Simple Centerpieces

Simple Centerpieces

I’m all excited about my Christmas centerpieces.
They were SUPER easy to put together
and even better,
I can re-purpose them after the shindig I’m throwing tomorrow.

Eight potted European Cypress (purchased at Lowe’s)
Eight 2-quart paint buckets (also from Lowe’s)
and assorted wreath picks (salvaged from old holiday arrangements over the years).

It takes about 5 minutes to peel stickers off all the buckets,
jam the shrubbery into said buckets
and tuck a wreath pick under each little cypress.

For now, the greenery is hanging out all in a row on my dining table.
(Looking rather festive!)
Tomorrow, each pot will become a centerpiece on a cocktail table.
And here’s what I think is the best part…
The day after that,
I’m taking them all apart to be used for other projects.
The baby cypress will be planted in a row outside my dining room window.
When they outgrow that spot, they’ll move to the backyard.
The buckets will be the perfect containers to hold art and crafting supplies.
And the picks?
The picks get washed off and reused the next time I need a decorative holiday punch.
How’s that for reuse, reduce, recycle?

Rainbow Chard – Mini Garden Success

Rainbow Chard – Mini Garden Success

Just wanted to offer proof that I have managed to grow something to eat.
Even if it’s just chard.
I know chard grows like a weed.
I understand it takes no skill to grow it.
I’m sure the serious gardeners out there are rolling their eyes at me.
But I’m going to take this little bit of garden success and eat it!
Because this gardening thing is way harder than I anticipated.
Grateful I don’t depend on my planting prowess to actually feed myself.
After a failed summer growing season last year,
I was ready to just give it up.
I swore I wouldn’t waste another dollar at the local nursery.
Then the fall weather kicked in.
Cool breezes.
Sunny days.
A respite from the monster mosquitoes.
Too beautiful not to be outside.
Too tempting not to plant just a little something… 
The rainbow chard seedlings went into the earth in October.
They provided a splash of color all winter long.
I wasn’t confident they’d survive the cold snaps.
But they did.
I figured they’d drown in the torrential early spring rains.
But they didn’t.
Then one warm spring day,
I suddenly had a booming crop of rainbow chard. 
For the past couple of weeks,
I’ve harvested chard every few days.
I cut only the larger outer stalks from each bunch of chard.
Leaving the tender middle parts to continue growing.
It seems that the more I harvest,
the bigger and faster the plants grow.
Most of the time, I stir fry my one garden success.
I also add it into vegetable soup.
I harvested so much the other day, 
I had to beg a friend to take some home.
Even if it’s only chard,
It’s still such a cool thing to share something I actually grew.
And don’t you think a big pitcher filled with chard is just as pretty as a vase of flowers?
I guess I’m not altogether finished with the garden…
I wonder what else I can coax from garden to table?
Pumpkin Magic

Pumpkin Magic

 There’s pumpkin magic going on in my backyard right now.
I’m getting such a big kick out of it,
I have to share.
 When it came time to clear autumn decorations off the front porch last fall,
I didn’t have the heart to dump the pumpkins in the trash.
My boy & I moved them into our experimental garden patch
(where mostly we fail to grow things).
We didn’t know what to expect.
We hoped the pumpkins would break down into the soil.
But I was braced for a moldy mess out there come spring.
The pumpkins just sat through December and January.
I noticed some mold and rot in February.
One day, one of the pumpkins just collapsed in on itself.
The pumpkin decay progressed to an especially pretty point in early March.
 I was grateful the rotting pumpkins weren’t attracting vermin.
Then my son spotted the first hint of green.
Could it really be a sprout?
Would it survive spring rains?
 That first sprout drowned during an especially rainy week.
Shortly after,
We were delighted to find a new sprout popping up.
A week later,
That tiny sprout had pushed out to become a little plant.  
And now here we are in the middle of April.
A real pumpkin vine!
You may recall we tried to grow pumpkins the first summer we moved to NC.
It was a complete failure.
Topped with near heat stroke and dozens of bug bites.
I’m still not optimistic of real pumpkins from our own garden.
But right now,
In the breezy beautiful spring season,
I’m happy to just enjoy the pumpkin magic.
Textile Goulash for the Birds

