Weeds that Split Seeds! Hairy Bittercress

Last year I discovered a few of these in my garden… as I started to pull them up, and disturbed the plant, the seeds flew upward as if the plant were spitting in my face.

Hairy BittercressI looked it up and found that it’s called Hairy Bittercress. It’s scientific name is:  Cardamine hirsuta L.. and here’s the USDA website about these plants: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=cahi3

I didn’t have too  much of it last year, but found I have soooo much now, it’s everywhere. And with a propogation mechanism of spitting it’s pointy seeds high into the air and around itself, it’s no wonder!

Right now, the plants are young and the seeds are not yet spitting. I recommend pulling them up now, once they start spitting their seeds, they will spread everywhere.

Hairy Bittercress

I found a site about foraging these “weeds” which I found really intriguing.

To gather the hairy bittercress, we just lift up the cluster of leaf stalks and cut them with a knife near the ground. Then we wash the greens and pick through them, discarding the yellow leaves and pinching off some of the larger stems and flower stalks. They add a peppery bite to raw salads, and can be cooked with soups or in a recipe like other greens. We did eat a big salad with a yogurt and bittercress dressing for dinner one night, and may try some potatoes cooked with bittercress and field onions into a breakfast hash this week.

Ref: http://the3foragers.blogspot.com/2012/03/hairy-bittercress.html

I also learned something new about how to get great images from Flickr and use the proper copyright attributions.

Cardamine hirsuta (Hairy Bittercress) by born1945, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  born1945 
And here’s one with a close up of those ultra-efficient seeds:
Hairy Bittercress by born1945, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License

  by  born1945 

References & Resources:

Love One Another

“I give you a new commandment: love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:34-35

St. Rose ChurchThis weekend at Church, Deacon Dan gave a wonderful homily that touched me deeply. He talked about Love and how truly experiencing love (and sharing it) is a multi-step process. You need to feel the love, but you also need to take action to express the love and lastly you have to speak your love.

He gave a beautiful example from The Fiddler on the Roof, when Tevye asks Golde if she loves him.

We know who we love: husband, wife, children, parents, siblings, friends, community. We take action to show that love: caring for home and family, doing our work, sharing our time, talents and treasures. Do we also say it? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Thank you Deacon Dan for reminding me to speak my love, to say the words.

We’ve experienced so much pain as a community and as a nation in the last several months. It seems like everyone is trying to figure out WHY these tragedies have happened and what “quick fix” solutions we can implement. Unfortunately, I think deep down, we know there is no quick fix. The culture of death and violence that we are steeped in didn’t happen overnight. And we cannot solve it overnight – though how I wish we could! Instead, I believe that we all need to assess where we can show more kindness, compassion and love. Small steps, consciously and consistently taken will bring about the culture of life that I think we are longing for.



The Life of a Kitchen Table

Many years ago, when my Mom was having her kitchen redone, she asked the remodelers to make her a kitchen table with the same material that was being used for the countertops. So, they did. But unfortunately the beautiful sturdy white table top was mounted on cheap spindly little legs. My Mom was so disappointed and upset that her carpenter friend Todd said “Don’t worry. I will make you a table so sturdy you can dance on it.”

Kitchen TableAnd he did. My mom used the table for several years and then when she moved to a smaller apartment, she gave the table to us (Thanks Mom!) In addition to being a place to eat, it has been used for doing homework, playing chess, a variety of crafts and an extension to our dining room table when we have larger family gatherings.

But now, the table is moving on to the next phase of it’s life. We’ve replaced it in our kitchen with a butcher-block kitchen island (that I have longed for for years and I LOVE). We called our church‘s social concerns committee and offered the table for free to anyone who needed it.

Today a gentleman is coming to pick it up. His son is getting his first apartment and needs a kitchen set. So we say goodbye to our old friend and know that it will continue it’s life of usefulness for a long while to come.

And in case you’re wondering, it is sturdy enough to dance on….

Dancing on the Table

Replace your Dryer Sheets: How to make Wool Dryer Balls

In my investigations into non-toxic, low cost solutions to things like laundry, I came upon the phenomenon of wool dryer balls.

Wool Dryer Balls

Now, you may be wondering, what the heck are wool dryer balls and why should I care? Well, I did a little searching around and found that word is that felted wool dryer balls can not only help you eliminate the use of dryer sheets, but also can cut the drying time of clothes. The balls bounce around in the dryer, fluffing the clothes as they bounce, which helps the airflow, which dries the clothes faster.

