Category Archives: Garden Tips

How my Makeup Sent Me to the Dermatolgist and Turned Me into a Vampire

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I am pale. Not tan. My tan comes in polka dots, aka freckles. I have accepted this. I am happy with my skin color and have accepted that being tan is not for me.

I have not always been this way. My high school best friend was part Puerto Rican and her “pale” winter tone was tanner than I could ever hope to be. Many others in my peer group were tan, and being a teenager, I wanted to be tan too, rather than being content and confident in my skin.

Here’s a confession from a Florida resident: I don’t actually like going to the beach. It’s hot, bright, sandy, and if you get wet you leave sticky and sandy.

If you’re me, you also are probably sunburned.

During my high school and college years, my days following a beach excursion were spent lying under a fan, icy washcloths on my skin, walking stifflegged up stairs because it hurt to bend my knees, blistering, and eventually peeling.

I actually only had 8 or so such experiences, and they were my fault. Not enough sunscreen, trying to get tan…all foolish.

I really didn’t think that I had created much sun damage.

Wrong. Here’s where the makeup part comes in to the story. I noticed that I was always dabbing foundation to cover the same red spots. At first I thought they were zits that I had popped(Oh, you know you’ve popped them too!) and were trying to heal, but they didn’t go away, and then I noticed that the spot on my cheek was a little tender.

My mom has had spots burned off her face, and has been seeing a dermatologist for about 10 years, so I knew there was a history for me, but I didn’t think I had done enough to do  much damage.

I made an appointment.

Sure enough, the spots are pre-skin cancer. I was told to use a cream all over my face. Technically, it’s a chemotherapy agent. The first few days you can’t really tell any difference.

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You may notice the three pink spots on the bridge of my nose and the pink spot on my left cheek. That was about Day 4.

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By about Day 6, more spots are beginning to appear. One of the warnings with this cream is that the treatment is “unsightly”.  It’s a tactful way of saying that it’s gonna get pretty bad.

Direct sun is to be avoided. I was in the sun for about 45 seconds watering my daylilies and my face felt a bit tight after just that little exposure.

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Day 9 and it’s starting to be much more noticeable. I dusted a little powder on my skin for church, but the thought of removing foundation from my skin dissuaded me from doing much more on the skin.

My face is getting redder, and more spots are appearing, and I regret staying so long at the beach, not wearing sunscreen faithfully, and my vanity that was in vain.

I’m hoping that by doing this early I will avoid more tragic consequences in the future.

I still have a few days left, and if I’m feeling brave I’ll post some pictures of the end.

Morals of the story: use sunscreen, wear a hat, be content with the skin God gave you, and go see a dermatologist if you have little pink spots that just won’t go away(or a weird flesh-colored raised patch).

The application time is 2 weeks, and I am to expect a 2 week healing period. My mom tells me I will have super soft skin after it is all over.

I look forward to that, and to being able to crinkle my nose again.

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This is Why You Grow Fresh Herbs

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Per pound, fresh herbs are some of the most expensive items in a produce department. However, what would spaghetti be without basil and oregano? Salsa without cilantro? Refrigerator pickles without dill?

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If you have ever had one of those with fresh herbs, I’m sure you recognized the difference immediately. Once I enjoyed fresh parsley over classic spaghetti and meatballs, I found it hard to go without it the next time.

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Ahh…fresh herbed dipping oil. Gotta love the smell of sun-warmed basil.

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It’s handy to step outside for fresh chives to sprinkle over a simple baked potato.

Of course, we look forward to the taste of the first homemade pickles of the year, perhaps even more than we so for those first tomatoes.

If you have never made pickles, you have got to try this recipe for Amazing Refrigerator Pickles!! If you can make potato salad, you can make these pickles.

What’s your favorite herb to grow?

 

How to Grow Yard Long Beans (aka Asparagus Beans) (aka Snake Beans) (aka Noodle Beans)

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How to Grow Yard Long Beans (aka Asparagus Beans) (aka Snake Beans) (aka Noodle Beans)

If you want to grow traditional green beans in North Florida, you get planting times in the spring and fall, but the summer can be a bit tricky for fresh garden produce.

Enter… yard long beans! They are related to the southern peas that do so well in the heat, only they grow longer and stay tender.

If you were not familiar with yard long beans, I could show you my incredibly long green beans, and then sell you whatever brand of fertilizer I wanted.

