The Majestic Marigold

Welcome to my garden. Like other city dwellers, I have a very small space to work. Consequently when plants die, it’s a great loss. Last fall I planted marigolds. My mom is a terrific gardener and told me they are easy to grow. I agree. However, the stems become woody and their fresh green leaves fade after awhile.

Since Florida experiences a year round growing season, I replace my flowers every few months. But something different happened this spring. During March we had a few cold snaps. I didn’t want to replant my garden, so I let it go. By the time I took a closer look, I noticed the weeds were taking over. “Wait a minute,” I thought. “Those aren’t weeds. The leaves look like marigold plants.” The dead blooms from the parent plants fell to the ground and new marigold seedlings were starting to grow. I ran in the house to tell my husband, “Honey, we have a second generation of flowers out here!”

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Check out these interesting facts about marigolds:

Marigolds are versatile.  They like full sun and hot days. They need little care. Water them twice a week and they’ll do great. Dead head the spent blossoms and the plant will produce more blooms. You can save the spent blossoms and replant your next crop. They are perfect for Florida gardeners who replant often.

Marigolds are good companion plants.  I don’t mean for people, I mean for other plants. They actually repel pests like beetles and snails. (And I’ve fought many battles with snails.) If planted as a border for your garden, their aroma discourages rabbits and deer from eating vegetables.

Marigolds are edible.  This was new information for me. Hybrid varieties can be added to salads, teas, stir fries, soups, and any dish that needs color.  If you have ever tasted one, let me know. I’m a little hesitant.

Marigolds can be used to make dye for cloth.

Marigolds were named after the Virgin Mary. Native to the Americas, the plant was treasured by Aztecs for its medicinal value. Spanish explorers brought them back to Europe and referred to them as “Mary’s Gold.”

I didn’t know marigolds were so valuable. Long live marigolds! I spread more of the seeds from the parent plants on the soil in my garden and they took root. As they grew I removed some of the parents and replaced them with seedlings.  Now there are only three parent plants. They rest of the bed is new growth. Have you ever stumbled onto an exciting discovery by accident? Leave a comment and let me know.

Read another post about gardening by clicking on “The Attack of the Killer Snails.”

The Attack of the Killer Snails

Recently I planted twenty pretty pink vincas.  Since the summer rains returned to Orlando, I thought my new flowers would do well. Little did I know the rain activated a hungry army of garden snails. When my trowel scraped through the soft soil it was like a dinner bell announcing, “Come and get it. Dinner is served.”

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Snails like to feast on plants during the dark of night. When morning arrives they take cover under the soil. The day after I planted the flowers I noticed some sawed off leaves lying near the base of several stems.  Oh no, I thought.  How can I stop the snails from destroying my garden?

I remember the snail war of 2015. That year I introduced a successful tactical weapon.  SNAIL BAIT!  I don’t like to use snail bait because of our beagle. Although the label on the package explained the product was safe for pets, Buddy nibbled on some of the pellets and became ill. At the time I was so scared I made an appointment for Buddy to be examined by our vet.  Upon receiving the results of his blood test, the doctor informed me Buddy was alright. However, he suggested I discontinue the use of snail bait in my garden.

Back to the battle at hand. My mom suggested I put broken eggshells around each plant. The snails hate walking on the sharp edges, and leave. I ate two eggs for lunch to build up my artillery.  Still, two eggshells couldn’t begin to defend twenty plants.  An avid gardener herself, Mom sympathized and donated a few more eggshells to the war cause.

My brother offered another idea. “How about fireplace ashes? I heard they keep slugs away, maybe they’ll work for snails.” I liked his idea because I still had some ashes in our patio fireplace that we burned last winter.  Besides, I didn’t really want to eat more eggs. I carefully ringed each plant with ashes to build up my fortifications before another nighttime attack would ensue.

The next morning I rushed out to the patio to check on my plants. Let’s put it this way. If I was keeping score it would be Snails: three / Debbie: seventeen. (Remember, I started with twenty.) Sadly, I carried three vinca casualties off the battlefield.

Desperate, I sought advice from the internet. When I searched “snails” a number of links came up. I watched a YouTube video which explained how to harvest garden snails and eat them. Yuck! In the video a man gathered the snails and boiled them in beer. Then he removed the shells and sautéed them in garlic butter. I want to kill my enemies, but I don’t want to eat them.

During my research I learned snails breathe air. If sealed in a zip lock bag the snails will suffocate. That’s a good plan as long as a person can get up early enough to pick the slimy pests off the plants before they retreat into their underground tunnels for the day.

I’d also heard of setting out little saucers of beer to drown the snails. That idea seemed hit or miss. With my luck the snails would feast on the flowers before they belly up to the bar! All of these methods took too much time.  I wanted a solution now.

Yep, you guessed it. I chose the nuclear option. I drove to Home Depot for a box of snail bait and quickly placed the pellets around each suffering vinca before nightfall. The box was labeled non toxic and safe for wildlife. The snails eat the bait, stop feeding on the plants, and crawl away to die.

But what about Buddy?  Suddenly  I realized  I could keep our dog away by fencing the area.  I used our patio furniture to build a fence around the bed and filled in the openings with pots. Someone once said, “necessity is the mother of invention.”

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This morning I surveyed my brave vinca troops. Snails: zero /  Debbie: seventeen.

Maybe Less Really is More

Somehow I convinced myself I needed a new chair. Did it matter we already have fifteen chairs in the house? Not at all. None of them seemed to suit me anymore. I wanted an easy chair which would give me more back support. I also wanted to be able to elevate my feet. I’m short, and the two big recliners in our family room do not fit me well.

I discussed my dilemma with my husband, Herb. He understood and agreed, but with one condition. Herb wanted me to be “sure” I found the chair comfortable before  the purchase was made.  After all, I was “sure” about the recliners we purchased two years ago.

That’s hard  to determine. How can I know about a chair unless I sit in it for awhile? I wondered how the furniture sales people would react if I brought a book and sat in their showroom for an afternoon.

“I’m just going to look around,” I said as I grabbed my purse and drove off to the nearest Memorial  Day home sale. Believe it or not the store had what I wanted. A comfy easy chair and ottoman which coordinated with the style of our sofa. I called Herb and asked him to meet me in the showroom with a pillow from our sofa so we could match the colors. The salesman informed us we would need to special order the set since we wanted a color change. The order would take about four weeks to fill. With additional charges for a fabric protector and delivery, Herb and I knew we were looking at a major purchase. And did I mention the chair was not on sale?

When I looked at Herb’s face something told me to wait.  I remembered the mistake we almost made about the purchase of our camper. I politely told the salesman I needed more time to think.

The next day our son came to visit. I told him I thought I needed a chair. He looked around the room and said, “I think you have too much furniture in here now. Why don’t you get rid of the coffee table?” The funny thing is I agreed with him. After we carried the table out to the garage, I rearranged the remaining furniture. Now I could place the ottoman from our existing recliner near the sofa. Did I mention I’ve always been comfortable sitting on the sofa? Shazaam! Now I can sit on the sofa and elevate my feet! My furniture dilemma was solved.

I can’t help but get philosophical about this. How many other times have I thought I needed something and ran out to buy it without really thinking? I am not a minimalist, by any means, but I want to be more deliberate about the purchases I make.  I recently watched a documentary about minimalism.  Minimalists rid themselves of excess possessions in order to focus on what’s important. I didn’t need another chair. I needed a different way of arranging my furniture.

Rearranging the furniture also opened possibilities for other changes in the room. I found an accent table, a candle holder, and a picture in an upstairs bedroom.  Voila! I created a new look out of things I already owned.

Anyone need a coffee table?

The Case of the Green Bean Casserole

img_8118How did green bean casserole become part of our traditional Thanksgiving feast? I’m pretty sure the Pilgrims and Indians didn’t have it on their table. And what do French fried onion rings have to do with an all-American holiday?

