Faith Stories: Have You Seen My Jesus?

I worked at a local greenhouse for a number of years during the garden season. Customers would bring in their pots and containers and we would custom design them. Most of these orders were completed during the early spring and then be picked up by their owners in mid to late May when the garden season officially starts here in Wisconsin. By June, most people would have all their containers and plants in place and business at the greenhouse would be drastically reduced. Late in June one year, a woman came into the greenhouse when I was the only employee working that day.

 “Have you seen my Jesus?” She asked. I wasn’t quite sure I had heard her correctly, so I replied, “Excuse, me?”

“Have you seen my Jesus?” I must have had stood there with my mouth hanging open and an awfully strange look on my face. I was completely taken off guard, and wasn’t quite sure how to respond to her. So she continued:

“He’s about 6″ tall, is made of clay and has a hole in the top of his head for plants. I brought him in earlier in the spring to be planted.” Somewhat Relieved, I responded that I would look in the greenhouse where we stored customer’s planted containers for her Jesus. I was completely mystified however, because I knew that greenhouse was empty that time of year. I also had no idea what sort of container she was talking about. I was sure if there had been a container resembling Jesus I would have remembered it. Part of me was in a panic because the owner usually handled all customer orders and he was not in that day. What was I going to do if I couldn’t find her container?

I searched the greenhouse. It was completely empty. Rows of big long tables held nothing except for extra garden hoses and empty plastic pots. I turned around and back in a corner, spotted one small clay wall planter. It was 6″ tall with the face of a man with long hair and a beard on it. It had a few pink Impatiens sticking out of the top. Her Jesus. The face on the planter was actually that of Zeus, King of Gods, God of the Sky and Wind in Greek mythology. The owner of the greenhouse had been schooled in Europe and sold a lot of statuary of mythological gods and figures. It made sense to me then, why she thought this was the likeness of Jesus. When I looked at it, I thought it was obvious that it was actually Zeus, having just completed studying Greek mythology with our children. In the eyes of this strange woman beholder though, it was the vision of Jesus. I carefully removed the container and brought it out to the cash register.

“Here it is.” I said.

“Isn’t He beautiful?” She smiled, and gushed with pride while she paid for it.

“Indeed, He is.” I responded. I had no intention of telling her who’s head was really on that planter. If she saw Jesus, who was I to argue? Isn’t it true that we all see Him a bit differently? I wished then that I could see what she saw. Perhaps I needed to look harder.

Where do you see Jesus?

Designer Mom

Anatomy of a Compost Pile

Hi All! I have been off line for a couple of days, no thanks to a whopper electrical storm that came through the mid-west and knocked out our Internet! Yikes, glad that we didn’t get the tennis ball sized hail and tornadoes that some of the surrounding counties got! My little flowers are still intact, but it makes me think that soon the weather will change and they will be heading for the compost pile anyway.

So, what’s a compost pile? Black gold! Literally, an in-dispensable item in any good garden! We were pleasantly surprised that our new home came with one hidden out in the tall grasses behind the house. However, it needs a little work. This is what it currently looks like:

Who ever started this pile had the right idea. It is made of open fencing on all 3 sides with the front left open for easy access and dumping. The fact that it has 2 parts is even better. One side should be the working pile, and the other side should be the compost that’s ready to use. This whole thing probably measures 12 feet wide and 6 feet deep. Perfect for our size family and large yard. In another corner of the yard we have another composting contraption:

This beautiful rusty container opens to fill with the food and garden scraps, then rotates to mix. The metal container heats up and cooks the scraps into soil. It’s a good idea, but frankly won’t give you enough compost to fill a flower box let alone a 1/2 acre of gardens. I haven’t quite decided how to get rid of it yet. Any takers?

This was the state of the vegetable garden when we moved in. If they only used a little compost, I can see why their garden just wasn’t very productive. We plan to compost and garden on a massive scale next year to feed our family of 6. We will also be moving the vegetable garden to a more suitable location. I love a good garden challenge!

