Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Giant Bubble Wands and Bubble Drama

We absolutely LOVE bubbles!  i have posted several times in the past few years about How to Make giant bubble wands and giant bubbles. In 2010 i first posted this blog post about making giant bubbles.  Then in 2011 i posted another post about giant bubbles, this time including a basic tutorial on how to Make your own giant bubble wand. 

The post has been incredibly popular, and the pictures i posted of my children making giant bubbles have been so popular that they have been stolen right off of my website to promote various bubble making kits and bubble mixtures.  This infuriates me to no end. Not only is it completely uncool to steal someones photos from a blog, these photos contain pictures of my children and they may not be used without permission!  

We achieved these gigantic bubbles with items we had around the house, not some mass produced kit and 'special' bubble mix. So the fact that other companies try to use these photos to represent their product really gets under my skin. If your product is so great why are you using my photos?

These unbelievable large bubbles are made using our own homemade wand and my 'special' bubble mix. i'll post our bubble mix secret in just a bit. ;) 

Earlier this week it was brought to my attention that once again someone was using my images to sell their bubble wands on Amazon. They used this image taken from the 2011 post. 

They also stole this image from the 2010 post. My guess is that the wands they are selling are made using the free tutorial i posted. Nice eh?  Okay, not surprising at all, but the fact that they are using my pictures is NOT okay.  So i shared the link on my FB page asking folks what i can do to get the images removed. 

i posted a 'Question to the seller' on amazon stating the photos were taken from my blog and they did not have permission to use them. Several of my friends immediately wrote negative reviews, accusing the seller of misrepresenting the product by using the stolen images from a personal blog.  One of my friends sent me a pm saying her job is in internet privacy and security, she does this kind of thing for living and she would contact them on my behalf. So she contacted Amazon and contacted the seller, and by the next morning the pictures had been removed. 

The Company Amazing Bubble Wands Sold by D.I Imports that used my photos on Amazon have since changed the pictures. They never responded to my message or to the negative reviews, but they removed the photos quickly and replaced them with new images. i did a quick search for giant bubbles on google and noticed one of the images they were using was stolen yet again. This time they were using a image from  i contacted the owner of the blog to let her know her images was being used and she contacted them and left negative feedback, but the image is still up.  

The company is not only using stolen images that it finds on the web, but in the listing it is using another company's trademarked name. The terms Extreme Bubbles and Dip Stix, are a trademarked product from another company that has been fighting to have them removed from amazon.  

If you want to buy a giant wand and special bubble making soap, there are several companies that make them. However, i would recommend one with better business practice than Amazing Bubble Wands Sold by D.I Imports. 

 However, if you follow one of the many online tutorials you can make your very own bubble wand for like $2. You'll end up with the same Amazing Bubble Wand that D.I. imports is selling, since it's pretty much a guarantee that they used the tutorial to make their wands then stole the pictures to promote them.  The wands are made with wooden dowels or sticks, two screw eyes and some cotton yarn, cotton piping or clothes line. Some folks add a washer to the bottom to weight it down, but i never do and as you can see our bubbles come out just fine.

 Want to know my special bubble recipe for making bubble so big bubble companies need to steal the pictures? Ivory Dish soap and water. Yep, thats all. Seventh generation dish soap works too.  i put about 3" of water in the bottom of a bucket, and add a couple big squirts of dish soap.  That's it.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Garden update- July 11

i've not been very on top of my garden updates, so i'm going to try and play catch up in this post. 

Despite a lack of rain, my garden has been doing quite well. i've had a few problems with different garden pests, but i am still harvesting quite a bit. 

During June i harvested a dozen broccoli crowns, lots of snow peas, and a few radishes. i never have much luck with radishes and beets. The tops grow, but not the root. i was just reading that this is usually caused by too much nitrogen in the soil.  i was still getting a lot of lettuce, a bit of asparagus and swiss chard. By the end of June the blueberries and the black raspberries had just began to ripen. 

This is by far the best year for black raspberries.  Every spring i'm able to pick a handful here and there, but this year i was picking cup fulls at a time and they were all plump and juicy.  i was able to pick enough for a batch of jam, a few desserts and i am still finding a few ripe behind the house. 

Blueberries are also doing well too, i've already frozen a few gallons of the early variety and the late variety bushes are still totally loaded.  The kids are out there every day eating them right off the bushes, and between them, the birds and the chickens it's amazing that i can put up any at all.  i love having blueberries in the freezer to use in pancakes, muffins etc during the winter. 

First week of July i was still getting a few peas, and some of  my beans were just beginning to come in.  This year i planted just a few Purple pole beans,  Trionfo Violetto beans, Yellow wax, Green  bush beans, black turtle beans, October beans and Burgundy Bush beans.  i planted the Trionfo Violetto at the base of my bean teepees. i do not like them as much as i thought i would. They seem to make a single climbing stem, and the foliage isn't impressive, so my beans poles looks rather empty even though they are climbing them. In the past i grew the Purple Podded Pole beans and the foliage from these really fills in the  trellis and they are fantastic producers. i think i'm going to stick with them in the future. 