I don’t really like green bean casserole. In the past I’ve tried to swap it out with a different vegetable dish. After all, I’m the menu planner, shopper, and cook at our house. I have rights, too. During the month of November grocery ads feature new recipes to make the perfect holiday meal. I’m usually pretty adventurous about trying new recipes, but hesitate to risk springing something new on my critics. Still, I discussed the possibility of change with my son.

“Why is green bean casserole on the chopping block?” he cried. “Can’t you get rid of something else?”

I relented. After all, the thought of disappointing my family on Thanksgiving Day over- ruled my own needs. Still, there was the additional matter of another ingredient in this dish, the mushroom soup.

My daughter hates mushrooms. For the past two Thanksgivings I modified the casserole by making it with cream of chicken soup, cheese, water chestnuts, and of course the onion rings. I did it to make her happy. Everybody had a spoonful to be polite, but as a leftover, it simply never disappeared.  I decided to call my daughter.

“Honey, the green bean casserole with mushroom soup is in high demand over here. We need to make some trade-offs this year.  Can I prepare sweet potato casserole with mini marshmallows for you?”

“Sure Mom,” she responded. “How about throwing in one of your cheese balls as an appetizer?”

“OK, no problem. See you soon.” After I hung up the phone I felt like I had just brokered a peace agreement between two countries.

My menu was taking shape. Although I purchased the turkey the week before, I still had to buy the sides. I made my list. At the top I wrote in big letters:

REMEMBER TO MAKE THINGS EASY ON YOURSELF!

After cooking thirty-five Thanksgiving meals, I know how stressful this holiday can be. I suffer from my own past successes. Achievers always feel the need to at least live up to their own expectations. Still, I am starting to tire of myself.

Before I walked out the door to Publix, my brother called.

“Anything I can do to help with the meal this year?” he asked.

“How about bringing some pre-made mashed potatoes?” I responded. “And a can of cranberry sauce.”

“You got it,” he replied.

I smiled to myself. That’s the change. I will not stand at the sink peeling potatoes this year. I am thankful for microwaves.

As we gathered around our Thanksgiving table, we gave thanks to God for our many blessings, including the green bean casserole.

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Web of Wonder

 

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One September night I noticed this spider web above our back door. The web looked scary. What if the architect dropped in my hair when I walked through the door?  As I looked closer, I appreciated the beautiful way it glistened under our porch light. The spider worked  hard to create a masterpiece. Why should I tear it down? After all, the web snared flying insects before they entered the house.

I strained my eyes to try and find the spider. The web hung several feet above my head. In the center I made out a small orange fuzzy looking ball. If that was the spider, it looked harmless.

I asked my family to take a look. Our daughter was visiting at the time. She knew  the spider was  a spotted orb weaver. “I had one build a web on my balcony,” she said. “I didn’t tear it down because it built an amazing web. It died after a few months.”

For her sake I didn’t disturb the web that night. But after a few more days, I wondered how big this web could get. What if I can no longer get through the door without feeling its sticky threads on my face?

I had an idea.  I’ll gently sweep out the web. The spider will probably stick to the broom. I’ll place the broom in the alley overnight and give the orb weaver a chance to escape without killing it. Then my daughter won’t think  I’m a murderer. I’ll be rid of this problem. I grabbed the broom and quickly carried out my plan before I could change my mind.

The next day I discovered the web was back in the same place. I couldn’t believe it. The spider must have hidden behind the porch light when I swept the web away. In twenty- four hours it rebuilt its web.  Then I saw it. I realized the orange fuzzy ball really did have legs and was scurrying down toward me. Yikes!

 

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I took a deep breath and my fear slowly dissipated. The spotted orb weaver was definitely a master builder. My plan to get rid of it failed.  Why don’t  I just let it be?  So I did for another week…

Until the exterminator came for his routine visit. “How are things?” he asked.

“I only saw one roach this month, and it was lying on its back.” I replied. “But there is a large spider web above the back door.”

The exterminator smiled, “I’ll take care of that.”

After his visit, I didn’t see a trace of the web above the door. I kind of missed the spotted orb, but after all, it was only a spider.

