Friday, August 22, 2014

Love Bracelets

Beauty... is the shadow of God on the universe.
~Gabriela Mistral, DesolacĂ­on

While I was beautifying my gardens in the mornings and on cool days and some evenings, I was secretly starting a business in afternoons, during bad weather, and other evenings. Remember My Love Bracelet? Well, I really loved those beaded charm bracelets so much that I toyed around with the idea for months and then I finally justified my desires with the concept that it would be a very good opportunity to teach my daughter about entrepreneurship.

The Princess had been having fun making the Rainbow Loom bracelets that so many of her friends were also making and she talked of selling her creations but the problem is that so many girls are making them that there is no market. I tried to help her understand the concept of supply and demand in marketing. It is fine for her to enjoy making the rubber band bracelets and she even came up with a few of her own designs! However, it was probably always going to be a hobby, rather than a means to make a bit of coin.

With her desire to create things to sell and make some money...and the fact that we were both into bracelets...and that the beaded charm bracelets were so much like the expensive Pandora bracelets but could be sold at a fraction of the price--Imagine the cost of a completed bracelet matching or being less the cost of just one Pandora bead!--I knew that many of the women in my area would love to have one (or two or three). Then they would also love get some for friends and family as gifts because they really are quite lovely, fun, and affordable.

So, I began looking into sources for good quality glass beads, charms, and bracelets. My bracelets and charms are not sterling silver, but they are lead and nickel free, which was important to me because I am allergic to nickel. After making a few bracelets that I personally liked, just in case I would not sell any, I just matched what I was wearing whenever I went out and interest just happened...except it seemed that everyone wanted colors I did not have at the time so, of course, I had to order more beads, then it was some wanted more bling, and get the picture. In testing the market, we found that the prospects look promising and, hopefully, the Princess is beginning to understand  how to create a market because that people tend to want what they see and do not yet have.

I can spend hours looking at beads and charms to buy and more hours playing with combinations of them. It even surprises me how much I am enjoying this!

I spent several days with the camera and lighting equipment I had on hand testing how to take the best photographs of these beaded beauties. Above is one I call "You Need a Little Christmas." Then I posted them on Pinterest under the name of Miss T. Treasures and I have a few more to post yet too. So, you can see I now have a wide variety, but the cool thing, besides I can wear any as my favorite for the day (which is difficult to choose and so very, very nice!), is that everyone can personalize her own bracelet. I have made some that might be close to what a person would like and then it is just a matter of getting the right bracelet size and switching out a few beads and charms they do not like want for the ones they do. I am not planning to do this as an online business, presently, but who knows? I just think the bracelets sell themselves better in person.

So many bare wrists and so few bracelets!

~ Thank you, my Lord, for giving us the gift of creating and enjoying things of beauty. Please bless this little business. ~

Saturday, August 16, 2014

How Does My Garden Grow - Part 3

I like gardening - it's a place where I find myself when I need to lose myself. ~Alice Sebold

I have quite a few areas left to work on. The upper front garden, as I mentioned in my last post, is not done, but this is the one I focused on next, the blueberry bush garden which is on the south side and gets the most sun of all the gardens. I took this picture late in the day. I can only work in this garden early in the morning or late in the day to avoid sunburns and the heat. You can see I have the back stuff under the mulch that helps keeps the weeds under control, but nature finds a way, if you turn your back on it! Actually, nearly all the garden areas looked similar to this until I worked them, I was just too ashamed to even take the pictures to show the transformation. I decided that I should show at a least one...but it still makes me cringe.

This garden has been edged with a variegated liriope that is the spreading rather than clumping type, which means that it spreads just like the grass that has infiltrated it. Such a messy garden! I decided to take it all out and maybe edge with a clumping liriope, separating the plants I have on hand in hopes that they will tolerate the sunlight.