Textile Goulash for the Birds

 Spring must be on its way.
Because the birds are back.
Flocks of them flying and swooping about.
It’s quite the sight.
I imagine many are making their way north.
But some seem to be here to stay.
Watched two birds of prey mating just last week.
Caught a flash of red as a cardinal flew past me in the back yard.
Cursed my luck when I noticed two woodpeckers busy pecking at my house.
I’m guessing nest building will be happening soon.
When we moved here last summer,
We were excited to discover honest-to-goodness birds’ nests in trees around our property.
But we were also disappointed to find plastic bags and trash used as nesting material.
We’ve spent months cleaning up the yard.
(Would you believe I’m still digging up random golf balls, tennis balls and plastic toys?)
This spring,
We’re offering the birds something a little nicer than trash to build into their nests.
I call it “textile goulash.”
Comprised of:
Scraps of fabric and felt.
All sliced into (hopefully) manageable segments.
 A picture I happened upon on Pinterest was my inspiration for this project.
I originally intended to weave a light wire basket to hold everything.
A variation of one I’d recently made.
However, a friend warned me the squirrels might want the scraps for their nests as well.
The squirrels of her childhood actually stole a t-shirt off the back patio.
Dragged it up a tree.
And used it to insulate their nest.
How did she know?
She could see bits of that shirt poking out and mocking her from the squirrel nest way up high…
To be safe, I invested in a proper wire bird feeder.
Hypothetically squirrel proof.
(Is anything ever really squirrel proof?)
Loosely filled the bird feeder with the textile goulash.
Hung it off a branch in a sunny spot in the backyard.
It’s just wait and watch.
How cool would it be if the birds actually use this stuff?
Sunshine and Some Greenery

Sunshine and Some Greenery

Sometimes it really is the unplanned small pleasures that make all the difference.
Wouldn’t you agree?
What brings a warm smile to your heart?
A friend dropping by to visit?
The smell of fresh baked brownies?
That dress you wanted suddenly marked an extra 50% off?
My happy moment yesterday came in the form of
Sunshine and some greenery.
Our first winter in the Carolinas.
Lots of heavy dark clouds and violent rainstorms.
The locals tell me this winter is especially dreary and wet.
I hope they’re right.
Because the grey days here are awfully gloomy.
We finally got a bit of sunshine yesterday,
My afternoon errands included stopping at the local nursery.
I intended to buy a bird feeder and then boogie onto other tasks.
But I couldn’t resist perusing the plants.
What a delight to wander up and down the aisles.
Sipping an herbal lemonade.
Bright sunshine warming my face.
Besides the bird feeder,
I ended up going home with:
Four Tuscan Blue Rosemary bushes
Three Grassy-Leaved Sweet Flag
Three cheery yellow English Primroses
Two small Flowering Kale
One foot tall Lemon Cypress.
(I feel like I should be singing “and a partridge in a pear tree!”)
Ignored the rest of my chores.
Spent the afternoon with shovel in hand and the sun on my back.
Humming a stupid little tune to myself.
Soaking up the sunlight.
Dreaming big dreams for the garden.
But still celebrating each little plant.
Just some sunshine and greenery.
My happy place.
Rearranging Shrubbery

Rearranging Shrubbery

Feeling empowered!
I’ve discovered I can rearrange some of my shrubbery.
It’s no small job.
So I’m darn proud of myself for tackling the task this week.
 In the seven months we’ve been in this house,
I’ve been chipping away at a ginormous house-to-do list.
Repairing or replacing broken things.
Painting out the ugly.
Making things fresh.
Creating our home.
Round one is done.
But new things are continuously added to that to-do list.
The nature of home ownership, right?
For example:
The warm and exceedingly wet winter has resulted in mold growing all over the back of our house.
Nothing I can do about that right now.
The weeks of heavy rains have also left the soil damp and soft.
Which created the perfect conditions to yank out a couple of bushes.
Started with these two gardenia shrubs.
They were planted smack in front of the house.
Right under the dining room window.
I think gardenias are great.
But these two just were adding nothing to the house’s curb appeal.
When the sun came out this week, 
I grabbed my shovel, clippers and hand tiller and extricated these guys.
 It was tricky, sweaty work.
Because of the irrigation lines and low voltage electrical wire threaded around and through the roots, 
I couldn’t just use a shovel.
Instead, I got down on hands and knees and sort of combed the soil away from the roots.
Best tool for that job was my hand held tiller.
A little bigger than a hammer.
Sort of a cross between a pick ax and a giant fork.
Coaxed out as many whole roots as possible.
Clipped the ones too stubbornly ensconced.
Gashed my arms a couple of good ones before I wised up and covered up more carefully.
But I didn’t compromise irrigation line or electrical wire.
Jumped up and gave a loud victory cry when I finally freed both shrubs.
(Giving the neighbors more reason to think I’m a little… different…)
Got plans for that spot under the dining room window.
But had to replant the gardenia quickly if I wanted them to survive.
 Dragged my circus act around back.
I knew exactly where I wanted those gardenias to live.
But first, those stupid knock out roses of the grasping vicious thorns had to be evicted.
Ok, sorry for that last comment if you’re actually a fan of these roses.
I thought they were pretty when I was first introduced to them.
But frankly, they’ve reached out, grabbed and wounded me one too many times…
They are no longer welcome in my yard.
 Clippers and shovel were my tools of choice this round.
Once I located and moved the drip irrigation lines,
I clipped the rose bushes down to ground level and then unleashed with shovel.
Wow, that was satisfying.
And then it was just a matter of replanting the gardenias.
Feeling absurdly tickled that I rearranged shrubbery like it was furniture.
Got my fingers crossed that the gardenia will survive my rough love.
It’s all sort of an experiment.
But that’s really the best thing about gardening and growing things.