Speaking of fertilizer…

It was David from www.thesurvivalgardener.com who first got me started with this great crop. He has an entertaining post about these beans as well as an efficient (albeit dubious)method of fertilizing plants.

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I had a few precious seeds saved from last year, and so I rationed some out into flats to be sure of optimum survival rates. I planted them about 1/2 inch deep, gave them water, and exposed them to the blistering heat of summer.

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They twine like typical pole beans, but did not complain about my netting. I think they would grow 50 feet long if I let them.

I have to admit that they did not get much care from me. My garden is a pretty dismal sight in summer and so it kinda depresses me to go out there too much. I tend to stay inside and make yummy stuff like peach jam and sand pear butter. Gotta work on the summer gardening a bit more.

Okra grows well for me. Maybe I’ll divide the garden among these beans, sweet potatoes (grown mostly for the greens), and okra. Sounds like a good plan.

Anyway…

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The vines took a while to get flowers, but then the beans started growing.

Pretty neat, huh?

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I think I may just skip regular green beans next year and plant these starting in the spring. If I can get these vines to grow from April to October, I may not even have room for ice cubes in my freezer!

Have you ever had yard long beans? Would you grow them?

I have this really neat recipe for Yard Long Bean Knots that I’m going to share. I wanted to do something to showcase them in an interesting way, and I thought it turned out pretty well.

How to Clean the Nasty Gunk out of Hummingbird Feeders

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How long has it been since you cleaned out your hummingbird feeder?

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Does your nasty feeder have hummingbirds looking at it cockeyed with contempt? Time to clean it out!

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Let’s start by twisting off the bottom and cleaning the ports. Remember in elementary school when you saw the classic vinegar+ baking soda= volcano experiment?

Sprinkle some baking soda in the ports and then some vinegar (I used white, but apple cider vinegar would work fine too). Yuck! Look at all the gunk!

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Swish some hot water in there too.

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Use an old toothbrush (NOT your husband’s current one!) to scrub off stubborn gunk.

Now for the inside of the feeder.

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Get some uncooked rice. Yes, you read that right, rice. I have also read of people using gravel, but really, just something hard to agitate against the sides will work.

Add the rice and a bit of hot water and shake, shake, shake! This trick works great for the hard to reach spots.

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Ewww! Yuck! So gross.

If some nastiness is still in there, you can try to reach it with that old toothbrush.

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Rinse thoroughly, then fill with some homemade hummingbird nectar.

Now the hummingbirds can drink out of a clean feeder and I’m not grossed out by looking at it!

How long has it been since you last cleaned out your hummingbird feeders? How do you clean yours?

How to Keep Basil from Going to Seed

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Basil is a very hardy herb that loves the heat of North Florida.

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Around August, it starts to send out flower stalks. If you have harvested all the basil you need for the year, this is a good time for you to let it complete its life cycle and go to seed.

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However, if you still want more basil, you can extend the productivity of the basil by pruning off the flower heads located where the flower head meets a node. Look for where other basil stalks are trying to emerge.

In the above picture, my thumb is right above a node.

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Snip off the flower head, and leave the two smaller branches to grow. As the plant gets older, the basil become more insisting on bolting and eventually you’ll just have to let it go to seed. Good news: you can save those seeds for next year!

However, this one little trick of pinching back your basil flowers can extend the life of your basil for a few more weeks of delicious fresh pesto!

I just love the smell of fresh basil, don’t  you?

Freezing Peaches for Smoothies

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When you’re finally looking at the end of 75 pounds of peaches, and you feel as though you’re losing the race against time; just freeze them! This is the easiest process for preserving huge quantities of very ripe peaches. I didn’t do anything special to the peaches, I just washed, pitted, sliced, froze on cookie sheets, then stuck them in freezer bags. They will be delicious later on in smoothies! I already canned some spiced peach pie filling, but if I run out of that, these will do nicely for a quick cobbler.

Of course, if I reach the end of my beloved peach jam (AHH!! PANIC!!), I may have to dig into this stash and make a small batch. 🙂

Now I’m working on a laundry basket full of sand pears! Recipes and tips coming soon!

How to Prevent Nasty Rusted Canning Lids

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It is quite disconcerting to open a jar of your homemade preserves, only to find nastified rust and junk under the lid.

