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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Jewelweed...Can Native Species Be Labeled An Invasive Plant?



 Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) is actually a wild native Impatiens to North America.  Also called Touch-Me-Not or Orange Balsam, this wildflower is a fun plant and often one of the first people learning to identify wildflowers can easily recognize. The flowers are a speckled orange and look like little trumpets. Personally, I think they resemble little shrimp. Preferring damp to wet soil, Jewelweed can grow to 4 - 5 feet tall and even before flowering in late summer, it isn't difficult to identify by its , stalks, stems and leaves. The stalks are a lovely light green shade and after a rain, the droplets seems to lay on the surface. 

Should you find this plant after exposure to poison ivy or stinging nettles, break off the stems and crush them in your hands. You'll see that the stems are hollow and contain the itch relieving juice inside. Apply like a poultice to the areas of exposure for relief.

Children love to play with those little trumpets but actually they have a second kind of flower not usually noticed. There are tiny flowers without any petals that don't open but form the seeds. At the end of the summer season when they are ripe, the slightest disturbance sends the seed flying, very amusing for any age group. 


There are many articles out there calling this plant an invasive. Technically they aren't an invasive species in North America, but can be invasive, if that makes sense. They are native to North America, especially in the Northeast, but spread with such enthusiasm that many people consider them a pest. If they like their location they will spread and happily take over the space of other plants. What is nice to control this is to simply pull them out. They have shallow roots and gardeners just have to pull them where they aren't wanted, no gloves needed to get a grip as is the case with many plants considered weeds. 

Hopefully people encourage a natural habitat spot in their landscaping because these flowers are adored by bees, butterflies and birds. Insects need the nectar and the birds love the seeds. 

Exposure to poison ivy or stinging nettles is never planned so it is a good idea to have a remedy on hand. You don't want to push off applying something to appease the itch or you'll end up with oozing blisters and the tendency to spread. Jewelweed infused in apple cider vinegar is a perfect home remedy that works. Lavender essential oil is added for its healing properties to help with inflammation and harm done from scratching.

Once you learn what a wild plant is called and its beneficial uses, oftentimes attitudes change and it isn't just a weed. By September Jewelweed is in full bloom and brightens up roadsides, hedgerows and wet areas.

The natural world is a fascinating place and it is wonderful if children are introduced at a young age and learn to appreciate and take notice of it all.

Here is a good article all about "leaves of three, let it be" 


Friday, June 30, 2017

Passion for Patchouli

Patchouli

A first introduction to Patchouli (Pogostemon Cablin or Pogostemon Patchouli) is often met with a description of it having a definite earthy scent to it. So just what does that mean, that it smells like dirt? No, it smells like nature and that is a wonderful thing. Some describe it as musty and too strong and others think of it as exotic and perfect in that it's lingering scent reaches deep into the emotions.

Patchouli has been used in incense and fragrance oils for centuries. It brings a sense of the sacredness of life and the need to care for our earth and everything in it. It helps us realize that to just "be" and do nothing at times is a good thing, that contemplating has a purpose and helps one get focused for action.

It is simply not true that the main reason the "hippies" of the 1960's and 1970's loved patchouli was that it covered up the scent of marijuana. Patchouli symbolized the love of nature and the escape from what was called the "establishment". The younger generation developed different ideas and ideals which were often met with labeling and indifference from the older age groups.

The essential oil of Patchouli is extracted by steam distillation of the leaves. All the benefits and uses for this plant are amazing. It is an antiseptic, aphrodisiac, astringent, deodorant, fungicide, insecticide, sedative, antidepressant, diuretic and boosts healing and the metabolism by stimulating the generation of new cells.

INSECT REPELLANT PROPERTIES
Patchouli has long been used to protect clothes and fabrics from insect damage.

ANTISEPTIC
The essential oil protects wounds from developing infection.

FUNGICIDE
By inhibiting fungal growth, patchouli can help with problems such as Athlete's Foot.

ANTIPHLOGISTIC
Containing patchoulene, patchouli soothes inflammation, therefore can help externally with skin conditions as well as internally with the pain from arthritis.

