sugar coat the truth, don't make excuses, don't embellish the story, just tell them what you know to be truth.  

I am so grateful for the opening up of adoption records, so that children who want to know about their birth parents have that opportunity.   It doesn't mean that everything will be rosy and perfect, there is no such state in life, but it gives the person seeking answers, a hope that could fill in a lot of blanks.

From my own experience, I have an adopted grandson and I'm so thrilled that he is in our lives. He came to us at 2 days old.  He knows he's adopted and he also knows that we love him dearly. When and if he wants to know more he will be told the truth by his parents (my daughter and son-in-law).

 I also have a niece that was given up for adoption 40 plus years ago.  We (our whole extended family) became reunited 3 years ago.  It was a most joyous celebration of lost family, found. She was able to express to her birth mother that she was happy, and the birth mother had a hole in her heart filled. We have her in our lives again and it's wonderful. 

Unwanted pregnancies are as old as time itself.  It is high time that we take the stigma off of being born "out of wedlock" or "not wanted" and realize that when children are given up for adoption, the mother and/or father are trying to make the best decisions for their child.  They should be applauded for understanding that they may not be equipped to be the best parents, but they should also be ready to possibly meet that child again when they are all grown up.

My Secret Sister was not an easy book to read, maybe because of our family dynamic.  In the end, there is still longing and heartbreak, but there is also hope and joy.  It was a very interesting and enlightening book!

Picture from Pixabay.com





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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Let's Review The Best Proven Seed Saving Practices

Summer is coming to an end and already we (gardeners) are looking forward to next year's gardens. Let's Review what happened in the garden this year and the best way to keep seeds for next years masterpiece.   Looking at what we have  growing now , gives us the opportunity to analyse what worked in the garden and what didn't.



Every gardener I know has some complaints about the plants or vegetables that have made their garden home for the last few months.  We are never completely satisfied with our results!  I think the gardener's motto must be something like:  Next Year The Garden will be Perfect!

Alas, that year has never happened for me and if I know most (humble) gardeners would say the same thing. Even the most perfect garden seems to fall short, somewhere.  Let's not dwell on that, let's look for ways that we can improve what we have.

Garden Journal

Hopefully you have been keeping a "Garden Journal".   What's a Gardening Journal?   Simply put, this is a book of your choice, where you note how your plants are growing, flowering, and going to seed.  You can also add information like what kind of pest problems they have encountered or how much watering they require.  Where they were planted, ie:  Full Sun, Partial Sun, Afternoon sun etc.  If you want to be really technical, you can also take note of other garden issues.  What plants go well together and which combinations were not as effective as you would have liked.  How well they flowered and so on.  The details of each plant and how it fared in your garden, are completely up to you. The garden journal I have shown you in the Amazon listing is great for filling in all kinds of details.  But, you can also do this with a simple plain lined notebook.

Finding the Seeds

If you go out in your garden you have to find the seeds.  If you are saving flower seeds, you will have to look where the flowers are and look at the base.  It helps if you have a little knowledge of plant biology.  You don't have to be a scientist, but it will make finding the seeds easier if you know where to look.


A Beginner's Guide to Flower Structure  


Every flower has the same "basic" structure in that there is the flower, inside is the pistil and stamens (these are the important parts when it comes to seed production) and underneath there is the sepals/calyx to hold the flower all together.  Let's see if a picture can make it easier to understand. The first picture is a jasmine blossom.  The petals of the flower are white.  Internally you can see the stamens and pistil.  If you look at the flower facing away from the camera, you will see the sepals/calyx.  Bees or other insects come and rub against the stamens to collect the pollen that they produce.  When the insect is leaving the flower, it may rub against the pistil and that will trigger seed production.  This is the basic way seeds are produced and if you'd like a little more in depth breakdown of the Parts of a Flower you can watch this short but precise You Tube Video: Parts of a Flower
Jasmine Flowers showing Basic Flower Parts


Poppy Flower Pods Center one is ripe and the two on either side are not quite ready yet.
In this picture you see the seed pods of a poppy flower.  The tallest one is ripe, you can see that there are little holes under the "cap". Tilting this stem will make the poppy seeds pour out.  The other two pods in this picture still need to mature a little longer.  Once they show signs of the little holes, they too will pour out their seeds easily. Poppy seeds are small round and black or dark brown.  Each seed pod has thousands of poppy seeds within.  It is one of the most prolific seed producers.


