My Three Dirty Secrets

I shouldn’t share these. They are the secrets of my success.

But my devoted readers deserve to know the truth.

I do three rather gross things that make my gardens lush.

Be prepared, they are nasty and stinky.

If you are squeamish, you may want to stop reading about now.

My FIRST dirty secret is compost. Not the nice leafy kind mixed with leaves and grass clippings.

The gooey, juicy kind that stinks. All veggie and fruit scraps along with egg shells and some coffee go into a five gallon bucket with a tight, screw-on lid.

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If you don’t keep the lid closed tightly,  raccoons come to snack.  Also the compost gets full of maggots. That is really gross.

Dig a trench in an empty spot in your garden. I put in some bunny litter first to catch the juice. (That is my next secret.)

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Then I add the stinky soup mix and chop it well with my shovel to mix it with the soil microbes. Cover this trench well with dirt or the critters smell it and dig it up. This stinks enough without adding a skunk spray in the mix.

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My SECOND secret is used bunny litter enhanced with pee and poop. I use paper pellet litter. This is seasoned in buckets until moldy.

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I have two adorable, fuzzy compost factories. Food goes in one end, fertilizer comes out the other. IMG_5108

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This seasoned concoction gets raked and mixed with the soil, then covered with mulch. Everything loves this top dressing. It holds moisture and decomposes to release nutrients.

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My THIRD secret is a recipe from fellow blogger, John Viccellio.  He got it from a plant grower.  It’s in his excellent e-book, Guess What’s in My Garden.  It contains Miracle Grow, Fish Emulsion, Epsom Salt and Liquid Iron.

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I mix up a concentrated version of this recipe and store it in big plastic bottles with screw top lids. I dilute it right before I use it.  His recipe makes over 6 gallons of concentrate, so I basically halve it and make three gallons. This 1/2 batch has lasted me three seasons. It brings back even the most struggling plants. Liquid gold!

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Even when diluted, the mixture REALLY stinks, so DO NOT use it inside on your houseplants.

Okay folks. Now you know my secrets. I hope you still respect me.

Gross waste produces lush gardens.  WIN:WIN!

FLOWER

 

See Everything by Looking for Nothing

This life lesson started out with a lost lens cap.

It fell out of my pocket in the woods.

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So if I don’t find it soon, it will be covered with leaves.

There are no paths in my woods.

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I meander around without much notice of my location.

These are my woods. I can’t get lost, but a lens cap can.

I felt obliged to go look for it. It would be easier to find a needle in a haystack.

I took my camera, as usual.

I was looking for a round, dark, man-made object.

Here are my pictures from the search.

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Round, dark, man-made objects.  Blah!

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Today, I went into my woods looking for nothing.

I found everything!

Moss, mushrooms, fairy houses, lichens…

and (NO LIE) the lens cap.

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Open mind… Open eyes…

See everything while looking for nothing.

Go with the FLOW.

The Banana Chandelier

I love chandeliers.

20151003_112333_LLS I do not own one.

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I do, however, take many photographs of them.

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That way I can enjoy their beauty without dusting them or changing bulbs.

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Much to my delight, the banana forest has produced a second bloom.

This one is much larger than the first. Its burgundy colored bracts lift each day to expose another row of flowers.

These are being fertilized by bees attracted by the dripping nectar.

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Now there are many levels of little bananas.

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I love how this cluster looks with flowers hanging down and bunches of bananas in rows.

It looks like a chandelier.

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The prettiest one ever.

No dusting.

I love nature!

FLOWER

 

Feeling Fall

There is a first frenzy here in North Carolina before fall.

The first one involves moving plants around in the gardens.

The ones that are crowded must be separated.

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The ones that are unhappy must be relocated.

This is hot dry work that involves digging holes and amending soil.

Followed by digging, dividing and moving plants.

It’s also time to trim back the overachievers.

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Lastly there is a lot of mudding-in of the transplants to ensure the roots make good contact with the new soil.

I use a soaker–hose.

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This has been my project for weeks now.  It has been hot and dusty, but not any more.

We had almost two inches of rain yesterday.

Now there is a cool breeze.

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That starts me thinking about fall frenzy number two.

Hauling all the delicate plants into the house and workshop.

