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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

I enjoy gardening – though since my fall  last July I’ve done less of it than I like. But I’m always on the look out for tips to make my life as a gardener easierm and to make my plants happier. (Also, it’s bonus if there’s a remedy for the much dreaded stink bug invasion!)

So I was intrigued with an article I spotted on using Epsom Salt as a garden tool. I plan to try a few of these hints, maybe you’ll want to try them, too. Here’s the link to Epsom Salt Is A Secret Weapon That Every Gardener Should Have.

And let me know what works (or doesn’t for you.

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Some gardeners are practical sorts with a focus on tidy rows and neatly-trimmed shrubs. I am not one of those gardeners!

I like the look of a garden that is unexpected – one with little nooks and crannies and surprises. I have quite a few cement animals and gargoyles hidden here and there amongst my flowers. I enjoy the surprised and delighted looks on the faces of children and the young-at-heart who spot the hidden garden statues.

I’ve decided to add a Fairy Garden to my backyard this year. And why not? Surely, there must be sprites and gnomes visiting my garden along with the rabbits, squirrels, snakes, crows, toads, and various other woodland creatures.

For a magical article with pictures of fairy gardens, check out a recent post, Fantastic Fairy Gardens, from House of Hawthornes.

Happy gardening, and happy fairy watching!

 

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Today, a break from my usual science-fiction, fantasy, and writing-related posts. Though, of course, as I read the article whose link is at the bottome of the post, I couldn’t resist jotting a couple of ideas down for potential stories!

Ladybugs, or lady-beetles, if you prefer are a gardener’s friend. They consume lots of other insects which are harmful to the plants we (yes, I dabble in gardening) are trying to cultivate.

Their bright, red-with-black-spots wings make them a favorite with children and children’s book authors. Though if anyone has picked them up, they’ve found these cute insects have a rather nasty smelly! Why, there’s even a children’s rhyme urging a ladybug to hurry home and rescue her children.

A fun look at a rainbow of ladybugs can be viewed in this article.

Happy reading, and happy gardening, too!

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I’m a fan of fairy-tales, fairies, and gardens, so when I saw this charming solar light chandelier I couldn’t wait to share the link. I happen to have two solar lights (out of four originals) still working, which are just the right size. Plus, I have two metal hanging baskets which only need to be emptied of dirt, etc. All I need are some prisms, and I think I can light my garden with a pair of Fairy Chandeliers.

Here’s the link, fellow gardeners and fairy-lovers. Let me know what you think.

Have a magical day!

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For those who’ve read Whimsical Words since the beginning, you know I have blueberry bushes. For those readers just stopping by for the first time, I’ve written several times about my blueberry bushes, picking berries, and the birds and other creatures who gobble up much of the fruit.

I’ve thought about draping the bushes with bird netting, but it seems to me it would make picking difficult for the people, too. A huge cage built around the bushes would be a solution, but the expense and the fact that my berry bushes are on a hill make a cage impractical.

A cat would help, butI no longer have the beloved orange and white cat who made sure birds stayed away. And my husband who doesn’t want another cat.

So, what to do?

A few weeks ago, when we were returning home after a walk, we saw a black snake crawl across our driveway and climb up into one of the blueberry bushes. He/she must have stayed close to the blueberries for several days, because the birds kept away. But my snake-disliking husband also stayed away from the berries.

Alas, the feathered berry-raiders are back in full force. I spotted this article on a natural way to scare birds away using dollar store items. Maybe this will work – if it doesn’t scare away friends and family!

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154 “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” – Cicero

As a gardener and an avid book reader, I agree. Which is why I not only share books with my grandkids, but encourage them to help me in the garden. Yes, sometimes they pull up flowers instead of weeds. Yes, mulch goes everywhere. Yes, I end up covered in more dirt and debris than I would if I gardened alone. But visiting a library and gardening with children are ways to make the world a better place.

I hope you’re enjoying my blog posts and links. Want to show some love? Visit my Amazon page and consider buying a book. 🙂

(And, yes, I know Cicero is kind of a geeky favorite — but I took Latin for years, and read quite a few quotes by him).

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Animals and Nature are usually woven into my stories, poems, non-fiction, and art. I think my interest in Nature and all her creatures started when I was young. My Granny, who lived on property that joined my parent’s backyard, gardened in the early morning and was kind to the neighborhood strays and neglected animals. As a child, I could usually be found tagging along with her.

