Thursday, December 10, 2015

Decorating for the Season

My girl wanted to do the decorating this year. So she went to work making snowflakes to decorate our windows. She has become quite the master at it.

She didn't use a template or anything just snipped a little here and there until she had a bunch of beautiful snowflakes. i did have to help with the folding, but she did all the cutting herself. 

Back in November i came across a picture from this blog and completely fell in love with the winter scene she had created on a window and knew i wanted to do something similar!  My girl made all the snowflakes, and i cut the trees and stars out of cardstock.  The orginial photo had a branch wrapped in lights, but after several small hikes aroundthe property i couldn't find what i wanted. So my window looked rather plain for a couple weeks.

i eventually found a branch that i liked, although not quite long enough it still worked okay. Once the window was totally lit up i feel completely in love with it.  This will be a new tradition for us. Next year i may add the silhouettes of a few woodland creatures, but i love the simplity of this design. It feels peaceful and quiet and respresents the things that i really do love about the winter.  

He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter.... In winter the stars seem to have rekindled their fires, the moon achieves a fuller triumph, and the heavens wear a look of a more exalted simplicity. ~John Burroughs

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Digging the Yule tree

Digging the Yule tree is one of my favorite holiday traditions.  We always have a live 'potted' tree that we replant after the new year.  Some trees we are able to dig up year after year until they get too big to dig.  Bringing them in the house to decorate is like welcoming  back an old friend that only visits once a year.

The year that we dug last year, has been struggling to take root. It's still alive, but struggling a bit and i think if we had redug it it would probably die. So we chose to dig a new tree this year.  

We headed over to Deberosa Tree farm, where all the trees were $10 each and they allowed us to dig one.  Most of the trees were very large, and we wandered around for quite a while before deciding on our perfect tree. 

All over the tree farm we found praying mantis egg cases. Some had already hatched out, but many were new and would not hatch until the spring.  Although with our unseasonable warm winter, i wouldn't be surprised if they hatch early.  This little case can contain hundreds of baby praying mantis that all hatch out at once. 

We were very happy with our tree, loaded it up and headed home.

The kids did all the decorating this year. i never did get around to making any gingerbread ornaments, so it looked a little bare this year.

No one seemed to mind though, and we all thought it looked beautiful.  Our decorations are all pretty simple. Glass balls in blue and silver, handblown glass icicles,pine cones decoratd in glitter, acorn shaded bells, and silver butterflies.  i also added some dried citrus slices and typically decorate it in gingerbread as well.
 Yule trees are brought inside to provide a warm and festive place for tree elementals who inhabited the woodland. They are also a good way to coax the native faery folk to participate in Solstice rituals.  :) The greenery of the yule tree is symbolic of the hope for the sun's return.

i embrace these traditons and rituals as a way to stay positive during the hard of winter. Celebrating the season, gives us hope and helps us to recognize the beauty in all seasons. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Garden pictures -May, June, July, August and September. :)

 Hey folks! Summer time is my busiest time. i had every intention of blogging about our summer and garden progress, but the crazyness of life sort of took over. Summer seemed extra short this year. My garden was planted late due to traveling and weather. We went on a couple of small trips including a super cool Florida trip to Harry Potter World and a trip up to Michigan. I got behind with planting and kind of feel like i spent the entire summer just trying to plant the garden. Somehow i still ended up with a pretty good harvest.

i got a new pressure canner this year, and canned beans, tomatoes and corn.  We harvested over 100lbs of potatoes, and around 50lbs of sweet potatoes. We usually harvest more sweet potatoes, but the voles found them again.  i completely abandon everything during gardening season, so i completely failed log any of it.  i did take a lot of pictures though, and thought i'd share some.

As with every year, we deal with many gardening challenges. This year was no different,and i'm listing them here for my own benefit.  Cucumber beetles were terrible this year, and infected almost all of my summer squash with mosiac virus. The white patty pans seemed to be most resistant, and i was able to grow an abundance of them. We had a ton of rain in the spring which also caused problems. Many of my neighbors lost their tomatoes just from the rain.

My tomatoes had Septoria leaf spot, this year. They really struggled, although i was able to harest a lot of tomatoes the plants themselves just looked terrible. The ast couple of years my tomatoes were hit with late blight and bacterial canker, which almost wiped them out. So although the septoria was annoying, it was somewhat managable.


i'm sure you can tell i had a lot of fun taking pictures of my harvest.  i really enjoy the colors and variety. This was my first year growing the Blue Beauty tomatoes. They are absolutely gorgeous. Athough they a rough start, they continued to produce long after the other had died back.  The flavor was okay, nothing spectacular...but the deep blue, purple color definitly made up for it.  i'll be planting them again next year, just for the color. :) 

i didn't not plant much of a fall garden this year. i do have a variety of leaf lettuce, kale, carrots and sugar snap peas planted.  Our weather is quickly turning cold, so i'm pretty much done with the garden until spring. This winter i'm looking forward to slowing down, finishing some projects and starting some new ones. 

In seed-time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy. ~William Blake

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Checking in!

Hey folks!  i seem to have fallen of the earth again.  i was hoping to keep up with blog updates, but somehow it always gets neglected. i'm really going to regret the lack of updates when i look back on it in a couple of years. i have a terrible memory and really rely on it as a personal journal and record of what we do each year. One day soon, i may add a few back posts to fill in some of the gaps.

This past summer was especially busy with a trip to Michigan and a trip to Florida. i have so many gardening posts half written that will probably never be posted.  Garden season was busy, which turned into a busy canning season and then back to school. 

My boy started high school this year  and joined the marching band.  My girl joined the IVE basketball team. So our fall has been filled with  Friday football games (for the band) and weekend Band competitions and Basketball games. Lots of driving and late nights picking up from practices, away games and competitions.  i enjoyed seeing my kids do their thing, but am quite relieved to have a break from it for a while.

i've been busy working on all kinds of things. As soon as the weather changed i abandoned the garden and started binge crafting.  i signd up to vend at the local school fall festival, so i began making a variety of different items. 

This was my first time setting up in years. It was both exciting and intimidationg. It's difficult to pour your heart and soul into something and then put it out on display for all to see.  For the most part the comment i received were kind, but i dd have several people look and work and say it looked 'tedious' to which i replied 'it's a labor of love'.  It's such a small festival i really didn't expect to sell anything, so i was pleasantly surprised when i did. Not a lot, but good for the size of the festival, and better than i expected. i do need to work on my set up.  i made a bunch of clip in hairwraps, but they ended up hidden in the back and were totally overlooked. 

i started playing in the glass shop again, which i seem to do once 3-5 years for about an hour. :) i'm hoping to stick with it a little longer this time. i've been working on making these freeform glass leaf pendants, which i hope to eventually incorporate into my beadwork. 

So, yeah. Things have gotten busy and it seems that as the kids get older no matter how much i try to slow things down it all just seems to spiral out of control.  i will try really hard to update the blog more often, and i still intend to one day post the dozen drafts that i have started but never finished. 

i do have a giveaway going on over on my Facebook page. So if you get a chance stop by and enter and check out all the pretty things i have for sale!  

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Raising Monarchs 2015

Every year we walk down our road and collect all the monarch butterfly eggs and caterpillars we find.  We live on a rural road and the county comes through and mows down all the weeds along the road to improve visibility several times during monarch season. Unfortunately any monarchs caterpillars that are on milkweeds get killed or are left without food. So we collect them, and raise them inside where we can provide a safe environment and fresh milkweed daily.

i thought i would share the process.

Once the egg is laid, it takes about 4-6 days to hatch. The baby monarch caterpillar eats it's way out of the egg and then it eats the egg. When it hatches the caterpillar is about 2mm long.  We collect any eggs we find because their are many predators that will take/eat them.

The caterpillar will shed it skin 5 times during the larval stage. When it hatches it is called a first Instar caterpillar. Each time it molts (sheds it's skin) it becomes the next instar.  The caterpillar in day 5 is a 2nd Instar. Day 7 is a 3rd instar.

The caterpillar continues to eat and grow.  In approx. 2 weeks time, the caterpillar with be 3000 times larger than the day it hatched. The caterpillar in day 11 is 4th instar, and day 14 is the 5th and final instar.  

Day 15 the caterpillar stops eating and begins to wander around the enclosure. Once it finds a suitable place it will spin a silk mat and hook it's cremaster into it and hang upside down in a J position. The caterpillar hangs in this position for 18-24 hours. Then it sheds it's skin for the last time and the chrysalis begins to form. When the chrysalis is first formed it is very soft and vulnerable. After a few hours it will harden.

The caterpillar remains in the pupal stage for  around 10-14 days.  When it is getting close to emerging the chrysalis will darken, and then within 12-24 hours the butterfly will be visible inside.  The chrysalis splits and the butterfly ecloses (emerges).

When the butterfly first emerges, it's abdomen is large and swollen and it's wings are tiny. The abdomen then begins to contract, pumping fluid from the abdomen into the wings. Slowly, the wings begin to unfold and straighten. The wings are still damp and soft. The butterfly will spend an hour or more hanging upside down until the wings are fully dry.  

When the butterflies wings are dry he will begin opening and closing them.  This is when we know to take them outside and release them. 

We have released 7 monarch so far, and have 14 chrysalis and another 10+ caterpillars still munching on milkweed. Monarchs are becoming endangered due to the use of pesticides and the loss of habitat. In the wild only one in 10 will survive to adulthood, so raising them inside really increases their chance of survival. If it's wonderful way to teach metamorphosis first hand, but also a great way to help out the monarch!