ANTIDEPRESSANT
By stimulating the release of pleasure hormones such as serotonin and dopamine, patchouli helps with feelings of sadness, anxiety and simply feeling better.

APHRODISIAC
By stimulating hormones, estrogen and testosterone, patchouli can boost indifference and lack of interest in the sex drive.

ASTRINGENT
By contracting blood vessels, patchouli stimulates contractions in muscles, nerves and skin. This helps with the symptoms of aging we see in the skin. Wonderful for use in face and body creams and lotions.

DEODORANT
The strong, musky aroma of patchouli helps eliminate or mask body odor and it's lingering scent helps the protection last.

SEDATIVE
By soothing inflammation and calming to the nerves, patchouli helps relax the body in order to get a good night's sleep.

For more information on any of the below items, just click on the listing underneath the picture.




Body Spray

Body Butter

Body Lotion

Solid Perfume

Bath Oil
Bath Salts

Body Powder

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Summer Nights and No Fireflies...What's Happening to Them?



Summer is a time for picnics and outdoor parties that often extend into the evening hours. Watching the children running around having a ball with glow sticks got me sadly contemplating on what was missing in this picture. Years ago there were no glow sticks to entertain children after dark. Kids were enchanted with the stars and the magical mystery of fireflies. Some people call them june bugs, others simply call them lightning bugs. What is happening to them?



Just as with the bees, the answer lies with habitat loss, and pesticide use, but there is another factor and it is called light pollution.

These insects aren't flies, they are actually beetles, and that glow comes from a chemical reaction. 
Both male and female fireflies use their flashing lights to communicate. Their language of light is used to attract mates, ward off predators and defend their territory. Too much light caused by streetlights, car lights and suburbia in general, interrupts the sync of firefly flash patterns. Difficulty for fireflies to signal each other results in fewer larvae being born with every passing season.

Open fields and forests, waterways and bogs, are all disappearing as development makes its slow crawl across what was once uninterrupted habitats. Most species of fireflies thrive as larvae in rotting wood and forest litter at the margins of ponds and streams. As they go through their life cycle, most stay around where they were born. The environment of choice is warm with areas of wet spots.

The female lays about 500 eggs in sheltered areas that contain damp soil. After about a month the tiny larva hatch and begin feeding as they get ready for the next stage when they become pupae. The larval period can last from one to three years. During this stage the fireflies look like small worms and crawl along the ground. They are carnivorous and eat worms, snails and slugs by injecting a digestive enzyme and then sucking out the liquid. When big enough, the larvae digs into the ground and goes through the pupae stage. It forms a hard exterior shell that is what we are familiar with when we see them. This stage of metamorphosis takes them to the adult firefly which emerges in early summer. Once adults, the fireflies only live another few weeks. They may or not even eat during this short span. The purpose is to find mates and reproduce. So if light pollution creates enough of a problem to interfere with this process, these adults won't have the time to mate and lay their eggs before their life span ends.

This little video shows the life cycle of the firefly:


There are ways we can make a difference for these little guys. Make your own difference where you live. Avoid the use of herbicides and pesticides. Don't feel every part of your landscape has to be under control. Let spots naturalize to provide the habitats needed for all the stages of life. Learn what invasive species are a problem in your area and remove them to encourage the natives to thrive. Unless you have good reason for outdoor lighting to shine throughout the night, turn it off.

Children don't miss what they've never seen. Fireflies bring a sense of magic to our world and it would be a real loss to lose them.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Man's World of Body Care

Men and women often feel they need their own personal, body care products and the paths of those products shall not cross. Actually that is a marketing ploy and clutters up your cabinets. Many personal and hygiene items can easily be shared by both men and women and you don't need a separate type item for every little purpose.

The attempts to get away from the hype of slick advertisements trying to have you believe you need this and this and this can be a challenge. In today's day and age men are taking better care of themselves and more conscious of what they put onto and into their bodies. Awareness is the first step to educating ourselves on just what is in our hygiene and body care products. Read labels, do your research on just what are those ingredients you cannot pronounce,  be aware of potential harm from synthetics and chemical ingredients, be aware of the use of animal testing, and finally, understand just what that term "natural" is saying or isn't saying.