Of course, the REAL way to be environmentally conscious would be to HANG the clothes to dry, and I did do that for a while, but found I didn’t have the persistence to stick with it.

Anyway I decided to give these a try. I used the method at this website: http://www.diynatural.com/how-to-make-wool-dryer-balls/ BTW, she’s got some great pictures of the process.

I bought 2 skeins of 100% wool yarn at the craft store. They have to be 100% wool or they won’t felt properly.

I rolled them into balls, about tennis ball sized. Then I threaded the loose end back into the ball so it wouldn’t unravel. The next step is to get the wool threads to “felt” together into a solid ball of wool.

Put the balls of yarn into an old stocking and tie knots between them. Do not use yarn for your knots, you don’t want the ties to felt, just the dryer balls.

Tie them into an old stocking
Tie them into an old stocking

Then run them through with a few loads of clothes for wash and dry cycles (the hotter the water the better) and eventually, they get “felted” and turn into solid balls of wool.

Felted Wool Dryer Balls
Felted Wool Dryer Balls

Just toss a few wool dryer balls in the dryer with the wet clothes and you’ve freed yourself from dryer sheets forever.

I ran the numbers on this:

2 skeins of yarn cost $19.95 and created 7 dryer balls (6 regular size and one a little runty). That’s $2.85 per ball for virtually unlimited use, but let’s say it would cover 1000 loads of laundry. So, that’s .002 cents per load, versus $6.99 for 80 sheets of Bounce Unscented which comes out to .08 cents per load. Yes, we’re still talking pennies, but they add up. And besides, making the dryer balls was fun.

If you’re not in the mood to make your own, you can buy wool dryer balls from lots of different places online.


Fiddlehead Fern or Cinnamon Fern?

These lovely fuzzy ferns are growing in a few places in our neighborhood. I stopped this morning to snap this picture on the way home from the kid’s bus-stop.


I was about to post it on Facebook with the label of Fiddlehead Fern (because that’s what I thought it was.) But after a little looking around, it seems that the popular edible fiddlehead fern that frugal New Englanders love to forage doesn’t really look like this, but instead are much smoother looking:

Fiddlehead Ferns

So I did some Googling around to find out what these ferns were. I am pretty sure they are Cinnamon Fern (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osmundastrum_cinnamomeum), but will need to wait for their Cinnamon stage to be sure. Here’s a little snippet from Google Images of their “cinnamon stage.”

ScreenShot943 (1)

What’s growing in your neighborhood right now?

BTW, in case you too can’t find the handy “similar images” link that used to appear on the Google Image Search Results, this quick (silent) little video shows you the “new and improved” <ha!> way to find visually similar images on Google Image Search.

Snakes from Virginia? Are they rough earth snakes (Virginia striatula)?

Last weekend while working in the garden I came across two of these snakes in my garden, snoozing away underneath the walkways.

rough earthsnake I starting trying to find out what he (she?) was. I tried a Google Image Search, but got nowhere. I searched for New England Snake Identification, Brown Snake, tried a few more dead-ends, then landed on this result:

The last common small snake is the Rough Earthsnake (Virginia striatula). These can be very common, often several under a single rock. They are gray, brown, or reddish with no obvious markings and the belly is a light tan (never pink). These eat earthworms, slugs, and insect larvae.

at: http://www.snomnh.ou.edu/collections-research/cr-sub/herpetology/blog/?p=480

Which lead to bunch of great Google Images that looked really close the snakes I found.

Rough Earth Snake: Virginia striatula

However, the Wikipedia entry for Virginia striatula says that their geographic range is Texas to Florida and as far north as Missouri and Virginia. Well, Connecticut is a good bit north of Virginia and it’s still early Spring here (so not very warm).

The first reference and Wikipedia say that this type of snake feeds on earthworms. Which might explain why they are hanging out in my garden. But then the question becomes… I like my earthworms, should I do anything to get rid of these snakes?

It’s also possible that  I am totally off-base and the snakes I found are something entirely different that I haven’t discovered yet, or the range of the Virginia striatula extended quite a bit.

How to Divide Siberian Iris

The other day I wrote a post about knowing when to split Siberian Iris. So today, here’s a little photo-journal of me dividing Siberian Iris.

