By Ian Wilson
There’s nothing like the sight of rolling hills green with grass. However, those hills can easily become overgrown with weeds and briars. Many people choose not to mow their lawns, either because it’s time-consuming, or because they are environmentally conscious and trying to provide a habitat for wildlife. The first is understandable, the second is noble, but there are certain risks involved in letting your lawn become overgrown.
First, there are allergens. Many people, including myself, have severe pollen allergies. Letting your grass grow long is a sure-fire way to exacerbate that condition. Pigweed, ragweed, wild parsnip, and hundreds of other allergen-causing weeds can be hiding in amongst the blades of grass, just waiting to make your eyes water, your nose run, and your life generally miserable.
Speaking of weeds, leaving off mowing can help the spread of invasive weeds species in the US. These are non-native, hostile invaders from other parts of the world that can easily overrun native plant species. A number of these can be quite toxic to people and pets. See the list of noxious weeds from the USDA for more info, or you can check this list of noxious weeds.
And let’s not stop at plant life. A lot of folks want to provide a habitat for wildlife. Admirable, but there are certain critters you just don’t want near your home. Fleas and ticks thrive in unkempt lawns. Disease-carrying mosquitoes and other biting flies tend to frequent long grass and weeds as well.
All this being said, you don’t have to have a perfectly manicured, spotless, weedless suburban lawn. Mowing your lawn infrequently isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as it gets mowed now and then. Depending on how quickly your grass grows, as little as three or four times a year is sufficient. Not all of the weeds growing in your lawn are invasive or toxic. Some are beneficial, even edible. Some provide food for bees, birds, and butterflies. You can set aside a part of your yard every year for wildlife habitat, or start a butterfly garden. You can plant plants that repel pests and attract beneficial species. We must all do our part to ensure a clean, safe environment for people and animals.
The old adage "April showers bring May flowers" is true... problem is that the old adage never mentioned the TYPE of showers that would bring on the flowers LOL! Here in the Northern Adirondacks we're having snow showers! See photo below ;). However, that is not exactly what caused me to think about Christmas in April. Keep reading... it will be worth it!
As many of you know already I have many friends who live all over the continent of Africa. Though I have never been to Africa myself (yet) I have been treated with great respect and affection by the good people of Africa. Recently one of my friends, Charles Makawa, shared some very cool pictures of packages from the Samaritan's Purse, project Operation Christmas Child arriving in Zomba, Malawi! I was so excited! I'd never had friends who were on the ground to distribute the gifts from Samaritan's Purse to children. Not that it is important from the standpoint of validation but just to see the kids smiling! It was lovely. I asked Charles if I could share these 3 pictures below on today's blog because I wanted to share the smiles with my readers. He said YES! (Thank you Makawa) Secondly, It's NOT too early to start preparing hand knit and crochet items for Operation Christmas Child (OCC) (or your other favorite Christmas charity)
Operation Christmas Child distributes gifts all over the world and they LOVE getting handmade gifts for the children. I've seen pictures of all kinds of wonderful handmade gifts posted on their Facebook page, from handknit hats to fun crocheted decorations on flip flops. My daughter is a huge fan of OCC we spend a lot of hours together considering what toys should go into the boxes! (We look for sales and clearance) We always include handmade items. T.k. usually makes clothes for fashion dolls and I try to include hats, scarves, and mittens. We donate along with our church. Everyone donates to the project and then everyone comes together to create the boxes that are shipped to the OCC distribution center. However, anyone can donate! Make your own boxes to donate, get together with your office, your knitting/crocheting group, school, children's scouting group, or even your sports club. However, Operation Christmas Child is certainly NOT the only Christmas charity that gives gifts to children. For instance our family will donate items to a local charity called Holiday Helpers, Franklin County NY this year. We all love to see smiles don't we!