Storing the Seeds

So now that you know where to look for your seeds, we need to store them until spring.  This is an important part of the whole exercise.  If you don't store the seeds properly, they may turn moldy and rot.  Then when spring comes you will be left with buying seeds again.  So let's not do that.  Let's store our seeds so that when spring arrives, we will have plenty of seeds for our wonderful garden of 2018.

Seeds can be stored in a variety of ways.  I personally like envelopes that are opaque.  They let you see the seeds within the packets so that you know right away that they are not rotting.  If you place your seeds in plastic bags, any moisture will remain contained and could adversely affect the seeds within.  Some of my gardening friends keep their seeds in old pill bottles.  That works too, so long as the seeds are really dry when they are placed inside.  Always use clean containers that will be labelled with the name of the plant on the outside.  Again I like to use envelopes because I place them into my Garden Journal along with the notes about that particular plant. Make sure you label your envelopes with the flower's name, color, and any other information you might want to keep.

If you are using a different method of storage, whether old pill containers or small jars, again, make sure you label them.  Keep all your seed filled containers in a nice box for easy storage.   You think you will remember what seeds  you put into each jar or pill bottle, trust me, you will not remember. It's much easier to do it NOW! 


Cool and Dark and Dry

Now that you have all your seeds nicely categorized and labelled clear out a nice dark and cool space to keep your journal or container of seeds.  Make sure it's a nice dry spot too.  We don't want to disturb our seeds during the months that they will be sleeping.  We just want to ensure that when the right time comes (spring of 2018) they will be more than ready to do their magic.  


Seed Collecting is Fun

Seed collection is fun, but it is also a great way to educate your children and grandchildren.  With all the talk about Genetically modified seeds and plants, you know that you can have your own supply of seed that is not modified and will grow.  Heirloom seeds are making the news all the time.  You can start your own heirloom seeds if you follow the instructions you find here.  This Review is about flower seeds mostly, but the same principles can apply to vegetables too.  That is why I included some books for your reading pleasure. Vegetable seeds need a little more attention when it comes to collecting, preparing and storing them.  Please do yourself a favor and do some reading, I don't want you to be disappointed with your results.  

Beginners will want to start with seeds that are easy to find.  Here's a whole bunch that will start you off on the right foot!

  • poppies
  • Four O'Clocks
  • snapdragons
  • moss roses or portulaca
  • marigolds
  • cosmos
  • morning glories
  • bleeding hearts

Please let me know in your comments if you are planning to do some seed collecting and what types of seeds you will be adding to your "stash".  I'm always interested in knowing more about other people's gardens.  




**all pictures are from Pixabay.com 










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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

5 Ways to Guarantee Hummingbirds will Come to You! Feeder Reviews

Hummingbird Feeders and Bright Red Plants are the best way to ensure that these little birds will indeed find you!

Everyone loves these little birds who fly thousands of miles to visit their summer homes.  We will review a few of the ways to entice these little birds to visit and maybe even call your backyard their home for the season.  
                                                 https://pixabay.com/en/hummingbird-feeding-beak-bird-2069273/

Every gardener I know loves to have a backyard full of birds, bird houses and bird feeders.  Nothing thrills them as much as the return of the elusive hummingbirds that flit through the air like little dashes of light.  The whole idea of having these little birds in the garden makes me happy.

So what's the secret to having them come and stay a while? 

First and foremost, you have to make your yard more appealing to these little birds.  If they feel you are putting out a welcome mat, they just might come to visit.  If they like what they find, they will probably stay a while.  So let's see what we can do to make them feel welcome.

Knowledge about their likes and dislikes!

Hummingbirds are migratory birds.  They do not stay all season long in the north, it's too cold for them.  But once spring and summer arrive, they do head north for a visit.  They will come and breed, stay for the summer and then head back to the south for the winter.  Hummingbirds are tiny little creatures that weigh just a few ounces.  They require lots of nectar to keep them going.  Their metabolism is one of the fastest working metabolisms that you will ever find.  They need lots of nectar to keep them flying.

That is the first secret to attracting the hummers to your yard.  You need to provide a source or two of that nectar that they must have to live.
 
