Weekly Recap (1)

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I’ve gotten a few suggestions from readers about posts, including “Hey, why aren’t you telling us more about your day-to-day?”

So, I’m starting a weekly recap in response to that. Woohoo!

Big Things That Happened This Week

  • I rejected a job as a full-time Content Strategist on Sunday to own life. Then was elated on Monday to see that they were interested in me as a freelancer, so I tried to work the original job into a freelance gig (with more benefits for them in the long run). On Tuesday, they decided not to let me do the original job as a freelancer. Instead, they are going to keep me as a contact for future gigs. It’s was an emotional roller coaster and I’m glad to be over it.
  • With that said, I’ve got a lot of new projects happening right now. The craziest this week involves grading lessons that teachers sell on a web site based in the UK. I am currently winning the contest for most graded and the deadline to finish is Sunday. Let’s just say I’m learning more about math than I really needed to know due to my¬†need for holiday cash.
  • It’s seriously committing to colder weather here and I am evidently not evolutionarily equipped to deal with that mess. I used to walk to the bus stop in February in a hoodie¬†in the frigid Appalachian mountain climate.¬†I’ve gone soft.
  • This fall is better for me than last in regards to me letting my plants¬†do their yearly die and come back routine. Last year, I wanted all of them to live inside the whole time. This year, I learned from last and know that some plants just can’t hang. Lemon verbena is just going to (literally) lose its shit (leaves) and I can’t do anything to fix that. So, everyone that goes dormant, or can go dormant, is heading to the porch. I’m hoping I can keep a few in the house, if only to clean the air.
  • Our trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is quickly approaching and I can’t even right now.

What are some big things that happened for you this week? Let me know in the comments!

Currently in Love With… (5)

This is a series I started based on the three things that I am endlessly obsessed with — following the theme of my blog: Adventures, Creations, and Growing Things. If you’d like to read¬†previous¬†posts, they’re¬†here,¬†here,¬†here, and here. Enjoy!

Hey, remember that time when I posted regularly? Yeah, that’s going on over here. I promise I haven’t forgotten you guys.

Here are some things that have been going on with me lately —

Adventures: 

We’ve been going everywhere. We went to Howl-O-Scream and Colonial Williamsburg one weekend. Then a few weekends later we saw the DC end of the David Duchovny tour, stopping along every Edgar Allen Poe tourist spot on the way back to Raleigh. Both of these trips were ridiculously fun. Oh, and there was a wedding in there, too.

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A vampire, a zombie, and a werewolf walk into a bar…

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I like it when cannons happen.

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Duchovny ‚̧

Edgar Allen Poe was buried in this vicinity. There were a lot of people near the headstone, so I didn't get the greatest picture.

Edgar Allen Poe was buried in this vicinity. There were a lot of people near the headstone, so I didn’t get the greatest picture.

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At the Poe Museum in Richmond. They employ a black cat. He gets commissions.

Creations:

I’ve been stepping up my game here. I’ve got a few separate posts coming about making floating shelves, vanilla extract, and how¬†to brainstorm effectively in the shower (the struggle is real). Until then, here’s a snapshot of what’s been going on with DIYs…

Herbs, costume edits, and vanilla extractions.

Herbs, costume edits, and vanilla extractions.

Growing Things:

The last harvest of the year made me sad, like it always does. But if I lived in a permanently good climate, it would make my babies a little less special. It’s nice to look forward to spring.

Plants

I’d say I live and breathe plants, and it would be pretty true, since that whole oxygen thing.

Bonus — Gatherings:

I’ve been less of a hermit lately (crazy, I know) and have been extracting myself from the home office long enough to have fun with friends. Hooray! I went on a hike with Amber and Kolin, Halloween’d with all my ladies, and managed to fit a lunch or two in with some friends. My parents are here this weekend and then the legendary Amy and Steve will be coming for a few days after. So far, I’ve eaten everything. Since it’s the season of gatherings, there will be more of these shenanigans to come.

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I happen to like these people.

What are you loving right now? 

~Meg

Quick DIY: How to Clean Dried Herbs

This is a lazy person’s problem, which is why I’m writing about it. I am the best at getting too busy or distracted to take care of things when they need it. For instance, if I leave my herbs hanging for over a month. Oops. This is a DIY for the forgetful.

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Obviously, washing or soaking them in¬†water is¬†not ideal, since you’d have to re-dry them and possibly start the whole mess over again. If you’re anything like me, you’d¬†to dry again and then you’d be in the same mess all over again. And this is all to say that the leaves would stay on the stems. That is rare, even in ideal conditions.

