Friday, November 28, 2008

Bathtub Therapy

During my budget crunch holidays I'm busy 'making' all sorts of stuff I would normally buy for gals on my Christmas list.

Making your own bath products can feel daunting. Dolling up basic bath products is pretty easy. And, if you've ever wondered why they're so expensive, the answer is packaging.

Want to make yours look pretty? Get thee to the 2nd hand shops. Where pretty bottles are a dime a dozen. Well, maybe not a dime, but you know what I mean...

After-Bath Body Oil Splash
  • 1/2 cup apricot oil
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil
  • 1 really cool looking bottle
* Mix and shake. It's just that easy. Any fragrance will do.

Gardenia Cream Bubble Bath*
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 1 bar grated Dr. Bronner's Magic Castile Soap
  • 1.5 tablespoons liquid glycerin
  • 5 drops gardenia essential oil*
  • 1 really cool looking bottle
Stir together water, soap and glycerin in a mixing bowl. Let it set for 20 minutes (this softens the castile soap.) Stir in the essential oil and pour this mess into your really cool bubble bath bottle.

* Use any fragrance your little heart desires. I just happen to love Gardenia.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Guinness Book of Petunias

Hardest working Petunia in the flower business.

How long will the average, run of the mill, Petunia continue to flower? It's not a trick question. I'd really like to know.

With the exception of an irresistible Zinnia or two, I never buy annuals. They're not in the garden budget. Plus, annuals are too sweet and innocent for the wild winds and freezing summer nights that can surprise us up here in the mountains.

$2. So said the sign as I meandered into Wally World. 2 bucks for a basket of flowers? I'm in.

That was 6 months ago. My two dollar Petunia Basket has been radiating happiness ever since.

In October, when the weatherman promised the first hard freeze, I couldn't stand the idea of leaving her out there to die.

Obviously, I've rounded some kind of plant attachment corner because it didn't bother me to leave everybody else out there to die.

So, I brought my little Petunia basket indoors. And, instead of slowing down she's gearing up for a whole new blooming season! Oh, and if you haven't noticed she's changing colors, too.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Extreme Makeover: Pomegranate Edition

Last winter, I had the cutest little dwarf Pomegranate tree growing in my house. A gift from a friend and those are the most challenging plants to grow. Not the fact that it's a Pomegranate. Mostly because when I kill it there's a witness ~ aka disappointed friend who begins to question just how much I really do know about gardening.

In spite of all my meddling, the little gal did great. Producing a half dozen fully ripened & edible mini Poms.

All was well until late spring when I noticed she was suffering mightily from bugs. I put her outside, in a sunny spot in the garden and [oops] forgot all about her until October.

By then, the nights had grown very cold and she'd done what any self-respecting tree would do. She dropped all of her leaves, preparing for the worst. I thought, for sure, I'd killed her. Turns out she's fairly easy to resuscitate.

I removed her from her pot. Added insult to injury with a cold shower to remove every speck of soil from her roots. Then I let her languish in a compost tea bath while I went shopping for a new flower pot.

And, just look at my little gal now!
New leaves, tons of new buds. See that rounded area between stem and flower? Those are baby Pomegranates starting to grow. :)

* I would not recommend soaking plants in compost tea. For all I know she could become the next Incredible Hulk.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Valley Girls & Precarious Paths

How can Winter Moss be so green and lively ~ in the icy waters of this mountain stream?

We took a hike up into the snows of the Little Known Trail. Deep in a narrow canyon, on private property, laden with no trespassing signs Bad Dog and I have ignored for years.

Check out the odd name, Clance McDonald, growing as raised wooden letters, from the trunk of this ancient tree.

In fact, after all these years of seeing so many footprints up here we've pretty much determined that the No Trespassing! signs are merely an update on the rich old fart who owns this canyon.

Clearly he's the only one who never finds time to trespass in this magical, spooky place.

Dark, cold trails don't make for great photos. They are an experience of sounds vs. sight.

Winds whistling through the tops of the Limber Pines.

The quiet trickle of melting snow. Icy waters rumbling over rocks in the swollen stream.

And, the unexpected melody of a wind chime.

Farther up the trail we discovered the source. This is new. A Prayer Tree laden with necklaces, chimes and baubles.

Bad Dog is a big boy. He prefers to leap over the fallen trees I have trouble with ~ I am bigger than him so that bugs me. Though he is a great hiking companion, in it for the sheer thrill of discovering what's around the next bend. And, so is the other member of our Friday Afternoon Club.

Up and up we hiked. Sloshing through mud, into snow, gingerly stepping from flat rock to flat rock when crossing icy streams.

Were I a better friend I might have warned Valley Girl KC that those trail running shoes of hers are outlawed this high up in the snowy mountains. But, then we wouldn't have had such a good laugh when she hit a patch of ice and landed on her arse.

Frigid temps make us more active. This was our longest and hardest hike yet.

These jaunts continue to be my saving grace as I adjust to the seasonal end of my gardening days. And, with the invention of the Friday Afternoon [hiking] Club, I'm finding a whole new me waking up inside the old me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Herbal Eye Pillows

Daughter L and I are in the mood to simplify holiday gift giving. (That's the intellectual way of saying we're in the midst of a budget crisis that might not get better any time soon.)

At the end of the garden season, right about the time the stock market collapsed, I decided to harvest lots of goodies: Lavender buds, Flax seeds, Mint leaves and more. Now it's time to put them to use.

Mint leaves always come in handy. If the stock market continues to collapse, we can mix up a gallon of Rum Mojitos...

Each week, leading up to the holidays, we're trying our luck at a homemade gift ~ spa goodies for the gals on our list.

Now that's not to say we're any good at this stuff. We're learning as we go along. So, count your blessings. If you were on my list, I'd probably give you one of these things and then you'd be expected to use it...

Herbal Eye Pillow Recipe
These are very cool! Enjoy it when you come home from work.
Warm in the microwave for 25-30 seconds, massage a bit to release the essential oils. Place over your eyes, relax on the couch with a glass of wine. If anyone who is fussing and fuming about this - tell them to cook their own damn dinner.

* Silk fabric 12 inches x 5 inches
* 2 cups flax seed
* 3/4 cup dried peppermint leaves
* 1 cup dried lavender buds
* 30 drops lavender essential oil
* 10 drops peppermint essential oil
* 5-10 drops eucalyptus essential oil
Mix together dry ingredients first. Add essential oils slowly stirring constantly.

Hot Tip! You can dramatically speed up the packaging process if you simply drop the silk fabric off at a friends house and talk her into sewing the little pillows.

"I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex."
- Oscar Wilde

*Photos: Blue: Flax, Green: Mint, Purple: Lavender. Inferior Flax is often sold as Linum Oil. That's what gave us the grand idea of using it as a spa lineament.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Friday Afternoon Club

This late in autumn, you don't see a lot of people touring the Red Butte Gardens. They're missing out on some spectacular scenery.

Blooming flowers have gracefully bowed out of the picture, letting wild textures, bright berries, seed pods and native grasses steal the show.

We weren't visiting Red Butte to get a lesson on texture gardens. It caught us by surprise, too.

We were on a mission of a different sort. It's Friday. Time for another meeting of the Friday Afternoon Club. When we get together for a long hike and a little bit of photography.

It's more on a whim than being well planned. Like today, when we impulsively turned left onto a trail that ultimately defined our afternoon. Look close at the photo below and you might see our final destination... can you spot the tiny cabin tucked away in the hills?

We hiked up into the wild lands behind the Red Butte Gardens. Trails go on for miles and miles.

We made it to the abandoned cabin.

We met a little fish who knows how to stand out in a crowd.

And, we adapted a new credo on the walk back down the mountain.

Advice from a Butterfly:
Get out of your cocoon and catch a breeze.
- Ilan Shamir

This was a good day.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Defying the Dead Zone

Pincushion Flowers!

Take a bow, Scabiosa. This is no small feat. You began blooming in late June. Here it is, November 12th, and you're still at it. (Defying more than a month of freezing nights.) Lord knows we can't credit the gardener for this one. She was so dang lazy she never even fertilized you.

Wish I could muster this fighter attitude that my flowers seem to have. I'm sad about the coming winter.

Normally, I'm in good spirits during this time of year.

It's exciting to schlep the skis over to the ski tune-up place, hand off the snowboard to those snowboarder tune-up people, and drop the snowshoes off at the snowshoe place where God only knows what they do to those things...

This year is different.

Snows came in the pesky way they do sometimes: too early!
Chopping an entire month off gardening and horseback riding and I'm mad about that.

During this 'early winter' Curlicue Sage (right) has grown an entire foot, though it is wilting as I've never seen before.

Years like this we never know what's up. It snows, next morning it melts, that night it snows again, so on, so forth.

We're like little piglets wallowing in the mud until Mother Nature makes up her mind that winter has officially begun.

After bloom: Seed balls of Purple Coneflowers turn red in the winter.

Autumn Pruning: Some experts are big into this and so I always obeyed. This year I didn't. Not so much because I'm a rebel. Mostly because the height of the dead flower stalks encourages more snow to drift around them. So, I did not lop the heads off any of my perennials and it's providing a really pretty late autumn garden.

Granted it's a fairly spooky garden, but it's still kind of cool...

Yellow Heliopsis (perennial sunflowers) turn bright white after fading.

* That very long, skinny photo is of the winning heirloom Hollyhock. She topped out at 15.5 feet (If I sent you Holly seeds, expect some very tall things to happen next summer!)

Scabiosa (Lavender) Pincushion flower is often sold in gallon pots at Walmart, Home Depot, etc. A fantastic staple for the perennial garden.

* Pincushions: I have at least 20 of the Lavender variety. Mixed in with that: blue, black, deep purple and hot pink. The hot pink is my absolute favorite. She puts on a spectacular 2-month show of flowers. Most Scabiosas are USDA zone 5 or 6.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Lulu's Menagerie

The whole sticking out the tongue thing is how Fred tells you he's happy.

"Howsabout a retirement commune? Nothing crazy religious, or too hippy/Woodstock. Just a whole bunch of like-minded people who own land adjacent to one another?"

