Saturday, March 31, 2007

Ointment of Lavender

"Then took Mary a pound of ointment of lavender, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment."

~ Luke ~


Growing Lavender

Growing lavender can be simple, or simply impossible! Frequently I've talked with friends who keep trying to grow lavender but without success. Their plants are temperamental, don't make it through the winter, or fail to thrive.

There are some simple rules for success when it comes to growing this lovely plant. Lavender simply does not like wet feet! It it's roots are kept too moist, the plant will wither away and die. The best soil for growing lavender is a gritty or sandy loam with a pH of 6.0 to 8.0. Soil that is wet and has a clay base should be mounded so that it does not hold moisture, thereby keeping the lavender roots from getting soggy and bogged down. Sometimes sand or rock added to the soil is helpful. I'm fortunate to live in an area with sandy soil and it drains well. My lavender plants thrive nicely, even with the 30 minutes of watering they receive each night from the automatic sprinkler system.

Watering Lavender

Although lavender doesn't like wet feet, that doesn't mean it doesn't like being watered! Many think that lavender is a drought tolerant plant. It's true that once lavender plants are established they do well in dry conditions, but until they are well-established they need to have adequate watering to support the new little plant. Spring moisture is quite crucial for lavender and if you enjoy the smell of lavender, their fragrance is more abundant if the plant hasn't been stressed for lack of water.

Climates Lavender Loves

Amazingly, lavender plants, especially the Lavandula angustifolia and L. x intermedia tolerate cold temperatures, winds, rain, and snow quite well. That is, if they have good drainage. The Spanish lavenders or L. stoechas do not do quite as well if the cold and snow last for lengths of time, but will do alright during short periods of cold weather. A late frost can cause new spikes of growth to blacken, but this can be remedied simply by light pruning. New spikes will then form.

Starting New Lavender Plants

Starting lavender from seed can be a difficult process. Most success in growing new lavender plants happens with by the process of propagation of stems cuttings. When a cutting is made of a lavender stem, a callus forms at the cut and cells near the callus work together to form roots if proper conditions are present.

Choose a stem that is leafy (it will be without buds, as lavender buds form on tall, leafless stems). Make sure that each cutting is 2 - 4 inches long and has 2 or 3 leaves growing along it. Make a cut 1/4 inch below a leaf node and then pull off all the leaves that are at the nodes that will below the surface of the potting mixture. Sometimes rooting hormone can be used to ensure root stimulation. I don't care for this method, as the rooting hormone comes with all sorts of safety clauses for humans (do not touch, get on skin, etc.). Since lavender starts so well without it, I prefer to do without. Once your stem is prepared, poke a hole in the potting mixture and then insert the cutting. Make sure the soil is moist. Commercial potting soil can be used or you can make a mixture of 1/2 vermiculite and 1/2 sphagnum peat moss. Be sure your container has excellent drainage (remember, lavender does not like wet feet). The container can be covered with a plastic bag tent or container to help maintain humidity, but be careful that the little lavender doesn't drown in moisture! I'd play this by ear, checking frequently to see if the tenting is really necessary. The little plants should be in a warm area with indirect light so they are not baked in sunshine. Rooting will take several weeks to take hold. After a few weeks, gentle tugging will reveal a resistance. This lets you know that rooting has started and you can soon transplant into a larger container or garden bed. Generally, lavender plants do better in a garden bed than they do potted containers. Along with wet feet, lavender doesn't seem to like containers very well.

The lavender and greenhouse pictures
were taken at Robin's Lavender Farm

Friday, March 30, 2007

Watereth the Hills

He watereth the hills from his chambers:
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works.

Psalms 104:13

Blue skies and rolling hills, a beautiful combination for a perfect day. Notice how the dry land winter wheat is growing in fields planted in horizontal stripes on the hills. New growth, last year's harvest, new growth, and last year's harvest are all layered to create an interesting effect. The winter wheat is planted in the autumn and several inches grow right after planting. Winter snow and cold weather slow this growth considerably, but with the sun of early spring and it's warmth, the wheat takes off quickly and the fields are covered with lush green by early March.

