A pleasant surprise in the Compost Heap

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compost heap under Elder trees

Compost “heap” mid-summer underneath blooming Elder trees

Hello! This post is about the funny thing I “found” in my compost this past weekend. It made me laugh, so I hope you’ll enjoy my story!

compost in a wheelbarrow

Compost from our garden

First, though, I have to talk about Compost, because you could say that I am a tiny bit “obsessed” about my compost. I have written about it here and here, which you can reference for any “how to” questions you might have. It’s just that compost is sooooo good for the garden, and fairly “easy” to make that it makes sense to do so.

enclosed compost tumblers

enclosed compost tumblers for veggies and fruit

My time in the garden over the past 8 years has been one learning experience after another. Compost is no exception! We started by throwing together some pallets to store the compost. Then we began heaping on all of our kitchen scraps (uncooked vegetables, fruit, coffee grounds, tea) and everything gathered from the garden (grass, leaves, weeds).  What.A.Mess. But we now have two enclosed “tumblers” for our kitchen scraps. The idea is that I don’t want to attract unwanted animals, so I try to keep food off of the open heap.  Also, we still have the pallet set-up, but we no longer throw nasty weeds on it.

wooden pallet compost enclosure

We built our first pallet compost enclosure back in 2012

Wow, that was really neat and tidy back in the beginning!

different piles of compost based on different ages

Different sections of the compost are at different stages of break-down

O.K., so I used quotation marks around the word “easy” earlier, when I described making compost, because although heaping on the garden materials is indeed easy, I have found that the compost breaks down best when “turned”.  “Turning” the pile, basically just digging and mixing it up, can be a bit of work. It’s not the most glamorous of garden jobs and quite honestly, I don’t do it often enough. I do turn our “tumblers” every week, which really helps with that breakdown. The goal is to get dark brown, crumbly consistency, broken down compost material.

dark compost

compost breaking down into a crumbly consistency and of a dark brown color

This leads me to my story of what happened this past weekend. I went out into the garden to get my couple of hours of “garden time” and decided that the compost needed some attention. One section is breaking down really well, and is full of worms and is turning a lovely dark brown color. I worked on that pile first, because it was easy to turn! Then I started to tackle the MESS!

broken down compost and unbroken down compost

The left side is well broken down compost while the right side is a huge mess that hasn’t been turned

I started on the right side of the heap, but almost immediately, my garden fork went through something and got stuck. When I pulled it up, I found a huge potato on the fork!

potatoes in compost

Potatoes in the compost heap!

I put the fork down, and used my trowel to gently clear some of the top layers of compost away. Then I just used my (gloved) hands to dig in the soil and I found potato after potato after potato! The soil under the compost was amazing! Of course it was, it was broken down compost.

A huge Sarpo Mira organic potato!

So, what’s the story here? Well, we planted organic Sarpo Mira, main crop potatoes last year. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, it was a disaster, and we ended up digging up the entire bed, without harvesting any edible potatoes. We cleared out the bed and heaped it on …have you guessed? … the compost pile! Those “seed” potatoes, must have enjoyed the amazing organic compost because they grew HUGE!

potatoes in compost pile

Most of the potatoes from the compost pile were huge!

soil from compost heap

A close-up look at the soil the potatoes were growing in

Of course, after my discovery I remembered seeing potato plants and flowers in the compost this past summer, but I didn’t really pay them any attention as I didn’t think they’d really grow. Boy was I wrong!

container of potatoes from compost pile

That’s a lot of potatoes dug up from our compost pile!

It was just the funniest thing for me to find all of those potatoes. We’ve grown potatoes a few different years, and we’ve never had them grow this big. Just goes to show that my garden bed needed a lot more compost than I was putting in it!

bowls of potatoes in front of compost pile

The red bowl is filled with extra large potatoes, the strainer is filled with normal sized potatoes, with the compost pile in the background.

It wasn’t enough to just find the spuds in the compost, though. I had to see if they were actually edible!

potatoes on cutting board and in a bowl

The potatoes peeled just fine and were perfectly firm!

Organic Sarpo Mira potatoes are known to be blight and slug resistant, so it wasn’t too surprising that the spuds were in really good shape. The funny markings on the outside also appeared when I grew them in my beds, and doesn’t affect the taste. I’m happy to say that we ate two big potatoes today, and they tasted delicious!

The bottom line is, of course, that compost is amazing!

Do you compost? 🙂

In peace,
Dana

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2nd Place Award for “Easy to Grow & Adds Color to the Garden” goes to Pumpkins!