The second secret is to have lots of colors that hummers like in your yard.  This can be done by attaching red or orange colored ribbons to trees and bushes.  The hummers as they are headed north, scope out these colors and are attracted by them.  They assume there are flowers full of nectar for their feeding purposes.

The third secret is to then have lots of plants that are in fact good nectar producers.  Feeders are great, but they also like plants,  they will use the soft leaves and petals for their nests and spider webs to hold them all together.  So leave those spider webs out there.  

The fourth secret is to have lots of hummingbird feeders in your yard.  When plants are dying back and not producing flowers full of nectar, the hummers will need an alternative source of nectar. Hummingbirds can also be quite possessive and will fight over the feeders.  It's better to have one too many feeders than not enough.  If you set them out, they will come. 

The fifth secret is to have a water source handy.  They love fountains or water misters.
If you don't believe me watch this short video and you will see the difference that a water feature can make...Hummer's Bathing and Drinking Station.

Have you ever wondered why Hummingbird feeders are always red and yellow in color?

The quick answer is that these are the colors that really attract hummers.  Many red and reddish-orange plants are great nectar providers.  This color can be spotted by the hummers from miles away.  If you have red flowers and feeders in your yard, they will make a beeline for your yard.  Even before the flowers are in bloom in your area, put out some hummingbird feeders and they will find you.  Once summer is in full swing, the flowers will enhance their nectar likes.

What are the best flowers to grow for hummingbirds?

As stated earlier, red, reddish-orange and red with yellow flowers are the favorite colors for hummers. Some of the flowers and vines that fit this bill will be:
Columbines, Salvias, Cardinal climbers, Agastache, Liatris, Bees Balm, Trumpet vines, Morning Glories, Scarlet Runner Beans, and Honeysuckles.

One year I planted a whole row of Canna across my front garden.  I was delighted when I was out there and a hummingbird was right by my ear.  I could hear his wings flapping and I watched in delight as he swooped in and out of the flower row.

What are the best feeders for hummingbirds?


First Nature 3055 32-ounce Hummingbird FeederFirst Nature 3055 32-ounce Hummingbird Feeder
Hummingbird feeders are usually red in color to attract the birds as they are flying. They can spot this color from far away and will make a straight path to the feeders they find easily. Filled with sugar water they are an instant boost for their feeding needs.













It is not necessary to add red food coloring to the sugar water contained in the feeders. Some experts suggest that the red food coloring actually harms the birds. All you need is one part sugar to 3 parts water to keep the hummingbirds happy. You make your own syrup by boiling these two ingredients and then cooling the mixture.  Placed in the feeders the birds will be super happy.

Having more than one feeder in your yard will keep the birds from fighting over the food supply.
Hummingbird feeders need to be kept clean. If the sugar water stands for more than a day or two it may become contaminated. This will make the birds sick. So once you start to put out food for them, you must remain attentive to the feeders.
They are easy to clean with soapy water, rinse them well and refill them with nectar. Hang them back outside.



As you can see with these examples of hummingbird feeders, all of them have wide openings so that cleaning them out will be much easier.  I have purchased hummingbird feeders that are more artistic looking, but they are impossible to clean completely.  I don't want to harm the birds with unclean feeders.  These are my favorites from the ones available through Amazon.

The Migration of Hummingbirds for 2017






As you can see from the map, the Hummingbirds are already on their way north.  This is the current map for 2017 and you can log when you see your first hummer on the map by going to this site:
Migration Map 2017

It is part of the link below and will allow you to enter your information.  Will you be the first one in your state to log a sighting?
A Great Resource for Hummingbird Lovers


The BBC has amazing nature videos available and the one I have highlighted for you below is wonderful.  In our climate we don't have all the beautiful hummingbirds that are in the world, so you can enjoy and see some of the other species of hummers and their beautiful plumage.  Some species are really quite impressive in both color and their way of life.  It's a great resource for sure.

Super Hummingbirds BBC

My Conclusions


Putting up hummingbird feeders is a little bit of work, but it is worth the time and trouble when you are treated to the sight of these little miracles flitting about in your backyard.  The most important thing is to keep the feeders clean and filled.

I love my hummingbirds and will do everything in my power to make sure they know they are welcomed into my yard.  How about you?  Will you put up a feeder or two?  I can assure you that once you have been treated to hummingbirds in your yard, you will want them to come back again and again.






