Monday, June 27, 2011


Ive been wanting to try something "different" in my herb garden.  I get tired of all the usual culinary herbs.....basil, chives, thyme, etc.  So, last year when I ran across some Tansy plants at Atwoods, I pounced on them, brought one home and planted it. 

Tansy can be used in cooking, but it should be used sparingly, because in large amounts it can cause violent reactions and even death!  That being said, Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs says its leaves are peppery and strong and were used in the past as a substitute for pepper when that exotic spice was unavailable. 

One use for Tansy is as an insect repellant.  My mother-in-law used to hang bunches of it on her back porch to keep flies away from her trash.  She swore by it.  And, colonial cooks rubbed Tansy into their wooden tabletops to discourage bugs.   It is also supposed to repel ants and, in fact, is also known as "ant fern" since sprigs of it have been used to keep ants from raiding kitchen cabinets.

In the middle ages, it was used as a "strewing" herb.  These were strong smelling herbs that were strewn on the floors.  When they were trod upon, it released the oils in them which masked the human body odors that were prevalent in those days due to poor hygiene practices.

I am growing Tansy in my garden to attract beneficial insects.  It is HUGE and has small yellow, button-like flowers.  Here is a picture of my granddaughter standing next to it. 

The flowers are not very apparent in this picture, because it has just now started to bloom.  Here is a closeup of them.

The flowers will last a long time without wilting and will retain their bright yellow color when dried.  They also produce yellow and green dyes.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Thief in the Night

We have an outside cat that I wrote about in my post "A Cat and his Nip" on May 21, 2011.  He is well fed because we have a self-feeder for him that we keep out on our back patio.   One morning a while back, Tom went out to find the feeder completely empty and turned over.  He had suspected for some time that "something" other than Marmaduke (the cat) had been dining there.  We have seen a couple of other cats around, possibly cats belonging to neighbors or maybe feral cats.  So, we decided to setup our wildlife camera out there and see if we could capture the culprit(s) in the act.  Over the period of several nights, here is what we found.

First, was a picture of one of the neighbor/feral cats that I mentioned above.

 Next, was a picture of a opossum.

And, finally, was a raccoon.

So, as it turned out, we were feeding quite a variety of wildlife.  Tom decided it was time to put a stop to this "restaurant" business we had inadvertantly started.  So, he started bringing the feeder in at night.  All went well with this new process for a couple of days.

Then, one morning he went out to the porch that is just outside our laundry room door to find this.

Absent the easy food provided by the self-feeder, the wildlife had gone looking for other easy meals and found our dog food (in the red can) and a sack of forgotten pecans we had picked up last fall.  What a mess!  I was amazed that any of the creatures above could actually take the lid off the can of dog food.  Sometimes, I have trouble getting it off!

So, I moved the camera around to this porch and caught the culprit on film.

The next morning, Lizzy (our beagle) and I went out to clean up this mess and Lizzy had a big time smelling where the thief had been.

I've heard raccoons can be quite destructive.  So, needless to say, the old pecans have been thrown out and the dog food has been brought inside!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Old Belt - New Use

As you know if you've read much of this blog, we try to live sustainably and we recycle and repurpose many things.   As a result, we like to frequent our local Habitat ReStore store.  Tom bought used shower doors and storm windows there to use as lids on our cold frames.  And, we've found a lot of used flower pots there.  I even found a nice oil painting one time!

One of the most useful items that Tom found there was a used cooler.  It is a nice size and does a great job of keeping our produce cool while we are at the Farmers' Market on Saturdays.  Here is a picture of it.

Notice that the hinge on the left looks a little funny.  Turns out there was only one thing wrong with the cooler when Tom bought it.....the left hinge was broken.   Well, Tom didn't let that deter him from buying the otherwise perfectly good cooler.  He figured he could find a way to fix it.

He brought it home and ended up cutting one of his old leather belts into strips to use as hinges and attaching them with screws like this.

We've used this cooler for several years and this hinge works just fine!  It is too bad that we live in such a "throw away" society where if something is broken, we are all too willing to throw it way before we see if it can be fixed.  Obviously, in some circles, we would be laughed at for our frugalness in using a "broken" cooler like this.  But, I am proud of Tom's creativeness in solving this problem and enjoy showing off his handiwork!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Radish Sorter

It is radish season and we have several three varieties of radishes we are growing.....Cherry Bell, French Breakfast and White Icicle.  Tom does not like to mix them up, but sorts them out into the different varieties.  This past Friday he had some help from one of our granddaughters.

They had a system worked out in doing this.  Tom would take a radish and use his clippers to clip off the leaves.

The granddaughter would then decide which pan to put it in, like this.

The ones on the right are the Cherry Bells.  The ones on the left are the French Breakfast Radishes.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Windy Acres Wildflowers

I am enjoying the wildflowers that are blooming on our acreage and have had fun trying to identify them.  I had the idea of writing a blog about them.  So, took my camera out and started taking pictures.  Before I knew it I had too many to put in a blog.  So, I have just picked some of my favorites to tell you about.

First is the Winecup Poppy.  It is a beautiful deep red/pink flower. We don't have many of these, but I wish we did.

Next, is Buffalo Burr.  Unfortunately, while the plant has these pretty yellow flowers, it also has murderous stickers and is not a desirable plant to have around.  So, I usually pull up the plants when I find them.  Interestingly enough, Buffalo Burr is a member of the "nightshade" family which is the same family potatoes are in and the flowers are similar, except potatoes have a white flower of the same size and shape.

Next, we have a type of Mallow.  Mallows are in the family Malvaceae and there are many, many different types of plants under this category.  It took me a long time scouring the internet to figure out exactly what this one was.  It has a strange name, Flower-of-an-Hour.  The flower itself looks like a small hibiscus.

Next, is yellow clover.  The flowers themselves are small, but there are a lot of them on one plant.  So, when there are several together, you see a beautiful display of yellow like that below.

Finally, we have Yarrow.  These have tiny white flowers that grow together on long stems to form what looks like one flower from a distance.  But, when you look at them closely, you can see the individual flowers.

The first year we lived here, I didn't take much notice of the wildflowers around here.  I was much too busy being overwhelmed with moving, re-establishing my herb garden, and trying to figure out how we were going to mow and take care of 5 acres. 

However, now that we have lived here over 2 years, I have learned that we don't have to keep the yard mowed and in pristine condition, like we did in town.  In fact, we have not mowed the large front area where our geothermal lines are buried (see Geothermal - Part 2, May 5, 2010) or the area to the west of our driveway this year.  And, I love the way it looks with wildflowers in some areas and patches of tall waving grass in others. In the areas that we do mow, I intentionally mow around the wildflowers.  I guess you could say I have learned to take time to "smell the wildflowers".