Update on Succulents and a Few Other Things


So last time I wrote about succulents I’d just been to the garden center and picked up a few new wonders of the succulent variety as well as a handful of loose succulent leaves. Well, I laid them out on a bed of perlite and left it outside under filtered light (my covered porch) and waited. It’s been what…two weeks now? Well, I am happy to report that they are now pushing out roots. Check them out!

 

I’m going to wait a bit longer until it starts to form a new plant, so I will get back to you on that. They still have a lot of  juice in them. No watering is required. You know it’s ready to put into the ground when the leaves are desiccated and a new mini plant is formed at the end where the roots are.

I also showed you how you can propagate by just cutting off succulent heads, scabbing them over and putting them directly in soil. Well, I cut too many heads and didn’t have enough planters, so some of the heads I left sitting on the perlite. Well, wouldn’t you know it, they also started to push out roots. These should be placed in soil pronto as the leaves are getting really thin, indicating that it’s using all it’s juice to make those roots and needs water soon.

 

So that’s the most recent skinny on succulents.

 

The end of April brought the first BBQ of the year for us. Very exciting. Nice to have the longer days and the warmer evenings.

For our inaugural BBQ we grilled burgers. Not to be forgotten, sweet red onions drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt.

 

Look at its transition to absolute tastiness heaven:

 

Add to that my mother in-law’s home-made pizza…and we were so very good to go!

 

 

The accidental garden is doing well. Those petunias just keep on flowering!

 

And my hubby planted a lot of seeds that have been happily germinating on the window sills in our apartment. Look at this happy sprout greeting the vegetation outside our window:

 

Soon they’ll be ready for the outdoors.

Unfortunately pests have discovered my Bok Choi that was so happily flourishing in our planter boxes. I haven’t the heart to upload a photo. Have been experimenting with sprinkling cayenne pepper on and around them. So far no evidence that this has helped in any way. Does someone out there have advice for me? We think it might be earwigs getting to them. Booooo! Hisss!

 

That’s the latest. Will upload photos of recent artwork soon.

 

 

S

 

 

The Tank Be Empty


I’m in recovery mode. My weekend was so full of things to do I kind of lost it. As a result I was a mess on Monday, nearly got in a car accident (not my fault) leading to a broken carton of eggs in the back seat where all the groceries went flying. At home it continued with me having a case of the dropsies and breaking my most favorite glass bottle; smashed to bits on the concrete driveway as I unloaded the car. It was one of those days,  you know, those days when you keep doing something stupid and “aw sh*%#” keeps slipping from your lips. That kind of day.

So this morning I just slept. It was the best thing I could possibly do. Now, I don’t have much time before I head in to work, but it was worth it.

Hopefully I can face the rest of my day with grace and calm.

Want to see photos from the weekend, the relaxing part of it? We went on an impromptu camping trip, just my hubby and I, to Boggs where he’s mountain bike racing next weekend. It was mostly relaxing, except for the part where when we got to the campsite the radiator fluid in the truck was boiling. We weren’t sure if we’d make it out the next morning, but we made the best of it.

We kept it simple – lot’s of food to get us through the night and morning! There’s something about camping trips that makes one fear starvation in the wild, and thus drives you to stock up on all manner of indulgences.

As you’re looking at the photos take note of the ones where we’re cooking. My husband made a cook stove from two beer cans. It uses denatured alcohol and works like a dream. The most lightweight camp stove ever. I’m not the only creative person around here!

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PS. We made it home without destroying the radiator. All’s well.

 

 

For the Love of Rocks!


I love rocks. Always have. I come from a family of rock lovers. One of my most fond memories is rock picking somewhere in New Brunswick with my sister, mom and dad. I believe there were even signs at this one particular beach that said “no rock picking”. Somehow that seemed wrong. It’s not like we were going to take  the whole beach full of rocks (though often times it feels like we’ve made a valiant attempt). As nervous as we were about breaking a law, we still couldn’t help ourselves, our jacket pockets were bulging. Pulling out of the parking lot, the car riding quite low to the ground, we felt like we’d done something illicit.

