Long and Low

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Today was week 5 in my floral design class at the adult education center in our town. And our arrangement was really exciting to construct. It's called a "long and low" arrangement. It is intended to be used as a centerpiece for a table or an arrangement for a buffet or sideboard. The candle adds a touch of elegance to it.

This week I bought my flowers myself and brought them to class. I had the option to have our instructor pick up flowers at the San Francisco Flower Mart, but I wanted the fun of picking out my own. Costco has a good assortment of fresh flowers, so I did my shopping there yesterday.

At Costco, I was able to find all the flowers I needed (and then some) but I couldn't find any filler. When I got home, I thought about what I might have growing in the garden that might be suitable. I decided to cut some branches of camellia greenery and also some fronds off a wonderful conically shaped fern I have beneath the camellia bushes. I was a bit nervous about bringing them to class, because I wasn't sure if our instructor would consider them appropriate. When I got to class, my instructor immediately recognized the camellia and then shared with us that it is a great filler to use for arrangements. I told her I was really happy I'd been brave enough to bring it. That taught me that I need to trust my gut instincts a bit more when it comes to this new venture of floral design.
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California Poppy

I know spring has truly arrived when the first California poppy blooms in our garden. Ours bloom a little later than the wild ones on the hillsides. I think the hillsides get more sun than our front garden does. When I see swathes of brilliant orange on the green hills, I know that it won't be long before I see the same fantastic color along my front walk.

On Sundays, I like to walk my garden. I don't work in the garden on Sundays (it's a day of rest), but I still want to be in my "natural habitat". So I'll usually go out and walk the paths with camera in hand, looking for what's new. I'll eventually settle into a chair somewhere and watch the world go by with the internal permission that I don't have to do one garden chore no matter what I notice needs doing.

The highlight of yesterday's Sunday walk was the California poppy that had just bloomed. We had cleaned out the garage on Friday in preparation for some work to be done and had dragged a sheet of sheet rock out onto the front walk until the work had been completed. It was still there on Sunday when I noticed that it made the perfect aqua green backdrop for the poppies. So I bent down and snapped away.

Later, I added a vintage feel and a texture in post-production. I can't quite describe how the end result makes me feel. Every time I look at it, I feel like I'm transported back to being 6 years old when I first discovered the California state flower on a visit to my Grammy's house. It as then that I made a special mental note to never pick one within sight of the roadside. I've never forgotten that ever since.
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UPDATE: What you can do regarding H.R. 875

Slow Food Nation '08 Garden
San Francisco City Hall

As some of you have requested, this is an update to my last post in which I discussed H.R. 875: Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009.

Although an okay piece of legislation, the language is too broad and non-specific as it stands. For example, the bill defines a "food production facility" as:

"FOOD PRODUCTION FACILITY- The term 'food production facility' means any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation."

As written, this bill could potentially create some serious future issues for anyone that grows, stores, or distributes fruits and vegetables or other foods including:

-farmer's markets
-community bake sales
-Slow Food Nation gardens
-private gardeners who donate produce overage to food banks
-backyard poultry owners
-urban community gardens
-roadside produce stands

Because of the nonspecific language of the bill, the above could be required to adhere to strict federal registration, tracking, and inspection guidelines or be subject to a fine of $1,000,000.

Are you potentially a "food production facility" under this broad definition?

There are a number of groups that are opposing this legislation with tactics that can be interpreted as "fear mongering". In my opinion, using these extreme approach waters down your otherwise legitimate voice.

What you can do

If you feel that this bill needs to be rewritten or killed all together because of its ambiguity and lack of definition, the first action you can take is to write to the member of Congress that represents you. You can do that via the internet by visiting http://www.congress.org

Take part in making sure that the laws being formed and passed in our nation's capital are in your best interest.

The following is a sample letter I wrote that you may wish to use as a springboard when writing your own letter:

Dear Rep. ___________,

Please oppose H.R. 875: Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 as it is currently written. The definition of "food production facility" is too broad as it stands reading:

"FOOD PRODUCTION FACILITY- The term 'food production facility' means any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation."

As written now, this bill has a huge loophole that would require federal regulation of all of the above as well as:

-farmer's markets
-community bake sales
-Slow Food Nation gardens
-private gardeners who donate produce overage to food banks
-backyard poultry owners
-urban community gardens

This is a waste of taxpayer dollars and an infringement on basic Constitutional rights. Instead, resources would be better utilized by
focusing on improving the existing FDA regulations.

Please oppose this bill until it is re-written with specific size delineations that will not impact small farmers and any of the above.

Sincerely your constituent,
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Are you a "Food Production Facility"?

Our 2007 Roma tomato harvest

In the United States, a new piece of legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives that probably you either haven't heard of or don't think it applies to you. It is H.R. 875: Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009. For the most part, it is an okay piece of legislation that is intended to update an antiquated set of Food and Drug Administration laws that are over 70 years old. One of the antiquated elements of our current FDA law kind of stunned me. Congress found that:
"...the Food and Drug Administration, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, has regulatory jurisdiction over the safety and labeling of 80 percent of the American food supply, encompassing all foods except meat, poultry, and egg products, as well as drugs, medical devices, and biologics..."
Okay... whoa... "except meat, poultry, and egg products?" Yeah, there needs to be some updating here if that stuff currently truly isn't under the FDA's regulatory jurisdiction for safety and labeling (which I thought it was).

However, there is one potentially major flaw in the current definition language of the bill that is disconcerting to me and others. When the bill defines the term "food production facility" and applies lots of regulation to it (including the requirement of many paper trails in case a health emergency needs to be tracked) this is what the definition states:
"FOOD PRODUCTION FACILITY- The term ‘food production facility’ means any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation."
There's no further clarification than that--no acreage or headcount requirement... no income requirement... nothing more than the text above.

Our 2008 Santa Rosa plum harvest

So how many of you could possibly fall into this definition of "food production facility"?

With my 5 citrus trees, olive tree, apple tree, plum tree, vegetable garden, and future table grape vines, do I fall into that definition?

If someone sells their produce or baked goods at a local farmer's market or bake sale does the definition encompass them?

And what if I donate my overage of produce to a local food bank (as some people have done)? Does that then categorize me as a "food production facility"?

I gotta wonder if this affects urban community gardens or gardens like the Slow Food Nation garden grown outside San Francisco's City Hall?

Lots of potential implications and questions are now making me stop and think. Remember that C&C Music Factory hip hop hit from the 1990's "Things That Make You Go Hmm..."? That's the song playing in my head right now.

Any suggestions or insights?

Slow Food Nation '08 Garden
San Francisco City Hall

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Under the canopy of the Cecile Brunner

Used a modified version of the Lomo action from Addicted to Design
Used texture from Dyrk.Wyst

That's where the contractor was trying to find relief from today's heat... under the canopy of the Cecile Brunner. It's been too warm today--over 80F (27C). That's way too intense for March around here. I'm hoping this is just a small heatwave with a cool-down to follow because I really don't want to have to deal with temps like this until they're supposed to come in May.

Every time it starts to warm up like this early in the year, I start to feel a bit panicked with thoughts like, "I didn't get everything done I needed to get done in the garden before the heat set in! It better cool down so I can get the other big projects done. Otherwise, I have to wait until November!"

Hubby calls it "awful-izing".

Fortunately, the days are longer so I can sneak out in the evening after the sun is farther down in the sky. I'm not supposed to have to play this game with the sun until May though. Okay... I'm awful-izing. I'll stop now.
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Some may call it by other terms with more negative connotations (i.e., stubbornness, bull-headedness, etc.), but if viewed from a slightly more positive perspective the same traits are found in the admirable quality of persistence.

The volunteer daisies that chose to come up in the garden's potted palms came up amidst a weed that I allowed to grow so the birds had something for nesting material (it's a favorite of theirs). I also like the tiny melon colored blossoms on this "weed" and it's cascading greenness when almost everything else in the garden is dormant. The little white volunteer daisies are no bigger than a largish button, so it's understandable why I almost missed them because of the cascading fountains of green weedy stems around them.

In the past week, the weedy stems and leaves have begun to turn brown. The life-cycle for this plant seems to be quite short and seasonal with the winter rainy season. But I noticed that the little white daisies still persevere with small persistent tenacity. They grow, while the other larger "weed" that was dominant not too long ago, wilts and fades.

It is this sort of persistence that I admire in plants and in people.

Today's social, economic, and political climate has many once-dominant entities fading and withering. The "small white daisy" people that were once overshadowed by the short-lived "weeds" are hanging on. No bigger than they were before, these individuals are now visible. They are the small bright points that others can focus on to gain their own sense of persistent faith and tenacity. That is how we all will end up flourishing through everything--by focusing on the small simple beauties that were always there and using them as inspiration to become that ourselves.
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The Workshop Windowbox

Back when I posted the first photos of our new workshop, I had some requests to make sure and post photos once I got flowers into the windowbox. It's taken me a while to decide on what I wanted in the windowbox. Since the overnight temps have started to warm up, it made my selection wider, but I was still stumped.

