Garden Treasures. Winter Gratitude.

Freshly picked gifts from Mother Earth in all the brilliant colors of the season.

Red leaf lettuce, peppery arugula, baby romaine, and baby kale fill a pristine white bowl.

Accompanied by steamed brown rice and a glass of crisp chardonnay, it’s a purely simple and fulfilling dinner.

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Random Pics and Pearls

 

…of wisdom, that is.

Although he passed away in 1938, Clarence Darrow, U.S. lawyer, leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union and prominent advocate for Georgist economics, said this–as true now as it was when he first uttered the words:

–When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President. Now I’m beginning to believe it.
–You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man’s freedom. You can only be free if I am free.

That was my wisdom sharing for today—now for the pics:

FAUNA

This is an annoyingly elusive Scott’s Oriole eating some mulberries.
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And a friendly bunny, of course.
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Yellow finch eating the last of the loquats.
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FLORA

Clivia in bloom
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Petunias!
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Lastly, words I wish I had written…
wolf rabbit seashell

Drama in the ‘hood

For the last week or so, there’s been something otherwordly going on in the gardens at Casa de Enchanted Seashells.

At approximately 6:30 on another beautiful and shiny blue sky morning, I was on the verge of that first gratifying sip of freshly ground and brewed French roast coffee (no Starbucks for me, I like to be in total control of my java) and as I looked out the kitchen window, THIS was perched on my patio umbrella:

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I could barely hold my camera steady as you can see by the blurriness. I mean, that was just a few feet away from me!

As she flew away from the deck to the ash tree, she was joined by another one!

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Now there were two hawks!

And they were VERY interested in this juvenile crow who was all alone, very unconcerned, blithely eating his fill of mulberries one by one from the tree and the grass:

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Hello, Mr. Crow!

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Just hanging out…along with one of the bunnies that lives under the deck…

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The bunny ran away,

For a couple of hours, there was a lot of drama, some of it happened so fast, I couldn’t catch it with a camera. The hawks hung around, flying from one spot to the next, here on the roof of the shed…IMG_6067

…walking around on the GROUND in front of the shed!!!

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And picking up a mulberry leaf that had fallen on the lawn. He flew away with it in his beak! Again, sorry for the bad photos, but it was impossible to capture it all perfectly.

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There seemed to be a sort of relationship emerging between the crow and the hawks.. Although typically they’re not known to be friendly with each other, but when it does occur, there are mystical and magical meanings attached to the encounters.

First, the hawks would swoop and dive at the crow who seemed fearless; totally ignoring the faux attack, but then did the same exact thing to the two hawks perched on that same branch. It looked like they were playing and having fun; there was no aggression.

And then they shared a branch together. All in harmony!

I did a little research on the phenomenon of crows and hawks playing, and found this: http://www.thenerge.com/bird-nerge/crows-and-hawks-playing/

Crazy, huh?

This similar scenario replayed for the next few mornings; the crow is still here, but I haven’t seen the hawks.

However, one thing’s for sure, it doesn’t take much to make me happy, but I think I really really need to hone my photography skills. Hee hee.

7 Ways to Use Lovely Lemony Lemon Balm

The epic rains that soaked SoCal this year gave birth to a springtime of lush floral beauty and emerald lawns, something I don’t think I’ve experienced in the thirty-two years I’ve lived at Casa de Enchanted Seashells.

Before that, I lived in the area and there were definitely some heavy rains, but I didn’t notice nor did I appreciate the luxuriant plant life like I do now.

Flowers that previously lay dormant for seasons now burst forth in riotous color and perfume, like the lovely freesias, stock, Jupiter’s Beard, and borage.

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Most exciting for me is the herb garden.

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Just look at the abundance of this patch of lemon balm. Planted directly under a bedroom window, the lemony fragrance wafts up and in with even the slightest breeze.

Ahhhh.

Heavenly!

Lemon balm was traditionally used to uplift the spirits and to enhance memory. Some of its healing properties were spiritual in nature. This herb was used in spells to heal broken hearts and also to attract romantic love. It was believed that a lemon balm bag put under the pillow could help promote sleep and put in the bath would promote relaxation. (https://www.mountainroseherbs.com)

Easy to grow Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), a member of the mint family, is considered a calming herb. It was used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort from indigestion (including gas and bloating, as well as colic).  help heal wounds, and treat venomous insect bites and stings. Today, lemon balm is often combined with other calming, soothing herbs, such as valerian, chamomile, and hops, to promote relaxation. It is also used in creams to treat cold sores.
http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/lemon-balm

Lemon Balm is useful for nursing mothers that want to reduce overproduction of breast milk or when in the process of weaning and drying up milk supply. DIL added it to her sage tea when she weaned Angel Boy 2.0 and it worked!

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Add it to any dish that might benefit from a little lemony flavor, including cookies. I’m going to experiment on a vegan Lemon Balm & Lavender cookie, and will let you know how it turns out.

Seven Ways to Use Lemon Balm

1. Chop a couple tablespoons of lemon balm and add to your favorite salsa.
2. Chop together with cilantro in guacamole.
3. Lemon balm salad dressing is yummy and so easy! Combine your favorite oil with white balsamic or champagne vinegar, 2 TBS chopped lemon balm, pepper, Pink Himalayan sea salt, and whisk!
4. Pour hot water over lemon balm leaves. Let steep and enjoy!
5. I add a few sprigs to a pitcher of water with ice cubes and sliced lemon.
6. Lemon Balm Pesto:
2  cloves garlic
1/4 cup almonds or pine nuts (or both)
2  cups fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh lemon balm
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (don’t add if vegan)
2  TBS fresh lemon juice
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
In food processor, add all ingredients except oil and pulse. Pour oil in steady but thin stream while pulsing until very smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste, along with dried red peppers if you like it spicy.

If you Google it, there are loads of DIY recipes on the internet and Pinterest using lemon balm, but I chose this one to share with you ‘cos it’s cool and seems fairly easy:

7. Lemon Balm Extract
Combine your favorite carrier oil (sweet almond oil or sunflower or grapeseed with chopped lemon balm leaves in a small jar. Make sure the leaves are submerged in the oil.Cover and place in a sunny spot for two weeks, turning/shaking every so often while still making sure the leaves are submerged. Strain out the leaves and the oil is now ready to use.

**While it’s generally considered safe for most people, lemon balm might inhibit thyroid function. If you’re on thyroid medication, check with your doctor or pharmacist before using internally. As always, if you’re pregnant, nursing, or have any other questions, talk with your doctor.“Melissa Officinalis produced a significant inhibition of TSH binding to its receptor and of antibody binding to TSH”http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14759065

 

The Senescence of a Rose

And yes, you can infer by this that I’m also facetiously and metaphorically referring to myself.

My camera’s eye followed this beautiful rose’s life on a newly transplanted bush from conception to senectitude (my new fave word.)

As the petals were soon to loosen, wrinkle, fade, and drop, the next gen formed.

The story of Princess Rosebud.

SIGH.

(Slideshow gallery of photos.)

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The Falling Leaves

In SoCal, we don’t really many trees that change color and lose their leaves, so that’s about one of the only things I miss about the east coast.

But we have year-round beach weather, so it’s not a huge disappointment!

Plus, I can look at this and not have to rake up the leaves, right?

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The Falling Leaves

Today, as I rode by,
I saw the brown leaves dropping from their tree
In a still afternoon,
When no wind whirled them whistling to the sky,
But thickly, silently,
They fell, like snowflakes wiping out the noon;
And wandered slowly thence
For thinking of a gallant multitude
Which now all withering lay,
Slain by no wind of age or pestilence,
But in their beauty strewed
Like snowflakes falling on the Flemish clay.
Margaret Postgate-Cole (1893–1980)

Strawberries, Sage, and Stevia

Sorry to most of the rest of the country but here in SoCal, our growing season is pretty much never over.

Here’s the raised bed tugboat man built for me the day before he left. I planted tomatoes, kale, red leaf lettuce, beets, beans, and broccoli — I packed a LOT in a 4×8 space. He was supposed to build a second bed, but this is another one of those “such is the life of a tugboat wife” moments where I need to wait until he’s home again.raisedbed

There wasn’t any room for the eggplants or these spicy jlapenos.

jalapenospotI dug a fresh, new herb garden directly under our bedroom window. I’m hoping the lovely aromas will waft up and in.Herb garden

There’s a couple different kinds of sage; basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, lemon verbena, cilantro, and STEVIA.

SteviaDid you know you could grow stevia?

Neither did I, but when I saw a pot of organic stevia at Armstrong’s Nursery, I had to try it. The leaves are super sweet. I’ve seen stevia extract on the grocery shelf as a sugar substitute but I’ve never tried it.

From Mother Earth News, a few facts about stevia:

If growing your own calorie-free, natural sweetener sounds too good to be true, it’s time to get to know stevia.

Native to Paraguay and other tropical areas of the Americas, the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana) produces leaves packed with super-sweet compounds that remain stable even after the leaves have been dried.

Stevia leaves have been used to sweeten teas and beverages throughout South America for centuries.

More recently, diabetics and dieters alike have turned to stevia to reduce their sugar intake because, unlike honey, maple syrup, agave or molasses, this natural sweetener has zero calories and is not metabolized by the body.

Stevia is especially well-suited to sweetening drinks, fruits, salad dressings, yogurt and most creamy desserts. Stevia can substitute for some, but not all, of the sugar used when baking, because it does not provide all of the multiple functions that sugar does.

Many commercial drink mixes and packaged sugar substitutes are sweetened with a derivative of stevia.

This sweetening compound is called Rebaudioside A and is listed on labels as either Reb A or Rebiana.