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pumpkin in vine

A nearly ripe pumpkin still attached to the vine (with all of the leaves removed)

Hello there! This post follows on from a previous post about what I think is easiest to grow in the garden. Since time is precious, we only plant what is easy to grow in our garden. In my view, the first place award of the “easiest to grow” contest belongs to garlic, but this is followed quite closely by pumpkins. We have found them to be very easy to grow, love how they brighten up the garden with their orange blossoms and the actual pumpkin, and especially love cooking and baking with them!

plant pots inside with cat

Potting up our seeds in a sunny hallway in April. The cat *usually* leaves them alone…

In late April, I usually start my seeds inside as we have a sunny hallway where they do well. The seeds are the seeds which I washed and saved from my pumpkins the previous year. The original purchased seeds were organic (of course!). In the picture above, my pumpkin plants on the right are well on their way, while my sunflowers on the left (shhh, those are my 3rd place winners for the “easy to grow” award!), have been planted later as I want them later in the season. Despite Kitty knocking over the plants, they survived just fine.

Four Pumpkin plants (in left bed, the right bed have yellow squash) in early June of our very dry, warm summer this year

a young pumpkin plant

a young pumpkin plant (2016)

bed of pumpkin plants and blossoms

Bed of pumpkin plants and their bright orange blossoms (from 2017)

I have only grown baking pumpkins, although there are many different varieties of pumpkins. Basically, I want pumpkins for soup and pumpkin bread, so I tend to stick to what I like. 🙂

Did you know? There are male and female pumpkin flowers. This one is a male, standing high above the plants.

When it comes time to move your new potted plants outside, it’s important to not just throw them out into the wide open world without first acclimatizing them. It takes about a week. I’ll usually leave them outside during the day and bring them in at night. By the very end of May, after all chances of frost are gone (hopefully!) and we’ve given them their daily-dose of ‘outside weather’ for a week, I’ll plant them in a sunny spot in the garden.

compost in a wheelbarrow

Compost from our garden

Pumpkins love compost. Sure, what plant doesn’t? I work LOTS of compost into the soil. From what I read, they also like water, but I’ve never had an issue with needing to water them any more than other plants (haha! I do live in Ireland though…). We did have a very warm and dry summer last year, actually, and all of my pumpkins matured by the end of August! I’d never had that happen before. They are normally still green in October!

female pumpkin flower atop of baby pumkin

A female flower atop of an immature fruit

After they’ve settled in to the bed, the first flowers to appear will most likely be male. There are normally more male flowers than female, and the female flowers will bloom later in the season. But honestly, I don’t pay attention to any of this (or I haven’t in the past), and everything just falls into place when it should. I’ve always had between 6 to 12 pumpkins per season, which is fine by me.green baby pumpkin

Pumpkins start out (very) green!

small pumpkin hanging from the vine

pumpkins prefer a sunny spot to “hang”

pumpkin growing in an ornamental grass

This pumpkin wasn’t fussy about where to grow… Can you see it in the ornamental grass???  It’s not like I planted it there!

different sized pumpkins

pumpkins grow in all shapes and sizes

Normally, near the end of the season I cut off all of the leaves of the vines to help the sun to ripen the pumpkins from green to orange. This can also happen after they are cut from their vines. To prolong the life of the pumpkins, you should leave them a bit longer in a sunny spot, after cutting from the vine. It is best not to leave them sitting in the soil though, especially at this stage. I’ll either have them sitting on flat rocks or I’ll bring them onto the front porch area.

pumpkins and yellow squash in garden

Pumpkin bed (on left, yellow squash on right) in August

pumpkins and sunflowers

Cut free from their vines, the pumpkins can end up anywhere in the garden for photo shoots! (2017)

Oh! I forgot to say that I also like using pumpkins in my photographs! That orange (and even when they are still green) is just fabulous!

pumpkins, apples, pears, sunflowers in the garden

Our fall garden (2018): pumpkins, apples, pears, and sunflowers!

pumpkin in sunlight

Isn’t that beautiful?

pumpkins and red apples

I love the colors of the red apples and orange pumpkins!

I really like having pumpkins in the garden. It is great fun to see how many we’ll get, and how fast (or slow) they turn orange. Pumpkin is a taste that I think people either love or hate, there is no in between! There is also nothing like the taste of fresh, homegrown pumpkin!

pumpkin cake on a plate

We call this “pumpkin bread” but really, it should be called “pumpkin cake” as it is so delicious!

I’ve linked our pumpkin bread recipe, but I need to update it to include the crumb topping we now always add.  The original recipe is still awesome, it is just that bit more awesome now!

pumpkins in the garden

pumpkins can be found anywhere in the yard for photo shoots…

I keep our house decorated with a fall harvest theme until Thanksgiving.

pumpkins and scarecrow decorations inside house

We have a fall harvest theme in our house until after Thanksgiving!

Only after Thanksgiving do we start to decorate for Christmas.

pumpkins with santa hats

Christmas pumpkins (No way! It’s too soon!)

Haha! Sorry, I just had to use the picture with the santa hats!  🙂 Back on topic; What about you? What do you think are the easiest things to grow in the garden? I’d love to know!

In peace,
Dana

 

 

“Me time” to crochet a Rainbow Poncho

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fingers with red nailpolish, rainbow colored yarn

Having some “free time” = “me time”!

Hi there! We were away at my daughter’s Irish dancing competition last weekend, which meant I had lots of “free time” before and after her competitions. Now that my daughter is 14 and does all of her prep work herself, the free time was really all mine (and better for my daughter’s stress levels when I keep myself busy!). I took full advantage of that time and started a new crochet project.

the first three colors of a poncho

In the beginning… starting at the neck.

This project was actually a long time in the making. The yarn, called “Caron Cakes” in the color palette Rainbow Sprinkles, was bought for me by my husband about two years ago when he was in the U.S.A. on a business trip (isn’t that nice?!). He thought I’d like the colors, which was 100% correct as I LOVE the colors!

Caron Cakes yarn in Rainbow sprinkles color with start of poncho

watching the colors unfold

My problem was that I didn’t know what to make with these colors, and I only had two skeins (balls) of yarn. A poncho seemed the best choice, and I began my Pinterest search of patterns. Lots and Lots and Lots of patterns!

cat on lap with crochet poncho in progress

Kitty was convinced I needed her support while crocheting.

Eventually, I found the poncho which I thought would be perfect.  The pattern I finally picked is called Mountain Breeze Poncho and was designed by Lorene Eppolite.  It is a free pattern (I love those)! I would still consider myself a novice when it comes to reading patterns, so it took me a few go’s to get it right in the beginning.  But once I figured it out, it was rather easy.

rainbow poncho half finished

Mid-way progress picture!

It is meant to sit slightly off of the shoulders, which seems a bit unusual, but I think it works well.  The front “pointy” part and the back “pointy” part are actually different. The front has a pattern of raised lines, whereas the back does not.  A bit quirky. 🙂

the back of the poncho half completed

Here is a look at the back while still in progress.

The yarn is soft and I enjoyed working with it, and the poncho itself has a lovely feel. I used a 7 mm crochet hook which is HUGE compared to what I usually use. That took some getting used to! I’m not able to whip through projects, as my hands tend to cramp up (I hold the yarn too tightly!). But this poncho came together quite quickly.

completed rainbow poncho

The finished Mountain Breeze poncho in Caron Cakes ‘rainbow sprinkles’

I fiddled a bit with the neck. The pattern had a more open neck, and I preferred a more closed neck. I won. 🙂

back view of completed rainbow poncho

A back view of the completed poncho.

I also added on a bit to the outside edging, as I wanted a more defined look. I think I can still wear it with the raised line pattern a bit more on my shoulder, I’ll have to play around with that look!

completed rainbow poncho

Completed Mountain Breeze Poncho in Caron Cakes ‘Rainbow Sprinkles’

I loved that this was a quick and relatively easy project, and that I was able to use these fabulous colors! Back to last weekend’s dancing: My daughter danced beautifully at her competition. It was a big competition, and she didn’t place as well as she’d hoped, which is tough. But she’s resilient, and is determined to work harder.

mom in the garden with her daughter in Irish dancing dress

My daughter and I at her Irish dancing competition

There is a funny story that happened over that weekend when we were away for the dancing. A woman who was sitting next to me, looked at me and my crocheting and said “You don’t like free time, do you?”! I laughed and replied that this was my free time and I loved it! I guess it all depends on your perspective.

What do you do in your “me time”?

In peace,
Dana

 

mom in the garden kneeling at flowerbombed pipe in the garden wearing rainbow poncho

And this is me, kneeling at my yarnbombed (sewer) pipe in the garden. I just like adding a bit of color to life!

 

Garlic wins as Easiest, most Rewarding item to plant in the garden!

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playhouse with geraniums

In 2014 I had geraniums around the playhouse. Today, I have lavender, roses and bleeding hearts because I find perennials easier than annuals.

Hi there! This post is about conveying that gardening doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” past-time. We started out spending quite a bit of time in the garden (read: Every.Spare.Minute.). But as our family is growing-up, and our interests are growing (can you say that?), we are spending less time in the garden. Given how precious time is, it is important that we only grow what we have time to care for. That means that we grow what is easy!  And the top of that “easy to grow” list is garlic.

freshly harvested (Cristo) garlic

Freshly harvested organic Cristo garlic (from last summer)

I am still a stickler about not using chemicals in the garden, and I source organic seeds/plants. Fruit Hill Farm, based in Cork, has been a great resource for organic growing, and I’ve been quite happy with the garlic which they have provided. I’ve only used two varieties: Cristo and Vallelado. I like garlic that is planted in the fall and harvested in the summer. It is nice to have some growth in the garden over the winter, and it requires very little maintenance. The rewards are huge, as the taste of home grown garlic is far superior to store-bought garlic, if I do say so myself. 🙂

organic Vallelado Garlic label

Fruit Hill Farm, based in Cork, is where I buy my organic seeds and plants.