Then when Hubby and I were at Home Depot looking for primer and paint for the deck that's going in, I told him, "Let's just take a quick peek into the garden center to see if they have any trellises I like." Well, of course I didn't make it out of there with only trellises. I'm good when Hubby isn't with me, but when we're together I manage getting stuff I hadn't planned on getting. Kinda backwards from most marriages, but that's the way it is.

I ended up with some gorgeous bright red Gerbera daisies and then some little white petunias that will grow in and fill out over time. Once I got them in, I was so glad I chose the red because it looks great contrasting against the butter yellow of the workshop. And they are a wonderfully happy flower that makes me smile when I see them.

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One Dozen White Roses Bouquet

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Today was my fourth floral design class, and we learned how to arrangement a dozen roses in a vase with leather leaf and fern for fillers.

This arrangement uses the stems of the filler to create an interlaced grid to place the roses in so they stay put--sort of. This was a new technique for me because normally I put the flowers in the vase and then try to figure out how to put in filler around them. I think I like the technique of placing the greenery first better.

The flowers aren't in floral foam so things move around a lot while arranging this bouquet. That can be good and bad depending what you're trying to accomplish at any given moment.

My roses didn't have long enough stems to get the full airy effect that our instructor had in her arrangement. I had to wire my three tallest roses to give them height.

Still, I like the arrangement and the way the stems criss-cross in the vase.
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New beginnings

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Spring has always has a wonderful sense of newness about it. For us, this year has an added element of blossoming and newness. Along with all the fruit tree blossoms on the plum, apricot, and Pippin apple tree (above), we have new beginnings going on all around and in our home.

This Spring's many firsts include:
  • This is the first rainy season that we haven't had any standing water in the crawl space under our home thanks to the drainage system that is artfully hidden by pea gravel walking paths. It is so rewarding to know my hard work paid off.
  • This is the first spring that I have use of the entire square footage of the back garden without any rubble piles or "works in progess" in the back corners.
  • Our house has a new strong foundation on the south side and is braced by pilings that go down into the ground 30 feet. The sense of security we have now is beyond words--particularly because we live in "earthquake country".
  • This last Saturday, the contractors installed the very first side utility door in the garage wall. Now the garage has natural light coming in even when the garage door is closed. It's not a dark cave anymore!
  • When we walk into the garage now, the wonderful smell of new lumber envelopes us and reminds us that we have brand-new studs along the entire exterior wall that are solid and sound (no more damaged wood!).
  • I have successfully prepped the entire area across the back of the house for a new deck to be installed by our contractors. Once the finishing touches are done with the garage wall, the deck starts. The piles of brand new lumber in the back are a wonderful sign that it's really going to happen!
All the new beginnings are very exciting because we've waited 8 1/2 years for it all to happen. And it seems so timely that it is all coming about right now during Spring.
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A surprise on the first day of Spring

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As if to herald the first official day of spring, the first Hungarian Bread Seed Poppy bloomed this morning!

I planted these from seed back in the autumn (along with parsley, lettuces, scallions, snap peas, and other winter veggies) in the raised planter bed I relocated to the front garden. The lettuce has all been harvested and so have the scallions. The Italian flat leaf parsley called "Gigante" is living up to its name on one end of the bed.

And up against parsley, these poppies have been growing, and growing, and GROWING! The plants are huge! But there haven't been any signs of buds all winter (even though most Oriental and Iceland poppies are a winter flower around here). I was very anxious to see what the poppy would look like because I've never grown these before. I had no idea there would be such a rich purple in the center of this large poppy blossom.

And so, instead of being the winter-bloomer I had planned, the Hungarian Bread Seed Poppy has joined the rest of the lovely blooms in the Rosehaven Cottage gardens to welcome the first day of spring!

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A Blue Anemone Day

Even though it was another gorgeous sunny day today, I was feeling a bit like this anemone blossom today--worn, tattered, and blue.

Life has been a roller coaster as of late, going from the low of last Friday with Hubby's father being in the ER, 4 hours away, unconscious and the doctor discussing "end of life options" to the high of only 4 days later (Tuesday) Hubby's father being well enough to be transferred from the hospital to a skilled nursing rehabilitation facility for a long-ish stay to hopefully get back his health after a long year of post-chemo struggles with not eating or being physically active.

It's all been very exhausting, to say the least. I guess I was running on fumes until today when the fumes finally evaporated, and I was hit with feeling... well... blah.

Today, I managed to get out to the garden centers in our area to buy some large pots I needed and found two lovely lavender bushes as well as the bay laurel tree I've been wanting since I found out that a sprig in the pantry keeps weevils out of the flour and grains. Once home, I got the lavender bushes and bay laurel planted in their new homes. I also transplanted a New Zealand flax into the ground that's been floundering in a pot.

Usually when I've achieved that much in the garden, I'm all chipper and bouncy about it. But I'm just not.

Yeah, I'm definitely having a blue anemone day. But, hey... you gotta have one once in a while, right?
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The first lilacs of 2009

My to-do list for today involves lots of work outside. And with gorgeous sunny weather, it's something I welcome wholeheartedly.

Along our southern fence line where I walk back and forth from the front to the back, we have warm climate variety lilac bushes that have bloomed for the first time of the year. That makes traipsing up and down the side yard even more of a treat. I wish there was smell-a-vision available for blogs so I could share the wonderful scent with all of you.
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Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Today, I spent the afternoon in my third week of floral design class. Last week, I had asked our instructor to try and find me some green carnations for St. Patrick's Day. And she did!

We learned how to make a symmetrical arrangement today. Part of the arrangement was learning how to wire eucalyptus stems. Along with that lesson came the lesson that woring with eucalyptus makes your fingers very sticky (fortunately, I had gloves).

As simple as a symmetrical design looks, I have to tell you that it is a very difficult arrangement to achieve. Mine isn't truly symmetrical, but I can't be too hard on myself because it was my first attempt.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone!
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Working with paper

I am rediscovering that I love to work with my hands. That's probably why I'm taking a floral design class, a woodworking class, and teaching myself how to do handmade bookbinding. You'd think this would be a "no brainer" for me that I wouldn't have to rediscover, but for some reason I've forgotten this over time.

So yesterday, I decided to tackle the construction of a handmade booklet style portfolio to hold a set of 12 cards. All I had was something similar I'd picked up at the store. I pulled it apart to make a template, and then dove in to construct my own. It took me three tries, but I finally mastered it so that I like the result.

Now I can feature my notecards (like the Vintage Botanicals Collection) in nice neat little box that is pretty in its own right.

When I listed this on the Etsy store I decided to include a free set of 12 sheets of hand-cut and hand-embossed writing paper that are cut to fit into the notecards.

The story behind this paper is pretty cool. When we moved into Rosehaven Cottage, the previous owner had left reams of vintage paper, tablets, ledgers, and such in the attic. When I opened up the unopened reams of paper, I found a very high quality off-white paper that had a wonderful feel to it. But the size was an odd one that didn't fit current U.S. or European standards so it has sat without being used much except for the occasional visual aid in Sunday School class. Recently, I found some wonderful corner embossing tools and had the idea that I should cut down the vintage paper and make it into writing paper. Voila!

I told you I'm enjoying working with the my hands.
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Pink Carnations & Chocolate

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In this week's floral design class (Week 2), we learned a lot of basics--cutting and placing the foam oasis, wiring stems, symmetrical placement of fronds and flowers. Each student ended up creating pretty round-ish arrangements with baby carnations and leather-leaf.

Last week, we were told to bring a vase or mug for the arrangement that had a mouth about 3" to 3 1/2" wide and was a medium height. After hunting at the thrift store and finding two vases for future arrangements, I went to T.J. Maxx and found a lovely hot cocoa mug that was pink and brown! Well, of course I had to get that. I was just hoping that my instructor was able to get the right color flowers for my mug. Imagine my delight when she brought out the flowers at the beginning of class (she procured them at the San Francisco Flower Mart yesterday), and one bunch was my favorite shade of pink. And it was the perfect pink for my mug!

Another fun find at T.J. Maxx was the cute pink and brown box with the retro graphic that is featured in my portfolio shot of the floral arrangement. I'm teaching myself how to make fabric and paper covered boxes. This will be a fun one to recreate. The mug also came in its own little matching box so I have another "template" to play with.

And in case you're wondering... the "Carnation Parfait" is still beautiful and looking fresh after a whole week! Amazing!
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A little bit of sleuthing...

