Tag Archives: Gardening

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 



16 Jun

My Take

DiVoran Lites 


Author, Poet and ArtistOne day I was wandering in the cleared area behind our house and I came upon a miniature liquor bottle. I have a penchant for bottles, so I picked it up, washed it out, and stuffed a small spider plant into it. The spider plant then proceeded to grow roots. I have a penchant for roots.

Yesterday I had breakfast with a friend who is a professional photographer. We like to talk about our gardens and share cuttings and clippings. I gave her some purple heart.

She gave me some plants, too. When I looked in the succulent’s bag, I saw a long root. “I’m into roots, right now,” I said pulling out a beautiful aloe plant.

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Then she asked the big question. “Why?”

I’m still not sure I can answer it, but I have a book, Finding What You Didn’t Lose, by John Fox CPT. In a chapter called, “Leaving the Roots on Your Writing: Revealing Yourself in Your Poetry.” Fox says, “When I lead workshops and people share their spontaneous poems, one of the first qualities people recognize in the atmosphere of the place…is that there is a deepened level of genuine intimacy. People begin to leave “roots” and “dirt” on their words. This intimacy is first self-honest, which then extends into the group experience.”

As I understand it, roots are the opposite of pretension. Pretension is like a plastic string—it doesn’t grow anything new or nourishing while a root does.

My mother always said, “Make yourself the best you can, and then be yourself.” I was still working on the first part, but I began to see that it was time to bring the second part into play. It seems that one way to start living with the roots is to quit trying so hard. So what if I drop the g’s off words when I get excited? So what if I wear my shorts and no lipstick to Wal-Mart? So what if I ask dumb questions or snort when I laugh? At least I’m laughing. I will soldier on as if it were none of my business what THEY THINK. Like Popeye, I yam what I yam. Ain’t we all?


Herbal Remedies and Essential Oils~Herbal health from a Christian Worldview

12 Jun

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis

I'm a winner


When I retired, one of my goals was to learn more about herbal remedies, so I was delighted when in the process of searching for book bloggers, I stumbled upon Lydia’s Herbals. I contacted Lydia and she graciously agreed to be interviewed. Enjoy~Onisha



Why were you drawn to herbal remedies and how did you educate yourself in the art?

Originally, I wanted to start a pretty garden, but I wanted it to be useful. So I decided to make an herb garden. Then I had to learn about how to use them, so I read library books on the subject. The books didn’t provide enough hands on information, so I searched for an herb course from a Christian worldview. After nearly giving up on ever finding one, I found Vintage Remedies, Inc. and took the Family Herbalist Course as part of my high school coursework. When I finished, I decided to take the Master Herbalist Course so that I would know even more and be more equipped to use the herbs. I really like Vintage Remedies, as they are evidence based, so they try to take a safer approach than many others.

Essential oils are all the rage now. Do you have any advice about them?

 Don’t use them neat (undiluted)! There are several companies advocating the use of neat essential oils, or using them internally. Doing so can cause SERIOUS problems. Neat essential oils can burn your skin, and many oils can be toxic in small quantities, causing liver and/or kidney damage. Essential oils are very powerful, so less is more. They also work better when applied externally, as well as being safer.

Most essential oils need to be diluted by putting 3 drops of essential oil into 1 Tsp. of carrier oil. I usually use olive oil for the carrier oil, but almond oil, jojoba oil, and coconut oil are other choices.

Diffusion is also a good method to use, you can add a drop or 2 of essential oil to some boiling water and let it diffuse into the air. There are also many diffusers available to purchase. I use a terra-cotta diffuser from Mountain Rose herbs for a small room, or a pan of water on the stove or wood stove for a larger room.

As with anything, you have to know what you are doing. Do some research from reputable sources. Aromatherapy for Health Professionals is my favorite book about essential oils. It has safety information as well as many case studies. Many essential oils should not be used if you are pregnant, and there are several that should not be used on small children. There are other safety concerns as well, such as seizures. My favorite resource is one of my textbooks, because it has all the information on how to use essential oils safely. You also need to make sure the oils are good quality. The sources I trust are Mountain Rose Herbs and Native American Botanicals.

Do you have advice for someone like me who is just beginning to explore herbal remedies?

Don’t believe everything you read. Some people will recommend dangerous herbs, and say they are safe. If you can, find someone who is willing to help you learn, but make sure that they know what they are talking about.  I highly recommend Vintage Remedies, and the Family Herbalist course gives you a working knowledge of herbs and essential oils and how to use them safely, including dosing and preparing herbs.

Do you suggest a person grow their own medicinal herbs or is there a retail source for obtaining them?

If you can, grow your own. I sometimes grow my own, but I go through large quantities with my goats, so I have to order them. Mountain Rose Herbs and Best Botanicals have good quality herbs, as does Bulk Herb Store.

If one wants to start a beginner level medicinal herb garden which would be your top five suggestions and why?

  •  Calendula, because it is easy to grow and very good for your skin.
  • Peppermint, also easy to grow. It is good for nausea and headaches, as well as other things.
  • Lavender, because it smells nice and is easy to preserve.
  • Borage, because it is pretty, easy to grow, and has edible flowers. It also attracts bees.
  • Chamomile. It is calming, relieves headaches, and is actually helpful in fighting bacteria. It is also pretty and easy to grow.

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Tell our readers about the products you make, their uses and how you create them.

 I make Lydia’s Herbal Healing Salve, Lydia’s Herbal Muscle and Joint Salve, Lydia’s Herbal Sun Block, Lydia’s Herbal Lip Balm, Lydia’s Herbal Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth, and Lydia’s Herbal Tick Repellent, as well as herbal wormer, herbal minerals, and a few tinctures for animals.

My family and I have used Lydia’s Herbal Healing Salve on dry skin, bug bites, bruises, and rashes. My friends have found it to help with eczema and psoriasis. We use Lydia’s Herbal Muscle and Joint Salve on sore muscles and joints. The others are pretty self-explanatory. I made the toothpaste for my Mom, because she has super sensitive teeth and the store-bought toothpaste wasn’t working for her.

To make any of my products, I first research. Sometimes it takes hours, sometimes it takes days. I look for any safety precautions on the herbs and Essential oils, and look for the best herbs to use for a particular application. After I have thoroughly researched, I come up with a recipe using the herbs and essential oils I researched. Then I order the herbs I need.

For the salves, sun block and lip balm, once the herbs get here, I make an oil infusion. An oil infusion is made by weighing the herbs according to the recipe, then covering them with the right amount of oil.Not sure

I put it in a warm oven for 3-6 hours. I usually let it sit for several days after having it in the oven, to make sure all the herbal properties get transferred. Then I strain the oil, and add beeswax and heat it up until the beeswax is melted. After the beeswax is melted, I add the essential oil and package it.

The tick repellent and tinctures for animals are HErbal tickcreated by making a tincture out of the herbs and alcohol or apple cider vinegar. The tick repellent then gets essential oils added.


The sun block basically is a salve, but it has some minerals added to it to increase the effectiveness. The lip balm is also about the same as a salve, just more beeswax.

The toothpaste has some oil infusions in it, and then I add the other ingredients.

The herbal wormer and minerals are just powdered herbs that are mixed together. Not everyone has 15+ goats, so I sell it by the pound. I make it because with the amount of animals we have, we go through a lot of it.


I hope our readers have enjoyed this interview as much as I have!


 Lydia’s Herbals 

Herbal health from a Christian Worldview

Click HERE 

herb for blog copy


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