Centerpiece Ideas for Thanksgiving

 

Pumpkin centerpiece

Pumpkin centerpiece

I have lots of pumpkins rattling around the house from Halloween decorating and wanted to repurpose one for the Thanksgiving table. Check out my post on Pumpkin Eye Candy to see how many amazing pumpkin heirlooms there are available in the local markets.

Jarrahdale Pumpkin

Jarrahdale Pumpkin

 

 I love the grey green color of the heirloom pumpkin Jarrahdale, but didn’t want to cut into it, so I built the flower arrangement on top. Jarrahdale is also a wide low pumpkin that is a great centerpiece height.

 

Pumpkin with oasis

Pumpkin with oasis

Jarrahdale pumpkins have a nice concave top and it was easy to cut my wet oasis, cover it with chicken wire, and nestle it into the top of the pumpkin. The chicken wire keeps the oasis from breaking up from too many large stems being inserted. Stick a few picks into the oasis pinning it to the pumpkin so the oasis doesn’t slide around.

Components

  • 1 Jarrahdale Pumpkin

  • Oasis with chicken wire and 2 picks

  • Eucalyptus pods and green seeded Eucalyptus

  • Yellow Pom Poms

  • Green Spider Mums

  • Blackberry Lily Seed Heads

  • Hypericum Berries

  • Nandina Berries

Pumpkin with seeded Eucalyptus and yellow pom poms

Pumpkin with seeded Eucalyptus and yellow pom poms

Start greening your oasis with short stems of foliage of eucalyptus. Here I used seeded eucalyptus and add some color with yellow pom poms. I picked these up at a local florist. But you could use cut greens from your yard and berries from the fields to cut your costs.

Pumpkin centerpieceContinue adding the yellow pom poms, hypericum berries or any other red berry, blackberry lily seed heads, and Eucalyptus pods. Top off with your larger flowers- the green spider mums, and spritz the botanicals to fully hydrate everything so it keeps until Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Centerpiece Keep the pumpkin in a cool dark place until ready to use and Give Thanks!!

012 (2)

For decorating pumpkins with succulents, go to Pumpkin Treats-Decorating with Succulents.

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

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

For a Christmas pumpkin, go to Decorated Pumpkins with Berries, Pods, and Drieds.pumpkin with decorations

Centerpiece for Christmas

Thanksgiving Arrangement

Another Thanksgiving Centerpiece

 

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Crimson Poppies at The Tower of London

Sea of red poppies at the Tower of London

Sea of red poppies at the Tower of London

A sea of crimson poppies has sprung up in a 16 acre barren dry moat surrounding the Tower of London. Starting on July 17, a total of 888, 246 hand crafted ceramic poppies, each one representing a British military death in WWI,  have been individually placed in the moat with the final one being placed today, November 11, culminating with a ceremony and a two minute silence to honor the dead.

tower1

The art installation is called “Blood Swept Lands And Seas of Red” and is literally a sea of blood-red tide of poppies. Each poppy represents an individual who did not grow old.

Poppies

 

An army of volunteers will dismantle the exhibit, checking, cleaning and packing each poppy to be shipped to new owners. Each poppy was sold for 25 pounds or about $40 to benefit the six armed forces charities. More than five million visitors trekked to the Tower of London to view this incredible art installation. Photos courtesy of Amy Sparwasser.

towerjjj

 

This 3 minute Youtube video shows the scope of the installation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q56BJGUUL5A

 

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Autumn’s Colors

autumn

 The autumn color palette is astounding here in the mid-Atlantic for weeks in October and November. Magenta, orange, scarlet, persimmon yellow,  and purple tones are well represented. Here are some of my favorite plants to enjoy and plant for their beautiful displays in the fall.

Smoke Tree and Amsonia

Smoke Tree and Amsonia

Amsonia, Fall Perennial

Amsonia and Smoke Tree

Amsonia and Smoke Tree

The frostier it gets, the colors display better and more intensified hues. For plantings, if you plant the perennial amsonia, you will have great fall color and a perfect backdrop for the fall show of colors.

Amsonia hubrichtii turns golden yellow in fall for weeks

Amsonia hubrichtii turns golden yellow in fall for weeks

Turing a flaming golden color when the nights turn chilly, amsonia is the perennial for fall. I ignore amsonia through the summer adorned with it’s feathery green foliage and starry blue flowers, suddenly noticing it in the fall, admiring the perfect backdrop effect to set off autumn colors.

Amsonia has a smallish blue flower that is pretty but not outstanding

Amsonia has a smallish blue flower that is pretty but not outstanding

Almost over night, the feathery green foliage turns a beautiful golden-yellow, which becomes a perfect foil for fall flowers, notably Dahlias and other large-leaved accent plants like Castor Oil Bean. The fine foliage of amsonia is a perfect companion for coarser leaved plants.

