Fall Pod Basket-Everlasting Decoration

Completed Pod Basket
Completed Pod Basket

What do you do with all those baskets hanging around in your house? And all those pods that you have picked up over the years, because they were interesting? I started fooling around with these, thinking that there was a perfect marriage here somewhere, and  came up with this pod/dried flower-edged basket. Taking only one hour to complete, using up some excess baskets that hang from my basement rafters, and incorporating some beautifully colored botanicals worked out so well that I have a great piece to decorate the Thanksgiving/Christmas table.

DIY

  • Picking out a good basket is key. Choose one with a wide, low rim that has plenty of room to display chunky pieces

Chunky Basket with wide rim

Chunky Basket with wide rim

  • Gather your Pods. For pods I used pinecones, lotus pods, fungi pieces, okra pods, small gourds, pine cone roses(cones sliced horizontally to display a rose-like face), and some other odds and ends that I had knocking around

  • Gather dried botanicals. I used a burgundy colored cockscomb, ‘Pink Zazzle’ Gomphrena(see Pink Zazzle post), preserved magnolia leaves, and different colored reindeer moss

  • Using a hot glue gun, start by attaching the larger pieces to the rim firmly. I started with making groups of 3-4 pods. If you have smaller pieces, group these together so they make a bigger impact

Group your pods on the rim

Group your pods on the rim

  • Start filling in and make sure that you add the pods and botanicals three dimensionally, covering the inside edge as well as the outside edge. Leave the moss and magnolia leaves for last

Add dried botanicals next

Add dried botanicals next

  • Add the magnolia leaves, cutting the stem end flat, so that you can nestle it in better into the pods. I like to array the leaves out facing like an opening flower

  • Fill in any gaps with the reindeer moss

Fill in gaps with moss

Fill in gaps with moss

  • Remove all glue strings carefully

  • Spray with an acrylic satin finish to preserve and give it shine

 

Spray it with a satin gloss acrylic preservative

Spray it with a satin gloss acrylic preservative

 

Care

It is a good idea to keep this inside, out of the sun, in a room temperature house. Don’t keep in a bathroom where it could be too moist, or next to a radiator. It should last until next season where you could refresh it with new dried botanicals that tend to fade over time.

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Tragic, Moving, and Beautiful – Flight 93 Memorial

Flight 93 Memorial

Flight 93 Memorial

On a recent trip returning to Baltimore from Pittsburgh, I decided to stop at the Flight 93 memorial. I had no idea what to expect and was blown away at the beautiful and peaceful setting that is set amidst rolling hills and meadows. It is a reverent and uplifting space dedicated to the forty victims who died here.

Floral tributes left along the wall

Floral tributes left along the wall

 On our way home on Rt 30, you pass through quaint little towns, reaching the memorial after driving down a newly paved winding road to reach the crash site where the National Park service is building a brand new visitor center and parking lot.

New visitor center going up

New visitor center going up

A black sloping wall extends around the entire crash site field outlining the final resting place of victims. Only family members of the deceased can enter the crash field. A low viewing wall marks the edge of the crash site

History

Because of the huge impact of the plane slamming into the earth, almost everything vaporized. Only eight percent of the human remains were recovered, enough to match up and identify all 40 victims and 4 terrorists on the plane. All unidentified remains were placed in three caskets and buried near a large native sandstone boulder which became the collective headstone for the burial. A small plaque was placed on the back of the boulder that only family members can visit.  Victim’s families have keys to open the gate to enter the field to mourn their family members.

Large boulder marks where the plane ploughed into the ground creating a 50 feet deep crater

Path leading to area where victims remains are buried

Path leading to area where victims remains are buried

 

After gouging a huge hole in the ground, and spinning 180 degrees,  the cockpit and first class cabin broke off, and broke up into millions of fragments that scattered and scorched 8 acres of trees. The main body of the plane continued downward into the soft reclaimed mining soil and created a crater 50 feet deep and came to rest against solid rock below the surface. The black box was recovered 25 feet down in the crater in good condition.

