Monday, March 16, 2009

A Feline Gardening Dilemma

Spring, the time when a bird's song beckons gardeners as a siren to a sailor, has finally arrived to my portion of Western Pennsylvania. Birds are singing and plants are awakening from their winter slumber, stretching ever skyward as the sun begins to warm the soil. Throughout the garden, lilac buds swell, tulips and daffodils prepare to bloom, and the crocus have already begun to bloom. Even the strawberry plants, which I grow in part as tribute to the memory of my Gram and mainly because my boys and I love to eat them, are emerging and unfurling their lovely green tendrils.
While growing up, I spent every weekend I could with my paternal grandmother. She was an avid gardener and instilled a love of gardening in me. Perhaps it was just the time we spent outside together, or perhaps it was the promise of taking a break as a reward for hard work, a concept which I grew so fond of that she would later tell me I wanted to take a break every 5 minutes. Regardless of the reason, she taught me the value of putting forth effort to achieve a desired goal and that hard work would be rewarded. She grew up on a farm, during the depression, in the rural south. This shaped her in ways I never fully understood until many years later. I did, however, even as a child, understand that she grew flowers for their beauty and fragrance and that she didn't grow fruits and vegetables because she didn't have to. The only exception was one apricot tree. After seeing how much I enjoyed the strawberries and cream one of her neighbors shared with me, she planted a strawberry patch just for me. This event would later become a rather momentous occasion in our history together, but enough reminiscing, I must return to my springtime tale of feline woe.

Yesterday, at first glance, was not an ideal gardening day as it was overcast and around 41 degrees at 11:00 am, but my boys were desperate to get outside and play. Since I'd far rather they expend energy getting fresh air and using their imagination, I agreed that after lunch we'd go out and see if it was warm enough and they could play while I worked on tidying up my gardens. By the time we'd finished lunch the temperature had climbed to a balmy 49 degrees so out we went. I practice organic gardening and have found I'm much more successful in my gardening endeavors by listening to Mother Nature and working with her. At the end of each gardening season, I allow the majority of the leaves in my yard to remain where they fall. The wind distributes them to the flowerbeds and they provide a warm, natural blanket for the plants winter slumber. The first task at hand was removing these leaves and preparing my vegetable patch for the few things I can plant now.

My gardens are cottage style with plants springing up in unexpected places as seeds fall and sprout where they choose. Years ago, I planted a border of flowering herbs in my vegetable patch to attract bees and beneficial insects. The plants have long since escaped the confines of the border and bloom freely throughout the vegetables. I don't mind as it has resulted in adding beauty and fragrance to the vegetable patch while attracting bees for pollination. The downside of this is that I now have several catnip plants growing throughout this area. Where the leaves covered them throughout the winter, they are already growing and the mere process of clearing the leaves away sends out a fragrance that beckons to cats from yards away. Stray cats seem to adopt us, and soon, one of them was happily nibbling on catnip and rolling around in the warm, freshly tilled soil. I don't begrudge him his indulgence of catnip, as I plant it for my feline friends after all, but I envision trampled seedlings in the months to come. If I didn't already have a surplus of house cats, due in part to taking in strays, these garden pests would enjoy a trip to the vet and a home inside but sadly, this is not an option. So, I continue to feed them outside, offer them shelter, and even allow them to sleep inside our enclosed porch next to a heater on cold nights and ponder how to defeat these feline garden nemeses.
My backyard borders 10 acres of natural, undisturbed woodland. I've had to learn to live in harmony with the deer, groundhogs, wild turkeys, and other native residents. I'd like to think the cats should be no different, but I know better. The native residents run away when Ginger, our Brittany Spaniel barks at them. The cats turn an aloof feline shoulder to poor Ginger and continue doing as they please. Herein lies my dilemma. How do I keep the cats out of the vegetable patch while employing economical, organic, environmentally friendly methods? Somehow the cats and I must find a way to exist in my gardens in harmony.

