Snot Fairy, Thou Shalt Be Vanquished!

Oh, Hai, Snot Fairy! Who invited YOU to the party?

In case you missed my last post, the germ factories that are my children’s classmates bestowed upon me the special gift of a head cold.

In the usual fashion of the tragi-comedy that I like to call “mi vida loca”, it became a sinus/double ear infection. Otherwise known as a gift from The Snot Fairy.

So my plan for this post was to write about a Hindu goddess I came across in my research a few months ago. But because The Snot Fairy has replaced my brain with a quivering mass of goo, I now cannot remember her name.

The main point though, was that this particular Goddess, possibly something like (but not exactly like) Maya or Mari, was very very strong. She was so strong, in fact, that one of her jobs was to help keep the world clean. One of the ways that she was worshipped was by placing things that were “unclean” – sewage, dead animals, cremains, the really Nasty (with a capital N) stuff – in the isolated, magical places that she liked to visit. She would then eat the Nasty off this stuff. Because she was so strong, she could ingest all this without becoming unclean herself, while rendering the Nasty stuff harmless and/or making it go away altogether. Now, isn’t that thoughtful?

Speaking of Goddesses brings me to the Celtic goddess Brigid, in her Healer aspect. Her appearance in Ireland is a bit of a strange story, even for a Goddess. The sources I consulted say that she appeared with the Tuatha de Danaan. The Tuatha were the fifth foreigners to invade Ireland. They – get this – arrived in Ireland by riding in on dark clouds, through the skies, landing on top of Conmaicne Rein mountain and casting a magical dark shadow over the sun for 3 days. Brigid was the daughter of Dagda, their leader and when she was born, a magical fire shot out of her forehead all the way up to the heavens. Now ~that~ is a grand entrance.

Anyway, Brigid was associated with poetry and writing, healing, and metalsmithing. Quite an unusual assortment, but whatevs. She has been worshipped continuously in Ireland since Druidic times, even surviving Christianity, so I guess she can be in charge of what she wants. One of the ways she has been worshipped is by keeping her sacred flame lit, which has also actually been accomplished continuously since Druidic times. You go, Girl!

Flames and healing, Goddesses who make unclean things go away… All this brings me to my plan.

Tomorrow, I am going to go out into the unclean area of the backyard (you know… where the dogs go). I’m going to take all my tissue paper wrapped gifts from The Snot Fairy, and I’m going to set them on fire for a ritual sacrifice combo to the Hindu Goddess whose name I can’t remember and Brigid the Healer.

And maybe, just maybe they will combine forces with the modern God, Azithromycin and kick The Snot Fairy’s germ-ridden, goo-covered ass into submission. And I will whoop with joy, then probably cough a little because the germs will have moved into my chest by then.

(Sources: I can’t remember where I heard about the Hindu Goddess, otherwise I would have her name. Info on Brigid: http://www.orderwhitemoon.org/goddess/Brighid.html and http://www.angelfire.com/journal/ofapoet/brigid.html )

* If you happen to be Hindu or Druid and find this post offensive, I blame the Acti-fed, 101 degree fever, and the sleeping propped up like Joseph Merrick for 3 days so I don’t drown in my own effluvia. If you worship The Snot Fairy, I respectfully request that you go to hell.

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Edible Flowers Reference Angelica to Fuchsia with Photos

I had hoped to get started on this a few days ago, but thanks to the little germ factories otherwise known as my children’s classmates, I have been holed up in bed, wishing for death or at least some decent codeine cold medicine.

So without further ado…

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Angelica (Angelica archangelica) Flavor: Celery

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Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) Flavor: Anise / Licorice

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Apple (Malus species). Flavor: Delicate Floral

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Arugula (Eruca vesicaria) Flavor: Spicy, Peppery

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Basil (Ocimum basilicum) Flavor: Basil, flavored like the variety of basil i.e. lemon, cinnamon, etc.

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Bee Balm (Monarda species) Flavor: Bergamot / Earl Grey Tea (like Fruit Loops, IMO)

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Borage (Borago officinalis) Flavor: Light cucumber

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Burnet (Sanguisorba minor) Flavor: Light cucumber

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Calendula (Calendula officinalis) Flavor: Saffron, spicy, peppery

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German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) / Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). Flavor: Faint apple

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Garden Chives (Allium schoenoprasum). Flavor: Mild onion

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Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum). Flavor: Garlic

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Citrus (Citrus species). Flavor: Strong waxy floral

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Red / White Clover (Trifolium species). Flavor: Mildly sweet (use sparingly, difficult to digest)

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Coriander / Cilantro (Coriander sativum). Flavor: Strong, slightly soapy. Used to flavor Salsa

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Cornflower / Bachelor Buttons (Centaurea cynaus). Flavor: Sweetly spicy clove

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Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis). Flavor: Mushroom like when fried in butter

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Day Lily (Hemerocallis species). Flavor: Crisp, lettuce or green bean. *** Oriental Lilies (Lillium species) are NOT edible. ***

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Dianthus / Carnations / Clove Pinks (Dianthus caryophyllus). Flavor: Sweetly Spicy clove

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Dill (Anthem graveolens). Flavor: Dill

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English Daisy (Bellis perrenis). Flavor: Crisp and leafy

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Fennel (Foeniculum vulgaris) Flavor: Mild anise / licorice

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Fuchsia (Fuchsia X hybridis). Flavor: Crisp, bland to mildly tart. Fricken gorgeous in salads!

