Tag Archive | hobby

Re-potting Houseplants

imageIt had been about 5 years since I took in these two orphans from work. They had been hanging under a pergola for one season and the clients didn’t want them anymore. Their loss is my gain! I re-potted them into these cool cornucopia looking bamboo baskets and they have lived happily in my south window since. 

I started to notice the soil around the outside edge started to feel a bit ‘crunchy’ for lack of a better term. These hang high, and I can’t see into them without removing them from the hooks, so I had to go on other signs they wanted new soil for their feet. Crunchy soil and the fact it took less time for me to hear the water flowing into the drip pan, meaning there were fissures in the soil that allowed the water to flow through the soil without any uptake of water into the soil. I finally decided it was time for a re-pot.

Many plants do actually prefer to be rootbound. My ficus and other philodendron plants have been in the same pots for decades. Other plants need the freedom to spread their roots…. These had gotten a bit thin on top, so along with the re-pot, I was going to transplant many of the runners to the pot to return it to it’s afro past.

  • First, I pruned off all the runners. I wanted the plant to put all of its energy into making new roots and leaves on the existing plant, not want to ‘Seek out new life and civilizations” ;-).
  • Then, I had to remove part of the old pot, as it had grown roots all through the bottom. The new pots weren’t that much larger than the old, however these do like to be root bound and I didn’t want to have them swimming in a ‘too large’ pot. I also had size restrictions on the hangers.
  • I took off about and inch of roots from the bottom. I wanted to encourage them to grow down into the new soil I placed on the bottom of the new pot. I also took off a bit of soil on the sides where there were no roots, so new, nutrient-filled soil will go.

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  • I placed about 2 inches of potting soil in the bottom of the new pot. The pot was only about an inch larger around, but just enough to plant some newbies in there.
  • These are very easy to propagate. Prune them at a node (where there looks to be roots growing) and pop it in the new soil.
  • Be sure to keep these new babies watered. They aren’t getting the supplemental nutrients from Mom anymore, and will need some extra help.


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And were back to lookin’ tropical 😉

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Red Breasted Nuthatch ~ Sitta canadensis

image I started offering peanuts to my feathered & furry friends about a month ago. Word must have gotten around as now I’ve got a few new visitors! Not only do the Blue Jays and Crows love the new treat, I’ve got a Red-breasted Nuthatch now. I’m so excited to see him!


His identity had me a bit confused. I swore he was some kind of sparrow. I have White-breasted Nuthatches around and they really don’t have the same body shape. I think the Red-breasted is shaped and sized more like a Chickadee.

I was also hoping for a better photo than these  😉 Boy, that little guy is fast!


The Red-breasted Nuthatch’s diet changes throughout the year, as their southernmost areas may actually be quite far north. In summer, they eat mostly insects, while in the winter, they switch to seeds. At feeders, they like sunflower seeds, peanuts and suet. In true Nuthatch fashion, they wedge nuts in tree bark and hatch the fruit out by hammering it with their beaks. They also like to stash food for winter.

Red-breasted Nuthatches nest in tree cavities that they excavate themselves. Both parents will work on the nook, and it can take up to eight weeks to dig it out. The nest is primarily built by the female and she uses, grass, moss, shredded bark, needles, and rootlets.

One of the coolest things the Red-breasted Nuthatch does is to collect resin globules from coniferous trees and attach them around the entrance of their nest hole. The resin may help to keep out predators or contenders. The homeowners avoid the resin by flying directly through the hole.

They have an enlarged hind toe and a short tail, which allows them to move in all directions on a tree trunk, along with the undersides of branches. They don’t need their tails to move on the trunks like woodpeckers do.

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He’s not picky at my feeders! Sunflower seeds, niger seed, peanuts or suet work for him =-)

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Kayaking Green Bay in Lake Michigan

We had a wonderful time in Door County, Wisconsin. We were able to explore Lake Michigan via our kayaks in the tranquil Green Bay. We disembarked from Gills Rock and paddled south.

To quote myself, from my Door County post:

“The geology of this area is pretty unique. In a seriously, small nutshell: About 425 million years ago, there was a shallow sea in the Lake Michigan area. After the sea dried up and deposited all the Limestone, it was covered in a glacier. All the pressure & chemical reactions turned it in to dolomite. Many years of erosion made all the beautiful bluffs we see here today.”

Goodness! I just summed-up 425 million years in 5 sentences =-O I don’t believe I shared the utter beauty of the place with you. Here’s just a bit more info on the area.

NiagaraEscarpmentmap    image

The circular area in red is called the Niagara Escarpment, and stands taller than the surrounding areas. Green Bay and neighboring Door County run along the escarpment which extends in a wide arc from eastern Wisconsin through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Ontario, Canada, and through the Niagara Falls. I’ve not been to Niagara Falls, however now I know what to look forward to when I do visit.

While hiking, you get to enjoy the height of the cliffs looking out over the lake. However, while kayaking, you get to enjoy the cliffs looking up FROM the lake!

The trees have obviously been hanging onto the cliffs for years. It was so cool to look up into a tree’s roots.

The area was originally full of alder (Alnus), willow (Salix) and cedar (Juniperus) which has given way to forests dominated by spruce (Picea) and, then later, pine (Pinus). Mixed forests of eastern hemlock (Tsuga) and hardwoods such as beech (Fagus) and elm (Ulmus) became standard by about 7,500 years ago and have persisted. I saw many birch (Betula) and Eastern red cedar (Juniperus), like the ones in this photo.

There are many animals that rely on the cliffs for shelter and food. The gulls in the photos below soared just above the water looking for fish.

Although we did not see any, there are many bats that are indigenous to the area; little brown myotis, the northern myotis, the big brown bat, and the tri-colored bat. All four of these species are currently listed in Wisconsin as threatened. In addition, the forests above the escarpment provide summer homes for the migrating bat species, including the silver-haired, eastern red, and hoary.


Clean rocks among the dirty. It was only about 4′ (1.5M) deep here.

We were told by a bartender that there were Native American paintings on the cliffs near Gill’s Rock. We paddled south for about a mile, all the while staring at the walls. Finally! I don’t know what they used to paint the walls, however I’m really shocked me that it was still able to be seen. Doubly shocked that no one has desecrated it =-)

I did try to do some research into what tribe may have painted it, to no avail. The Potawatomi Indians are still around, however there were many other tribes in the area. I wasn’t even able to find these same paintings posted on-line. That’s strange. I can’t imagine I’m the first one to post these things. Either way, it was really cool to have seen them and experience them in a kayak, looking quite like them.

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship.* HeeHee!!

Washington Island

Rock slides are common.

There’s not really a beach where we were paddling. So much of the limestone has eroded and fallen into the lake. Although the lake works its magic quickly, the rocks were smooth and not too rough on the tootsi’s.

It is 25′ (8M) deep here. Scuba divers like to view the shipwrecks in this area. The small passage between the islands and Lake Michigan is called ‘Death’s Door’. Ironically, not because of all the shipwrecks (and there are many), but because of ancient Potawatomi legend. To learn more, click here!

Vessel Name: Fleetwing (1867)
National Register: Listed
Registry #:9883
Casualty: 10/26/1888, stranded
Vessel Type: Schooner
Built: 1867, Henry B. Burger, Manitowoc, WI
Owners: Andrew McGraw John Spry
Home Port: Chicago, IL
Cargo: Lumber (that is what you’re seeing in the above pix)


The photo of the tree was taken by me looking straight up the cliff.

I felt the water was a bit too chilly to swim in, although many folks were enjoying it.

The water was absolutely beautiful and clear.

I would highly recommend coming here for a paddle.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

*Gilligan’s Island

Venus Fly Trap – Dionaea muscipula


Carnivorous plants live all over the world but the Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is native to select boggy areas in North and South Carolina.

Early observations of the flytrap revealed that when an insect contacts a hair and within 20 seconds contacts another, the trap closes. The requirement of redundant triggering in this mechanism serves as a safeguard against wasting energy by trapping objects with no nutritional value. The trap also doesn’t close right away to allow for extremely small insects to escape, because of their low nutritional value also. Don’t want to go wasting digestive juices for nothing!

Last week, new discoveries were made when German researchers monitored Venus flytraps electrical impulses. Flytraps were manually stimulated by mimicking prey behavior, while researchers observed the plants’ responses.

The scientists found that the trigger hairs are linked to two key areas in the plant: motor tissue, which physically closes the trap and the endocrine system, which digests the prey. After two touches have sprung the trap, the insect’s struggling against the hairs prompts the release of digestive juices.

It was also observed that certain gland cells in the flytraps permitted the plants to absorb and store large amounts of sodium. Researchers are not certain how the plants use the element, however proposed that it might be stored in the stem, which may help to preserve the correct balance of water in the plant’s cells.

Taking Care of Audrey II*

Venus Flytraps are quite easy to grow, as long as they are given the proper growing conditions.

  • Flytrap should be grown in very bright light, but not in direct sun.
  • A warm, humid environment, with a constant supply of moisture is ideal. Hint: Elevate the pot by placing pebbles under it so that the base of the pot is barely in contact with the water, not submerged.
  • The potting mixture should contain of a mix of 70% peat or sphagnum moss and 30% perlite or coarse pumice.
  • Flytraps are extremely sensitive to chemicals, so you should only use distilled water or rain water. If it is absolutely necessary to use tap water, allow it to rest for 24-48 hours in an open container, to allow the chlorine and any other chemicals to dissipate. That is of course if you have city water.
  • The insects which they consume provide them with all the nutrients they need, so do not fertilize them.
  • Your Flytrap will consume 2 or 3 small insects each month. Dead flies and insects can be used, provided that they died of natural causes and not by poisons.
  • Never, ever, ever feed your Venus Flytrap any hamburger. The fat content in burger will be fatal to your plant.
  • Artificially springing the trap, i.e. poking it with your finger, drains the Flytrap’s energy. If this is done too often, the fly trap head will become less sensitive and possibly die.
  • Always keep dead leaves and heads cut off to prevent fungal infections.

Flytraps require a period of dormancy during the winter of about three months. At this time, much (if not all), of the foliage will die back. The entire planter should be moved to an area where the temperature will remain at 45-55 F or the bulb may be removed, sprayed with fungicide, wrapped in damp, live sphagnum moss, placed in a plastic bag and moved to a cool area.

*This was the name of the plant in “The Little Shop of Horrors”

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl




These are the sun-catchers we made at our glass class a few months back. The colors were twisted like this via putting the blob of colored glass in the oven and allowing it to melt and twist as it drips.

The one on the left was spun, to stretch it out, then pressed on a textured plate, lastly twisted at the bottom.

The one on the right was simply pressed in a circular mold.


© – Ilex Farrell

Brownie House – Move in Ready!

Brownies are flightless fairy folk, similar to a hobgoblin, who love to fix things that are broken and improving them where possible. They do not like to be seen and will only work at night, traditionally in exchange for small gifts of food. Among food, they especially enjoy porridge and honey. Also, when ingredients are left out, they will bake something delicious, although they always attempt to make it into a dessert.

My husband sometimes gets focused on a project and can’t be swayed to do anything else until the project is complete. This one was no different.

A few years ago, we had a tree in the front yard die. As it wasn’t near any power lines or neighbors homes, he felled it himself. When I asked him why he cut it so high up, he told me it was a surprise. Later that week he showed me his vision, our address was carved into the tree facing the street.

The numbers now have been there for about four years. To this day, we still get folks saying they couldn’t see our address… They usually do the ‘head-smack’ when we point out the tree.

Last week, he had another brainstorm. I came home to the sound of a table saw and the smell of cedar. I couldn’t figure out what he was making until he had the roof together. I then had to be a b*tch and noted that there needs to be a chimney on it!


He made me a base and I ‘mortared’ on pea gravel with hot glue.



He then made a door and windows.


My hubby is all about detail. Detail, detail, detail. You just can’t have enough of it! He even found something that would work for a doorknob. Don’t forget the keyhole!


So this is the backside of the address tree. Which is now a Brownie house! I can’t wait for my landscaping Brownie to move in and help me with my gardening tasks.

Glass Class – First Timers Creating Glass Art


My husband has always been great at finding activities for us. This time he found a local glass artist, Peter Patterson, that teaches his passion to others.


There are three ‘ovens’ in the making of glass. The first is just called the furnace, where the glass is melted in a crucible and gathered on the blowpipe or mandrel. The second is the glory-hole, which is used during the creation of the project. This photo is one of the final furnaces called the lehr or annealer. It is used to slowly cool the glass over a period of a few days, all of which depends on the size of the piece. This prevents the glass from cracking or shattering due to thermal stress. On top were some of the colored shards we used to color some of the projects.


Here were the 4 projects we were going to complete this evening. A swirled, molded paperweight, an ornament, a flower and lastly, a choice of ring holder / pen holder / card holder or another paperweight.


Tools of the trade.


Here is the seat of knowledge! I noticed right away that it was set-up for righties… No Biggie. It’s great us lefties generally are ambidextrous.

One of the glory-holes is in the background.


Here my hubby is creating a score line where the paperweight will be broken off the mandrel. He spins the mandrel and applies mild pressure with a tweezers type tool. Later, he will hold it over a catch bin and tap the mandrel to disconnect it.


After glass is gathered onto the mandrel, it must be pulled towards the end of the mandrel by rolling the glass on a steel table. This process is called marvering, which forms a cool skin on the exterior of the molten glass blob. This aids blown projects to not ‘pop’ it also blends colors when doing our non-bowing type projects.


After marvering his glass blob, the blob needed to be reheated to a more liquid state to be able to pour it into our card holder base. It was not easy to keep rotating the rod as the glass melted, not too fast to fling it off the rod and not too slow as to let it drip…


Here Hubby pours the molten glass, while twisting the mandrel to create the spin of the colors in the base. It was poured onto a rough base to create texture on the bottom.


The glass was pinched off and reheated with a torch so the hole for the wire clip could be added after it cooled.


Some things like making a glass loop was a bit too much for our first day. Here Mr. Patterson adds a finishing touch.



Here is the start of our flower. Colors had already been added (this was a yellow/green mix – doesn’t look like it at all when hot) and the texture of the petals crimped. Here, Hubby clips and elongates his petals.


To finish the flower, Mr. Patterson held the neck of the flower and pulled, while us students spun the mandrel which created the stem.

Here are our finished projects! I’m going to need more practice… My husband was a natural! Go figure… He’s a double art major and specialized in sculpture and molding metals.


Here are the rest. We had a bunch of fun at this class and intend on going to more. Mr. Patterson also has a gallery / museum and sells his art at great, affordable prices.


My Handmade ‘Thundershirt’ Dog Coat

When I was younger, my mother used to make all of our clothes. I was styling plaid pants and my classmates were sporting bell-bottom jeans. Thank goodness I had the bully attitude to be able to wear these pants and not get beat-up.

I first started sewing with a child machine that actually dropped a spot of glue on the fabric instead of using dangerous needles. What a mess! Mom soon got me my own needled machine and I started making clothes for my stuffed animals. I wasn’t a girly-girl and had no dolls or Barbies, however my stuffed animal collection was vast… And well dressed!!

By the time I got to high school, my homemade clothes were a hit instead of a miss! I even made my own Homecoming dress. I started to get requests for puffy shirts, skinny pants, and legwarmers… It was the early 80’s, kind-of a scary fashion period 😉

Since then I’ve not really kept up on my fashion pursuit. I had a good job and more money than time. It was much easier to go to the store than to make anything. Granted, if any alterations were needed, a rip in a new garment would warrant a discount or anything needed some extra bling, out came the sewing machine!

I do still have the Singer machine my mother gave me. I think it was her old one, circa 1965. Still hums like the day is was made. It gets pulled out a few months out of the year to make repairs, random Halloween costumes and sometimes (if its lucky) a cool project!

This was the latest project, a Thundershirt for my dog. These are supposed to lessen a dog’s anxiety level under the premise that it ‘applies pressure’ and makes them feel secure. Although they don’t make a reference to this on the site, I think they are mimicking the swaddling of babies.

I used my dog as a mannequin and just cut out a pattern I thought worked well for a dog coat. It is two-sided and uses Velcro closures.

Here’s Oreo sporting his new coat!


I’m not sure if he feels any calmer in this, however he looks uber cute!!