Compost! An Update on the Mini Bin for the Mini Balcony

Mini Compost Bin

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl

Can you guess where my most unlikely place of  magical secrets was found this week?  In the dirt at the bottom of a plastic bin!

Lady Nature continues to impress and inspire. It’s been 28 days since the birth of the mini compost container and I’m happy to report that a tiny miracle has occurred. When I last wrote of this project it was the beginning… two bowls of kitchen scraps, two bowls of yard materials and one leftover 3lb. plastic container.

A few shakes, 1/4 cup of water and four weeks later we now have compost…

Well… almost! Since it has been up and down spring weather this past month with lots of rain and cooler temperatures, our compost needs maybe about another week or two of good hot sunny weather to fully break down and then it will be ready to feed the potted plants on the patio. Right now my compost looks like this…dark, moist but still a little chunky…

You’ll know when your compost is ready because you won’t be able to identify the original elements in the mixture. I can still see a little bit of egg shells and sticks in my mix, so there is still a some cooking left to be done.

If you remember from the previous post, I cut down all the elements that originally went into the compost in fairly small pieces, which helps break things down faster. I did leave some of the sticks in bigger chunks however for a little aeration but I think in my next batch they’ll get broken up into tiny pieces too.  The smaller the better in this case!

You can see the size difference in the bulk of the contents from Day 1 to Day 28 to understand just how much material was magically broken down…

The bin went from being 3/4 full to now being about 1/4 full – all entirely tended to by nature. Isn’t that amazing? The only help I offered in this month long experiment was to turn the mixture with an old camping spoon once a week which took about five seconds total. Lady Nature and her team of helpers did all the rest.

One of these helpers was a healthy batch of fruit flies (aka vinegar flies). These guys were naturally attracted to the compost bin through the air holes in the lid and made themselves at home within the first week. Tiny and fast flyers, they are tricky to photograph but the arrows point  to a few here…

Like anyone finding out about a cool new place to hang out, the fruit flies called all their friends, threw a bunch of parties and settled in for the month, which was very wonderful of them because they helped break down material too.  As the bin keeps cooking they will eventually leave when it gets too hot – a signal that the compost is ready at last. But for now they are conscientious little cleaner uppers, quiet merrymakers and very good neighbors. You’d never even know they were there. I’d take a fruit fly over a snake ANY day!

Smelling like the forest after a good, clean rain the compost mixture is earthy and rich and lies somewhere along the aromatic scale between a damp basement and a dusty book (which is what you want) not like old food or strong ammonia (which is what you don’t want).  If a particular odor smells too persistent or too strong than your bin is out of balance. But if you stick with the 50/50 method suggested in the original post then everything should be nicely evened out and pleasantly scented when it comes to kitchen and yard waste.

The forecast is scheduled to be hot and dry over the holiday weekend so that should give the bin some extra energy to breakdown the last of the chunkies. Then our compost will be ready to spread.  I’ll check back in next week with an update on the final consistency. Then it is onto batch two  and batch three and batch four and a regular routine of composting by bin and balcony.

If you missed the post on instagram, the nasturtiums started blooming this week in pretty shades of yellow and red. It’s beginning to feel a lot like like summer around here!

Cheers to finding hidden magic!

 

 

 

Save the Monarch: Plant a Milkweed!

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Last year Ms. Jeannie traveled approximately 13,000 miles via car over the course of 52 weeks. Last year the North American monarch butterfly traveled 3,000 miles via wing over the course of nine weeks. Ms. Jeannie mainly drove around her neighborhood and her city with a few side trips around the state. Butterfly flew halfway across the North American continent, traveling through at least six United States, one Canadian province, and half of Mexico.

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On average last year Ms. Jeannie traveled about 39 miles a day via car. On average last year, Butterfly traveled 47 miles per day via wing on her two and half month road trip. Ms. Jeannie’s car runs on gasoline which brought her to the fill-up station about 120 times over the course of the year. Butterfly runs on nectar which brought her to the fill-up station about eight times during the course of her journey.

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Ms. Jeannie’s car is an incredible piece of machinery able to get her from here to there on a whim’s notice.  But Ms. Jeannie’s car is nothing compared to the flying machine that encapsulates the strength and stamina of a migrating monarch. Butterfly’s migration is one of nature’s most epic adventures, which is why you’ll find a photo of her pinned to Ms. Jeannie’s true adventurers board on Pinterest. That’s the place where all of history’s great travelers and outside-of-the-box thinkers congregate and where Ms. Jeannie heads when she needs a little inspiration.

