Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hearts a-Busting

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This shrub grew in the "natural area" of my yard for several years. Between the dense shade and the munching deer, it never made any hearts to bust. About 4 years ago I moved it out of the woods so it would get a bit more sun and put a cage around it. Since being protected from deer, it has bloomed every year and made seed. It is a deciduous shrub (drops leaves in winter) but its stems remain green. It will grow to 6 feet tall if it has a chance and this one is about that size. The cage does not detract much to my thinking as it fades back into the twigginess of the branches but you can see it in this picture. This shrub is native to the southeast, is drought tolerant, but also will live in moist soil. I give mine no pampering except to try to keep the deer off, and it rewards me with cream blooms in the spring and these fruits in the fall. It is a loose open shrub so looks best in a natural area.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Confedrate Rose


Confederate roses are a type of perennial hibiscus.They are seen everywhere in Alabama blooming this time of year. The flower is white when it first opens, gradually turning pink as it ages and on to a rich rose color before it falls, leaving behind a head of ripening seed. Seed germinate readily in a pot. If you don't have a Confederate rose, get a friend to cut you some stem pieces before frost and being careful to keep the end closest to the root down,stick it into a pot of soil and keep moist in a frost-free place. It will readily root, but just for safety sake stick down several pieces. I have been told that they will take root if you stick the stem cutting in the ground where you want it to grow. That never worked for me but maybe because I forgot to keep it watered. Watering is easier for me to keep up with when it is in a pot. These also root readily in water. The trouble comes when the cutting is set in soil. Most water rooted cuttings have the same trouble: they can't survive the move from water to soil. You can make it work by keeping the soil saturated for a week or so after transplanting till the cutting becomes acclimated to less water. Everything being equal except the amount of work, it is less trouble to start out in soil than to go through transplant trauma.
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Friday, September 26, 2008

The Sharp Top

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Fifty years ago this house was occupied by Shine and Big Sis and several of Big Sis' adult daughters. Shine and Big Sis had a violent relationship which caused everyone to wonder why they stayed together. It is probable that liquor had something to do with their troubles.Shine was fairly tall and very black, hence his name. Big Sis was a huge woman as you might guess.
At that time the road in front of the house was dirt and graded regularily by the county. There was a huge supply of round rocks along and in the road. Big sis and Shine put these to use as ammunition against each other. Shine was as farmer and sometimes he took the gun to the field to protect himself against Big Sis. Occasionally, Big Sis' daughters would catch Shine and hold him down while Big Sis beat him. When they got after him hot and heavy, he would sneak off and hide til things cooled off a bit. But don't get the idea that Shine was innocent. He could and did let rocks fly with deadly accuracy.
The day I took this picture the door was open wide as you can see. I went in for a look around and found that it had been remodeled sometime recently. The walls were painted, there were cabinets in the kitchen, and there was bathroom, none of which Shine and Big Sis enjoyed. There was a well then, but no running water.
I don't know whatever became of Big Sis but the general consensus is that she died before Shine. Shine died in a nursing home which saddened me that a person I remembered so clearly as a strong distinctive man should have come to such a slow end. I saw him once there and his smile was still the same.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Old Houses

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This house has not had anyone living in it for at least 30 years. It is apparently used for old appliance storage, at least the porch is. I have never been inside the house. As you can see the porch is home to several appliances: a washer,refrigerator,perhaps a chest freezer, and a toilet. Maybe the person who owns this thinks they may be in need of several boat anchors. The house seemed sound when it was first chosen as a repository for things that would otherwise be recycled or in the dump. Now the middle pillar on the porch has a decided lean as if the weight over time is taking its toll. Interestingly to the right of the house, outside the picture frame is the steel skeleton for a building. It has stood there for several years with no further progress made on it. The area around the house is kept neatly mowed, maybe with a bush hog as this house is inside a pasture. I have never seen a cow near the house.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Joe Pye Weed

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This is another great fall bloomer, Eupatorium purpurem ( maybe should call it mauveii? as that is the color, not purple!!!) The ones along the roadside have about finished their bloom, but mine is still beautiful. The ones along the road are very tall, like 6-10 feet, but mine usually gets to be about 3 feet tall. I originally got mine as seed from the American Horticultural Society seed exchange and although I have lost the list, I expect from it's shorter statue that is a dwarf hybrid. Where they grow naturally, it is typically wet for a good portion of the year and although they grow well in drier areas, they do appreciate a lot of moisture. It is a great attractor of butterflies, and a carefree plant if there ever was one. Mine has increased a little throuhgh the years but not much.
On the other hand, in the background you see some foliage of a sumac which volunteered there and I made the mistake of leaving to see if it would bloom. It has been there 2 years and is about 6 feet tall. It is spreading by underground runners even beyond the flower bed. Although I admire it as a plant I see along the road, I would like to be able to grow something else besides sumac and so I will be getting rid of it soon. If possible.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Turk's Cap Hibiscus

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This is a carefree drought tolerant perennial I have had for years. I pulled it from an overgrown bed at the base of a tree in south Alabama, but it thrives in zone 8 wonderfully. In fact, most years I pull out what I don't want to keep the clump in bounds. Turk's cap hibiscus is in its full glory now and attracts clouds of butterflies, primarily yellow sulfurs as well as migrating hummingbirds.
It is a hibiscus (clue- see the fancy stigma sticking out beyond the petals), even though it's petals will never unfold. I have seen these plants in South Alabama with much larger flowers than mine and think that mine may be either a wild plant or else the larger ones are hybrids. At any rate they are beautiful this time of year and reqire almost no care. Besides, they are a pleasant break from the sea of mums that accost us this time of year.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mexican Sage

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Mexican Salvia (Salvia leucantha) is a great fall blooming accent. It starts blooming in August typically and continues on till frost cuts it back. The small white flowers are outshone by the fuzzy purple calyxes which hang on after the flowers pass. This is a carefree perennial, requiring very little water. Although it is beautiful outdoors, don't try to cut it for an indoor arrangement. (It smells like cat pee). A clump increases in size through the years and can be divided by cutting through the clump with a sharp shovel. Stem cuttings also root.
You can see the Mexican salvia in the background of the top picture.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Parable of the Laborers

Today’s sermon text was the parable of the laborers hired at different times of the day and then all paid the same wage. I used to think this parable was all about going to heaven and that all those who confess that Jesus is Lord will get there no matter how long they have worked for the kingdom. Now I see it a little differently.

This parable is about having our individual needs met on whatever plane is appropriate. When my children were small, I wanted to treat them even handedly, but that turned out to more difficult than it might at first seem. Sometimes one wanted/needed a toy; sometimes a hug was what was called for. It was a thing requiring constant adjustment, and sometimes I did the wrong thing. However, God does not make those mistakes. He always knows what we need, whether it is money, material goods, praise, love, etc. and can supply the right thing at the right time. It should be remembered that just as our time is not on the scale of the divine (who can really grasp infinity with no beginning or end), it does not matter how long we labor, as long as our needs are satisfied.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bear Grass

Bear grass usually blooms earlier in the summer, but this one is located in part shade and that may have delayed it's flowering. It has a huge flower stalk (sometimes reaching 6 or 8 feet) with scores of individual flowers. It usually attracts every insect in range and it is often difficult to appreciate the beauty and fragrance of the flowers because of the insect feeding frenzy. This one had not been discovered when I took this picture.
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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Spiranthes Native Orchid

Ladies tresses are native orchids that bloom nearly every year in my lawn. I define lawn as the area I cut with a mower. If you keep weeds cut short the grass will have a chance to invade and take over for the most part. By not becoming over anxious about weeds in the grass, I have been rewarded with quite a patch of these tiny beauties. I counted 16 in one area yesterday, plus one right in front of the front porch steps. Today I found one near the garbage can at the road. A neighbor farther down the road has quite a few of these growing where his lawn meets the road, but he is oblivious to their minature beauty and typically mows them down. Every year in August and September before these bloom I canvass the area where I know they grow so that I do not accidently mow them. The genus Spiranthus comes from the twisted configuration of the bloom stalk. These bloom after the foliage dies back. There are quite a few species in this genus and some prefer wet, some dry, some bloom in spring and others fall. I have read that some are tinged with pink, but I have never seen any that are. These have green throat markings. Keep a sharp eye out for these bright white beauties. They may be in your yard or you may see them on the roadside.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Swallowtail Butterfly Larvae

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These larvae were munching on some carrot blooms. Carrot blooms, you say? Yes, I did not pull them up and they made some lovely Queen Anne's Lace type flowers. Little did I guess that my laziness would result in a fattening meal for these larvae. There were 3 of them but 2 disappeared and I do not know whether they made it to the pupa stage or became the meal for a hungry bird. I wish I had made a movie of them eating. It was really munching away and had bits of flower sticking out the sides of it's mouth.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Butterbeans, Anyone?


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This giant bean was grown from an "egg" as you see in the first picture. It was stamped (maybe burned) with "I Love You". This is something that only a plant lover could appreciate I am sure. I guess most people would have tossed it after it germinated, but I gave it a good home in a pot and the beans you see in the second picture are the result. Those beans are about 12 inches long and more than an inch wide at the widest point. Huge, in other words. This seed was germinated in 2006. This plant is 2 years old, but it made pods like this last year also. When dry, the beans inside are rose colored. At the end of the season, I cut it back to a manageable size and set it in the greenhouse where it began to wrapped up everything in sight. When it was warm enough outside, I set the pot out again and let it grow this summer. I wonder if I could go for the oldest bean on record?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Buying Shoes


On buying comfortable shoes: try on and purchase the ugliest ones available. They will please you for a long time.
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Saturday, September 13, 2008


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As I child I went barefoot all summer. You were supposed to wait till after May first, but I always sneaked and let my feet out sooner. As a result of free feet all week, Sunday was an agony in those patent leather torture traps. By the end of summer my feet had lengthened and widened so that new shoes were a necessity for school. Grown-ups would tell me that if I did not wear shoes my feet were going to be huge, but it did not bother me a bit because all my family had big feet (the better to stand on, my dear).
There were plenty of hazards. It seemed I always had a stumped big toe and sometimes when I got it good against a rock the stump would include the next toe also. There were stone bruises, briars, splinters, cuts, and occasionally a nail puncture. Kerosene was poured into puncture wounds, splinter and briars were dug out with needles and pocket knives. The rest was simply endured till they healed themselves. Not a thought was given to the injuries before I leaped foot first into mud puddles and streams that ran through cow pastures.
But long ago I stopped going barefoot. I wear mainly flip flops when I am home, and believe it or not, there is a world of difference between the two. Recently I have been trying barefoot again. I don’t intend to tackle the driveway gravel, but the cool floor in the house is delightful and the feel of soft grass is just exquisite. Paying attention to these sensations reminds me why I loved going barefoot so much, in spite of the dangers.

Socotra, Home of Weird Flora

Sorry about the missing links. Hope this fixes the problem

Here are 2 links that show some truly weird looking plants. These links will lead you to a place to see what I mean and find out more. When I first saw these pictures, I thought they were photoshoped, but they are apparently real. At least the New York Times Travel section thinks so.



Thursday, September 11, 2008

Okra comment

Don't miss the comment on the Okra post. Wonderful!!

Muscadine Nectar,or Drink, or Wine

I’ve started my yearly batch of muscadine wine . The process is something like this:
1) Pick and wash the fruits
2) Put sugar in the selected containers
3) Put muscadines in on top of sugar.
4) Pour boiling water to fill the container
5) Cover lightly. (I use cheese cloth doubled)
6) Wait

After a week or so, you will notice bubbles rising . You will begin to smell a delightful muscadine fragrance. Over a period of a few weeks, the sugar on the bottom will disappear. You can taste it now. When it reaches the desired strength, cap and put in refrigerator to stop fermentation. It will be wonderful for Thanksgiving. This is the process if all goes well. I have had some different outcomes.
The last 2 years I have made vinegar instead of wine. I guess I might have used some of it in a vinegar dressing, but in disappointment I just threw it out. This year I added a pinch of baker’s yeast to one jug to sort of hedge my bets. I’ll let you know how it comes out. The yeast for fermentation is naturally occurring on grape hulls but pouring boiling water on the fruits might destroy some of it.
Another year I put the top on the jug too tightly while the brew was working. It was in a half gallon wine jug. I had been busying around the kitchen where it was brewing and had gone out to the porch for a second. Talk about serendipity! The jug exploded! Glass and muscadines and juice blew everywhere-even into the other room. Some workmen I had in the house came running, thinking a gun had been discharged. When they found out all was well, they began a lament about the loss as the fragrance was so wonderful. I was so lucky not to have been in the area when it exploded as I would surely have been cut.
This recipe comes to me from my maternal grandmother. She would make this concoction and innocently seal the jars. But to make sure things went in the intended direction, she would later lift the lids a bit so the fermentation could start. By Thanksgiving when she was ready to serve it, she would react in surprise to the now wonderful wine. She usually made it in quarts. I wonder if smaller batches work better. Maybe I will try that….

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Okra , a southern delicacy



Unfortunately, these okra plants only show a very immature pod. The reason is that I had picked all the ones large enough before I thought to take a picture.These were taken in my friends garden where I picked about a gallon and a half (Thanks Martha Ann).Okra is one of the fine vegetables that love the heat and humidity and grow when most other garden veggies start to languish. You can buy frozen okra ready for frying but to me the home grown fresh stuff is far superior. For one thing the bresding is too thick on the bought stuff. Also, like nearly any vegetable , it is just better fresh.
I prefer it fried. I used to dust it with cornmeal to ready for frying, but now I use flour. At the Farmer's Market I mentioned this to someone and she drew back in horror as if I had committed some sort of sacriledge. But, that's what I do. I think it sticks better than cornmeal, but there is not any difference in taste that I can detect. The only thing about frying okra is to watch it carefully because one moment it is ready and the next it is burnt. Even though I am partial to burnt offerings, I do agree that unburnt okra is best.
Some folks like boiled okra. It is best boiled with the vegetables (peas, butterbeans). There are also numerous dishes where it is a wonderful component. Seafood gumbo may be the best known and loved.
I have heard that okra was used in one of the world wars to make a plasma substitute, but I have not done the research on that. It makes a good story though, doesn't it?
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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Salmon Angel trumpet


This is a salmon angel trumpet that I have been growing for several years. Although angel trumpets can survive drought, they do best with ample water and fertilizer. Their beauty belies their deadliness. All parts of Brugsmansia are poison. the only thing that I know that will chew them and live to tell (well, they may not live--I don't know) is snails.
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Monday, September 8, 2008

Angel Trumpets and Night Cereus

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I can't decide which smells more wonderful tonight, the yellow angel trumpet or the night cereus. These are great plants for enjoying in the evening. The night cereus has 8 blooms tonite (well, technically there are 4 pots, but most of the blooms are on 2). Last night there were 4 or 5 and tomorrow night there will be at least 4 more.Although the angel trumpet is beautiful in the day and has a faint fragrance if you put your nose in it, the real fragrance wafts forth after dark. I think I will take my chair and go out there and sit. Ummmm An odd thing is that my pink angel trumpet is also blooming and has no detectable fragrance.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

4 o'clock (Mirabilis jalapa)

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This is a 4 o'clock growing at my back steps. These are old fashion plants that have been around for generations in the South. They have a large root and will generally come back from the root, but fear not because they reseed easily and next year it will just be a matter of weeding out the ones you do not want. This is a great plant for xeriscaping (Diane), and withstands heat like a trooper. It may wilt in the sun, but as the day moves into mid-afternoon the plant recovers and opens new fresh flowers. You can appreciate them better later anyway as the sun begins its decent.
The seed are black and oddly shaped (to me they look like a round light bulb with a part that sticks out like a socket). As a child I would collect huge handfuls of seed and Pretend cook with them. I would crack the seeds open (with my teeth) and remove the white powdery endosperm and pretend it was flour. Getting the "flour " out was the whole deal as I could never really get enough to amount to anything. Now I read that 4 o'clock seed are poisonous. I did not actually eat the endosperm, and it was bitter, so i was not anxious to chew up a lot of it, but I am left wondering just how poisonous. You would have to be a glutton for misery to eat a whole mouthful because they are so bitter. But here again is a clue: frequently bitter things are poisonous.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Orchids for Summer


These are some of my orchids that are blooming right now. I have had them many years and have lost the name. They are small but that adds its own charm. The orchids in the lower left are both Dendrobiums. They do particularily well in the heat and humidity of summer.
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More abandoned houses

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Friday, September 5, 2008

Old Houses

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I am interested in abandoned houses and often wonder why they were abandoned. Did the ravages of time make the structure unsafe? Did the people who lived there get a chance for a better more modern house? In the top picture you see a fireplace in the other room which has been partially torn out. Maybe there was a heater in that fireplace and the brick was dislodged when it was removed. In the lower picture notice how wide those floor boards are. You don't get to choose lumber like that for flooring anymore but those must have come from some fine trees.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Not choosing is a choice

For the first years I was married there were lots of people minding my business. People I felt I barely knew would say things like, “When are you two going to have a baby?” Needless to say I found this rude and was hard pressed to think of a civil reply, even though I had it happen quite a few times. What if there was some physical problem that I might not wish to discuss with the world? What if my husband and I were in disagreement over the issue? What if I just did not want children? There are innumerable reasons why this is not a good question.
Now I am seeing another aspect of the children issue. It seems to be a badge of honor when a couple has 5 or 6 children. In this day and time when any thinking person can see natural resources dwindling worldwide, I feel like asking a rude question, too. Why did you have so many?
Let’s be clear here: any two normally functioning adults can produce a child. It takes a lot of effort and much luck to raise that child to be a responsible, caring, thinking adult. And even with sustained effort sometimes it works out badly.
I do not wish to mistreat anyone in the way that I was mistreated. I think that couples should not have their choices called into question. But it should be remembered that choosing to do nothing is still a choice.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Butterfly Ginger


Butterfly Ginger is another of the fragrant late summer plants. I have mine growing near the faucet as well as under the drip of the house so that they get as much water as possible. Mine get to be about 4/5 feet tall. If yours are not this big, it is probably a lack of water. They would prefer the bank of a pond or stream, but lacking that, give them as much water as you can. The 'cone' that produces the flowers just keeps on sending out new flowers for a long time. I like to cut them and place the stalks in deep water for the longest lasting arrasngement. Their fragrance is what really sets them apart.
Last year I had a dog that did ever imaginable crazy thing. For a long time every time I went outside (winter) I smelled a spicy odor that reminded me of sausage. Eventually I discovered the dog was digging up the corms of my butterfly ginger and chewing it. That created the odor. Even the roots are fragrant. I suppose that should not have surprised me as ginger is a food flavoring, but the edible one is not butterfly ginger. Maybe it is only because no one ever tried it, so what does that prove?
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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Fox tail grass


These grasses of late summer are fondly known to me as "Tickle Tail". As children we would tickle each other with them or pretend that they were worms. Running, laughing, and screaming followed. The best accepted name I have come up with is Fox Tail. I thought Fox Tail had a much larger plume, but for now I will let this name stand. (If you know what this is, let me hear from you.)They bloom in late summer and early fall and for me signal the changes that are coming. The crickets song and a fist full of these lovely stems make for happy nostalgia
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Monday, September 1, 2008

Sweet Autumn Clematis and ecology ruminations

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Clematis paniculata is blooming right now and you can see it along the road. It is that white fuzzy looking flower that is growing over the tops of all the other bushes and weeds. I never notice it till it blooms. The flowers smell of honey to me. It is attractive from a distance and beautiful up close. I have one growing on a fence and dripping down. Another sprawls over the crown of a white Loropetalum which alone is not too spectacular this time of year.
It is a great addition to an arrangement as it can be wound around the other flowers or allowed to trail down from the container, just like it does in nature. It holds up well in arrangements, too. But be careful if you plant it in your yard. It is likely to pop up everywhere in a few years. But then, that is not an altogether unattractive prospect. However if you like more order, you can prune the vine back after it finishes blooming and before the seed set. If you do that though, you have to weigh it against the loss of those beautiful fluffy seed heads. (Every action or inaction has consequences.)
When you push Mother Nature, she pushes back, sometimes in unexpected ways. The weather news we have been watching all day about Hurricane Gustav and remembering Katrina has pointed that out. The loss of wetlands (those yucky weedy places) provided protection for the Louisiana coast in the past,as well as nurseries for fish, crabs, etc. But in our lust for more oil, we let oil companies dredge canals in the Louisiana wetlands, allowing salt water to move in, destroying the wetlands. In nature, nothing is isolated. The footbone is connected to the leg bone is connected to the hip bone....
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