April 7, 2010

Gardening Tip #6: Get rid of Aphids + Slugs naturally

And now - the Garden Mystery Guest!
They are green, squishy, and are sort of cute.  Kind of like Shrek.  Unfortunately they are infinitely smaller and eat your plants.

They love sucking the energy directly from the fresh growth stem and buds of your favorite flowers.
First, the most natural way to kill aphids is to buy a bag of ladybugs from your garden store.  I had so many plants infested with aphids that I chose to skip buying mass colonies of the cute beetles.
I did a good deal of research and, after hands-on practice, here's the best way I found to rid your garden of them:

1.  Aphids reproduce rapidly.  One aphid can create 80.  Kill aphids with tiger-like intensity.
2.  Squish them with your fingers on the plant.  Yuck.  Gently squeeze your thumb and forefinger around the plant stem and the bud.  Each aphid does produce a satisfying pop feeling. 
3.  Knock as many off the plant as possible.  They rarely are capable of returning to the plant.  I flick the stems hard, and the sudden jolt sends them flying.  Please do be careful to not break the foliage!

4.  The death sentence:  One standard size squirt bottle.  2 teaspoons of  dish soap.
Squirt this mixture on power stream anywhere you see the aphids.  Be sure to check the undersides of leaves and the backsides of stems.  The soap causes the aphids to dry and die and turn black.  Disgusting, but completely effective.  After two days, repeat steps 1-4 for the remaining buggers.

My lupen flowers were trashed with aphids this year.  This photograph shows two days after spraying the plant with soap.  The lupen stem went from having about 200 aphids to only about 10.  The aphids can be seen in the direct center of the photograph.  I didn't squish the bugs like I should have before spraying with the soap mixture, which is why these big mommas were strong enough to stick around.  The few black bugs that you see are dried up and dead.  :)


Cory's Slug Bait.  Probably not a natural option.  But quick, cheap, and amazingly effective at protecting your strawberries, tomatoes, and many other plants.  Pull the website open - I use the yellow box front and center.  Deadline is awesome as well, but significantly more expensive.  If you have an outdoor pet, be certain Fido does not like eating the pellets before you sprinkle them around your plants.  I'm not at fault for Fido dying.  Nor any other pet or plant of yours :)

I hope you are enjoying the sunshine God has finally brought us!

feel free to comment with your gardening questions!
Green Thumb Archives

Gardening Tip #1:  Out with the Old
Gardening Tip #2:  Quality (Pruners Clippers)
Gardening Tip #3:  Unfortunately time to weed
Gardening Tip #4:  Hot pink rubber gloves
Gardening Tip #5:  The perfect flower bouquet
Gardening Tip #6:  Get rid of Aphids naturally

April 4, 2010

Sorrow in Ecuador - On oceans, singing from your heart, and seeking.

I wrote this as a letter to my friend. I'm not sure why I chose these words, nor why I am compelled to copy them here, but there must be a reason.

Being in Ecuador was difficult. I was completely alone - none of my friends knew me longer than a few months. I was cheated by my boss and, because I wanted my salary, I was fired. One day I came home from work to find my host threw all my belongings out of my drawers into a big pile.  Someone else wanted to use the drawers.  It was deflating; the cabinets were the only private space seemingly truly mine.

Meanwhile I struggled with my illness and the frustrating side effects of medication. I was unable to focus on anything. Many times I wanted to die.

And when nothing else was left inside me, which was many days, my core being shined through.
Each day I went to the ocean to thank God for ten things. I would hold out my fists and stick out one finger for each item I stated I was thankful for. And some days it took me a very long time to count to ten, but I did it.

I forced myself to stand in the waves and try to think. About God, my life, purpose of living, you know, the things that show you're serious about making an effort to get yourself together.

And when I was completely empty, a song came out of my lips.
(listen on YouTube)

Like an eagle in the sky I was meant to fly
And soar upon the wings of prayer and praise

Learning to rest, learning to trust
in the Lord and follow all His ways


April 3, 2010

Pajama pants and my new minimalist lifestyle

In pajama pants.

I can't really express to you how this makes me feel.  It's cold outside.  I'm at home today, a little bit sick, itchy eyes, and a plugged up right ear.  And so I put on my pajama pants.

This is a novel moment; I've not worn pajamas in one year and three months.
All of my belongings have been in my dad's attic since December 9, 2008.  This means I've essentially been living out of a backpack for 15 months.  The simplicity is charming.  Outfits are easy to choose.  I have enough.  My bathroom items fit in one tiny drawer.  To be more specific, they fit in one large Zip-Lock bag.  When I go camping or to a friend's house, I seal the bag, grab a coat and clean underwear, and walk out the door.