Harold has a hard time with open spaces. He gets nervous on the evening walks.

"You mean... your family has a couple acres and my family has a couple acres? Would there be a gate with a lock between the 2 places? Because at first it could be fun but I might end up shooting you. You're way too happy in the mornings."

At first I wasn't really picking up what Sandy was putting down. Then I met Lulu.

Imagine my surprise to meet the gal who's living my life! She's got the barn, the horses, the gardens, the pasture, happy dogs, curious cats and a couple of goats for good measure.

Lulu was gracious enough to let me ride her gorgeous Arabian pony, Monsoon.

That's it I thought to myself... When I retire, I don't want to golf. I want to ride horses and goof off with my friends. Sort of. As long as a few of those friends are of the 4-legged variety. I want a hobby farm!

Look close and you can see baby Harold giving Lulu a kiss.

Meet Lulu, the owner of High Star Ranch ~ kind of like those golfing communities though infinitely better. Because there are no golf courses. Lots of gardens waiting to happen and plenty of horse trails. :-)

* We're a long ways from retiring. I suppose retirement is the topic of Sunday morning discussions since we're dreading the idea of going back to work tomorrow.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Case for Heirloom Bulbs

Powerscourt Gardens, near Dublin, Ireland. I took this photo 20 years ago and I'll bet younger generations of this same Tulip bulb are still blooming.

"Your bulb order is heading to the barn and from there it will be shipped."

I got all warm and fuzzy when I heard my bulbs were heading to the barn. I hoped there were horses in that barn. Maybe even a cow, or two.

How cool would that be if it was a real barn and my bulbs were resting on a big wooden table instead of bouncing down an automated conveyor belt and into a box?

Whatever the case, that barn comment stopped my bitchiness dead in it's tracks. I called to demand where my order was. Mountain snows are just around the corner. I'd like to dig up a little more dirt before that happens.

When my precious bulbs finally arrived I stood at the fence and proudly showed off my purchase to my neighbor. She stared at me in disbelief. How can you possibly have a Hyacinth bulb from 1863?

Then I showed them to my daughter who laughed out loud and promptly asked to borrow some money.

I walked out to the garden shaking my head. Must everything require education?

I mean... really. How could my own daughter be so dumb as to think I'd loan her money after she mocked my gardening passion?

It makes perfect sense to me why we're confused by heirloom bulbs. It's because we've grown up gardening with hybrid bulbs.

Hybrid bulbs are cheap! So, we buy a bunch of them. They don't last very long. So, we go buy some more!

Hybrid bulbs don't reproduce.
Most flower for a few years. Soon their flowering power dwindles or they stop flowering altogether.

Heirloom bulbs eagerly reproduce.
These bulbs split in two. So 10 bulbs quickly become 20 and soon you have a garden filled with pretty spring flowers. They're tough, they last forever. In the long run they're less expensive than hybrids.

Most importantly, heirloom bulbs, like heirloom tomatoes, got voted off the island by big stores simply because they weren't as profitable. Now you know how much you love a good heirloom tomato. Imagine how exciting an heirloom Hyacinth could be.

Long live the MasterCard! Here's my bulb order:
  1. Grand Monarque Hyacinth, born 1863
  2. Purple-Headed Garlic Allium, born 1766
  3. Marjolettii Tulip, born 1894
  4. Rip Van Winkle Daffodil, born 1884
  5. Spanish Bluebell, born 1906
  6. Gipsy Queen Hyacinth, born 1927
  7. Princeps Daffodil, born 1830
  8. Orange Phoenix Eggs and Bacon Daffodil, born 1731
  9. Estella Rijnveld Parrot Tulip, born 1954 ~ which is probably not truly an heirloom. Unless we can call Wunx an heirloom, too. (What say you to that Wunx? :))

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Friday Afternoon Club

Most people dream of gorgeous, decked-out mansions, but I could live happily ever after in a tiny little cottage such as this one.

Once in a blue moon, I feel as if I have some control over life.

Take last Friday, for instance, when we hiked to the not so Spooky Hollow.

I picked this trail because it was Halloween. I was thrilled that the weather cooperated so perfectly...

Dark clouds hung ominously in the sky. Blustery winds awakened dead leaves, spinning them in chaotic little circles.
Crazy bikers haunted our every move. Eerie, tin can sounds clanked quietly in the sound sculpture garden along willow creek.
The sound sculpture garden is a funny little place, plunked down ~ for very good rhyme and reason ~ in the middle of nowhere, along this pretty trail.

It encourages contemplation of your own self and the world around you:
"Everyone & Everything
has a voice
and a sweet spot.
Seek gently & find it."
- Frank Thompson

* We hatched the Friday Afternoon Club as a way to decompress at the end of a busy week. We explore a new trail, catch up on life, and take lots and lots of photos along the way.

I never feel tired after a walk in the woods. In fact, quite the opposite. I feel energized and excited and a whole lot more capable of tackling the challenges that face me.

Like this one! When I arrived home, I was accosted by a Lady Bug demanding Halloween candy and I had forgotten to stop at the store. :(