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My neighbor's wonderful purple climber (which I featured in my last post) has me quite smitten. I've been so taken with it this year that I decided I HAD to find out what it was! As I've driven around town, I've seen glimpses of it in other landscapes. And then after publishing the last post, I received all of your comments asking the same question, "What is it?"

Taking the bull by the horns, I went down to our local nursery today and found it! It is a Hardenbergia violacea. Its common name is "Happy Wanderer". The label said that it blooms from fall to late spring and is a great climber for winter color. Well, I have photographic evidence above that this is true.

I am so enamored with it now, that I will for sure be getting at least one for the back garden. I just need to find a better specimen than the ones I saw today which were a bit too straggly and sad looking. I WILL find one though. And it WILL be going in to the back garden. It's now no longer a question of "if" but "when".
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Dreaming in purple watercolors

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Used my free texture Birdbath pedestal 1

Our neighbor up the street has this wonderful climbing vine that is covered in tiny purple flowers. It grows on a pergola right on the sidewalk and I can see the profusion of purple from down the street. I decided to walk up and take some shots. Then I decided to get creative with the shots I took. Now I'm thinking I need to get one (or two) of these vines for myself. I have the perfect spot for them too.

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Blessed Rain

A photo of the pond waterfall in the back garden with fallen plum blossom petals in it

There has been such concern over our drought conditions in the entire state of California, that when we had such an unseasonably warm January the naysayers really had a lot to "naysay" about.  

I have learned to not be quick in drawing conclusions about anything--especially the weather.  As far as I'm concerned, God is more powerful than anything in the universe--including Al Gore [I'm being highly sarcastic].  If He (God, not Al Gore) sees fit to send the majority of our "winter" rainfall in another month other than January, then so be it.  I'll take it whenever it comes.

The rainfall has been so heavy as of late that it pummeled one of my big daffodils and bent its stem so that it was going to die far too early.  I usually avoid cutting my bulb flowers, preferring to leave them in the garden where they're growing.  But this one, I cut and put in a bud vase on the mantle.  It has thanked me by perking up and being a little spot of sunshine on the grey rainy days that have been upon us--days that I am extremely grateful for even though I crave the sun. 

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Carnation Parfait

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Today, I attended my first floral design class. We have a wonderful adult education center here in town that offers an array of classes ranging from GED completion to computer skills to creative skills. This beginning floral design class is the first of many that I will be attending in order to achieve my certificate in floral design.

To receive certification I will need to attend 60 classes (180 hours of instruction). I will leave each 3 hour class with a fresh flower arrangement in-hand. Part of the requirement for the certification is to photograph each floral arrangement we create and put the photographs in a binder that will be used for certification. And when that same binder is also a portfolio of our work to be used for getting florist jobs. That means there will be 60 pages of 60 arrangements in my portfolio. Pretty beefy portfolio to walk away with, isn't it?

At 3 hours of instruction a week, it will take a while to complete the certification process, but I am thrilled at the prospect of being able to acquire a valuable marketable skill while still doing all the other things that I do in my life. If for some reason I ever need to go back to working for someone else, the thought of going back to an office makes me queasy. Since I've been attracted to floral design since I was a young girl, this seems like a much better option to me. I told Hubby that this will be a good "fall back" skill in case I ever need it.

Another reason why I'm taking this class is to make it possible for me to broaden my photographic horizons and have more subject matter with which to create my photographic art. I can already tell after one class (and one adorable floral arrangement which I'm calling "Carnation Parfait") that I'm going to have a lot of fun with this.

And another bonus... every time I walk by the mantle, I get a whiff of the spicy aroma of carnations. Not a bad fringe benefit, I'd say.

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Plums blossoms with puffy white clouds to match

When I was a little girl, my siblings and I played a lot of make-believe. A favorite make-believe game I liked to play was "Candyland" where my siblings and I would pretend we had entered an all-candy world where everything was edible. We would have our adventures out in the garden. The redwood bark was really chocolate. The clouds were cotton candy. And there was always some drama with a make-believe villain we had to fight to protect our "Candyland".

To this day, when I see puffy white clouds against a blue sky I still think of "Candyland".
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Not quite "red"...

Used the Photoshop action Retro Love by pseudonymfreak

I bought these hyacinth bulbs years ago because the label said they were "red". Well, they're more of a deep magenta. Pretty, but not red.

Does anyone know of a truly "red" hyacinth? I'm curious if they actually exist or if we gardeners simply wish them to be so.

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