My Blind and Priceless Dog

Art by Jo Lynch

Art by Jo Lynch

This is my salute to my delightful rescued dog “Nikki”. She was rescued from an abusive and neglectful situation at about two years of age, from near-starvation and with 16 puppies! The rescue group believes she took on an additional litter from another mother dog who abandoned her pups, or perhaps been killed. Regardless, all the pups and her were in awful shape. Sadly not all of the pups could be saved. But she, and most of the pups, made it! After being nursed back to health, immunized, spayed, and fostered to help her learn to trust humans, she was put up for adoption. That’s when I saw her on the website.

A kind eyed, middle-sized dog with gentleness towards cats (aka acquiescence), she stole my heart right away. I’d been preparing for adoption and had been reading dog books, particularly ‘How To Be Your Dog’s Best Friend’ by the Monks of New Skete, and my favorite book ‘The Loved Dog’ by Tamar Gellar. I also bought a couple by Cesar Milan, and one by Dr. Stanley Coren. All kinds of advice and tips for helping create a wonderful relationship with your dog but I already had the most important component of what is really needed: a big heart with lots of room for a canine companion for life.

Fast forward a few years, and now the one-year mark since Nikki went blind within a few days from S.A.R.D.S. is quickly approaching. That old cliché which teaches us time heals really has merit. My heart is light and happy again, although last summer, fall, and even through much of this past winter, my grieving continued.

Lately though I feel like I’ve at last caught up with her great attitude. She adjusted quickly to this sudden change. It was my own heart that felt broken over how life had to change. No more laughs and visits with other dog-people and their ‘kids’ at the off leash dog-parks because she’d become rather ferocious in her fear of not being able to ‘read’ other dogs. No more games of hard-running, far-flung fetch with the plastic chucker. And our walks in the neighborhood had become less pleasant for me since there’d be no more admiring scenery on our walks. Now I had to constantly watch and protect her from colliding with fences, parked cars, tree trunks and lamp posts.

I had to process my grief over the loss of what was.

At last, nearly a year later, I feel like myself again. I adore life with this delightful dog! Those changes don’t matter any more. I’m used to being her ‘Seeing Eye Human’ on our walks. Plus she still goes off-leash to run beside me at our nearby (and mostly empty) dog park. She’s always at my feet, and is especially hopeful when I’m cooking. She negotiates the house and yards amazingly well. She enjoys the short-distance games of fetch in our backyard, chasing by sound and scent. She follows me room to room to monitor what I’m up to from one of her beds nearby. She’s hopelessly addicted to belly-rubs. Her barks of welcome often turn into a sort of howling song and makes us all laugh. Her listening skills have intensified and she knows who is putting their coat on, who is in what room, and which cat is walking where. Mind you the cats have learned to vocalize when she’s walking to avoid any direct hits!

Everything about her melts my heart. She’s incredibly clever, amusing, sweet, gentle, patient, loyal, and most of all she is an excellent role model for me, displaying how to gracefully accept ‘what is’. And her eyes are as kind as ever because they radiate her pure heart and her eyes don’t need to see in order to show that. I can’t help but wonder, who really rescued who?

Related reading at my other blog:
http://professionsforpeace.com/2013/06/13/acceptance/
Excerpt: “It’s often been said that we have much to learn from animals. Especially our pets, these beloved animals who have lived closely with us humans for long enough to have many things to teach us. My dog is teaching me acceptance right now.”

dont shop ADOPTThis post by Animal Couriers helped inspire me to finish this article! With gratitude to them and all the important work they do helping animals:
http://animalcouriers.wordpress.com/2014/04/05/another-greek-odyssey-begins-for-animalcouriers

If you love animals you might enjoy this Pinterest board of mine:
https://www.pinterest.com/GinasGardens/pets-for-life/

 

Copyright © 2014 Gina ~ People Excited About Co~Existence

Magnificent Moss

Art by Veikko Suikkanen

Art by Veikko Suikkanen

Today I’m sharing a topic I’ve been busy studying: Moss! I’ve been learning all I can about how to add moss to my garden, especially where it wants to grow in the deep shade from our spruce trees.

First, here’s today’s work of art, by Veikki Suikkanen from Finland. Click to visit his gallery on FineArtAmerica. It was hard to pick only one of his delightful mossy forest paintings but this won out. It’s called ‘Spirit of the Forest’. As always, click any image to see its source.

A program I happily reserve space to keep on my DVR is the PBS program Growing A Greener World and I’ve been really enjoying an older episode on moss. They visit a favorite place of mine, Moss and Stone Gardens and interview co-owner and moss aficionado extraordinaire David Spade.

