Friday, January 29, 2016

Plant Profile-Beach Sunflower

There are "mistakes" that sometimes happen and are a catastrophe.
This isn't one of those times.
Thank goodness, this error is completely in my favor.
Love when that happens!

These little beauties have been referred to as "Faye's sunflowers",
as my farmer friend Faye allowed me to take some seed from her plant
and redistribute it in our backyard garden.
I thought it a bit odd that they did not seem to be displaying the same growing habit.
When she came for a visit, she noticed right off that the leaves were entirely different.

The mystery remained until it hit me.
These are actually beach sunflowers
that I stole acquired from a vacant house in the neighborhood.
I wish I had taken a picture of the plants that were enveloping that house.
The entire front walkway (including the sidewalk up to the front door)
were one gorgeous mass of sunflowers. 
It was really something to see.
On one of my morning walks, I decided the former occupants
most likely wouldn't mind sharing a few seeds.
After all, we gardeners are a generous bunch, no?
You can't know how thrilled I was to make the discovery,
as this has been one of the plants on my wish list for a very long time.

 I planted them in June of last year,
and they haven't stopped blooming since.
They spread easily, are drought tolerant and almost care-free.
What a beautiful addition to the garden.

They are so cheery, even in the darkest of days,
when clouds smother the sky and there is no sun to be found.
These glorious works of art continue to shine all day long.
They self-seed readily and attract a variety of pollinators.
It makes a body feel mighty blessed.

The recent cold snap (30's) didn't deter them one bit.
That gives me hope that I will be able to grow them further north.
In fact, according to this website,
they can be grown as an annual in areas that freeze.
Seeds will be saved for just that purpose.
Even if they only grow during the warmer seasons,
they are worth taking the time to save.
As for the seeds I got from Faye,
I think I forgot to plant them.
(These senior moments are becoming more frequent.)

I know it's the dead of winter,
and most folks don't get to have sunflowers now.
But I also realize that many of my gardening buddies are busy 
planning their spring and summer gardens.
Wouldn't these make a lovely border around your veggie beds?
I am happy to share seeds if anyone would like some.
Believe me, we have plenty!
Just email me and we'll get you squared away.
And until Old Man Winter bids a fond farewell,
enjoy Maple Hill's sunny collection.
We'd love to be a part of your warm weather garden.
Stay toasty, y'all!

Simple Saturdays Blog Hop #90

Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop

circa 2011 The ORIGINAL Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Maple Hill Hop 117

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.*

We've had a mild winter this year,
until this past weekend when temps dipped into the 30's.
I covered the tomatoes, just in case.

Brandywine tomatoes

I enjoy perusing my favorite blogs
to see how Old Man Winter is treating the folks further north.
I have to say that although the snow seems magical,
I remember what a nightmare it could be to deal with.
(I'm originally from Illinois.)
My hat's off to those of you tough birds up there,
and all that you have to do to get through the season.

We offer our version of a white blanket winter.

Star Jasmine



native cotton


African Iris
African Iris
What's happening outside where you are?
HOP on!




Friday, January 22, 2016

Got Bread?

Due do multiple sensitivities,
our son C has been gluten-free (among other "frees")
for going on 10 years.
Fortunately, there are now a sea of substitutions for those with food allergies.
One thing that's been difficult to find has been a decent sandwich bread.
Being a scratch cook, the first thought was to make it myself.
We had mixed results.
It's just very challenging to make a tasty bread without gluten.
As C must also avoid dairy, coconut oil, and a myriad of other ingredients,
I could never find a bread recipe that gave us good results.
Until now.

We had been buying a gluten-free millet bread from a "local" bakery.
At almost $4.50 a loaf, it was pricey, but the bread was fantastic!
I was even eating it and I'm not gluten sensitive!
Another brand, easily found in the frozen section of our grocery store,
 was even more expensive, and didn't taste as good.

I found a good deal on Amazon for Bob's Red Mill GF bread mix.
The only needed additions are milk (we used rice), eggs/egg whites,
butter (we used olive oil) and salt.
The loaf raised more than I thought it would,
which you can see by the photo above.
Next time I make it, 
I'll make one loaf and maybe some rolls with the remaining dough.

In any case, C loved it.
It's still pricey, at about $4 per loaf,
but it's bread we can make at home and we know exactly what's in it.
The other plus is that Bob's Red Mill is a dedicated gluten-free facility,
so we know there will be no contamination issues.
The only complaint we have is that it's difficult to slice
because it is extremely soft and fragile.
That's a small price to pay for bread that actually tastes like bread.
Toast, anyone?

Simple Saturdays Blog Hop #90

Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop

Tweak it Tuesday

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Maple Hill Hop 116

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.*

This weekend was the perfect time to do a bit of tweaking in the backyard.
We live in a typical suburban neighborhood and the houses are pretty close together.
These salt bush trees were volunteers
and I was hoping they'd add a bit of privacy to the back corner of our lot.
They never really filled in that much,
and most of the year they were kind of scraggly looking.

