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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wild Azalea Trees, Preserving Moss and Lichens Experiment




I've been wandering in our woods and down by the stream now and then the past week. I'm still learning my land. ~smile~ Every time we've lived on a place with a little land or near some nature I've had to 'learn it' and to become familiar with the plants and animals near me.

Here, spring is a great time to learn the land, as it is most places. I've noted that some of the trees and shrubs in our woods flower. So far it has not been easy to identify everything. I have figured out now which trees and saplings are American Beech and also which are Sweet Gum. I have a nicely shaped Beech sapling in the backyard which is going to be a wonderful shade tree for us. I decided the Sweet Gum trees need to be kept at a distance due to their habit of dropping 'gum balls' a spiky ball that I remember from our rented house in Charlotte. One of the neighbors had these trees and they dropped the gum balls everywhere, and they were very unpleasant to step on--although I am seldom outside without socks and shoes, Hubby refuses to be practical about this and he has found many a gum ball. Personally, I decided to always protect my feet after my first encounter with fire ants crawling into my Crocs. No more sandals, crocs or barefeet for me.

One of the trees we have down near our stream at the bottom of the hill is a Wild Azalea or Wild Honeysuckle. Its got a gorgeous pink flower that smells sweet when open. There is another tree down there that has just flowered and the white flowers look like those of a cherry laurel tree--but this tree has very different leaves and it is capable of growing quite tall. I haven't figured it out yet. I also found a very pretty flowering shrub, it has delicate leaves and tiny flowers that resemble small blue berry flowers in pink. No idea what it is. I just love the process of learning my land! I'll have to buy a good field guide of the woodland plants in this area.

Also in my woods or near the openings of thickets are many areas that are covered with mosses and lichens. I'm planning to use moss in some of my daughter's wedding decorations so I have been experimenting with preserving the moss. It was very difficult to find information on this process. What I tried is using a 40/60 solution of glycerin and water. I heated it up to near boiling and added some green food color. I poured it over moss and lichen--reindeer moss mainly--and let it sit in a glass pie pan for 30 minutes in the solution. I'm watching the progress of my experiment each day. So far what seems to be happening is that the moss turned brown the day after treating, but then it began to turn green. It appears the moss is slowly absorbing the solution from the brown bottom to the spongy soft tops. As it dries the green moves up--I'm assuming its the food coloring green? I really do not know, and I will likely experiment more with this until I figure it out. If the moss doesn't turn all green I can always paint it with a floral spray paint or try even a normal spray paint. I think the Design Masters paints would probably do a nice job. We shall see. I guess I am just very interested in this and it is a project I'll likely extend past the wedding because I could certainly use moss in a variety of projects in the future.

I've made a cute little nest for a party favor. We'll likely put M&M's in them and have one at each person's seat, on the plate. I was going to line the nests with moss but then decided that tea dyed wool bits might be 'cleaner' for the M&M's. The photo above shows a nest 'in process' I've since added a twig with mini-pine cones to it and it looks somewhat fancier. I like it best that way I think. The jar that says Moss Preserver on it, is a jar of leftover glycerin/water/food color solution that I've squeezed out of several batches of treated moss. I squeezed the solution out of the moss over a strainer to keep it fairly clean--well not clean but at least to keep out the chunks of moss. I added more green to it after the moss turned brown--but I'm not sure it needed more yet. Its all intriguing to me.

Well the moss play has been a sort of side distraction--and I have so much else to do that I can't really play with the moss much right now, but it was fun and I will pick up on my experimenting after the wedding. Maybe I will find some method that I can reliably write about? I could be the next moss preserving expert. ~wink~

Today is supposed to be a lovely day, and I hope to get lots of baby plants into the ground or into containers. Hubby is still nursing his jolokia pepper seedlings. He has had near perfect germination so that's exiting. They are growing fairly slow though, but they have a very long growing season so perhaps that is normal.

I get to feeling 'behind' on my garden, but then I remember--its only April! I do not HAVE to have everything planted out this early! We have a long season here and its OK if things proceed slowly right now. I don't think we're actually 100% past the danger zone with frost either--I think it is still within the realm of possibilities to have a sudden chill come along, though hopefully it won't happen.

In my veggie patch the comfrey is blooming by the compost as is the jessamine. The strawberries are blooming too. The snap peas haven't flowered yet but there is lettuce to harvest and green onions and spinach. There is also bok choy that I think I could stir fry some of now. The herbs are also coming along nicely and the banana tree now has a nice first pair of leaves. I'm still culling baby oak trees out of my beds and paths and I have a section of backyard now that actually has a bit of a lawn on it. :) My patchwork plug and seed method seems to have worked nicely. I potted up our grape vines when they came because I want to wait until after Hubby gets his days off to grade the land before I put them in their permanent spots. We want to start a little vineyard in the front on a sunny slope, but it needs to be scraped a bit to make it more even first.

The wedding plans are moving along as well. Daughter had her fitting and will have a 2ND one just before the date to make sure alterations are good. She has her shoes and fancy stuff. I've found a source for the cake and have most of my supplies for the decorations. Hobby Lobby had much of them half price this week so that helped. I will buy just a few things last minute the week of the wedding, but I think most of what I need I have now. I am hoping the flowers I planted specifically to use in the wedding will bloom on time--It seems they will--they're growing nicely and that is a month away now- so its a good chance.

We got rid of 3 old appliances from the shed and I got boxes yesterday to use to clean it out so it will be ready to be converted to a 'guest cottage' soon.

Other that that, our last unemployed child has a second interview scheduled for a job that is not far from here--so we may have full employment for our kids soon! Yeah! We shall see....

Have a great Pokeberry Day Y'all!

4 comments:

  1. Well, you littlwe moss preserver, you!!! LOL! It is interesting, what you are doing with it!!!
    You are making such amazing progress with the garden and land and wedding plans!
    My stress I talked about on my blog is hubby acting like we are dying a slow death by my not working! I know I need to work again, but am still "working" full time taking care of my little family (kids and grands) every evening. It is stressing me out.

    I have applied as a teachers aide in a middle school, but only 1 week ago...would love to get that job...full time days, no weekends or holidays, plus benefits. I really NEED to retire from nursing...I don't want to be hi-tech anymore... :(

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  2. What a great project. We used to do the same thing and make little woodland scenes on mirrors for table decorations. Love the glycerin idea. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Hey Julie== I know..its stressy the not working thing-- although--I'm sure we're working--just not bringing in $$ but gosh--I have to think its worth it. One thing-- we're actually supposed to get $$ back this year from our taxes--last year we had to pay. Also we dumped directv and are watching local tv (4 weather channels 3 education al tv and maybe 1 or 2 others.

    I'm doing so much we would have had to hire done and I could never have afforded to pay me. ;-) And of course there is NO replacement for grammaness. ;-) Life's too short, I'm so glad to be home now--hoe I can continue it-- and you too.

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  4. Sharlene--don't great minds always think alike? I have always loved to try new ways to do things--crafting or gardening. They go so well together! My moss seems to be greener every time I walk by it. So intriguing!

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