• All Blog Entries,  Gardening,  Rock House

    Lo! Milkweed Seeds!

    Hey! Remember Milkweeds? I was gonna make some seed bombs for some of you. The pods never opened and became “ripe” or whatever while I was around, and then I was gone from the cabin for a few months. But, hey, I’m hunkered down, self-distancing, trying to avoid the ‘rus and did some work in the yard today and, lo! We found a stem with three pods bursting open and dried up.

    It was out all winter so I have no idea if the seeds will be any good…but aren’t seeds in nature out of our control anyway? So yeah they probably are good. I dunno. I got some compost, Christian’s gonna grab my clay that I left at home when we skedaddled out of dodge.

    But look at the pretty silk! That’s the stuff they used to make life vests in WWII. Read my old post for more on that. It’s worth a look-see as the Milkweed is fascinating and useful and food for the caterpillar versions of the beautiful monarch butterfly!

  • All Blog Entries,  Gardening,  Rock House

    Milkweeds & Monarchs

    Earlier this spring I spent an afternoon ripping up thorny, invasive plants and planted various flower bulbs in hopes that they’ll propagate and provide lots of color and cut flowers for vases over the years. So I’ve been keeping a close eye on that wild little patch looking for any signs of success. I noticed some tall, thick plants with large, broad leaves. Were these one of the random bulbs? I didn’t think so but what were they?

    Yesterday I noticed one had bloomed a delightful, bouncy, floppy head of little flowers with more ripe for blossoming. They certainly had not been there in the last several years. These are big gorgeous globes of silly pink blooms. No way I wouldn’t have noticed them, even back when I mainlined gimlets.

    I uploaded pics to Garden Answers Plant ID app (10/10 would recommend) and discovered this is a Milkweed. And from there, I tumbled down the internet rabbit hole and discovered that Monarch butterflies are endangered because they feed exclusively on milkweed and the milkweed is endangered because humans. God, we suck.

    As it turns out, the milkweed is a remarkable plant. Ignore the weed in the name, trust me, I spent my entire night off learning (and now writing) about this genus. This versatile plant and its floss has been used for medicine and food and filler for life jackets. What?! Yeah. No kidding. Back in 1944, during WWII, the silk became a critically urgent need as it took two bags of pods to make one life vest. So, the Commodity Credit Corporation of the U. S. D. A. created a “Milkweed Floss Division of the War Hemp Industries” (I’m not making this up!) and launched a campaign to collect and donate pods. The CCC USDA MFDWHI worked in conjunction with the Department of Education, to recruit school kids to help and used slogans like “Two Bags Save One Life”. Brilliant. It takes a village to topple a regime, ya know?

    I’m delighted to have discovered it growing naturally. And, like in the 40s, there are active campaigns to help collect milkweed pods not for a war effort but by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service & others to spread the seeds and bring the dwindling milkweed population back up to snuff thereby helping the monarch butterfly.

    So, I spent my Wednesday night learning all about how to do that and here’s what I’m gonna do: This fall, I’m going to collect the pods from my plants. Empty the contents of the seed pods inside a paper bag and put in a couple of pennies, close the bag and shake. The pennies will separate the seeds and then I’ll make seed bombs. I’m going to give them to you and you’re gonna plant them to save a butterfly so you can sleep better tonight. Cool? Let me know if you want a seed bomb. If you don’t, I presume you have no access to a yard or you’re a butterfly hating monster. Meanwhile, enjoy pictures of this wonderful plant, the Milkweed (genus Asclepias).

  • All Blog Entries,  Craft Projects,  Gardening

    Paper Pot Maker for Eco-Friendly Gardening & Party Favors

    This June at the Rock House I’m seeding plenty of pots and staying here to watch over them in their early, delicate, needy stage. In anticipation of this, I’ve purchased this adorable little paper pot maker that recycles newspaper into seed-starting containers with no glue or tape necessary. Once the seedlings are ready to be transplanted outside, just plant them – pot and all. Here are three little samples I made so you can see what they look like.

    Paper Pot Maker How eco- and wallet-friendly can you get? But looking at the results –the cute little paper pots– I thought the pot maker could be used for party favors or place settings.

    To test it, I made a few little personalized pots out of brown craft paper, wrapping paper scraps & newspaper and, if used for food, I lined some with wax paper. You can tie them with ribbon or a piece of twine and, to personalize it, write guests’ names on the outside in colored sharpie or paint pen that they can take home with them. My tests were used with the limited supplies I have here at the cabin. If you have access to nice printed or colored paper, you can really make a nice little party favor.

    Paper pot ideas And, now that I’m thinking about it, if you make the pots a little taller, you can tie them at the top after they’re filled. In that case, you can have little takeaway gifts like bath salts (for the bath, of course) or confetti to throw at a wedding or…oh, man, the possibilities are endless…like:

    M&Ms for any holidayPaper Pots
    Red Hots
    Gummy bears
    Jelly beans
    Candy corn
    Trail mix
    NutsPaper potsRaisins
    Fresh cherries

    What other ways can you think of to them?