Now in the next picture below, you will see, at the front of this garden, the stump of a ornamental cherry tree that we cut down because it was diseased. We used several treatments to kill the stump and roots, but as diseased as it was, the thing took years to completely die. After it finally did, fire ants decided that they would like to make a home around it. I would get rid of one batch and another would move in! So, there the fire-ant-wooing stump sat in the garden that was larger than I needed it to be and I would like to make smaller with the edge going right where the stump was and I decided enough was enough with the ants--I needed to remove the stump! I treated the ant hill and I talked about the stump with my husband the night before. He had been doing his own projects and so the gardening has been mine alone, even the Princess would not work in the heat.

Here is my garden in the embarrassing stage:

The next morning, it was cloudy and a bit cooler, and the ant hill was dead. My husband was working on the van because it was making a strange sound he could not find (which took most of the day for the mechanic to find the source but only ended up costing us a bit over $300 thankfully), so when I came outside to work in the garden and found the axe stuck in the stump, I thought he put it there for me to use...but my Prince Charming saw me pitifully hacking away and yelled, "That's not for you. Do you want to be able to go tubing tomorrow?" Okay, so why was it left there all by itself? (By the way, our friends changed the tubing trip to a swimming one at a park because of a church meeting and public school starting the next day, but we took our new tubes bought at a close-out store with us.) May I say that my husband is impressive when he is using an axe! The stump was out in less  than 30 minutes.

On my part, I first dug out about a third of liriope stuffed their bareroots in four plastic pots with a sign "Free Plants" by the road. Someone did take them. Good luck with them, I say. I still had more than I could ever want, but I am thankful for when I planted them, I only had a few and separated them a few times to fill in. They tolerated the four-year drought and poor soil when I lost so many plants, but at this point I have tired of their meandering ways and friendliness with the grass and weeds.

What is it with grass, anyway? It grows where you don't want it and doesn't grow where you do. This garden has a rock edging, but not enough to go all the way around, which is one of the reasons I wanted to make it smaller, so that meant I would have to move all the rock edging. I found grass had forged its way not just between the rocks but under them also, but then so had the liriope in the opposite direction. To avoid using chemicals, I ended up taking apart the entire garden, digging up all the roots under the old black sheeting, removing a rosemary bush that I never really liked there, laying down new black sheeting, and refitting the rocks with black sheets with an extra line of black sheeting under them also. If you have ever done a rock edge like this one, so that the rocks fit together with the smallest of gaps, you know what a job it is. It took me several mornings to do just this one patch of ground and the weather was particularly hot during this time even in the early morning.

Still ugly in the above picture, but now weed and grass free! I got all the rocks how I wanted them, but there is still a gap in the front as I knew there would be, so I had a plan. I divided and planted some of the liriope that clumps and makes a nice border as a test to see if they can take the sun, before I edge the entire garden area with them. The garden bed is a bit smaller, using less mulch, looking a bit sparse with just three blueberry bushes currently--well, the jury is still out about the middle one making it. I have also used this garden for planting watermelons and pumpkins as it does not bother me if the vines over flow but this year I knew I had to rework the entire thing so I did not plant any vines.

So I have done about all I am going to do with the gardens for now...maybe...well, there is always something to do and I want to finish planting the liriope edging behind the rocks on the garden on the left in this picture, but I had to wait until today because I treated yet another fire ant hill and I should be able to work the area now.

Then I need switch gears. I already put some clothing in our first consignment sale which I will be picking up the leftovers today and listing what is left for the next one this week. I am going to be consignment sale shopping one day this week with my friend and her daughter's former teacher, a fellow church member who has taken the year off for maternity purposes. I also need to begin planning our homeschool curriculum and I do have some other things I am excited about that I will be posting here soon.

~ My Lord, thank you for a summer of gardening, for the break I so much needed. Now that I am refreshed emotionally, my Lord, help me to bring my focus on educating my child.~

Friday, August 15, 2014

How Does My Garden Grow - Part 2

I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow. ~David Hobson

As you will see, my herb garden in the back was not the only big change. My husband and I decided to kill off all the ivy in our backyard because entwined among the lovely English Ivy is Poison Ivy. I have tried to kill off the later without harming the former for a couple of years, while trying to avoid the itchy rashes. I have to confess that I never really had much of a reaction to Poison Ivy until we moved to Georgia and now the times I get it the most is from the outside cats. Poison Ivy does not bother animals, just people. I wish I had some goats or horses, as they can eat it. Anyway, it just has to go!