NOTE: Jodie Booth designs are crocheted if you do not crochet I recommend that you look over the designs by Elena Nodel on Ravelry. You'll get the same style and whimsy as is created by Jodie Booth only for knitters. www.ravelry.com/designers/elena-nodel Sadly Elena Nodel's life was cut tragically short
Jodie Booth of Addicted 2 the Hook caught my eye last year, almost a year ago exactly now! And it was one of Jodie's designs that popped to mind when I thought about my Christmas in April blog. Jodie Booth is not only chief designer at Addicted 2 the Hook but also a contributor to the premier issue of Indie Road Magazine. (Congrats Jodie!) She's a busy lady who designs when inspired. As a mom herself, I know Jodie Booth feels as I do that a child's smile is priceless.
What design brought Jodie Booth to mind when thinking about gifting? Glad you asked :). The Toy/Doll Baby Carrier would make a great addition to your holiday charity giving! It's adorable, gender neutral and a free pattern. If you are considering giving this toy to Operation Christmas Child you might choose a neutral color. (just a thought) However, my FAVORITE piece by Jodie Booth is the Butterfly Poncho. It is so pretty and is written for ages 1 year to adult (which takes some work given the lacey design). No it's not a free pattern but hang on, I'm coming to that... Keep reading. I also considered that this very cute Poncho Pullover might also be a perfect gender neutral item to gift. Personally I love the fact that it won't fall off a child, allows for plenty of freedom of movement and for layering. Since charities like OCC collect boxes for children as young as 2 years, the poncho would no doubt be very welcome. It too is a free pattern.
Let's look at some other clothing designs from Jodie Booth's collection that would be good for gifting to charity at the Holidays: (these are paid patterns) KEEP reading :)
Accessories and toys are also part of Jodie Booth's repertoire. Sometimes we have to think a bit smaller yet still lovely. Jodie booth manages both in her designs.
Thank you EVERYONE for willingness to share your gift of knit and crochet with others. You've no idea how you will touch the world. Just knowing that someone out there cares enough to make a personal gift fills the soul. Thank you to my friends in Zomba, Malawi for the photos. Thank you to Jodie Booth for her hard work and beautiful designs.
Bees; a vital part of nearly every ecosystem. Bees pollinate flowers, which then turn into the fruits and vegetables that we eat, and thousands of other plants that we need to survive. Not long ago, bees were under threat from colonial collapse syndrome; however, through science, colonial collapse syndrome is largely a thing of the past. In honeybees, anyway.
So, you may or may not have heard about the “murder hornets” wreaking havoc in this great nation. These hornets are Asian in origin and are the world’s largest wasp. But what’s the difference between wasps and hornets? None, really. Hornets are generally larger than wasps, and their venom contains different chemicals that make them much more painful. Hornets are really just a subset of wasps, so I generally use the umbrella term “wasp” to refer to all these insects.
While they are related to bees and have a lot of features in common, wasps and bees are not the same thing. Bees take nectar from flowers and turn it into honey, which they then eat. Wasps, however, are omnivorous. They’ll eat almost anything. They can’t make their own honey, so they frequently attack honeybee nests and steal it. Wasps, unlike bees, can sting multiple times. Bees can only sting once (bumblebees being the exception).
European hornets, like murder hornets, also pose a danger to bee colonies. However, honeybees were imported from Eurasia, where the hornets are native, and have defense strategies to deal with them. Our native bees are at greater risk from a number of environmental threats, from hornets to deforestation. These bees pollinate plants that honeybees do not, and cannot pollinate. We need them so these plants do not go extinct.
If you find a European hornet’s nest, make sure and destroy it. Call a qualified professional to determine how best to handle it. We can all do our part to save our local bees.
T.k. Wilson and I are co-authoring today’s blog. The both of us have developed some “pinsomnia” lately LOL. I’ve recently had an epiphany about how useful Pinterest can be for all sorts of reasons! T.k. and I share several pinboards. Our goal with this blog is not only sharing some of our favorite “pinners” but also to encourage those of our readers who might be struggling with ways to keep on top of their stress levels. We’ve explored these ideas for our own personal self-care.
I’ll begin with one of my favorite stress reducing activities. Creative Journaling is not a new concept but not one I had thought about attempting. I always considered myself to be “too busy” to get into painting or using other artistic touches. However I thought that my journals are really an expression of myself and should express my creative side also.
