Thursday, July 31, 2008

Interview with J Scott Savage


OK, A big, huge apology to J Scott Savage, Author of Farworld: Water Keep for not getting these posted sooner. My bad. These are the questions I asked him about his books and writing and he returned with some great answers. Check at the bottom of the post for the winner of a free ARC of this book! Also, if you haven't read my review, click here.


Me: How long did you develop this story in your head before you finally began writing it? And how long did it take you to write?


JSS: I really never expected to write this story. It formed in my head over the course of several years, but once I started writing, it literally poured out of me in only a few months. It was the easiest book I’ve ever written, and probably the most fun to write.


Me: What inspired you to use a boy who was physically disabled for your main character?

JSS: It’s funny how many people focus on Marcus being disabled, even though in her world, Kyja is at least as disabled, if not more. The very first inklings of this story began with a boy in a wheelchair. I think it is because he really is the most unlikely of heroes. It’s not like many fantasies where the hero starts out as a weakling, or a nerd, but ends up being the most powerful. The thing is, Marcus and Kyja both want more than anything to overcome their disabilities. But is that really the best thing for them?


Me: I want a skyte—Riff Raph was one of my favorite characters (and can I say how much I love the name?). Do you think skytes could ever exist in their true forms here on Earth?

JSS: Thanks. I like him too, even if he is pretty annoying at times, he is very faithful. As far as your second question, first we have to understand why some things change and others do not when they move from one world to another. I suppose it’s possible. What do you think?


Me: I'll have to think about that one. I guess the bottom line is things have to appear in a form that can be accepted in the other world. It would draw a lot of attention if a skyte was whirling around the kids. Since there are four directions, are there going to be four books? How long do you think it will take for your next book to come out in this series?

JSS: Five books total. The fifth book is going to be the most challenging of the series to write, but just thinking about the concept gives me goose bumps. As far as I know, it has never been done before.


Me: So is the Noble River the equivalent of the Mississippi River?


JSS: Yes.


Me: You mention in your acknowledgments how much you appreciate your critique group. At what point in your writing career/learning process did you begin meeting with your critique group.

JSS: I had just published my first book and was working on my second, a little over six years ago when I met my group. They have helped me a ton. I wish I’d had them from the beginning.


Me: How important do you think knowledgeable feedback is for new writers, or any writers, in fact?

JSS: I recently had someone ask me if it gets easier to accept criticism. I told her no. Criticism is hard to accept no matter how long you’ve been writing. Feedback on the other hand is essential. I don’t care how long you’ve been writing or how good you are. You need fresh eyes to see your work clearly. It becomes impossible to evaluate your own writing after you get deeply into it. The key is to know what kind of feedback you want and ask for it. If you are looking for encouragement, don’t go to someone who is going to rip your work to shreds. On the other hand, at some point you really need people who are willing to point out the warts.


Me: I've felt that way myself. Do you have any advice for unpublished writers on how to find a critique group, or peer group to receive that kind of feedback?

JSS: Find writing groups in your area. Ask at the library or contact other local writers. There are almost always groups of writers. Also attend conferences. Once you begin to meet people, look for those with similar talent levels and the same kinds of goals. If you are serious about publishing a book, you probably will not benefit from someone who takes their writing lightly.


Me: Would you say it is more difficult to create a new world from scratch, than to develop a story that exists in the ‘real world’?

JSS: Initially, yes. That’s what scared me away from fantasy for so long. How do I tell a meaningful story while introducing a whole new culture? But once you catch the hang of it, it’s a blast!


Me: Do you have other fantasy storylines unrelated to this one rolling around in your head right now that you might develop when this series is over?

JSS: So many it’s scary. If I ever get the chance to write fulltime, I will crank out so many stories my publishers won’t know what to do.

Thanks Scott, and I look forward to reading the next book in your series!


And the winner is: Nichole Giles! Congratulations!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Book Review: Room for Two


I don't think I knew what to expect when I picked up Room for Two by Abel Keogh. I knew the basic storyline--that it was the story of his experiences when his pregnant wife committed suicide, how he dealt with his loss, and getting back into dating again. Still, like any book where you know the eventual outcome, it's the journey that's important.

Through his pain, a move, old house renovation, two funerals, and the slow process of beginning to date again, the reader gets an inside look into what his life was like. Abel was very honest with his difficulties and trials, his mistakes and regrets. This is a touching love story, a search for self, and the journey to forgiveness. It is beautifully written and introspective.

