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Archive for April, 2011

The End Of A Mystery.

It began the first year I moved to this plot of land, all along the woods edge these plants would show up every spring. It didn’t matter if the location was flooded, they seemed to like the wet lands.  Through the years they have multiplied, moving to fill the back woods and skirt a border along the left side of the yard.  I can’t say they are the most beautiful of flower alone, they sort of hold a ghoulish look to them with those long “Spikes”, but when you see a field of them in their white glory in early spring, they do hold quite an impact.  I just never could figure out what they were, until now.  The other day, while looking up something completely different, I stumbled upon a picture of these flowers.  They are what is known as Hymenocallis, or Spider Lilies.  Mystery solved!

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That’s a greenhouse, not a green house because I already have that with all the spouting garden plants, clippings to be rooted, mint hanging to be dried.  Today after finally getting last batch of spearmint clipped and in dehydrator to be fine ground into tea mix I went to work on my latest scores.  This spring on my trip to Lowe’s to replace a dryer I stumbled across a pallet of clay pots with daffodils well past their prime inside.  There was about 15 pots in total and each holding 5 to 6 bulbs.  Asking the manager how much he wanted for the lot of them, he quoted me a price of  $4.99.  The pots alone were more then this and could be recycled many times for other projects.  Sold!  I stuffed the back of my vehicle with plants and children.

A second trip to Lowe’s a week later graced me with an additional 8 pots of various colored hyacinth they were getting ready to throw out.  Holding 3 bulbs each and being quoted a price of $3.99 for the lot I again filled my cart and headed for home.

Then, three weeks ago I made a trip to Kroger’s on one of those quick stop to pick up medicine trips.  While there I was browsing their floral department and seen a trash bin with several potted, yellowing Freesias tossed inside.  Once more my inquiry to how much for all the plants they had paid off.  For $.25 cents each ($1.50) I walked out with 6 pots of Freesias each holding 4 bulbs a piece.

I let them continue to dry in their pots in the yard and today went to work extracting the bulbs from the soil in preparation of storing them for next springs gardens.  Not a bad deal for 80 daffodil bulbs, 24 hyacinth and 24 freesia bulbs for $10.50. Also got two gallon bags of free potting soil and a ton of clay pots now. The hard part is to find the patience to wait until next spring to plant them.

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Sidewalk chalk is a big hit in this family, even not having sidewalks does not stop them from finding things they can decorate. Trees, garden stepping stones, rocks all become subject to their artistry in the summer months.  It also means a lot of used up chalk which can get pretty expensive.  This recipe is pretty easy to make and can be done in numerous molds.  Plastic Easter eggs, ice cube trays (these happen to be made using a tube like ice cube tray I found at the Dollar Store.), toilet paper rolls with one end duct tape shut.  To make your own you need:

2 parts Plaster of Paris

Less then 1 part water

Food coloring, tempera paint or Koolaid (sugar free).

Mix together and pour into parchment paper lined mold, let harden, unmold and let creativity flow.

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I truly do love the smell of gardenia’s, and take every opportunity I can in their blooming season to cut bouquets, open windows and enjoy the pure sweetness day and night they can offer.  It is such a depressing day when the flowers fade giving way to summer heat.  When I stumbled upon ways to preserve that fragrance in a simple perfume and water spritz I just had to try them.  They did not disappoint.

First you need to pick your fresh flowers, as gardenia’s are delicate and do not last long after picking you need to be rather quick and prepared to process them right after pickings.

Once picked, separate the pedals from the green stems.  Now you get to decide what you wish to do with them.

Perfume

To make perfume you need

Distilled water

Alcohol :  Rubbing alcohol, witch hazel, or vodka (100 proof) works best.

Glass jar

Mix your distilled water and alcohol base together in even amounts. (1 part water to 1 part base).

Fill glass jar with gardenia pedals until filled, pack them down slightly so the jar is full but not to point the flowers are mashed.

Add the water/alcohol mix to the flowers and seal.  Warning, they will take on a brown look, this will get worse as they sit and release their oils, this is ok. Let rest in a low light location for several weeks to fuse the fragrance.

Strain water/alcohol mix through paper towels/cloth into pitcher or bowl.

Add your new perfume to spray bottles and enjoy.  Store in dark/low light location.

Water Air Freshening/Body Spritz

To make a water spritz, you place your flowers in a large kettle and add distilled water.  Heat water slowly on low heat until just under boiling, reduce heat and let flowers steep in hot liquid until water naturally cools to lukewarm or room temperature.   Strain flowers from liquid with us of a cloth, retaining the liquid in a glass bowl.

