Tag Archives: Gardening

Visitors…Furry is Not my Friend

28 Apr

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis

Our daughter drove up from Florida over Easter, making a stop on the way to spend a couple of days with a college friend. We enjoyed spending Easter together before she drove over to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee to spend a few days with an old friend. They both love rollercoasters and were looking forward to some thrill rides.

Rebekah and her dad enjoying coffee on the porch before Easter service.

The big, black bear is definitely back. As I mentioned last week, It was first sighted at a neighbor’s home so we made sure to bring in our bird feeders at night in hope that the bear would not visit. It seems our plan did not work. So far we have recorded him twice on our game camera. His second visit, we were in bed, but not yet asleep when we heard a noise and ran to look outside.

Our family, cousins visiting from Florida heard the same noise we did but decided to stay safe and snug in the bedroom. After seeing the video from the game camera the following morning, it took some coaxing to convince them they would be safe on the porch during the day.

Our cousins have visited several times before, and I knew that they enjoyed exploring and driving back roads. I remembered a quaint church we discovered a couple of years ago, just a few miles away. Saint John’s Episcopal Church. It is a small lovely church surrounded by graves dating back to the 1800s.

While we were there, a volunteer was tending to the church needs and shared the history. We were surprised to learn the congregation meets outside in good weather. Our previous visit there was in summer. This visit the blooming dogwood trees changed the whole atmosphere.

Over the winter our daughter’s much loved friend, Mia the cat died.As she emerged from grieving she began praying for direction in choosing a new companion pet. Ideally, she wanted to adopt one that was given up due to the owners inability to no longer care for it. She was open to a cat or a dog. She brought a carrier with her, to be ready just in case. One day on a grocery run she saw a sign for a shelter with a website listed. She found two dogs, brother and sister that had been surrendered and were available. They were two years old, part dachshund and chihuahua. By the time we arrived the following day, the female was adopted but the male was still available. I think it was love at first sight.

HIs name was chewy, which I thought was a bit ominous, but so far he hasn’t lived up to it. Our daughter has always wanted a dog named Ollie and is in the process of training him to recognize it as his new name. Has anyone every changed a pets name?

The weekend before she returned to Florida, she helped me pot some flowers, which she is good at and I am not, and climbed the hill behind us to anchor a flower basket. I love seeing the petunias waving at me as I sip my morning coffee on the porch.

She also supervised her dad hanging a sign over the door to our porch. It was a Christmas gift and I had waited all winter to be home and have it hung. I enjoy it every time I see it.

Sadly, our time together with our daughter was drawing to a close. She had really wanted to have a campfire one evening and on her last night, the weather was perfect, warm with a touch of cool.e could have toasted S’mores if I had planned ahead. Living a low carb lifestyle would have meant I would have needed to make both marshmallows and graham crackers. We substituted with mango ice cream and Razzle Dazzle coffee. The coffee is from a local Florida roaster and has a delicious raspberry flavor.

Freezing in Florida

28 Jan

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis

According to local news it has been four years since Florida experienced a widespread freeze.

That means there are thousands of new Florida residents and some may have questions about what to expect. A local Facebook group had these questions:

  • Will my car be ok?
  • What should I do to protect my plants?
  • Should I cover landscape bushes and small trees?
  • Do I need to buy special materials to cover my plants?
  • Is there anything I need to do with running water to protect pipes?

Answers ranged from helpful to flippant. I decided to throw in my 2¢ of advise based on living all but my two first years of life in Florida.

Yes, your car will be ok. In Florida we mix water with antifreeze in the car’s coolant system. Not to prevent freezing but to assist with keeping the car’s engine cool during our long, hot summers.(Which I might add seem to go from April through December.) So if your car has antifreeze, no worries.

The need to protect plants and how to protect them is a matter of preference. My rule of thumb is if I have a plant or plants that would be greatly missed, I cover them or if possible bring them inside. I have three hanging baskets of mandevilla flowers that are very sensitive to cold and frost. It’s not very pretty at the moment but in the spring and summer it is lush with flowers

They spend half the year with me in North Carolina and the other half in Florida. I will move them into my daughter’s storage building until the cold passes. We will also be protecting the plumeria, coleus, geranium and poinsettia flowers. Except for the plumeria, they are in pots which we will move close to the house and group snugly together then probably toss a sheet over them.