Picking lots of wax beans right now. i've already frozen several quarts, and have more to pick. i plant them in a small patch making it easier to keep up with the mexican bean beetles, or at least that's my theory. i think i picked off more bean beetles than i did beans. Just as these begin to stop producing the green beans which are in a different bed should start. i'll be able to pull these and will plant another planting in the space. This allows me to continue harvesting beans up until frost.

This week the squash is overflowing. i am harvesting mostly patty pans and yellow squash.  i decided to plant mostly Romanesco Zucchini  this year and i'm not very impressed with it. So far it has been mostly male flowers, and out of nine large plants i've only picked 4 zucchini. i also planted a few Black Beauty and gray zucchini and am beginning to get zucchini from them. i've always grown the Black Beauty and i think i need to stick with it. In the picture above is 2 of the Romanesco (striped) and one of the Black beauty.

i overplated tomatoes, but i am quite glad that i did. i've already lost several plants to various pests and problems.   i had stem borers attack several of my tomatoes, this is a first. They are very similar to the squash vine borers.  i'll post a blog about them soon. The larva get inside the stem and eat all of the plant tissue. When the plant is unable to draw up water, the entire thing wilts. i originally thought i had a bacterial wilt, so although it sucked to lose the plants i was quite relieved when i found the borer hole in the stem and removed the fat ugly worm.  If it had been a bacterial wilt, i would have probably lost most of my tomatoes.

When tomatoes experience drought stress they often display a variety of symptoms that mimic plant diseases. Earlier this summer, i was almost convinced that my tomatoes had about 3-4 different diseases. However, i picked off all the questionable leaves and after we got a really good rain almost all of my plants recovered and are now doing great!   i still have 3 plants that i'm keeping my eye on, but i do think the majority of what i was seeing was just drought stress. 

i have two Mr. Stripy tomatoes just starting to ripen. They turn yellow with red stripes.  

My garden always seems to peak right around the second week of July, and then everything kind of goes downhill. The weeds take over, the bugs take over, too much rain in July means powdery mildew, downy mildew, blight, wilt and all kinds of other nasty garden diseases. i'm trying to stay optimistic though. Last year it was right around the end of July that Late blight hit.

So a brief rundown of what i'm harvesting the second week of July. i'm still getting a few peas, although i pulled most of them. i dug a few new potatoes and beets, i'm getting lots yellow wax beans, purple pole beans, swiss chard, purple kale, and summer squash. i picked one eggplant so far and i picked my first cucumber today. i'm dug garlic earlier this week and am letting it cure. i'm getting lots of blueberries, black raspberries and blackberries. i have peppers ready to be picked and in a couple more days i should be picking my first ripe tomato.  i can't wait!! 

How is your garden growing? Feel free to link any recent garden posts in the comments below!

Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes. ~Author Unknown

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Meet Ollivander my new olive egg layer.

A couple weeks ago a woman posted on a local FB group that she had a hen to offer up for someone to have to butcher, because it was an egg eater. The hen was less than a year old, and an olive egg layer (which i have been wanting). So i wrote and offered to give the hen a home, rather than a death sentence. 

So we brought her home and introduced her to the rest of the flock. There are all kinds of articles online about the correct way to introduce new birds, but it's never been a problem for us. i just put her in the fenced area with the rest of the flock and they acted like they already knew each other. The rooster immediately introduced himself and did a little dance then went on his way. There may have been a small amount of pecking when they went up to roost that night, but i didn't hear anything out of the normal.  She seemed to be right at home.

We decided Olive was the perfect name for her because she lays such pretty olive colored eggs.  Then we changed it to Ollivander because we are reading Harry Potter right now. :) We still call her Olive though. :)  Olive's mama was a Cuckoo Maran (dark brown eggs) and her daddy was an Easter egger (bluish green eggs). The combination produces a hen that lays olive eggs. 

She loves to get out and free range with the other ladies. This is all of my laying hens right now, except for my Molted Java who is sitting on eggs and one other game hen. i have around a dozen other chicks that are around 12 weeks old, and a few more expected to hatch this week.

When i picked up the hen, the woman told me that she didn't eat her own eggs, she only ate the other chickens eggs. So i knew that would be a really easy problem to solve. i have two separate coops, so i just needed to keep her out of the main laying area until i've collected the eggs.  As it turns out, i've never had to separate her. Not only has she never even attempted to eat an egg, she is my most productive egg layer.  Her eggs are large and absolutely beautiful, each one a slightly different shade than the next.  We already adore her.  i'm not sure who is luckier, her or me. :)

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. ~Dalai Lama

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tropical Traditions Free Coconut Oil!

Tropical Traditions is giving away free Organic Coconut Oil in celebration of the 4th of July! 

Through midnight EDT Sunday, July 6th, Tropical Traditions is offering a 4th of July Special of 1 FREE quart of Organic Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil. Limit one per order.  You only have to spend $12.99 to receive the free quart.  We've been using TT Gold label coconut oil for several years and love it. 

NOTE: You must place this FREE item in your cart to receive it! It is NOT added automatically. Minimum purchase of $12.99 applies. You can  Order here.

i ordered some of the Raw organic honey which is on sale right now for $13.99 for a 17.6 glass jar and was able to get the free jar of coconut oil.  The honey is smooth and whipped, so it spreads like peanut butter and is not a drippy mess. i did a review and giveaway of this honey last year. We really love it!

Tropical Traditions offers many other great products including Essential oils, organic garden seeds and Household goods. 

If you've curious about coconut oil, this is a great time to try it out! Remember the deal ends on July 6th and you have to add the free coconut oil into your cart.

Also if you order by clicking on any of my links and have never ordered from Tropical Traditions in the past, you will receive a free book on Virgin Coconut Oil, and I will receive a discount coupon for referring you!  

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pests in the garden- Squash Vine Borer

 Whenever i tell folks i garden, the first question i always hear is 'how do you keep the deer from eating the garden?'.  Oddly enough, deer have never been a problem for me. We have two dogs who hang around outside and bark at everything that moves. So we've really never had any problems with deer, ground hogs or even rabbits.  The most destructive pests we have to deal with in the garden are the insects. 

All of my gardens are organic. i do not use chemical fertilizers, pesticides or insecticides. Most of the folks around us use Seven dust on everything, so all the hungry bugs flock to my garden. lol.  :) There are always tons of bugs in the garden, some are beneficial and some are extremely destructive. The pests i have the most trouble with are the cucumber beetles, the Mexican bean beetles and the Squash vine borers.

Cucumber beetles and Mexican bean beetles are easy to spot and can be picked off by hand. Although it is a pain in the butt, their population can typically be managed using this route as long as you stay on top of it.  Some folks recommend dusting the plants with DE (Diatomaceous Earth), but DE can be harmful to the bees so i don't like using it when the plants are blooming. The cucumber beetles are most often found inside the  blooms, so it would pretty pointless to use DE for them. 

Squash vine borers are a bit trickier to manage, as often times you won't realize there is a problem until the plant suddenly wilts and dies.

Although i've been dealing with vine borers for several years, i just recently began identifying the actual Vine Borer moth that is responsible for killing the squash.  The Vine borer moth lays it's eggs on the the base and stems of the plant. When the eggs hatch they immediately burrow into the stem and begin feeding on the plant tissue. 

The moths are rarely seen. i believe they come to lay their eggs morning and dusk.   i have found that if i go outside early in the morning i will sometimes see them resting on the squash leaves. Floating row covers are one way to prevent the vine borer moths from laying eggs on your plants, i have also heard you an wrap the stems in tin foil, although i haven't tried that yet.  However if you've failed to do any preventive measures (like me) you'll want to check your plants daily for signs of borers.

You want to keep a eye out for the moths, but also look for the eggs along the stems. The eggs are very small, brown and flat.  Scrap them off and destroy them.

You'll need to check your plants every day. Once the vine borers find your plants they will return often to lay their eggs. Remove any eggs you find. 

If your plants wilt, and begin dying then the vine borers have made their way inside.  Check around the base stem of the plants for frass (borer poo).  It will look a bit like yellow/tan sawdust coming out of the stem. If the plant has borers is only a matter of time before the entire plant collapses and dies unless you remove them. However, you still may be able to save the plants.

These are the actual borers that will destroy the plants. They are the larval stage of the Vine Borer moths. If you notice frass coming from the stem, you need to remove the borers. To do this, take a sharp knife and slice the stem in the area where the frass is coming out.  Gently, pull open the stem and remove any borers you find. Then close the stem back up, you can tape it back together if you like and cover the area with soil if possible. Often times they are in the leaf stems as well, so you can remove the entire stem.

From what i have read online, you cover the area with soil to encourage the plant to lay new roots. However i think this really only applies to the vining squash plants. The bush varieties are better off just taped back together.

i then collect the borers and then introduce them to my chickens. ;)

Squash borers are a constant problem. They will attack summer squash and winter squash and it's very important to monitor your plants and remove the eggs and borers as soon as you begin to notice them. Not only will they kill the plant, the borers will sometimes bore into winter squash as it is growing. The squash will heal itself, so there won't be a visible hole. You won't even realize there is a problem until you winter squash that is in storage suddenly begins rotting. i've had this happen most often with butternut squash and pumpkins. So it's really important to pay attention to your plants and watch for borer activity.

i've read a bit about using BT to kill borers. BT or Bacillus thuringiensis can be injected right into the stems and any borer that feeds on the plant tissue will die. It is a natural product that is considered suitable for organic gardening.i haven't tried this yet, by i may try it eventually, especially with winter squash which often times dies before it hits maturity.

One thing i do with my summer squash to combat the borers is to plant summer squash continuously every 3 weeks during the summer.  That way if an older plant is overcome by borers, i can pull the entire plant and destroy it. Since i continually have new plants growing, i won't feel too bad about losing a plant here or there. This method helps keep me well stocked in summer squash all summer long.

Have any tips for dealing with Vine borers? i would love some other ideas. i actually purchased floating row cover this year, and then ended up using them on other plants. i just put in more summer squash yesterday, so i may get the row covers set up on them and see how that works.

Happy Gardening!