A partal list of true adventurers. Clockwise from top left: Photographer Imogen Cunningham, Elizabeth Taylor, Monarch Butterfly, Explorer Tom Crean, Aviator Anne Morrow Lindbergh and Explorer Jacques Cousteau. To visit Ms. Jeannie's board and see all the adventurers click the photo.

A partial list of true adventurers… clockwise from top left: photographer Imogen Cunningham, actress Elizabeth Taylor, epic traveler Monarch Butterfly, explorer Tom Crean, aviator Anne Morrow Lindbergh and explorer Jacques Cousteau. To visit Ms. Jeannie’s board and see all the adventurers click the photo.

Along with all icons who undertake brave and unbelievable feats there is almost always a strong support system behind them.  Julia Child had her husband Paul, Jacques Cousteau had a research foundation, Anne Frank had her diary. And so it goes with butterflies. Monarch has the milkweed.

Vintage 1953 botanical print of the showy milkweed painted by Mary Vaux Walcott.

This vintage 1953 botanical print of the showy milkweed painted by Mary Vaux Walcott is availiable in Ms. Jeannie’s shop. 

Bright, beautiful and stately in size (up to 6 feet tall!), the milkweed plant is where Butterfly takes refuge. It’s the one place that not only offers a safe and idyllic spot to lay her eggs but it also offers the only source of nourishment to her babies in the form of a food when the wee ones are in the larval stage.

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It’s the fill-up station for the winged world delicates!  There used to be billions of monarch butterflies floating around our skies, but now there are only millions. Their significant decline in numbers is due in part to the disappearance of the milkweed plant. Commercial farming and urbanization has cleared the earth in important areas along the migratory trail of the butterflies and the resting spots where they congregate making it increasingly more difficult for monarch butterflies to reach maturity.

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Not having enough milkweed plants to butterflies is like not having enough gas stations for cars. Each needs the other and each won’t operate without the help of the other.  So this is where you come in… as a cheerleader, support staffer, tribe member and all around champion of the mighty monarch you can make an immediate difference in the life of a winged wonder by planting milkweed seeds in your garden or your balcony flower pots or by scattering seeds in grass lots around your neighborhood. It doesn’t matter if you live in California, or New York, Arizona or Maine all milkweed plantings in all states help one cause. You’ll be sustaining the lives of migrating butterflies as well as assisting other pollinators that bring so much benefit to so many other creatures both in and out of the garden.

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There’s also an added bonus to being helpful. Milkweed flowers are beautiful! Available in a range of colors from red orange to pink to pale peach they are named after the milk colored latex coursing through their stems (a defense mechanism), which makes them unattractive to chewing worms.

Vintage Wildflower Guide published in 1948 by Edgar T. Wherry. Read more about this book here.

There was lots of interesting milkweed information in this vintage wildflower guide published in 1948 by Edgar T. Wherry. Read more about this book here.

Much prettier than any gas station or rest stop area for cars, these fill-up stations for butterflies have been around since the 17th century and contain over 140 different varieties. As a family they are known as Asclepias with a petal layout complexity most closely associated to that of orchids.  As one of nature’s most intricate flowers they are made up of a collection of petals on a spray of delicate stems that eventually meet in one main stalk – sort of like the flower head of Queen Anne’s Lace or a loose version of the flowering garlic bulb. Leaves also range in color depending on the variety from silver green to dark emerald.

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When the milkweed goes to seed it forms a pod of white silky hairlike plumes that launch on a breezy day, spreading seed around the neighborhood like pin-sized snowdrops. Imagine a whole gigantic field blowing in the wind at once – it would a veritable summer storm of beauty!

Easy to grow and care for, you can find seeds for under $2.00 a pack at Botanical Interests (Ms. Jeannie’s favorite seed company) or at your local garden center. March – May are perfect times to plant Milkweed in time for fall harvest and fall migration.

Seed starting indoors!

Seed starting indoors!

If you are a travel lover like Ms. Jeannie, you’ll appreciate the need to help our fellow flying friends get to where they need to go. Road trippers need to look out for one another on the highways of life, so Ms. Jeannie hopes that you will join her this summer in the great garden challenge – Milkweed for the Monarchs! Throughout the spring and summer she’ll be keeping you updated on her butterfly garden’s progress. It would be incredible if you did too:)

To see just how exciting it is to help and host butterflies, visit Ms. Jeannie’s 2013 archives when the season of the swallowtails unfolded week by week right here on the blog.