I’ve been journaling on and off for a few years now. It’s something that literally saved my sanity. Thanks to my Mom and my kids I’ve had plenty of blank books/journals to work with over the years. With the advent of COVID-19 I began to reassess many things in my life. (As I am sure many of us have done since February/March.) While Creative Journaling might not be for everyone, it is certainly a way to off load stress and the emotions that go along with stress. So let us take a look at some Pinterest boards that might give a few ideas on how to start a Creative Journal.
I should say upfront that I do not believe in any of those silly books that tell you what to write and how to write your journal. This is YOUR life, your journal. You write your own heart. As a person of faith I find that I’m often prompted by prayer. So I write exactly what I think and pray.
If the journal is private there is no reason why you should not write your private thoughts. Be real… even if what you think isn’t pretty.
Here are a few boards to prompt your creativity!
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/625930048201608680/ This board offers some very cool ideas for practicing art. Even if you are not an artist in the proper sense of the word these ideas are a way to add interest to your writing.
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/798263102688761935/ Hubpages offer these ideas for blending thought with a creative outlet. Again, these ideas are mostly just to show how you can use what you have on hand to design your journal.
Now for my all time favorite idea the Junk Journal https://www.pinterest.com/pin/302444931225969546/ It doesn’t have to be a fancy project. It should reflect who you are.
Those of you who know me for my knitting and crocheting, I just wanted to share 2 Pinterest pages that I LOVE!
The first page is new to me. Why have I not seen Daisy and Storm before researching this blog? I’ve no idea! How did I miss this? LOL Well without further ado Daisy and Storm knit and crochet patterns Pinterest Page. I was really interested in the dish/washcloth patterns. So many different designs, no doubt knitters will find something they like! https://www.pinterest.com/daisyandstorm/
The perfect Summer project.
I frequent the designs of Olga Poltava Crochets for inspiration often. Her pinterest page is filled with lovely designs for all levels of crocheter. You’ll love the many scarf patterns! She is now offering a YouTube channel to help you with some of the more unique stitches! https://www.pinterest.com/opoltavacrochet/
If you appreciate these pages please drop the designers a message. Let them know you thank them for their hard work.
One of the ways I love to take time out for myself is doing papercrafting. I have always loved papercrafts, and especially Origami. To some, this may not seem like the best stress-relieving activity, but I quite enjoy it. I find it engages the senses of touch, hearing, and sight which becomes very meditative. Because you have to pay attention to how you go, it tends to crowd out anxious thoughts by placing attention and imagination on something else. You can find all sorts of Origami examples and crafts on Pinterest, but there’s one problem: Many are in Japanese! You can avoid this however, by checking out Emma at Gathering Beauty
She has all kinds of origami instructions for all sorts of wonderful crafts: Valentines, giftbags, cartons, and more!
If you’re more of the sewing and cooking persuasion, I just found the gal for you! Heidi at Honeybear Lane has loads of ideas for woodcrafts, sewing, organization, and decorating. This is more of a curated type of board, rather than a single person showcasing what they do best. However, it seems that Heidi has been doing this for a long time, her boards are neatly organized and easy to navigate.
Now, I’ve spoken about MyFroggyStuff before… A lot, so I won’t say much here. She is one of my favorite people, a literal rags to riches story. She went from being an Air Force mom to being one of the most famous and popular craft YouTubers of today, and she shows no sign of slowing down! You can see The Froggy’s page here:
Over here at Tabitha's Mountain Rhapsody, we know how everyone out there must be feeling. It seems the lockdown will never end. We're all going stir-crazy, and worst of all, the library is still closed!
Fear not! We are here to back you up with a selection of the greatest boredom busting crafts and activities to get you through!
Doctor Who, in his tenth version called books "the best weapons in the world", and I happen to agree. There's nothing better than to give a child the gift of loving stories.
For those who like physical books, Thriftbooks is an AWESOME website with access to rare and out of print books for not a lot of money. The average of the picture books I looked at were about 6 dollars.