While I haven’t travelled to Raleigh, NC to visit them in person yet, their website is an amazing wealth of information about anything and everything you ever wondered about adding moss to your landscape. They answer questions and show how easy it is to bring this wonderful plant into our yards and give it a good home.

“What if I told you there was a plant that stayed green all year round and yet it survived on minimal amounts of water? You could use it like a lawn and yet you never need to mow it, mulch it, trim it, fertilize it or use pesticides or any chemicals for that matter. It’s the ultimate eco-friendly, low-maintenance plant, and it sounds too good to be true but it’s not, because it’s moss. And despite anything you’ve heard about it in the past, it’s all of those things and more.”

~Host Joe Lamp’l in the intro to episode #319 ‘Moss Gardens’ on Growing A Greener World.
They share some really interesting things about moss, and show us how we can incorporate it into almost any landscape, including sun. Click here to visit their website and watch the full episode.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Slideshow images can be viewed on my other blog’s Pinterest page ‘Nature ~ beauty beyond words

True or False facts on moss by MossAndStoneGardens.com:

Moss prefers acidic or nutrient poor soils. True or False?
False – Most mosses are not particular about the pH or nutrients of the substrates on which they grow. It would be more accurate to understand that mosses thrive where there is little or no competition, which often occurs in acidic and poor, compacted soils, or for that matter, on stone.

Moss only grows in the shade. True or False?
False – Mosses have the greatest range of light exposure than any other land plant. This doesn’t mean that all mosses can tolerate sun, only certain species can. Mosses are found growing in all climates and exposures, from full blazing desert sun, to almost undetectable amounts of light found in caves. Mosses can also be found on all 7 continents.

Moss only grows on the north side of trees. True and False?
False - Moss does grow on the north side of trees, and it also grows on the south, east, and west sides of trees, as well. Moss may grow only on a north side of a tree if that’s the shadiest location as the sun tracks the sky. If there is something else providing shade (or moisture), the moss will grow in those places just as well.

Moss will invade my garden if I am growing moss on my property. True or False?
False - Moss spores are everywhere, even if there aren’t any mosses on your property. The spores travel on the wind to extreme distances, therefore proximity doesn’t mean density. Moss will grow anywhere the conditions are appropriate for successful germination and can develop into a mature plant.

Convert a moss-infested lawn into a moss lawn by letting nature take its course. True or False?
False - This is very unlikely to happen satisfactorily without intervention. In most regions, the conditions necessary for moss to dominate vascular plants isn’t adequate. For example, in rain forests or areas like the Pacific Northwest, moss can over grow the under brush of existing plants; the abundant moisture gives the moss enough growing potential that it can blanket everything. For other regions, something else needs to tip the scale in favor of the mosses, like abundant moisture, in this case I am referring to irrigation by man. To be more specific, one would have to water the moss lightly throughout the day in order to give it maximum growth potential, but not enough to give the existing plants (grasses, weeds) enough to sustain themselves.

Moss needs to be kept moist. True or False?
False - Despite this common impression, moss is actually one of the most drought tolerant plants. Also, there are a number of species that need regular periods of dryness to survive. Mosses need moisture to reproduce sexually, but not asexually. Water is needed for photosynthesis, but not for survival. Moist areas allow for faster growth, but isn’t necessary for existence. Acrocarps mosses tend to be more drought tolerant than Pleurocarps.

Spreading or spraying diluted yogurt, buttermilk, beer, or manure tea will promote moss to grow. True or False?
False  - The key here is not what substance will create moss in an area, but what allows moss to develop. The most important things to allow mosses to develop are moisture and lack of competition. Competition can be other plants, debris, or loose and irregular surfaces. Moisture is always needed to begin moss establishment. When mosses are beginning to colonize in an area, moisture is what allows the young mosses to perform photosynthesis, which in turn allows for growth. Leaf litter, pine straw, twigs, loose stones, and such, make it harder for moss to find a stable substrate on which to attach. Moss prefers to have direct contact with whatever it is spreading onto; therefore, a smooth substrate will allow the mosses easier contact. Mosses do not draw nutrients or sustenance from the substrates they are attached too; therefore, anything you apply to the substrate is not utilized by the moss since it does not have the root structure necessary to benefit from such applications.

Blending moss and buttermilk into a slurry is the best way to grow moss. True or False?
False - Although widely reported to work effectively, this technique is usually met with failure and a moldy mess. The best way to grow moss is by division of a colony or fragmentation, buttermilk is not needed.

Moss-and-stone-gardens-Yogi

David Spade aka Moss Yogi

Moss spores will add to my seasonal allergies. True or False?
False - Moss spores may be as common as mold spores or pollen at times, but they are generally non-allergenic. You can be allergic to anything, but the likelihood that moss or it’s spores will give you allergies, is extremely low.

If you walk on moss, it will die.  True or False?
False - Most mosses tolerate foot traffic, but it’s a question of how much foot traffic? As a non vascular system, mosses don’t need protection from being compressed. With some foot traffic, their cellulose remains flexible, allowing mosses to be compressed without the kind of damage that occurs when vascular plants are trod on. The key difference is that their flexible structure and small scale are susceptible to breaking, if stretched. As such, walking flat-footed is greatly tolerated, while running or shuffling isn’t.

Moss is a parasitic plant. True or False?
False - When moss grows on trees, wood, or shingles, moss does not feed on the material it attaches too. Mosses may keep substrates they are growing on damp for longer periods of time, and thus, this moisture retention is capable of deteriorating some non-living materials.

If you have moss growing on your property it means you also have molds. True or False?
False - The misconception that moss and molds are related isn’t true. Moss and molds are rarely found together, except when molds are attacking the moss as they might anything organic. With molds present, moss dies or decays, as does most anything else it attacks. If you have healthy moss, you do not have mold.

Spanish moss, Reindeer moss, club moss, sea moss, Irish moss and Scotch moss belong to the Phylum of Bryophyta. True or False?
False - Including moss in the common name, does not mean it’s a true moss. Spanish moss is an epiphyte, Reindeer moss is a lichen, club moss is a lycophyte, sea moss is an algae, Irish and Scotch mosses are vascular plants that look similar to mosses.

Growing moss is beneficial to my garden.  True or False?
True - Moss is a beneficial addition to the garden in many ways: it retains moisture content, similar to mulching, it is superior to mulches in that it is a living layer that processes nutrients and contributes organic material, it does not become compacted, and doesn’t need replacing annually, and it provides a healthy habitat for beneficial insects and promotes the evolutionary symbiosis of 
mycelium and plant roots.

Moss attracts ticks, fleas, and mosquitos. True or False?
False - Ticks prefer tall plants, where they can perch to better position themselves to catch a ride on their next meal. Fleas don’t dwell in moss, and mosquitos need plants to provide shelter from wind and sun. Mosses are too short and dense to support resting mosquitos.

And finally, I needed to know –

A rolling stone gathers no moss. True or False?
True - A rolling stone gathers no moss. If the stone is rolling, moss grows too slowly to get started on it and the friction of rolling would abrade or wear off any mosses that were on it.

There you have it! If you want to learn a truth about moss missed here, let us know! [source]

 

As you can see, along with a great sense of humor, these guys are highly educated masters of moss and are ready to help us all discover the joys of creating an eco-friendly moss landscape.
For additional photos and poetry inspired by moss, check out fellow blogger Bert’s post:
http://whoisbert.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/moss/
When visiting this post on the amazing beauty of moss, also check his Page ‘macros/nature’ to see more of his skillful captures of the tiniest places of this wonderful world of nature we live in. 

Icebound Faeries

Art by Ken Meyer Jr.

Art by Ken Meyer Jr.

And the shoveling continues. Okay folks, this is getting ridiculous. A few days ago I mentioned being a bit snowbound. But now? Check out these icicles contributing to my feelings of being icebound. Because there’s no danger to people, pets, or the house, we’re leaving them be and watching them grow. They’ve formed into a length of bars across our livingroom window! The ongoing delay of spring combined with relentlessly falling snow viewed beyond this jail-like view of icicles are all extremely challenging to maintaining my cheerfulness!

Icicles on the roofWhen the sun is out, these 3- and 4-foot swords of ice shine like light-sabers. The effect fills the house with light. Awesome! But today it’s just grey and snowing. A lot. Four more inches. Ten centimeters on top of what was still here.

Yes, snow is pretty as it’s falling but… oh to be gardening. The joy of being out there working in the soil, pulling back the winterkill, adding amendments, discovering delightful tips of bulbs and early perennials. Ah, soon! But not for a little while longer. For now I turn my love of plants towards the indoor ones. I’m delighted with my choice of three small plants to fill this old container we had kicking around. It used to hold one of my husband’s bonsai at work, but the plant unfortunately didn’t survive a vacation and the pot has been waiting for a new resident or two. I ended up finding three mini-plants: Amiens’ Crassula Hobbit, Fine Gold-Leaf Sedum, and Violet’s Creeping Thyme.