So then, how do we go about “fixing” the compost pile? First step is to designate which side of the pile is which. Since all the flower beds around the house need large amounts of compost, as well as the new vegetable garden, we decided to make both sides into working piles, at least for this year. Most of the time you won’t need to have this much compost, but since we are essentially starting from scratch with very hard clay soil, we will need large amounts of compost. So we are adding all suitable ingredients to both sides.

Our pile is perfect because it has a bottom layer of corn husks and stalks. They must have gotten them from the field behind the house last year, or perhaps they are a previous years fall decorations. Either way,  this makes a perfect bottom layer to get the compost started. Next comes a layers of grass clippings. Do not use grass clippings if you spray chemicals on your lawn. We do not, so we add this to the pile. On top comes any egg shells, coffee grounds, tea leaves and tea bags, vegetable peels and leftovers, seeds or fruit remains.  Below is a quick list of possibilities:

carrot peels and tops
squash seeds, shells
celery pieces, leaves
coffee grounds, unused beans
tea leaves, bags or loose tea
lettuce or spinach
beet greens
potato peels
egg shells, old boiled eggs
onions, onion peels
garlic, garlic peels
root vegetables that began growing in your pantry like potatoes, onions, shallots
peppers and seeds
broccoli or cauliflower parts
kale
turnip or parsnips peels and parts
melon rhines and seeds
tomatoes, peels and seeds
nut shells or pieces
banana peels
apples, peels, seeds or cores
strawberry greens
leftover coffee or tea
dried beans or legumes
any spoiled fruits or vegetables
organic yard decorations such as small corn stalks (if they are very large you will have to cut them down), gourds, pumpkins, pine cones, small pine branches
yard waste such as leaves, grass clippings, small pruning clippings, spent flowers and grasses

There are so many more possibilities. Don’t worry about cutting them up, nature will do that for you. Just chuck them in the compost bucket and dump them each day into the pile. I keep a pitch fork in the pile to cover the food scraps. I do not recommend adding anything with meat or meat flavoring to your compost, it will attract critters that you won’t like to your yard. Also, be careful of adding large quantities of pine cones or  pine needles to your pile as they can change the acidity of the pile, and do not add citrus fruits of any kind for the same reason. I have also found that straw and hay do not break down very easily and tend to contain large amounts of weeds, so I don’t recommend adding those either. Some people do not add weeds to their pile. But if the pile has heated up properly, any weed seeds will be killed and will not reproduce, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

That’s really all there is to it. We will add to the pile all fall. I usually turn it several times per week, although you really don’t have to do it quite that often, every 2 weeks would suffice. We will add leaves as they fall from the trees, and will continue to add grass clippings, weeds, etc. until frost. I also dump spent, old flowers and the potting soil from the containers into the pile. This is a great boost to the pile, potting soil has lots of nutrients left in it. Manure is also a great addition to your pile. You can buy it in bags at your local garden center or get composted straight from the source (fresh manure is very strong and may burn your plants, it is better to use composted manure). Be sure and turn the pile occasionally to combine all the ingredients. If you live in a very dry climate, you may have to wet your pile down with a garden hose from time to time to help nature break things down properly.

We do not cover our pile for the winter, although I have read that some people do. You can cover it with black plastic which will heat up in the sun to get it really cooking. But even in the middle of a Wisconsin winter, the pile will heat up when it is uncovered and have steam coming off of it in mid-January. I must admit I am a fair weather compost-er. I refuse to trudge through 4 feet of snow in -30 degree temperatures to add to the pile. This is when the garbage disposal comes in handy. But by spring we will have lots more scraps to add to the pile. Just remember to keep your new scraps separate from the cooked soil. Hence, we usually have a “working” pile, and a pile that’s ready to use. Garden experts recommend 6-8 inches MINIMUM of compost added to your garden beds each season for beautiful, healthy black soil. It’s so rewarding to go and dig in a pile that is filled with healthy worms and put it in your garden beds!

Start today! Having a compost pile cuts down on your trash considerably. It is very healthy for the environment and not difficult to maintain. There are lots of simple designs on the Internet. You can use old pallets or doors, a metal or plastic garbage can, metal barrels, large plastic storage bins, bales of straw or hay, landscaping bricks, old boards, plywood, etc. The sky is the limit, be creative!