But a beach with such signage is rare, thank the gods. Rock picking is one of those free joys, it fills hours and hours, absorbs the mind and appeals to the aesthetic senses. Only you the rock picker know exactly what you are looking for, what the criteria for the perfect rock might be. Often it is dictated by the location, the type of rocks that have formed there. Some beaches are good for the round, smooth rock, others for the colours and textures. Some beaches have beach glass, or worn bricks. I love it all. My husband doesn’t get it. He has conceded to sit beside me for a little while, looking at rocks, but I far outlast him in terms of rock picking stamina. He also, strangely, does not feel compelled to take them home. He’s never said it but rather suggested through body language that he thinks I’m a bit touched-in- the-head, so to speak, when it comes to rocks.

Believe me, I felt vindicated when my family came to visit me for our wedding on the coast. This was the scene:

 

I know I am not alone!! When I’m with my clan, we know the business of rocks. I swear we stayed on our bellies for at least 2 hours straight if not more and had to tear ourselves away from that beach to go and “be social” and try not to be “antisocial rock picking maniacs”.

Luckily I have a decent camera, so now, instead of taking the entire beach home, I take pictures of ones that don’t quite make the cut but are still beautiful. The best ones come home with me.

And what do I do with those rocks, pray tell? They make beautiful arrangements in bowls, or around succulents. They have also managed to become the subject of paintings. There is an energy about rocks. I feel calm when I am looking at them and holding them in my hands. So, I decided to try to convey the feeling I get from rocks in a painted format:

This is the first painting of rocks I’ve done, and it was immensely satisfying.

Recently I got my hands on a piece of scrap bamboo board from my father-in-law’s wood shop. Here are the beginnings of my next rock painting:

What do you think? Loopy rock lover or a kindred spirit?

S

the Skinny on Succulents


I’m not an authority figure on this, so let me just get that out of the way.

If you read my previous blog about gardening, you’d know that I struggle with certain flora and fauna, often send them to plant heaven and on occasion succeed in sustaining life.

Succulents are by far the most forgiving and thus my best friends in the plant department.

About a year ago I was fortunate to be able to attend a free seminar on propagating succulents. Since then it’s been a grand experiment with varying success, but I’d love to share what I do know. When you are successful with propagation, it is the most satisfying thing in the world.

Alright, say you have just purchased a beautiful succulent in a pot, it’s geometrically perfect, fits the vessel just right, requires little attention. 6 months later, you’ve got this on your hands:

Congratulations, your succulents have outgrown their pot. Now what.

When succulents are under stress (too much sun, too much cold, not enough water, too little space) they start turning lovely colors, so you might like to enjoy it in this state for a while. But there will come a time when it starts to look mangy and you take pity. You’re going to have to do something with that puppy. It is helpful if you have a plethora of small pots – trust me, pretty soon you can open your own succulent nursery.

At all times, remind yourself that succulents can take a lot. Don’t be too gentle, you’re going to need to do some tugging and cutting and really get your fingers around each head.

Find some of the babies that the plant is putting out:

Pull out and up from the rest of the plant

With clean, sterilized sheers, cut the stem, don’t be queasy it’s actually really neat once you realize how much they can take. You can also do this to the larger heads, but will need to scab them over (more on that later).

Trim really close to the bud, peel away any dead leaves.

Then simply push the stem in to gritty soil (needs to have good drainage). Over the course of a week or so, the succulent will push out new roots and grip the soil on its own. It does not need a lot of water. In fact, for the first little while, to spur on the root development, hold back on any water. When you do water, use a spray bottle and gently mist them, they don’t need much!

If you are cutting the head of a larger succulent like that of my Hens and Chicks, do not immediately place in soil. Instead, leave it out to scab over (approximately a week) then place in soil. Plants, like all living things, are susceptible to bacteria. By allowing the stem to scab over the succulent is protected from whatever organisms it might encounter in the soil.

You know it’s scabbed over because it’s not wet and juicy looking but dry and shriveled at the stem. Then you can press it into soil. Hens and Chicks are very forgiving and can thrive in regular soil or gritty soil.

Another neato way to propagate some types of succulents is to take just a few of their leaves (pull from the plant rather than cutting as the DNA required for its propagation is in the thin membrane where the leaf separates from the stem – or so I’ve been told!), place them on gritty soil or perlite and leave them (no water!) until they push out roots. They use the moisture up in their own leaf, shriveling as the roots take all the life force. Once roots are visible, push into gritty soil and watch to see how it roots in a few days and starts growing a full plant. I haven’t been as successful with this method. All succulents have their propagation season, some like cool weather, others warmer. When I’m better at this I’ll let you know.

The artistry comes in how you arrange your succulents. At the moment, I’m focused on learning how to propagate and keep plants happy. Eventually the artistry will sneak in.

Hope you give succulents a try, I think you’ll really enjoy them.

S

Get Outside!…but check for keys first


Well folks, as is often the case, we intend to take the bull by the horns but in the end we discover it’s the bull who’s in control.

I sat down at my keyboard with the intention of writing a new post, sat with fingers poised… and then found nothing but static.  I’ve been feeling a little bit stressed of late  and when that happens it’s really hard to stay in a relaxed and creative zone.

I decided that what I needed was a dose of fresh air. It’s been raining pretty steadily, so whilst there was a break in the rain I thought I’d take some pictures of the wonderful spring growth occurring in our back yard. I grabbed my Nikon D300, slipped on my faithful flats, zipped up my hoody (rather chilly in the mornings), let the door swing shut and stepped into a rain drenched, glowing garden:

Happy with my shots I gleefully headed in to upload them. Surely this would make a great post!

Imagine my surprise when the door knob failed to turn so that with my forward momentum my body continued to travel until it met with the door.

Okay. Somewhat fazed.

I guess I must have failed to notice the doorknob set to the locked position when I exited. That’s fine, we’re prepared for this contingency: a spare in the shed.

Go to the shed. I remember the lock combo, good for me.

Can’t find the extra key. He must have moved it to a better hiding spot in the shed.

A thorough scouring of the shed in all its cobwebbed glory does not reveal a key. Think, think, think.

At this point, staring at the unforgiving door, I am just grateful that I am not in my pajamas. This could have been worse. I have no keys, I also can’t use the car, I neglected to bring my cell phone along with me, but I am wearing clothes! I know what I have to do: walk to my mother-in-law’s where I know there is a spare. Half way down the walkway I remember my trusty Schwinn ( this is an indicator of how infrequently I frequent the outdoors!). Miraculously the tires are not flat, the universe must be on my side!

To keep this brief, I got to my mother-in-law’s and we got a good laugh from my self-inflicted adventure; but most importantly, I got outside – really outside! Spring was not only in my garden, but throughout the neighbourhood.  Check out the flowers growing in my mother-in-law’s driveway!

It’s so easy for me to stay locked inside, doing my blogging, painting and knitting etc. But true inspiration is out in the world, in the fresh air. I am so lucky that I live in such a beautiful part of the world. Today I was reminded of that.

To carry my metaphor through, the bull was a gentle but insistent bull that pinned me between it’s horns and took me on a tour of my neighbourhood. Something I would not have done on my own unless properly motivated. I am grateful for today’s removal from the ordinary and predictable.

Biking in the crisp air, the wind cooling the tips of my ears, vineyards in my peripheral view, I felt inspired!

My key slipped into the lock and turned just as fresh rain began to fall.

 

S

Gardening as Creative Outlet – Yes, Even You of the Terrible Black Thumb!


You’d be amazed by how many blog posts there are on having the black thumb of death. This is reassuring to me because I now know that I am  not alone.

If you’re like me, you’ve tried to have a green thumb. Each year you find new resolve and promise to pay better attention to the needs of your plants. You buy a gorgeous pot of flowers and you say to yourself “this one I will devote all my energy to, I will water it and put it in the best light and…etc”. Next thing you know you look up from whatever you’re doing to see the carcass of a desiccated object, presumably a plant because it’s in a pot and you realize that yes, 2 weeks have gone by without a thought for this wonder of nature now departed.

I grew up with a mom and dad who happily and successfully gardened and an aunt who was a plant whisperer. Compared to them everything I touched died. I think I killed a venus fly trap by feeding it too many flies.

But I’m here to bring hope to those as afflicted as I am.