Using glass containers or canning jars store your liquid air freshener, be sure it is stored in a semi to dark location, or cover the bottle with thick towels to keep out light.  When needed to use just fill a dark colored spray bottle.

Yep, it’s that easy. Now you are ready to spray your room, add a cup to your bath, or rejuvenate yourself.

The brown coloration you see is natural. I have used the water to color homemade paper, “antique” papers and color wool and fabrics. Not only do they get a unique color but smell wonderful also.

For variety in either of these try adding mint, lavender, roses, rosemary,sage, basil, hollyhock, lilac or other flowers to the pot.  Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg also can be used to accent.  Experiment and enjoy.

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This time of year pineapple is fairly cheap and filling the farmers markets, local groceries and back of pickup trucks.  While you can buy pineapple in stores, I find it just as easy to can it from home.  Pineapple being a high acid fruit does not need pressure canning just hot water bath.  The process is simple, trim your pineapple, cut into bite sized cubes and place in clean jars.  Make a batch of simple syrup to your personal liking and pour over the fruit in jars.  Seal and process in hot water for 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts.

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It was a delight of the senses today to walk out into the front yard and be graced with a soft wind carrying the fragrance of the gardenia bushes through the air.  I have been working on creating a gardenia hedge to border our yard, gardenia’s are wonderful for cutting propagation methods.  All you need to do is cut branches from a healthy plant, remove lower leaves and place in water.  Keep the water fresh and place plant in a warm location with good light but not direct light.  In a few weeks small white roots will begin appearing along the stem in water.  Some wrap the stems in paper towels before putting in the water. I don’t and have never had issue with rootings.

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Today began the first of the mint harvest.  My tackle today was the spearmint patch outside my front door and the first project before I began hanging any for drying was soap making.  Today I whipped up a batch of fresh mint and a batch of orange bergamot mint bars.  I’ll make more batches of various mint infused fragrances over the next weeks and this is just the beginning of the harvests.  I’ll keep you posted as I work through the spearmint, peppermint,  sweet lemon mint, apple mint, chocolate mint, and orange bergamot mint beds on other projects.

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Today became another “Waste Not Want Not!” occasion as several of my banana’s took a dive past their prime. I had intended to make banana bread, but then my daughter insisted upon muffins. Who am I to argue with a good muffin to start the day? Something I can sneak healthy foods and grains into and the kids now no better?  Sure! Muffins I agreed, then pulled up a chair so she could help me and we could have a bit of bonding time along with lesson time among the ingredients.

“Taste of the Tropics” Wheat Muffins

3-4 large bananas

1 egg

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey

1/3 cup butter (melted)

1 cup wheat flour

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup coconut

1/4 cup each to any of these (Dried and diced  mango, papaya, pineapple, cranberries, golden raisins) *highlighted what I personally used in these*

Mix dry ingredients together, add eggs, honey, butter, vanilla and mix well.  Put into greased muffin tins or paper muffin cups and bake 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Serve warm with butter or honey.

By the way, these muffins freeze exceptionally well.  I often double or triple batches and freeze.

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My daughter loves to finger paint.  Getting her fingers in gloopy mess is a highlight of her day and if she can get that mess coating other parts of her besides her hands, all the better.  I tried the store bought paints but found we went through them exceptionally quick, that and she would paint other things also, front walk, walls, steps, nothing was skipped in her canvas finding. This created several problems as I learned “washable” on store brands does not necessarily mean washable when dried, or worse, sun baked.  This is a old recipe I used when my son was young and my daughter was still infant wanting to paint too. I never held fear of them putting it in their mouths as its perfectly safe to consume and clean up, even if the oldest dried on mess just takes hot water.

MYO Finger Paint

2 cup flour

3 cups water

1 tsp salt

Food Coloring

Microwave safe containers

Mix flour with water, beating well to remove lumps.  Divide into dishes and add drops of food coloring until desired color reached.  Place dish in microwave and microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between, until thickened.

That’s all there is to it.

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Bird Nest Cookies

It’s Spring, Earth Day and close to Easter, what better time to make Bird Nest Cookies for the children.  These cookies are so easy to make, you need three things. Chow Mein Noodles, Chocolate/Peanut Butter or Butterscotch Chips based on preference and candy miniature eggs (or Jordan Almonds or Jelly Beans if nothing else available).

Melt the chocolate chips in microwave or on stove then pour and stir into chow mein noodles.  Spoon coated noodles onto parchment lined cookie sheets and add your eggs.  Place cookies in freezer or refrigerator to harden and set for at least 2 hours before serving.  All there is to it and kids love them.

These will make wonderful treats tomorrow while we celebrate Earth Day and learn about nature.

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