It may be very surprising to learn just how vague the labeling laws are in the perfume and cosmetics industry. Unlike the food industry, there are no legal standards for organic or natural personal care products sold in the United States.

Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to you and your family's health. The skin is our body's largest organ, and anything we apply to ourselves enters through the layers of skin into the bloodstream. Yes, the old saying about "anything in moderation" is true with most things, but...The cosmetic industry claims the amount of these ingredients are not high enough to pose a threat, but the problem lies in the fact that we use these products day in and day out.  Our kidneys and liver do their best to eliminate toxins but what about those that over time have been stored within the fatty tissues of the skin. The long term effects are a concern. The body reacts by way of allergic and inflammatory reactions, the havoc played on the the endocrine system is not always fully understood and the source of the problems are often hard to pinpoint.

There are several items within the Meadow Muffin Gardens shop that are geared for men, but there are also many items such as these below that can easily be swapped for more than one method of use and by both men, women and even the kids.

A body wash certainly isn't limited to the shower. Containing Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap, Aloe Vera Gel, Jojoba oil and various essential oils, this blend can easily be used as a face wash, a shampoo and even a shaving gel. Put into a foaming pump bottle, application is less wasteful without losing some between your fingers and down the drain.
Body Wash, Shaving Cream

A conditioning hair oil isn't just for women! Men can have dry, brittle hair as well, whether they wear their hair long or short. This Jojoba oil blend does make an excellent dry hair treatment, but it's use certainly doesn't have to stop there. Hair isn't limited to our heads alone!
Bearded men need to take care of their facial hair and the delicate skin beneath. Jojoba oil is unique in that it is very similar to the sebum of our own skin, therefore it makes a great hair and skin conditioner.
Hair Oil, Beard Oil
Men may or may not use an after shave balm to moisturize the skin and help with razor irritation. This Shea butter and Coconut oil blend is listed as a body butter, but it can be used for so much more. Whipped to a fluff consistency, this moisturizer can be used anywhere you need it, be on the face, hair or even on that balding head. Some use such a blend as a shaving cream, but if you do so, realize that you are washing fats down the drain. I don't know how good doing that on a regular basis is for the drain pipes.

Face, Body Moisturizer, After Shave Balm

Concerns over the safety of sun screens has people looking into alternatives. The choice we have is between "chemical" sunscreens which contain questionable, potentially hormone disrupting ingredients, and "mineral" sunscreens which contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. This lotion is listed as a sun block, not a sun screen. It hasn't been evaluated by the FDA, therefore there hasn't been testing done to establish an actual SPF factor. However, the ingredients used all contain their own natural properties to help block the harmful rays of the sun.


Balding men or those who choose to shave their heads need to protect their scalps from sun damage. The purpose of our hair is to protect the scalp and without hair, the skin can easily burn. This sunblock is good for anywhere on the body but using a bit on the scalp before heading out without a baseball cap is a wise idea.

Sunblock Lotion, Bald Head Care

Personal care items make great gift ideas for Father's Day, Holidays and Birthdays. You can easily custom create your own gift basket or make substitutions for one or more items already part of a listing such as those shown below.

Basket idea for those who love the outdoors, gardening, sports, hunting, fishing

Basket idea for the needs of men


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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Air Plant Success...Even With Cats


Love the idea of plants around the home or office but don't want to deal with taking proper care of them or tired of trying to keep your cat from chewing on the leaves or making a mess of the soil?
Welcome the ease of air plants, low maintenance plants that grow without soil! 

They get all of the water and nutrients they need through their leaves. Each leaf is covered in smooth or sometimes hairy scales known as trichomes which have the special ability to absorb water and nutrients. What roots they do have are used only for anchoring themselves to rocks, trees or other means of a support.