The easiest way to get dust off herbs is using a can of pressurized air — the kind you use to dust off your keyboard. Same principle. Aim the can 1.5 to 2 feet away from your herb bundle and spray from the base of the stems downward. Do it somewhere that you can vacuum later, as you’re going to get dust and a few leaves all over the place. Then you can put them in jars and be on your way.

Are you a lazy gardener like me?  What is the hardest aspect of it for you to maintain?  Let me know in the comments!

~Meg

DIY: Five Second Propagation

When it comes to propagating plants, some plant¬†varieties just make it easy. Like the spider plant below, they shoot off tiny little babies for you without much help or guidance on your part. This is called asexual propagation.¬†You can also do this with cuttings, but that’s another post in itself.

The easiest way to know when a shoot is ready is if you see tiny roots beginning to form at the bottom of the baby plant, as pictured below.

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With the spider plant, I usually just clip the shoot at the nearest leaf intersection before the new plant starts, so there isn’t a ton of dead shoot just hanging out. That can lead to disease or might make the shoot decide to just give up the ghost for no reason. The point is to limit the possibility of your plant getting too sad to live, right? If there’s life on the end of the shoot after you cut, that’s the best way to operate.

When I’ve got my babies separated, I partially immerse them in water to let the roots mature. Some people like to stick them directly into wet dirt, which is also acceptable, but this is the way my momma taught me and I prefer this method. If you’d like, you can add the tiniest bit of plant food (literally a drop) if you want to speed along the process.¬†I keep them in fresh¬†water for a week or two (seriously, just change the water every three days or so) and then put them in new, warm dirt homes.

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Some plants have shoots originating through the root system, instead of above ground (aloe is a great example of this). In this case, gently dig into the soil with your finger to find where the new plant intersects with the mother plant and carefully snap it off. The key here is to do this without disturbing the secondary roots of both the mother and the baby plant. Secondary roots are just as important as the taproots and damage control is ridiculously important here.

There are tons of advantages¬†to propagating¬†like this — if you want more, you’ve only got to wait for the main plant to mature enough to make shoots. And if you take the shoots, it redirects nutrients back to the mother plant, instead of sapping it all to the babies. You can trade the babies to friends for other plant varieties you don’t have or even sell them.

What other plants do this? Strawberries, mints, aloe, pothos, philodendron, Chinese money tree¬†plants… and tons more than I want to list here, because it would take days. To find more varieties, ask a grower at a garden center or direct a question to a local master gardener. You can also comment below or send me an email. ūüôā

Do you propagate? What’s your favorite plant that you’d like to reproduce? Let me know in the comments!

~Meg

A Quick Word on Foraging

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If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see a lot of me referencing eating things on hikes/lake walks.  The truth is that I frequently eat stuff I find in the middle of nowhere.  It’s a great way to get fresh fruits and greens with very little effort. Oh, and they’re free. Do you know how much a tiny container of blackberries is at the grocery store? I do.  I’d rather take a hike and eat a ridiculously fresh handful. Nutritious and cost-effective.  Foraging freaking rocks.

A few things before you decide to go foraging in your area:

1. Educate yourself. There are things out there that are not-so-good for humans to attempt to eat.  Be adventurous, but bring a guide.  No one really wants explosive diarrhea. Here’s a good guide book, here’s a good web site. Don’t eat anything you can’t fully identify.

2. Wash your food, especially if it comes from high traffic areas. I live in an apartment complex, so I’ve been avoiding the temptation to harvest any delicious looking dandelion leaves that I’ve seen.  Raleigh has about a million dogs and half of them live in my complex.  Anything I see has probably been pooped on at some point. But berries? I don’t wash them because I’m hiking. They’re fine.

3. Stop weeding your yard. You don’t really have to go abroad to find greens to eat.  Your yard is FULL of plantain, dandelion, and clover (unless you’ve had turf installed recently). Why waste time looking for it anywhere else? Bonus if you dodge it when mowing.

4. Mind property lines. It should go without saying that you should not stray into anyone else’s yard to grab eats.  They may be saving it for themselves, but more likely, they will just be creeped out if you start grazing next to their lawn chairs.

5. Overharvesting. Don’t do it. Only take what you need. Let the plants live to see another day.  Not only will it benefit you later, it keeps the surrounding ecosystem in balance. Make sure to try to scatter their seeds, if you can find them, to proliferate the species.

Keep those facts in mind when you forage and enjoy your free food!

Have you ever foraged?  Would you try it? What’s your favorite wild plant to eat?

