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Archive for October, 2017

Christmas Heirloom wallhangingLast December I finally got around to making a wallhanging using my old jewelry. It was an idea that had been bouncing around in my head for years, but I never took the time to act on it. If you know me, you know that I wear very little jewelry, but that didn’t prevent it from accumulating over the years.  With my mother’s passing in 2014, the calling to do this became louder.

I began to think of what I would leave behind. The jumble in my jewelry box would be just that, a jumble, to whoever got the job to clean it out. That jumble, however, was full of stories. Everything had a story, just like the patches on a quilt. Not that I plan on leaving this earth any time soon, but if I passed on, the stories would go with me if I didn’t do something about it. By putting these items into a wallhanging, they would get out of the box and the stories would be told. You could make any sort of wallhanging to decorate with your jewelry. For me, decorating a Christmas tree made sense, since the family gathers here at Christmas and the stories can be told to all. In fact, our grown children may have their own tales to add.

I had bought a yard of green batik fabric for a project that never happened and one day I saw it with new eyes. It was the exact piece I needed for the Christmas tree on the wallhanging I envisioned, so maybe it was time to get started. In my mind, the background was a blue batik fabric with stars. Sure enough, that is what I found at the fabric store. Batik fabrics are made with a wax-resist dyeing method and come in many interesting designs. If your local fabric store doesn’t carry them, check with a quilt store.

cow pin and rings

We kept a milk cow for 7 years.

There is a layer of quilt batting between the blue background and a backing fabric and between the green fabric and the blue. I cut the Christmas tree ¼” wider for a seam allowance to turn under. The tree is hand-stitched to the blue background. The pins from the “ornaments” and the thread from items I sewed on quilt the tree, background, and backing fabrics together. The red used on the side borders, also a batik, helps to set off all the colors. The gold cords used to hang it with are what I wore at my high school graduation to designate I was in the National Honor Society. They have been cluttering up my jewelry box since 1969.

typing pin-osu ring-red heart

Typing 50 words/minute with minimal errors on a manual typewriter earned me the winged 50 pin in high school.

Necklaces are great for garlands. Our class rings are here, as well as the pins I received as recognition for activities over the years. Back in the day, charm bracelets were the thing to give girls so that you could give them charms on gift occasions and you didn’t have to think of anything else. I had two charm bracelets and many more charms that never made it to the bracelets. I never pierced my ears or else there would be earrings on this wallhanging. There are numerous 4-H pins from my days as a 4-Her growing up and later as a 4-H leader.

Snyder B-I love to garden pinThis wallhanging tells stories from my life, beginning at birth. There is the small beaded bracelet that was put on me in the hospital when I was born. I was Snyder B and my first born twin sister was Snyder A. Other relatives and friends are recognized in this wallhanging. One summer when we were in high school, my friend Dixie went to France and brought back an Eiffel Tower charm for me. Dixie and I still keep in touch. The pin my husband received for having donated 100 pints of blood over the years is here. What else do you do with something like that? The base is a souvenir given for participation in the Heritage Village at the Virginia State Fair. We were the family that looked like we lived in the log cabin for the first two days of the fair. It is sewn on at the corners with my homegrown handspun brown cotton yarn.

charm bracelets-D pin-blood pinThere are a few pins that belonged to my parents and a large heart-shaped ”D” pin that had belonged to my great grandmother. I never knew her name was Delia until my aunt passed that pin on to me. The angel at the top of the Christmas tree is a pin given to me by the same beloved aunt many years ago. You may not have a collection of old jewelry to do this with, but maybe you have your father’s old fishing lures or a button jar from your grandmother. I’m sure if you start looking around at what odds and ends you have been saving, you will find a use for them in a wallhanging such as this. Before I decided on the size, I laid out what I had on a large piece of paper to see if it would fit, then drew the tree for a pattern.