The Darling of Herbs

Lavender is the darling of herbs! It's been prized for centuries for its fragrant perfume, medicinal qualities, and beautiful hue. It's name comes from the Latin 'lavare' which means 'to wash'. The Romans used it both in baths and for washing clothing. They also recognized it's ability to heal and provide antiseptic qualities and to detour insects.

This fragrant little bud is now used extensively in cooking, in toiletry, and in decor. Candles, bath salts, bouquets, teas, desserts, and more all benefit from this fragrant plant. As I enjoy my lavender garden this spring and summer, I thought it would be fun to share some lavender facts and lore with you as we go along. Please join me!

Spring in the Lavender Bed

After a cold and snowy winter, the lavender is starting to perk up and some new growth can be seen. But, due to some freeze damage during the winter months, it's time to give the lavender plants a haircut. This is not something that I look forward to, as it seems very wrong to cut off new growth! But, as you can see from the dark tips in this picture, it must be done. My lavender is trimmed each autumn and sometimes (if I can bear doing it) again in the spring. They should be cut back at least once a year. Keeping lavender plants pruned is one of the best ways of maintaining a young, healthy, and vigorous bush. Pruning should start with a very young plant, when still in the pot, and continue at least once a year for the life of the lavender bush. The autumn pruning should take place after the flowers have bloomed in the late summer. [Most lavender plants, if harvested, will bloom at least twice a year, giving you beautiful blossoms from June until September.] Prune your lavender plants back by 1/3 to 1/2, thus preventing your plants from breaking down or becoming woody. The pruning can take place back to three sets of leaves from the base of the plant (this is usually too short for my foliage-loving self!). The autumn pruning is essential, and the spring pruning nice but not as necessary. There are some folks who don't prune in the fall, preferring spring, but they run the risk of plant damage due to weather conditions.

My friend, Robin, owns a lavender farm and is a wealth of wonderful information and ideas regarding lavender. As a "Master Gardener", she has studied plant propagation, soils, and growing techniques. And best of all, she's happy to share all she knows! The lavender in this picture is hers. She's in the midst of her spring pruning. These lavender plants were cut back 1/3 to 1/2 in the autumn, and now they are just receiving a mini-pruning with hedge trimmers to encourage new spring growth.

Robin's lavender is planted in rows with mulch and bark below to keep weeds down. In some areas she uses weed barrier, although with lavender this is not always necessary. Weed growth is only a worry for the first two years; after that time they are large enough to shade the area around them which discourages any weed growth. Young plants can be mulched with several layers of newspaper placed around them. Adding a layer of white or red rocks on top of the newspaper is helpful, as it not only holds the newspaper in place, but it reflects the sun back into the center of the plant. Commercial weed barrier landscape fabrics can also be used. This is the method that I prefer.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Spring Garden

It's spring and time to plant the veggie garden! There's nothing more delicious than a lunch made from garden greens, fresh tomatoes, sweet onions, summer squash, and cucumbers. Mmmmmm. After several years of 'container' gardening, our family decided to plant a small, raised garden bed this spring. New underground sprinklers and a water timer have been installed so we can keep enough moisture even during the hottest part of the summer. Brent mixed sandy topsoil with compost, vermiculite, and peat moss to make a soil composition that should feed the little plants well. Garden greens like collards, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and arugula were planted earlier this week. And bush beans and radishes are in the soil as well. Now it's just the waiting game --- and of course tending the weeds.

Morning Glory

My second attempt at a colored embroidered tea towel is a blue morning glory. I'm still learning how to blend and shade, so don't look too close! I'm enjoying the vibrancy that color brings to the simple outline on an embroidered towel.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Every Day

"Every day is born anew
for him to takes
it rightly."