There is a point in his book where he mentions that years before, his mother had told him trials could be a spiritual experience, referring to a man he'd known who who had battled cancer. Abel says that he hadn't been able to understand that when she told him. Later, he remembers their conversation. "What my mom was trying to explain to me was something I didn't understand until that morning: personal and spiritual development doesn't come when life is good and unchallenging. It's the hard times--the ones when we are forced to wake up every day and put one foot in front of the other--where real growth occurs. I was learning that difficult times helped me appreciate the sweet ones. And if I let them, these trying moments would teach me what was truly important."

This paperback book is 224 pages, was printed by Cedar Fort Inc in August of 2007. You can purchase it from Amazon here, or request it at your local bookstore by using ISBN-10: 1599550626 or
ISBN-13: 978-1599550626.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Brightening things up for less

Summer heat has been pounding down on us for months now and the school season is drawing near. Garden centers are starting to feel the heat as well. As the summer hurries by, most places that sell plants have begun slashing prices.

Now is the time to pick up a few begonias to brighten a spot in your kitchen, or an additional rose bush to fill that hole in the yard. Every year I have some annuals that fail to thrive, though they may be inches away from another plant that just won't stop. The deals are growing daily, but there are a few things to watch out for while shopping for a great price.

Check the foliage, has the plant been out in the sun without enough water? Is it wilted, or does it have leaves that are turning yellow? Do they have a great big plant in a tiny pot, making the plant root bound? Tip the pot a bit and nudge it out a bit to check for any problem at the roots if you are concerned. The garden center I visited today had a large shopping cart of dead and dying plants they were collecting to haul away. Take care not to pick up something they'll toss in a day or two--a plant under stress is not the same as one that is on it's last leg.

Now is a great time to stretch you landscaping budget if you are careful: great perennials like trees and bushes can be had for great prices and that weeping cherry tree you sighed over wistfully a few months ago may fit in your budget now.

And if you don't have a yard or patio to dress up, look around at herbs for your kitchen windowsill or lavish blooms for kitchen table. With a little TLC a plant that is struggling, or hasn't quite been able to reach its potential may bring a smile to your face or he face of someone you love for months to come.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy. Just by signing up and maintaining your subscription to receive the yourLDSneighborhood.com newsletter, you become eligible for our "Thank You" prizes. Our dozens of giveaways range from a trip for two to China, to iPods® (each with a $50 gift certificate for LDS music), cruises, and more.

Learn about our amazing monthly, quarterly, and annual giveaways by clicking here.


Return to the Neighborhood

Friday, July 25, 2008

Farmer's Markets: Keeping it Fresh

It’s that time of year again, the heat has been sizzling most of the northern hemisphere for a good long time, and farmer’s markets are springing up all over. This summertime event happens in cities across the country, as well as many other areas around the world. You don’t have to own thousands of acres to have a booth—just something you have more of than you can use.

A couple of years ago I attended one in Spanish Fork where I bought peaches, pears and grapes. I’ve seen strawberries, tomatoes, and various other veggies at this open-air market. It can be a great way to cash in on some of your extra crops and the sign-up fees are often very affordable.

Even if you have nothing to sell, a local farmer’s market can have lots of benefits:

1) You get produce fresher than what you can find at the grocery store—produce picked a week ago is never as great as stuff that’s picked that morning, or the evening before.

2) The food you buy at one of these locations can cost you less than your local store and often has been exposed to fewer chemicals along the way.

3) Local markets keep your money in the area instead of sending it to other parts of the world.

4) Eating locally is good for the environment since the produce often comes from a few miles away instead of halfway across the country. There is a growing movement for locally-produced foods.

A farmer’s market is often set up at area parks, though larger ones may happen in fair grounds, and some managed to stay open year-round by going inside during winter months. Items available for purchase my vary
you can buy everything from produce, to fresh eggs and milk, to jewelry and art. Some markets even allow live animals—care to raise your own eggs for breakfast? There are twenty-eight farmer’s markets in Utah. If you want to see if there’s one near you, click here.

If you live outside of Utah try this link, or type ‘farmer’s market’ and the name of your state or province into a search engine and see what pops up.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy. Just by signing up and maintaining your subscription to receive the yourLDSneighborhood.com newsletter, you become eligible for our "Thank You" prizes. Our dozens of giveaways range from a trip for two to China, to iPods® (each with a $50 gift certificate for LDS music), cruises, and more.

Learn about our amazing monthly, quarterly, and annual giveaways by clicking here.


Return to the Neighborhood

Monday, July 21, 2008

Oregano: Not Just for Pizza

Some years ago one of my family members was told to take oregano for a health problem. I remember thinking what a strange idea that was—Oregano? You mean that Italian seasoning? When I had planted this versatile herb in my garden I had no intentions of using it medicinally, I just wanted something to spice up my pizza and spaghetti sauce.

Oregano was not commonly used in the USA until after World War II when the soldiers came back and began talking about pizza. The use of Oregano grew by 5200 percent from 1948 to 1956. The herb is widely used in Mediterranean and Mexican dishes and is commonly mistaken for Majoram—which can be used in it’s place for culinary purposes if you run out.

There are many varieties of oregano, the most flavorful of which is Mexican oregano—which is actually from a different botanical family and cannot be used for the medicinal purposes I’m about to mention. Most oregano you buy at the store is a mix of varieties with the Mexican version and often other herbs as well. If you want to use this medicinally you should purchase a plant (Origanum vulgare or Origanum vulgare hirtum) or go to a reputable health food store where you can be assured of the type you are buying.

Oregano should not be taken medicinally by pregnant women, though cooking with it is still perfectly safe. Medicinally this plant can be used internally to treat colds, flu, mild fevers, monthly cramping, and upset stomachs. Externally, it can be used to treat bronchitis, asthma, arthritis and sore muscles. A few drops of the essential oils on a cotton balls is said to reduce tooth pain and the plant is very antiseptic.

This plant repels ants in the garden and is said to be a great companion plant, increasing the flavor of other plants nearby. It makes a great ground cover, loves the sun, gets by with little water and returns year after year. It has beautiful pink and purple blooms which are also edible. The plant an be cut back to the ground in the fall for harvest, but leave the roots untouched as they continue to send up new shoots every year.

You can use the leaves fresh in your cooking pot, hang the stems and leaves to dry, or chop the leaves and freeze with water in ice cube trays to use later.

This plant is easy to propagate by seed directly in the dirt with a very shallow covering in the early spring, by splitting the plant into large divisions in march or October, or by basal cuttings. Basal cuttings or small divisions should receive light shade while they are growing.

For a long list of recipes that use oregano, visit this About.com page. Many other sites have recipes for using oregano as well. http://homecooking.about.com/library/archive/bloregano.htm

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy. Just by signing up and maintaining your subscription to receive the yourLDSneighborhood.com newsletter, you become eligible for our "Thank You" prizes. Our dozens of giveaways range from a trip for two to China, to iPods® (each with a $50 gift certificate for LDS music), cruises, and more.

Learn about our amazing monthly, quarterly, and annual giveaways by clicking here.


Return to the Neighborhood

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

BIAM news

Well, I haven't been very active in my writing the first half of the month--my excuse is the nearly two-week visit by my older sister and her family. They live in Mexico and I haven't seen them since last July. I have completed 7110 words and managed some editing. Above and beyond that, I read three books for various blog tours and another for a regular review and wrote the rough drafts for each, so I've been busy, just not with my book writing.

I'm going to do better in the second half of the month. I promise.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Book review of Farworld: Water Keep

Other people may see thirteen-year-old Marcus Kanenas as an outcast and a nobody, but he sees himself as a survivor and a dreamer. In fact, his favorite dream is of a world far away, a world where magic is as common as air, where animals tell jokes and trees beg people to pick their fruit. He even has a name for this place—Farworld.

When Marcus magically travels to Farworld, he meets Kyja, a girl without magic in a world where spells, charms, and potions are everywhere, and Master Therapass, a master wizard who has kept a secret hidden for thirteen years, a secret that could change the fate of two worlds.

But the Dark Circle has learned of Master Therapass’s secret and their evil influence and power are growing. Farworld’s only hope is for Marcus and Kyja to find the mythical Elementals—water, land, air and fire—and convince them to open a drift between the worlds.

As Kyja and Marcus travel to Water Keep, they must face the worst the evil Dark Circle can throw at them—Summoners, who can command the living and the dead. Unmakers, invisible creatures that can destroy both body and soul; and dark mages known as Thrathkins S’Bae.

Along the way, Marcus and Kyja will discover the truth about their own heritage, the strength of their friendship, and the depths of their unique powers.

When I learned J. Scott Savage was sending out ARCs of his book to people who were willing to review it on their blogs, I jumped at the chance.

I’m not the least bit disappointed.

The story gets moving quickly and keeps a steady pace throughout—hang on for a wild ride because the action only stops for a few quick breaths before picking up again. I’m one who doesn’t like a lot of description, I get lost in the words—and not in a good way. Scott’s descriptions, however, paint pictures without being bogged down with too many details. I could see the creatures and places as easily as if there were pictures on every page.

The characters are real and three-dimensional, and I liked and cared about them very quickly, instead of several chapters in after I finally had time to learn their quirks. I love how both Kyja and Marcus are fish out of water in the worlds they come from for different reasons, and that those things that make them different—Marcus’s physical disability and Kyja’s lack of magical ability—turn out to be advantages in some situations.

As Master Therapass says to them: “Sometimes the things we view as our biggest weaknesses turn out to be our greatest strengths. Don’t be too anxious to rid yourself o your burdens. Your burdens are what shape you.” This is something I’ve always believed.

This story is filled with messages about our individual worth, the value of helping others, and believing in yourself—but in a totally non-preachy way.

I look forward to seeing the next book in this exciting series, and expect to see this book rocket into popularity with parents and children alike.

In a few days I’ll post an interview with the author and give you a chance to win an advance reader’s copy of this book before you can buy one in stores. To read the first two chapters, click here. Go here to pre-order this book.

To be entered to win a copy of this book, post in my comment trail before July 20, then don’t forget to check back!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Lasagna Gardening: Part 2

A few days ago, I talked about creating lasagna beds. Click here to read that post first if you missed it.

In my area, we have a mushroom plant, I can pick up a truck load (or trailer load) of spent mushroom compost for $15 or $20—a great deal. I put down the layers of newspaper, laid out three or four inches of mushroom compost, then added shredded paper or leaves (I scoured several people’s yards to pick up leaves that hadn’t been raked in the fall), and manure I picked up at the race track (spread thinly since I wasn’t sure how well composted it was—fresh manure can burn you plants’ roots), I threw in egg shells, banana peels, and anything else from my kitchen that would work (again, nothing from an animal). Finally, I laid on another several inches of mushroom compost. Ideally, you should end up with twelve to fourteen inches of bedding when you are finished, though that will compact over time.

Many cities have compost available for sale to residents for a nominal fee, and some universities do, too. Check around and see what you can find in your area.

Plants don’t always like to have their roots in compost, so I planted most of mine with a handful of potting soil to give the roots something to cling to while it adjusted to the new setting. This is especially true if you are planting out bare roots. I didn’t worry about this the second year, and everything seems to be doing just fine.

After my plants started poking through the soil, I began begging neighbors for grass clippings, and covered my beds with a layer to help with moisture retention and to keep the roots cool. Drip irrigation is best in these kinds of beds, but with the number of plants I have jammed in together, it’s not really possible, so I top water. Just be aware that grass clippings will begin to matt together and make the water sheet off after some time so you might want to consider other mulching options.

It’s really best to create lasagna beds in the fall so they can ‘cook’ all winter, (good news for those of you in the southern hemisphere) but it’s not necessary. Another way to ‘cook’ the beds is to cover them with plastic sheeting for six weeks or so—this accelerates the composting process and gets the ground ready to plant in faster. In my case, I started building beds in late February as soon as the weather was warm enough to be out for extended periods of time, and the ground was dry (wet clay is no fun to work in). At the local mushroom plant they treat the compost with salt to keep the diseases down, so I started building mine early so the spring rains would flush the salts out. Alternatively, I could have watered them heavily before planting in them.

Before you begin planting, water the beds until they are good and soggy. They are raised beds, so the water will flow away, rather than leaving the new plants in a puddle, but you want them to be completely wet. Then cut a hole in the lasagna and pop your plant in.

A major advantage for me of this kind of gardening is the fact that weeding is a snap. When I try and weed beds that are made of regular soil, I have to water the beds really well, then dig the weeds out. Most of the time my weeds pull right out of my lasagna beds with little effort.