  • All Blog Entries,  Craft Projects,  Family & Life,  Gardening,  Mentoring

    An “Epic” Date

    After kicking off my gardening project, I drove home from the cabin so I could take my protege Jeaniah to a preview screening of “Epic” at the Museum of the Moving Image. When I picked her up, she and the other Hour Children kids were having a craft day with volunteers from the Kabbalah Center. We made jewelry, got professional photos taken and planted some flower seeds which took about 20 seconds. Throw some dirt in the peat pot, add some seeds, top with more soil, add water and voila. Four days later they sprouted.

    It was a great reminder of what I said in my earlier post: gardening is much more simple than the Internet would have you believe. Don’t be afraid! Jeaniah wanted me to keep both of our pots so I can plant them at the cabin. I plan to find a special spot for our little flower pots to grow together. It’s lousy with symbolism.

    Anyway, on to the movie. We were excited and surprised to learn that the director of “Epic”, Oscar winner Chris Wedge, was at the screening and would participate in a Q&A afterward. COOL! The movie is about a teenage girl who is transported (shrunken to the size of an insect) into the forest where she helps the “Leafmen” battle the dark forces after the forest Queen is killed. The movie itself was in 3-D and, damn, animation these days is simply breathtaking. I got dizzy a few times “flying” with the Leafmen on their hummingbirds that they rode like horses. So clever. Check out Metacritic for comprehensive reviews, but we gave it our thumbs up as did the other kids in the audience.

    Chris Wedge - "Epic" DirectorWe also enjoyed the Q&A with Mr. Wedge who was really  casual, funny and gracious with his time. Jeaniah seized up with shyness when it came to asking for an autograph, so I asked on her behalf. We wanted to get it mostly as proof to the kids at school that she’d seen the movie before it was in theaters. Last time we did this (a preview of the “Croods” which was okay), no one believed her. So, this time we kept her program and autographed ticket stub for her to use to “show off”. Take that, non-believers!

    Christian met up with us at Pizzeria Uno and during our drive home he told her about my undying love for David Lee Roth. When he showed her pictures of Diamond Dave, she burst out laughing and said, “He looks like a GIRL!”

    I spent way too much time defending my love and trying to find a better picture. None were to be found. He’s pretty ridiculous in all of them and yet…sigh.

    I can’t wait for the day I meet her husband and can tease her about how she wore Justin Bieber perfume.

  • All Blog Entries,  Gardening,  Mentoring,  Rock House

    Adventures in Gardening: In the Beginning

    Growing up, we dug up rows of dirt, plopped in some seeds and had fruits and vegetables a few weeks later. The Internet made it all seem so complicated. After all the research and over-thinking, it was time to get my hands dirty.

    I had a few days at the cabin and took the plunge on beginning my landscaping and gardening projects. I spent part of a day gathering rocks that I stacked at the base of the cabin, covering the concrete and creating a raised flower bed. Once it was in place, I filled it with soil from the woods mixed with bags of plain topsoil and two bags of high quality, fertilized soil. Then I planted some hostas that I purchased from Home Depot. Hostas are hearty, low to the ground, spread over time, and are great in the shade. I think this is the perfect spot for them as long as I can keep the slugs away.

    Behold the before and after:

    5864939688_1edbd2ba04_b After Before After After After

  • All Blog Entries,  Gardening,  Rock House

    Gardening Questions

    The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome. So, I’m giving Facebook the big middle finger and taking my gardening posts elsewhere. The Internet is a huge time suck (weird, right?) and varying opinions leave me up in the air.

    Example: Some have said how impossible ferns are to transplant and how I should propagate from spores only to have others say that propagating spores is near impossible and I should just transplant. Lesson? Trial, error, time and patience will win. I just need to gain the confidence to try, err, wait and try again, if needed.

    Patio I spent some time clearing the weird patch of patio at our Rock House. I ended up with  66″ x 51″ patch of rocky earth that eventually stops at about 15″ deep when I hit the solid slate, giant boulders that the house is built on.

    I’m going to first try transplanting ferns in a straight line up against the house and fill the rest in with the rocks that I dug out. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try ferns again because they’re native (we have 4.5 acres COVERED in wild ferns) and I truly believe moving them 20 feet is gonna work at some point.

    Hostas  Meanwhile, hostas are sprouting on our walkway. This is our third spring owning this cabin and in spite of the hostas being trampled, eaten by deer & dug up during an installation of a French drain, they’ve sprung back each time. I love hostas and they’re obviously low-maintence. This and their hardiness makes me excited to move them to an area where they can actually thrive. Until then I’m going to build little wire cages around them so we don’t smash them again.

    Also, there’s a strange bush or tree growing by the outbuilding that no one can seem to identify. It’s not pictured in three very extensive gardening books and a horticulture expert drew a blank, too. So, I’ll keep my eye on it and decide whether it’s worth keeping, moving or killing. God complex, anyone?

    Bush or tree?

    Bush or tree? 2