James Russell Lowell

Photo @ Brandon

Garden Gate

One of the special things about blogging is that you get to meet so many wonderful people from all over the world. My recent post about coloring embroidered tea towels with wax crayons prodded Ronnie to contact me about her experiences with colored embroidery. The 'Garden Gate' design in these two pictures are of projects she has colored and stitched. The design is Meg's of Crabapple Hill. Meg has come to Ronnie's community quilt shop to give instruction in her methods and designs. With Ronnie's permission, I'm sharing another idea for colored embroidery. As you'll recall from previous blog posts, I have used the wax crayon method. According to Ronnie, colored pencils work as well. Here are some tips from Ronnie using her method:

"I took a picture of something I have done to let you
see how the pencil coloring looks. I sometimes
like just a hint of color in my pictures. The background
looks a little strange in these pictures, but in real life
they look fine. It is done on a tea dyed background."

"You do the pencils just like the crayons,
color, heat set with freezer paper

using a new piece of paper each time you
iron until no color comes

off on the paper, then embroider."

I love this idea! I haven't tried it yet, but will post a picture when I do. Thanks, Ronnie, for a great tip! I've enjoyed chatting with you and sharing project ideas and bits and pieces of our lives. Happy Stitching!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Marked in Stone

Saturday's afternoon drive ended up in a town I have affectionately call 'Bluebird'. Bluebird houses, an old truck, houses past their prime, wheat fields, and a pristine little church were fun to observe and enjoy. Our trip also took us to a very old cemetery on a hill. A chilly breeze made us walk through at a hurried pace. Family names on gravestones, the same as names of country roads we passed by earlier, gave us moment to connect with community. Each gravestone speaks for itself.

A Place Called Home

Old houses have so much character. When I look at them, my mind wonders about families, stories, and events that happened in years before. When driving through a remote area, it's always a surprise to find a house sitting out in the middle of 'nowhere' --- and I wonder even more about those who used to love the place they called home.

Houses on the way to --- and at --- the 'bluebird' town.

New spring blossoms and empty lot grasses give this old house 'new life'. Someone still lives here --- in this big, rambly, and probably drafty house. It's a house with character through and through.

This old Victorian is being restored. The porch is still saggy, and the front door faded and old, but new windows and foundation work show hope for new life. The windows and their placement are amazing in this home! Exquisite ornamentation, repetition in design, and a wrap around porch show much potential for an absolutely gorgeous home!


The best kept building in the town on our 'bluebird' trip yesterday was a beautiful white church. Built in 1903, it is alive with tender loving care and serves the community for 100 miles around. Although it has been nicely kept and updated when needed, the character of the old church remains. It's in pristine condition and it's spire in the center of town speaks to all who pass through.

While photographing this pretty white church, two church ladies stopped to deliver some floral arrangements. They were so friendly and answered all my questions. They even invited us inside to give us a tour of the entire facility. Their friendliness was of the type that is frequently too rare in larger communities --- but was genuine and true in theirs. They truly were a blessing to us.

This beautiful stained glass window has an inside panel which tells that the church was founded in 1903 by E. Coleman. I thought it nice tribute to the founder of long ago. Isn't it beautiful? The photo doesn't do it justice.

For other blog posts about beautiful and interesting churches, please visit Katherine's Yellow Roses. She visited some lovely churches in Hawaii recently and shares pictures and descriptions of them there.

Truck Character

Yesterday's travels took us on back roads and through unincorporated communities where much of interest could be observed by the eyes of those interested in looking beyond the sometimes rickety and discarded. When we drove past this old truck, I simply had to stop to take a picture. An old gentleman, watering plants at a nearby trailer, kept a keen eye on me as I snapped away. Who would want a picture of an old truck? I would! If you have been following the 'links' in My Favorites, you know that Lovella has been writing about her husband's new love affair with a 1950's Mercury pick-up truck. Recently Lovella had a truck naming contest and today revealed that the truck's new name is Miss Ella Esmeralda. When I saw this old truck, I knew that Lovella needed a picture of "a friend" for her husband's truck --- a Mr Ed truck to keep Miss Ella company. I'm sorry it's not in better condition, Lovella. Miss Ella is beautiful and shiny and well-kept. Mr. Ed is very rough around the edges and could use lots of spiffing up, but I don't think Miss Ella would mind a rugged friend, do you?

Happy pick-up truck restoration! It will be fun for us, your readers, to follow your journey! I'm glad you found some easy chairs for the shop so you can observe the progress in comfort.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

For the Birds

It was a beautiful day for an afternoon drive. Sunshine provided warmth, yet puffy clouds shadowed the earth in huge spots and a cool breeze reminded us that it was still early spring. Since spring break is almost over and the eldest goes back college classes on Monday, we decided it was time for a last school-vacation adventure. We drove in one huge circle, spanning two hundred miles of high desert and out-of-the-way places. To us, any place off the 'beat and track' is so much more interesting than amusement parks and commercial sites. Our destination? A small town miles from anywhere with a population of 90 people and thousands of bluebirds!

Bluebird Houses

Situated at 3,000 feet above sea level, this rural community is known for wheat farming and abundant crops. It is also known as the bluebird capital of the world! Farmers and community people for miles around place welcome birdhouses of all colors and designs on fenceposts, sometimes only 1/4 mile apart. On one birdwatching trip, we counted more than 100 birdhouses and that was just on the route we took! There are more, more, more! Each little feathered friend can find room at the inn in this neighborhood. Today we were pleased to see vibrant bluebird pairs winging around birdhouses as if to say "Is this the one for us?".

Vibrant Blues

Bluebirds arrive at their summer home by mid-February. Nesting takes place in April through July. It's during those months that they are viewed in more abundance, but we were pleased with the number we saw today. Their vibrant blues were contrasted by the yellow of the meadowlarks that sat on the fence barb-wire between birdhouses. The bluebirds remain in the area until October and then migrate to more pleasing climes for winter months.

Thrush of a Bluebird

The bluebirds who live here are the mountain bluebird, meaning they are all blue with a white belly. They differ from their relatives, the eastern and western bluebirds who have a bright orange breast. They are a member of the thrush family and are native to North America. At one time they were as common as their cousin, the American robin. Bluebirds require existing cavities for their nests. When this resource disappears, their numbers decline.

Nests Needed

In the early 1900's, with the increase in more farm fields tilled; borders of dead trees and stumps removed; and civilization, the bluebird population in this area began a steady decline. The bluebirds, avid insect-hunters, did not have sufficient nesting sites. Community members began to take note and commented that they weren't seeing as many bluebirds as before.

A Community Serves

It took a visitor and his family from a town seventy-five miles away to come up with a plan. On a journey to the area in the 1960's, they saw a mountain bluebird flit by. Knowing that they were becoming scarce and needed a place to nest, the gentleman fashioned a nest out of a discarded gallon can and fastened it to a fence post. They discovered that soon a bluebird pair took up residence! At home again, he made nine bluebird houses and the following spring drove back to the community, asking permission of the farmer's to place birdhouses on their fence posts. For three decades this family continued their gift of love to nature's blue treasures by creating and maintaining bluebird houses. The idea caught on and the local community joined them in their efforts. There have been up to 2500 bird boxes in use, willingly crafted and cared for by volunteer residents, farmers, and school children. What a labor of love! And what a wonderful way to entreat children to observe nature and God's little gifts!

It was a wonderful day! Tomorrow I will share more --- of old houses, deserted cemeteries, and a tail-gate picnic. I'll see you then!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Uplifted Hands

Let my prayer be incense before you; my uplifted hands an evening sacrifice.

Psalm 141:2

Photo @ Brandon

Little cousin Levi has ultimate trust in his daddy! What a delightful time he had flying up into the air! He knew his daddy would catch him --- always. He's too big for this now. At seven years old you don't fly right out of your daddy's arms and into the air, but he's still flying in another way. His daddy has a crop of airplanes --- most are in the hanger being worked on --- but now and then he gets a real airplane ride and it delights his heart. What a kid! And what trust.

Wild Flowers & Old Books

With Brandon and Rylan on spring break this week, we've had some time for relaxation and exploration. Several days ago we enjoyed a trip to a 'rare and used' bookstore in a nearby town. Each of us found a treasure or two, and I thought I'd share pictures of mine with you.

You've probably discovered by now that I love flowers! And, although you may not know it, I also love books. What could be better than an old book about flowers?

Pretty Inside Book Cover

Arranged According to Color

Copyright 1909

Nearly 100 years old

To Son, Delightful Companion

Dedicated to his son --- a delightful companion

Precious Meadow Children

Dried Flowers

Dried flowers were found inside the pages of this old book. I will keep them there, as they represent the history of this volume and readers before who loved this book.
More than four hundred pages make this book, yet it's divided into five simple sections.

Section I: Red Flowers
Section II: Pink Flowers; Flower Forms
Section III: Yellow and Orange Flowers; Leaf and Root Forms
Section IV: White and Greenish Flowers
Section V: Blue and Purple Flowers

Such simplicity, yet so effective.
Very different than the sophisticated
children's books written today.
Illustrations are sprinkled throughout.
Most are half-tone plates, but five treasured
pages are featured on coloured plates.


Coloured Plate

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sweetest Things

One of the sweetest things about blogging and chat groups are the lovely friends you make! I have been so blessed by my Internet friends. Through this avenue, we can connect with those who have common interests and a bond is shared. One such group for me is a small circle of ladies in a group who enjoy romantic things. Recently we shared together in exchanging homemade gift tags. What fun! And what charming and beautiful tags were exchanged! To see these tags in more detail, and an explanation of each, please visit Lallee's Cottage. She's done the gracious task of introducing tags and ladies --- so, go find yourself a cuppa tea and then sit down and enjoy!

Morning Sun & Evening Rain

"God loves you in the
morning sun and
the evening rain, without
caution or regret."

Brennan Manning

Wishing you a
happy day!
God bless you!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spring Fling Tea Party!

Today Artsy Mama is having a virtual tea party! What fun! And such a delightful way to welcome the first day of spring! So many have linked to her site today, sharing their gracious hospitality through pictures, thoughts, and verse. I thought it would be enjoyable to participate in this virtual tea, and hope you will join us as well! Visit Artsy Mama's site for shared links and some properly fine afternoon tea today!


The photo above shares tea time treasures found on recent shopping trips --- from antique shop, thrift shop, British import shop, and bookstore, such treasures were found that delight one who loves afternoon tea!

If I Could. . .

If I could step back in time,
I would enjoy a tea party at my cabin
'tea cosy'. Quaint, quiet, and rustic,
this spot is one of my favorites to
share a cuppa with a friend!
It's usually Calli herbal tea at the cabin.

Alas, it's still too cold and covered with snow. . .

Or Tea with Young Friend. . .

If I could step back in time,
share afternoon tea with a young friend.
But time passes on and children grow up
into lovely young ladies and gentlemen.
This day brings back memories of a little girl dressing up
in Goodwill gown, straw hat, and borrowed heels.
So grown up and enjoying learning the
fine art of taking tea.

Her enthusiasm was pure delight!

Tea Room Memories

If I could step back in time,
I'd visit our only local tea room, remembering
times shared with Bonnie, Janet,
Karleen, and Bobbie.
Afternoon tea is always a pleasure there,
with menu planned by season and a
comfortable, relaxed atmosphere.
Friendships shared with
a bond that cannot be broken.

Conversation and great sharing.

The Last Tea Party

If I could step back in time,
I'd revisit the last tea party that I had
with my mother. Sister and I
prepared an impromptu tea for
Mother's Day --- and even though
Mom was very ill, she enjoyed it to the max!

Sweet memories.

Treasured Tea Tokens

Instead, I cherish Mom's handiwork,
frequently of tea theme, which expressed a shared
love for the fine art of afternoon tea.

Expressions of love.