During the first week of October we prepared for the arrival of Hurricane Matthew. We expected the worst, and were relieved when Matthew did not make a direct hit on the Florida coast.  Orlando experienced winds strong enough to down trees in the area.

The day after the storm I noticed our porch light tilted sideways. As I looked closer I saw a smaller web hanging between the light and the side of the house.

Unbelievable, I thought. This spider is some escape artist. Its web was swept down. The door frame where it made its home was sprayed with poison. Somehow the spotted orb weaver built another web that withstood forty mph winds.  It will not leave until its ready. So now I wait. Maybe I’ll wear a hat when I go out.img_7704

 

 

Florida’s October Surprise

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Dear Fellow Floridians,

Like many of you, I’ve watched approaching hurricanes with anxiety and dread.  I’ve turned on the local weather every few hours.  I’ve prepared to the degree I can prepare. And like you, I’ve seen storm warnings that didn’t materialize. So as Hurricane Matthew churns its way through the Caribbean Sea, I wonder, what will happen this time?

I remember Hurricane Charlie in 2004. My daughter drove to Orlando when forecasters predicted the storm would make landfall near Tampa. Charlie surprised everyone when it missed Tampa, but passed through Orlando.  We never really know what is going to happen until the storm is closer.  Hurricane Matthew has that same kind of unpredictable nature.

So fellow Floridians, instead of worrying, let’s try to relax and think of positive things associated with hurricanes.  Since we have the opportunity to survive without power, we won’t be dogged by political ads on TV.  Without hot water, or maybe even any water, we can have bad hair days and no one will care. We can have romantic dinners of cold canned food by candlelight. After the storm passes, we can grill all the meat that defrosted in the freezer, and invite our neighbors over. We just need to look on the bright side.

All that wind and rain is good news for roofers. Building supply companies all over the country will benefit.  Downed trees provide work for tree removal companies. Local stores benefit from the sale of bottled water and batteries. A good hurricane can stimulate the economy.

Surfers love the high waves that only a big storm can provide. The storm surge can dredge up sunken treasure from pirate ships. Gold might even wash up on shore. A hurricane can deliver great finds for beachcombers.

Teachers and children love vacation time from school. Power outages encourage old fashioned activities like reading books, drawing, and writing.

During the days prior to a hurricane’s arrival, local weather reporters become big celebrities. This is their time to shine. They  stir up the drama and excitement! Today I tuned into Channel 13 to see a weather reporter predict the wind speeds of Hurricane Matthew for early Saturday.

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I hate to say this, but it looks like we’re doomed!

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Football Sentiments

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OSU Band forming script Ohio

Football season is fast approaching. Here’s a little about my background. I graduated from Ohio State University and never attended a game. That has to be sacrilegious. I’m not much of  a sports person. Here’s the rub. I’m married to a guy who is. Especially when it comes to the Ohio State Buckeyes.

It’s Labor Day weekend. This morning I asked my husband, “What are we going to do this weekend?” He responded, “The Buckeyes are playing tomorrow.” Say no more.

For most of our married life, I avoided watching football on TV. I would busy myself around the house or go shopping. If I was home, the sounds of the game made a nice soundtrack for whatever I might be doing. The announcer’s voice became background noise for grading papers.

Once in a blue moon I’d sit down and watch  a championship game. I always had trouble concentrating on what was going on. All I knew was somebody grabbed that football and carried it across the goal line to achieve points. The football was so small and the players seemed so far away. That situation improved with the arrival of our big screen TV.  I can see better, but I’m still confused about the sport.

Last year I made a real effort and watched every  game.  Somehow my husband tolerated my interruptions whenever I asked, “Please explain, what’s going on now?” I really appreciate instant replays.

I would like to be a football fan.  Real fans look like they’re having so much fun. All that cheering and carrying on.  Real fans wear their team’s shirts. They have tailgate parties and eat all kinds of grilled meat. Isn’t that kind of primal? They get pumped up and they stay pumped! The fans stay committed through bad weather and losing seasons.

So I’m planning to watch the Buckeye game tomorrow. The big test is will I really watch, or sit there looking at Facebook on my phone? Go Bucks!