You may feel like it’s a curse and therefore it’s insurmountable. I think it’s not a sticking curse, it can be  overcome, but first you have to figure out your own character and habits. Maybe you just don’t have the disposition to pay attention to details like soil quality, rotational cycles, frost warnings, pest control, sunlight, watering etc. Maybe it”s about proximity- out of sight out of mind, so you need to keep it in view, like on a stool in front of the toilet so every time you heed the call of nature you’re also reminded to nurture. I’ve learned to accept that I am not a detail nor a pattern person. My gardening style reflects my creative style : a wild burst of enthusiasm and ideas, the urge to get started, an impressive focus that lasts 2-4 hours that  just as suddenly dissipates requiring me to walk away and give it space.

This works for painting and drawing… not so much for living plants.

But wait! This can be done! Hear me out. Gardening can be satisfying as a creative outlet, in its color, design and in just the satisfaction and pride of helping something grow.

I’ve developed a philosophy that fits my personality: Family and friends understand that though I may not write or call often I love them still and when we see each other again, we’ll pick up where we left off.

The same can essentially be applied to plants:

If you are still alive when I get back, you’re my kind of plant.

Okay.. not entirely the same, but you get my drift. The answer to your problem is: SUCCULENTS!! and a few choice  low-maintenance plants.(I would say cactuses, but they are so low maintenance, that I outright forget them, literally, for years.)

Succulents are beautiful, they propagate themselves, they require little water, love the heat and sun ( some even thrive in cold), and when they are under pressure (root bound, dehydrated etc.) they develop beautiful colors (nurseries deliberately stress their succulents so they look more appealing). And should you want to start a new plant in a pretty pot, simply snip off one of the heads and push it into the soil of your new pot. Done. It will develop roots over the next week or so.

Chilean Needle Grass is particularly satisfying. It loves the rain, but it also is unphased by scorching days. It will propagate itself like crazy (probably why it’s been upgraded to an invasive species). This year we had to pull little baby grass tufts out from all over our yard. They’re easy to pull though, so if you like where its chosen its home, leave it, if you don’t, pull it.


Also bulb plants. Very satisfying as they will appear as if by magic every year. Check out our Irises coming up:

“But wait, what about edible plantings?!?” you ask. Well…I don’t know what to say. I’m fortunate to have a husband who likes to garden and for whom a regular pattern of watering and weeding is fun. Let me say that such activities can bring joy to the creative soul. Weeding can be meditative and its repetitive nature leaves one’s mind free to wander into imagination land. Some great creative ideas have arisen from such gardening moments. That said, there is not much in the way of edibles that would do well with neglect.  If I had to go with one veggie that would most likely survive under my sole care, perhaps even an Apocalypse, it would be the zucchini. But you’ve got to love the stuff and you have got to be prepared to make all sorts of creative choices when dealing with the harvest. I mean, zucchini everything: zucchini bread, zucchini stir fry, soup, pancakes, you name it. Also, if you do not keep on top of said harvest, you WILL have a beast on your hands:

zucchini baby

And getting rid of it after making an emotional connection can be tough.

Accidental gardening is fantastic. This year we’ve discovered lettuce growing in the middle of our lawn, carrots and garlic maturing in the boxes far from their  initial plantings.  I could not keep my basil and oregano alive to save my life last year – but this year it is thriving at the base of our garden steps and around the roses.  I’m a fan. Mother nature will take over if you let her.

All I’m saying is that even as the erratic creative that you are, you too can keep some things alive – you just have to figure out what they are.Yes, in the process many plants will have to sacrifice their lives. But many will thrive sending your confidence soaring. Slow and steady, trial and error, your black thumb might soon turn a bluish shade of green.

Cheers!

S

The Occasional Photographer


A while back I went on a trip with my hubby to a near deserted camp ground roughly 4 hours north of Calistoga , called Lett’s Lake. The reason it was deserted was because no one else was crazy enough to want to camp during the rainiest, coldest weekend yet. But he had his new fishing license and dang it we were going to get us some fish!

After two solid days of fishing our total count could be added on one hand…ok, actually no adding required because we only caught one. Let’s just say that if we were there to survive Bear Grylls style, we’d have eaten our canvas tent by then.

However, while we were there, I did get a chance to capture a few neat shots with my camera. Honestly, what else was there for me to do?

I hope you enjoy:

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