For those who like audiobooks, StorylineOnline is a wonderful website were some of Hollywood's brightest stars read classic books out loud, just like Reading Rainbow. You can hear such glowing talents as the Mowry Sisters, Sean Astin, Elijah Wood, Hector Elizondo, CCH Pounder, and many more read for free! How cool is that?
Finally, I have curated a YouTube playlist of beautifully animated folktales. You can see many different and interesting forms of animation in Animated Tales of the World. And yes, you can find all of these stories in book form!
Paper crafts are a classic way to pass the time. Almost any kid can learn Origami with a little time and patience. Now, Origami can be done with any square piece of paper, but Origami paper is obviously better. Origami Paper is just a little thinner than standard printer paper, and is more forgiving to mistakes than almost anything else. You can buy Origami paper from any craft store or Amazon. These couple of websites will give you all you need to get started!
Origami for Kids
Paper dolls are just as popular as they ever have been. There are dozens of websites that offer them, but this one is my favorite for vintage dolls.
Free Printable Paper Dolls
Modern Paper Dolls by Cory has loads of great modern designs, from Broadway, Movies, and Disney. You can pick from full color versions, or black and white color your own models.
What kid doesn't love LEGO? Those foot-killing little bricks have delighted children since the 50s, but sometimes, you need an imagination jumpstart. Frugal Fun has you covered there, check out all these neat instructions for animals, games, murals and much more!
If you're looking for something a bit more official, like you found an old set but you can't find the instruction book, take a gander WorldBricks. This database of all things LEGO more than likely has you covered.
And now, for the magic of cardboard. A kid and a cardboard box go together like peanut butter and jelly, but there's a lot more you can do than just let your kid go with some markers. Check out these EPIC ideas from Momtastic!
I love this slotted dollhouse idea. I'd almost want to build one to display my wares. Slide it together, slide it apart, put away flat. What's not to love?
And here's an idea for a DIY marble run. I don't care how old you are, there's something about a marble run that fascinates and excites. Not to mention physics, angles, and all that wonderful STEM stuff.
So, you've decided to start gardening. Now the next step is to decide what to do with all the yummy fruits and veggies you're growing. Now, to a lot of people, processing those same fruits and veggies sounds like a lot of work; and I'm not gonna lie it is, but the rewards are infinite!
One thing I am NOT going to recommend for the first time gardener is canning. Canning is a very complex and delicate process that takes a LOT of time to do safely. If you want to learn, I would recommend checking out the latest USDA guidelines here: National Center for Home Food Preservation. You can also check with your local cooperative extension for classes.
Now, what to make with your bounty! Fortunately, there's lots and lots of help where that comes in. Now, if you're like me, you love a good pickle, and alas, they are hard to come by unless you live near a Jewish community. And once you taste Grandma Bonnie's Freezer Pickles, store bought pickles will turn to ashes in your mouth!
A classic treat in New York is the Syracuse Salt Potato. Once upon a time, there was an abundance of potatoes, an abundance of salt, and an abundance of Irishmen, and they all came together in Syracuse, New York, and created the Salt Potato. Some herbs that go well with potatoes are basil, garlic, rosemary, parsley, and thyme.
Let's say you're growing herbs. Herbs are quite useful, but you have to know how to preserve them. Some do well frozen, others do well dried, and some Italian-type herbs like oregano and basil would be divine frozen in olive oil for all your pasta and meat dishes.
At the risk of sounding like some kind of fruit loop, there's a lot of things that herbs can help with health-wise. I'm not one of those granola-crunchers who thinks that everything can be healed with herbs and oils, and a lot of herbs can be dangerous, especially when combined with some pharmaceuticals, so ALWAYS inform your doctor before you start taking herbs. That being said, there are some herbs that can only help, and you can find a great list here.
What about all those yummy fruits and berries you're growing? Well, our friends at Betty Crocker have you covered there. This recipe for the traditional British desert trifle is an easy crowd pleaser. Prepare to have leftovers, it makes a lot!