Known as tillandsia, these plants are a type of bromeliad and come from areas of the southern United States, Mexico, Central and South America. In their native setting, they thrive in areas receiving bright, but filtered sunlight, warmer temperatures between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit and good circulation.

Sounds easy enough, so what are we doing wrong that they end up dying anyway?

Ok, so we try again with a new order of plants.

They arrive and we follow the directions, yet again, pondering what we did wrong the last time: Unpack them and submerge them in a warm water bath for about 30 minutes. Shake a bit to remove excess water and let dry for about 4 hours. Plan to put them in an east, south or west facing window, somewhere with bright but filtered sunlight. A bathroom is nice since the plants can take advantage of the humidity generated from our showers. A screened in porch during the warmer months would be great. Somewhere where they'll get enough light but not at risk of too much direct sun baking and drying them out which is stressful if not kept hydrated.

While air plants can survive periods of drought and are forgiving, they won't thrive if moisture isn't adequate. There are many crafty ideas that have air plants glued to boards or stuck in bottles and the directions just say to mist them once in a while with a spray bottle. That is fine for the regular 2 - 3 times a week watering but ideally they should be soaked every 2 - 3 weeks for a half hour or at least run water over them thoroughly. Plants in bloom should be just rinsed rather than soaked. This means the plants need to be taken off of or out of whatever means we have them displayed. 

Recognize signs that your plants need water. If they are looking shriveled or getting dry tips or brown outer leaves, they need to be hydrated. Before tossing a seemingly dried up plant, try soaking in warm water for a few hours and observe if it plumps up and regains some green.

Too much of a good thing is lethal as well. Once a plant shows signs of rot it can literally fall apart and is often too late. Also, be sure to water during the daytime rather than in the evening. The plants need circulation and light in order to dry adequately. 

Even though there are plenty of Pinterest photos of really neat ideas for air plants, I've learned through loss that they really don't do well on the wall or as part of home or office decor unless they are actually at or near a window. They can do well with indoor lighting, but it has to be full-spectrum fluorescent lighting, not incandescent bulbs. The plants should be no more than 3 feet from the light source and receive about 12 hours of light a day. 

Finally, the death of many an air plant comes when discovered by a cat.
These light, little things are no match for the delightful play of being tossed around by bored house cats. So, after I had the perfect cute little containers in which to display my new baby plants, I found them missing, only to later reappear shriveled and disheveled when I vacuumed. Ok, let's try again but put them inside bottles where I thought they wouldn't even be noticed much less reachable...wrong. Little paws are good at fishing them out anyway. Well now I hope I have a solution.

I put them onto a wreath that I hung on the inside of a glass door. They're facing indoors so the wreath itself protects them from direct exposure to the sun, yet they get plenty of light all day long. I wanted to be able to take them down for their watering so didn't want to actually attach them to the wreath. And best of all, the cats cannot reach them!

I started with one of those wire wreath frames. Wrapped around that frame is burlap that you can get on a roll. The burlap is wrapped around the metal frame (a straw wreath would work great too), overlapping the edges as it goes around and around. Wrap tightly to avoid bulges and use a safety pin to secure the end when done, and then hot glue down the edge of the burlap roll. You can use your own creativity in sprucing up your wreath, but I just happened to have one of those artificial berry garlands that are used to drape mantels and doorways. This one was about four feet long. I tucked the wire on one end under the gaps from wrapping the burlap and then wound the garland around and around the wreath and tucked the other end under the burlap as well. Add a loop of fabric or ribbon around one of the vines for hanging.

In the past I had made fairy gardens for my kids and saved those tiny little plastic pots from the fairy plants. I hot glued them here and there around the wreath, pressing them firmly onto the burlap. Then viola, they made perfect little homes to just sit my little air plants! Now when its time to water them, I just remove them, plop them in the sink and then either spray them thoroughly or let them soak for 20 minutes. Let them drip off a bit and put them safely back into their little pots!

So time will tell!