Design Competition

The Flight 93 National Memorial design was selected from over 1,000 entries from 48 states and 27 countries in an international design competition. Originally designed in a crescent pattern, the design was modified to a circle because of an outcry that a crescent too closely resembled the red crescent used in Islamic culture.

The Shanksville site was commemorated in 2002, a national memorial, but lots of work is still going on. There are 40 maple trees planted representing each person that perished from the crash and a wall with the names etched in polished white marble for each victim. These walls align with the final flight path of the plane.

Memorial Wall

Memorial Wall

Field of Honor Plantings

According to the National Park Foundation website, they describe the “FIELD OF HONOR” as: “Measuring one-half mile in diameter and covering over 150 acres immediately adjacent to the Sacred Ground, the bowl-shaped Field of Honor links the entire memorial through sightlines and pathways. Once a surface coal mine, the field will be “rehabilitated” through the sustainable planting of native grasses and a mix of indigenous wildflowers”. The meadows are planted and are thriving.

Meadow plants

Meadow plants

Forty memorial groves of trees will be planted to honor each victim . Each grove is planned to contain 40 trees, such as Sugar Maple, White Oak, and Elm, for a total of 1,600 trees radiating toward the center of the Field of Honor.

Newly planted memorial trees

Newly planted memorial trees

A series of wetlands and ponds will be preserved as natural features in the design and construction of the memorial. One of the “leftovers” from the surface mining activities, the wetlands will be transformed into a self-sustaining natural habitat and aquatic eco-system.

Flight 93 memorial outdoor auditorium

Flight 93 memorial outdoor auditorium

 

The meadows surrounding the entire site were seeded on reclaimed mining land that was comprised of very poor soil and sloping grades. The steep slopes made the process of seeding in meadow grass and flowers difficult but was accomplished before the 2002 commemoration.

Teasels growing in the meadow

Teasels growing in the meadow

Tower of Voices

Also planned is a tower of voices and I will be sure to stop back when this is completed, probably by June 2015. Tall enough to be seen from the highway, the Tower of Voices will mark the entry to and exit from the park. Reaching 93 feet into the sky, the tower will house 40 aluminum wind chimes, which will serve as an audible reminder of the acts of courage of the passengers and crew, many of whose last contact from Flight 93 was through their voices on phone calls.

Tower of Voices

Tower of Voices

Here is a video of the memorial site which explains everything in more detail.

http://www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=2AB43C21-155D-451F-67BCCC170B08AB44

Wildflower Varieties Used

Goldenrod

Rudbeckia triloba

Cardinal Flower

Gallardia

Chicory

Milkweed

Coreopsis

Joe Pye Weed

Curly Dock

Crown Vetch

Alfalfa

Vipers Bugloss

Oxeye Daisy

Meadow Anemone

White Campion

Wood Aster

Evening Primrose

Thistle

Blue Eyed Grass

Teasel

For eyewitness accounts of the crash, go to https://sites.google.com/site/wtc7lies/flight93page1

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Pumpkin Treats-Decorating with Succulents

Finished succulent pumpkin

Finished succulent pumpkin

A Natural Fit-Pumpkins & Succulents

Who would ever have thought of decorating pumpkins with succulents? Like bacon, succulents go with everything and make it better! The finished product is so different from the traditional carved Jack-O-Lantern, plus you don’t have to fool with the mess of seeds and rotten pumpkins. Unlike cut pumpkins these will last for months, and the succulents actually root in the moss if misted occasionally. This is a great new twist on decorating pumpkins that is easy, no mess, and so creative.

One of my succulent containers that is too large to bring in for the winter

One of my succulent containers that is too large to bring in for the winter

I also got to use lots of my succulents that would be killed by frost in a couple of weeks. The succulents actually root into the moss and you can transplant the cuttings to soil and grow them and set them out in the spring, saving on your start up plant costs.

Pumpkin decorated with succulents

Pumpkin decorated with succulents

Material List

  • A pumpkin or large gourd

  • Sheet moss, sphagnum moss, or reindeer moss

  • Assorted cuttings of succulents. I was moving most of my succulents indoors to beat the frost, and this gave me the opportunity to trim the growth back or actually uproot an entire plant, washing off the roots. I simply nipped large pieces of succulent tips from living plants, trying to vary colors, shapes, and textures.

  • Assorted pods, i.e. pine cones, okra pods, lotus pods, milk weed pods, and berries. For my example above, I used nandina berries and foliage which dries quite nicely, and okra pods. Mix it up with whatever you have on hand.

  • Tacky glue or glue gun

  • Spritzer for moistening moss

  • Berries, pods, and foliage to add to the pumpkin

    Berries, pods, and foliage to add to the pumpkin

    Step By Step

  1. Find a wide topped pumpkin and cut the stem off; I used “Cinderella” variety which has a grayish orange color, deep pleats, and a wide roomy top.

  2. Glue moss on top about 1/2 inch thick with a glue gun or tacky glue.

  3. Arrange your succulent cuttings to form a pleasing arrangement, making sure that you use the larger chunkier pieces first. Stick the stems into the moss with glue so that they adhere. Glue will not hurt the succulents.

  4. Add berries, pods, or anything else that goes with the fall theme, gluing in place.

  5. Spritz the moss so that it stays moist

 There are so many unusual pumpkins on the market today that I also tried this arrangement with a Christmas feel using a white pumpkin, adding fresh variegated holly, winterberry, green amaranthus, and dried burgundy cockscomb to add a nice contrast to the white pumpkin.

White pumpkin with decorations

White pumpkin with decorations

Decorated white pumpkin

Decorated white pumpkin

Gourds

Gourds are also a winner for these arrangements and I chose a tall narrow one that fits into a smaller space. I had gathered some orange rose hips on the side of the road and blackberry lily berries and knew I had found the perfect use for them decorating the top of my gourd.

Decorated Gourd

Decorated Gourd

"One Too Many" pumpkin variety has a white background and stippled veins

“One Too Many” pumpkin variety has a white background and stippled veins

My front porch entrance full of decorated pumpkins

My front porch entrance full of decorated pumpkins

Maintenance

It is best to keep the pumpkin inside  in a cool spot, out of direct sunlight.  Pumpkins need cool weather to stay firm through the season. If you want to keep them in an outside location, like I have mine on my front porch, be sure to bring inside when the weather turns colder with hard frosts. A warm house will speed up the inevitable decomposition, so don’t put your pumpkin on top of a radiator or in a sunny window. Last year, my pumpkins lasted into January!

Spritzing the pumpkin

Spritzing the pumpkin

Succulent pumpkin without the berries and pods

Succulent pumpkin without the berries and pods

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Spinning Honey

Honey coming out of the extractor into a bucket lined with a mesh paint strainer to remove all bee parts

Big Event

It happens every Fall – honey extraction! After babying the bees, feeding, monitoring, re-queening, splitting, and just plain worrying about them, now is the moment of truth.  How much honey did they deposit in the combs for me to rob from them? I won’t leave you in suspense – I extracted 35 pounds from one of my three hives. Two were Nucs and one was a package. Go to A Bee Nuc or Package to see the difference and advantages.

Bee package which includes a queen and 12,000 to 15, 000 bees as a starter

Bee package which includes a queen and 12,000 to 15, 000 bees as a starter

I started out with 3 hives this season – one Nuc swarmed and the other two did fine, humming along with our wet weather bringing on a constant supply of nectar. It is always an anti-climax when we finally remove and extract – kind of like Christmas – lots of build up and anticipation, and then it is over very quickly and we are mopping up the mess.

