2015 Warmest Winter… EVER!!

NOAA says that December through February – for meteorological record-keeping purposes, winter is defined as those three months in the Northern Hemisphere – was 1.42 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average for all land and ocean areas. This tops the previous warmest winter of 2007 by 0.05 degrees Fahrenheit. Global temperature records are available for the period 1880-2015.

Individually, here is how each month ranked for the earth:

- December 2014: Warmest on record.
- January 2015: Second warmest on record.
- February 2015: Second warmest on record.

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It’s just typical of the Midwest to be the bright blue, FRIGID section of the planet!

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Satellite view of a neighborhood after a few more years of global change….

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Chocolate Pork

imageMy husband came up with this concoction after we had bought a large amount of pork shoulder. It’s based on a Mexican pork recipe. I like it over rice with cheddar cheese and sour cream. I call it ‘Chocolate Pork’ only because he asked me if I could tell what the secret ingredient was. I couldn’t spot the chocolate and the name stuck.

  • 3 lbs. of pork shoulder – cut into 2 inch chunks
  • 2 tbsn. oil
  • 2 large onions
  • 4 garlic cloves – chopped
  • 2 tbsn. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. organo
  • 2 tbsn. bakers chocolate powder

 

Mix up all of the dry ingredients and use as a rub on all of the pork chunks. This can now marinate for as long as you’d like. We feel the spices still get into the mix, even without marinating.

Heat up the pressure cooker.

Dice the onions and caramelize them in the pan. Add the garlic and brown a bit. Remove from the pan. Brown the pork chunks. Put everything back in and cook for 15 minutes per pound. Cool in pot for 15 minutes.

I really must like this wine, (I’m having it again!) Schlink Haus Reisling and Spätlese, both are sweet wines from Germany. They are quite reasonable at $10 per bottle.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

35 Water Saving Methods in the Garden

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  1. More plants die from over-watering than from under-watering. Be sure only to water plants when the ground is dry.

  2. Use sprinklers that toss big drops of water close to the ground. Smaller drops of water and mist can drift onto non-target areas or evaporate before they hit the ground.

  3. Water lawns during the early morning when temperatures and wind speed are the lowest. This reduces evaporation and waste. Watering in the evening can leave leaves wet all night, promoting disease problems. Better yet. DON’T WATER THE LAWN AT ALL!!! It doesn’t die, it goes dormant.

  4. Hand-water with a hose where possible. Homeowners who water with a handheld hose can use one-third less water outdoors than those who use automatic sprinklers.

  5. Use mulch to retain moisture in the soil. Mulch also helps reduce soil compaction from raindrops and helps control weeds that compete with landscape plants for water.

  6. Purchase a rain barrel and install below your gutter downspout and you’ll capture a little more than half a gallon of water for every square foot of roof during a one-inch rainfall—that means a 90-square-foot roof would completely fill a 55-gallon barrel! You can use that bounty to water your ornamental garden. Don’t use on your veggies, too many contaminants!!

  7. Plant smart. Xeriscape landscaping is a great way to design, install and maintain both your plants and irrigation system. Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs and trees. Once established, they do not need water as frequently and usually will survive a dry period without watering. It will save time, money and water.

  8. Position sprinklers so they’re not watering driveways and walkways.

  9. Adjust your lawnmower to cut grass to a height of 3 inches or more. Taller grass encourages deeper roots and shades the soil to reduce moisture loss.

  10. Start a compost pile or scrape food into the trash instead of running your garbage disposal*, which requires a lot of water to work properly. Use the compost to improve the quality and water holding capacity of your soil. *Save yourself from having the plumber out also!!

  11. Use a timer on hose-end sprinklers to avoid over-watering. 15-20 minutes is generally enough time.

  12. When the kids want to cool off, use the sprinkler in an area where your lawn needs it the most.

  13. Only water your lawn when needed. You can tell this by simply walking across your lawn. If you leave footprints, it’s time to water.

  14. While fertilizers promote plant growth, they also increase water consumption. Apply the minimum amount of fertilizer needed.