Yesterday I pulled my six clothing boxes down and began sorting through them.  Why?  Not because I wanted outfit variety.  But because I am ashamed of how much clothing I have.  It's an obscene amount, but probably normal by the average person's standards.  Before I left for Ecuador, I had three drawers of pants.  THREE drawers.  In the last year I've worn nothing (pants-wise) but a pair of stained, loose jeans, a pair of shorts, a pair of linen pants, and a pair of dress pants.  No capris, no khakis, peddle pushers, nada.  And you know what?  It was enough.  My boss never complained with my small wardrobe, I dealt with the awkward feeling of wearing stained jeans, and life went on.

I decided to count my clothing items.
Socks and underwear excluded - 205 items
And I decided to get rid of 1/3 of my clothes -  But succeeded in ridding my self of over half.  I shed 115 items and counting.

This photo:  I'm always cold.  These are the sweaters and long sleeved shirts I own.  And that's a little bit for a Popsicle Oregonian girl.


April 2, 2010

(ESP) Leche en Carton: La maravilla que no debe asustarte


Todavía recuerdo bien clarito la primera vez que vi leche en cartón.  En 1999 viaje a Puebla, Mexico con mi iglesia para un viaje de misiones cristianos.  Yo estaba en casa con mis anfitriones y amiga Michelle Wunch.  Recibimos leche de cartón con la comida.  Como puede ser???  Repugnante!  Los Mexicanos guardan la leche de temperatura al clima.  No tome leche en cartón por anos dispues.  (Y pase por Mexico cinco veces en total.)

Aquí en EEUU usualmente tomamos leche en cartón de plástico, asi.  La leche que tomo usualmente es de la marca Mallories.  Esa lechería es unos 10 km desde mi casa.  Nuestra leche tiene una fecha de caducidad, no en meses, pero solo un par de semanas.  En mi mente, si leche no esta refrigerada, se va a podredumbre/putrificar. (palabra???) 

 Avanzamos a 2008. 
 Llegue en Ecuador.  Despues de un rato, queria leche.  Primero, aprendi que esa leche no es mal - todos estan tomando, y nadie enfermo...  Leche de carton (de Ecuador) es pasteurizado y se pone en caja sin luz.  Asi la leche esta esterilizado.  Y tiene una fecha de putrificacion de unos 8 meses!  Imaginase!

 En fin, decidí mejor tomar el extraño porque quería la leche tanto.  Y sabes que?  Tome mas leche allí que en EEUU!

En Ecuador hay muchas marcas de leche en carton.  Usualmente vale $1/ litro.  Es mas barato que leche fría en EEUU.  El sabor es casi igual.  Hay poquito de variacion entre las marcas, y no das cuenta cuando la usas con cerael o cafe.

Pero sí hay una option de leche fria:  Leche en una funda de plastico.  Lo me confundi bastante cuando lo vi la primera vez.  Pero...  economico y frio.  En mi mente, frio = mas fresco.  La funda es poco elegante usar.  Mejor solo usar una jarra.

Ya tienes una de mis trivialidades de viaje.  Entonces, cuando pasas por otra nación, supiere tu preocupacion con comidas nuevas, y prueba la otra tipa.

(ENG) Milk in a box: The international non-marvel

en Espanol

I still remember seeing milk in a box for the first time.  It was 1999.  I was in Puebla, Mexico on a missions trip with my church.  My host family served Michelle Wunch and I milk out of a box.  I was repulsed:  How could this be?  They stored the milk room temperature!  I didn't drink milk in Mexico for years afterward.  (I've traveled there five times.)

Fast forward to 2008.  I arrive in Ecuador and indeed eventually want milk.  I learned it wasn't bad.  It was pasteurized and put in a box where light could not enter.  This effectually sterilized it until the box was opened.  And, yes, it had a shelf life of about 8 months.  My mind finally got over it.  I actually drank more milk in Ecuador than I did here in Oregon.

There are many brands of boxed milk.  They usually cost $1 for a liter (see photo on right.)  This price is cheaper than a gallon of cold milk on sale.
The milk tastes similar; like our cold milk, it varies a bit brand to brand.  The slightly different taste is not noticeable on cereal or in smoothies.

There is one option for cold milk:  Milk in a bag.  I was quite confused when I saw this for the first time.  But it's cheap and cold.  Either way, the packaging is quite cumbersome and usually it's best to go home and pour it in a pitcher.

Anyhow, there's a bit of international trivia.  Wherever you travel abroad, get over your new food heebie-jeebies and try the box.

April 1, 2010

Gardening Tip #5: The perfect flower bouquet

It's time to make use of your backyard flowers.  This blog is great for both expert and beginner gardeners.
Note:  These principles also apply to making inexpensive gorgeous wedding bouquets.

12 steps for the perfect spring flower bouquet:

1.  Grab a vase.  Tall vase for tall flowers, short for short.  An 8" vase should have about 6-8" of flowers peeking above the top.  If the vase is too tall, your bouquet will look stumpy.  If it's too short, it will be top heavy and fall over.  If you are making a wedding bouquet, display guidance is at the bottom of this post.

2.  Before you begin clipping, fill the vase with water.  This will help prevent the vase from tipping while you build your bouquet, and your flowers can immediately begin drinking the water.