Thursday, 30 April 2015

GREEN FINGERS: Veg Patches & Butterfly Gardens


There's always only been two real plans for my garden - start a veg patch and grow a butterfly garden. Both by extension lend themselves well to each other, but also help not only butterflies, but bees, insects, birds, and perhaps gets me eating more vegetables. 

To add to the challenge of creating a butterfly garden, I wanted to try and create it with adding only native to Michigan wild flowers. Granted it's not been an easy challenge, but I've learnt so much. It's not been a case of nipping to the garden center and grabbing whatever pretty flower catches my eye. But nights spent researching native flowers, their flowering season, their wants and needs. Wild flowers in their nature are incredibly beautiful, perhaps not as showy or as brightly coloured in their varieties, but they also provide habits, nesting sites, they help protect the soils and help conserve water. With human development, urbanisation, increasing use of chemicals, there's a need more than ever to help introduce native species outside of our own front door. I'm just trying to do my little part.

You could also say for the beginner and or lazy gardener (counting myself as both of those) they are hardy and require less looking after. Win win.
Plants we choose (L-R); Purple Coneflower (image source) // Tickseed (image source) //Gloriosa Daisy (image source) // Blanketflower (image source) // Sweet William (image source) // Plains Coreopsis (image source) // Dwarf Red Plains Coreopsis (image source) // Mexican Hat (image source)

So the other week I planted out ten lots of seeds from WildFlower Farm (which I highly recommend if you're a USA based gardener) all of which can be seen in the above image. As far as I could work out, they are all native to Michigan, or naturally spread to the state, and with my milkweed (for the Monarchs), they should be an attractive sight if I do say so myself. 

 Purple Deadnettles

But it's also a case of working what you already have - from the bold and showy Oriental Poppies, all the day lilies (and I mean all the day lilies, they are taking over) to leaving patches of what some may call weeds. I'm all for keeping my patches of Dead Purple Nettles around my veg patch - a favourite especially in spring for bees. If it helps out wildlife, I'm all for keeping "weeds". I am a messy gardener, come into my garden and you'll notice it's not perfectly weeded, there's flowers in my grass, there's old leaves and sticks and I'm okay with that.I'm also staying well, well away from chemicals, I'm trying to do everything as organically as I can.


We've also had our first signs of life in the veg patch. While our onions and carrots seem to still be sleeping, radishes are growing like there is no tomorrow. When you doubt your gardening skills a little, seeing those green shoots poking through is always a very welcome sight. I'm also planning to fill up out veg patch with bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, salad mixes and rhubarb. 

It's all about the basil

As I start to harden off my sunflowers, their space on my window still have already been replaced by trays (reused old cooked meat trays I might add) of herbs (basil and coriander for all my curry dishes). Herbs are both easy to grow, are an awesome addition for your cooking but many butterflies love them too. Think Catnip, Fennel, Lavender, Parsley to Chives and Thyme to name but six.


For me, gardening doesn't need to be expensive. It is about shopping around, growing from seed, researching and recycling. So when I noticed how well loved my DIY bird bath has been this spring it was high time I got around to making another. It's certainly not rocket science, just an old baking tray on a pile of old bricks. Having a couple of different depths will appeal to a variety of birds, throw in a couple of stones and you'll help the bees out too.


So that is what is occurring in my garden right now. We sadly got the pine tree chopped down yesterday (Joe's allergic and it was starting to lean a little on the garage) but after a wander around the garden center at the weekend, we're thinking up ideas of fruiting cherry trees (like how could you not want to after seeing such gorgeous blossom above?) and lots of butterfly loving bushes to fill its place.

You can always find me sharing the random day to day garden adventures (as well as cats, cross stitching and Detroit stuff) over on my instagram if that's your thing.

Monday, 27 April 2015


Magnolia Magnolia Magnolia Magnolia Magnolia Magnolia

With it's cup and saucer shaped flowers, Magnolia trees make those blue skies all that deeper. Their large showy flowers of pinks, whites and maroons shine out against the deep spring blue skies. Those first signs of the pinky white tips peeking out echo the lighter nights, the added spring warmth to the air. Their branches, heavy under the weight of blossom also become the perching ground for Floppy - my broken tailed squirrel and his companions, my feathered sparrow friends and sometimes the delightful Cardinal and his wife who's red plumage stands out all the more against the blossom backdrop. This Magnolia tree which stands proud in our front garden right before my office come craft room, the established rows of raspberry bushes that fill up my back garden for starters, we did well with our house and having all this nature and wildlife outside my door, this makes me one happy girl. 

Friday, 24 April 2015

CREATIVE: Pennsylvania Blackwork Map


While i'm partial to collecting the odd vintage compact, postcard or magnet from my travels, i'm also trying to find a crafty way to mark each and every US state I manage to visit. Early last year I decided to stitch a blackwork piece of each state in turn, starting with the land I now call home, that of the Mitten state - Michigan (seen here). Early in March, I thought it was high time I got around to stitching another, this time the Keystone State - Pennsylvania.


Pennsylvania is Joe's home state and happens to be (if we're not counting passing through Ohio) the state I've spent the most time in after the Mitten State. Driving along the turnpike into Pittsburgh in parts it reminds me of the English countryside - it's lovely and hilly (something lacking in my corner of the world), green, full of trees and rivers. So many rivers.


Two states down, three to go.

Next up, Illinois!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

LIFE: And Dances with the Daffodils

Daffodil Magnolia Tulip Bud Magnolia Daffodil Robin Magnolia

While spring seems to have waved a hello and as quickly vanished in my little corner of Michigan, the garden is starting to pull itself into life even if the days are grey overhead. Every corner is filled with promise, a hit of a red petal from a tulip, a bright and bold yellow of a daffodil head banging in the breeze. Peer out of the front window and you'll glimpse the pinky shades of an opening head of Magnolia tree blossom, a tree buzzing with the life of sparrows, finches and squirrels. The lawn, once brown from being buried under a mountain of snow, the pecking ground for robins who bathe and splash in my bird bath. A veg patch has been ranked, multicoloured carrots, radishes and onions making the soil their new home. Wild flower seeds finding their feet in the weeded soil. Kitchen windowsills are aching under the weight of fifty sunflowers reaching, craving the sun and soil. Not yet little plants, not yet.

Monday, 20 April 2015

GARDEN: Suburban Woodpecker Visitor


Not only am I a proud cat lady but I'm also becoming a proud bird feeder lady. I'm not sure how many is too many, but with three feeders of various shapes and sizes around my garden both front and back, I think I'm feeding nearly all the neighbourhoods birds. 

Two of the feeders sit in the front garden on and around the porch, with the magnolia tree and bushes offering shelter, the sparrows have made it their favourite place for a quick bite. Not only that, but with them being directly in front of our large living room windows, our cats Ed and Smokey can watch them from the sofa without the fear of the birds becoming lunch. But with the huge old Maple tree in the back garden, it was time for a new addition.


Our back garden is a bit of a haven for a great selection of garden birds, I think our garden backing onto a park helps that. Having grown up in the English countryside and now living in suburbia it amazes me how much more wild birds you come across over here (from Woodpeckers, to hawks and your typical garden varieties). But one of my favourite regular visits is Woody, my woodpecker friend that you might remember from last year. I wasn't expecting him to pop onto the bird feeder, but while working in the garden last week, I turned my head and there he was. Apparently he's a regular visitor, more than I thought and hopefully with the bird feeder, he'll pop by a little more often.


Granted the photographs aren't the best, but he's a quick fluttery kind of character. I believe he's a Downy Woodpecker (that or the larger Hairy Woodpecker) which is about 6 or so inches in length. Downies are a regular garden visitor across the US and are the most likely variety of Woodpecker you'll ever catch eating from a feeder. Apparently they really love sunflowers (and chunky peanut butter), so hopefully with a more sunflowery bird mix and all the sunflowers I've been growing, he'll pop around a little more often.

Do you get any interest wildlife characters around where you live?

Thursday, 16 April 2015

CREATIVE: A Garden Party Stitch Along #3

I confess, I totally slacked when it came to cross stitching last month and even more so with writing up with this post. For once I was trying to be all good with my work. It also gets harder each month to say something new about this stitch along, so I'll let the photographs do the talking. 


So my plan from February was to work on finishing off the faces and the sky, stitching off the dresses and doing some backstitching. Not really completed any of those. Back stitching to a point yes, and I love how that's all pulling it all together. Back stitching (it's basically outlining and detailing in with thread) is a bit of a love hate thing with many stitchers, I personally love it for how it brings a picture together. 

February's check in (left) and March. 

Hopefully during the rest of April I'll get back into the swing of things. I had a bit of a communication hiccup with the magazine over getting the next part of the chart, which I luckily have now, so even more stitching can commence.


Slowly but surely!

Monday, 13 April 2015

GREEN FINGERS: Things Down The Garden


I've become one of those people that enjoys a daily wander around her garden. I love trying to spot any differences, perhaps a new bulbs sprouting through the soil, trying to poke it's way through some of the remainders of fall crispy leaves. With April showers firmly heralding springs arrival, things are starting to happen in my little patch of land, and most of this weekend was spent enjoying the sunshine while trying to create a bit of order. 

What will be the veg patch. 

One of the happy occurrences of inheriting a garden is not knowing what may, or may not be hidden under your soil. I have to be honest, I wasn't expecting any spring bulbs to pop up, but hiding away a couple of crocuses have appeared, a few green shoots of daffodils in the front, and some bulbs of unknown plant origin are circling the magnolia tree. Granted in the time since planting my old additions into the soil, I'd actually forgotten just what bulbs I did buy, but I know these ones weren't mine.
Little little sunflowers

Slowly warmer days, sunnier skies and the decreasing chance of frost has allowed me to get back into the garden and get my hands dirty. From cutting down some plants to get my vegetable patch cleared out, raking up leaves from autumn (yes really, my excuse is that they kept the soil a little warmer for the bulbs over the super cold winter months) and working out what needs doing. 


My orders for vegetables have all been made and I'm far to excited to get them planted out in May (the chance of frost lingers around until then sadly). For the next couple of months i'm going to pretend to know what i'm doing when it comes to planting carrots, radishes, broccoli, bell peppers, tomatoes and onions to name but a few. Adding a couple of rhubarb plants and starting off a small herb patch. 

Not to mention all the wildflower seeds, sunflowers (that are taking over my kitchen) and some new plant additions to try and brighten up the shade. On Saturday I pretended to know what I was doing in pruning some roses and moving a load of raspberries. I even added in some stepping stones from a mix match assortment of falling apart pavers that once hid under the pine tree. They are wonky, they are chipped, but I laid them and that pleases me. Hopefully they'll survive. It's all exciting times around here I tell thee.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

FOOD: The CSA Cookbook


If there's one thing i'm looking forward to this year it's getting my fingers dirty and starting off my veg patch. But what's daunting is what to do with all the veggie goodness that the earth gives up. Let me be honest here, i'm not the biggest vegetable fan, I should be, I want to be, but I need help. I need inspiration. I need recipes that get me thinking outside the box, that liven them up a little. Luckily there's a new cookbook that, if you're anything like me, will get you rethinking, gets you creating and gets you working in your garden and kitchen. 

The CSA Cookbook by Linda Ly offers over 100 seasonal and globally inspired recipes for vegetables whether you receive a community supported agricultural project, you pop to your farmers market or you're growing them yourself. And if you're not doing any of these, then this cookbook might get you curious enough to start. 


Recipes are no waste, so they'll challenge you to using all parts of the plant parts you might otherwise throw away - from the leaves, to the flowers and seeds. As Ly states, the CSA Cookbook is all about celebrating "the art of using the whole vegetable in your day-to-day cooking" (page 15). And that is something I can get behind!

Drawing on her own experience homesteading on the California Coast and celebrating the good life, Linda Ly is also the author behind the award winning blog Garden Betty (which is awesome btw!). Recognized by HGTV and Country Living, Ly provides a down to earth, hands on approach to thinking creatively. The CSA Cookbook shines with her personality, her creative approach in a way that's approachable and inspirational. 

Recipes are presented clearly with vegetables you're more than likely to find in produce boxes or ones you might have growing in your vegetable patch. Additional ingredients are ones you'll most likely already have, or they are easiest enough to come by which is always a winner when i'm hunting for recipe inspiration. With gorgeous photography throughout, you'll be drooling as you flick though, bookmarking the recipes as you go. I certainly have my eye on the herb infused vinegar's.


This cookbook will certainly be a big inspiration and help in getting my vegetable fix that's for sure!

I was provided the CSA Cookbook for review purposes, all thoughts as ever, are my own. 

Monday, 6 April 2015

LIFE: Ongoing


Sometimes you have to take a step back and refresh a little. Which was exactly what I ended up doing with this blog last week. I tend to over think, over work, and over spend time on the internet, so a break was somewhat required. To top it all off, I came down with the comparing my blog to others sickness which was a major mojo killer. I'm more than happy to admit, I struggle with this blog, I struggle with wondering why after five years, I still can't get followers, makes you question what you share, if my life is worth sharing. Blah blah, most of the rest of the time I don't really mind that i'm old before my time, that i'm not really down with the kids, that I'm not into having the most hip thing, but sometimes ...

But anyhow. A couple of adult milkshakes (Irish Beer from Red Robin - delicious btw), a tasty burger and lots of kitty purrs and an awesome thrifty shop in the Salvos, cheered me up over the weekend. So I thought i'd return with a random things update, some thoughts, some happenings.

Like how anime knows how to make opening and closing songs that stick in your head for days ...

That in playing City Skylines, I just have no hope for people claiming they are sick when they live RIGHT NEXT to a hospital/medical clinic, I just ...

How I've become one of those people that walk around their garden every day to try and spot a new flower poking through

That I play Maximo Park on repeat just to hear people sing in familiar northern accents, well not just to hear that, because they are one of my favorite bands. Then I realised I've been listening to them for 11 years and that sometimes makes me feel old.

Speaking of music, that white marble effect vinyl looks like dirty finger prints, but that it's pretty darm awesome (i'm speaking about the Massive Attack Remix vinyl in case your wondering)

About how I filled up another four bags of garden waste and how sprouting sunflowers are taking over my garden window in the kitchen

That ordering Yorkshire tea has to be a major highlight of last week, that and some No7 and Rimmel stuff, yey for British brands

Of how Dave's Sweet Tooth Toffee (a Michigan made brand) is just mighty mighty fine

Making the most of the free Easter weekend on the Ancestry and, other than the family mystery, finding out you come from a long line of Yorkshire farmers and domestic servants.

Seeing images of the Yorkshire Wolds (my former part of the homeland) on a history show and just seeing fields after fields, that feels a LONG way from the burbs of Detroit 

That Michigan weather being all over the place - thunderstorms, rain showers, snow showers, sunny days doesn't help my mind in settling

So that's been my week.