“Winter garlic” can be planted any time in the fall. The rule of thumb is to get your cloves in the ground before Christmas, to ensure (in Ireland) that they get enough time in soil that is cold enough. My husband enlisted the help of our youngest daughter to assist with planting. We’re using different beds for the garlic this year,  and since I had cleared the two beds of weeds following our pumpkin harvest a while back, they could set to work straight away.

bowl of garlic cloves on cleared planting bed

a bowl of organic garlic cloves and a prepared bed

My husband made the holes in the soil and my daughter placed in the cloves (pointy side up). It is nice to get the kids involved. (I hope they think so too!)

soil with holes for planting

not too difficult… although I hope they turned that clove pointy side up!

If you’d like more step-by-step instructions, you can click here to my earlier post about how easy it is to grow garlic. We planted Vallelado this year.  It is good for storing, which I can attest to. After harvesting and drying out in the summer, I keep mine in a paper bag in a closet in our (somewhat cold) utility room. It will last all winter long, and you will have plenty to give away to friends, too.

freshly planted garlic beds

Two freshly planted garlic beds.

garlic and geranium sitting on wall

a throwback to 2013 🙂

Sometimes, I can get all caught up in life in a too serious kind of way. This is never a good idea! There is something to be said about getting older and wiser, though. Thankfully, I do find myself recognizing when I’m getting a bit too serious, and I can work on changing gears. A lot of this has to do with balance, or being out of balance. You know: work/family/house/garden/…me! 🙂 And that is why we only plant the easy stuff in the garden!

wreath made with garlic, dried artichokes and dried roses

Garlic wreath with artichokes and roses

And if I find myself getting too serious, I go and make a wreath with anything and everything I can gather from the garden!!! Because inevitably, that puts a smile on my face.

Will you join me in planting garlic this fall? There are still a few more weeks left to do so!

In peace,
Dana

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

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fall garden with ornamental grass, aster, pumpkins, sunflowers and playhouse

Our garden in 2017 with sunflowers, pumpkins, aster, ornamental grass, but no rain catcher / water butt / water barrel

Hi there! This post is about how I wanted to “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” in the garden and how my family helped to make that happen. It all started, really, with what I saw was a “need”. Even though Ireland typically gets a lot of rain, there are many times when plants in the garden need watering. I would prefer to use “caught” rain water, since it does rain so much. Also, we don’t have an outside faucet (tap) and I have plants all over the garden. This means that when the plants need watering, I have to fill watering cans from our utility room and walk around the yard. It would just be nice to have water “stations” around the place. If you’re gonna dream, might as well dream big!

rain catcher - water butt

Our first rain catcher / water butt

More than a few years ago we purchased a water butt (or rain catcher / water barrel) and placed it at the back of the house. I wrote a post about it here. It is pretty, but it was expensive, and I’m always looking for more water after I’ve emptied it. I didn’t really want to spend a lot of money on another one. So, last year for my Christmas gift, I asked my son and husband to come up with an economical solution, that would still look ok. 🙂

in-progress assembling Water butt

My son and husband in the planning stage of setting up the water butt on a very mild day in December 2017

I requested that the location for the water butt be on the side of our playhouse. They were fairly creative and spoke with my sister-in-law’s husband, who is a dairy farmer, to see if he had any containers which might be recyclable. Lo and behold, he did have containers available that could be converted and used to catch rainwater. (I double checked, there weren’t any chemicals used in them!) My son and husband measured the roof of the playhouse, and bought the piping. Then they set about in assembling my water butt / rain catcher / water barrel.

water butt and hose attached to playhouse

A view of the water butt all assembled (please do ignore the terrible state of the roof … that is on the never ending “to do” list)

Thankfully, it wasn’t too much work for them and they had it set-up in no time. They inserted a faucet (tap) at the bottom of the water butt. This makes it nice and easy for me to access the water and fill the watering cans. I usually try and hide the hose, and hose extension behind the playhouse, because that bright green really stands out (in a bad way!) in pictures.

side view of playhouse with water butt

Side view of the playhouse with the water butt in sight

My daughter did a great job with giving the playhouse a couple of coats of red paint this summer, which really looks nice … despite the desperate state of the white trim and roof (says she who always seems to have more things on the “to do” list than there is time or volunteers to do them!).

fall view of garden with ornamental grass, aster, playhouse and water butt

Fall view of the garden in 2018, including the water butt

I have to say that I was so pleased with this Christmas gift last year. We managed to recycle the water butt container, we now get to reuse rain water, and there is another water station in the garden! Win – Win for everyone! There are plans to set-up another water butt on the other side of the yard (and if it doesn’t happen soon, it will be this year’s Christmas request!).

Thanks for stopping by.  I hope that I’ve inspired you to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle in some way or another!

In peace,
Dana

gladiolus flower and roses

These gladiolus, the Dark Knights, and David Austin roses, Teasing Georgia, have already benefitted from our “new” water butt

Showing up to enjoy the party! (a.k.a. being Present)

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Life is full. Our family schedule, although much lighter now than just a few years ago, is still the max we can handle. We are busy! Sometimes it is easy to get lost in the schedule and the busyness and just go through the motions. Really easy. “Wait, how did I get here?!” Ever have that thought? I have. I don’t want to just go through the motions, though, because then I don’t get to “enjoy the party”!

O.K. stretching on this one – a picture to represent enjoying the party?! Lots of parties have cake, right? We can make this work…

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten much better at recognizing when I am present and when I am not being present. There are certainly times when I’m not being present, but I think that for the most part I am pretty good about being present. Yes, even when doing the dishes. 🙂

I think I’ve been really lucky. I enjoy where I live, the work I do, my hobbies, so many things! When I’m doing things I like to do, I find it much easier to be present. I was in Chicago last week for work. I loved every minute of it: listening, smelling, tasting, everything American! I really enjoyed meeting people and hearing where they were from and what they do.

All smiles in Chicago!

My hotel was a short walk from the conference hotel. On one of the days, I recognized that I was smiling with a silly grin on my face as I walked down the street, with the sun shining brightly and causing me to sweat more than I would have liked! But it was such a perfect moment, in Chicago, in the sun, on my walk, with a silly grin.

At the conference, all of the participants received a copy of Amy Cuddy’s newest book called Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to the Biggest Challenges. What perfect timing for me! Although many people have different interpretations of what presence means, I needed a little tap on the shoulder to help me with this one on a professional level. Sometimes I’ve found it difficult to “bring my boldest self” to the table. For me personally, my take-away from this highly recommended book, is to believe in yourself, be prepared, and after that you have to be relaxed (that is the hardest part for me!). When I think of new challenges that have gone well, these elements have been key.

An excellent read! I highly recommend this book.

After the conference, I had the opportunity to visit my parents. I hadn’t seen them in too long. I wanted to go and visit them and just spend time with them. I didn’t want to do anything in particular, which honestly, isn’t like me. Normally, I’d have a list of things I’d want to see or do. I think because of this relaxed state of just being with them, it was a really nice visit. In fact, it was a perfect visit.  (And my Mom made some of my favorite foods!)

Linguine with clams, shrimp, garlic, broccoli, and (shhh, don’t tell anyone, lots of butter). One of my favorite “nobody cooks like Mom” dinners!

We’re from upstate New York, and for too many years my parents dealt with harsh winters with too many snow storms and terrible weather. They are enjoying their well deserved break from all of that in their new location in Florida. They have created a lovely home there, and thoroughly enjoy the good weather. They swim, exercise, and walk on the beach as part of their daily routines, and they love it!

An Egret on the beach, just hanging out and enjoying the nice weather!

I found the beach to be so relaxing. There were so many different varieties of birds, and some of them were quite entertaining to me! I took way too many videos, to my parents’ amusement. Oh and the shells! So many beautiful shells! My mom and I enjoyed walking the beach for hours and collecting shells. I wonder what craft project I’ll make with them? 🙂

A small selection of the shells we collected.

And just like that, it was time to return home. Time to say goodbye to the warm weather, and my parents, and the time away from my typical daily routine. And just like that, I was home, and oh so happy to once again be home.  Because, quite honestly, I am enjoying the party.

My father, especially, loves wearing florescent colors! So we had to take a picture of all of us in our bright colors!

Are you enjoying your party? I hope so! 🙂

In peace,
Dana

My parents have some lovely flowers on their balcony. This hibiscus was my favorite!

 

It all comes down to Personality!

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Morning sunshine gives a warm hue to the hydrangea wreath

Everything we do, and how we choose to do what we do, comes down to our individual personalities. For me, my personality is such that I like to find second uses for things. I don’t like to waste, or get rid of something if it can possibly have a second life. What better way to give a second life to flowers than arranging them in a wreath or a floral arrangement? None, I say! 🙂

This is how I dry my flowers 🙂

Hydrangea are great for drying. It is best to use “mature” blooms, which have a more substantial (papery) feel to them. If they aren’t mature, then the leaves tend to curl. There isn’t anything wrong with curled leaves, I just don’t think they are quite as pretty (although my wreath has some of them, too!)

It all starts with a straw wreath frame and some floral “u” pins.

Wreaths are so easy to make!  In my book, it is essential to have a straw wreath frame, floral “u” pins, and some Spanish moss.  Anything goes for the rest! My hydrangea didn’t flourish this year, due to the drought this summer I presume. So I did get some lovely deep cherry colored blooms from a friend. I traded her zucchini bread for hydrangea blooms, that’s fair isn’t it?

These green colored blooms are hydrangea Incrediball.

I have all of my colors on the table, or hanging on my Flower Tree, and I just dive in.  The hydrangea paniculata ‘Vanille Fraise’ had very small, beautiful blooms this year, but their stems weren’t very strong and most of them broke while pinning them. That was a bummer, as they were really pretty!

Piece by piece the wreath comes together.

I made this one night after work this week. I felt the need to create something! Since I don’t have anything on my crochet hooks, it had to be with dried flowers. I still have loads of lavender around my house, too! (See what I did with that further down the post.) I really enjoy working with my hands, and I’m glad to have such beautiful materials around me to create with.

Ta-dah! This is where my wreath will reside in our kitchen.

Purple, cherry, green, blue, pink: it’s all in there.

Inside lighting doesn’t give the exact coloring.

Nothing beats natural lighting, but then of course there is morning sunshine and evening sunlight, both of which slightly change the coloring again!  You can see for yourself in the following photos.

Bright daylight, but no direct sunlight: This coloring is probably the closest to reality!

This picture has the tiny pink hydrangea paniculata Vanille Fraise.

The dried hyrdrangea is mostly hardy to work with. The green stems are actually doubled-up stems that I have smushed together after taking off brown markings on them. You can really do anything with them (as long as their stems are strong!).

My go-to photo place for wreaths is our playhouse door! This is just for photos as I wouldn’t leave this outside…

Morning sunshine gives a warm hue to the hydrangea wreath

Like I mentioned, I still have loads of lavender “drying” around the house (that I really need to put away!).  I decided to create a simple arrangement, using a magenta colored vase which happens to perfectly match some of my dried roses.  Yes, these little things just get me all excited! First of all, I was able to use a lot of lavender to fill this vase, and secondly, that magenta color is *gorgeous*!

Dried Lavender + Roses = beauty

magenta colored roses and vase

And here is where they will live:

Home sweet home for my vase of lavender + roses.

It’s the little things! I’m glad to give a second life to my flowers, and the lavender and roses really do have a beautiful fragrance.  This is me, this is who I am, and this is my personality.  🙂

What’s your personality like?

In peace,
Dana

Our playhouse in the morning sunlight.

September’s beauty is tempered only by the gardening to-do list…

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We are still enjoying warm weather, not quite ready for the chilly days of fall just yet …

September can be such a beautiful month. Although the temperatures tend to dip slightly in August, inevitably, when the kids head back to school in September, the weather turns warm again! We have been lucky to enjoy rather mild weather of late. The garden, having been quite patient all summer while I left it to its own devices, is now demanding that I pay her some attention. I love working in the garden, don’t get me wrong. We were just busy with life!  So little by little, we’ve managed to extend some time and effort to get (some) things done in the garden.

If I could draw your attention to the green leaves along the edge of the railroad ties, those are Bergenia, a deep pink flowering variety, which have spread a bit more than I’d like.

Bergenia flowering in May

These Incrediball hydrangea were a lovely white in August, but turned a rusty brown quite quickly, unfortunately. The Bergenia, on the other hand, have done really well! This was the clump (on the left) before we separated them.

One of the items on our “to-do” list was dividing up plants. I think it is pretty safe to say that Bergenia plants, also known as elephant’s ears due to the foliage, are extremely hardy! These guys are so happy in my garden, and they have just flourished (read: multiplied exponentially!). I wanted to remove a few to prevent them from clumping too much. But before I knew it, my husband had dug them all up! So we’ve spread them out, and moved them around the yard.

The Bergenia plants needed to be separated as they had clumped together.

A little more breathing room after we divided the Bergenia plants (my rusty looking Incrediball hydrangea plant in the background)

Staying in this same bed, my Iris ‘Benton Storrington’ are also quite happy here. My original purchase of two plants has yielded more than a few!

I originally bought two plants and now I have, well, LOTS!

I actually had to move them because they were spreading into one of my hydrangea plants. I’ve simply moved them to the other side of the same bed (hey, if they are happy here, I don’t want to rock the boat!). But first I untangled their roots to separate them. That worked with most of them, while a couple of them had to be cut apart. There was quite a clump!

quite a tangle of roots! This is why you have to separate them!

I forgot to remind my husband that the rhizomes, in order to get exposure to the sun, need to be at the surface, and not buried in the soil. So when I noticed his mistake after he’d planted a few, there was a teeny tiny moment where he just stopped and looked at me, shook his head, and then proceeded to re-plant them, correctly this time. Good thing he’d only done a few! 🙂

A row of freshly planted Iris, and in front of them are freshly planted Bergenia plants.

Iris Benton Storrington – which you can see is growing into the hydrangea!

Iris Benton Storrington

There was one more plant which we divided, another Iris actually, although this time not a bearded variety (so no rhizomes to keep at the surface!). I don’t have any pictures of what the area looks like now. But, here is a picture from before we moved any, when they were in bloom. The perspective is “higher” as I was actually leaning out of my bedroom window (being very careful though!). 🙂

non-bearded Iris

Lots of Iris and Lilacs!

They are very pretty, and apparently they, too, are very happy as they have spread like crazy! My idea was to separate them and spread them about the yard. But for now, we’ve taken one clump out of the mess and moved it further down the bed, and we moved another clump to the “Center Garden”.

our “Center Garden” is expanded again with the addition of Iris on the right

I am really happy with how our Center Garden is taking shape. I wasn’t sure if I should add anything else to it, but I think the Iris will be really pretty.

Pears, Apples and Sunflowers from our garden

My gardening takes lots of patience while I figure out how to get it just right, and watching as things mature and fill in spaces and provide structure. I LOVE this process! It is so neat to watch the garden throughout the entire year as it changes from one season to the next. I am constantly thinking of “what’s next” in the garden. I have a list in my head of all of the plants I want to add, and changes and additions to the garden. But right now, I am completely happy with exactly how it is, weeds and all! As for the gardening “to-do” list, let’s just say that I am happy that we are making progress!

In peace,
Dana

Good Enough

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My veggie / fruit section of the garden

I haven’t written about the garden in a while. I’ve been beating myself up that it isn’t good enough to photograph, or talk about, or inspire.  Not.Good.Enough.  What??? Over the past eight years I’ve created a garden that brings me right to my happy place. How can that not be good enough? Admittedly, five years ago, this same patch of garden looked somewhat different, and perhaps more inspiring:

Purple Brussels sprouts, pumpkins, and squash in my 2013 garden

In fact, when I visited that blog post recently, the garden blew me away! Seriously, have a look. That did NOT help my feelings of inadequacy for my current garden! But so much has changed since then. The biggest change was that four years ago I went back to work after being a stay-at-home mom for 16 years. 16 years! Wow! I was lucky. I loved it. And now I am glad to be back working (outside the home) too… except that means a lot less time for taking care of the garden. It means that my view of what is Good Enough has had to change. And today I am stopping myself from saying it isn’t good enough, to saying it most certainly is Good Enough!

a cluster of our pears – almost ready for picking

our pear tree with a few handfuls of pears

I will focus on the good stuff: Our fruit trees.  We have one pear tree, one “eating apple” tree, and one “cooking apple” tree (Arthur Turner), and they are all filled with fruit this year! I must give credit to my husband for tidying up the base of our trees.  Ideally, the clearing should match the width of the branches, so every year as the tree grows, the clearing should be widened. It had been a few years since this task was done, so it was a big job this year. After all of his digging, he then worked a lot of our compost into the soil.  I think the trees look neat and tidy, and rather pretty if I do say so myself! (although perhaps slightly tilted?!)

funny, my husband doesn’t think this tree is leaning ever so slightly …

Fabulous combination of pretty and delicious!

I don’t have a variety name for the eating apples. They are sweet, and delicious tasting.  The cooking apple variety, Arthur Turner, are not sweet, and definitely need sugar when used. They are usually a greenish yellow color, but this year they have a pink hue.

do you also see the slight tilt on this tree too???

a pink hue to our Arthur Turner cooking apples

This year I planted pumpkins, squash, and sunflowers. As surprising as it is to hear, Ireland experienced a drought this summer. So some things in the garden didn’t quite thrive.  My sunflowers bloomed very early and died very quickly!  I cut off a few large heads, and have dried them to use the seeds next year. The rest are still in the garden for the birds to enjoy.

My daughter was helping me take pictures of my lavender wreath (which is in her hand) when I took this picture of the sunflowers. Kitty also enjoys being in pictures, just not posing for them… Off to the right you can see my leaning gladiolus The Dark Knights. I sense a leaning theme.

A bird eating the seeds from a sunflower

It is worth leaving the dying flowers for the birds to feast on the seeds, even though the plants look unsightly!  I love seeing the birds in the garden. It is worth having the dead plants there just for them 🙂

a common Blue tit sitting on one of my sunflowers

this is what the flower head looks like when you leave it in the garden for the birds to eat – lots of seeds missing!

The pumpkins also had an unusual growing situation this summer. Similar to the sunflowers, they ripened much quicker than usual.  Honestly, it is usually around Thanksgiving time (November) when mine finally turn orange!  This year they turned orange in August…

Four pumpkins completely orange in August…

They have provided a lovely splash of color in the garden, along with the summer squash.  (I stopped picking the squash many weeks ago, but they still provide beautiful color!)

nearly ripe pumpkin … in August!

There are two more pumpkins in the garden, but they have chosen to grow and ripen at the normal rate for us albeit in an unusual place:

this pumpkin is growing in ornamental grass (this was not planted by me!) and will hopefully turn orange right around Halloween 🙂

I tend to be rather hard on myself. When I stop and pay attention, I do of course appreciate that I have worked quite hard to create my happy space of a garden.  “Good Enough” was never an expression I would have accepted years ago.  But now I know that it is much more important to appreciate what is in front of me.  I might need reminders of that every now and again, but I do now accept that Good Enough is Perfect!