Big box home improvement stores sell special clothes for covering plants but I think an old sheet or light blanket works just as well. We also use our old beach towels. This might not be aesthetically pleasing but it works. According to the local news station, the trick is to make sure the cover reaches all the way to the ground to retain the days heat. Be sure to put the cover on the plants before sunset so you lose less heat.

I’m not sure about covering landscape bushes. I think it would depend on what one calls a landscape bush. I remember one year we had a nice grouping of crotons.

Image by sandid from Pixabay

We didn’t cover them and they froze. After the cold passed we cut them back and they survived. I often think the occasional freeze in Florida is nature’s way to maintain order. Otherwise, some plants grow to unmanageable size unless one prunes regularly.

It’s not a bad idea to give plants a nice watering before a freeze. It is supposed to help with maintaining heat plus, our cold fronts tend to be accompanied by wind which is particularly drying.

In my whole lifetime in Florida, I have not known anyone whose indoor pipes froze. I am not familiar with north west Florida, so that may be an issue there. The only pipe we had freeze was our outdoor water hose pipe. I remember wanting to turn the water on for some reason and the water wouldn’t flow out. Thinking it had some ice on the inside near the opening, I gave it a few bangs on the sidewalk. To my amazement, the metal fitting on the hose bent. It was Christmas and the year our children received new bicycles. They about froze but were determined to give them a ride.

Freezing temperatures in Florida did bring some fun things. People would leave their yard sprinklers on so that they would wake up to icy fences. The non fun side is the damage to winter crops. At one time Central Florida had vast orange groves and a hard freeze was a disaster. Not far from us is a farm that grows ferns which are very sensitive. They run water sprinklers to incase the ferns in ice which protects them from the lower temperature.

The bottom line for me is don’t put complete trust in the weather forecast. So far in our area, the cold snaps have been colder than the forecasts. But, this one could also be warmer. Who knows? It’s the weather and the weather does what it wants.

And yes, falling Iguanas are real. From a news station a few days ago. Weather is supposed to be even colder starting tonight.

I'm a winner

After my retirement, I decided to re-learn the canning and preserving skills I learned from my mother but hadn’t practiced for twenty years. I titled the blog Old Things R New to chronicle my experience.  Since then I have been blessed to have six other bloggers join me, DiVoran Lites, Bill Lites,  Judy Wills, Louise Gibson, Janet Perez Eckles and Melody Hendrix

In addition to blogging, I work as the publicist/marketer/ amateur editor and general  “mom Friday” for my author daughter, Rebekah Lyn. I also manage her website, Rebekah Lyn Books  

My 2021 goal is continue to use my love of photographs and words to be an encourager on social media. You can visit Real Life Books and Media You Tube Channel if you would like to view some of the mini-videos I have created for our church, Gateway Community in Titusville, Fl.

Plant Migration

23 Jan

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis

Since we divide our time between the Western North Carolina mountains and Florida ( 6 months each) people ask if we are snow birds. I don’t consider us snow birds as we are not fleeing the snow and cold of winter (which I love) but fleeing the Florida summer heat. I tell them we are blessed irregular migrants, wandering between both places.

The dictionary defines human migration as “physical movement by humans from one region to another” and ecology migration as”the large-scale movement of species from one environment to another;”

The ecology part came into play when we began bringing my dipladenia or mandevilla hanging baskets, cold sensitive plants, to spend winters in Florida with us. They flourished, and make the Spring journey back to North Carolina in full bloom.

Initially I had one plant that hung by the front door but a few years ago purchased another to hang in the back yard for the birds to enjoy. This year I retired an old one from rotation and it will hopefully live happily in Florida. We have had to bring it inside several times this year due to the cold but so far so good. I wish I had a picture before our daughter trimmed it up yesterday. It was huge!. I think the yellow leaves are the result of adjusting to a different climate.

Poinsettia are a long time favorite of mine. During childhood my mom grew them outside and they bloomed beautifully at Christmas. She knew when to trim them back for blooms. Christmas of 2019 I bought some small plants at a home improvement store in North Carolina. They were only 88 cents each so why not! I found I preferred the small plants as they were easier to create a grouping in decorative containers for the holiday season.

Of course I became attached to them and took them with us to Florida. They did well over the winter but I didn’t think they would flourish in the summer heat so we found room in the car and took them with us along with the dipladenia.