 




Thursday, April 13, 2017

Annual Flowers for Container Gardening





By the time spring rolls around, many of us are more than ready to jump full swing into the planting season. Just don't be overly anxious and not pay attention to the end frost dates for your zone. Though we have some beautifully warm days, it is the nighttime temperatures you have to worry about. Plants that get nipped by frost may be killed outright or be stunted. If you do want to get a jump start on your plants, at least pay attention to frost warnings and cover your plants at night with a sheet to protect them.

Here in zone 6 the general rule for gardening is to wait till April 15th and for those tender annuals to wait till around Mother's Day.

Yard sales, flea markets and estate sales start up again with warmer weather and offer the perfect opportunities to take advantage of searching out inexpensive "finds" for your planting containers.
You can get creative with the arrangement utilizing various containers for your plants. Keep an eye out at farm sales or flea markets for old galvanized pots and wash tubs. I save those flexible black nursery pots that young trees come in to use inside the larger tubs. You can just fill the tub itself with potting soil and plant directly in them but realize how heavy those tubs will be to move around. Also, come the end of the season it is so much easier to just lift the smaller pots out then to try to empty the tub to store for the winter. To leave the dirt in the tub encourages the bottom to rust and eventually break through. As the plants grow and fill in the plastic pots will be hidden from view.


Though tempting to just go to the nursery and buy a little of everything, it is best to have a plan. Below are photos and a little info about several great annuals for container gardening. When you research your container or window box plantings, keep in mind three things: thrillers, fillers, and spillers.

First shown here is the African Daisy, a tough plant that can tolerate drought and poor soil. It has a profusion of brightly colored flowers all season.  Pinching early in the season encourages a bushy plant and deadheading as the season progresses encourages new growth. Full sun to partial shade. Grows to about 1 foot.
     Osteospermum or African Daisy

Ageratum or Floss Flower does well in sun to partial shade. They don't like to dry out so water regularly. Very pretty in mass plantings, these bushy flowers get anywhere from 6 to 24 inches tall, depending on their type. Pinching them back will encourage branching out and remove the spent flowers to keep them producing new flowers.

            Ageratum or Floss Flower

Lantana can tolerate neglect. If put right into the ground this butterfly, bird and hummingbird attraction will grow into shrub like proportions. In a pot you'll have to pinch and prune to keep it shapely. Preferring slightly acidic soil, pine needles added to the pot will help.

                          Lantana

Heliotrope not only smells wonderful, but is loved by hummingbirds and beneficial insects. Deer leave it alone. Prefers sun to partial shade. Will follow the sun like does the sunflower. Heat brings out the fragrance so put where it'll get the hot afternoon sun. Pinch in the spring and deadhead as the season goes along. Gets 1 - 2 ft high and wide. Heliotropes can be brought indoors over the winter.

              Heliotrope or Cherry Pie plant

Nicotiana, or Tobacco flower, are wonderful night bloomers to attract Sphinx moths. Shown here is the smaller type not known for its scent. If you want the type with the large white tubal flowers that emit a wonderful sweet fragrance in the evening, plant N. sylvestris directly in the soil, as these are much bigger plants. Tubular flowers attract hummingbirds. Prefers sun to shade and well drained soil. If ingested the plant is toxic. Reseeds easily.

           Nicotiana or Tobacco flower

Salvia blooms it spiky flowers all season, attracts butterflies and pollinators, and the deer leave it alone. Grows 1 - 2 feet tall and likes sun to partial shade. If plant looks tired by midsummer prune it back by a third.

            Salvia or Sage for some types

Nemesia prefers a cooler climate, so once the heat of summer kicks in, blooming will decrease. Chop them back by one-third and they will bounce back. Available in a wide array of colors, they are one of the fillers. Keep it well watered and cut back to keep the blooms coming.

                              Nemesia

Actually a tender perennial, Lobelia looks beautiful for a while then will peter out by midsummer. You can cut it back by half and it will rebound, or you can just let the neighboring plants fill in the gaps as they grow. Lobelia prefers more shade if grown in very hot and sunny climates such as the South. Color shades range from blue to purple to pink and white. Pictured here it is blue.

                             Lobelia

New Guinea Impatiens have beautiful foilage and flowers. They love the sun, unlike the impatiens we select for shady areas. Low maintenance flowers that reach about a foot tall and wide. Great for containers.

               New Guinea Impatiens

Calibrachea, trailing 1 inch petunias that bloom profusely until they slowly peter out by late summer. They come in a choice of colors ranging from yellow, peach, pink and purple. Keep them well watered. Like the ever popular annual petunias of which we are so familiar, these beautiful flowers prefer full sun and offer a fabulous array of color.

                        Calibrachoa

Bidens is a trailing yellow flowered plant that is both heat and drought resistant. Looks great with many container plantings. Loves the sun. Deadheading will encourage continuous bloom. In mild climates Bidens easily reseeds itself.
                               Bidens

Diamond Frost Euphorbia is a light airy plant with little white flowers great to use to fill in the gaps. Tiny, delicate leaves and flowers adorn this 12 to 18 in. plant which looks a bit like Baby's Breath.

Euphorbia

Trailing Verbena, a trailing perennial often planted as an annual can grow to 12 inches tall and 2 feet wide. The leaves are medium to dark green, ovate in shape with coarse toothed margins and grow to one inch long and half as wide. Beautiful plant as it spills over the edges of its pot, basket or over rocks. Colors options are in the red, pink and purple range.

Trailing Verbena

Bacopa is one of the spillers. It is low growing, reaching no more than 6 - 12 inches. Great for trailing over baskets or rock walls and filling in gaps under larger plants. Likes sun to partial shade.

                           Bacopa

Sweet Potato Vine is grown for its trailing green or magenta foilage, both of which blend beautifully with other plants for container planting. Does well in sun or some shade. These ornamental types will not produce actual sweet potatoes.

                         Sweet Potato Vine

Thumbergia or Black-Eyed Susan Vine is such a colorful and well-behaved trailing vine. The yellow to orange flowers with their dark brown tubular centers are interesting to look at. This plant is great when a vine is desired but not one that is overly aggressive. Does best in full sun.

Thumbergia or Black - Eyed Susan Vine

Last we have the accent plants, such as Fountain Grass, Bloodgrass or Dracaena Spikes. Planting either of these in the center of a pot can really add the height and focal point to the arrangement.
Utilizing height, filling in the gaps, and the spilling effect brings it all together.

                               Bloodgrass


                           Dracaena Spike


Thumbergia
Bacopa
Calibrachoa
Ageratum
Osteospermum
Nemesia
Heliotrope
Sweet Potato Vine
Fountain Grass
Blodgrass
Dracaena spikes
New Guinea Impatiens
Verbena
Salvia
Petunias
Euphorbia
Bidens
Lantana
Lobelia
Nicotiana


 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie





If you like your chocolate chip cookies soft yet chewy than this recipe just may replace your old favorite. The recipe came from The Ladies Corner and they even let us in on the secret behind these cookies. It's something as simple as the amount of salt that is added, leaving out an egg white and a lower oven temperature.

CHEWY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and set this bowl aside.

3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks butter, softened or almost melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar

In a larger bowl, blend the butter and sugars till nice and creamy.

1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk

Beat the vanilla and the eggs into the butter/sugar mixture.
Blend till creamy.

Add the sifted, dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix just until blended.

2 cups chocolate chips

If you used a hand blender for the previous steps, for this part use a wooden spoon.
Gently stir in the chocolate chips

Either lightly grease your cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper.

For MONSTER COOKIES
Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the cookie sheets 3 inches apart
Makes 6 cookies
Bake 15 - 17 minutes

For LARGE COOKIES
Drop large spoonfuls of cookie dough onto the cookie sheets 2 inches apart 9 cookies per sheet
Makes about 2 dozen cookies
Bake 13 - 14 minutes

For REGULAR SIZE COOKIES
Drop spoonfuls of cookie dough onto the cookie sheets 2 inches apart 12 cookies per sheet
Makes about 4 dozen cookies
Bake 11 - 12 minutes 

Remove cookies from oven and allow to cool a few minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool.



ENJOY!