(Source: http://homecooking.about.com/library/weekly/blflowers.htm, photo sources: Wikipedia Commons)

Edible Flowers

Today’s post is about edible flowers! I first got interested in edible flowers when I started the Armagarden. That’s my mash-up of Armageddon and Garden. It’s what I jokingly call my Veggie/Edibles Garden, since Hubs (also jokingly) says it is what will help sustain us once we run out of gasoline and enter Mad Max Times.

We live on a large corner lot at a busy intersection. My kids rake in the dough at the lemonade and art & artifact stands they set up throughout the year, but that’s a post for another time. My point is that our yard is highly visible from all four sides of our house.

Hubs thinks that Veggie Gardens are kind of ugly. I completely disagree, but I digress, again. Since he wasn’t all that excited about having a Veggie Garden visible to everyone that passed by our house, I decided to pretty it up for him by adding edible flowers and other ornamental edibles / edible ornamentals.

I planted several varieties and they filled our salads, garnished our plates, and amazed our potluck participants. They add loads of color and nutrition to your plate and they are so much fun, they even encouraged my kids to eat more salads and healthy whatnots. So I decided to share the joy with you, friends!

There are tons of recipes on the interwebs using edible flowers (I mostly used them for green salads, potato salads, pasta salads, all kinds of salads), but first I should share a few warnings…

1. Don’t eat flowers that have been treated with pesticides, including any flowers purchased at florists, grocery stores, etc. unless they are specifically marked “edible”. Regardless of your thoughts about using commercial pesticides on your veggie garden, the pesticides used for ornamental flowers are NOT tested for consumption and could be considerably stronger and much more dangerous.

2. Don’t eat flowers unless you are certain of their identity. A few edible flowers closely resemble poisonous varieties. Not many, but still… Err on the side of safety.

3. If you have pollen allergies, use caution when eating edible flowers. You are likely to also have an allergic reaction to eating the pollen if you have a reaction to breathing it. I have pollen allergies that are pretty easily controlled by OTC allergy medicines like Zyrtec and Claritin and I’ve never had any problems. But if you go into anaphylactic shock when you sniff a daisy, you probably shouldn’t eat one.

4. If you have any doubts about any of the above warnings, don’t eat them! I play things a little fast and loose and haven’t had any issues, but I refuse to be responsible for your poisoning yourself! Do some extra research if you have any doubts whatsoever. Seriously.

I will be posting a pretty exhaustive list of edible flowers with photos shortly, so stay tuned!

Fluffy Tree Rats Strike Again

Every morning in spring, after I see the girls off to school on the bus, I head over to my little garden patch to see what new seedling or other new treasure awaits. Yes, I’m easily pleased these days.

This morning… It was planticide. The effing tree rats (i.e. squirrels) strike again.

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These were sweet peppers. Luckily, I have two others which were untouched. For now.

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This was a sunflower. There were two, but I couldn’t even find the ravaged stalk of the other one. This is my FOURTH planting of sunflowers. In the original photo, you can see a tiny drop of plant blood oozing from the dismembered stump.

The first was dug up and eaten before they even had a chance to sprout. All I found were the empty seed hulls scattered carelessly on the ground. Plantings two and three were eaten before they could even sprout their first leaves. I blamed Hubs for reckless mower etiquette for #2. After finding planting number three decimated, I decided to get serious. I raised the tender seedlings under glass cloches (also known as appropriated beer pint glasses) until they had a few sets of true leaves.

The filthy rat pirates just waited.

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Artist’s rendition of their greedy squirrel rat faces stuffed with seedlings from my garden. Notice the rabid, bloodthirsty eyes and murderous smile.

So, the question is… Do I plant more sunflowers? Do I surround them with electrified razor wire and half-starved wolf-dogs with distemper? Or do I take 57 No-Doze and wait up all night with my slingshot and Habanero-coated BBs? Maybe I can just ask them politely.

Seedling Reference Photos

I’m posting some photos of seedlings because I searched for this kind of thing when I first started my garden. Hope someone finds them helpful.

