Thursday, July 29, 2010

Note to self...don't dig in July!

Well, once again my legs are covered in some kind of bug bite. I've have come to the conclusion that is must be some type of sand flea that comes to life in early July and lasts for a couple of weeks.
There's a story to my main garden. For almost 10 years it was the home to our above ground pool, where my daughter and her friends enjoyed themselves every summer. As my daughter, Abby, went off to college, the pool was used less and less. Finally, my husband and I decided to remove the pool. It was mostly all work and no play for the pool.( and heck, I have horses that fall into that catagory!) So after we removed the pool, we had a nice 24' round sunken hole in our back yard with great drainage. Naturally, I said...let's make it a pool garden! So for the entire summer of 2006, we, errrrr, my husband dug the massive hole in the dirt, clay and sand to place a pump for the new water feature of our garden.

By the summer of 2008, things were looking good...except that when I would dig down in the dirt and mostly sand (that was trucked in for the pool base) in July my legs were covered in big red angry bites. I finally went to the doctor as I was not sure if they were bites, hives or a rash. Just plain bug bites...but no one was sure of the actually culprit. Another note to self...quit buying bargain sale plants...then I won't be digging in the garden in July!

2009 summer...late planting..oops more bites...and would you believe I was stupid enough in 2010 to plant my new lavender that I was so excited to purchase...into the sand..and sure enough...24 hours later both legs are covered in large, angry red bites...

So once again, I am using Tea Tree Essential Oil..on each bite, after I have soaked in an hot epsom salt bath. (Epsom salt baths pulls out the toxins.) Now the hot bath, causes the itching to increase, but once I dab each bite with Tea Tree Oil, the itching subsides.

Tea Tree is known as Melaleuca and comes from Australia. Used for generations by the aborigines to heal wounds, cuts, bites and skin problems. Tea Tree Essential Oil promotes healing and also acts as an analgesic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and antiseptic insecticidal dressing.

Tea tree oil should be used carefully and with adult supervision.

On a happier note, I have figured out a way to carefully remove poison ivy from my garden. I noticed that I was starting to get shoots up around my deck. So I made a quick trip to my local Tractor Supply Company...and purchased a packet(10) plastic shoulder length veterinary ob examination gloves. I slipped these babies on..and they stay on your shoulder! To be extra careful in case I would rip the thin plastic, but I put on a regular pair of work gloves. The plastic examination gloves are thin enough that a pair of work gloves slip on easily. I felt very confident as I removed the poison ivy ...that my arms were well protected. They are easily removed and as you do, they turn inside out, so that you do not come in contact with the offending oils. (I did scrub down my hands and arms after I finished, to be on the safe side!) But these gloves are now apart of my garden tool basket!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Butterflies and fairies

The butterflies are really busy ....this the 4th week of mid-summer. The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Zebra Swallowtail, Spicebush Swallowtail, Pipevine Swallowtail and the Eastern Black Swallowtail are hopping from plant to plant. By my calculations they appear around 10:00am (they must be warm) or so...working up till dark.

I have also seen a Painted Lady...which in flight I almost took for a Monarch. Now I swear I've seen 2 Monarchs this past weekend, but they could have been Viceroys, I'm not sure. It's hard to believe that butterflies only live for two or three weeks.

When planting a butterfly garden, it is important to remember two things. You will need host plants where the female will lay her eggs which will need the host plant as food as the eggs hatch and then form chrysalises. Other plants are needed for their favorite food.

Host plants include parsley and aster. I have planted parsley in my garden every year...knowing full well, it will never make it to my kitchen!

Food for the butterflies include butterfly bush (duh..), zinnias, purple coneflower and petunias. I've been known to dig up Butterfly weed and plant it around the farm. Butterfly weed serves as both a host and food plant.

When I was little, my mother used to sing a little ditty about "there are fairies in the bottom of my garden" it is only natural that I love fairies and for me to keep an eye out to find one playing in my garden. They are very difficult to catch a glimpse they do not like to be seen...but look, I caught one with my camera playing with my fairy statue. Ha...and they thought I wouldn't notice. (See how she is tickling the foot of the metal fairy???)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Soapwort or Bouncing Bet

My best friend, Janice, gave me a start of 'soapwort' or bouncing bet several years ago. I put the plant along the east side of my deck, so that I could keep an eye on it and not lose it among all the other plants.
Bet or 'soapwort' is a plant that will actually create a soapy lather (from its leaves) and is the best soap to wash antique material and your best linens. The best thing about bouncing bet is that it washes out so easily. This cuts down on the number of 'rinses' you must do to get your antiques completely free of any soap residue. It grows wild and can be found quite frequently along railroad tracks. In my case, Bet decided to grow under the deck and come up and join me.

Weather today has been blistering hot. Heat index was way over 100...while our actual temperature reached 95. Flowers are still hanging tough...with a lot of water. Mother nature gave us 4 inches over the weekend. Sometimes my husband has come behind me and watered without my knowledge. Several flowers are showing some stress not from the heat...but from wet feet.

Even my dog a black Labador, Cheyenne, will not come outside in this heat...but then who can blame her. I'm trying to get my gardening finished by noon each day. Tomorrow the temp is suppose to be 98 with a heat index of 105. I hit the jackpot today...finally got my lavender...which was on sale! Great price...4 inch pots at 2.00 each nice and hardy. Now the fun begins...where do I put them?
And I picked up 2 pots of white coneflower...

Got my shipment of Lemon Eucalyptus essential oil today...plan to mix up my own bug repellent. Studies have shown that Lemon Eucalyptus is just as effective against insect bites as Deet. And we all know Deet is not good for us! I think I will test it tomorrow.

And...I wore my apron on day! :)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

long aprons

I love long cotton aprons...those that remind one of days gone by. I'm not big on what I call the short aprons of the mid 20th century...or the so called 'chef' aprons. I like long cotton aprons that tie at your waist and are at least 33 inches in length. The great thing about these aprons is that they are so handy.

I was weeding the garden this morning, in my normal 21st century attire, hiking shorts and t-shirt. The rain had just stopped so I thought I could get a jump on the weeds. I kept wiping my wet hands on my clean shorts...and thought..there's got to be something better than my shorts or carrying around a towel/ I reached for a nice blue cotton long apron.

A magical thing happened after I tied the strings...I felt like I had stepped back in time. The longer length covered my scary white, bug bitten legs and my shorts. I was transported to the early 19th century. I felt like my favorite author and illustrator, Tasha Tudor, who wore long dresses and always proclaimed the many virtues of a good apron.

All morning long I worked in the garden and when I took a tea break, I just couldn't take off my new best piece of clothing. I took the time to make tea in a teapot and use my 19th century pink lustreware tea bowl and saucer. I didnt want the enchantment to end. I kept my apron on all day and have it all ready for tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Another garden.....

Today I took a break from my garden and drove down to Kentucky to see my girlfriend's 20+ acre farm and her hard work restoring the 1918 farmhouse and garden. It was nice to take a break from my farm and see what other people are doing.
My friend has owned her farm for over 12 years. She and her husband have worked summers, weekends and every free day they have to clean up the grounds and house. They still live in town and so drive almost an hour to reach their farm. Progress has been slow, but steady and well worth it.

Today we just sat on a swing under a really neat gazebo that was built by the local high school woodshop class. Now this gazebo was fantastic, well built but very well priced. (cost of lumber) we sat on a swing and felt a strong cool breeze...

For over an hour we talked about our families, joys and troubles...especially caretaking elderly parents. I hated to leave... but since it is over an hour drive home I needed to get back.

My friend is an outstanding gardener. It was amazing to see the different venues she has for all her plants. She has planted all sorts of trees in addition to her flower gardens. Every turn around her farm, was a different setting of hostas, blackberries, ornamental shrubs, ferns and annuals.

She has started her own day lily business and has just about every type of lily anyone would want. Her addition to the house is almost complete and soon she will be able to move to the farm. Hopefully she'll be able to sell her flowers while sipping ice tea under her gazebo.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Missed again...

Seems last night we had a whopper of a thunderstorm complete with an average of 3 lightning strikes per second for over an hour. I missed out on the light show again! I was in Ohio helping my elderly parents begin preparations for their move to assisted living. We did get over 3 inches of much needed rain.

While I missed out on all the action, sad to say it also hailed and the downbursts of wind wreck havoc on the garden.
I've been babying forget-me-nots all summer....and they are just laying flat out on the ground...almost looks like they have their leaves are in a 'hands up' "don't shoot" fashion.

My funky purple coneflower has been beaten to the ground also. The seed heads are turning black...looks like some mold or diease is its downfall. Not sure what I should do...may just remove the confused plant.

Weather forecasts for 90s for the rest of July. Amazing weather...when this summer is over...I would bet that we will total close to 60 days in the 90s...

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I love old wooden wheelbarrows. There is just something romantic about the larger metal wheel and the worn wooden box and handles. I am lucky to own two. One I purchased from an antique dealer...which wasn't the smartest thing to do...since I leave it outside year around. The other one is just a shadow of its former self...but sturdy enough to display a box of beautiful petunia wave.

I missed out on a good one the other day at a local garden antique and flower sale. It was only $30.00 and in perfect condition. I'm sure it wasn't that old...but it was sturdy and would have been a great addition. I just didnt have the money or the means to get it home. I'm hoping I will be able to attend next year's sale and pick one up.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Crazy echinacea

Purple Cone flower is also known as Echinacea. Echinacea is a native plant to America and was sometimes called "Elk Root" by the natives, as elks (who were in some sort of distress) were often seen eating the root....
After several false starts over the years, I finally have what I consider to be a good stand of purple cone flower. However...there is one branch, that I transplanted 2 years ago...which bloomed wonderfully last seemingly sulking this year. It has never turned purple!!!

On top...the blooms are now sending up additional little bloom shoots...I was told that the original plant I purchased was heirloom native plant...but now I am not sure....oh the joys of just never know.. It does make for an interesting bloom!

It is the 3rd week of middle summer. I love this time of year...seems like it is now the time to slow down and take a break....after the planting but before the work of harvest. There is a quietness that settles on the farm in the early mornings...birds are quiet...only insects are singing. Another misty morning in the valley...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Thunderstorms, massages and foot baths...

Today was a great day for the garden! We had a delicious rain for most of the morning...till aournd noon. All in all we only got a little less than 1/3 of an inch but it was a slow gentle rain that soaked into the ground. Some lightning and thunder made the morning complete. I woke up at 5:30am to the sound of thunder and was so excited...that I jumped out of bed and ran to sit on my back porch to watch the storm.

I made another trip to see if I could get some lavender...but once again the greenhouse was closed. I'm guessing that it was the rain...they didnt figure anyone would be out in the rain. Oh well...may try again tomorrow.

To make the day complete, I had a massage in the afternoon. I love my massage therapist. She is one of the best! She always uses a scented massage..and you know that the way to health is a daily scented bath and a scented massage! Today we used lavender oil and sweet orange. I even got a scented foot bath! What a great day.

The clouds have parted and the sun is out...we are heading up to the high 90s for the rest of the week...time to check the garden.

Monday, July 12, 2010

More on Lavender

Well, I had hoped to purchase some additional lavedner plants yesterday, but my favorite greenhouse has gone to 'fall' hours already! Closed on Sunday and I will have to wait till tomorrow to see if they have any left...
In the meantime, I cut my lavender back...on my raised starter bed...sometimes I just really hate to do that...but it is the most relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon. One of these days I am going to hook up a that I can at least get some hydrosol water from the lavender...I don't have a lot of hope for producing a good quality oil..but I could use the water for sure.

I may try the 'pressure cooker' method one of these days..if I can find a cheap stainless steel cooker. I have found plenty of aluminum ones at thrift stores...but I only want to use steel...Guess I will just put that on my list of things to of these days.

On a oft note...I went to the local Jane Austen festival over the weekend...and no one was selling any oils or quality water...hmmm....

ps...Love Love Love Regency hats...and men dressed in regency easy on the eyes!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Garden

I wanted to start this blog so that I can record my thoughts and ideas on my growing garden, my interest in herbal medicine and aromatherapy. I have hit a stressful time in my life...kinda all at once! I plan to make sure that my enchanted botanicals help me deal with the stress!

My only daughter has completed her college career and has moved to Sweden to be with the love of her life! My elderly parents have made the very difficult decision to move into assisted living...after my 90 year old father fell and broke his hip.

The good news is that my parents are moving to my location in southern Indiana from that I no longer have to drive up and down the interstate to take care of their needs. The bad news is (and that's not much!) that I am responsible for finding a place and coordinating the this blog is how I am going to use the garden and all its gifts to help me as I move into this new era.

My first problem...began shortly after the phone call...that my dad fell and broke his hip. I am having trouble sleeping at of course I reached for my favorite essential oil.....lavender. If you are having trouble sleeping ....before you reach for the pills...try some drops of lavender oil on your pillow case.

Good lavender oil will not stain clothing or sheets. If the oil is 100% pure and not cut with any carrier should never see a stain. If you do...then you know that your quality of oil is sub-par.

There are a few things to look for when shopping for high quality essential oils. First of all, purchase from a reputable dealer that you can trust. Oils are like fine wine....they may smell different depending on the region of the world...where the plant grow. I have had several different lavender oils distilled from different regions and they all smelled slightly different. Make sure you know your dealer so that you are purchasing the best quality of oil that you can afford.

I'm off to see if I can purchase some lavender augustifolio....down the road a greenhouse had some on clearance. This true or common lavender is easy to grow (likes sandy soils)...and I think I am going to need a lot for the upcoming year. I have been able to winter over my existing lavender...but it never hurts to add more! I weeded my lavender bed last now I have some room.

I think I should dry some lavender flowers and sew up some eye pillows...for relaxation! Thankfully my daughter 'failed' to take her sewing machine with her to Sweden!