Great Outdoors

Again, I am blogging from the road.  Today I’ll show you a wonderful place in Austin if you love plants.  It’s called The Great Outdoors.  When we pulled up and I realized it is right next door to the best Cuban restaurant, with cheese empanadas you’ll never forget, I started looking for an apartment I could rent.  (I’m kidding)  So let’s go !

 

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Koi in their pond
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This is one thing I came for.  I wanted to get some composting worms.  There was supposed to be 300 worms in this container.  Thankfully, I did not dump them out and argue.  The guy explained to me that there are 300 in various ages and stages…so some may be so tiny you can’t see them !

 

IMG_1309.JPGCheck out the plants growing on the roof.

Then we went to the Airplants building…it’s got plants and planters and seeds.

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I got a couple of the plants above.

 

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Airplants in shells

 

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This picture will remind me to make a planter like this.

 

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This garden art is interesting.

 

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And finally, who doesn’t need this statement in their garden ?

That concludes my visit to The Great Outdoors.

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Flowers ~ the wild kind

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This book is the inspiration for today’s post.  It is the easiest thing to use because it has the flowers categorized by color…then picture.  If it grows wild in Texas, you’ll find it in here.  The plant growing behind it is liatris.  I planted these from corms (I call them bulbs) that I bought at WalMart.  This book says the corms are sometimes used for treating sore throats and rattlesnake bites !

A favorite memory is when my 6 year old daughter met me at the car after I’d been shopping.  “I found a wood betony !  I found a wood betony ! ”   Visions of bugs and lizards came to mind.  I had no idea what she had found.  Then she showed me in this book…a yellow plant in the figwort family…and there was one growing right by our front steps !  Clearly, she was a scientific genius…and this book helped me realize it.

I was pretty excited to be blogging while traveling down highway 21 to Austin.  The flowers that are blooming beside the roads are beautiful.

First, I wanted to document the flowers blooming in my yard.

 

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This is white clover, an excellent plant for enriching the soil.

All the info about each flower came from the Wildflowers of Texas by Geyata Ajilvsgi.

 

 

 

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This is a showy primrose, also known as a buttercup because of the cupping of the flowers and the abundant butter-colored pollen.
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Oxalis or violet wood sorrel is a scary plant.  The leaves can be chewed or brewed into tea that will stop vomiting, but in large amounts it can be very dangerous due to the poisonous oxalic acid crystals.

 

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This is most definitely a verbena, but my guess that it is a tuber vervain could be questioned. All of the verbena are very attractive to butterflies.

 

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This daisy-looking plant is fleabane.  Like a lot of the flowers growing wild, it was sometimes brewed into tea to help a sore throat.

 

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This tiny flower is henbit, a flower enjoyed by bees and small insects, but considered a nuisance in people’s yards.

 

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I couldn’t find this flower in the book, but I know after the bees visit and fertilizer it, delicious dewberries will form.

 

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These tiny flowers are bluets, often one of the first flowers to open in spring.  Their miniscule size makes them hard to see….but once you tune your eyes in, you’ll realize…they are everywhere !

 

Then we stopped on the road so I could photograph a few flowers there.

 

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This is our lovely state flower, the bluebonnet.
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This white flower with the double level of petals is a mystery to me.

 

 

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I’m guessing brown-eyed susan on this one.  If that’s what it is, the Cherokee used juice from the roots for earache. It also can be used for green and yellow dye.

 

 

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Huge clumps of these tall, showy blooms are sure to catch your attention.  As one of the largest flowers on the side of the road, queen anne’s lace, seems to have the most uses.  Its taproot can be cooked and eaten like a carrot.  Some tribes used it for tea or a bath to reduce swelling.  Recent studies have linked the root and seeds to cancer prevention.  Butterflies love its nectar, and the black swallowtail sometimes lays eggs on the foliage.  Strangely enough, this flower, originally from Europe, is considered a nuisance because of its invasive nature. 

 

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This is a Texas paintbrush or indian paintbrush.  Because it sends its roots out to feed off the nutrients from other plant’s roots…it is considered semiparasitic.

 

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This final beauty is called blanketflower , indian blanket, and gaillardia.  It grows so abundantly that it has great commercial value.  If you plant this, it is almost guaranteed to spread voraciously.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed the wildflowers of Texas.  Keep your eyes pealed for more that will be blooming later.