Happy helping dear readers!

*All butterfly photos courtesy of pinterest.

 

 

 

Fernbank in Autumn: A Trip to the Rose Garden

A magical visit to the rose garden at Fernbank.

A magical visit to the rose garden at Fernbank.

The award-winning writer and gardener Sydney Eddison once said that gardens were a form of autobiography. How true! You pick your favorite plants and flowers, you prune and pluck or you let it go and grow, you decide neatly clipped and ordered or wild and whimsical, you choose colors, height, dimensions, you choose careful maintenance or natural ease. Essentially you write a love story with your landscape.

Ms. Jeannie was thinking about all this the other day when she finally (after many months of waylaid attempts) managed to visit the rose garden at Fernbank,  Atlanta’s natural history museum.

Blooms aflutter in all directions.

Blooms aflutter in all directions.

What a gorgeous marvel this site was! Named in honor of Robert L. Staton, a local gardening enthusiast,  Robert built this story of a garden in the 1980’s to not only explore his own passion of cultivating an incredible flower but also to provide an educational tool for rose enthusiasts around the world. Autobiography is right, dear readers!

 

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The Fernbank rose garden is one of only three gardens in the United States that serves as a testing ground for rose varietals in accordance with the American Rose Society, which makes it an intriguing platform for experts and novice hobbyists as well as a place of beauty for the community.

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Laid out on two sides of a big lawn joined by a paved walkway, over 1,300 rose bushes live in long raised beds, bordered by bricks and grass alleyways.  Being that it is now mid-October, Ms Jeannie didn’t know what she was in for in the bloom department. She thought she might be missing the season entirely, but was so happy to be proven wrong. At every turn there was something lovely to look at…

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Roses came in a rainbow of colors and caught the light in all sorts of dramatic ways…

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Such a visual feast for the eyes!  Stately buildings belonging to the museum and a view of the neighbor’s house next-door were tucked into the landscape and lent a fairy tale magic to the whole setting.

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Even Indie, Ms. Jeannie’s travel companion, was overwhelmed with the spectacle of it all.  Not only was this her first walk-around trip in Atlanta but it was also an exercise on how to behave in a city environment.  She was a good little pup through it all despite the enticing distractions (so many squirrels!) and the fast moving cars.  But it also was a trip not without its perils…

Dog down. Thorn in the paw!

Thorn in the paw!

Oh poor thing! Some quick attention and one freshly dug hole later…

(Oops! Sorry Fernbank!)

(Oops! Sorry Fernbank!)

and she was back on the trail again.

Rumor has it that many a marriage proposal has occurred in the garden, and Ms. Jeannie can definitely understand why.  Clearly Robert Staton was a romantic on a mission.  The garden seduces you at every chance.  From varietal signs…

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to traditional symbolism…

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petals pull at your heart from all directions.

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And now Ms. Jeannie is so thoroughly inspired to start her own assorted rose garden she can barely stop daydreaming about it all. More to come on that front soon!

In the meantime, in honor of such a magical place Ms. Jeannie is having a little sale just for her blog readers on anything floral (including all things photographed with flowers!) in her Etsy shop. Stop by and have a look here. Use coupon code FLOWERSFORALL to receive a 25% off discount.

Early Auditions!

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This week in the garden there has been a lot of activity in the creepy crawly department. As it turns out Mother Nature was holding early auditions for her haunted garden tour that she’s hosting at the end of October. Naturally you have to pick the baddest of the bad and the most wicked of the wicked, and while there were a lot (a whole yard full) of entrants who came to try out, in the end it came to four who really made an everlasting impression.  Here’s the cast of the 2014 Haunted Hollow Garden tour…

Most Haunting:

Camouflage of the most intellectual kind;)

Camouflage of the most intellectual kind;)

…goes to Melvina, a 6″ inch long praying mantis. Six inches dear readers! That’s as long as Ms. Jeannie’s hand!

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Most Scary

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…goes to Pistachio, the poisonous saddleback caterpillar who auditioned with a hot pepper plant prop. Pistachio was quite cute in all his ferocity with a costume that  looked like a cross between a scrub brush and a diseased finger.