Amsonia and Castor Oil Bean

Amsonia and Castor Oil Bean

Dahlias, Fall Flower

Dahlias, another overlooked plant in the early summer comes into its own in the late summer and fall, lighting up the garden when the nights turn cool. Sporting large bold foliage, Elephant Ears becomes a perfect backdrop for this beautiful bloom. Dahlias bloom for weeks and weeks starting in the late summer, continuing into November with painterly splashes of bright color.

Dahlias and elephant ears

Dahlias and elephant ears

Dahlia

Dahlia

Dahlias pop up tall in the fall garden backed up by the fall color of dogwoods

Dahlias pop up tall in the fall garden backed up by the fall color of dogwoods

Dahlia

Maples, The Best Fall Tree

If you plant a maple, you will have fall color guaranteed! There are few maples that don’t put on a colorful fall display. It doesn’t matter if it is a red maple, Japanese maple, or a sugar maple, you are in for weeks of brilliant colors.

Norway Maple

Norway Maple

Acer aconitifolium

Acer aconitifolium

 

Japanese Maples

Japanese Maples

 

Under the canopy of Japanese maples

Under the canopy of Japanese maples

Japanese maples

Japanese maples

 

 

 

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Plant Oddity – Pumpkin On A Stick

Pumpkin on a Stick

Pumpkins, Pumpkins, and more Pumpkins !

You might have noticed a theme of pumpkins with the last few posts, like Gourdzillas, Decorating Pumpkins With Succulents, and Pumpkin Eye Candy, and I thought I was done with the whole pumpkin theme for the season.  But in my travels recently, I noticed Pumpkin On a Stick, or Solanum integrifolium and am putting this on my list of “must grows” for next year.

Botanical Interests seed packet for Pumpkin on a Stick

Botanical Interests seed packet for Pumpkin on a Stick

Ornamental or Food?

Falling in the eggplant family, the little pumpkins are used in stir-fried Asian dishes. But I just want to grow this cute ornamental jack-o-lantern for jazzing up my Thansgiving table and fall flower arrangements.

Pumpkin on a Stick harvested

Bearing thorns, fuzzy leaves, and a four feet height, the plant towers over other eggplants in the garden, and the plant looks remarkably like Bed of Nails or Solanum quitoense, profiled in Plant Geek Alert.

 

Solanum quitoense

Solanum quitoense or Bed of Nails

Culture

Around for over 125 years which makes it an official heirloom vegetable, it has also been called Pumpkin Tree and Pumpkin Bush. Planted directly in full sun in your garden, the plant needs steady moisture and benefits from regular fertilizing as it grows large fast. Pretty soon, the insignificant blooms appear, followed by pale green nubby fruit that turn into their final pumpkin ribbed shape a few weeks later.

Pumpkin on a stick

Pumpkin on a stick

In late summer, the fruit changes to a scarlet color and when frosts start to hit, the eggplants turn their final rich orange color. You can harvest up to a dozen pumpkins on one plant. Use in cooking or arrangements!

Pumpkin on a stick in floral arrangement, from http://dodgetheflorist.blogspot.com/2011_10_01_archive.html

Pumpkin on a stick in floral arrangement, from http://dodgetheflorist.blogspot.com/2011_10_01_archive.html

 

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Gourdzilla!! Giant Pumpkin Shenanigans

Giant pumpkin

Giant pumpkin

The Growing

Growing titanic orbs or gourds is a competitive cut throat sport. As recently as 16 years ago, the heaviest (official) pumpkin weighed a mere 403 pounds. Now in 2014 the one ton mark has been surpassed! That is a lot of pumpkin, not to mention, how do you move one that size?? With a fork lift and pickup truck at least, so this is not something that any home grower can do. Champion pumpkin growers have their own methods and secrets that they guard closely in hopes of breaking the record books one more time.

275px-2009_Circleville_Pumpkin_Show_champions

Circleville Pumpkin Show champions with weight penciled on them, from Wikipedia

Start Right-Good Genetics!

The most important step in growing a champion is getting the right seeds and these aren’t available at any nursery. Dedicated and obsessed Growers have been refining the genetic makeup potential and integrity of these for many years, and have developed more superior strains than are available at the local nursery on their seed packet displays.

Pumpkin Seeds

 Obtaining the proper seeds is truly the “secret” to growing huge pumpkins and are available at specialty companies and growers, and on EBay.

Pumpkin blossom, wikipedia

Work, Work, and More Work to Produce a Champion

Ground preparation with lots of organic material tilled under begins in the fall. A minimum of 400 square feet in full sun is required and forget about taking a vacation while the pumpkins is growing, because the plant requires constant tending. Among the tasks confronting a serious grower is daily pruning, removing excess pumpkins, pollinating, rotating the gourd, watering, fertilizing, setting up a temporary cold frame over tender plants, soaking and filing the seeds for better germination, applying fungicides and pesticides, and the list goes on and on.

Male and femaile pumpkin flower, from Wikipedia

Male and femaile pumpkin flower, from Wikipedia

Splitsville, Oh No!