So, to prepare for the burnout and clearing of the wooded areas, I moved all my shade loving plants that had survived the vinca take-over in my back shade garden to the front. I also cleared out the bushes. which were more of a clumping plant than bush, that the former owners left under the deck stairs that I never warmed up to and all the weeds to plant clippings of the vinca since it is a filling vine that does not climb. While doing all this I made sure that the soil was mounded around the foundation so that the water would drain away from the house. We do not have any foundation problems but the gutter system is inadequate in certain areas which we will address when the house gets resided and we replace the gutter system adding a few more downspouts and water barrels.

I moved some hostas that were doing not really growing from the front garden, probably too shady, so that I could complete the border with the variegated type, and planted them in the back around the crepe myrtle tree. This area will all green up over a few months even in the winter.

Here are some views of the front gardens. (Normally there is not a wheelbarrow in the background.)

Coming up the walk from the driveway there is variegated vinca on the left, which is still not completely filled in; they would have liked more rain than we have been getting. I love ferns, but the few I had were hidden in the back shade garden. I began wondering why I never thought about ferns in the front. I decided that the front garden is shady enough to put the shade loving plants where I can really enjoy their beauty, so on the left between the liriope and the rocks are Lady ferns, and they are loving where they are. The edging plants above the rocks are variegated hostas that divided from a few that I had that covered about a fourth of the way previously and spread them out so that they cover the entire top edge...a least to the place where the sun would be too much for them. I still have some work to do behind the hostas in the upper tier, but that may not get done until next spring when I can see where the tulips and daffodils are and move them closer to the outer edge and allow the azaleas to grow around the trunk of the oak tree.

On the right lowest level on the right as you look up the walk is the English Ivy clippings from the back yard that I just planted. My black-eyed Susans are very hardy and often have to be clipped back, but the cats like to hide and nap in them. Between them and the house I transplanted some large orange lillies that were further down the walk and used to crowd around a half-barrel planter that I removed--well, I moved it and it fell apart so... it is now gone.

In the background, closer to the house is where I like to plant cucumber vines, just because I can keep my eye on them easier and they do not get as stressed out from the sun. In front of them, I planted tiara hostas, my favorite hosta, rescued from the back shade garden. I barely found them straggled in among the vinca. This may not be the final place for them, it is just I had nothing to put there and I needed to put them somewhere. Hopefully, they will thrive.

The middle tier on the right used to have a bush that we took out a couple of years ago so it has been basically neglected until this year. I separated some of the Liriope that edges the left side to make an edging on the right as well and then filled that area with the silvery wormwood, purple sweet potato vine, Sweet Annie at top and two highly contrasting annuals. This is how it looked when I first planted it.

This is how it looks now, just a few weeks later. I am hoping the wormwood survives the winter.

Back to the left side...
Are you seeing my half barrel fountain? I would like to get something a bit more decorative, but the most important part is hearing it as you can up the walk or I come out the door. It has a calming babble and cooling effect that invites me into the gardens...and then to gardening.

 This is the view from the other side.

How inviting is this? Lilies of the valley line the right of the stepping stones. I love their scent in the spring!

I also found what I think is a wild ginger with very pretty heart-shaped leaves outside of the shade garden all by itself, not the typical ginger I have seen around here. I decided I would move it also, because it was just pretty.

I dug around for the shamrock rhizomes I had planted in the shade garden. The green ones had died out and I only saw a few purple about ground, which have a delicate pink flower when they bloom, but I found plenty of the rhizomes underneath so I moved them to the front yard also. They are definitely liking the new spot among Japanese painted ferns, asparagus ferns (not really a fern but adds a delicate texture), and a bleeding heart plant that also never thrived in the back shade garden.

As I looked over my "new" garden I noticed that I had most used the colors of greens with varying textures and purples, my very favorite garden colors. Maybe that is why I smile when I walk out the front door now!

~ Thank you, my Lord, for the beauty I was able to bring into my life through my gardens and for the ability to work hard, building muscle while being productive. ~