If Frankenstein had a pet he may choose something like this!

If Frankenstein had a pet he may choose something like this!

If you come in physical contact with him Pistachio will not hesitate to sting you with his bristles – which then causes a welted rash for days. Luckily Ms. Jeannie does not know this from experience! While everything about him from his pudgy belly color to his markings makes you want to touch him – it’s his “eyes” looking at you from all directions that warn against it.

Most Creative…

He might win the award for most crafty costume!

goes to Roberto the red footed cannibalfly for his cool name and his cool conglomeration of costumes.  Roberto couldn’t decide on which bug he wanted to be for Halloween so he decided to incorporate elements from all four of his favorites for a really spooky creation…part bumblebee and part beetle with fly eyes and dragonfly wings…

there's a lot of time and energy taht when in to building this costume!

There’s a lot of time and energy that when into concepting this costume!

Roberto was sure to incorporate the best features from each bug. He even threw in some spiky hair and extra long legs for  added panache:)

And last but not least, the winner of the…

Most Creepy (but somewhat cute) category…

A family portrait!

A family portrait!

…goes to Wilomena the Wolf Spider and her four dozen back-pack babies! That’s right gang, all those little dots on her back are the kiddos. There was no holds barred when it came to Wilomena’s costume –  this year, she was involving the whole family. Nothing like bringing your 57 kids along to make an everlasting impression:)

That’s a  lot of eyes looking at you!

Wolf spiders are the only spiders that carry their kids around like this.

Wolf spiders are the only spiders that carry their kids around like this.

Here’s a close-up if you really want to see how that whole baby carriage works…

photo via pinterest

photo via pinterest

This picture gives Ms. Jeannie goosebumps every time!

Is Mother Nature holding auditions for a Haunted Hollow tour in your neck of the woods too? If so, You have to let Ms. Jeannie know who your winners are. Maybe next year the whole cast of characters can hit the road and go on a country-wide tour!

 

 

 

Summer in a Nutshell!

Hello, hello dear readers and happy September! Can you believe that Autumn is already nosing its way around the landscape? Ms. Jeannie hopes you all had a wonderful summer and that you are now as excited about the change of seasons as she is.

It has been quite busy around the Ology house these past two months. The summer garden proved to be one of the most bountiful producers of fruits and vegetables Ms. Jeannie has seen in years…

Clockwise from top left: cosmos flowers, okra, heirloom tomatoes, scuppernongs,zinnias, hot pepper trio, cantaloupe melons, pumpkin, beets.

Clockwise from top left: cosmos flowers, okra, heirloom tomatoes, scuppernongs,zinnias, hot pepper trio, cantaloupe melons, pumpkin, beets.

…and kept her quite busy in the kitchen trying new recipes, making sauces, freezing and canning, cutting and chopping.  In the next few days she will begin planting of the fall garden which will yield another batch of beets and pumpkins, brussels sprouts and beans by the end of October (fingers crossed!).

The book club of course kept her very busy, busy, BUSY, and introduced her to several new favorite authors including these three…

 

The poetry of Robert W. Service (1874-1958)

Poet Robert W. Service (1874-1958)

The children's stories of Miyoko Matsutani (born 1926)

Children’s book author Miyoko Matsutani (born 1926)

 

The nature writing of William J. Long (1866-1952)

Naturalist William J. Long (1866-1952)

And reminded her that censorship was alive in just as many home libraries  as public libraries during the 1950’s and 1960’s…

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More news from the book club included the hiring of its first volunteer…  as you can see he worked just as hard all summer as Ms. Jeannie…

Boyo took his book responsibilities very seriously:)

Boyo took his book responsibilities very seriously:)

And when he wasn’t busy in the “stacks,” he spent the rest of his time content to dream of  Robinson Crusoe worthy adventures…

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If nothing else at least he’s well-read:)

 

When Ms. Jeannie wasn’t busy in the book club, she spent some time outdoors marveling at dreamy summer sunsets…

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and at little creatures who camouflaged themselves into big surroundings…

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and big birds who fought for an entire week over a little tree limb real estate…

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There was a very quick trip to Arizona…

Moonrise in the desert mountains.

Moonrise in the desert mountains.

 

and friends that came to visit and left footprints behind…

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But in the midst of all these moments came the biggest and one of the best highlights of the season…  a new addition to Ms. Jeannie’s family…one that she has been wanting and waiting and hoping for for close to two years now…

Introducing Indie!

