Category Archives: Uncategorized

March 14, 2017

Yesterday we had a blizzard. Normally I wouldn’t write about a blizzard, but because it was so late in the year, March 14, I think it merits mention.

The fact that we had a blizzard a week before spring is notable in and of itself…and the fact that I had taken a robin under the wing (so to speak) added to the drama (at least in my mind). This robin showed up a few weeks ago. It had been unusually warm back then for that time of the year and the ground was starting to thaw. I saw the robin out on the lawn doing his little robin thing…running a few steps, turning his head and listening, over and over again. I didn’t give it much thought.

But then it got cold. Bitterly cold. The ground that was starting to thaw refroze and was hard as a rock. The robin was smart enough to not even bother with his running and listening routine. I would see him in the trees and wonder what he was eating. Then I thought “Maybe he’s not eating.” That did it, blueberries were on my shopping list.

So the next day I put some of the fresh blueberries on the ground near the big holly which would provide some protection. I watched and waited and after a while he showed up and ate them. Success! I fed him those blueberries for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day since then.

But then the blizzard arrived. I could have worried about losing power or having the big old pine tree blow over on the house or something fairly rational. But no, I’m worried about feeding the robin.

The snow started very early in the morning. I brushed a path out to the holly and deposited the berries. I watched from the window and saw him eating. But then the snow became heavier and the wind was howling. I didn’t think he had time to eat many berries before conditions deteriorated. And he didn’t get his usual lunch. At about 3 PM the snow let up and I shoveled a path to the holly and cleared an area. I didn’t see him or hear him. I put the berries down and watched from the window…no robin.

Then it started to rain and the rain switched back to snow.  It was now after 6 PM and I was sitting in my chair by the window in the den. I saw a movement out the window and turned my head and there appeared the robin on the sill knocking on the window. He had a frantic look on his face and panic in his eyes! I jumped up, grabbed the berries, and headed out the door.

A robin is rather an aloof type of bird. They do their own bird thing and really don’t pay attention to humans. In contrast, the chickadee is a very sociable little bird. He comes over to greet you and sing his little chick-a-dee-dee-dee to you. The catbird follows you around the yard, almost complaining that you are intruding on his personal domain. The hummingbird who comes every year shows up at either the window in the kitchen or den to tell me she’s here and thereafter when she needs more nectar.

I wondered how the robin knew I’d be at the den window? He must have been desperate to do something so out of character.

I put the blueberries down and watched from the window. It was getting dark and usually the robin would be bedded down for the night by now. No robin appeared.

I saw him early the next morning by the holly. I grabbed the berries and by the time I got outside he was singing up a storm. Things are back to normal. And normal is good.

March 14, 2017 snow:

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Photo of his berries:

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Shipping and Handling

Shipping charges are pretty much fixed. Oh, sure, you could add insurance and other services to the postage but at the end of the day you know how much it cost to ship an item. Then you’d have to include the cost of the packaging…the box, tissue paper, bubble wrap, peanuts, tape, labels, note card and whatever.  But again, you can arrive at a proximate cost.  The handling, ah the handling, that is another matter.  Do you establish an hourly rate, estimate how long it will take to pack something and arrive at an appropriate handling fee?  I pack all kinds of antique, vintage and other items that have been sold at my Etsy shop.  I don’t include a handling charge because, in some instances, it would be exorbitant to the point of ridiculous.

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I sell a good deal of silver plated items.  Most are antique from the late 1880s. I take care in packaging these items but it really doesn’t take that long.  I’m not really worried about the package (and item) getting damaged, I’m concerned that it will get lost somewhere in the system.  It’s really a leap of faith to leave a package with the USPS and hope that it reaches the recipient.  I have lost sleep over a rare antique julep strainer that didn’t reach a bartender across country for days after its expected delivery date.  Although it was finally delivered, I think of it as a reflection on my service.  I know I shouldn’t, but I do.

Packaging more delicate items is not so simple.  An antique transferware plate is not extremely difficult. But packing a coffee pot does present challenges.

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The spout and handle have to be carefully protected, as does the top. Constructing three sided cardboard protectors for the handle and spout works well. It takes thought and time. Double boxing is a good idea.  You can write “FRAGILE” all over the box. But you never know, do you?  The word “fragile” might provoke playfulness with those whose care you have entrusted it.  I can see it being tossed across a sorting room… I have to remove those negative thoughts from my mind somehow.

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Antique paper is another nightmare.  Paper that is 130 years old is fragile.  It crumbles if you just look at it. Carefully rolling it in tissue paper and inserting in a plastic bag (to protect it in case it is left in the rain) before you place it in a shipping tube is nerve wracking.

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As some of you might know, I sell pieces of wood from my yard.  Yew is popular.  And you might think it has to be a piece of cake to package a stick.  Well, if it is a nice, straight stick that easily slides into a tube, it is!

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The following photo shows a root end of a piece of yew.  It might not look that large in this photo but it was. It was huge.  I’m lucky I had a box big enough to hold it.  And it had to be well packaged so that it didn’t bounce around inside the box and break through one end.  The buyer of this piece of yew paid a good deal in shipping but the handling was free.

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Another sort of wood that I sell is hawthorn.  It is bought mainly for the thorns which can be up to two inches long and sharp as you know what.  Not only do you have to be careful to not impale yourself in the process of packaging it, you have to be very gentle with it as the thorns are fragile and can break.

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Moving right along to the harder substances, I sell antique bricks as well. Certainly, you might think, bricks have to be simple to pack.  But they’re not.  These four bricks had to be individually bubble wrapped and then separated by a cardboard grid to keep them from bumping up against each other.  The exterior sides of the box had to be protected by a double layer of cardboard as well.  Antique bricks break easily. I wrote “FRAGILE” all over the outside of the box too. They have to be protected.  And carrying that box into the post office wasn’t easy either! (Talk about handling!)   “What do you have here, lady, a box of bricks?” Yup.

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And lastly, I also sell some unusual rocks from my property. wp-1486299618053.jpg

The heart shaped rock above was purchased by a woman who said she had just gone through a very difficult time in her life and this rock was perfect. She was so looking forward to receiving it.  Broken rocks are fragile and crumble easily.  I wrapped it in tissue paper and bubble wrapped the heck out of it.  “FRAGILE” was written on this box as well. It arrived safely and she was so happy.  I was happy too.

 

 

Ice Cream is Better than Aspic

The previous owner of this unusual sickle shaped item called it a “bookmark”.  It is just over 10 inches long, has a hollow handle and is relatively heavy.  How could someone possibly think it is a bookmark?  But what is it?

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The curved blade is beautifully etched on one side.

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And has a small amount of etching on the reverse.

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There is a mark, possibly two marks, on the handle. wp-1465124497031.jpg

Although difficult to see, the mark shown above is a French mark called a “Minerve”. It depicts a woman’s head and has a “1” at the top right side of the head.  This indicates it is 950 parts of 1000 silver…sterling silver.

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On the opposite side is what appears to be another mark, possibly a maker’s mark, but I have been unable to identify it.

Searching “sickle knife”, “sickle blade” and other sickle related phrases, I found results for aspic knives on the internet.  Some well known American sites were calling this an aspic knife or slice.

The thought of aspic left a bad taste in my mouth.  Aspic…a savory jelly studded with meat, fish, vegetables or whatever.  It made me think back to the jellied pigs’ feet my mother sometimes made when I was a young girl.  I couldn’t even stay in the house when she was making the stuff; the smell nauseated me never mind the horror of seeing pigs’ feet in a pot.  After cooking, the pieces of meat and broth were put into bowls and placed in the glassed in back porch over night.  This was only done in the cold months and the broth would jell around the meat.  What was even more disgusting is that it was eaten the next morning!  The pigs’ feet had been boiled with cloves of garlic and the aroma in the kitchen the next morning was revolting. Time to disappear for a while.

I wondered how these sickle shaped utensils could be used to cut through aspic.  The blade was not serrated.  How could it cut through pieces of meat?  And how would you hold it to slice?  It just didn’t make sense to me.

I knew from experience that although an item might be identified as something by certain people, even by so-called experts, it did not necessarily mean that it was correct.  And if something is identified as a certain thing, other people jump on board, do no other research of their own, and take for granted it is what others are saying it is.

What I was looking for was an advertisement, article or catalog page from the time showing that it is an aspic server.  But what I found instead is that it is an “ice cream slice” or, as the French would call it, “serpette a glace”.  The illustration below from an 1898 publication shows a “service a glace” (“glace” translates to “ice cream”).1898 La Coutellerie Depuis l'Origine Jusqu'à Nos Jours pg676

This sickle shaped slicer was usually sold in a set with a server. 1904 Deutsche Goldschmiede-Zeitung Vol.7 pg100 & ca1915 German catalog

Both illustrations above came from German publications from the early 1900s.  They call this sickle knife an “eissichel”.  “Eis” in German is “ice cream”.  “Eis…sichel”…”ice cream sickle”.  I believe the tip of the blade is placed on the plate on the far side of the ice cream and pulled toward you to slice.

This is evidence (word and illustration) from the time that this is an ice cream slice.  If anyone reading this has written evidence that the “aspic knife” is actually an “aspic knife”, I’d be delighted to see it and will add it to this post.

This ice cream slice is available for sale here at my Etsy shop:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/398805449/serpette-a-glace-french-950-minerve

 

Wolf’s Milk Slime Mold – The Consummate Shape Shifter

There was something strange outside.  I mean, there was something REALLY weird outside.  It was out near the barn on an old log and looked like this:

What was it?

What was it?

It was between 3 and 4 inches long.  And it gave me the creeps…it was really disgusting looking.  It must be some weird fungus, I thought.  So I headed inside to do some research.  Fungi…there are so many different types of fungi.  I looked at hundreds of images and then finally, I saw one that looked similar.  But it turned out not to be a fungus, it was a slime mold.  A Wolf’s Milk Slime Mold to be exact.

According to Wikipedia:  “Lycogala epidendrum, commonly know as wolf’s milk, groening’s slime is a cosmopolitan species of plasmodial slime mould which is often mistaken for a fungus, The aethalia, or fruiting bodies, occur either scattered or in groups on damp rotten wood, especially on large logs, from June to November.  These aethalia are small, pink to brown cushion-like globs.  They may excrete a pink paste if the outer wall is broken before maturity.  When mature, the color tends to become more brownish.  When not fruiting, single celled individuals move about as very small, red amoeba-like organisms called plasmodia, masses of protoplasm that engulf bacteria, fungal and plant spores, protozoa and particles of non-living organic matter through phagocytosis.

“During the plasmodial stage, individuals are reddish in color, but these are almost never seen.When conditions change, the individuals aggregate by means of chemical signaling to form an aethalium, or fruiting body.  … Colour is quite variable, ranging from pinkish-grey to yellowish-brown or greenish-black, with mature individuals tending toward the darker end.”

This info came from mdc.mo.gov:  “Though it may seem like one, this species isn’t actually a mushroom or fungus.  It belongs to a group called slime molds, or myxomycetes – a group of funguslike organisms that at one time were regarded as animals, then thought to be plants, then fungi.  Now, because of DNA studies, slime molds are believed to be closer to the protozoa.  They are studied by botanists and mycologists….  They have two life-cycle stages.  The first, “plasmodium” stage is rarely noticed.  It is like a huge, single-celled amoeba that creeps on dead plant material in long thin strands, engulfing and digesting bacteria, yeasts, and fungi.  When ready to reproduce, it enters into its funguslike “sporangia” stage, which makes spores that float away to became new plasmodia elsewhere.”

This slime was originally thought to be an animal (it moves!!!), then a plant, then a fungus.  Now believed to be closer to a protozoa!  And it’s right here in my backyard.  It no longer seemed so disgusting to me.  It was amazing!

The mushroomexpert.com says that the Plasmodium state is “the creepy stage.  Like something out of a B-movie. The slime mold plasmodium is a mass of glistening veinlike material that creeps across dead leaves or wood at the  rate of as much as an inch per hour, growing, eating, and probably doing other nasty things we don’t evenwant to know about.  There are no cell walls in the plasmodium, and its motion is the result of protoplasm flowing rhythmically through the organism.”  Fascinating!

I kept reading and learned that it moved toward food and fled from harm.  And sunlight was harmful to it.  Uh, oh…I think the sunlight was moving in on my slime.  I ran outside to see, and sure enough, there was dappled sunlight on it.  I stood there with my shadow providing relief to the slime.  I had to move it somewhere with relatively no sunlight.  And that would be near the woodpile.  So it was moved. 

And as I looked at my slime in its new spot, I noticed some bright red dots on another piece of wood.  Wow, this must be the plasmodial stage that is rarely seen!  A photo follows:

Plasmodial Stage

Plasmodial Stage

I went out this morning to check on my slime…to see if it was happy in its new spot.  And it looks very pleased with its new surroundings: 

Mature Wolf's Milk Slime

Mature Wolf’s Milk Slime

But the bright red plasmodial dots have moved elsewhere…I looked and looked and they are nowhere to be found.  I’m glad I got that photo when I did.

Following are two posts that you might find entertaining:

http://thislivelyearth.com/2011/11/02/slime-mold-the-new-urban-planner/

A group of biologists in 2009 studied the slime-mold species Physarum polycephalum, a gelatinous, single-celled organism resembling a fungus. The researchers drew a figure of downtown Tokyo (the yellow dot in the slide below) close to the ocean (the white outline), surrounded by other urban centers (white dots). They placed the slime mold in downtown Tokyo and yummy slime-mold food (oat flakes) in surrounding areas. Then they waited.

After five hours the slime mold had explored the area immediately around Tokyo, extending its tendrils systematically and randomly in all directions. After eleven hours it had ventured farther, favoring some routes and closing down others that proved to be dead ends. After twenty-six hours it had resolved its myriad pathways into just a few highly efficient ones:

The slime mold was solving a problem that continually challenges subway system designers: how to find the quickest routes between separate destinations in a transportation system. And the slime mold was doing it all without the benefit of a brain. (So what are our brains for, anyway?)

How does the slime mold accomplish its design miracle? It self-organizes, communicating moment to moment among its constituent parts. Ed Yong at the Guardian explains in more detail:

The plasmodium is a single sac but it behaves like a colony. Every part rhythmically expands and contracts, pushing around the fluid inside. If one part of the plasmodium touches something attractive, like food, it pulses more quickly and widens. If another part meets something repulsive, like light, it pulses more slowly and shrinks. By adding up all of these effects, the plasmodium flows in the best possible direction without a single conscious thought. It is the ultimate in crowdsourcing.

More recently, researchers have found that the tissue structure of the slime mold resembles that of animals—animals usually thought of as “more sophisticated” than slime mold. Moreover, the slime mold accomplishes its cellular self-organizing using two proteins that are similar to those used by animals to organize their own cells

The Tokyo subway study was published in Science in early 2010. Its lead author, Atsushi Tero of Hokkaido University, believes that studying how the slime mold solves complex design problems could help urban planners solve theirs. He has even developed a computer model of the slime mold’s decision making and set it loose on a map of the United States, published in Popular Science.

Paul Stamets adds his thoughts on the Tokyo experiment:

Is it true that these cellular networks are actually intelligent? … When mathematical analysis was applied, they found something astonishing. The mycelium, given these different options, optimized mathematically, making the best possible design that engineers could come up with.

He concludes,

So if you have an engineering hurdle, perhaps you should ask a slime mold!”

And this lovely post (Lessons of a Slime Whisperer) came from Justine Riekena:

http://nature.pagannewswirecollective.com/2011/10/12/lessons-of-a-slime-whisperer-%E2%80%A2-justine-riekena/

“Slime molds (or slime moulds) are simply spectacular creatures. Once classified among the fungi, slime molds have been more recently re-assigned to the grab-bag group Protista, in part because they have mobile, animal-like forms during their life-cycle. There are many varieties of slimes, but they can be very generally categorized into two groups. The plasmodial slime molds, in their motile stage, basically behave like an enormous (that is, visible to the eye), single-celled organism. But being a crawling, king-sized cell is not enough for our oozing evolutionary overachievers. These jumbo masses of ambulatory protoplasm, these ‘giant cells’ contain not one, but literally thousands of nuclei. Oooh, just think about that. Equally as impressive are the cellular slime molds who live as sovereign, single-celled protists until conditions get tough. When the solo cells begin starving, they engage in a phenomenon called chemotaxis. Releasing a chemical signal into their environs, they incite all their neighbors to gather en masse into a multicellular swarm — a swarm that behaves as a single organism. Over one hundred thousand individuals can come together as a communal blob, a protistan Wild Hunt in search of more favorable conditions. Awesome. Slime molds are consummate shape-shifters. Their remarkably dynamic lives can be loosely divided into an “animal phase” and a “plant phase.” Like any good animal, during their animal phase they spend their time eating and growing. The cellular slimes do this as solitary, amoeba-like beasties while the plasmodial slimes busy themselves by crawling about in search of food in a slippery mass. During their plant phase slimes tap into their highly innovative generative talents. This involves transforming into one or more fruiting bodies that bear a striking resemblance to the fruiting bodies of many fungi (hence their long history of classification as the Myxomycophyta). Like fungi, they ‘flower,’ growing a stalk and cap-like structure where they produce spores. This is the slime mold’s pièce de résistance — an awe-inspiring burst of reproductive splendor and a sight to behold.

Still, why slimes? These creatures are so odd and obscure. Sometimes I speculate about the origins of my rapport with them, but these types of relationships are often enigmatic. I did not wake up one day feeling an urge to go seek out a slime mold for a spiritual exchange. Borrowing the words of an old friend, I liken it to connecting with patron deities: “We do not choose the gods. The gods choose us.” I believe this can be extended to other spiritual partners as well. They call upon us, sending us signs and signals in their own way. When I am out wandering, I make an effort to remain open to their cues. I will abruptly stop in my tracks and look towards something that I don’t yet see. Often, they clue me in by scent or sight, other times they whisper, or vibrate. More often than not, I feel their presence before I actually find them, as if I am being called upon, or watched. Like any other beings, if slimes want you to find them, they let you know.

As individuals, I consistently find that they have something to say. Like any other living creature, they vary in temperament and orientation. I do not feel a fondness for, nor even a comfort with every slime I encounter, but I greet them all. I have met many types; wispy and demure, brazen and haughty, occupied and goal-oriented, solitary, gregarious, breathtakingly beauteous and frightfully unappealing. On days when I am tethered indoors, I find myself gazing longingly out the window, wondering who is out there lurking in the rotting corners of the forest; wondering who has erupted in fruitful glory; wondering what lessons I will be missing. Whenever I can, I go to them and listen. I invariably take home a message. I also take a photo or two, to serve as a reminder of a friend who has taught me something and in all likelihood I will never see again.

As a group, slime molds offer us new perspectives on beauty and diversity. They take on a myriad of forms and colors, often unexpected and captivating, sometimes frumpy and dull, perhaps even a bit distasteful, but never disappointing. Like the hermaphrodite, they challenge our traditional labels, categories and conceptions. They sit among the biologically ambiguous. They ask us to consider our assumptions about life on Earth — what makes us animals? What makes a plant?

The slime molds often recall to me lines from Charles Bukowski’s, The Laughing Heart: “…the gods will offer you chances. know them. take them…” They tell us to take advantage of opportunities and persevere despite difficult conditions. Slimes know how to respond to uncertainty, to adapt quickly with finesse. They embrace possibilities and change with gusto. To meet them, you must go outside often, make yourself available, seize the day. Carpe diem: they do this to survive, we must do it to thrive. Slimes have much to tell us about being fully present in the moment, making the most out of the time we have, living fully in this life.

The incredulous will ask, ‘All this from some slimy goo that can’t decide if it is a plant or an animal?’ My answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’ about which I could elaborate ad nauseam. There is so much more beyond the range of this piece; like their talent for completing mazes, how they have inspired scientists, artists, filmmakers, game developers and why the Japanese consulted them on the expansion of Tokyo’s subway systems. Despite the cleverness of the crow and the wisdom of trees, I think the slime molds are the bee’s knees. They are the quirky oddballs of Mamma Nature’s nest and they have so much to reveal to us. If we are open to their lessons. What secrets will you find out there on the forest floor? … carpe diem my friends.”

 
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Ice Cream Update

In my last post I mentioned the no churn strawberry ice cream I had made with just 2 cups of heavy cream and a 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk (plus the strawberries, of course).  Since then, I’ve wasted no time and have tried two more flavors…limoncello (or lemoncello) and pumpkin.  They were both incredibly easy to make and delicious.wpid-20150715_105217-1.jpg

The lemoncello, as my label reads, had been in my freezer for many years.  You can see the frost on the bottle in the photo above.  I always intended to do something with it (like maybe DRINK it) but never did.  Completely out of character for me.  So now here I had a good reason to crack open that bottle:  ICE CREAM!  So I whipped the cream until stiff peaks formed.  Then I added the condensed milk, 1/4 cup of lemoncello and grated rind from one lemon.  I mixed that again briefly until well combined.  I had to taste it, of course, to check if it needed more lemoncello or grated lemon.  It had a nice subtle lemon flavor.  If I added more lemoncello, it might not freeze due to the alcohol content.  So I placed it in a freezer proof container and placed it in the freezer.  I checked it after 6 hourse and the middle was a little soft.  So I left it in there 2 hours longer and it was perfect. wpid-20150715_111144.jpg

And if you want more lemon flavor, you can always drizzle a little of that lemoncello over the top!

The pumpking ice crea idea actually was prompted by my cat, Graycie.  Every now and then I mix a little canned pumpkin (good for her bowels) with her Fancy Feast.  It appears that it was time for her pumpkin dose a couple days ago.  And once that can of pumpkin is open, then either I use it for something else (how much can a little kitty eat) or I end up throwing it out.  And I hate throwing food out.  So I made pumpkin ice cream.  I worried that it wouldn’t be sweet enough as I was planning to add about a half can of pumpkin (not pie filling, pureed pumpkin) and I thought that the pumpkin would dilute the sweetness of the condensed milk.  So I also added a nip (small 50ml bottle) of Amaretto.  I also added about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and about 1/2 teaspoon of allspice.  It was magnificent!  Heaven.  Thank you, Graycie! wpid-20150721_102208.jpg

And I made a really good spicy shrimp and black-eyed pea salad plate that is worth mentioning.  I mixed a drained can of black-eyed peas with some chopped celery, scallion, diced carrot and radish.  I added a small crushed clove of garlic, a teaspoon or so of Dijon mustard, a little salt and cayenne, a splash of olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice.  Sorry, I just eyeball everything…don’t measure…so you’ll have to adjust to taste.  I refrigerated that for a few hours.  I rinsed and peeled fresh shrimp and patted them dry.  Then I combined them with a mixture of paprika, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, oregano and thyme.  Saute them in a little oil in a hot skillet for a few minutes on both sides.  Don’t overcook!  Put some greens on a plate along with cherry tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, whatever you want. Then spoon some of the black-eyed pea salad on that and top with the shrimp.  Serve with a wedge of lemon and some fresh basil on top.  Delicious. wpid-20150721_172934.jpg

And following are some photos of flowers in my yard: wpid-20150721_074602-1.jpg

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That’s it for now.  Oh, and guess what I found out…snakes like to live in those huge mounds of cut bittersweet vine!  Be warned!                                                                         

Beyond Bittersweet

If you read yesterday’s post about my battle with bittersweet, I didn’t want to leave you with the impression that my days are filled with nothing else but  whacking away at invasive vines.  There are others things, too.  Things like stacking wood.  My big old Japenese cherry tree has slowly been dying over the past year and I had to have it taken down.  An area had to be cleaned and prepared to stack the cherry wood:

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The wood is stacked on a carpet of small stones:

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Close to my newly stacked wood pile is feverfew.  It comes up every year in the same spot.  I didn’t plant it, it just appeared like a lot of other plants in my yard.

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The daylilies are abundant this year.  The dark mahogany blooms are striking in the morning sun.

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The orange varieties are close by:

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As are the golden hued:

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And although I hate to use that “I” word again (invasive), the invasive goose neck loosestrife is in bloom.  I have to admit it is attractive:

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And, in the kitchen I made churn free ice cream.  When did they come up with this idea?  Martha Stewart and Nigella Lawson knew about it before I did ( I must have been preoccuped with bittersweet). It’s 2 cups of heavy cream, whipped, to which you add one 14 oz. can of  sweetened condensed milk.  If you Google this you’ll find many different recipes (flavors and add ins).  And the Borden Eagle Brand label has a recipe on the back…mine had Butter Pecan.  But I made strawberry as strawberries were on sale.  I added 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 2 cups of quartered strawberries to the mixer along with the whipped cream and condensed milk.  Then you freeze this mixture for at least 6 hours.  The end result was good but the strawberries froze really solid, too solid.  If I make this again, I’ll cut the strawberries in smaller pieces and mash them some before I add them.  I saw a recipe for coffee I think I’ll try…instant espresso powder and coffee liqueur.  And how about banana or limoncello? Or……

Bittersweet Battle

This post is not pretty.  It’s not about gorgeous flowers or delicious new recipes.  It’s about an invasive vine with which  I have a constant battle. It’s about bittersweet.

Sure, bittersweet can be pretty. It looks nice in autumn floral arrangements and wreaths.  It has glossy green leaves and green berries that turn a bright orange in the fall.  Those berries provide a good source of food for birds.  The birds, in turn, propagate new seedlings.  And that’s the problem.

New plants pop up all over.  In the lawn, flower beds, wooded areas.  The chartreuse colored leaves in the vinca in this photo show young plants.  These grew in the space of a couple weeks.

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When they are relatively small, they are easy to pull out.  They quickly develop an extensive root system, however.  And if you leave just a tiny piece of root behind, the vine will reappear.  This is a photo of a young plant showing the root:

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As the vine matures, it looks for something to cling to.  These shoots are starting to climb up my weeping juniper:

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And these are climbing up a pine:

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And this mess is a combination of bittersweet, kiwi vine and wild grape all clambering up a mulberry tree which, surprisingly, is still alive under it:

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I planted that kiwi vine.  I thought the dark green leaves and red stems were attractive.  I was warned to keep on top of this vine.  Keep it under control or it will grow all over everything around it.  I had good intentions.  I intended to keep it contained on a fence at the back of the herb garden.  But here it is…out of control.  If you hack your way under that mulberry tree, you are in a dark cave like area. And if you look up, this is what you see:

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A closer look at the bittersweet, kiwi and grape vines all entwined:

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The next picture is a close up of the kiwi and bittersweet…the only photo in this post that could be considered somewhat attractive:

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The kiwi is on the top (you can see some of the red stems).  The good thing is that the kiwi doesn’t have berries so it’s not spreading all over the place.  It’s the bittersweet that’s the problem.  And you can’t just sit inside and worry about it.  You have to go outside and pull it and cut it.  For me, it’s pretty much a daily thing.  My daughter has the same problem at her house.  She’s got bittersweet growing all along her back fence and she’s constantly cutting it back.  But if it’s growing in one area, soon it will be popping up in other areas.  I haven’t had the heart to tell her that.  She’ll find out in time.

And that’s the story of my bittersweet battle.