Icicles on the roofPrior to this whimsical garden, inspired by an old bonsai pot, I hadn’t been interested in the ‘fairy garden’ bandwagon because I don’t tend to enjoy hobbies that generate the purchasing and collecting of ‘things’. However I admit I did purchase one little bench. When I got home with my 3 mini-plants in their 2-inch pots, a small bag of soil, and the tiny bench, I eagerly got it all into its new home. So cute! I made room for my mini-garden on the window shelf above my desk.

I have never grown a terrarium before but I’m beginning to be curious about them. I’ve already been enamored for years about trough gardening with alpines and using small hardy succulents in dry, sunny spaces. My recent investigation into miniature gardens has bloomed into an enchantment with the idea of having a tiny door hidden here, a small pathway there. I’ve been delighted to discover many enthusiasts making their own faerie furniture and tiny houses, and showing the rest of us how to do it! I discussed this new diversion with my husband and showed images I’ve collected on Pinterest. He especially liked the idea of a hidden entrance. Something not so obvious as, say, a bright red faerie door. I agreed and this spring I’ll be building a small, somewhat disguised bark-like door to rest at the base of one of our large trees.

Such a fun idea! I look forward to placing some diminutive treasures such as these where they can be viewed from certain vantage points in the garden. I’ll see how the ideas evolve, and will share photos later this summer. But for now, I hope you’ll enjoy with me this collection of clever ideas, showing us how it’s done. May we all be inspired by these whimsical wonders.


Such a lovely, handmade twig fence and arbor! The bark-roofed stone faerie house in the second-last image is made using a big plastic bottle. See the detailed step-by-step how-to post at inhabitat.com. And for another excellent DIY tutorial on the lovely twig house in the first image, visit thejuise.blogspot.ca. For more images like these see my Pinterest board here.

PVC and Cabin Fever

being disorderly exciting Milne

Lettering Art by Kelly Cummings

Well now that’s a rather odd title for my post today, but it’s the one that came to mind and stayed! Although the calendar now states that “it’s Spring!” one look outside my window tells me that Mother Nature has some catching up to do.

The front yard Icilces on the roofMy husband had me hold the tape measure while he took some photographs of our three-foot-long icicle. Yes, we often have icicles, but rarely a 3-footer!

My gardening magazines have been collected and are being carried around. Sometimes they’re stacked on my bedside table, sometimes spread out in the living-room, and sometimes right here in my office… multiple magazines opened and flagged with ideas, notes and photos to set my imagination flying.

As April rapidly approaches and the mounds of snow still cover my yards, the restlessness increases and the gardening magazines are woefully lacking in actual dirt content. I want to be digging! Sigh. There will be none of that just yet, so I endeavor to ‘stay out of mischief’ with ongoing sorting, tidying, and preparations for the growing season. Here’s ways to use hardware store PVC tubing to get organized.

And here’s suggestions to help us eliminate cabin fever (when I start feeling like I’m climbing the walls). I’ll paint some of my river rocks (that aren’t frozen under the snow) to use as markers in the veggie patch this summer. Or perhaps I’ll use paint stirrers as markers once they’ve been brightened up with new paint. All these ideas can be sourced at my Pinterest board on DIY projects. Enjoy!

Animal Moments of Aww…

Art by Maryanne Jacobsen

Art by Maryanne Jacobsen

Those moments when we see something that makes us melt a little inside, and feel like uttering that sound of “Awwww!”, those are moments that help heal.

Studies have proven that generating feelings like that, of softness and a little ‘melt’ inside, can have physical reactions such as the release of the hormone DHEA.

This gorgeous painting of two feline ‘best friends’ by painter Maryanne Jacobsen makes me melt. As always, please click on the image to view painting and learn more about this talented artist.

So today, since I’m working away amidst too many tasks yet want to share something with you delightful readers, here’s a slideshow to help us all generate those feelings of Awwww…..

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


[images sourced from Google.com]

Short but sweet YouTube videos to cheer your heart!

Springing For Joy

“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” ~ Mark Twain

For info on these and more spring images, visit my Pinterest board
http://www.pinterest.com/GinasGardens/spring-decor-and-ideas/

Join Me for a cuppa Tea

Artist Unknown (please inform me if you know who painted this)

Artist Unknown
(please inform me if you know who painted this beauty)

Any time is a good time for tea, that’s what I always like to say. I’m delighted that tea houses are booming in popularity. In a trendy artist village within the city where I live, my sociable twenty-something elder son loves hanging out with his fellow Art College students and friends in a popular tea house drinking Oolong, drawing and visiting.