Introducing Indie!

A new pup! Named Indie for her independent spirit, she came to Ms. Jeannie via the same hobo highway as Boyo. One day she just showed up in the yard, all wiggly and excited,  heart in hand, ready to move-in. After calling all over everywhere  to vets and animal shelters, sheriff offices and police departments, newspapers and humane societies for an entire month, even taking her to be scanned for a micro-chip,  Indie said… No way, Ms. Jeannie – you’ll never solve this mystery. I’ve come for you. I’m here to stay and that is that.

And so she was. Here to stay.  That is that.

And this, dear readers, was Ms. Jeannie’s summer in one very brief, very busy and very beautiful nutshell.  What were some of your best moments of the summer?

 

Saturday in the Kitchen: Chive Pesto

 

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Ms. Jeannie’s chive plant reseeded itself from last year (good little plant!) and this summer has decided to go at growing with passion. When the stalks reached 2 feet, it was time for a hair cut.

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Not wanting to waste any bit of these little delicates Ms. Jeannie searched high and low for a recipe that would incorporate cupfuls of chives instead of just bits of sprinkles here and there.  And surprisingly, it was harder to find than you might think – until she stumbled upon the Garden for A House blog and Kevin’s unique spin on classic pesto. Instead of traditional basil as the main green, he used chives! Perfect!

Ms. Jeannie got to work grinding nuts…

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next came the garlic, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and four big cups of freshly chopped chives…

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She whirled all that together in her little food chopper until it formed a nice consistency – chunky but spreadable. And voila! Dinner was on its way to being done.  You could use this pesto lots of different ways – Kevin recommended fish, toasty baguette slices or pasta.

Ms. Jeannie went the pasta route…

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and tossed it all together in the vintage bowl that she has for sale in her etsy shop. This bowl gets lots of attention but no one has claimed it for a treasure yet. Ms. Jeannie thought it might help if she incorporated some “action” shots and indeed those little yellow flowers do look pretty against all that bright green!

After tossing, she let the pasta/pesto mixture sit for about 20 minutes to cool down to room temperature and let the pasta soak up the sauce. Needless to say this was all in all an effortless dinner –  with just under 15 minutes from prep to finish.  And Ms. Jeannie accomplished two feats in one –  substantially cutting back the onion patch and making dinner. Oh the ease of the summer lifestyle.

Chive Pesto

(makes about 1.5 cups)

4 cups freshly chopped chives

2 oz. nuts (Ms. Jeannie used peanuts. Kevin used sliced almonds. But really you can use any kind you want)

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 garlic clove

1/4 cup olive oil

Chop your nuts first in a food processor or blender and then add the rest of the ingredients and mix until combined. You may need to add more olive oil for a looser pesto, depending on the type of consistency you like or how you plan to serve it. And you may want to add salt or pepper at the end – although Ms. Jeannie added neither – the cheese made it savory enough and the garlic added quite a  bit of spicy flavor.

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A great BIG thank you to fellow blogger  Kevin for his ingenious recipe and for helping Ms. Jeannie not waste one little bit of her summer garden harvest. Stop by and read Kevin’s blog here.

And if that serving bowl caught your eye, you can find it here in Ms. Jeannie’s shop!

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The next herb to tackle is the oregano. If anybody has any great recipes for oregano enmasse please comment below! In the meantime, happy garden cooking!

 

 

 

Lady Nature and the Summer Magic

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Dear readers! This morning Ms. Jeannie went grocery shopping in her backyard for the very first time! In just two months, with the help of her greenhouse and a certain sensational lady, Ms. Jeannie’s garden project went from this…

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to this…

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Isn’t lady nature just marvelous?! With time being so scarce for Ms. Jeannie these past few months, lady nature  truly proved to be the greatest of friends. “Don’t worry about your garden Ms. Jeannie – I’ll take care of it!”

And take care, she did! Boy that lady  – there’s no stopping her abilities!

Today, the garden was offering a sale on cucumbers…

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Ms. Jeannie picked six today, and as you can see there are what seems like a million in all stages still growing growing, growing. Ms. Jeannie could actually hear the cucumber plant say thank you as she plucked the ripe ones.  Baby cucumbers moved right into the empty spots. Productive little creatures:)

The cantaloupe melons are in a race with the cucumbers. Who can outgrow their metal frames first?