An old fashioned favorite gets an upgrade with these Bisquick muffins. They're made for blueberry, but the basic recipe can be used with just about any fruit or berry.
I hope these ideas give you a taste of what you can make from your gardens. Happy cooking!!
You can even get containers for free, some places. It’s true! This article tells you how.
Essential to growing great container gardens is proper hydration. You can conserve water by building a “self-watering” container (it doesn’t actually water itself, but you don’t have to water it nearly as much as a conventional container). This page will show you how.
In the days of World War One and World War Two, food shortages were a big problem. With a majority of the food grown on American farms being sent to the front, the rest was rationed. A family was only allowed so much of things like meat, sugar, flour, and other staples a month or a week. To supplement these rations, the government, the USDA, and civil groups encouraged everyone to plant Victory Gardens.
A Victory Garden was an idea for Americans to provide needed produce for themselves and their neighbors. Guidebooks were provided to community leaders and householders to make the best of what land they had to grow healthy vegetables and fruits to make their rations stretch further. Victory Gardens were also a way for those on the homefront to fight the helplessness they felt seeing their loved ones going off to fight a war so far away and to learn valuable life skills in the process.
Children and teens were especially encouraged to join in the effort. Educators and other community leaders were concerned with the fact that so many people lack and understanding of how to produce their own food and how nutrition worked, so they took it upon themselves to fix the problem.
Common vegetables like snap beans, tomatoes, cabbage, onions, spinach, and carrots were encouraged for their versatility, vitamin content, and ease of growth. Not to mention, these vegetables can be grown in a small space, so that even people in apartments in the cities could grow even a little. In fact, in the bigger cities like New York, Victory Garden Committees were formed to turn vacant lots into miniature farms to feed the residents and the people who worked in the factories. People could rent a space and were responsible to maintain the space and their own produce. In some places, the gardens were owned by companies, who allowed people who worked there to grow food, and in return, they signed contracts to follow good husbandry practice and share with others who had less.
In schools, children were enlisted to grow food for the school, and older teens could volunteer to work on farms. Educators pointed out that children were more likely to eat what they had a hand in growing themselves. Then, as now, kids were reluctant to eat their veggies :)
Now, what does this have to do with today? Well, as the coronavirus crisis drags on, it's clear that we're again at war; except our enemy doesn't have a face. It's an invisible enemy, but fortunately, the same elements that made the Victory Gardens a success are still our allies: fresh air, vitamins, and the sun! If you're worried about having enough to eat in the days of Corona, you can plant a new Victory Garden to provide for yourself and your neighbors and learn important skills along the way.
If you want to learn more about Victory Gardening, check out these wonderful period books:
Victory Garden Handbook from the Pennsylvania Council of Defense
Victory Garden Leader's Handbook from the USDA.
What if I told you you could grow new vegetables from cuttings from vegetables from the grocery store? That’s right, it’s true! There are multiple common vegetables you can grow just from cuttings! All you need are some cuttings, a bowl of water and a sunny window. Here are my top five favorites.
You can take unused lettuce leaves and place them in a little bit of water- just enough to cover the base of the leaf. Mist them every few days, and transplant them to the soil when they’ve grown roots.
Simply cut the base of the celery head off, and put it in a little bit of water and wait. Once roots grow, transfer it to the soil.
Green onions can be re-grown by placing the roots in some water and waiting until they start to grow. You can also plant onion bulbs directly into the soil.
Place some leaves in a bowl of water and wait for roots to form. Easy as pie!
And last, but not least, potatoes! Simply wait for your potatoes to grow eyes and bury them deep in the soil.
So we're all stuck at home, everything's closed and the kids are climbing the walls. What're you gonna do? Plant a garden.
In Northern New York and New England, it's too early to plant most garden vegetables outdoors, but there are several plants you can start inside before moving them out. Planting seeds inside is a fun, easy activity for adults and children alike. Get some good garden soil and some seeds, and you're ready to roll!
**Opinions expressed on blogs about which I write are the opinion of the blog authors and DO NOT necessarily reflect my own opinion.