  15. Aerate your lawn. Punch holes in your lawn about six inches apart so water will reach the roots rather than run off the surface.

  16. Never put water down the drain when there may be another use for it such as cleaning or watering a plant or garden. For example, collect the water you use for rinsing fruits and vegetables, then reuse it to water houseplants; or when cleaning out fish tanks, give the nutrient-rich water to your plants.

  17. Install sprinklers that are the most water-efficient for each use. Micro, drip irrigation and soaker hoses are examples of water-efficient methods of irrigation.

  18. Outfit your hose with a shut-off nozzle that can be adjusted so water flows only as needed. When finished, turn the water off at the faucet instead of at the nozzle to avoid leaks.

  19. Use hose washers on water hoses and attachments to eliminate leaks.

  20. Do not leave sprinklers or hoses unattended. Your garden hose can pour out 600 gallons of water or more in only a few hours, so don’t leave the sprinkler running all day. Use a kitchen timer to remind yourself to turn it off.

  21. Verify that your home is leak free. Homes can have hidden water leaks that may be noticeable indoors, but outside can go undetected. Read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak.

  22. Avoid purchasing recreational water toys that require a constant stream of water.

  23. Go with splashes of color instead of mass plantings of annuals. Yes, they’re beautiful, but annuals (such as petunias and impatiens) typically require more water than most perennials.

  24. Rethink your lawn layout. If you live in a dry climate, you’ll need a lot of sprinkler activity to maintain a huge grassy swath. Consider replacing it with decorative gravel, which also reduces runoff.

  25. Collect shower/bath “warm-up” water in a bucket for use in watering plants

  26. Use water from dehumidifiers to water indoor and outdoor plants. You can also collect condensation water from air conditioning units to use for watering plants.

  27. Choose shrubs and groundcovers instead of turf for hard-to-water areas such as steep slopes and isolated strips.

  28. Plant in the fall when conditions are cooler and rainfall is more plentiful.

  29. If water runs off your lawn easily, split your watering time into shorter periods to allow for better absorption. A heavy layer of thatch can be hydrophobic, so de-thatching might help.

  30. Remember to check your sprinkler system valves periodically for leaks and keep the sprinkler heads in good shape. Check your timing devices regularly too to be sure they operate properly.

  31. Water your plants deeply but less frequently to encourage deep root growth and drought tolerance. I recommend 1′ of water per week.

  32. Learn how to shut off your automatic watering system in case it malfunctions or you get an unexpected rain.

  33. Remember to weed your lawn and garden regularly. Weeds compete with other plants for nutrients, light, and water.

  34. Wash your car and pets on the lawn, and you’ll water your lawn at the same time.

  35. Use porous materials for walkways and patios to keep water in your yard and prevent wasteful runoff.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plants

Monday Memories

I’m starting to see my small area of the world wake-up and stretch. I witnessed my first snowdrop bloom, have had to yell at my dogs NOT to chase the rabbits in the yard and my workload has increased. One out of three ain’t bad.

I’ve seen many things start to progress and want to record it, technically for posterity. I do like that I have a phenology list of plants around me and want to continue to propagate it (giggle)! I have thought about writing new posts and/or reposting old ones. Not a fan of reposts per se and writing a new one about the same topic is well, stupid IMO. However, I see others doing these type of recap posts and though it was a great idea. Monday Memories is born.

This also gets me off the hook for fresh material on the busiest day of the week  ;-)

The Willows are starting to turn yellow here. wpid-20140304_070015_richtonehdr.jpg

This is right on schedule with last year. This photo is from last year and had I taken a new one last Friday, it would have been void of snow. However Mr. Jack Frost is not done wit us yet! We’ve got 3-5 inches predicted for this evening! (Technically, I’m writing this Sunday night ~ We’ll see in the comments if I’m right!)

 

Summer blend gas is on order.