After much research, it appeared that my best options are introducing smells cats dislike (such as citrus peel, coffee grounds, and lavender) and utilizing chicken wire. Unfortunately, these cats must have missed the memo that citrus peel was supposed to keep them out of the garden. Last summer I introduced a recycling bin for coffee grounds in the office and utilized the grounds for mulch around acid loving shrubs and as an addition to my compost pile. My feline friends did tend to avoid the areas where I used the grounds, but since I'm currently between day jobs I'll have to try to encourage a nearby Starbucks to give me their grounds or resort to other methods. In the meantime, I'll try planting my vegetables in small areas at a time so I can surround the area with chicken wire until the seedlings have grown large enough to avoid being destroyed by a frolicking feline. Hopefully, if I allow them access to small patches of catnip, they'll allow me the undisturbed use of the rest of my garden.

Friday, March 13, 2009

PopCulture PopCan Flowers, Environmental Consciousness, the Economy, and Vintage

I've been fortunate lately to have a few bloggers notice my items and blog about them. The latest of these is Tess, from the Diamonds in the Rough blog. The blog features recycled products catalog for the conscious consumer and one of my PopCulture PopCan Jewel Flowers were included in a post about eco-fashion trashion trends.

Tess has a shop on Etsy, called Yellow Dog Vintage and offers a varied selection of vintage finds. I love vintage for many reasons, such as it's ability to evoke the past. More importantly, buying vintage is environmentally friendly and a great form of repurposing items. Take a look at this lovely, springy pillow from her shop.

For those of you reading this who live in the United States, I know many of us are concerned about the economy and how we can do our small part to stimulate it. I've given this much thought and my solution is to shop from other US shops and companies. To help my local economy I buy from local companies whenever I can. As the weather warms, I will soon be buying my fruits and vegetables from local Farms and Farmers Markets.

Purchasing an item from Etsy sellers who also live in the United States is a great way to stimulate the economy. Support independant artisans and buy a unique handmade item for a gift or for yourself. Even in tough economic times we all need little indulgences. A small purchase for yourself can bring large rewards in the smiles it elicits. Buying vintage also accomplishes this while helping the environment and keeping lovely items like the pillow pictured above out of landfills.

This post began as a way to say thanks to a fellow blogger who noticed one of my items and ended up being a bit of a rant about something that' s been much on my mind of late. In light of this rant, I think Etsy should adopt a new tagline: "Save the economy one item at a time!"

Monday, March 2, 2009

My First Design Team Challenge

An Etsy friend of mine, who has a shop called Duct Tape And Denim, asked me to be a member of her design team awhile ago. Of course, I was extremely honored and happy to agree to participate. About once a month, she mails each of the design team members all the same materials and we each make 3-4 projects and send her pictures to illustrate the versatility of her products.

I received all the lovely items pictured above. The turquoise crepe paper was wrapped around everything but I utilized a piece of it as well.

The items from her shop that were included were a few items from each of the following 1) WORDS OF LOVE - 20 - 1 inch Scalloped Paper Circles with Typed Loving Words 2) Blank White Tickets 3) LOVE IN MANY LANGUAGES - 20 - 1 inch Scalloped Paper Circles with Typed Words In Foreign Languages 4) Set of 10 BLANK Gift Tags - Large with Strings 5) 100 PLUs Piece Paper Pack - Vintage and Antique Book Pages - Childrens Textbooks Math Foreign Languages Spanish German Russian Asian - 1896 to 1960s - 4th Edition 6) 50 - Vintage Paper Postage Stamp Shapes 7) 25 - 2.5 inch Scalloped Ovals 8) Vintage Paper Birds - Old text, maps, foreign languages 9) Butterflies from Vintage Papers - Text, Books, Ledgers, Maps, Music, Foreign 10) Vintage Loving Couples COLLAGE Sheet and a few other goodies.

Needless to say, I had plenty of creative inspiration to spark my creativity. I don't normally work with blank tickets or the little envelopes I received, but I was determined to create something with them. The end result was a little envelope to contain happy memories, using the manila envelope, the happy word scallop, memories word scallop, blank ticket, heart punch, dove punch, and a bit of lace from the packaging.
From the three gift tag blanks I received, I created three different tags using images from one of my Flickr friends, takeabreak.


My favorite item, however, is the collage I made utilizing a vintage book page adhered to a bit of a cereal box as the background. The collage is entitled "Mother Means Love in Any Language".

Please visit the Duct Tape and Denim blog to see what other design team members created.

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