Installing a package in the spring

Installing a package in the spring

Extracting

After removing the bees, see Robbing the Bees-A Honey of a Day to see how to do this tricky part, we are ready to spin out the honey.

A perfect capped frame of honey

A perfect capped frame of honey

To remove the wax coverings, a heated knife is used to melt away the wax and a fork that looks like a hair pick is used to further open up the cells so that the honey can be flung out.

Using an uncapping fork to remove wax covering

Using an uncapping fork to remove wax covering

Think of a large metal trash can with wire shelves inside that spin around and you have an honey extractor.   A motor attached will turn on the merry-go-round inside, flinging the honey deposited in the cells onto the side of the trash can, dripping down to the bottom where it will exit through a gate valve into a mesh sieve for bee parts and then into a collection bucket.

The wax cappings are very tasty and we dive right in and start snacking.  Grabbing a dollop of warm fresh honey comb that is dripping with honey  is luscious!

Wax cappings full of honey

Wax cappings full of honey

 Aftermath

Once the honey is all extracted, I take the frames and set them up in front of the hives so the bees can wring every last drop of honey from them. The bees, once they discover the free honey, go crazy and buzz around the yard.  I am sure to not have guests over when this happens as it can be quite unnerving if you are afraid of bees!

We set up the extractor and all the tools in front of the hives also so the bees can finish cleaning. The wax cappings are set out along with everything else for the bees to clean, and then I take the wax in to process in preparation for making beeswax soap and candles. Go to Beeswax-Honeybee Gift to see how I process and use beeswax.

2 lb block of beeswax

2 lb block of beeswax

 Giving the honey a few days to settle, I start bottling the honey when the weather is still warm, over 75 degrees. If honey gets too cold, it won’t flow properly into my jars.

Bottled honey

Bottled honey

 

 

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Saddlebacks are Back!

Saddleback, picture taken by Gretchen Schmidl

Saddleback, picture taken by Gretchen Schmidl

Watch out for the invasion of the body snatchers! – no really it is just saddleback caterpillars, Sibine stimulea.  I have noticed them in my yard this year and I would rather be stung by a bee than stung by this nasty caterpillar. They look like ugly bizarre clowns or a Scotty dog in a green t-shirt!

Saddleback Caterpillar

Saddleback Caterpillar (Photo credit: cotinis)

Also known as “pack-saddles”, these two inch long caterpillars are very distinctive looking, and are the larvae stage of a brown moth native to eastern North America. They appear at the end of the summer gobbling up as much greenery as possible prior to pupating into a dull brown moth.

Non-descriptive brown moth

Non-descriptive brown moth

Saddleback Caterpillar

Saddleback Caterpillar (Photo credit: noramunro)

Saddlebacks feed on a large variety of plant material and usually are found on the underside of foliage and thus are easy to miss when you are pruning or weeding underneath greenery. My particular caterpillars were feeding on the underside of a weeping beech and I was crawling underneath the tree to prune it.  I felt an intense burning sensation and flinched back, but they had already stung me. The caterpillars have fleshy horns on either end bearing urticating hairs(irritating bristles) that secrete venom.  These are hollow quill-like hairs that have poisonous sacs at the base of them which can excrete a poisonous punch.The venom causes a very painful swelling and can cause nausea and a rash that can last for days.

Sting of a saddleback

Sting of a saddleback

 

The best remedy for the stinging and swelling is the application of ice.  Also, if you use some sticky tape to remove the barbs immediately, you can reduce the amount of poison that is excreted. If you are very allergic to stings, it is best to use an epi pen for a bad reaction. I always see these caterpillars in groups of 2 or 3, so you are likely to be stung by several at once. It just gives me shivers to think about it!

Acharia stimulea Clemens, 1960 Common Name: sa...

Acharia stimulea Clemens, 1960 Common Name: saddleback caterpillar Photographer: Robert L. Anderson, USDA Forest Service, United States Descriptor: Larva(e) Description: urticating hairs Image taken in: United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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