We didn’t plant them, simply sat them outside in their pots and let nature care for them. They grew and began to get “leggy”. When our daughter came to spend Thanksgiving with us, I asked her to take the plants to Florida and see how they would do. To my surprise they overcame the “leggy” look and made a beautiful plant.

Moving into the fall of 2020. I posted here about finding a farm that sold a myriad of pansy varieties. I planted three pots of them. Unfortunately, the time to leave for Florida arrived before they reached full glory. So… you guessed it, I brought them with me, but only one pot. I left one on a shepherds hook by the front door and one in a large planter that supports a fountain.

I also picked up 88 cent poinsettias again this year. I set a grouping on the outside stairs as well as some inside. It was tricky trying to remember to bring them in after watering them, but I only watered once per week. They came to Florida too and along with the pansies are now providing cheerful color` to the walkway. If the pansies survive the heat of Florida spring (which begins in late February) I plan to take them back to North Carolina where they should thrive until late April. And yes, there is a good chance the poinsettia will go too. I think maybe my plants are snow bird plants!

We bought this dipladenia in 2020 and look forward to several years of migration. I love these plants because they take care of themselves and yet give us beautiful flowers.

I hope January has been kind to you. We’ve had some medical challenges but remain thankful and confident in the love and care of our Savior.

What you must kill in order for joy to grow.

20 Aug

Walking by Faith, Not by Sight

Janet Perez Eckles

GardeningA desire to garden exploded in me when I read this:

Why do gardeners go for their hobby with such passion and dedication? I think it is because the creativity never ends. Gardeners are always adding, trimming, forming, watching, and that’s what makes the work fun. Our gardens are our living, ever-changing palette.

What fun! I want to do that, too. But then I remembered what someone told me. Gardening requires work, real work such as consistent efforts to pull out weeds so the flowers can grow.

I should’ve known that—nothing grows without work. I learned that in the weed-filled garden of my own life. And when I went to work, pulling out the weeds, then joy began to blossom.

And like many, the most stubborn weed is the one called doubt. It has to be yanked out. If not, doubt chokes all that tries to grow.

Often that unsightly doubt comes in these three different varieties:

  1. Doubt that God is enough, that He will provide for all our needs. “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
  2. Doubt that God will be with us no matter where life takes us. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
  3. Doubt that is the key that opens the door to destructive fear. So we fear things won’t turn out, answers won’t come or solutions won’t arrive. “For I’ve not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

When doubt is pulled out, the garden of life shines with new colors. Peace grows, security blossoms, and hope brings on the fragrance of joy.

What weed-killer are you using for that stubborn doubt?

Source: What you must kill in order for joy to grow. | Janet Perez Eckles

To Plant a Garden

24 May

A Life to Live

Melody Hendrix




I am retired and enjoying life. My hobbies are my 5 grandchildren, son and daughter, and my loving husband. I am a photographer and extreme nature lover. I love spending time in my garden or in the wilderness connected to God my Creator.


Faster Weeks, Slower Me

19 May

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis

I'm a winner

I mistakenly believed that once I retired life would slow down and weeks would not fly by faster than a comet. It seems the only slowing down that has occurred is me. Maybe since it takes me longer to accomplish tasks, that is why it feels that weeks are zooming along.

On Monday the husband and I went to work on the slide area in our yard. The  county Soil and Water department suggested we replant the area with tall Fescue grass. We decided to fertilize, amend with lime and re-seed the entire yard. My husband used the garden tiller to break up the grassed areas that had become particularly bare and hard. After that we put out lime, then fertilizer and seed. My job was to gently rake the tilled area to spread some soil over the seeds. We have no idea if that is what one does when seeding clay soil. Growing grass in Florida is totally different. Finally we spread wheat straw and watered everything. I am NOT a fan of yard work, but the day was beautiful with a gentle cool breeze and I enjoyed it.

Tuesday was an interesting day. The charging port on my husband’s phone stopped working and my do-it-yourself man decided he could change it out. He is pretty sharp at fixing things but this one almost defeated him. Ten tiny screws had to be removed to change the port. No problem, Spilling the screws and losing one, now that is a problem. After an hour of searching, he put the phone together without the screw. It powered up and he was able to place a call. Yea! Except he could not hear me talking to him. So, tear the phone apart again. The missing screw had not appeared but being a problem solving kind of guy, he remembered that his old phone was the same brand as his current one. He pirated the old one for a replacement screw, put the phone back together and now it charges and has sound. Problem solved.