The pumpkin can gain 20 to 40 pounds a day during high summer! And that puts stress on the stem and the biggest calamity of all, splits! Once a fissure or rupture has occurred, the grower might as well hang it up and hope that he has another vine to fall back on. Literally, the grower devotes a whole year of his/her life to this endeavor and one day if the pumpkin develops a fatal split, he has to wait until next year to start all over again.

Seen at a local nursery, this baby weighed in at 1725 pounds!

It’s Expensive!

You can sink a lot of money into this highly competitive endeavor – from foliar nutrients, specialized sprinklers, beneficial soil inoculants, miniature cold frames, and other tools to help you grow that record breaker. And once you have a mammoth sitting in your garden, then you have to harvest it and it isn’t just a matter of cutting the stem and bringing the pumpkin into the house. There is a company that markets giant pumpkin lifting rings or slings for “lifting the gold” that can run up to $400! This is not a cheap hobby!

Final Reward-Winning a Blue Ribbon

But if you are successful at fighting back the weeds, insects, and splits that can attack at any point, you can enter at one of the many pumpkin contests around the country and take home a prize of thousands of dollars. Considering the many problems  and uncertainties that can strike without warning (think hail storm!), I think I will settle for carving pumpkins!

Carved Pumpkin

Carved Pumpkin

 

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Pumpkin Eye Candy

Gone are the days when you only had one choice of pumpkins – orange!! Amazed at how many types there are when I shop for pumpkins at either the farmers market or big box store, I love to pick different ones out. The variety that is available is staggering – spotted, bumpy, white, green, and everything in between.

Peanut Pumpkin

 

Peanut Pumpkin

Peanut pumpkin

Take for instance the Peanut Pumpkin, Cucurbita maxima “Galeux d’Eysine”, shown above, which gets its common name from the distinctive peanut-like growths that develop on its shell. When I first saw this pumpkin, it stopped me in my tracks and I had to pick it up and touch it. Thought to be a cross between a Hubbard squash (Cucurbita maxima) and an unknown pumpkin variety, the species originated in the 19th century in the region of Eysine, France. Even though it seems an oddity, its sweet flesh can be used in cooking and is quite good. The fruit’s sugars seeping out and hardening on the surface causes the distinctive beige bumps.

Porcelain Doll

 

Porcelain Doll pumpkin

Porcelain Doll pumpkin

Porcelain Doll is a pumpkin developed to help raise funds for breast cancer research through The Pink Pumpkin Patch foundation. The designation of “pink” is  a stretch! – it is more like coral pink. This worthwhile foundation supports breast cancer organizations through donations made by U.S. growers from a percentage of sales of each Porcelain Doll F1 Pink Pumpkin grown.
Besides, their pretty “pink” exteriors, Porcelain Doll pumpkins have delicious, deep orange interior flesh, perfect for baked goods, soups or casseroles. These big beauties start out beige and then turn a standout coral/pink color as they mature.

Porcelain Doll pumpkin, picture from DP Seeds.com

Porcelain Doll pumpkin, picture from DP Seeds.com

 

Hungarian Gray Pumpkin

Hungarian Gray Pumpkin

 Decorating

Decorating with these pumpkins can really be fun, given the wide variety of colors, textures, and shapes. Go to Pumpkin Treats-Decorating Pumpkins With Succulents, to get some ideas. Succulents are a natural pairing with pumpkins.

Stacking pumpkins

Stacking pumpkins

Cooking With Pumpkins

You can grill, steam, bake, boil, or roast any pumpkin. Pumpkin also can be pureed and baked in bread or cake, or cooked in soup, etc. Pumpkin is a great source of nutrition (pumpkins are typically packed with dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, copper, manganese, vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, iron, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus), and pumpkin seeds are full of nutrients, too!

Pumpkin Ice Cream with Ginger Creme Cookies

Pumpkin Ice Cream with Ginger Creme Cookies

Here is my recipe for great

Coconut Rum Pumpkin Ice Cream:

1 cup fresh pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups heavy cream

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

5 egg yolks

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. salt

Pinch of ground nutmeg ( I added more than a pinch, because I love fresh nutmeg!)

1 tbs. or to taste spiced rum with coconut

Directions:

  • Whisk together pumpkin puree and vanilla. Chill in refrigerator.

  • In a heavy 2 quart saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups of the cream and 1/2 cup of the brown sugar. Cook until bubbles form around the edge, 5 minutes.

  • Combine 5 egg yolks, spices, and the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar in a separate bowl. Stir until smooth.

  • Remove cream mixture from heat and gradually whisk 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture until smooth. Pour the egg mixture back into the pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, keeping the custard at a low simmer, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 4 to 6 minutes. Do not allow the custard to boil.

  • Allow the custard to cool and whisk the pumpkin mixture into the custard.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for a few hours.

  • Transfer the custard to an ice cream maker(it will be quite thick), and follow the directions on your ice cream maker. The last couple of minutes of churning, add your bourbon or rum to taste.

  • Freeze until firm, at least 3 hours. Garnish with ginger crème cookies.

  • Makes 1 quart.

 

 

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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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