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Acidic foods have a way of destroying lids and make you wonder about the contents of your jar.

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Recently, I was opening a jar of homemade something or other from the fridge and saw the nastiness.

Then I noticed some Classico pasta sauce lids that I had been saving. They have a nice waterproof coating in the interior and they fit my regular mouth canning jars!

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No more gross stuff at the top of the jars!

I shared this (new to me information) with a friend of mine, who then informed me that mayo jar lids fit too. Now I’m going to be saving those too. These reused lids don’t look as nice as the canning lids, but the results are certainly much better.

Please note: I do not use these lids for the actual canning process, I only use these after canned goods are opened for use.

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Do you know of any other lids that fit regular mouth canning jars? What about lids for wide mouth canning jars? I’d love to hear what you do to prevent nasty canning lids !

Are these muscadine grapes? Or am I about to poison my family?

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UPDATE: These are indeed muscadine grapes. I have been harvesting and eating them. Yummy!

I noticed these grape-like vines growing above my garden. I guess I have never tasted a purple one before, maybe in years past I have just sampled them at the green stage?

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The fruit grows in clusters of just a few at a time.

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Picture of the vines and leaves.

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Everything I’ve read seems to support the muscadine grape theory. I took a little taste of one, and it seemed sweet.

Can anyone confirm? I picked almost a pint the other day, and I’d like to know if they are surely edible or if I will surely die.

A $0.75 Cover Crop

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Right now I have a few summer crops growing: okra, basil, yard long beans, eggplant, pink-eyed purple- hulled peas, and cherry tomatoes. However, my soil is in desperate need of replenishing, so I decided to plant the bare spots with nitrogen-fixing legumes.

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I found this bag of pinto beans at the grocery store and decided to plant them as a cover crop.

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I’ve already got some popping up! Hopefully they will fix nitrogen in the soil, shade out summer weeds, and provide good organic matter for the soil. The plan is for them to be tilled under around the beginning of September, then to let them set and compost in place for a few weeks, then to plant my fall garden. Growing beans from the grocery store – what an inexpensive way to plant a cover crop!

The Summer Garden in North Florida

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Are your squash plants struggling? Tomato plants looking raggedy and not producing any new flowers? Cucumbers starting to get covered in powdery mildew?

Time for the summer garden!

Here in North Florida, frost doesn’t signal the end of a gardening season; the intense heat and oppressive humidity kills the plants.

You don’t have to give up gardening in our “winter” season, as there are many crops that actually thrive in the heat.

1. Okra– I love this vegetable! It’s not just for gumbo; if you don’t like the slimeyness, try my no-slime okra recipe.

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2. Eggplant– The classic way to prepare it is as Eggplant Parmesan; but I like to dice it, saute it with olive oil and garlic, then use it like mushrooms in omelettes and sauces.

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3. Sweet potatoes– I bought plants once, and since then have propagated my own if I wanted more plants. You can also start your own. Of course I like to eat the potatoes, but did you know that you can also eat the leaves as a nutritious summer green?

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4. Southern peas– These peas are not to be confused with the little green peas known as English peas and garden peas; Southern peas include legumes such as black-eyed peas, pink-eyed purple-hulled peas, crowders, and lima beans. I made some amazing succotash last year with my fresh limas.

I am growing yard long beans again this year. I am really excited about them, so expect an update soon!

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Even if you’d rather take the summer off from gardening, I recommend you use these as a cover crop. Since they are legumes, they will put nitrogen back in your soil. If you don’t cover your garden with either a thick layer of mulch or a cover crop, the weeds will take over.

Frugal cover crop tip: buy a bag of beans from the grocery store and plant them. They may be pole or bush, but either way you will be feeding the soil and shading out the weeds.

5. Peppers- I have had good success with jalapenos and banana peppers in the summer.

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I plant bell peppers in the spring, but they usually just limp along until the fall, and then produce like crazy. You can start some bell peppers now, but don’t expect much of a harvest until it gets a bit cooler.

These are the fuss-free crops that have done well for me in the summer. In the summer, I may pop out to water them occasionally in the morning or evening, but I really don’t want to be out for hours in the afternoon heat.

For a great chart of many other crops that can be planted, organized by month and region, click here.

Oh yes, one more summer crop.

6. Basil– This herb loves the heat and it is great for pesto!

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How about you? Do you keep gardening in the summer, or do you take some time off to rest?