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: Missing screw found! We are cleaning house for company and removed rug and furniture from the room of the lost screw. Handy husband pushed all the debris into a pile and used his flashlight to illuminate the screw. Now to save it or not to save it.

Wednesday started off well. We had breakfast with friends then spent the rest of the morning running errands. Somewhere along the way, my energy drained away and my mood slipped lower than the thermometer on a Ontario winter day. I decided to hibernate.

After a good night’s sleep and some motivational musing, today is looking up. I am not the center of the universe. That job belongs to someone far above me. My job is to keep looking up.

Cherry Blossoms on tree.



12 May

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis

I'm a winner

#ThankfulThursday was trending on Twitter this week. Yes, it is a hash tag, but it is exactly what I feel. My husband has been feeling poorly for a while and today he is building a form to pour a concrete walkway, Three weeks ago, he could not do that. I am REALLY thankful. I am also thankful to be back in the North Carolina hills where summer hasn’t even begun. Florida was becoming unbearably hot and this week will have many ninety degree days.

When we left Florida, Rebekah was able to come up with us  for a long weekend. The hills were experiencing a weak cold front and we all welcomed the cooler temperatures. One of the reasons she chose to come to the hills is that Franklin was holding their annual “Airing of the Quilts.” It was a cool and breezy morning.

Check out this quilted car and the “Granny Clampet” truck.

We also came across a “Little Library.” I knew there was one in downtown Franklin but I had not seen it yet.


We were sad when Rebekah’s visit came to an end but we had a fun moment when we were driving her to the airport. Sylva, North Carolina is the setting for a movie shoot!



We took  some photos as we were driving.  Yes, I had my head and arms outside the car trying to get the shots. My friends know I am NOT a movie fan, I did if for movie buffs Jen and Pam. Those shots were awful so I went with windshield view.

I like the blue on the red brick. I think they should keep the colors. There was also a newspaper office but I wasn’t fast enough to get it.

Another thing I am thankful for is that I am back in the hills in time to enjoy the gorgeous blooms on my peonies. The first time I saw peonies was at the cabin of our friends Karen and Bill. I fell in love with them and they were a must-have on my list of flowers when we built our North Carolina home. The white ones are particularly dear to my heart as they came from Karen and Bill’s cabin. I think of them with a smiling heart as I enjoy the blooms.  They both passed away within a year of each other and I miss them.

I would love to hear what you are thankful for!


Keukenhof Gardens, Holland

29 Mar


Judy Wills   





I hope you are enjoying my postings about flowers as much as I am enjoying writing about them. Although my “green thumb” is as purple as can be, i.e. I can’t grow ANYTHING – I thoroughly enjoy flowers. We’ve been to many “gardens” in our lifetime, but I think the most magnificent is the Keukenhof Gardens by Lisse in Holland (pronounced koy’-ken-hōf). We’ve been fortunate to have been stationed in Germany for a total of six years, and have made the Holland trip quite a few times.


One of the first times we visited Keukenhof was in April of 1968. Spring had not yet fully arrived in Holland, and we were treated to winds and bare trees. However, the landscaping of the gardens was still beautiful.



And when we returned later, when Spring was in full swing, we were amazed to see how the landscape had just exploded with flowers.



There were blankets of flowers.



And when we climbed up into one of the many windmills there, we could look out and see fields and fields of tulips. Beautiful!



Even though there weren’t many flowers outside around the grounds, there were tulips in abundance in the hothouses. We’ve been told there are about 700 different varieties of tulips there.



I was fascinated to see some that were absolutely black – named “Black Beauty.”



Another time we visited, we saw more black tulips called “The Ace of Spades.”



We were amazed to see all the different colors and styles of tulips – lots of hybrid work going on there. Although tulips are the main flower, there are many others there, as well. There were blankets of hyacinths. I saw my first Amaryllis, and was amazed at the size of it.



The next year, 1969, we visited again, but in May, when my Mother came to visit us. Not only were the gardens in full swing, the flowers were just everywhere




Not only in the ground, but in planters, as well.



Just about everywhere flowers could be – they were there. You can see the difference in the trees and the tulips and other flowers from the early Spring of our 1968 visit. We thoroughly enjoyed both visits.