Designer Mom

Pockets Full of Posies

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mom’s out there. What better way to celebrate than with flowers?
We came up with these little planted purses to give to the Grandmothers. Aren’t they sweet?
I found the vintage handbags at my favorite thrift store for a song. We added a few rocks in the bottom of each bag for stability, Miracle Grow Potting Soil, and some annuals from the local greenhouse.
Then we added a brown paper tag tied with yarn. I must say they were quite a hit.
I love vintage purses. And I love flowers.
But most of all we love giving gifts to the great Mom’s in our lives.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Designer Mom

The Planted Suitcase

I brought home this cool aluminum suitcase from work a while ago. It was originally used as a prop in the windows, but was being discarded, so I knew it had to come home with me.

I debated for a while as to what to keep in this totally awesome suitcase. I thought maybe it would be a good place to keep James’ rock collection. But then decided he would probably have way too much fun rattling it full of rocks and that would drive me crazy. Then I thought Ted might like it for his postcard collection, but it’s rather messy inside as you can see below. So, that probably wasn’t a good idea either.

The interior plastic lining had been melted by being in the window. Then it hit me, this was a perfect candidate for planting.
So here’s what I did.
I purchased various annuals, Miracle Grow Potting Mix, and gathered a hammer and a nail set.
First step is to pound holes in the bottom of the container for drainage. I put in about 8 holes, the amount is not really important, just so you have enough holes for the plants to drain. This is critical to plant survival.
Then I added some crushed soda bottles and plastic containers to the bottom of the suitcase. You can also use the pesky little plastic 4 packs you buy your annuals in. This creates drainage for the plants and doesn’t add a lot of weight to the container like stones or broken tiles would.
I filled the suitcase 1/2 way with soil. Then I set the plants inside still in their containers to see how it would look. I made a few adjustments, adding, subtracting, and moving plants before I decided on an arrangement I liked. When doing this, don’t forget your root balls should be touching each other, if they aren’t you may need more plants. Don’t fall into the mindset that your plants will grow in to the container, you won’t be happy with the results if you skimp on plants.
I even had to add a couple more plants after I put the others in, it just didn’t seem full enough. Add plenty of soil, pack it down lightly and water liberally. My plant list included:
Coleus Glennis
Dracaena Spike
Americana Red Geranuim
Nagano Heliotrope
Dusty Miller
Varigated Swiss Chard
Diamond Frost Euphorbia graminea
Golden Money Wort or Creeping Jenny
Pink Supertunia
Save your plant tags in an envelope with a picture of the planted container for next year so you will remember what you did and how beautiful it turned out.
Then grab an ice tea, sit and admire your creation!
Who knows, you may even want to plant one to give to your Mother for Mother’s Day.
Designer Mom

Felly’s Flowers

We took a walk through the local greenhouse today. Greenhouses make me happy. They remind me of good times I had working at a greenhouse back in Green Bay. Flowers make me smile, and they inspire me to want to come home to create beautiful things, and plant, plant, plant.

I love all the flowers, but I do have my favorites. I love Geraniums for example, but the hot pink ones are my favorite.

I could spend all day wandering around in here.
I also love Dahlias, especially the Dinner Plate variety.

James loves the Venus Fly Traps. We had one last year that we stuffed with flies, it was so much fun. Unfortunately it croaked when our cold Wisconsin winter set in. James was devastated.

James also loves the Pitcher Plant. This is a native plant to the bogs of Northern Wisconsin. The “Pitchers” fill with rainwater that attracts bugs. The “lid” closes trapping the bug inside for the plant to digest. It is very similar to the Venus Fly Trap. Fascinating isn’t it?
Ben loved the tropical display.

The boys have plans to decorate their room like a jungle. Complete with a tikki hut and smoothie bar. We’ll see how that works out. I love the bright green Draceana. It makes me happy.
Ted loved the Calalillies. We both loved the yellow ones. I have a thing for yellow.

Now that we have our selections, tomorrow we will plant!

You can find lots more beautiful things to plant in your garden at Felly’s Flowers. Their greenhouse is located at 6353 Nesbitt Road, Madison, WI 53719. Phone is 608-845-9591.
Designer Mom