This is a great way to build accessible gardens for those who can’t bend over easily to weed, or who have other disabilities that make long hours of maintenance too difficult. Many people create a rectangle of straw bales or other materials, then build the lasagna inside. This brings the planting surface closer to the person working in it. I’ll continue to build up my beds over the years with more compost, leaves and clippings since the beds will shrink over time.

Worms seem to love this kind of bed, and though I rarely see them in my yard, I do find them in the lasagna beds—a major plus as earthworms are great diggers and tillers, doing a lot of work for you.

As I finish off my yard, I plan to add more lasagna beds because it’s been such a great experience for me. For more information about lasagna gardening, do a Web search, there are scads of sites with more information.


Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy. Just by signing up and maintaining your subscription to receive the yourLDSneighborhood.com newsletter, you become eligible for our "Thank You" prizes. Our dozens of giveaways range from a trip for two to China, to iPods® (each with a $50 gift certificate for LDS music), cruises, and more.

Learn about our amazing monthly, quarterly, and annual giveaways by clicking here.


Return to the Neighborhood



Friday, July 11, 2008

Lasagna--Gardening Made Easy

I’ve mentioned before that my ground is rather more rocks than dirt, and what part is dirt, is mostly clay, so when I began looking into plans for landscaping, I realized digging down to plant was not going to work for me. For many reasons, people may have land that can’t be easily dug, whether it’s because of hardpan, rocks, other things that have grown in the space before (ie a pine tree that had been dropping its needles for a century) or even because all they have is a large slab of cement (yes, you can garden on that unused basketball court your children abandoned as they moved out).

There is a solution to all of these problems—it’s called lasagna gardening. This is a method developed by Patricia Lanza in response to her inability to keep up with weeding, tilling and the hundred other problems that traditional gardening includes. This method does away with tilling, much of the weeding and other work. Here’s how it works:

Find a sunny area in the yard. The more sun the better if you’re trying to grow vegetables, but if you just want a few flowers, you can plant ones specific to a shady garden, too. Don’t worry about clearing away grass, rocks, or even weeds that would cause serious problems in a normal garden bed.

What you do need to do is collect a large amount of old newspapers or cardboard. Lay it out on the space you’ve designated for your garden—make sure you soak it good and if you’re using newspaper, put down at least five layers, more wouldn’t hurt anything. I opened my papers and overlapped them. This step is to block out weeds—if you have a bunch of weeds there already, just stomp them down out of the way and lay the newspaper on top.

Both newspaper and cardboard will eventually deteriorate, but that’s just fine. Don’t use the slick commercial pages since they aren’t as good for this kind of thing. Some people will tell you to avoid colored ink pages as well because the inks used to have heavy metals in them, but pretty much all newspapers in the US now print only with vegetable-based inks. If you live outside the US, you may want to contact your newspaper and make sure they are printing with vegetable-based inks.

I called the local paper-delivery person, and they brought us a stack of papers that were extras. Another option is to get the newspaper end rolls. You may be charged a couple of dollars for this paper, but it usually has several hundred yards of paper left on the roll and if you are doing a long bed, it can be really convenient.

Next you start layering on organic matter: Compost, grass clippings, old straw, food scraps (nothing from an animal, ie meat, fat, bones or milk products), shredded leaves, peat moss, coir (a coconut shell product which is much easier on the environment than peat moss), shredded paper—almost anything will work just great as long as it’s biodegradable—even those cardboard egg cartons. Layer the ‘lasagna’ with nitrogen-rich layers interspersed with low-nitrogen items.

More information about planting and other benefits here.

Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy. Just by signing up and maintaining your subscription to receive the yourLDSneighborhood.com newsletter, you become eligible for our "Thank You" prizes. Our dozens of giveaways range from a trip for two to China, to iPods® (each with a $50 gift certificate for LDS music), cruises, and more.

Learn about our amazing monthly, quarterly, and annual giveaways by clicking here.


Return to the Neighborhood

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Tagged! A Closer Look

My good friend, Danyelle, is always getting tagged before me, and then sharing the joy. She is evil, but since she's obviously dying to see all of the grubby details of my life, I decided to participate. lol After all, I needed an excuse not to rotate the laundry, change the sheets on the bed, pack for my trip in the morning....I actually thought about responding to this while I was camping with my family, thinking how funny it would be to take a picture of the water spigot instead of my sink, but I'm not entirely sure I'll have internet (an RV campground is not exactly roughing it.).

Here goes:
1) My Kitchen Sink
Yeah, it's not exactly Fly Lady clean, but you can see the bottom, right?

2)Inside My fridgeIt's looking pretty empty because I didn't want to stock up before we go away for a long weekend--notice the four eggs cartons--anyone looking for free-range eggs?

3) My Favorite ShoesI bought these a few months ago when my other black heels were way beyond saving. I love the little bows, but the heels are a good inch taller than the ones I replaced, so they aren't exactly made for walking--or standing in front of a primary class for an hour.

4) My closetMy closet is not the largest space I've ever seen, and we are constantly having to slide the doors from my side to my husband's, but it fits everything.

5) The laundry pile
My pile is getting down since I've been trying to get things washed.

6) What my kids are doing right now
I don't have any kids, just pets, and my dogs have already been shipped of to my MIL's for the weekend, so you get to see my birds. the three geese in the back are grooming themselves after a refreshing swim in the freshly refilled pond. And the chicken on the far right is suffering from, um, over-excited rooster syndrome from back when I had too many roosters late this winter. They should be molting soon so they'll be beautiful again before the cold hits.

7) My favorite roomI know it's not really a room, but I love to sit out by my pond with my laptop in the evening. I push the top cushion up to use as a backrest on the bench and listen to the water trickling. In fact, I'm working on this blog by the pond. I haven't finished the landscaping around the pond quite yet, but it'll do for now.

8) My most recent purchase
Exciting purchase, I know. I bought the gummies and red vines for the trip. The onion is for the night my husband and I are in charge of dinner (it's a big family gathering and we take turns), and the soda is for the peach cobbler I'm planning to make...one of the nights. I hope I have everything else I need.

9) My fantasy vacation






I've always wanted to go to England--where my great-grandmother was born. In fact, the day my husband and I were engaged, I made him promise to take me there someday. We'll be celebrating our tenth anniversary this summer, but I don't see that trip coming much closer. Ah well, this is fantasy, right? Maybe next year.

10) Self portrait
I stood in front of the mirror to take this--that way I could see if I was actually centered in the picture.

I'm tagging:

Kim

Nichole

and Shanna

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Heaven Scent Winner

Congratulations to Janice L who won a copy of Heaven Scent by Rebecca Talley.

Everyone check back next week for a review and chance to win an advanced reader's copy of J Scott Savage's Farworld: Waterkeep, a great YA fantasy that is riveting from the first page! This book won't even be in stores until September, but you can have it in your hands in August.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Controlling Garden Pests

The grasshoppers are coming out at my house, and though my birds are chasing them like mad, they haven’t been able to keep them under control in the unlandscaped portions of my property—so we’re seeing some damage on my flowers and vegetables as well. At the same time, I’m reluctant to use pesticides because I don’t want my poultry to ingest any and my cats like to wander through the garden when they sneak out.

As LDS people, we have been taught that we have a stewardship over the world, and that we need to take care of it. However, growing organically can be very expensive, and a whole lot of hassle. There are many simple and inexpensive bug control methods available, however—some even less expensive than that bottle of bug spray.

The summer after my husband and I were married we bought a single-wide trailer in a trailer park to live in. My husband was still in school and we didn’t have much money, but it was nicer than the apartment we had been living in, and I loved having a bit of property to do what I wanted. Since we were the last trailer in the park, we had not only a patch of grass in front, but about five foot of dirt and weeds in the back that ran the length of the trailer. I was determined to put in a flower garden.

I spent hours digging up weeds, putting in landscaping bricks for a pathway, and planting my flowers and a few vegetables. All was well until the man who owned the pasture on the other side of the chain-link fence brought his cows in to graze. Suddenly we were attacked by grasshoppers. They even stripped all of the foliage from my marigolds. I was lamenting the impending loss of my flower garden when my husband’s mother gave me a suggestion.

I put two tablespoons of cayenne pepper in a quart or so of water and boiled it for five minutes or so. Then I strained the powder out with some cheese cloth (make sure you get all of the powder out or it will clog your spray bottle, so you may need to pass it through cloth more than once.), then poured it in a spray bottle. After a couple of thorough applications, the grasshoppers never bothered those plants again. My marigolds leafed out again and my other flowers recovered as well. If you continue to have a pest problem in your area for a long period of time, and you top water or get a lot of rain, you may need to spray periodically, but I just keep a bottle under my sink (well marked) to use for repeat sprays.