These are highly processed products developed by large food corporations. Most of the raw stevia used to produce these products is grown in China. These “natural sweeteners” have been stripped of many of the plant’s healthful properties.

On the other hand, growing your own stevia to produce teas, extracts, and tinctures made from high-quality, whole-leaf stevia contains up to seven sweet compounds (glycosides) and an array of antioxidants. Growing stevia is easy in well-drained beds or large containers, and the leaves can be dried for winter use like any other herb. Stevia grows best in warm conditions similar to those preferred by basil.

Here’s a link to making your own stevia powder and liquid:
https://wholelifestylenutrition.com/videos/how-to-make-your-own-pure-stevia-liquid-stevia-part-2/

Last weekend I hosted a community garage sale for a local nonprofit (post to come) and someone brought a box of strawberry slips. I took a few, quickly dug a bed, and put them in the ground. Since we hardly ever throw stuff away, I found a length of white wire fencing tucked away behind the greenhouse. There’s nothing better than organic strawberries! Yum, can’t wait!strawberrybed

The weather is so crazy here, my apple and plum trees are blossoming again.

During the last few days SoCal broke tons of heat records along with a few drops of rain —and then nothing.

But it was a beautiful sunrise over the lagoon, right?sunrise looking toward lagoon

Enchanting DIY Seashell Planter

Having two blogs is like having two toddlers running around the house; trying to spend quality time with one of them and feeling like I’m neglecting the other one produces a lot of stress!

It’s exhausting!

Hmmm, maybe that’s why I only had one human child—because I didn’t have to worry about dividing my time or attention, he didn’t have to share me.

I was getting my nasty gray roots touched up at the salon and saw the cutest little planter at everyone’s station — I couldn’t wait to get home and recreate it.

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It’s so easy and didn’t cost a penny, which is the best kind of DIY, am I right?

What you need:

  • Seashell
  • Potting soil
  • Succulent (taken from a larger plant in the garden)

Seriously, it took about five minutes start to finish.

Fill the shell with damp soil, insert the plant, water again gently, and that’s IT.  I know you’re supposed to let a succulent sit around for a few days to callous before you plant it, but I didn’t because I’m too impatient.

It’s so easy and SO adorable. I used a very small seashell, only about three inches long.

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Not only is it great for someone (like me) with a lot of allergies, but how about as…

  • Housewarming gift
  • Hostess gift (along with a bottle of wine, of course)
  • Place settings
  • Wedding favors
  • Easy-to-do craft with children of all ages

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(Photos were taken with three different types of lighting.)

The First Day of Autumn Brings an Injured But Still Beautiful Monarch Butterfly to Our Garden

Perhaps it’s because this is the first day of autumn that coincides with my Angel Boy’s half birthday (we always celebrate) or because he really has left the nest for real this time with his first tenure track professorship (at least on the west coast so we’re closer) but I’m feeling a sense of change along with the the season.

Even in SoCal the weather will eventually morph into a winter of sorts and maybe that’s why this butterfly was in a weakened condition, because there’s no way to tell how the injury occurred,  but she was flying around me and then came to rest on the lawn right next to my new raised bed where I was playing around with the sand dolllars from yesterday’s post.2015-09-20 22.03.25

How do you help an injured butterfly? Can I pick her up and take her to the vet? Can you superglue the torn wing? (I don’t think so) but her ability to still lift off and float on the breeze made me think of her metaphorically.

In fact, it’s a day full of metaphors with my son flying off and away (literally on an airplane as I’m typing this) to become a fully fledged adult with a grown up job and a boatload of responsibility.

SIGH.

But then this butterfly visited me and I’m trying to decipher her deeper message, although maybe a butterfly is just a butterfly.

I do know that even though her wing was damaged, she didn’t give up; she was resilient.2015-09-20 22.03.12

Maybe she just needed a safe place to rest and heal.

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And just like that, she flew away, carried off by the balmy breezes of another SoCal heat wave.
2015-09-20 22.02.56And thanks to a smarter blogger than me who writes over at https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/ (you need to follow him!)  his brilliant comment referenced the “butterfly effect. According to Wiki, it’s a popular hypothetical example of chaos theory which illustrates how small initial differences may lead to large unforeseen consequences over time.

And he doesn’t know it, but this is SO TRUE. As I keep saying, all will be revealed…

Stay safe, my friends, and Happy Autumnal Equinox to everyone!

A Whole Bunch of Dirt, Sand Dollars, and a Riddle

This is a riddle of sorts but there are no clues.

Sorry…

In fact, this probably makes no sense at all right now, but all will be revealed, and even then what’s going on in my head that makes perfectly logical sense to me will still have you scratching your collective heads.

Trust me.

Before he left, tugboat man built this beautiful raised bed so I can plant healthy veggies.

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A nice friend stopped by with all of these sand dollars!
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If only you could plant a sand dollar so they’d multiply!Sand dollar2

One particular sand dollar is being chased by a several other types of seashells.

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This means *something*.

I promise.