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Asparagus – Not really a seedling. This is a spear growing from 3rd year root planting. But Hubs like to mow this kind of thing down.

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Marigold seedling

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German Chamomile seedling (a volunteer from last year’s garden!)

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Broccoli/Cauliflower seedling (they both look pretty much the same). This one has its first true leaf.

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Nasturtium seedling in the lower right corner. The larger purple plant is Purple Basil.

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Dill seedling (another volunteer)

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Bachelor Button Seedlings. They are the silvery, fuzzier ones with the longer, thinner leaves. The others could be something I planted, or they could be wild violets which would take over the world if I let them.

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Red Stem Malabar Spinach seedling

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Convolvulus seedling.

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Roman Chamomile seedlings. I believe these are the teeny-tiny yellow-green seedlings sprinkled throughout the photo, but I’m not totally certain yet since I haven’t grown them before.

Gourmet Squirrels

A few years ago, before I “put in” my garden beds, I decided to grow a small herb container garden.  I bought a large plastic pot (I even sprang for the matching saucer!) and filled it with dirt and plants.  I planted lemon thyme, cheddar pinks, and a sad looking little basil plant I bought in the produce section of my grocery store.

As the plants grew, I introduced my young daughters to the joys of plucking a fresh herb leaf, crushing it between fingers, and taking a big whiff.  They loved it!  I like to imagine that helped them learn to enjoy their senses and live in the moment.

When the basil was getting nice and lush and tall, I went out one day to find one of the tops of the stalks snapped off.  I looked around for the top, assuming that one of the girls had pulled it off to sniff and just tossed it to the ground after, as we usually did.  But it was nowhere to be found.  Oh well, no biggie.  They must have carried it arouBedford a bit before dropping it.

The next day, more leaves are stripped off.  A couple of naked twigs struck up from the mass of leaves.  I gave the girls a gentle lecture about only taking a leaf or two to sniff.  They nodded and agreed, looking a little confused.

A few days later, I walked out to see the plants stripped absolutely bare.  Not a single leaf was left, just several pathetic twigs sticking up from the dirt.  For some reason, I didn’t say anything to the kids, but mentioned it to Hubs that evening.

“Squirrels” was his reply.  He told me that he had seen a squirrel messing around in the pit several days previous, eating some leaves. But he had assumed that the squirrel would lose interest after a mouthful of the spicy, pungent plants.  Well, apparently not.  I assume the stuffed their greedy cheeks full of my prized basil, scampered back to their little squirrel nests and made walnut pesto from the black walnuts the gathered in our yard.  Seriously?  Gourmet squirrels.

Sucking Aphids

Since I’m sending this blog out into the world, I’m trying not to use any expletives.  But I swear the %^€€<|{}!* garden pests just seem to pull the curse words out of my mouth.  By the time pests arrive, I’ve gotten blisters from hand digging my beds, spent hours on my knees plucking out the thousands of violet and other weed seedlings, carefully researched seeds and garden plans, lugged gallons of water to gently hand-sprinkle my fragile seedlings, and just generally spent my  blood, sweat and tears on my little plot.  And those little {deleted} steal my seeds, chew the tops off my seedlings, and ruin my produce.

Now, I could douse my plants and soil with chemical insecticides.  The garden aisles at the hardware stores have enough to make a mushroom cloud of poison big enough to annihilate every bug in the Greater Hendersonville area.  But do I really want to feed that to my family?  And what about the bees and butterflies I need to pollinate my crops?  And what about the earthworms that fertilize and loosen my soil?  So I find other ways to get rid of the baddies, while welcoming the goodies.  There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of watching the tiny alligator-like lady bug larvae devour aphids by the hundreds or seeing the tomato hornworms succumb to the teensy parasitic wasps.

This year, we appear to be having a population explosion of aphids.  They are all over everything, but especially bad on my peas, tomatoes, and roses.  They stunt growth, disfigure the plants, spread disease, and can eventually suck the plants to death.

I started out using a product called “Insecticidal Soap” for NatureworksTN that my Mom bought last year.  It’s made from Cayenne Pepper, Garlic, Olive Oil, and Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castille Soap.  It didn’t have the immediate killing power of commercial poisonous insecticides, but the next day, my plants were aphid free.  Amazing!  But unfortunately, they came back worse than before.  I don’t think it’s a reflection on the soap, it just shows how bad the infestation really is.  The past couple of days, I’ve been wandering around my yard finding Ladybug larvae and releasing them onto the infested plants.  They’ve stuck around and I can see that they are making dent in the aphid population on the individual plants.  But so far, it just isn’t enough.

I actually found myself in the insecticide aisle at Lowes eyeing the Sevin Dust.  So I’m on a quest to rescue my plants from the sucking aphids.  I’m off to the interwebs to do some research, but feel free to leave a comment if you’ve found something sustainable that works.