My family vacationed for a week each summer from the time I was 5 in a cabin in the West Virginia mountains. Deer, raccoons, opossums, snakes, bears, crayfish, minnows, salamanders, bats, and birds were plentiful and often encountered. Unfortunately, so were mice – but that’s a different tale!

I’ve always enjoyed growing flowers, vegetables, and berries. I’ve always loved watching wild animals and having pets. In fact, since I’m short, have never been thin, and quite enjoy a well-prepared meal, I think I’d have made a rather good (though tall at 5’2”) hobbit!

In the beginning of The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien describes the day Gandalf stopped by Bilbo’s home to warn of the coming dwarves thus: “one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green, and the hobbits were still numerous…” More green – that sounds lovely to me.

In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien writes that hobbits are fond of gardening. I especially like the picture painted by this quote from The Fellowship of the Ring (and I can close my eyes and see the image filmed by Peter Jackson for the movie):

Inside Bag End, Bilbo and Gandalf were sitting at the open window of a small room looking out west on to the garden. The late afternoon was bright and peaceful. The flowers glowed red and golden: snap-dragons and sunflowers, and nasturtians trailing all over the turf walls and peeping in at the round windows.

‘How bright your garden looks!’ said Gandalf.

‘Yes,’ said Bilbo. ‘I am very fond indeed of it, and of all the dear old Shire…’”

 I gaze out my window at flowers red and golden: roses, snapdragons, and butterfly weed, and at nasturtiums trailing over a brick wall, and scratch my dog behind her ear. I know I am very fond indeed of Nature, all her creatures, and of living at Wood’s Edge. In both of my short story collections, Owl Light and The Greener Forest, as well as my young adult novel, The Enchanted Skean, animals and plants play important roles. And I suspect, they will always have a special place in my creative work.

For those who’d like to listen to an excerpt from “On a Midwinter’s Eve,” the 1st tale in Owl Light, it’s the reading that begins about 14 minutes into the September 2012 “Nature and Animals” Broad Pod from Broad Universe: http://broadpod.posterous.com/september-2012-animals-and-nature In the excerpt, an owl, wolf, and the winter woods play a role. The complete story has even more animals in it.

So as Bilbo’s much anticipated Birthday Party approaches, I urge you to celebrate Nature and read (or listen to) a story featuring some of her creatures.

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 The blueberry bushes in the front of my house are producing their usual abundant berries, but I’m not getting many to freeze. What’s going on here?

In the past, the animals and I have had an understanding. No one gets greedy and everyone enjoys the blueberries. The cardinals, mockingbirds, Northern Orioles, robins and assorted other birds gobble their share of the sweet blue-purple globes from the bushes. A chipmunk or two scurry about grabbing a bit of fruit for their lunch. Three large crows gather many of the fallen berries for their meals. The ants clean up the rest of the ground berries, and the bees take care of those still clinging to the bushes that are torn open and oozing juice.

I still have plenty of blueberries to pick and enjoy fresh, and there are lots left to gather and freeze. In fact, I usually invite friends over to pick a bucket of berries in the relative coolness of a July evening. But not this year. This year, the other critter in the mix — the squirrels, have gotten greedy.

The squirrels have taken to breaking off entire bunches and carrying them to their nests. Thus, they’re not just picking a few, but stripping the bushes so no one else (yes, this is personification at its strangest) gets their fair share.

Balance is what’s needed here. Just like in a painting or a quilt or a flower garden, balance is necessary. Colors, textures, shapes and sizes need to be distributed in an even-handed manner.

In the case of writing, a story needs to be balanced, too. Too much description and the storyline gets lost. Too much action and the characters get confusing. Too much back story and the reader loses interest. Too many characters and the reader can’t keep the cast straight. Just the right mix of action, description, plot, character, foreshadowing, flashbacks, and location are need. The important thing is to balance the amount of each of these pieces of the story-quilt.

Now, back to those thieving squirrels. What is my course of action? This year, I’m afraid it’s a losing battle. The out of whack distribution of blueberries caused by the squirrels’ greed has destroyed the balance. Next year, all but humans, bees, and ants will suffer. I’ll drape the bushes with bird net, and only uncover them when picking berries.

The animals will not starve. There are wild raspberries and blackberries in the nearby woods. Many of the trees by our lawn are wild cherries. There are abundant acorns and pine cones, too. The grasses in the field next door provide seeds for the birds, and there are insects galore for the eating.

Lack of balance in fiction, poetry, painting, or quilt or garden design results in a finished product that is far from perfect. And in the case of writing — probably not publishable. So chase away your greedy squirrels, and remember: Balance is important in life whether sharing blueberries or planting a herb garden or drafting a novel.

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 Beginning a story, a relationship, a quilt, a painting, or a garden is exciting and a bit scary. You start with a blank canvas, an empty plot of ground, a pile of scrap fabric, a character, a smile and “Hello,” or a wag of a tail. Wag of a tail?

Yup, this blog is about my new dog acquired from the local animal shelter. Sandy, (and, yes, I loved Little Orphan Annie’s pup) was a stray who obviously came from less-than-wonderful circumstances. On her first visit to the vet’s office it was determined she had Lyme’s Disease & worms. She was also intact (hadn’t been spayed yet) and wasn’t fully housebroken.

Yikes! There was going to be a big vet bill to get her healthier. Plus, I was going to have to spend lots of hours helping her understand it was wonderful to pee on the grass and not acceptable to pee on the rug. And she was weak and lethargic. But there’s always a price (time, money, sweat, etc.) to be paid to get something in good shape.

We visit the vet again tomorrow for some more shots. The spaying surgery is just a few weeks off. Sandy seems to understand where I want her to pee. She’s eating better and she’s building muscles in her legs. And best of all, she sleeps by my bed at night, can’t wait to see me in the morning, begs for belly-rubs and back-scratches, and looks at me lovingly with her chocolate eyes. Has the time I’ve spent working with Sandy been worth it. You bet!

Now, back to writing, quilting, painting, and gardening! The time you spend in learning the how to’s necessary for these tasks, the mistakes you make and grow from, the small successes, the support of friends and others interested in the same thing, and the finished project are all a part of the creative process. Will we all write a best-seller, stitch a first-prize quilt, paint a masterpiece, or have a garden worthy of a photo feature in a magazine? No, of course not. But each of us can do our best and be proud of our efforts.

Sandy will never be a champion dog (heck, we’re not even sure what breed/breeds she is) — but she brings me joy. And in the end, isn’t happiness, whether from writing, quilting, painting, gardening, or having a pet, what life is all about?

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 Milder temperatures and a slight breeze made today perfect for trimming the boxwoods, roses, and holly trees in my yard. The trick to trimming shrubs is to snip away the weak bits and tidy up the gangly parts that have grown too large. A gardener’s goal is to have a well-shaped, healthy shrub that’s not only pleasing to the eye, but strong enough to withstand wind, drought, freezing temperatures, and the like.

 A writer must trim their fiction in much the same way. She needs to read through her story with a critical eye and clip away the sections that stick out. She also needs to either strengthen the weaker parts of the narrative or cut them out. No matter how lovely the prose, a misshapen story with over-written sections and malnourished paragraphs stands little chance with most editors.

 And speaking of trimming, those who’re fans of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings will remember how Sam Gamgee gets himself in trouble by eavesdropping while trimming the grass outside Frodo Baggins’ window. Gandalf grabs Sam, drags him into Frodo’s home, and asks the terrified hobbit what he heard. Sam’s reply to the wizard: “I heard a deal that I didn’t rightly understand, about an enemy, and rings, and Mr. Bilbo, sir, and dragons, and a fiery mountain, and – and Elves, sir. I listened because I couldn’t help myself…”

And I, like many writers, must admit to being guilty of eavesdropping. Over-heard conversations in malls, fast-food restaurants, in supermarket lines, in darkened movie theaters, etc. are a fabulous way to learn the rhythm of dialog. I couldn’t make up some of the conversations I’ve jotted down on a napkin or paper place mat. When my ear catches the strange snippets of strangers’ conversations, I can’t help myself – I write them down, and later season my fiction with those words.

 And finally, a sentence or four about those dragons that Sam mentions to the wizard. With or without well-trimmed claws, these magical creatures are one of my favorite beasties. To read a free poem of mine entitled, Dragons, that was published by EMG-Zine visit: http://tinyurl.com/vonnie-dragon Or you can check out my dragon tale in the new anthology, Dragon’s Lure, illustrated by Linda Saboe (the illo reprinted here with permission from artist) & published by Dark Quest Books: http://www.tinyurl.com/vonnie-dragonlure  

My message today for writers: Trim your fiction, gather good dialog while eavesdropping, and add a little magic to your prose (or poetry).

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