In Favor of Herbal Outlaws

I just listened to this podcast¬†(you can listen to the second part here). ¬†It’s from the Free Herbalism Project¬†lecture series hosted by Mountain Rose Herbs.¬†Rosemary Gladstar was the main speaker for this portion of it. ¬†She’s a pioneer of the modern herbal movement and ‘godmother of American Herbalism’.¬†Rosemary, in herbal circles, is kind of a big deal.

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I wish I could have been there to see this live, because she is such a great speaker and is really passionate about herbalism. I’m glad to have her as a figurehead for wildcrafters, foragers, herbalists, and everyone else who puts their hands in dirt and green things to cultivate miracles.

Now —¬†the part that where I got angry.

Rosemary talked about how practicing herbalism in the US is illegal. That fact surprised me — I didn’t know that at all. ¬†Herbalists have to practice secretly and recommend that their treatments are just for “educational purposes”, rather than medical use. ¬†She explains that most medicines and their side effects are worse than any effects you can get from plants and she gives a great call to action to change laws to include herbalism as a legitimate practice. ¬†It makes sense, as 75% of the world uses herbalism to great effect in regular medical treatment.

Rosemary is a badass herbal outlaw and I want to be just like her.

As a forager and kindred spirit, this two-part podcast seriously pissed me off and made me want to change things. ¬†I love the idea of healing the body with plants and healthy foods rather than using medications as a temporary fix, and think everyone should try it out *within reason*. ¬†I hate that my insurance won’t support any kind of treatment along these lines. If you have any questions about my sordid past with medication, as me about my experience with hormonal¬†birth control. ¬†I get pretty passionate about it and have very good reasons for never touching hormonal anything again.

Anyway, I think public education and debunking myths is the best way to get people interested in making a more inclusive change in the medical industry, so¬†I figured I’d start here on my little blog.

–¬†This link will lead you to more information about Rosemary and how awesome she is. ¬†She also is a part of¬†Health Without Harm, which¬†is a non-profit advocate against animal testing for herbal use in cosmetics, etc.

– Want to hear more podcasts like this one? Check it out here.

– For those of you who are readers from back home in the Appalachias, there’s a botanical sanctuary¬†you can visit in Rutland, OH sponsored by United Plant Savers. ¬†It’s super close to Huntington/Parkersburg area, so I will judge you if you are still in the area, love plants, and don’t visit for me. ¬†Seriously considering a Christmas trip there with my mom.

РIf you want to throw even more support in this direction, head to the National Health Freedom Coalition site to donate your time or money to changing laws related to botanical/herbal use in the medical sector.

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~ Meg

Currently In Love With… (4)

This is a series I started based on¬†three things that I am endlessly obsessed with — following the theme of my blog: Adventures, Creations, and Growing Things. If you’d like to read¬†previous¬†posts, they’re¬†here,¬†here, ¬†and here. Enjoy!

Adventures:

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Mike and I went to the Raleigh Maker’s Market this weekend to check out all of the great items for sale. ¬†It was in a little alcove next to Benelux Coffee¬†— such a good chance to¬†see all kinds of¬†different vendors, there was live music to enjoy, and way too many things I wanted to buy. Among the vendors there were @catbirdpottery,¬†@trulyyoursdesignco, @peshtowels, @sluicegear, @worthandbeautyshop, and @raleighmakersmarket. ¬†In fact, you can contact¬†@raleighmakersmarket¬†for more info on all of the vendors there. ¬†It was a lovely¬†gathering and I could have lingered there all day.

Other than that, and the¬†random¬†(mid-tropical storm) wedding photography outing, we’ve been keeping it close to home. ¬†I’m trying to build my¬†business and Mike just bought a new car, so we aren’t really trying very hard to spend right now. ¬†Later this month, we are planning to attend the Walker Stalker Con in Florida to stalk some LOST actors and meet up with some LOST 2014 compatriots. ¬†That weekend intersects with my parents’ two-week beach extravaganza, so I’ll be heading to Topsail Island to make that my work outpost until mid-July. ¬†I’ll be in and out of Raleigh, refilling my plant reservoirs and visiting Mike during the week. ¬†That is the magic of the beach being only two hours away — I can drive back and forth without too much pain.

Creations:

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I’ve been slowly knocking random craft projects out of the way in the past few weeks. ¬†Example: Mike walked in on me cooking lasagna and pinning my Renaissance dress on myself in preparation to start with the process of taking it in and reworking to a different¬†century. ¬†I *need*¬†a dress form.¬†My biggest, most recent project was putting together the above wedding scrapbook for a client (see above reference to taking wedding pictures during a tropical storm). ¬†It took up the entire kitchen bar, no small feat. ¬†Totally wonderful when assembled, so it was worth sacrificing a whole Sunday.

