Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Maple Hill Hop 147

Maple Hill Hop

Welcome to 
The Maple Hill Hop.
This is a hop for folks who love the outdoors.
Feel free to post about anything that's going on
in your neck of the woods,
no matter the season.
(Please share only outdoor posts.)
*Grab the button above to link back to Maple Hill 101.*

Is autumn making its way to you?
Our days are still scorching,
but the days are definitely getting shorter.
It'll be a welcome change.

 Last week C and I took a field trip
to the local Audubon Center in Babson Park, near Lake Wales.
I'd been wanting to visit for a while,
and with C's soaring interest in birding,
it seemed like a great place to explore.

The Ridge Audubon Center was opened in 1964
with the intention of fostering young people in the study of local wildlife.
The onsite museum allows children to learn about the many varieties of birds
which can be found in our area.
There are also two hiking trails which lend themselves to further exploration.
Along with birds, visitors can also obtain information about native plant species,
including wildflowers, and many types of wildlife, including gopher tortoises.

The Ridge Audubon Center is active from October through May,
when meetings are hosted and followed by a potluck dinner,
including a presentation on nature-related topics .
 Although we couldn't go inside,
we managed to nose around enough to see a lot of birds.

We spotted lots of feeders...

and quite a few songbirds enjoying some lunch.
We hope to get back there in October,
when the cooler weather will surely bring
even more feathered friends to town.
For more information, check out their website.

That's what's going on where we are.
What's happening outside where you are?
HOP to it!


Friday, August 19, 2016

Plant Profile-Porterweed

Porterweed is a Florida-friendly plant
that thrives in our Zone 9 climate.
(This perennial grows in zones 9-11).
Most of the plants in this group
are drought-tolerant, require no extra fertilizing,
and don't mind our often hot and humid conditions.

This plant was a gift from a neighbor.
The same neighbor who has that amazing banana tree
we featured a while back.

It started out as a spindly seedling,


and has flourished into a thick, bloom-filled bush.
It stands over 6 feet tall now.
We have it planted on the north side of the house,
in the small garden near the front door.
It gets partial sun during the afternoon
and protection from the wind since it grows against the wall.

The blossoms last from early spring into the cooler fall weather.
All types of pollinators visit daily, 
including various types of bees, butterflies and moths.
It's so amusing to watch the bumblebees as they weigh down the delicate branches,
flitting from flower to flower,
drinking in all that goodness.
Porterweed serves as the host plant for the tropical buckeye caterpillar,
as well as a nectar source for several types of butterflies and the hummingbird moth.


Porterweed readily self sows,
so you'll always have plenty to start elsewhere
or gift to friends.
Cuttings can also be started without much effort.
It is as easy to grow as they come,
and will fill your garden with beautiful blue blossoms.
It can be used as a ground cover,
which would make a stunning floral carpet!

 Have a bloomin' good weekend!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Maple Hill Hop 146

Maple Hill Hop

Welcome to 
The Maple Hill Hop.
This is a hop for folks who love the outdoors.
Feel free to post about anything that's going on
in your neck of the woods,
no matter the season.
(Please share only outdoor posts.)
*Grab the button above to link back to Maple Hill 101.*

Today's my birthday,
so I thought I would gift you with
a few summer beauties we have around the homestead.

beach sunflower

the bees are enjoying the blooms

gloriosa daisies

banana tree


The oregano is one of the few crops growing this summer.

Maringa is a tropical plant which has edible leaves, 
seeds and flowers.

A favorite of pollinators, pentas come in many colors,
although we have red in our garden.

The gloriosa lilies are still blooming.

Morning glory is getting ready to fill this empty bed.

The beautyberry is loaded with magenta gems.
We often notice the mockingbirds savoring the berries.

The porterweed out front is a bumblebee magnet!
We are able to observe them from the front window.



More monarch caterpillars are munching away on the milkweed.
We're also hosting black swallowtails on our parsley.

We so enjoy the birds visiting daily.
It's relaxing to watch them in the birdbath,
or eating out of one of our feeders.

Nothing I like better than drinking in the nature around me.
It's the best way to spend any day.

That's what's going on here.
What's happening outside where you are?
HOP to it!




Friday, August 12, 2016

Homemade Room A/C

86 was bad enough, but 92?  Ugh!

Recently, our A/C went out.
but it actually got up to 92 in the house.
Not fun.
C and I decided to put together this do-it-yourself air conditioning unit,
while we were waiting for our fantastic A/C guy 
to finish the big job,
just to see if it would work.
We had all of the components we needed.

This is what we came up with on our own.
It worked, but not as well as it could.
We needed to upgrade the model,
so we called in the big guns.
Big K.
He helped us tweak it so that it was even better.
He's like that... 
Featured here is our second prototype.

We used a styrofoam cooler (a friend gave us one they weren't using),
a 12-volt fan (so it can run on a battery),
a pencil, marker, box cutter or sharp knife, caulk (optional), a hack saw,
and pvc pipe.

The diameter of the pipe was traced onto the cooler.

We cut out the holes using a box knife.
We made three holes on one side of the cooler.

We cut the pipe into 3 pieces, 
each measuring about 5 inches long.    

 Being the master crafter that he is,
Big K even sealed up the holes with caulk,
to keep the air from escaping.

We bought the fan online,
and cut a hole on top of the cooler to fit.

Big K wired it so that it can be run off of a battery
that we had from one of C's ride-on vehicles
when he was younger. 

We filled a plastic gallon-sized jug with water
and froze it for a couple of days.
This will provide the unit with lots of cold air inside the cooler.
You can also just add ice, or ice packs if that's all you have.
 For less than 20 bucks,
it does the trick.
It can be used with a standard plug for indoors.
It can be used in a car if you have the right plug on it.
You can even make it solar powered,
if you want to spend the extra money on a panel.

I'm planning on taking it to my next craft venue,
so that I can be more comfortable selling my daisy totes.
We're gonna make another one for a friend 
who has a hot spot in her house.

Thankfully, our A/C got fixed the same day
and we are comfortably enjoying the summer
from inside our cozy home.
  For a little sweat equity,
we've got a handy portable A/C unit that can be used anywhere.

Good ole' American ingenuity does it every time.

***Update:  I did take it to one of my outdoor venues,
and it worked remarkably well.
It kept me comfortable for a solid 2 hours. 

This Is How We Roll Feature

Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop