Category Archives: garden (gardening info and eco-friendly project ideas)

Bringing The Garden Indoors: Pyracanthas Have Amazing Fall Beauty

Pyracanthas (also known as Firethorns) have beautiful orange fruit that are perfect for fall décor. I love to bring in large bouquets of these berry laden branches. I also love the way they add color to my garden in the fall. The berries persist into the winter as well and provide food for birds. Cardinals especially love them. Harvesting from your garden for home décor is a way to make your house gorgeous without spending any money! Plus the seasons provide variety and change is good.

I recommend planting a pyracantha bush. This one in my yard is a Mohave Pyracantha (Pyracantha x ‘Mohave’).

Land Snails: How To Care For Your Newly Found Pet

Teach kids how to care for the simple needs of a land snail. Locally found snails don’t cost anything to keep and don’t require a big commitment. They can be kept until the novelty wears off and then released back into the wild. Keeping a pet snail (however temporary) will give kids an opportunity to learn about it. Watch closely when they eat. You can’t see its mouth but you can see how the food is munched bit by bit. They use a radula to file bits of food into its mouth. A radula is like a tongue with teeth. Cool, I know. The land snail pictured here is interesting to watch. It has eyes at the tip of its antennas (the top pair) and the bottom pair is used for feeling and smelling. Best of all you can watch your snail slime its way around using only one muscular foot.

I live on the East coast of the United States so this is a common land snail around here.

If your snail starts to dry out, it will close itself inside its shell and wait for conditions to improve before venturing out again. This state of inactivity is called estivation. They can seal the opening with a sheet of a clear substance that looks like dried egg whites.

If you plan to keep your snail for more than a week or so, you will need to add a source of calcium to the snail’s enclosure. For this you can add a piece of plain chalk or a piece of cuttlebone.

This is Snailie the land snail. You might just find your next pet in your flower garden.

Set-up:

A glass container works well. I found this vintage jar in the woods at an old unofficial trash dump. All that remained of the dump was glass and large metal items. I thought this jar was cool so I took it home. Do they still make jars like this?

A piece of cheese cloth or breathable fabric. You don’t want your pet snail getting lost in your house.

An elastic band. Save and reuse elastic bands that come off vegetables like broccoli and asparagus.

Daily care:

Wash jar. Don’t forget to take the snail out of the jar first!

Replace damp paper towel.

Add food: a leaf of lettuce (not iceberg), a piece of your apple core, spinach, carrot, or a raw potato slice. You are sure to find some yummy vegetable scraps left-over from dinner preparation. The food scraps shouldn’t be rotten however. Take out any food that gets moldy.

Keep your snail out of direct sunlight. You don’t want it to get too hot or dry.

As a child I had a vivarium set up with plants and a pet snail or two. If you choose to set up a vivarium (terrarium), make sure you choose plants that like a moist environment. Also add potting soil, plants, a log and some dried leaves to mimic it’s natural environment. Keep the soil damp.

Note: avoid chlorinated water, avoid washing your container with soap (or at least make sure you rinse really well).

Making Fun Gourd Bird Houses

Attract birds to your yard with home-made environmentally friendly gourd bird houses. You can make several in an afternoon and have fun doing it. You can keep it simple or you can tap into your playful side.

How to:

Getting the gourd

Ask around at local farms and farmer’s markets. There is a good chance that you will find some already dried. If so, you can start making your birdhouse right away.

If you plan ahead, you can grow your own gourds. How cool would that be?!

Drying the gourd

The easiest way to dry your gourds is to spread them out in a box and place them in the garage for the winter. They are going to mold on the outside a bit no matter what you do: no worries. Check on your gourds: if a gourd is rotting (i.e. the shell is getting soft), you should discard it so it won’t spoil the others.

Cleaning your gourd

Some people soak their gourds in a bleach solution to remove the mold. I don’t like to use bleach more than necessary and I find it isn’t necessary here. Either way you will need to scrub and wash and even scrap your gourd clean. It takes a bit of elbow grease. Don’t you like the patterns left on its skin? 

Drilling the holes

Use a drill bit for the size you want your birdhouse hole to be. You can find suggested birdhouse hole size for specific birds online. I used a two inch (diameter) hole for the birdhouse seen here.

I also drilled small drainage holes in the bottom of the gourd just in case rain should get inside.

Finished birdhouse has linseed oil applied.

Finishing the birdhouse(s)

Find salvaged paint (your own or someone else’s leftover paint). I found a small container of exterior paint at the Restore and used that to paint one of my birdhouses. I also used the two hole pieces, from the door openings which I painted white, for the eyes of this amusing birdhouse. I used Gorilla glue to attach them.

For my other gourd, I applied linseed oil. Linseed oil is a natural oil used as a wood preservative and is made from flax seeds. Use a rag to rub on a thin layer of oil. If using multiple coats, allow to dry between applications. The linseed oil will give the gourd a polished look and will help repel the rain. Linseed oil doesn’t preserve your birdhouse for as long as other products but you can compost the old and make a new.

Hanging the gourd birdhouse

Use a piece of scrap rope/ string or even an old shoe lace to hang your finished birdhouse. If you want to be fancier, you can bend an old coat hanger into a hook. First drill two holes to slide the wire through.

This purchased birdhouse has an orange stain on it. Stain is nice because it gives the birdhouse a color but the natural look of the birdhouse shows through. The diameter hole for this birdhouse is 2 inches. I placed this orange gourd birdhouse outside my front door where it is sheltered by our house roof. It is hanging on the wall of our house. Despite the fact that wren birdhouse hole sizes are recommended to be much smaller, a pair of wrens moved into our gourd birdhouse and successfully raised six chicks last summer (2009).

 I hope they will be back, I do love wrens. On a side note, I’ve seen wrens go in/ out of our gourd birdhouse in the winter. I assumed that it or they were seeking shelter from the cold. This is one of the baby birds that left the nest that day. So cute!

This is a snapshot of the mother or father wren that worked tirelessly feeding all those babies!

Like Two Peas In A Pot Valentine Craft: A Plant Your Own Peas Kit

Two Peas Valentine Gift Craft

Make one for mom/ Dad/ Grandparents … My daughter gave out one for each of her classmates one year.

Two Peas In A Pot Valentive Gift

[This is a craft project that I developed a few years ago and I’m just now getting around to sharing –Best, Hester Jane]

Here is a child’s Valentine gift that does not include candy.

How To:

Collect empty milk or juice cartons; the kind kids get at school with their lunches. Then wash them out.

Cut out pictures of pea plants from old seed catalogs and paste them onto the outside of the milk carton/pot.

Add dry potting soil and drop in two pea seeds. Alternatively you can place the pea seeds in a mini envelope/ Valentine card.

Staple the top closed.

Save straws (optional) if doing this project for home. Don’t waste a new straw; reuse a straw that would otherwise be on its way to a landfill. The straw becomes a support as the pea plant grows taller.

Print Valentines or design your own.

Valentines for juice cartons

Valentines for milk cartons or seed envelopes

Flower Centerpiece: Milk bottle Vases in Weathered Canning Jar Lifter

Milk bottle Vases in a canning jar lifter

I found this weathered canning jar lifter and was happily surprised to find that the milk bottles that I saved fit perfectly. Of course I thought of a vase centerpiece. The first time I tried this, I used daisies from my wildflower garden and I liked the look even better.  Regardless of the flowers: charming.