Teaching children to love nature

Because I am a nature lover, I assume that my grandchildren will automatically be nature lovers too. What I have come to realize is that teaching children to love nature is all about immersing them in it. This practice does not have to be an expensive endeavour, more of a shared life style, that can and should begin very early in life. One of my fondest memories of both of my grandmothers is their love of gardening.

I love all things garden related, so I make sure my grandchildren tour my gardens, patio and veranda plantings when they visit. I have added a few whimsical features throughout my yard to pique their interest, my way of teaching children. I love their sweet reactions!

I also have a few nature inspired features in my home décor that the kids love…

Teaching children has to be age appropriate or your students quickly lose interest. As my grand kids get older, the teaching or mentoring gets easier. In the spring they help me plant some decorations on my back deck. Then they water them throughout the summer to keep them thriving. I haven’t met a child yet that does not like to water flowers! Morning glories and sunflowers are easy to plant and grow quickly…

A word of caution when teaching children though, make sure you don’t care if they break your touches of nature. For example, the resin bunny has a broken tail and foot from two separate, accidental drops. And, one of my birdies cracked after my grandson threw it on a hard floor attempting to make it fly. I have to keep a close eye on the elephant as it is a sentimental (and very old) souvenir their great-grandpa brought their grandfather back from a trip to Africa.

Paint Night for TIPES

Recently I attended a fundraiser for TIPES (Teaching in Pictures Education Services) in the form of a paint night. I am no artist, but it was a fun evening, supporting a wonderful cause.

I have told you about about TIPES in a previous post, admiring the services that the dynamic duo of Jennifer and Deborah Wyatt and their staff provide for autistic children and their families. Since the new year I have been working at updating and editing their policy and procedure manuals, increasingly aware of just how incredible and extensive these service are. TIPES is a non-profit business, so their financial stability relies heavily on fundraising events. This paint night was just one of many such events scheduled throughout the year.

If you have read any of my posts, you will know how much I love our cottage life. The picture we were instructed to paint was a scene that could easily have been taken on Palmerston Lake where our cottage is located. Of course it wasn’t, but the scene was very appealing to me as I love the outline of the lush, majestic, verdant evergreen trees against the various shades of blue within the water and sky. This is my creation…

Can bees sting you more than once?

Can bees sting you more than once? They sure can, do and did; I have proof! Yesterday I was creating a planter for my front veranda of ornamental grasses and kale. I had put the planter on the lawn to avoid making too much of a mess on the veranda. I saw a bee in the adjacent garden, but didn’t pay it too much attention. When I lifted the completed arrangement up to carry it onto the veranda, I felt a sharp, prickly sensation on my upper leg, just above the hem line of my shorts. Thinking it was just a piece of plant material, (ornamental grasses can be sharp) I sort of brushed at it. (my hands were full) I then felt a second similar sting, so I set the pot down and checked my leg. A fat, fuzzy bee was latched on to my leg, working on a third sting!

I was always under the impression that bees only sting once then die. So, I googled the question; this is what I discovered:

Queen and worker bumblebees can sting. Unlike in honeybees, a bumblebee’s sting lacks barbs, so the bee can sting repeatedly without injuring itself; by the same token, the sting is not left in the wound. Bumblebee species are not normally aggressive, but may sting in defence of their nest, or if harmed.

Wikipedia

I guess that was a bumblebee then, definitely a bee (she was fuzzy and fat) and not a wasp or a honeybee. I say “she” because I also learned that only the females sting. This picture shows the difference is their appearance…

can bees sting more than once
left to right: honeybee, bumblebee and wasp

The bumblebee bites/stings were quite distinct on my leg within seconds. I didn’t think to take pictures until today, 24 hours later. What is amazing (to me) is that the leg is still very sore, swollen and hot even though the sting marks themselves are no longer obvious.

I may go back to the scene of the crime to see if there is a bumblebee nest in that corner of my garden. I did some research on the subject, so now know what to look for. I will not harm the nest if I discover one, just want to be aware of its location to keep my grandchildren away.

Limbing Up, aka removing lower branches

Recently I took on the project of limbing up several evergreen trees on a client’s front lawn. One of my favourite gardens is part of this gorgeous property. Although I cannot take credit for designing or planting the gardens, I have had the honour of maintaining them for the past several years. The gardens are surrounded by a stone retaining wall with a verdant backdrop of mature evergreens, oak and maple trees.

The evergreens featured as the backdrop for these gardens are massive (the reach of their branches are at least 30 feet each) with their lower branches sweeping the ground, crowding each other and choking out everything, including the lawn. Many branches of these trees were dead or dying . Cutting the grass and raking leaves was awkward and frustrating. Annoying and increasingly dangerous mosquitos and ticks are abundant in these conditions.

I had suggested this limbing up process a while ago, but the homeowners were hesitant as they like the privacy of their lot. That is until they were the victims of a break in recently. Burglars drove into their driveway, broke down a door, gaining access to their home in broad daylight. Fortunately, their security system alerted the police so not much was stolen.

That home invasion was enough to motivate these homeowners into letting me start the limbing up process. I removed the branches from the first tree, then checked with them to make sure they wanted me to continue. With the go ahead, I continued with twelve more trees. Removed branches were cut into four foot lengths and left at the curb for pickup by the local garbage crew.

When limbing up, be sure to cut off the branches as close to the main trunk as possible, without leaving an unsightly and unhealthy stub…

As I was working, a few neighbours stopped by to say how wonderful the yard looked with these branches removed. I agree; the trees look much healthier and the yard still has that woodland setting I would never want to alter. When the lawn recovers, the property will be even more spectacular!

Morel mushrooms, our consolation prize

One good thing about our cool, wet spring weather is the bumper crop of morel mushrooms we have been harvesting at our cottage. This is the first year we have seen them, in fact I was not sure what kind of mushrooms they were and whether or not they are edible. So, I sent an SOS (and picture) to the “all things nature related” expert, my cousin John in Missouri. Whatever would we do without our handy cell phones?

morel mushroom
edible or poisonous?
morel mushrooms
delicious or poisonous?

He sent me this link so I could read up on these delicious discoveries before we sauteed them up in butter for dinner. We did wait until we were in the (relative) safety of our home to try them as the cottage is a bit far from any hospital. I am happy (and alive) to report cousin John was right, morel mushrooms are quite yummy. Lots of work though, to clean them up, as their brain-like crevices hold lots of dirt.

morel mushrooms
first harvest of morel mushrooms

As the (miserable) cool, wet weather continued into June, we are taking some consolation in the fact we have had three weekly harvests of these morel mushrooms now, each collection larger than the last. At first they were hard to find; now we know what to look for and where to find these beauties. And also to check that their stems are hollow, an important characteristic that distinguishes them from their more sinister cousins.

morel mushrooms
third harvest

This week has been much warmer, finally some summer weather, so that may be the end of our mushroom harvesting for this year.

Flowering shrubs scream “Spring is Here”

It’s a good thing the flowering shrubs know it’s spring. Mother Nature on the other hand, has forgotten that the weather is supposed to warm up. The sunny yellow blooms of my neighbour’s forsythia are a beautiful sight from my bedroom window…

and my own magnolia is also screaming “spring is here!” with its fragrant blooms…

with the blossoms of plum trees not far behind…

My roses (at least the ones in my front yard that are protected from the north winds) are also showing signs of spring…

flowering shrubs
climbing rose
flowering shrubs
shrub rose

Now, if the cold and wet weather would clear up, spring would be awesome!

Propagation attempts of succulents

If you follow my blog and gardening website, you will know I love succulents of all shapes and sizes. So much so that I included one tiny succulent in each of the party favours I presented to each guest at my daughter-in-law’s baby shower last winter. Tell me you noticed the succulents as the header of this blog’s landing page.

Succulents are my favourite perennials as they tolerate hot sun and require little to no maintenance. Hen and chicks (sempervivum) are especially easy to propagate, simply by removing the ‘chicks’ from their ‘mother’ and inserting them into soil in a new location right in the garden.

This off-season of my gardening business, I decided to try my hand at propagating some succulents inside the house. So far, so good. All I did to encourage propagation was tuck a few leaves from various types of succulents into houseplants around the house. Especially the ones in a sunny location. I also tried placing a few leaves in a small, shallow, clear container into which I added a tiny bit of water. (second picture) The container sits on a north facing window sill.

The leaves withered up, but tiny new plants emerged at the base of the leaf in each propagation attempt. Just be sure to keep the soil moist around the leaves inserted in soil as well as a tiny bit (just enough to keep emerging roots wet) of water in the bottom of the container.

Essential Oils for Fragrance as Nature Intended

If you are not aware of what essential oils can do for you, it’s time to learn. Current research is revealing the presence of many harmful toxins in perfumes, air fresheners, cleaning and laundry products. I am not surprised as have had reactions to anything scented for years now.

Essentially (pun intended) essential oils are concentrated aromatic compounds made from plants. Each plant has its own unique scent or flavor known scientifically as its essence. They are to be inhaled or diluted to rub on the skin, but never ingested. Research claims they have the power to control our emotions and moods and even our health.

As you can probably imagine, essential oils come in many scents. Just think of all the unique scents in nature. You can buy them individually or in sets of many different aromas. Essential oils can be purchased in bottles or rollers for easy application to your skin. My personal favourite scent is called Citrus Kiss for a subtle sweet lemon scent. I also love the Skin Envy combination of five essential oils on my face. I get both online from Vitality Extracts. Check out their website for all the different options, there are tons!

Essential oils can we used as perfume to be worn in jewellery that diffuses the scent of the oil as you wear it. Bracelets, necklaces and rings are very popular, and quite elegant worn as casual jewellery. They contain either lava stones, semi precious stones or glass beads that you rub the oil onto.

These versatile essential oils can also be used to scent your laundry by adding a few drops to dryer balls or a damp facecloth in your load as it goes into the dryer. Another way to use them around the house is to put drops on a cotton ball or tissue to deodorize garbage cans and other smelly spots. Or add some to a misting or spray bottle with water to spray on carpets, rugs, furniture, etc. A few drops of lavender oil on our under your pillow is reportedly a great way to ensure a relaxing sleep.

get a good nights sleep!

If you don’t wear jewellery, an even more convenient way to use essential oils is with a room diffuser. Like a vaporizer, you add drops of oil to water in the diffuser, plug it in and turn it on so the aroma spreads through your room. With many colors, shapes and sizes available, you can be sure to find one to suit your décor in any room. You can even get a diffuser for your car instead of using the old fashioned, tree shaped, smelly things of yesteryear.

So, get with the times. Throw out all your Febreze type air fresheners that are loaded with toxins affecting your nervous system. These wonderful, natural perfumes can be mixed together to create your own unique or signature scent. Go ahead, get creative! Let me know what you come up with.

Storm lashes Florida’s gulf coast, again

On December 19th, 2018, another storm hit the gulf coast of Florida. Unlike storms Gordon and Michael that hit in September and October respectively, this storm had no name. At least none that I could discover.

We heard the storm warnings on the radio and TV, so the ominous clouds, lashing rain and rising ocean swells were no surprise…

storm clouds
storm
storm
lashing rain

Named or not, I was a witness to this particular storm. Any of the locals I spoke to that day claimed they had never seen the waves so high. A stranger sent me this copy of a video he shot. That is my husband checking out the waves crashing on and washing over the jetty as the rest of us huddled further back from the action.

waves at the North Jetty on Casey Key, Nokomis, Florida

The news spread fast, locals and visitors alike flocked over the drawbridge that connects Casey Key to the mainland of Nokomis. The road to the north jetty was well travelled with those wanting to witness the wrath of Mother Nature. The level of the water rose so high with the wind and rain that most of the jetty was under water and the beach was barely walkable…

storm
crashing waves
storm
crashing waves wash out jetty
storm
high water levels
storm
crashing waves
storm
massive waves
storm
water level rising to grasses

Later that day, the waves subsided somewhat, the skies cleared and a spectacular sunset promised better weather the next day…

storm
here comes the sun!
storm
flooded beach
storm
beach sunset

drawing the shell collectors to the beach and the (rather bedraggled) wildlife to the jetty the next morning…

storm
shell collecting after the storm
storm
collecting shells after the storm
disoriented (rescued) crab

white ibis

sleepy pelicans

Although the beautiful beach and spectacular ocean front homes had already sustained an incredible amount of damage in the previous storms, we saw more the next morning…

storm
steps buried in sand
storm
steps buried in sand
storm
beach erosion
storm
beach erosion
storm
storm damage
storm
storm damage

Everywhere I travel, I cannot help but stop to admire (and snap pictures of) the local plants. That’s the gardener in me I guess…

storm
bird of paradise
storm
bougainvillia
storm
variegated yuccas
storm
beach access

The stormy weather lasted around 24 hours. As much as it was spectacular to witness it, I prefer walking the beach with calmer waters and sunshine.

December 21st is our winter solstice

Today, December 21st, is our winter solstice here in Canada and the rest of the northern hemisphere.  That means it’s the shortest day of the year.  It also means the days will now start to get longer.  Yaaaaaay.  Technically, winter solstice,  also referred to as mid-winter, is an astronomical event that happens as the earth travels on its orbit around the sun.

winter solstice

 

This date reminds me of my father as he, like me, much preferred summer and spring.  He always commented on the winter solstice, getting great satisfaction in the fact that the long winter was getting shorter.  On the flip side, on June 21st, our summer solstice, he would grumble and complain that the days were getting shorter.