The one benefit they gave us,
was lots of pollinator activity in the spring.
The blooms attract bees, butterflies and a number of other flying critters.
Since we have many other plants that perform the same task,
it felt okay to let these go.
They just didn't seem to be filling in the space right
and it looked a bit messy.

So Big K and I spent a good hour clearing out the brush.

We like the clean look better and it makes our yard seem larger.
I'm planning to sow some beach sunflower in that corner,
to add a pop of color with a low-maintenance plant.
We may miss a bit of privacy, being more exposed to the neighbors,
but we're only here for a short while longer (I feel it!).
If we were staying here,
I'd probably put up some type of hedge or bushy trees.

I spent another hour (in a glorious rain storm) cutting this pile down to manageable pieces
so that our yard waste truck can haul it away.
At our next house, I look forward to being able to save all of our yard waste
to allow shelter for critters or lighting bonfires.
That doesn't work too well here in suburbia.
Folks like things nice, neat and civilized.

Here's the view into the yard from the back corner.
The pineapples may appreciate a bit more sunlight now.
It's all good...

What new developments are happening in your neck of the woods?
HOP to it!



Monday, January 18, 2016

Never Stop Dreaming

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Ten Things to Improve Your New Year

Resolutions are often forgotten 
by the 3rd of 4th week of the year.
Unless we are unwavering in our conscientiousness to live in the moment,
it can be challenging to maintain a toehold on those goals.
With busy lives, it can be a tall order.
Here are some simple things to try.
Try one or all of them!
They are easily incorporated into a daily routine.
Some may be more difficult than others,
but no matter how many you decide to test drive,
one of them may just change your life for the better.
Give 'em a whirl.

1.  Get rid of your full-length mirror.
If you find yourself being critical about the way you look,
give yourself a week without the opportunity to see "the worst".
You may find that you really feel better about yourself.

2.  Start using butter.
Okay, this really does NOT have anything to do with number one up there.
Think about assimilating your new view of yourself (sans mirror),
with seeing, being and enjoying the real you.
Make the transition to eating real foods.
Eating simply adds simplicity to your life.
Butter is made with cream, water and salt.
That's it.  
Besides, butter just makes everything taste better.

3.  Get outside daily.
This will affect you no matter the season.
We all need a dose of the sun's Vitamin D
and it's not the same when supplemented in a pill.
Take a walk, look at snowflakes, listen to the birds singing.
Being connected to the outdoors can be a sacred thing.
You deserve to embrace all of Mother Nature's blessings.

4.  Create 5 minutes of silence for yourself.
Whether you work full-time, go to school,
run a household, or are independently wealthy,
it's vital to listen to the wisdom inside of you.
When we are so busy that we keep silence at bay,
we lose the chance to learn what we need to grow.
Feel free to combine numbers 3 & 4!

5.  Consider your intention first when making decisions.
Using this powerful tool can make the difference between
smooth transitions and hard lessons learned.
If we focus on what we hope to accomplish first,
we learn to develop our sense of purpose,
and preferences will be more easily  determined.

6.  Make yourself smile.
Just remembering a fond memory can change our mood.
Whether it's something from long ago, or earlier in the day,
 bringing to mind those things that cheer or encourage us,
can alter our entire day, in a good way.
We can control the thoughts we allow,
so why not use them to our advantage?

7.  Give something to someone at least once a day.
It could be a compliment, a hug, or a small token,
but make it sincere.
This is a win-win, because not only will you feel better,
it's sure to brighten someone's day.
And hey, then you can use this situation to cross number 6 off of your list.

8.  Say thank you more often.
Surely there is someone who has done something kind toward you.
Be sure to acknowledge and appreciate those acts of generosity.
It could be something as basic as opening a door so that you can pass, 
or as compelling as taking the time to shake a veteran's hand 
and thanking him/her for their service to our country.
Not only do you feel good doing it, 
but it also solidifies the perspective that good souls surround you.
Sometimes we need to be reminded.

9.  Make something yourself.
It could be your first loaf of homemade bread,
sewing a pillow, writing a poem, or building a bench.
Fostering the sense of creativity that we all have
is paramount to one's well-being.
We are innately creative,
we sometimes just get too busy to nurture that part of us.
It's worth it.
Trust me.

10.  Simplify in any way you can.
Start with one shelf in a bookcase, one bathroom cabinet,
or one corner of the garage.
Sometimes we need to get the "stuff" out of our way.
Keeping in mind what is working for you,
or what might be better used by someone else is key.
Always focus on intention when clearing the clutter.
It really does make a difference.

I'd love to hear some of your ideas for improving your new year.
Have you already started?
It's never too late to get crackin'!
Enjoy your weekend, y'all!

Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop

circa 2011 The ORIGINAL Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop