Thursday, May 7, 2015

Birds, Hammocks, Gardens and Smiles

This week was an enjoyable backyard observation week:

Baby birds nesting in a gourd birdhouse

Momma feeding her babies

Victoria is having fun taking pictures of the neighbors cats 

Another neighbor's cat

A view of the garden from the house

Loving the hammock and a great book or just some quiet time!

These  cats must be really tired!

Another, really lazy cat.

What a handsome guy, and he tolerates this cat.

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Saving Seed for Next Year's Planting

Bit by bit, I seem to learn a little more about planting, gardening and now, saving seed. 

 I have saved seed in the past but as the seasons come and go and we pick up seeds to plant in the spring, I start thinking of saving seed from plants that have done well, worked with our yard, soil and climate and then I save that seed for next year, hoping for an even better crop that can adjust to the soil (not to mention saving on the cost of buying more seed).

Saving seed may sound tedious but it really is not.  Many plants grow and bush out and eventually they flower. 

 For many of them, once the flowers bloom and die, they then produce seed pods.  Collect the seed pods when they are fully dried and ready to save. 

 For other plants,  save the seeds when you eat them by drying them on a paper towel and storing them in an envelope or pill bottle when totally dry: bell pepper, tomato, watermelon, squash and corn; if they have grown in your yard (or Florida) they may have a great chance of growing for you again next year, a little more hardy than the year before.

This is arugula in bloom

A closer look at arugula blooming - it tends to get bitter once allowed to blossom.

This is arugula all dried out and it has created seed pods that can now be harvested for next year.  

If you allow some of it to just die in your yard they may just self sow from last year - that's how we got this plant.

This big guy is a daikon radish that has flowered and apparently fallen on its side.

The seed pods are not yet ready for harvesting but should be soon.

A large dill that has developed seed pods.

I will only harvest the brown, dried pods at this time.

Like these....

Shake the seeds into containers and bowls and then put the seed in marked envelopes.

Saving by date is a good idea and you can plant thicker for older seeds that may be questionable.

Beans from last years harvest that I am just now getting ready for planting.

If you have any plants that have really pleased you this year in the garden: STOP! Don't buy new seed!  Save what has worked for you and enjoy the fruits of your labor!!  For God is amazing, the entire process of how plants grow is wonderful: from seed, propagation, grafting...a new miracle every day! 

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

April Showers Bring May Flowers

Our second year garden is in bloom and brings me smiles daily.  Here is our spring garden growing and filling out with food, blossoms and beauty.

These blackberries were here when we moved in and I think I am going to find a way to control the canes and get a better harvest.  Most berries get eaten in the yard and never seem to find there way into the home.

Lemon tree, dwarf pomegranate, blueberries, banana, olive tree, lettuce, oregano and thyme

A view from the street.  We have pole beans tomatoes, working on cucumbers.  The plumbago is starting to grow and the roses are filling out.

Our first really good blueberry harvest!  5 bushes about 5/6 years old.

Knockout roses with thyme underfoot

Lavender, mint in the pot and a huge, bee-lovin' sage

More blueberries

and some more blueberries...

All is right in the world when corn is growing in the front yard!   Along with squash,  a fig tree, potatoes and broccoli.

More corn, oregano, herbs, tarragon, okinawa spinach and sunflowers

Sweet potatoes, roses and pole beans

The pink flowers came up on their own last year, they are a butterfly bush and bees and butterflies love them.

I love pinks and purples, bright and cheery with a hint of a deeper red.

In the background is a recent mulch delivery, I know what I will be doing this weekend.  In the foreground are sweet potatoes, roses, blueberries, kale and arugula

Our pretty ornamenta/edible dollarweed bed 

What a joy to watch plants grow from seed and produce fruit, flowers and life.  God has so blessed us with a beautiful world that constantly amazes me and brings a smile and joy into my heart.  Blessings!
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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sweet Pete's

We went for a fun field trip to Sweet Pete's, a local chocolate factory, candy store, and  restaurant, The Candy Apple Cafe.Everyone had a great time learning and being involved in the making of strawberry taffy.

  Sweet Pete's is located in the old Seminole Club building in downtown Jacksonville next to City Hall and Hemming Plaza.  Victoria and I started our day with a monorail ride to Hemming Plaza, a visit to the Main library and a delicious coffee from a coffee truck in Hemming Plaza, then off to meet up with our group. 

This is for Alena - we thought she would like it!
Shawn was an amazing tour guide, funny, educational and witty.  Here they are heating up the concoction to the left of the stage and the kids picked their flavor for the taffy.
The strawberry flavor and natural beet juice for coloring was used...
We could smell the taffy in the back of the sweet.
The marble slab is used to cool the candy.
The spatulas assist the candy maker in moving the candy around the marble slab so it does not harden.
Then, it is pulled to get air out of the taffy, as it is pulled the color will lighten and the taffy will be almost ready to finish.
The kids got to finish their project, pull their taffy, roll it into long strands, cut it and wrap it the old-fashioned way.  Chewy and delicious!
This is the second floor balcony with a One Spark  hydroponic project that is really amazing!

We also got to tour the factory which was really fun and watch them make chocolate covered pretzels and caramel covered popcorn!  Yummy!!
We finished the day with another ride on the Skyway, Jacksonville's monorail.  It was actually pretty busy everytime we rode it and it was extremely convenient to get from place to place.

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