Also, I love tea cups. From china painted with delicate roses and leaves, to handle-free pottery which allows the steamy goodness to warm my hands and my belly. And tea pots! It’s true… I have a thing for both cups and teapots. But as I live in a small house my storage capability has capped my collection at six, with half being somewhat utilitarian yet still lovely for daily use, and the others for more special occassions. Like a tea party! I will be doing a post soon with photos and details on how to throw a tea party that every one will enjoy (even with sons as I have!).

For today I’d like to focus on how tea goes beyond filling us with warmth and flavor, to how this simple-seeming beverage packs a wallop of incredibly healthy side benefits. Let’s pour another cup!

Health Benefits of Tea: Green, Black, and White Tea

Tea is a name given to a lot of brews, but purists consider only green tea, black tea, white tea, oolong tea, and pu-erh tea the real thing. They are all derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, a shrub native to China and India, and contain unique antioxidants called flavonoids. The most potent of these, known as ECGC, may help against free radicals that can contribute to cancer, heart disease, and clogged arteries. All these teas also have caffeine and theanine, which affect the brain and can heighten mental alertness.
The more processed the tea leaves, usually the less polyphenol content. Polyphenols include flavonoids. Oolong and black teas are oxidized or fermented, so they have lower concentrations of polyphenols than green tea; but their antioxidizing power is still high.

cuppa green tea

Google.com

Here’s what some studies have found about the potential health benefits of tea:
Green tea: Made with steamed tea leaves, it has a high concentration of EGCG and has been widely studied. Green tea’s antioxidants may interfere with the growth of bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers; prevent clogging of the arteries, burn fat, counteract oxidative stress on the brain, reduce risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, reduce risk of stroke, and improve cholesterol levels.
Black tea: Made with fermented tea leaves, black tea has the highest caffeine content and forms the basis for flavored teas like chai, along with some instant teas. Studies have shown that black tea may protect lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. It also may reduce the risk of stroke.
White tea: Uncured and unfermented. One study showed that white tea has the most potent anticancer properties compared to more processed teas.
Oolong tea: In one study, those given antioxidants from oolong tea were found to have lower bad cholesterol levels. One variety of oolong, Wuyi, is heavily marketed as a weight loss supplement, but science hasn’t backed the claims.
Pu-erh tea: Made from fermented and aged leaves. Considered a black tea, its leaves are pressed into cakes. One study showed those given pu-erh had less weight gain and reduced LDL cholesterol.

Health Benefits of Herbal Teas

Made from herbs, fruits, seeds, or roots steeped in hot water, herbal teas have lower concentrations of antioxidants than green, white, black, and oolong teas. Their chemical compositions vary widely depending on the plant used.
Varieties include ginger, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, hibiscus, jasmine, rosehip, mint, rooibos (red tea), chamomile, and echinacea.
Research has been done on the health benefits of herbal teas, but claims that they help to shed pounds, stave off colds, and bring on restful sleep are largely unsupported.
Chamomile tea: Its antioxidants may help prevent complications from diabetes, like loss of vision and nerve and kidney damage, and stunt the growth of cancer cells.
Echinacea: Often touted as a way to fight the common cold, research on echinacea has been inconclusive.
Hibiscus: A small study found that drinking three cups of hibiscus tea daily lowered blood pressure in people with modestly elevated levels.
Rooibos (red tea): A South African herb that is fermented. Although it has flavonoids with cancer-fighting properties, medical studies have been limited.
Please exercise caution, or avoid, using teas/supplements containing:
Aloe; Buckthorn; Chaparral; Comfrey; Ephedra; Germander; Lobelia; Senna; Willow bark
At the very least, when using plants do your research and learn all you can.

Art by Osborne Lorlinda

Art by Osborne Lorlinda

My teapots are absolutely repurposed as a vase-holder for flowers (I tuck a smaller vase inside). Like the tulips in this delightful painting by my equally delightful friend Lorlinda.
As with all images shared here in my blog, please click the link provided embedded in the image or at the bottom of the post to visit the source and learn more about the artist (unless the source cannot be located as with the shamrock teacup painting).

My favorite tea of choice is Green tea, made in one of my favorite teapots to be enjoyed in abundance. Today it has also been poured into my special green teacup, perfect for Saint Patrick’s Day. Have a great one, and let’s drink up! Cheers!

Related reading at artist and writer Patricia Saxton’s blog post on her love of tea:
http://saxtonstudio.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/black-tea-with-milk-please/

Also may you enjoy this article by Diana Chaplin on 7 Awesome Reasons to enjoy tea:
http://www.wellnesstoday.com/7-awesome-reasons-to-enjoy-a-cup-of-tea