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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Review This! Celebrations of Holy Communion and Confirmation

Introduction:

Have you ever been invited to a celebration of Faith?  I'd like to take you on a journey to Review two of the most important sacraments in a Catholic child's faith journey.  You may be invited to share in this celebration and this "Review This" is to help you recognize the celebration as well as appropriate gifts to mark this important occasion.

Holy Communion and Confirmation, What are they?


Late March, April, and May are traditional months for Catholics to Celebrate the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation.  

For many families,  it will be a time of fellowship not only with their church community but also with parents and grandparents, who will be pleased to see their children growing in their spiritual formation.



Catholic children around the age of eight or nine will begin to learn about the sacrament of  Holy Communion.  They will learn about the meaning behind the sacrament and all the symbolism that is contained within the celebration of Mass every week.

They will learn about Jesus, his life,  his death and his Ressurrection, and the promise to return again.  They will also learn that Jesus loves them in a way that is beyond comprehension. For Adult Catholics it's a time to remember and relive the beauty of receiving Communion for the first time ever.  It's also a great time to help our youngsters learn to live the Gospels, to live the way we were taught by the actions and the life of Jesus.  It is also a time to explain to our children that living as Christians is not an easy task.  That they will work at being good Christians every day of their lives, and that it should be a life lived in Joy!

 

What is the purpose of the Sacraments?


Jesus loves each one of us, just the way we are!  We need to learn how to love everyone in the same way. That is what we are called to do if we want to live truly Christian lives.  We will fail many times, and that's when Communion becomes especially important.  We come back to God, asking for His strength and His courage to become more and more like Him.  We need that courage and strength so that we can look at all of our brothers and sisters with the same loving eyes that our God sees them.  It's not easy to do, but with the sacraments that continue to nourish our souls, we will gain that strength that we need.

Children are such wonderful examples for us! As we get older, we tend to become more jaded. Our many disappointments in life sometimes take their toll on our spirits.  That is why it's important for us to help our children.  In helping them to celebrate these milestones, we are reminded of God's love for us too.  Even though we are grown up in mind and body, we are still children of the Almighty and he loves us as a Perfect Father would.  Sharing the sacraments with our children helps us to remember what we are called to do as followers of Christ!


Confirmation, Growth in the Spirit of God


The Sacrament of Confirmation is done when the children are a little older.  Children are usually about 12 or 13 years of age. This sacrament mirrors the Jewish Bar/Bat/Mitzvah (when the young people are seen as old enough to read the Scriptures). After all, Christianity has its roots in the Jewish Faith, so this is the Catholic sacrament of a "coming of age".  Our children are now seen as old enough to accept the faith that we have kindled in them through their younger years. It is time for them to decide for themselves, that this is the faith that they will accept for their lives.   Parents accepted the duty to teach their children the faith when they were Baptized. Now, at this time in their lives,  they stand on their own two feet and accept the faith for themselves.  Many people wonder about the taking on of a saint's name as part of this celebration.  Let me explain, children who are on their way to making their Confirmation are encouraged to look to the Saints who have lived a good Christian life.  They take on the name of a Saint that they admire for the way they lived their lives and hopefully will follow in that saint's example on their own journey of faith.


As with any faith celebration,  gifts are usually given to mark this day as a special time in their lives. Appropriate gifts would include a Bible, Prayer Book, Books on the Lives of Saints or Leaders in the Church.  Books that make the young person think about their lives and direction.   There are many really good books that are not "religious" but make the young mind expand in ways that will benefit them. Philosophy books that are great for the soul and make young minds question their lives and their beliefs will hopefully make them grow in their faith journey.  After all, it is a journey that will last for the rest of their lives. We shouldn't stop growing in our faith life, just because we are out of school.  It should be a journey that lasts a long, long time.


Being a Christian is hard work in our everyday world. Encouraging our children to look beyond themselves for guidance is a wonderful way for them to grow in ways that are more than physical. I truly believe that we are spiritual as well as physical. If the religious type of gift suggestions are not to your liking, the books by Chesterton or C.S. Lewis are great books for anyone to read. You don't have to be Christian or Catholic to get something out of them. They are classic reading for everyone.

My hope is that this Review will help you if you should ever find yourself invited to a celebration of faith for someone you care about.  Please bookmark this Review so that when your invitation arrives, you will be prepared to help the child celebrate His/Her growth in the Spirit of Christ.





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