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Everyone is hedging their bets in the garden. The beets are betting on the melons.

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The okra is betting on the cucumbers.

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And the peas…

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well, they are just betting on themselves and their ability to outwit the mammoth sunflowers. They’ve already outgrown their trellis and moved on to the sunflower stalks – so really at this point – the sky is the limit for them! Take that, cucumber melon competition!

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Do you remember Ms. Jeannie’s grand plan for her re-purposed gift from the ground? A home for zinnias, ha!  Four weeks into that growing project … they looked like gawky teenagers in ill-fitting clothing…

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They immediately were sent to summer camp in the herb garden where they could spread out and be as wild and wooly as they wanted…

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This suits them just fine!

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Speaking of herbs, Ms. Jeannie just recently gave her chives a major haircut for a simple new recipe, which solved two problems at once – what to make for dinner and how to keep these fast growing onions from taking over! She’ll share that culinary feat in her next post – so stay tuned.

In the meantime, Boyo sends his best from the porch…

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As you can see he is working just as hard as the ladies:)

Seedlings and Snakes: Let the Season Begin!

It was exactly two weeks ago today that Ms. Jeannie got going on her spring garden with the official planting of the seeds. And now here we are just 14 days later with sprouts that look like dancers…

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The cucumbers and the snow peas are winning the race towards bloom day…

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And the okra is not far behind…

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Even the lone zinnia in the rescued and re-purposed pitcher has come to surface. Not doubt happy to have such an exotic home!

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It is always fun to watch how each kind of seed unfurls…

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The dill is dainty…

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…while wax beans look downright pre-historic…

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And then there was the sighting of an actual pre-historic…

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“Just a baby,” said Mr. Jeannie Ology. This “baby” indeed, was three feet long, which was plenty long for the likes of Ms. Jeannie. Hopefully this little one will be gracious enough to stay out of the greenhouse!

Hornet House Tour: The Inside Architecture of A Nest Revealed!

Oh dear readers – the nest! If you have been following along on Ms. Jeannie’s blog since the summer, you will remember the bevy of construction activity that occurred from May through November just under the eaves on the second floor of her house.

Here’s what we were all looking at half way through the project in early August…

At home under the eaves.

At home under the eaves.

And here is what we were looking at this morning, taken 5 months after the above picture…

The baldfaced hornet nest now 8 months old.

The baldfaced hornet nest now 8 months old.

As you can see it just about doubled in size and changed shape quite a bit from the circular ring wrap style to a much more solid outer wall. If you use the pinholes in the eaves and the gutter as guides you’ll see precisely how much bigger the nest actually became.

The occupants…

Photo via pinterest

Photo via pinterest

…bald-faced hornets, left the nest  about a month and a half ago. In that interim, a few high wind days started making part of the nest fray at the edges. Those two situations, combined with the fear that the whole thing might start to disintegrate, propelled Ms. Jeannie to take the nest down today. Which means today was the day for a hornet house tour!

Fraying edges.

Fraying edges.

Somehow, a hole formed at the tip of the nest possibly either from damage by the wind or a bird. This is what the tip looked like in Autumn…

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And here is what it looked like this morning…

Faulty construction zone.

Faulty construction zone.

Ms. Jeannie thought at first that perhaps a bird might have made a home inside. In her mind the inside of this nest was roomy and cavernous and since it has been really cold so far this winter – this seemed like a cozy little dwelling for a feathered friend.

Before the official removal process began. Mr. Jeannie tapped on the side of the nest just in case. No birds came out – so he began to carefully separate the nest from the house.  As it turns out a flat paint scraper is the perfect tool for such a task…

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The nest is like a fibrous newspaper material but so thin it is was like slicing butter.

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The whole nest came down in less than a minute.

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It left a little bit of a muddy imprint which will easily come off with a brush and some water. It’s amazing how the whole thing clung on there with so little binder.

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And now for a look at the inside…

This was the top part of the turban.

This was the top part of the turban.

It looks like a honeycomb! The white parts are cobwebby bundles of babies that never made it.

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The whole entire nest is made up of these thin ribbons of paper-like material that go every which way. So much for Ms. Jeannie’s idea of a hollow interior!

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Between some of the layers there are more cobwebby waffle cone colonies…

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and others are hard and waxy and smooth to the touch…

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And look, dear readers, some of the lady bugs from November did decide to move in!

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They are probably not too happy about the relocation process, but this is a great example of nature helping nature. One creature’s abandoned housing project is another’s apartment building.

So now we know, after all these month’s just exactly what those hornets were working on. Overall, the nest weighs about one pound and measures 16″ inches (length) x 9″ inches (width)  x 8″ inches (depth) and smells very faintly like spring dirt.

It is so very fragile that Ms. Jeannie is afraid to handle it much. She is completely amazed by the fact that this hung out of doors, exposed to all the elements for seven long months while hundreds of flyers went in and out and around it. It survived wind, hail, heavy rain, hot Georgia sun, humidity and  freezing temperatures, not to mention, birth, death and new tenants.

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What a good little nest:) Nature is such a marvel. Ms. Jeannie can hardly wait to see what is in store for this new year!

The Colors of a Southern Autumn

magnolia

Fall colors are just starting to seep into the autumn landscape here in the South. Usually, in Ms. Jeannie’s area,  peak fall foliage time hits in early November, a couple of weeks before the Thanksgiving holiday, so we are just at the very start of the season now. But today was a blustery day, with leaves flying all over the yard and Ms. Jeannie couldn’t help but admire all the pretty colors turning from green to gold to rust that had just started occurring these past few days.

Primarily from mid Georgia to south Georgia the state is made up of pine trees, which of course are green all year round, so in order to get a fill of fall foliage, one must look to the decorative trees. Here are a few samplings of some traditional (non-pine!) Southern trees on their colorful journey from summer to fall…

The Fig Tree

The Fig Tree

The Dogwood

The Dogwood

The Scuppernong Grape Vine

The Scuppernong Grapevine

When the afternoon sun hits the grapevine it is like a giant light has been turned on inside the vines. So bright that it almost hurts your eyes to look at!

The Tulip Tree

The Tulip Tree

And Ms. Jeannie’s most favorite…

The Magnolia Tree

The Magnolia Tree

The Magnolia tree is really the grand spectacle of fall foliage in the South. All these leaves come from the same tree and were picked on the same day, so as you can see it is a colorful character in Fall.  Ms. Jeannie thinks it is  Mother Nature’s equivalent to the argyle sweater, with all of its blocks of repeating solids!   The color range is spectacular. In the picture – the center leaf is a metallic silver, but can also count copper, lime, canary yellow, russet, pumpkin, neon green, chocolate brown, amber , hazel, emerald and cinnamon among its many shades.  Fascinating that all that could be on tree at the same time. Add some pretty smelling, dinner plate size magnolia flowers to the mix and the tree is absolutely perfect!

Many Southerners use the leaves as garlands for their front porches and mantle pieces. Holiday time in the South really is a beautiful experience.

Photo via pinterest.

Magnolia garland for the stairway. Photo via pinterest.

Magnolia garland for the mantle. Photo via pinterest.

Magnolia garland for the mantle. Photo via pinterest.

Magnolia garland for the front door. Photo courtesy of RSHcatalog.com

Magnolia garland for the front door. Photo courtesy of RSHcatalog.com

An unexpected surprise occurred when Ms. Jeannie took a first time road trip to the North Georgia mountains, in early November, several years ago.  About an hour away, near Blue Ridge, Georgia, the trees offer up a completely different view of the season…

Photo via pinterest

The North Georgia mountains in Autumn. Photo via pinterest

There, the foliage rivals the best of any Vermont town. Red, green, orange, yellow, brown – one tree after another just gets prettier and prettier. And because it is up in the mountains – the air is crispy, the roads windy and the fruit stands plentiful.  Whenever Mr. Jeannie and Ms. Jeannie get a little nostalgic for their New England Autumns of past, they make a trek up to the mountains. Close your eyes for a second and then open  – and tah-dah you could very seemingly be in Vermont!  To give you an idea of the dazzling array of color – here are a few pictures courtesy of pinterest – that were taken in the North Georgia mountains…

Photo via pinterest

Photo via pinterest

Photo via pinterest.

Photo via pinterest.

Photo via pinterest.

Photo via pinterest.

Photo via pinterest.

Photo via pinterest.

Ms. Jeannie is making a trip up to the mountains in the next couple of weeks, so that she can go apple picking. It’s officially time for apple pie season!  So stayed tuned for more fall foliage pictures to come!

In the meantime, are leaves changing in your neck of the woods yet? If so, what color palette is Mother Nature painting with in your yard?