Turns out that there are 3 bunches that should really be split, but 2 of them seemed to be more grown  in than the other and I was worried that disturbing the ones that are grown in would impact their ability to bloom for the season. So I split one batch and will leave the other two for Fall.

Digging up Siberian IrisI dug up the whole bunch and then used my handy-dandy soil knife to split the bunch into smaller bundles.

Based on the information from the UMN extension center site, I kept at least 6 growing points in each bunch with adequate roots. Because they also emphasize keeping them moist, I put them into a trug of water while I was preparing the soil at their new sites.

Siberian Iris divided

Then I dug some holes in a few empty spots in my garden bed, plopped in the newly split iris clumps, filled in the soil and watered thoroughly.

Divide Siberian IrisYes, I know the garden bed is a mess… it had not yet been raked out and prepared for fresh mulch. It’s looking a bit better now. It’s been raked, but new mulch has not been put down yet. Surrounding the iris are the day-lilies that are starting to come up.


New Productivity Tools: Journal linked to Evernote

Productivity Tools

I love finding new toys tools to make my life simpler and more efficient. I have been blogging a whole lot more recently than ever before, writing on at least one of my blogs everyday. However, there are things that I would like to write about that are too new or too private to be published right away, either because of my own closeness to the situation, not enough data or because of privacy concerns.

Private WordPress Blog
Private WordPress Blog

So, I had the idea to keep a private journal where I could take notes on what is going on… my thoughts, emotions, notes, etc. and have them easily accessible to me to use for a blog post sometime in the future.

Evernote is a fantastic tool for all kinds of note taking and I use it everyday (more on in another post), but it’s not really setup well to work as a journal, or at least it doesn’t seem so to me. So I started looking for other online journal programs. Why online? So that I can have access to it via my home computer, phone or tablet.

Penultimate is a great tool for handwritten notes, drawings, etc. that can be synchronized with your Evernote account… but I can only use it on the tablet and need to have a stylus available to hand-write.

Ultimately, I ended up with a compromise solution. I started a private blog at WordPress.com, then used IFTTT.com (if this then that) to create a “recipe” so that each time a post is made on my personal blog, a note is appended in Evernote. I’m also toying with having a “recipe” for Instagram so that when I post a photo on Instagram, it creates a blog post on my personal blog.

This will give me the best of all words… open platform to write privately on personal topics, linked to Evernote so that I can search the text, or by tags, categories, etc.  I can also access the blog via my desktop computer, phone, tablet, or any device with internet access.

What tools do you use for your own writing or personal productivity?

25 April 2013 Update: I’m having a little trouble with the IFTTT.com recipe for getting personal blog posts added to my Evernote account… it could be that it won’t work on private blogs, only on blogs that are publicly posted (that would actually make sense). So, I guess I have to rethink this… maybe I can find a way to use Evernote for the kind of Journal I want to keep…

When and How to Split Siberian Iris

Siberian Iris

My irises are starting to come up (Hooray, Spring is HERE!) but I noticed that every bunch started coming up in a circle. I wondered if this meant it was time to divide them.

Siberian Iris growing in a circle

I found a great article at the UMN Extension Center site on Irises: http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/M1267.html

There are two opportunities for dividing Siberian Iris. To insure flowering it is best to divide in early spring as new growth just appears. Waiting until the new growth has started may stress out the plants and prevent them from flowering that season. Dig up the clump and cut through the thick root system, keeping at least six growing points with adequate roots in each clump. Keep these sections moist, plant immediately, and then water in thoroughly. In late summer or early fall it is possible to cut back the foliage to about six inches, then dig and divide the plant as before. Replant, water in, and mulch well for winter survival. Siberian iris don’t require division as often as bearded iris to perform at their best; their tough crown often requires a strong arm to cut them apart.

So, based on this (I have great faith in extension center websites), my own understanding of when plants need dividing and this little blurb on the ask.com site:

 If your irises have grown into a circle with a dead zone in the middle, it’s time to thin.

I think I will tackle splitting these asap before they get too big. There are about three clumps of irises coming up in that circle pattern. I may do one or two now and save the last for the Fall. Just to see if it makes a difference in the health of the transplants, or the ease of dividing to do them in the early Spring or Fall. I have a feeling my sister is going to want to take all my excess rhizomes, but I have a few ideas of where I’d like to fill in with new patches of iris. These have been very healthy over the years and I’m thrilled that I have three bunches ready to be split.