Our gas prices are starting to rise, even though the cost of a barrel of oil is going down. Yeah, living by a large city is awesome!! Not. So even though there is plenty of gas made and ready to go, the refineries have to make summer blend for the area that drives the price up almost double. $2.97 per gallon now will be $4.50 in June.

The upside is usually the price of diesel stays the same price throughout the year at about $2.70 per gallon. This is good when we are camping and driving a bit to get where were plopping for the weekend.

 

s daliDaylight Savings Time

This was a few weeks ago, however I think it’s important to understand where these notions come from and just why do we do it?!?

Many think this was all done to try to save resources, energy and money… However, environmental economist Hendrik Wolff, of the University of Washington, found that the Daylight saving did indeed drop lighting and electricity use in the evenings… HOWEVER, higher energy demands during darker mornings completely canceled out the evening gains.

 

Coming up soon!

 

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Common Snowdrops ~ Galanthus nivalis ~ Blooming 3-21-2015

imageWow! A Saturday post! ;-)image I usually like to collect
my photos on the weekends and post on the weekdays, HOWEVER, this was too awesome to wait!

I noticed this little donation from Mother Nature on the side of my house today! I didn’t see any in 2014, however, it was April 9th when I had discovered them in 2013. Way later than this year. I hope this is a good sign that things will progress a bit faster this year! Screw you, Mr. Groundhog!

I thought I might try to get a different perspective of what mulch gets to see when it looks up at the world. Giggle, Giggle!

That’s Madam Spruce with her fabulous, flowing skirts and Professor Elm surveying the vast landscape of his view.

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 © Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Perennial Bloom Times By Color

When I’m doing any garden designing, I first listen to my clients needs: colors they like/dislike, types of flowers they like, privacy requirements, the list goes on. I then whip out my ‘helper’ sheets to make the process go quicker. These are my perennial helper sheets. They are divided by color, height and bloom time. This is not a complete list of perennials for the area, however, it is a great start! If you need to see what any of these look like, please search my site! I’m fairly sure I’ve got most of these pictured.

I hope it helps you as much as it helps me!! Happy planting =-)
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Cordyline fruticosa – Ti Plant or Good Luck Plant

The name Cordyline comes from the Greek word kordyle, meaning “club,” a reference to the enlarged underground stems or rhizomes. Hawaiians believe planting one in front of your home keeps the evil spirits away. The boiled roots taste like molasses and were used to make a beer that was reported to cure scurvy. Young leaves are used as a potherb. Older leaves are used to wrap food, make clothes, rain capes and for thatch. Use Ti leaves to wrap foods to be grilled, steamed or baked. Dried leaves should be soaked to soften before using.
imageIn tropical climates ti makes an interesting specimen shrub, valued mainly for its magnificent foliage, this plant comes in many colorful varieties. Elsewhere, grow in a container, it rarely grows enough to show it’s woody nature. The white club-shaped rhizomes are high in starch and were a valuable food item for Polynesians and Maoris. Other than bringing good luck to its owner, perhaps the most important use is that the leaves are made into Hawaiian hula skirts!

Light: This plant does well in partial shade to nearly full sun. It needs more water if grown in full sun. Indoors, Ti likes a bright position, but out of direct sunlight. Although it will survive in quite low light, the foliage will never develop its full potential colors.
Moisture: In summer, do not allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Ti needs very humid air to keep the leaf tips from drying out and turning brown. Mist frequently, especially in an air-conditioned room. Another trick is to position the pot on a bed of gravel and water. Fluoride in the water will cause the leaf tips to brown, so don’t use cityimage water!
Propagation: Ti is easy to propagate from stem cuttings, called “logs.” Cut 3-5 in (7-12 cm) sections of mature stem, remove the leaves, and place on a bed of sand, preferably with bottom heat. The “eyes” on the stem cuttings will grow into shoots with leaves. When a shoot gets 4-6 leaves, cut it and its eye from the log, and root in potting medium as you would any cutting.
Prunning: Be careful when pruning as the next leaf grows from the old leaf. Do not cut too far down on the stem, as you will nip the top of the new leaf.