 

 

 

 

Eggs ~ Two Techniques

I love to dye things.  It’s so fun to use your best skills getting it all ready, then you have to accept that there is an element of the unknown.  When you’ve wrapped your eggs up, applied the dye, and waited as long as you could, opening them is like Christmas.

Since I’m born under the astrological sign of Gemini, I like to do things in twos.  Today I’ll do two techniques.  The natural dye and silk tie techniques were selected because I can’t believe that they will work.  The pictures shown online of the beautiful results leave me very skeptical.  So I’ll follow the directions very carefully, but I will be totally surprised if my dyed eggs come out looking that good.

Step One was deciding to boil the eggs for the natural technique, and blow out the eggy contents for the silk tie dyeing.  This was because I used my yard plants for the first one, and I was sure I’d want to keep the second kind if they came out really good.  At least an hour was spent looking for recipes to use the volume of egg I’d have after I blew it out of 6 eggs.  No one mentioned a good recipe in their directions.  It just seemed so wasteful to not do something with six eggs

Notice the teeny tiny hole in one egg…and the larger hole in the other ?  You figure that out right away.  Also, after blowing the eggy contents of just one egg out, you are not the least bit interested in using these eggs for food.  Trust me on this.  I have no idea why this is a two second video instead of a picture.IMG_1259.JPGIMG_1257The above green plant looks exactly like marijuana.  Crazy, huh ?  It’s from my Japanese maple.

After collecting plants, they are wrapped around the eggs, then put in a square of nylon stocking.  For the dye I used some frozen blueberries and a little vinegar.

IMG_1260.JPGIMG_1267.JPGIMG_1269These are the unwrapped eggs.  The light color is probably due to my impatience.  Also, some of the color washed off when I readied them for the fridge.  What to do with the leftover dye ?  Might as well put a t-shirt in it.

Let’s move on to the exciting project.  The silk tie dyeing technique !

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Four ties, which are supposed to be 100% silk, were purchased from our local Goodwill store.  Then you cut a square of silk, wrap it around the egg, then wrap it with another cloth.

 

The wrapped eggs have to be boiled, then simmered for 20 minutes.  Then the exciting unwrapping part begins.

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They came out pretty good.  The one with no color is from a 100% cotton tie.  Oh, well.

I’m calling this a success !

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and here’s a little update from the concrete post:

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Delightful Scented Ornaments

I knew the day would come in this blogging challenge that I would have to “cheat”.  Today is that day.  My original plan for D was to introduce dandelions as an edible delicacy.  As an outside all day kid growing up in Arlington/Alexandria, Virginia, my friends and I ate all kinds of stuff.  Dandelion flowers were one of our favorites.

I knew it would be easy to get some.  They grow everywhere, right ?  Nope.  Couldn’t find any.  Maybe it’s too early in the year.  Maybe they’ve been eradicated by super weed killers.  That meant I had to go to plan D2.  Had to use an adjective and work inside.  The saving grace of this post is that these smell so good, the cheating can be forgiven.

These days I start so many projects with a Google search.  Even if I’m going to do something I’ve done many times.  For example, grilled corn-on-the-cob.  It seems that checking five or six recipes, then choosing the one I like best, means I’m doing it my way.  So it is for these cinnamon ornaments, There are lots of slightly different combinations to be found.  Pinterest is the quickest way to peruse the variety.

I mixed it all up, rolled it out between plastic wrap. I rolled and cut out my shapes. Don’t forget to poke holes for hanging.

Be warned, this mixture takes infinite patience.  It crumbles terribly.  You just take the time to moosh it back together.  Pat gently, talk encouragingly, and don’t give up.  You can let it air dry or bake it at 200 degrees for a couple hours.

The smell of these wafts about 2 feet out.  I keep one by my computer.  The round ones with holes in them are an attempt to spread the scent a little further.  I’m going to hang them on the window screen and see if the wind will blow the frangrance around the room.

As wonderful as these are, don’t expect to see me taking them on Shark Tank.  You can easily make your own.

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Concrete

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This is equipment I needed to do today’s projects.  The face mask, gloves, and glasses are the vital safety equipment.  Concrete gives off a fine dust until you add the water.  You do not want to breathe it in.  This is a rare time that I actually got all the items I needed before I started.  I guess the idea that the concrete was going to harden intimidated me.  Turns out…it doesn’t act like plaster…hardening quickly.  It takes its sweet time.

The concrete mix I used was from a kit to make stepping stones.  I added water until it was a little stiffer than cornbread batter.  It might should have been a little drier, but I wanted the mix to go down into the fingers of the rubber glove I was using for a mold.

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This is the beginning of the mixing.  I kept adding the terra cotta coloring because it wasn’t showing up.  Then, WAM !, with enough water, the mix turned.

Not many pictures since I was filling the glove with concrete and couldn’t photograph until I sat it down.

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The rocks are pushing the fingers together…because I am making a hand planter.

There was extra concrete mix.  I used a small rectangular mold which I would later stamp with some letters.  There was still some left over…so I sprayed a bowl with cooking spray, laid rocks in, then added the last of the concrete.

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Now to add some concrete on top of the black rocks.

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Now…we…What ?!?    Wait 48 hours !?  How will I post the finished project on time?  Well, you and I will have to wait together.  I promise you will see the final planter, marker, and bowl.  D day ?  E day ?  You’ll have to check back to end the suspense.

I couldn’t wait.  I had to check.  Husband went with me shining the light.

The edge of the bowl had hardened.  The glove top was stiffer, but the fingers were still very soupy feeling.  The garden marker was just right.

Since I usually think one word inspirational sayings are dumb, it was difficult to think up something to stamp in my marker.

ENJOY….dumb      BELIEVE….dumb       GROW…..dumb    METAMORPH…is that a word?

So I thought about Concrete…what should I say to Concrete ?

The marker was a little too short…concrete can’t spell, anyway.

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Hope you check back to see the planter and bowl.

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Bergamot

It is my all time favorite fragrance.  So how excited was I to read online that bergamot is sometimes called bee balm.  I remember seeing that plant at my local store amongst the herbs.  Husband asks if I need anything from above-mentioned store.        Yes, please.        Bee balm…I need two.

That’s when the trouble began.  Visions of bergamot sachets, maybe even potpourris, kept me clicking the keys…googling ways to turn my new baby plants into that wonderfully smelling essence.

I’ll be blunt.  Bee balm is Monarda  fistulosa.  The lovely smelling stuff is Citrus bergamia.

One is in the mint family, and I’ll be planting it in my garden soon.  Husband said he bought the last two.  The other is a tree with a lemon-like fruit that is grown in Italy.  As I’ve researched both, I must warn you.  The word bergamot is used to mean both.

My new bee balm babies, with their minty-like, square stems, will soon be joining the rest of the herbs.  Internet says they like semi-shade.  Clearly they will not be highly respected in the super-Sun loving herbs I have now.  That is ok.  If I can get them to flower, the web images show a beautiful flower.

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My B post is about the other one.  Since it’s a tree that grows in Italy, I’ll probably be content to use essential oils, perfumes, lotions, and incense (hoping there is such a thing) that I can buy.  The rest of my post is random info.  I’ve lived it or I read it.  Hey, bullets !

♠  Bergamot essential oil gave me the worst burn in my life.  I’ve worn it for perfume for years…and it never occurred to me not to wear it to an outdoor tree drawing class.  I put it on the back of my neck…sat in semi-shade…and gave myself second degree burns.  I also burned my hand, after putting it on Monday….then, 15 minutes outside on Wednesday….gave me a burn.

♠  The wonderful taste and smell of citrus in Earl Grey tea is bergamot.

♠  Classic perfume 4711, from Germany, has bergamot in it.

Wait….what about the going outside all day stuff?

It rained all day.  I stayed in.

Look for Bergamot essential oil, with its orange, peppery, loveliness at health food stores.

B Day Bonus

This is my grand Boy in Bluebonnets at the Butterfly garden.

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Airplane Plant

An airplane plant is a great plant to start with because it will grow in spite of your ignorance.  By ignorance, I mean you ignoring it.  Airplane plants will suffer through over and under watering.  Then they’ll reward you with little babies that you can let hang down off their mother or plant so they can start a new life of their own.IMG_1146

This shows an airplane with its babies on the runner.

Although, when you look to buy one, it’s more likely to look like this.

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I want to combine my plants into one big planter so first, I’ll “depot”.  That gives me the chance to look at the roots and give them a little more growing room.

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 These are the roots of a healthy plant, ready to move to their new basket home

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Now the plants go in plastic bags with potting soil packed around them.

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Finally, the plants are set in their new home with a little moss around them.

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Enjoy your new plant, and don’t forget to share little ones with your friends.

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