We visited again in March of 1981, with our two daughters, during their Spring Break. The weather was rather chilly, windy, and brisk. We were in jackets at the time. Once again, Spring had yet to arrive, and nature was still rather bleak. We had been wandering around the area and thought we would freeze if we went to the gardens, but really had no choice – it was then or never. Much to our surprise – inside the garden, with all the trees, the wind didn’t reach us very much, and we were quite comfortable.




~~~~~~~~To Be Continued~~~~~~~



A Bean Canning Fiasco

14 Aug

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis

I'm a winner

This week started well. I was busy with #MondayBlogs (if you are on Twitter check this out on Monday) and Mike went out to pick the green beans on our extremely tall green bean bushes, more like trees. As an aside, we learned from this and will NOT use ten foot poles again. Monday Blogs tend to make me anxious, so many blogs and tweets, so little time, so I took a break and helped Mike string and snap our unexpectedly large picking. We had a grand time sitting on the back porch, rocking, snapping and talking. By the time we finished I decided it was too late to can them and popped them into the refrigerator to work on the next morning.

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Tuesday morning, I cleaned my kitchen making sure I had plenty of room to wash the beans and then began the canning process. I was expecting around eight pints but by the end of nine pints I had a lot of beans left. No worries. I decided to  start the others in the pressure canner then jar up the rest in quarts. I had five quarts!

I can outside using a Coleman stove and my husband set it all up for me. In my haste, I neglected to look at the pressure gauge. It was new last year so I assumed it was fine. We waited for the canner to vent, put the jiggler on and sat down to wait for it to work it’s magic.  I was dreaming of bragging about my beautiful green beans.  All was good until my husband said, why is the pressure gauge on fifteen? I, of course, suggested he had the flame turned up too high. After much “fiddling” we decided the pressure gauge was bad.

I was distraught? No, frustrated is a better word. I called the Macon County Agricultural Extension Office for advice. ( Surely there is an acronym for that?) and was told that Debbie the canning girl was not in, call tomorrow. Tomorrow? I had two canners of beans NOW. In the end, I cooled the pints(and myself) and put them in the refrigerator. I  froze the quarts. (That is a long  tale too traumatic to speak of at this time)

I am happy to say, that Wednesday, my husband was able to tinker with the gauge and zero it out and the MCAEC ^^^^ confirmed it was now accurate. I didn’t trust it though, so I pulled out one of my mother’s old canners with a weighted jiggler and finally canned the beans. The next time we pick, I think we may just eat them all week and share with whomever will take them!

9 pints

I totally forgot to tell you about Gus. We call him the best porch dog ever. He belongs to the neighbors but comes to visit while they work. He was with us the whole time, faithfully offering his head for a pat and ears to scratch.

photo 2

Beans Gone Wild

24 Jul

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis

I'm a winner


We returned to North Carolina after nine days in Florida celebrating the launch of our daughter, Rebekah Lyn’s new novel,  Jessie. I couldn’t wait to see if our tiny garden had survived the days of neglect. I would say it has survived!

Beans Gone Wild

Beans Gone Wild


Gardening in North Carolina clay is very different from gardening in Florida  so our  garden is  an experimental project. The past two years we grew bush beans and they did quite well. This year we decided to try runner beans. Is this height normal? I suspect we may have made the poles too high as we have more vines than beans.  I picked this morning and the majority of the beans came from two bush bean plants  from last years seeds.

Picked beans copy


There should be enough for my husband and I to have one serving each for dinner tonight.

We have decided to give up on bell peppers. We just don’t have enough sunlight for them. The first year we planted, our tomato plants grew great but the last two years have been awful. We did plant them in different locations but it hasn’t helped.  Nasty greem tomato worms love to eat the foilage and have to be picked off by hand and smashed. This so grosses me out!  If anyone has suggestions for deterring them without pesticides please leave them in comments.

In the Fall we add in compost from our compost heap and in the Spring add mushroom compost to enrich the clay soil.  I have to admit, I took the Florida sand for  granted. I had no idea it was such a great soil for growing. So far, in North Carolina  we haven’t been able to germinate flower seeds directly in the soil, unlike Florida where one simply  fluffs the soil, spreads the seeds and gently push a thin layer of sand over the seeds. Within a week, the seeds have popped up.

Do you have any gardening tips you can share?

If you would like the chance to enter a super easy giveaway from Rebekah Lyn 


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