I hope you have enjoyed the views in my Good Enough garden!

In peace,
Dana

There were only a few gladiolus stems this year (due to the drought) but they were still pretty!

 

 

 

 

 

Wreath making in the height of Lavender Season

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One of my lavender plants (lavandula angustifolia) nestled between Pittosporum Tom Thumb and Hydrangea Incrediball

I have quite a few lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) plants . They thrive in my yard, and I am quite happy about that! About mid-July, depending on the weather, I start to “harvest” the lavender. I cut it as it just starts to bloom, cutting about 2/3 of the stem (or a bit more). Then, this is the fun part, I lay it on the floor around my house; in my sitting room, in my bedroom, in any free space that I can find, because it is a lot of lavender! I try and lay it flat, to help it to dry out as quickly as possible. A couple of weeks usually does the trick (as long as it isn’t wet when I cut it). Thankfully, we don’t really use the sitting room, so at least it isn’t a problem to use the entire floor of that room!

This one is my favorite lavender plant (Lavandula angustifolia) in bloom

There are a few things I do with the lavender. If I have time when I cut it, I will make lavender wands (the stems must be fresh though, so they don’t break while bending). I also make lavender sachets, which involves taking the lavender off of the stems after they are dried, and then sewing up little pouches. You can click here to read and see more about wands and sachets. But my favorite craft to do with lavender is to make wreaths.

I took apart one of last year’s lavender wreaths. Here’s what came off of it! (Lavender, Rosemary, Roses, Spanish moss)

It is a time when I can be creative, work with my hands and just have fun.  I love it! Depending on the wreath, it takes about two hours to make, give or take. Aside from the plant materials, the main items which I use are: floral straw wreath form, floral “u” pins, and secateurs. I try and use some kind of different plant material every year, and this year I used poppy seed pods, and an artichoke. I made three different wreaths, each a bit different. Here’s a look at what I did!

This is how it begins: a bunch of lavender, and a wreath form!

I start with grabbing a bunch of dried lavender and any other plant materials I’m going to use. The above wreath is only going to have those four roses with the lavender. I attached the roses first and then worked around them, starting on the top right. I tend to work out from the top, first going right half way around, and then working from the top again and going left.

I cut the lavender a bit more than one width of my finger space from the flower.

It can be a tedious task, as it takes many, many bunches of lavender to fill the wreath! The up-side is that the room smells wonderful while working with the lavender!

I love my GelPro classic gel mat, especially when standing on tiles for so long! (I also love my sparkle Birkenstocks)

It takes patience, but it is lovely to see how it fills in and of course the smell is wonderfully relaxing!

One little bunch at a time!

The next wreath had lots more plant material! I didn’t use the artichoke which is in bloom on the table, as it was too big.  I did use a tiny one, though.

The lavender in the center of this wreath is actually from last year. You can see the difference in color when I add the outside layer.

close up of the roses, poppy seed pods, Rosemary and artichoke

It was only after taking the close-up picture above that I realized that the wreath would look better with another layer of lavender. It just looked like it was missing something.

Filling in an outside layer of lavender.

Ah yes, you can see it now, can’t you?  The inside layer is definitely lighter! 🙂 This is where the two plus hours comes in…

The third lavender wreath will have poppy seed pods and roses.

My third lavender wreath had roses and poppy seed pods.  I started at the top left for this one, and placed the roses on the right.

Pinning the roses on.

The roses are also from my garden.  I try and cut as many as possible early in the season so they will be dried enough for the wreaths.  I think I’ve finally decided that it is best to cut them while they are still closed. They will still dry even when opened, but the color stays darker when they are closed.

The poppy seed pods were neat!

I really like the poppy seed pods!  This is my first time using them in a wreath. I know they dry brown, so I’m not sure how it will look in a few weeks time. I’ve also learned NOT to turn the wreath upside down as millions of teeny tiny seeds will go everywhere! 🙂

I LOVE making lavender wreaths! I had to stop at three because I don’t have any more wreath forms and I can’t seem to get my hands on them here!  Please let me know if you see where I can buy them in Ireland!

Plain and simple with LOTS of lavender.

A little bit more than “plain and simple”, but still LOTS of lavender!

Over the top! A lavender wreath with yarrow, roses, poppy seed pods, rosemary, and one globe artichoke. Oh – and LOTS of lavender!

Whatever lavender doesn’t get used in the wreaths will be taken off of the stems and stored in containers to be made into sachets (eventually).  The lavender stays fragrant for a very long time!

There is lavender growing around our playhouse, too!

I have not harvested all of my lavender, as that wouldn’t be fair to the bees!  No, there is still plenty for them.  I will have to trim those plants later in the season, after the bees are finished with them.

I hope you enjoyed seeing how I create my lavender wreaths!

In peace,
Dana