Category Archives: Nature

Orchid Love

For as long as I can recall, my man has regularly bought me flowers or a flowering plant for indoors, and still does. Then, about 10 years ago, he would often buy me an orchid. Beautiful flowers, wonderful colours, long-lasting – the blooms would last about 4 months with me looking after them as I thought best: watering only with rainwater, keeping out of full sunlight and, despite many saying to mist regularly, I didn’t because, well, spraying water is messy. The flowers would eventually fade and drop, leaves shrivel and out they would go, consigned to the compost bin.

A few years ago I decided to try to encourage one back into a second flowering, letting it rest, giving it a drink occasionally and kept in a cool place indoors away from any sun. Zilch. Nothing, not a sign of growth. So tried with another, and another. At one stage we must have had 5 or 6 plants the shelf in the lounge doing nothing.

It was at this point we decided it was time to revamp the lounge, so the plants were moved onto the kitchen window sill (north-facing).  They looked healthy but still no signs of regrowth. Then, by sheer chance, I caught a TV show where an orchid grower was being interviewed. It was like a light going on. A beacon. She explained how to look after orchids and keep them going. Nothing complicated. Nothing expensive. Hey Presto! Her advice works. We now have a house full of orchids in flower and one or two waiting in the wings for their next flush.

The rules: Every 7-10 days, plunge the pot for 30-60 seconds or until bubbles stop, up to its neck in rainwater (orchids hate tap water) to which has been added a few drops of plant feed. Expensive, especially for orchids food is not necessary, use any plant food. I use Baby Bio. The roots of the plant (they always come in clear plastic pots) will look white when the plant is thirsty, turning green when they have had their fill. Also wash off any dust from the leaves with the rainwater. Leave it to drain and enjoy some daylight for about an hour, before placing back in its potholder, if used. I perform this routine en masse in the kitchen sink, leaving them on the draining board. I admit there have been a few times I’ve had no rainwater, so will use either tap water that has been boiled a couple of times and cooled or distilled water I use in the iron, but only very rarely. And always give them a good drink with rainwater as soon as I have some.

That’s it! It’s that simple. I keep the plants on the kitchen window sill until ready to burst into flower before moving them around the house where we can enjoy them, mainly in the lounge, with one always by the south-facing window.

Several live permanently on the windowsill, including Triff, short for Triffid (below), because it has never stopped flowering on its original two stems for 2 years. It’s a little top-heavy as the blooms are large, but it keeps on going and growing. I suppose I really ought to cut it down so it can start afresh but don’t have the heart to. More, I’m frightened if I do, it will not reflower.

The real star of the show is this one on the left. Incredibly, this is its third time in flower in less than a year, on a new stem each time, each having more and more flowers. Last October there were 18 heads, currently 22, with more buds coming.

Those pictured here are just a few of many we have currently in flower. Each one is well-worth that little bit of time and care for its reward. We love them, they lift our heart and spirit every time we look at them.

Kit Domino’s Website and Blog

Bluebell love and holes in the lawn…

I hope everyone is doing well. I’ve lost count of how long we’ve been in lockdown here in the UK and we’re kind of getting used to it. I certainly can’t complain because I’m locked in with my hubby and BFF (one and the same!) and our baby girl (four-pawed). We have plenty to eat, we’re warm and dry with a roof over our heads, and the weather up to now has been absolutely great. I know for some people it’s been and continues to be awful and my heart goes out to them. As Lavada referenced in her post last week: the storm is the same for all of us but the boat and the journey are vastly different.

IMG_20190418_192338_596During April, we usually take a long walk through the bluebell woods. Since, at the moment, we’re only allowed to have a daily walk in our own locale, getting in the car with Vivvy and heading to the woods is off the table. Last year the bluebells were amazing and from what I remember the weather was pretty good too.

But the bluebells in my garden have put up a lovely display this year. I’d completely forgotten that at the end of last season, I dug out some of the plants from where they were starting to overwhelm the small bed, and put them in a pot ready to plant up when I had sorted another space for them. 20200426_143002After putting the pot in a utility corner of the garden I completely forgot about it and look at what happened! Without additional soil or any kind of tending, they turned into the display at the forefront of the photo! Don’t you just love the resilience of nature?

If you look close, you will see the green upturned sieve with a plant pot on top behind the bluebells. That, my friends, is courtesy of a certain little lady who adores digging holes in the lawn. I covered the space over with earth and scattered some grass seeds but, despite a very stern warning, said little lady wanted the particular spot of the lawn returned to its former state, hence the need for the makeshift covering. Wonder how long that will stay in place? 🙂

Bets, anyone?

Gallery

Life in the Slow Lane

This gallery contains 5 photos.

Well, that was a slow month! And not because of lockdown either. Strange times, but the restrictions in place haven’t impacted on us as much as it might on others. For Dave and me this is our usual way of … Continue reading

A Time for…Projects!

Okay, these are strange times, aren’t they? I hope everyone is keeping safe and well.