Growing Things:

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TOMATOES! ¬†I am so ready for those suckers to ripen. ¬†I braved Tuesday’s¬†rush-hour¬†at Kroger because I wanted fresh food with a vengeance. ¬†I looked into my bag as I was putting it in the car and realized that I could be growing all of it in my own yard in a few years (strawberries, mixed greens, potatoes, tomatoes, etc.). ¬†Of course, I’d love to do that now, but there just isn’t the room for it. ¬†I need to keep my total amount of plants under 30 this year, not 60 like last. ¬†Ha!

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I’ve also been working on my foraging/identification game. ¬†Pictured in the above¬†are (left to right): Elderberry, some form of nightshade, thistle, crown vetch, sassafras, blackberries, plantain. ¬†Aside from the nightshade (I didn’t know if I would die from eating it, since I didn’t know the species) and the crown vetch (the only use I could find for it in my searches was that pretty much only certain mammals eat it and it isn’t that tasty), I had to control major urges to harvest and eat. ¬†I did eat the ripe berries. ¬†I revisited the thistle on my walk today and city workers had mowed it. ¬†What a waste — next time I will know to steal it.

What are you loving right now? 

~Meg

Strange Aloe Behavior and a Sunburn DIY

Confession: I’m the first person to kill an aloe plant. I lean toward nurturing my plants too hard and aloe just doesn’t dig that. ¬†I get it, I was a teenager once. Before I know it, any recently acquired aloe plant has turned brown and¬†has started liquifying before my eyes.

This year, once I saw that it had started to brown and wilt, I took off the salvageable leaves and put it off into the corner of the garden to die. ¬†I neglected it so hard that I forgot it was there for a few… weeks. ¬†Oops. ¬†Evidently, that was the best thing for it, since now it’s doing this crazy thing where new shoots are coming out from random places. ¬†Good sign? ¬†I have no idea, but the shoots are a lovely shade of green that I’m feeling pretty good about.
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Obviously, I deal better in things that can be coddled into cooperation, like tomatoes or orchids. Aloe is an enigma to me.

What did I do with all of my aloe leaves? I stuck them in the freezer and forgot about them until I¬†horribly sunburned myself. ¬†As I said in my recent review of rosehip seed oil, I am the Queen of Sensitive Skin — I really need to get on that JPEG. ¬†Since it’s pretty much summer here now, I’m usually pretty wary about leaving the house without some form of SPF (sunscreen, hat, giant umbrella that shades¬†the area of a small duchy). ¬†Last week, we went to Mike’s company picnic and it was a cloudy day, so I¬†idiotically thought I’d be okay without using my usual skin cancer prevention protocols. ¬†WRONG. I was crispy within half an hour. Rookie mistake.

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I came home and immediately took my aloe out of the fridge to make the following concoction:

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Ingredients:

-1-2 Aloe Leaves Worth of Guts
-6-8 Drops of Peppermint Essential Oils

To make this mixture, I put the drops into a measuring cup. ¬†Then I slice length-wise into the leaf and open it like a book. ¬†Scrape the guts (there’s no better word for it) into the measuring cup, mix well with a fork or in a blender, and you’re ready to apply it.

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The utter gloriousness of this mixture is that it keeps well in the fridge and isn’t sticky on application. You know that gross blue stuff you buy from the store that makes it disgusting to touch anything or wear clothes after you apply it? ¬†You’re not going to get that from this treatment. ¬†It absorbs and cools your skin quickly without all the trouble of running around the house naked and blue. You can also add lavender essential oil to add an even higher degree of soothing ecstasy on your torched skin. ¬†This is the first time I haven’t peeled from a burn like this, so there’s that.

Thankfully, since I may have found the secret to keeping aloe alive this summer, I will have more to hand just in case. At any rate, I refuse to leave the house without sunscreen and my giant hat for a long time.

Do you have sensitive skin or burn easily?  Have you ever kept an aloe plant alive? Let me know your secrets!

~Meg

I received this as a promotional review from InstaNatural. While it is encouraged that you shower me with gifts and stuff, all opinions remain my own.

A Day At the Zoo: Flora

Back in March, Mike and I took a trip to the zoo and I posted about the animals¬†we encountered. ¬†This post is strictly about the plants. ¬†Obviously, coupling plants with travel is a magical thing for me. But¬†these are from my cell phone, so they aren’t the most spectacular. ¬†I promise, I’ve been using my camera more often lately. Here are some of the lovelies I caught that day:

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