Cayenne pepper is inexpensive and available at most grocery stores in the baking aisle with the other spices. You may even find it at dollar stores in their spice aisles. It is also said to be a good deterrent for digging cats and dogs if you sprinkle the powder on your flower beds, but I’ve heard mixed results for this.

Another simple choice for both bug and pet repellent is to mix citronella oil with water and spray it on your beds. This is supposed to be very effective, but definitely has to be repeated after each heavy rain or watering. I wonder if it works on chickens?


Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy. Just by signing up and maintaining your subscription to receive the yourLDSneighborhood.com newsletter, you become eligible for our "Thank You" prizes. Our dozens of giveaways range from a trip for two to China, to iPods® (each with a $50 gift certificate for LDS music), cruises, and more.

Learn about our amazing monthly, quarterly, and annual giveaways by clicking here.


Return to the Neighborhood

Friday, July 4, 2008

Sage: A Versatile Herb

Salvia officinalis, also known as common garden sage, is one of the standard herbs I always keep in my cupboard, and better yet, in my garden beds. It is a woody, low-growing shrub that is evergreen in most areas. It prefers a light, sandy soil that is alkalai. It doesn’t like to be very wet, and tolerates drought conditions once it’s well established. It likes to be trimmed back in the late spring to keep it compact, and the plants need to be replaced every four years or so.

Sage can be started from seed or from cuttings, but doesn’t do well in really cold winters it’s first year, so if you are going to use cuttings, start them in May or take them indoors the first winter. This plant loves sunny areas, but will do well in dappled shade as well.

It comes in green and purple leaved varieties and is used in many dishes. The leaves can be used fresh, boiled, pickled or on sandwiches. The flowers can be used raw or cooked and make a nice addition to green salads in small quantities. It is often used in combination with other herbs in chicken, lamb, and pork recipes. Commercial companies also use sage in ice cream, sweets and baked goods.

Though this great herb is primarily used in cooking, it can be used in many other ways. The leaves can be rubbed against the teeth in lieu of a toothbrush— and they have antiseptic qualities, which can help fight gum diseases. It can be used to cure digestive problems, tooth aches, and mouth sores.

It is also taken internally to fight excessive perspiration, anxiety, depression, female sterility and other problems. However, it shouldn’t be taken as a supplement by pregnant women or those with epilepsy, and as always, too much of a good thing can be toxic—though it takes a rather large dose to cause those kinds of problems.

There are many other uses for the herb, including as an insect deterrent and in shampoos and perfumes. And if those aren't enough for you, the plant is a beautiful, fragrant addition to your garden even without it's other uses.


Join the Neighborhood Newsletter . . . Subscriptions are free and joining is easy. Just by signing up and maintaining your subscription to receive the yourLDSneighborhood.com newsletter, you become eligible for our "Thank You" prizes. Our dozens of giveaways range from a trip for two to China, to iPods® (each with a $50 gift certificate for LDS music), cruises, and more.

Learn about our amazing monthly, quarterly, and annual giveaways by clicking here.


Return to the Neighborhood

Thursday, July 3, 2008

New Arrivals!

I've been trying to incubate eggs for a few months now, and I posted a blog about it here. My incubator has two heavy plastic windows in the top, and I flipped it over when I pulled it off to turn my goose eggs and one of the windows popped out. unfortunately, I didn't find it until the next morning, and all of the babies died.

A few days later I put another bunch of eggs into the incubator and marked my calendar. I candled the eggs several times over the next few weeks. Though they showed early signs of growth, none of them hatched. *sigh*

Finally, last weekend, I contacted a man who had chicks for sale and bought some. I guess I'll have to decide if it's worth trying to use my incubator again or not. Anyway, I took some pictures of my new babies. They are Plymouth Barred Rocks and will be black and white stripped when they are full grown. When I took this picture they were nearly three weeks old.

We also added rabbits to our menagerie this spring. The black one is female and she's about four months old now. The brown one we added yesterday, and he's about three months old. I can house them together for now since it'll be a few more months before he's ready to start mating. My nieces are working on names for the pair. Aren't they adorable?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Time is Running Out


Just a reminder that there's only two more days to enter the contest for a free copy of Rebecca Talley's Heaven Scent. Entries need to be submitted by Midnight on July 4th. For more information, read my review and the directions to be entered here.