Here in the UK, the weather this week has been a great help – sunny, sometimes warm, and it feels very springlike. So we’ve been making the most of it with coffee-breaks in the garden, followed by a bit of weeding and pottering, and even sitting and catching up with some reading.

20200324_120656Of course, Vivvy loves having us around all the time, and she’s enjoying walks with both of us rather than just mostly AJ. Like her mum, she’s a summer baby and is never happier than lounging in the sun. She loves the water, too, and can find a stream or muddy puddle at a thousand paces. Strangely, she won’t go near the little paddling pool we bought for her and eyes it like it’s going to pounce and attack her. It’s so funny watching her circumnavigate the offending pool with a beady eye and at a very safe distance.

IMG-20200324-WA0000I thought this cartoon was so appropriate for these times, especially since AJ is incredibly gregarious and when he says he’s taking Vivvy for a walk and will only be an hour or so, I know to basically double it because he’ll find someone to talk to along the way.

Like most people, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what I’d like to accomplish during quarantine and here’s a list of some of the projects I have in mind:

  1. Redesign and re-plant one area of the garden
  2. Clear out wardrobes and cupboards
  3. Declutter the garage
  4. Take an online writing course I’ve been wanting to do for ages
  5. Finish writing a new romance series that has been on the backburner for way too long

I’m sure they’ll be a few more things to add, but that’s basically what I’d like to accomplish.

So, over to you. What are you planning to do during this period? What projects are you going to undertake/finish?

Maybe, when this is over, we can all share how much we’ve achieved 🙂

Stay safe everyone. Sending huge cyber hugs…

Hobbits, anyone?

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a bit of a J.R.R. Tolkien fan.  I love The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. My brothers are the same. We’ve each read the books, ahem, a few times. And we went together to see the movies. I even sent them quiz questions for a week before the movie premiere. 🙂

Since I have yet to determine a way to visit Hobbiton, in Auckland, New Zealand, that doesn’t involve a 14+ hour plane trip (which I may still make one of these days), I have to get my thrills locally.

I haven’t been there yet, but there’s a hobbit house in Washington State. And, get this, it’s an airbnb rental! If you want to read more about it and see pictures, check this blog:

PNWBeyond

Recently, I found out there was a real, live, hobbit house within easy driving distance, at The Brothers Greenhouses. So on a nice, sunny, warm day in mid-October…yes, Washington State gets sun in October…we took a drive with friends to check it out. And it was a blast. It’s tiny inside, not fully built out, but the door and the ambiance were amazing. After touring the tiny home, we sat enjoying the sun, then strolled through the many greenhouses filled with plants, as well as the gift shop, with all sorts of little hobbit and fairy village trinkets to purchase.

 

I did purchase a little something for my tiny whiskey-barrel hobbit house. A miniature whiskey-barrel (not pictured). 🙂 A little memento to make me smile. This was so much fun.

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Oh, and just as exciting…okay, maybe more exciting, my newest romance novel, Rudy’s Heart, released last week. You can find out more about it on my website.

Have a wonderful November, everyone. And, for those who celebrate the U.S. Thanksgiving, have an awesome, tryptophan-filled, tummy-stuffed day!

For more information about Laurie Ryan:
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Silly Memory That Still Makes Me Smile

Jillian here. I was working on an upcoming blog post for a friend for the month of October which is apparently Family History Month. My post for then is about my two great aunts. One of which I knew well and one who died before I was born. It reminded me of a funny event involving the one I knew and I thought I’d share it for my post here this month.

My family is from North Alabama. Even though I never lived there, we visited a lot.

My great aunt Lit was my paternal grandfather’s sister. She was married to a man named Charlie Sandlin and I loved, loved him- her, too, but her husband was my pal as a kid. My grandparents owned a house on the Tennessee River and Uncle Charlie and I would swim the mile and a half across it all the time- we’d try to touch bottom way out in the middle. Sometimes we could and lots of times, we couldn’t. The Wilson Dam was not too far away and the water levels rose and fell as the dam was used to let boats in and out of the lock.  It was always deep in the center, but sometimes, near shore, you could walk out a number of feet and pick up stray clams in the mud. All the kids grabbed them a lot and then we’d put them in steaming water to see them open. Charlie was a big ole kid and we had a special bond.

Uncle Charlie had a brother named Buddy and he was an inventor. It was a lot of fun to see him on occasion- usually running into him at a store or something like that. He didn’t come out to the lake house and I didn’t know him well and never met any of his kids or grandkids.

Years later, after Uncle Charlie died, I was in law school in Birmingham, Alabama and met a guy in one of my classes named Jimmy Sandlin. I couldn’t resist asking him if he was from Florence, Ala. He said he was and I told him I had a great aunt named Lit who married a man named Charlie Sandlin and he had a brother named Buddy. I asked if he knew them.

He said he was Buddy’s grandson but I was wrong about his Uncle Charlie because his uncle was married to a woman named Marie. It was just so weird, I couldn’t believe it. I said, “I promise you, her name is Lit and it has to be the same person- how could it not be?”

Shrugging, he said, “What can I tell you? Uncle Charlie’s wife was named Marie. I swear.”

I went home and called my dad to find out exactly what Uncle Charlie had been up to with two wives. My dad laughed and laughed and when he finally got hold of himself, he said, “Her name is Lydia Marie and the family have always called her Lit.”

Man! Did I feel silly, but you know what? In all my life, I’d never heard her called anything but Lit.

The next day, I told my new friend we did indeed share a great aunt and, from then on, we called ourselves cousins-in-law.

How about you? Any stories about mistaken identity?

Here’s a picture of the two great aunts I’ll be on my friend’s blog talking about in October. Lit is the one in the seat and Hoovey (another one with a nickname as her real name was Louise) is the one on the arm of the chair. Image-1 (2)

 

A Summer of Firsts

This summer has certainly been sweltering so far, and I love it. But it has its downside too, for keeping the garden thriving has been a major task. Thankfully we’re not on a water meter or a hosepipe ban so the new flower border is more colourful than ever.

But despite our best efforts our vegetables have been a failure – a first for Dave. The broad beans cropped well but of once shelled were all covered in black spots and consigned to the compost bin. We managed about three meals from the runner beans before they withered. Dave has cut them back in hope they’ll reshoot. The peas were a non-starter and the sweet peas although flowered had stems no longer than 2 inches and soon died in the heat. That said, the onions, carrots and potatoes are cropping, so at least we’re not starving. But therein came another first for us.

We kept finding the onions pulled out and scattered around the vegetable patch, we’re talking here about the whole matured, fully grown and ready to harvest bulbs. Then some of the dahlias were pulled out of the ground. A few mornings on we found tattered and chewed children’s soft toys discarded amongst the veg. Big holes were appearing in the ground, too big to be cats and we have no wild rabbits here. The culprits were seen one evening when I spied them coming into the garden through the adjoining hedge – foxes, a family of 7. Urban foxes have always been around but we’ve never had any damage. They’ve even dug large holes under a neighbours’ new fence.

But there have been some lovely firsts too. We haven’t seen many butterflies here this summer apart from the pesky cabbage whites. One appeared that I hadn’t seen before – a marbled white. Not as troublesome as the cabbage whites.

Marbled White Butterfly

The butterflies might be scare but there have been plenty of moths. One was  a privet hawk moth, with a wingspan of approx 4 inches, these moths are the largest in the UK. I haven’t seen them since moving away from London so a first for my garden. It was also unusual in that there are no privet hedges locally!

Privet Hawk Moth

Another morning I noticed a strange-looking black and white butterfly sitting on one of my flowers. A closer inspection showed it was a moth. I grabbed my camera and tried to take a photo. As I did, it opened its wings and took flight revealing the most beautiful orange wings as it fluttered over the fence into another garden. Research told me it was a tiger moth, and that the unknown hairy caterpillars I kept finding on a rose bush were in fact tiger moth caterpillars. More firsts. As always, I’m too slow with the camera so I’ve had to obtain these 3 ref photos.

Tiger Moth

Last Wednesday as Dave and I were enjoying a coffee on the patio, he noticed a very fat, long (at least 3 inches!) green caterpillar making its way across the slabs. It looked rather like those stuffed draft excluders we all had years ago to keep the wind from blowing under the doors. He took a photo and ran inside to look it up on the internet as neither of us recognized it. Whilst he was gone, I spied another happily munching away on a fuchsia bush. They turned out to be elephant hawk moth caterpillars – I never knew they also came in green, I’d only ever seen the brown ones. We found out that they start off green and over the course of a few days slowly turn brown.  Two days later, trundling along the patio heading for the undergrowth along came a brown one. At least they shuffle along slowly so I was able to capture them on camera. (As I’m writing this post, Dave has just come upstairs to show me another green one he’s found chomping on a plant!)

Another first is a sunflower growing in the new border. In all the 40 years I’ve been gardening here, I’ve never grown one. I’d popped a few sunflowers seeds from the birdfeed into the ground out of curiosity to see if they would grow. Two of them I must have pulled out when weeding but one has grown into a beauty, almost 6 feet tall with lots of buds coming out.

But the best first of all wasn’t a moth, butterfly or caterpillar or a flower. It was a pair of goldfinches settling on the birdfeeder to enjoy a feast of nyger seeds. I knew goldfinches were in the area, I’d seen and heard them about them since last winter, so I’d put out the nyger seeds in the hope they would come into the garden. They did, and a few days later two youngsters joined them. Now we often have 7 or 8 around the feeders. They take no notice of Dave or me or of the resident sparrows.

Talking of sparrows… Billy One Mate still pops into the garden for a feed on the ground but he’s now with a small flock of his fellow starlings. I know it’s him as he has a white flash down his chest. He’s thriving, bless him, after such a shaky start.

And with summer still not over, who knows what other firsts might appear.