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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Life Prevails

Hurricane Irene swept through our part of Pennsylvania with enough fury to leave many of us without power for a few days and plenty of branches to pick up in the meantime. As is often the case after nasty weather, the days following the storm have been absolutely beautiful.

It is truly amazing how these delicate flowers and seemingly fragile insects ever survive the wind and downpours of pelting rain. As long as the stalks of the flowers weren't broken completely they are now arching upwards towards the sun's rays. It didn't take long after I refilled the hummingbird feeder that my little friends made their acquaintance. Where do these little guys go during a storm? Are they swaying right along with the bush or tree they clung to for shelter? I doubt I'd fare as well if exposed to the elements. But everything seems to be back doing its business and no worse for the ware.

"Let us permit nature to have her way. She understands her business better than we do."
Michel de Montaigne

"Nature holds all the answers - go outside and ask some questions - open your heart and listen to the response!"
Amethyst Wyldfyre

"Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better."
Albert Einstein

"Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life."
Rachel Carson

Friday, August 26, 2011

Nature's Fury

"Mom, people say when bad weather hits it is "God's fury". Does that mean He is mad at us?"

Oh, from the mouths of babes. A classic moment when the child becomes the teacher in that such questions make us adults think enough to perhaps learn something.

With Hurricane Irene swirling around the web and utmost on the mind's of most people who live along the eastern part of the United States, that question from years back popped into my head. I'm not sure what exactly I had said in response at that time, but with seemingly one natural disaster after another, it does make one wonder.

Is this normal and it's just that with the media we are exposed to every bit of news?
Are we humans the cause of the chaos by upsetting our ecosystem?
Has God had enough of our messing up His creation and sending us a clear message of the consequences?

Out of curiosity I looked up man's history of thinking about such events.

Prior to 1500 BC world events were governed by the gods of a particular religion or mythology. Everything in nature contains a spirit and the earth is like a Great Mother. Prayer and sacrifices were made in efforts to make life a bit easier.

Classical Greece (400 - 100 BC) brought us Aristotle and Plato who established the foundation for the development of science and the traditions of the western world.

By Medieveal times (400 - 1400 AD) a Christian God reigned over everything. Life was a strict hierarchy where God ruled at the top with children and animals at the very bottom. The "Will of God" was paramount; what the Church dictated was how life was or the person suffered the consequences. Human actions were not explained, only judged as good or evil. God was feared in the literal sense. When bad things happened people felt somehow they deserved to be punished.

During the Renaissance (1500 - 1850 AD), God was still to be behind everything and set things in motion, but science provided an objective view of the universe. By the late 19th century all spiritual forces were removed from the universe and everything was explained objectively through science.
Since nature was thought to have no meaning, it was common thought to exploit it for whatever it was worth to enhance the life of humans. It was thought that technology could solve all of our problems.
As people became more literate and had access to reading material they began to think for themselves about matters of spirituality and behavior.

So as our population has grown to nearly seven billion people, we can now deal with the consequences of our actions and try to clean things up and find alternative sources of energy to fuel our modern wants and needs.

Christians today feel they can have a personal relationship with God and the term 'fearful' not to be interpreted literally, but rather a matter of respect and awe.

To interpret our weather patterns as God's way of punishing us is not the mainstream thought in today's modern thinking. We may jokingly kid about "God's fury" but few of us really believe we humans are a central focus to the point that even the weather revolves around us.

It makes more sense that the weather patterns are along Newton's thinking. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The goal of mother nature is to survive and if at all possible she will amidst consequence and change. Whether we as a species survive that change, only time will tell.

Life is what it is. Take the advice of Harold Kushner, the Conservative rabbi who wrote the book, "When Bad Things Happen To Good People". Stuff happens.
The trick to not getting down is to not expect a bed of roses, things just happen and we have to deal with them.

Ecclesiastes 3:1
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven

A talented and committed group of environmentally conscious artisans with shops on is a team called Ecoetsy.

Below is a treasury of beautiful items from those encouraging us to Reuse, Renew and Recycle.

"Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better."
Albert Einstein

Monday, August 22, 2011

Indie Artist Originals - Jared Whalen

A mom moment is being able to share the following recordings of a few acoustic original songs.

An awesome gift before he leaves for school.

Jared Whalen

Click Here to View Channel!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Boo Hoo or Ya Hooo, Children off to College

Boo hoo or Ya hooo!!
In the flurry of activity of packing up our young adult children for college it can become quite the emotional roller coaster. One moment we as parents are ecstatic for our kids that they've made it this far alive and well, and the next we're choking up just thinking about the moment of parting.

No matter how many times my husband reminds me that a child just having the opportunity to go off to his/her school of choice is exactly where we want them to be in life, it is still difficult to not slide into the "empty nest syndrome" of mourning the years of childhood now gone.

After four years of saying hello and goodbye to our daughter, it is getting easier to accept that our time together is basically going to be lunch dates, shopping trips and short visits on holidays. Now grad school has taken her physically even farther away, but her dreams have become so much closer.

Our son has had one foot out the door for months, and with Facebook and social networking he has made enough connections to already feel a bit "settled in" at his school. Next week will be quite the challenge to organize the chaos in his room and be on our way to his dorm.

Interesting is that I can remember when I left home years ago and thinking very little about what effects it was having on my parents. Watching my own children take wing I realize how healthy and normal it is for them to want to get out there and take on life's challenges. That means we did a job well done in their character development.

But it is a grieving process none the less for those left behind. The trick is to identify yourself as more than just someone's mom, dad or paycheck. Now is the time to rediscover who were are and what dreams and talents got buried years back as not being practical.

With more time for ourselves or our spouses, it doesn't take long to realize that this new chapter in our lives can be a good thing. Those days of endless taxiing kids around, laundry, grocery shopping, meal planning, homework, exhaustion....
Imagine having evening hours to have time to read, sew, exercise, go back to school; to actually play again rather than just check off the to do list till bedtime.
Weekends can become date nights with your significant other or spouse. How exciting is that!
When the kids do come home they actually may be enthusiastic to see us! Imagine that!

I snapped myself out of my slump just writing this.
One thing I now look forward to is the luxury of an evening bath with either a bath salt, bath oil or bath scrub. Follow up with a skin pampering body oil or body butter.
All these types of things used to be appreciated gifts but sat unused on a shelf in exchange for a quick shower. Time to be left alone to just "be" is very therapeutic both physically and mentally.

Any of the three shop locations below carries these bath products along with many items for personal and family care.

Friday, August 19, 2011

What's a Zibbet?

Having an on-line business rather than a rental space has advantages.
Online venues reach people anywhere in the world. I am open for business 24 hours a day, every day. How wonderful to communicate with customers while still in my jammies.

When I heard about Zibbet in addition to Etsy, my first thought was "What's a Zibbet?"
To make sense of the word I was told to just think of "exhibit".

It is a website where people can buy and sell handcrafted bath and body items, art, crafts, vintage, goods and supplies. Being Zibbet had just opened back in February of 2009, it is just now becoming more well known.

How exciting to be part of a new venue where competition is not yet as fierce. In time as people discover Zibbet, it'll be as happening a place as Etsy.

Come visit Zibbet and discover a new source of amazing items by extremely talented artisans!
The Zibbet community has been very friendly, supportive and offers awesome tools for the shop layout.

Meadow Muffin Gardens' shop is:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Milkweed Munchers

One thing I look forward to in August and September is the welcome visits from the monarch butterflies.

In order to attract types of butterflies, nectar sources for the adults and host plants for their caterpillars have to be available.

Milkweed (Asclepius) is the only host plant utilized by monarch caterpillars. The genus name honors the Greek God Asclepias, the God of Medicine. Native Americans and others used milkweed medicinally. Though poisonous in large doses, it was used for kidney and bladder problems, pleurisy, as well as to increase perspiration to reduce fever.

The sap from the leaves of milkweed is toxic to many insects and other predators, but those that feed on the plant can safely absorb the toxins. They are then found to be distasteful to anything that attempts to feed on them. Most people don’t realize that milkweed is also a host plant for many other insects.

The tussock moth caterpillar is visibly cute to observe, being a furry little eating machine.

The distinctive coloring of shades of red or orange are a sign to predators that says, 'Leave me alone, I'll make you sick'.

A member of the longhorn wood boring beetle family, the red milkweed beetle is easy to identify as it has a characteristic easy to identify, four eyes instead of two. Long antennae are so close to the eyes that they actually split each eye in two.

 Milkweed leaf beetles are distinctively marked, large orange and black. They resemble an oversized lady beetle but are from a different family called the leaf beetles. They are commonly called "swamp" milkweed beetles, after their preference for the swamp milkweed.

Gray in appearance is the milkweed stem weevil. They feed on the milkweed stem by girdling the stem, then feeds on the oozing sap.

Last to mention are the seed bugs, which include the large and small milkweed bugs. These insects nibble the seeds of the milkweed flower. Like the sap, the seeds are harmless to the bugs but dangerous to their predators.

Milkweed has various varieties but it is best to plant natives to your area. They are easy to grow, needing well-drained soil and a sunny to partly shady spot. By fall, the seedpods burst, sending out copious quantities of seeds which easily reseed.

Your common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)


Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum) resembles milkweed but isn't an Asclepias. Apocynum means 'poisonous to dogs'. Cannabinum is the scientific name and the common names are Hemp dogbane and Indian hemp. It is a fiber plant rather than a source of the psychoactive drug, Cannabis. Both have white sap, but milkweed has hollow green stems and dogbane has solid red stems. Monarch caterpillars won't even eat dogbane.

 Are these 'good' bugs or 'bad' bugs? It depends upon what you consider to be good or bad. Since the Milkweed Bugs are seed and sap-suckers, if bugs chomp and deform the milkweed in your garden, you may consider them 'bad' bugs. Host plant or not, you may not want them in your garden and squish them. Just please don't use pesticides to control unwanted visitors. You will be harming those you do want such as the monarch butterfly caterpillars. It is a natural occurrence for the host plant to be fed upon and it is only temporary.

Enjoy the amazing process of metamorphosis and take pride in providing the means for the survival of these insects. If you're a collector of the Asclepias seed pods and need them unmarred, handpicking a few select plants to keep them bug free would be the best option.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Grow, Make, Enjoy Your Own Fresh Herbal Wreaths

If you are interested in herbs grown for crafts and wreath making, then your plantings should include members of the genus Artemisia. These shrubby herbal perennials are grown for their aromatic oils and as interesting speciman plants.


Silver King


 Artemisias included here are Wormwood (Artemisia absinthius), Southernwood ((Artemisia abrotanum), and Silver king (Artemisia Indoviciana).
The characteristic odor of these plants make them useful for making a plant spray against pests. They can also be used indoors to repel fleas and moths. In past times, households would strew these herbs around the home to deter pests and freshen the indoor air. Artemisias can even be used to suppress weeds, because their roots secrete substances that inhibit the growth of surrounding plants.

Wormwood is attractive but due to its height of 4 - 5 ft/ it is best used as a background plant. Silver King gets to be about 3 feet tall and is very pretty with its silver gray foilage. Southernwood is more shrub like and with proper spring pruning maintains a nice mounded shape.  Its compact form grows to be 2 - 3 feet tall and about 3 feet in width.

Sweet Annie

Sweet annie (Artemisia annua) is a much finer textured plant than the wormwoods or mugworts. This herb is a reseeding annual and though beautiful, these 4 - 5 ft. plants will pop up everywhere if given the chance. Use these cuttings as your base when making your wreath. They wilt rather quickly so are best used as the foundation as you would with moss.

Russian Sage

Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), is beautiful and compliments well with other plantings. This lanky plant needs room and shows off best if given space to spread in width as it wishes. It reaches about 3 - 4 ft in height but can reach 3 - 4 ft wide. It adds a touch of gray with its foilage and is striking when in bloom with its purple flowers. The dried flowers add a delightful touch of color to the green and gray of the wreath.

Lamb's Ear

Lamb's Ear in flower
Used as an edging plant and rock gardens, lamb's ear (Stachys byzantina), is a low growing perennial loved by children and bees alike. The thick, fuzzy leaves are soft, easily dried and a pleasure to "play" with whether you be an adult or child. If happy where it is planted, lamb's ear will quickly spread but is easy to control as it pulls out easily. It does not like humid, wet conditions. Lamb's ear develops a spiky purple flower which the bees absolutely adore. Once done flowering these spikes can be cut off for a more attractive plant.

All these plants like full sun but will tolerate some shade.
Artemisias or any of the woody, shrubby plants can be shaped during the summer season but don't prune after August.  Wait until spring to cut back and remove dead parts.  Don't cut back into old woody sections at any time.If you don't prune at all, growth continues from last seasons bushy ends and the whole plant gets lanky and dies out in the center. Tall plants like Wormwood (Mugwort) are to be cut back by about a third. When pruning your woody Artemisia plants like Southernwood, make angle cuts at about 45 degrees. Make your angled cuts away from the direction of the buds and branch growth. For older and more mature artemisia plants, make cuts of about 6 inches. For younger artemisia plants, cut only about three or 4 inches off the end of the branches. Make sure not to cut away too much in one pruning. While an older and more mature Artemisia plant may be able to withstand severe pruning, younger artemisia plants will almost certainly die if too much growth is removed at once.
Sweet annie is an annual so can be pulled in late fall.
Lamb's Ear just needs the finished flowering spikes removed which can be done in the late summer.

For craft purposes, take cuttings of these plants (use the softer, pliable pieces that bend easily; the stiffer stems are better if used for swags) and attach them fresh to a straw wreath base with floral pics or wire. Attach small bunches at a time by anchoring the stem ends onto the wreath base with the pics or wire. Work around the wreath in whatever direction is comfortable for you, covering the stem ends each time with the next little bunch. Overlap the layers as you work your way around.

These fresh herbal wreaths can be hung as is to freshen the air in a room and add interest as it dries. If desired, once this base is dried you can glue or attach focal points such as flowers, pods, pine cones, herbs for a unique creation. If hung out of direct sunlight and not jostled by bumping, the herbs should dry nicely, hold their color, not get messy, and perhaps last till you are ready to make a fresh wreath next season.

Rather than a wreath, you can simply cut several longer woodier branches, gather and tie together and hand as a swag. Ribbons and/or other items can be attached at the bound end to cover the twine used to tie together.

Enjoy discovering your unique touch of creativity!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pet Adoption Awareness

Animal adoption, spay and neuter programs, banning puppy mills and supporting rescues are all so important for increasing awareness about unwanted, stray animals, and reduce the needless suffering.
Animals are living beings and should not be exploited for profit.
Adopt rather than shop!

Enjoy the following treasury featuring the voice of so many caring individuals trying to make a difference.

This blog post is taken from the following link!/notes/sustainablog/dont-shop-for-a-pet-adopt-one/10150339893717345

Editor’s note: As someone who’s always adopted his pets (including the wife’s two horses), I was really pleased when Environment 911′s Amy Lizee approached me with this post. Want to get more information on the environmental costs of stray animals? Check out my earlier post on stray animals and sustainability.

Since National Homeless Animal Day is coming up towards the end of August, I thought we could talk about the concept of the ‘homeless’ animals and why it is better to adopt, not shop.

For many people, puppies and kittens in a pet store are irresistible, but for those of you who are looking to get a new addition to the family, don’t be so quick to buy! In almost every state and province, there are animal shelters or rescue centers with numerous potential new family members just waiting to be found, including the irresistible puppies and kittens.

Some people may balk at the idea of adopting or rescuing an animal versus purchasing one, but there are plenty of good reasons to do so. These are some of the most important ones in terms of the environment and animal well being that should be taken into consideration.

Four Good Reasons to Adopt a Pet

4. Adoption is more cost-effective then purchasing

One of the top reasons people choose to adopt an animal is that they are generally cheaper then purchasing from a breeder (providing they are a reputable one). As most rescue animals are of mixed breeds, their value is considered to be ‘less’, which in turn makes them less expensive, despite the fact that rescue animals tend to make the best pets because they know that they were given a second chance.

A purebred dog from a breeder generally costs a lot more then adoption and adoption is the more cost effective choice. An animal in a shelter or rescue facility will have their health care up to date and they will be spayed/neutered already.

3. You’ll get a healthy pet

There are thousands of animals available at rescue centers across the world at any given time. The misconception here is that people think that if they are at a shelter they must be sick, injured or something is wrong with them. However, the majority of animals dropped off at shelters are there because the people who bought them underestimated their needs or behaviors.

Animal shelters provide vet care and examinations for animals both physically and mentally. While some breeders and pet stores may leave out information, a good animal rescue will provide all the details up front so you know what you are getting.

2. You have a better chance of finding a good match for your family through a rescue organization

When you buy a puppy from a pet store or breeder, you get a cuddly ball of fluff, but that is about it. There are many qualities and traits in puppies and kittens that people do not take into consideration when they purchase. These can include anything from breed-specific qualities to the size of a full-grown adult.

Instead of purchasing a puppy, when you seek a new pet through rescue organizations and channels, not only will the animal have been assessed and evaluated, but a good organization will ask the right questions to try and help you go home with the best match for your family. This lessens the chances of animals being returned or dumped in shelters in the future.

1. You won’t be supporting backyard breeders or puppy mills

This is perhaps the most important reason for choosing to adopt over purchasing a pet. In a world that is facing an overpopulation of pets such as dogs and cats and even animals like horses, supporting backyard breeders and puppy mills is a ‘no-no’. There are hundreds, even thousands, of animals that are euthanized every day because there simply are not enough homes for them.

When you purchase a dog, cat or even a horse from a breeder or puppy mill, you are perpetuating the cycle. While you think you’re getting a new addition, they see dollar signs and will continue to produce more animals until those dollar signs disappear. However, when you adopt an animal from a rescue or shelter, you are not only saving its life, but you are also saving the life of the animal who will take its place at the shelter. Plus, you are not creating a reason to bring more lives into the world.

If not only for the purpose of saving two versus one, by not perpetuating the breeding cycle, you are also saving resources and helping the environment and the economy. The amount of resources that go into shelters to euthanize animals is not necessary and if more people choose to adopt, can be avoided almost completely.

So remember – Don’t shop… Adopt! is an interactive website for individuals to come and discuss the environment from green business to natural disasters. We feel it is important for people to come together and share their thoughts, ideas and visions for the future. The more we can communicate what is happening in our world, the more people can be educated and the more we can progress. Beyond you can find us on Facebook and Twitter where we are continuing to spread the message about our global environment and the impact that we have on it every day.

Image credit: Amy Lizee