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Another multifaceted job with much preparation.

Also some potted plants need to be put in the ground.

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At least it is cool. At least I can stop watering all my parched plants.

There is something final about fall.  Autumn always makes me anxious.

It is an ending.   To everything there is a season.

I like to end all this fall preparation with a ritual planting of spring bulbs.

It is my way of showing my faith in spring.  Bulbs are my time capsules that I put in the ground as a message to myself.

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“See you on the other side.”

I think of them all winter, under the snow, waiting for spring …just like me.

FLOWER

 

Parsley in Protective Custody

My parsley plant started disappearing again.

Last time this happened, I found a little striped Black Swallowtail caterpillar munching on it.

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After a few days it crawled up on the Passion vine, changed shape,

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formed a chrysalis, and disappeared.

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This time though, I could not find the culprit.

Each day the plant got smaller and smaller.

Ah Ha!  I finally caught the bandit in action.

No Black Swallowtail this go-round.

It was a black New Zealand Lop rabbit, Charlotte.

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The plant has been moved out of reach of Miss Munchie.

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She was out there searching for her snack this morning.

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Whew! These rabbits keep me hopping.

FLOWER

Tree of Life

My sister and I found all these different life forms growing on and in one old tree.

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This tiny pine was growing ten feet up between branches.
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The hole in the trunk was full of cobwebs and one lovely white mushroom.
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This mushroom was deep inside the hole in the trunk.
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Lichens and mosses covered the old bark.
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This huge bracket fungi was up about twelve feet high on the trunk.
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Small plants nestled around its roots.
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This dried up lichen looked like leaves.

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It was like a treasure hunt.

This tree is a treasure.

FLOWER

 

Creepy Coffee Cups

Just when you think you know a plant, it morphs on you.

The Coffee Cups/West Indian Kale/Colocasia escuelenta was unhappy.

I moved it.  It loved the new spot beside the small pond.  More sun, more water…

I loved it there too, until the leaves turned into “Coffee Cup Caterpillar Crappers.”

Then the Yellow Jackets started using the leaves as their levy. They hold water you see.

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Then came the creepers. Long skinny purple arms reaching out in all directions.

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One even grew down into the fish pond.

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Since when do elephant ears have runners?

Oh well.

I love them for their swirly venation

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and their purple stems and ribsIMG_4885

and how water beads up on the leaves

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and how the curled up new leaves look like closed umbrellasIMG_4887

and the heart-shape of the leaves

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and that the baby leaves have a blue hue.

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I just love this plant, despite all its quirks.

I am glad, because it looks like I will have many more.

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FLOWER

The Poisonous Path

I went into the woods this evening

to try to locate a lovely bracket fungi that I had photographed previously.

I needed to look up to find it,

but one must always look down while walking in the woods.

This is how I found the path…

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of white mushrooms.

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Yes, they are poisonous Amanitas.  They are lovely but deadly.

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Fear not. I was following their path, not eating them.

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A circle of these is called a fairy ring, so I thought of this as a fairy path.

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If YOU found a fairy path in the woods wouldn’t YOU follow it?

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Every ten feet or so was another cluster of lovely, glowing, white mushrooms.

It went on and on until I had to pause in awe.

There before my very eyes was the Mother of all mushrooms.

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It was big enough to wear as a hat.

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It was a magical adventure. I am so lucky.

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The FLOWER follows a poisonous path through the woods and survives to tell the tale.

What can we learn from Fungi?

There is devastation in Texas, Mexico, Florida and many of the Islands below Florida.

Once all the power and water are back on, there is a big souvenir pile left.

Debris. Non-biodegradable. Non-reusable. Trash.

Soggy sheet rock, insulation, plastics, moldy furniture, ruined appliances and cars…

Dig a hole? Throw it in it?  Have you forgotten the water table below?

Nature experiences its own devastation.

Who cleans up?

Fungi.

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They break down the dead trees and leaves and return the nutrients to the soil.

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This isn’t the end of the story.

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Things eat the mushrooms. They are food for the living, while living off of the dead.

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That’s called a cycle. The circle of life.

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Until we humans figure out we are all part of this same web,

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we may end up in one of these holes we keep digging.

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FLOWER