As you can see, I have had a full life, with more adventures to come. This blog has been quite an adventure, and one that I am happy to have had. In my last post I wrote about balance in your garden. We need to keep balance in our lives, also. Life continues to be busy here and there are other things I want to turn my attention to, so I am going to step back from the blog to keep that balance. Don’t worry, there are no broken bones or other health problems, just lots to do. Everything will still be here for anyone to find. My website at HomeplaceEarth.com will continue to be active with my books and DVDs for sale and the Events page that shows where I will be speaking.  I have had a great time sharing what I know with you through this blog. My wish is that you build on what you learn here and make even better adventures yourself.  Most importantly—have fun!
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taking a soil testOver the years, whenever anyone asked me for advice on organic gardening, my response has always been Feed the Soil and Build the Ecosystem. Often they were expecting recommendations on what amendment or pest control product to use. However, you need to look at the whole system, rather than addressing symptoms of imbalance as they pop up. Now that permaculture is becoming more widely publicized, whole system management is more well known

Feed the Soil—Now is a good time to take a soil sample. I send my soil samples to Waypoint Analytical, formerly A & L Eastern Labs. If you are not good at interpreting the results that they send you, you could contact John Beeby at www.growyoursoil.org for organic fertilizer recommendations. Check with his website for which test to request and where to have it done. You will need to sample the soil from many places in your garden, then mix everything together for your sample to send in. The soil you see in the photo looks really good, but remember that I have been working on my soil for many years.

Correcting imbalances in your soil is the first thing to do if you are not receiving the results you want in your garden. Sometimes, well meaning actions can lead to imbalances, including adding a lot of manure to your garden every year without testing first. Sometimes people lime every year because they assume it is a good thing. It is only good if your garden needs more lime. Even if you do not do a soil test each year, you should have one to use as a baseline, then do one a couple years later to see how things are going. Make cover crops a part of your soil building efforts. The organic matter they add with their roots, and with the plant matter you harvest and use as mulch or compost material, is a tremendous benefit.

Build the Ecosystem—Well-nourished soil cannot go it alone in producing good crops. Malnourished plants will attract insects that will take them out, for sure. However, even well- nourished plants need pollinators. Also, if there are any insects munching your plants, you want to have beneficial insects taking up residence in your garden to eat them. In order for the beneficials to stay, there needs to be some other insects around as food. Buying insects to add to your garden is not as effective as attracting and naturally growing your own,

Chemicals, even those approved for organic production, can harm beneficial insects, as well as the not-so-desired ones. Furthermore, you have to acquire and apply the chemicals. If you include plants that attract the good insects into your crop mix, all you have to do is to stand back and watch the show. That’s what happened when I planted mountain mint, as well as other plants in the margins of my garden. I had visitors to my garden this summer who stopped in their tracks and asked the name of the plant when they saw all the buzzing around the mountain mint. It was an insect frenzy! Tansy is also well-documented as attracting beneficial insects.

goldenrod with honeybees and butterflies

Goldenrod with honeybees and butterflies.

The best time to witness beneficial insects on your plants is between 10am and 2pm in your garden. Goldenrod grows up in the wild areas of my garden if I don’t cut it down through the season. Since I am getting interested in natural dyes, I cut some for a dyepot recently. When I went out with my clippers, there were so many insects buzzing around it that I backed off. I did take some where there was little action going on, but left the rest to the beneficials.

leatherwing on spearmint

Leatherwing on spearmint.

You can also experience all this by letting some of your regular garden plants, such as basil, flower and go to seed. Spearmint, which can take over if you are not careful, attracts many beneficials if you let it flower. I like to have celery come back each year and go to seed. On the way to making seed that I save for culinary use and replanting, the flowers attract an array of good bugs–and all I have to do is watch it happen. Besides the insects you see in these photos, you will see bumblebees, wasps, beetles, spiders, and more in your garden if you allow it to happen.

Assasssin bug babies

Assassin bug babies.

Learn to identify insects you find in your garden so you don’t freak out and destroy the good ones you see that might surprise you, such as the assassin bugs in this photo. I found this young family on my cowpea plants. Although I’ve found ladybugs on other plants, my favorite ladybug photo is one I took on a cowpea plant of a ladybug eating an aphid.

ladybug eating an aphid

Ladybug eating an aphid.

To attract many of these good insects, you need to have permanent plantings. Weedy fencerows can provide  habitat. Not tilling all your garden at once will help, as well as having permanent paths. A border with permanent plantings will provide overwintering habitat. These things will enhance the year-round beauty of your garden and will be less work for you in the long run. The book Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham is a good reference to consult if you want help deciding what to plant to attract specific insects to help with certain pests.

Now is a great time to make your 2018 garden plan to ensure that you plant the desired cover crop, considering what your following crop will be, in each bed for next year. I locate my compost piles on my garden beds and rotate them, along with my other crops to contribute to soil fertility. The advantage of that is evident in the crops that follow. Managing your plantings to attract and maintain beneficial insects in your ecosystem will create a garden that is a joy to be in.homeplace earth logo

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