© – Ilex ~ Midwestern Plants

 

 

St. Patrick’s Day Limerick

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I once met a flower that was green,

She blended right in and was not seen.

But, now it’s St. Patty’s,

And green is the fancy.

The wallflower now shines like a Queen.

Limerick – A short sometimes vulgar, humorous poem consisting of five anapestic lines. Lines 1, 2, and 5 have seven to ten syllables, rhyme and have the same verbal rhythm. The 3rd and 4th lines have five to seven syllables, rhyme and have the same rhythm.

Some Saint Patrick Facts for ya’all!

St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish!  Born in England circa 385, St. Patrick didn’t arrive in Ireland until Irish pirates kidnapped him at age 16. After escaping and becoming a priest, he returned to Ireland to convert the Irish to Christianity and became an Irish patron saint.

The original color for St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t green.  The odd thing is that green wasn’t even the original color used to represent St. Patrick; it was blue. After the Order of St. Patrick was established in 1783, the organization’s color had to stand out from those that preceded it. Since dark green was already taken, the Order of St. Patrick went with blue.

There were no snakes for St. Patrick to banish in Ireland. St. Patrick was known through folklore for having chased away snakes in Ireland, thus protecting townspeople from the mysterious creatures and sending them to the sea. However, Ireland didn’t have snakes at the time. Surrounded by icy water, Ireland was the last place that these cold-blooded reptiles would want to go. It’s much more reasonable to think that the “snakes” that St. Patrick banished were representative of the Druids and Pagans in Ireland since they were considered evil.

St. Patrick was never canonized by a pope. St. Patrick never got canonized by a pope, making his saintly status somewhat questionable. But in all fairness, St. Patrick wasn’t the only saint that didn’t go through a proper canonization. In the Church’s first millennium, there wasn’t a formal canonization process at all, so most saints from that period were given the title if they were either martyrs or seen as extraordinarily holy.

St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the holy trinity to the Pagan believers who already believed in a multi-god religion.  He also utilized the sun, a strong presence in the Pagan religion and incorporated it into the cross, now known as a Celtic cross. Many Christian’s bastardized Pagan holidays to help convert Pagans to Christianity.

It wasn’t arbitrary that the day honoring Saint Patrick was placed on the 17th of March. The festival was designed to coincide, and (it was hoped), to replace the Pagan holiday known as Ostara; the second spring festival which occurs each year, which celebrates the rebirth of nature, the balance of the universe when the day and night are equal in length, and which takes place at the Spring Equinox. In other words, Saint Patrick’s Day is yet another Christian replacement for a much older, ancient Pagan holiday. Although generally speaking, Ostara was most prominently replaced by the Christian celebration of Easter (the eggs and the bunny come from Ostara traditions, and the name “Easter” comes from the Pagan goddess Eostre).

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Volo Bog in March

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The parking islands are always filled with a nice assortment of natives.

We had an unseasonably warm day yesterday, 64F!! I demanded some outdoor time and went to Volo Bog. This is such a unique thing to have in this area. Since I’ve already written about the unique details of the bog, if you’re curious, click here!

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Red dogwood (cornus racemosa) is easily spotted in the bog.

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A dormant cedar rust gall on a red cedar. These are part of a disease cycle that includes crabapples and hawthorns.

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They did a bunch of burning here that rejuvenates our landscape. Invasive species usually don’t survive the burning process.

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Out with the old, in with the new! These are bluebird nest boxes.

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Mommy and baby racoon tracks.

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Huge paper wasp nest.

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Vole/mouse damage. These little guys travel under the snow (or on top of it!) and chew on the crowns of shrubs. This girdling is a death sentence to the woody plant.

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The Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) are starting to arrive back from the south. I’ll write a bird post when I get better photos.

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These are rather large birds and they were flocking in the sky. Don’t look up with your mouth open!!

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Northern pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) These guys trap insects in the pitcher with a lid type structure.

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Moss, not sure of variety

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Mr. Crane again.

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I think this is for barn swallows. Pretty Kewl!!!

 

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl