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Archive | Awesome Autumn

Turn yard waste into gardener’s gold – compost

Gardener’s Supply Company Tumbler composters are great for small spaces and make loading, unloading and turning much easier. 

Photo courtesy of Gardener’s Supply Company
Tumbler composters are great for small spaces and make loading, unloading and turning much easier.

By Melinda Myers

Save time and money by turning landscape trimmings into a valuable soil amendment.

The idea is simple, just collect disease- and insect-free plant debris into a heap and let it decompose into a fine, nutrient rich material that helps improve the soil. Don’t add meat, dairy, invasive plants, weeds that have gone to seed or perennial weeds that can take root and grow in your compost pile.

Speed things up by layering yard waste with soil or compost, adding a bit of fertilizer to each layer and moistening to a consistency of a damp sponge. Further speed up the process by making the pile at least three-feet tall and wide.

Turn the pile as time allows, moving the more decomposed materials from the center to the outside of the pile. It’s a great work out and speeds up the decomposition. The more effort you put into composting the sooner you have rich organic matter for your garden.

Build the pile in a location that is convenient for adding raw materials and harvesting the finished compost. Consider placing the pile near a water source to make moistening the pile easier. Avoid poorly drained locations that may lead to the pile of compost becoming waterlogged. Soggy materials break down more slowly and may smell.  

Enclose the pile in a bin to keep the process neat and tidy. Purchase a compost bin or make your own from fencing, concrete reinforcement wire or old heat-treated pallets. 

Single bin wire composters are easy to assemble and move. Enclosed bins keep materials out of sight and neighbors or less enthusiastic family members happy. Look for bins of sturdy UV resistant materials, ventilation for efficient composting and designed for easy loading and unloading.

Tumbler composters are great for small spaces and make loading, unloading and turning much easier. The closed system also keeps out rodents, wildlife and pets. Add garden waste, keep it consistently moist and give it a turn. Continually adding fresh material slows the process, but you will still end up with good compost. Speed up decomposition with two tumblers. Fill one tumbler with plant waste and let it cook, while collecting fresh materials in the second. Not enough room for two? Try the Dual-Batch Compost Tumbler (gardeners.com), Compost Twin or other tumbler system with two individual bins mounted on one support. Further speed up results with an insulated unit like the Jorafoam Composter 125. The insulation ensures compost reaches higher temperatures for more efficient composting.

And don’t let cold temperatures or a lack of space stop you. Everyone can convert kitchen scraps into nutrient-rich compost with the help of red worms. Convert a plastic container filled with shredded paper into a home for the worms and place to recycle plant based food scraps. Or dress things up with a stylish bin like the green Worm Farm Composter and move the worms indoors for convenient recycling.

Add finished compost to your vegetable and annual gardens every spring to help build healthy soil and a productive and beautiful garden. Or spread a one-inch layer over the soil surface of perennials gardens every year or two to keep your flowers looking their best.

As you clear out the summer garden, put all that green debris to work. Convert it to rich compost for next year’s garden. Then enjoy the many benefits it will have on your landscape.

Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Gardener’s Supply Company for her expertise to write this article. Myers’ web site is http://www.melindamyers.com/www.melindamyers.com.




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Add some eye candy to your garden this fall

Photo credit: Longfield Gardens Dutch Master daffodils, Involve tulips and Muscari provide several layers of color in the garden.

Photo credit: Longfield Gardens
Dutch Master daffodils, Involve tulips and Muscari provide several layers of color in the garden.

By Melinda Myers

Shorten the winter season with the help of spring flowering bulbs that you plant in fall. These beauties often provide the first bit of color, fragrance and winter relief each year.

Look for new and unique ways to incorporate bulbs into your landscape. Create a seasonal water feature with a river of blue scillas and grape hyacinths meandering through the garden. Welcome visitors with a front door or walkway garden that blooms from early spring through early summer and is loaded with crocus, tulips, daffodils and allium.

Don’t overlook those shady spots. Many of these locations provide enough early season sun, before the trees leaf out, for bulbs to grow and flower. Use more shade tolerant spring bloomers like snowdrops, grape hyacinths, scillas, anemones, daffodils, fritillarias and Camassias in shady areas among hostas, ferns and other shade tolerant perennials.

Whether you’re new or experienced, growing bulbs is an easy endeavor. Just follow these simple steps to a beautiful spring garden.


Purchase bulbs that are dense and firm, and free of bruises or mold. Shop early for the best selection. Mail order sources will ship your bulbs at the proper planting time. If you buy locally, store the bulbs in a dry, well-ventilated and cool 60-degree location until it’s time to plant.

Don’t let deer, rabbits and chipmunks dissuade you from planting.  Include hyacinths, grape hyacinths, scillas, glory-of-the-snow, fritillarias, alliums and Camassias that the animals tend to overlook.

Design Ideas 

Include a variety of bulbs for added color throughout spring. Early bloomers like Glory of the Snow, crocus, early tulips and daffodils, and grape hyacinths (Muscari) are followed by mid-season daffodils and tulips along with fritillarias. Late spring blooming tulips and alliums finish off the spring display.

Combine several bulbs that bloom at the same time to double the floral impact or at different times to extend the color throughout the spring. You can create your own combinations or look for prepackaged combinations prepared by experts like those at Longfield Gardens (www.Longfield-Gardens.com). Low growing White Splendor anemone along with Ocean Magic grape hyacinth make a striking combination for under shrubs. The yellow blossoms of Dutch Master daffodils, pink Involve tulips and purplish blue grape hyacinths will give you several layers of color in the garden.

Or add a bit of eye-catching red to the garden throughout the spring with the Really Red collection of tulips. Red Emperor starts things out in early spring, followed by Oxford and ends with double-flowering Red Princess and Sky High Scarlet.


Plant bulbs in well-drained soil for best results. Avoid areas such as next to the dryer vent or against the south side foundation of your home that tend to warm up early in spring or experience a winter thaw.  These bulbs often sprout too early and subsequent cold temperatures can limit or eliminate their bloom.

Reduce maintenance and boost your garden’s beauty by mixing bulbs with perennials. Once the bulbs are done blooming, the neighboring perennials mask the fading bulb foliage.

When and How to Plant

Increase growing success in poor soils by incorporating several inches of compost, peat moss or other organic matter into the top 12 inches of soil. This improves drainage in clay soil and the water-holding ability of sandy and rocky soils. Then be sure to incorporate a low nitrogen, slow release fertilizer.

Wait to plant your bulbs until the soil cools. This is any time after the night temperatures are consistently 40 to 50 degrees, but several weeks before the ground freezes.

Plant spring blooming bulbs three times as deep as the bulb is tall. Water thoroughly to remove air pockets and encourage fall root growth.  Add a layer of mulch to conserve moisture, suppress weeds and reduce the risk of early sprouting.

So break out your trowel and garden gloves and get busy planting. You’ll be glad you did when spring arrives and your yard and garden are filled with a rainbow of beautiful flowers.

Melinda Myers has over 30 years of gardening experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Longfield Gardens for her expertise to write this article.  

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Harvest your own home decor


(Family Features) Warm up your home with this season’s trendiest looks. Put your personal touch on your home’s decor with crafting projects that highlight the best of fall: copper detail, animal icons and pumpkins of every color, including white.

Create a seasonal tablescape or mantel decoration with these Harvest Fall Lanterns created by the crafting experts at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores. The lanterns lend a coppery sheen to complement the seasonal hues of the pumpkins and gourds. Place them atop a swatch of soft plaid for a multi-textured look that celebrates the season indoors.

For a unique outdoorsy look, piece together a birch wreath using natural supplies such as twig stems, cattail stems and foliage.

Find more harvest perfect fall home decor at joann.com.

Harvest Fall Lanterns

Skill level: Beginner

Crafting time: 3-5 hours

Supplies and Tools: 

2 boxes fall pumpkin and gourd decorations

1 bottle (2 fluid ounces) cloud white paint

Black sponge paint brush

2 metal and glass lanterns

Hot glue gun and sticks


Select two pumpkins to paint white. Paint them and let dry.

Choose multiple sized pumpkins and gourds and attach them to the inside bottom of each lantern with hot glue to begin building a design. Add more pumpkins and gourds, and glue them to each other.

Insert leaves and berries to accent pumpkins and fill in any empty spaces.

awe-harvest2Birch Wreath

Skill level: Beginner

Crafting time: 1-2 hours

Supplies and Tools:

Burlap garland

Dark brown raffia

Florist wire (22 or 24 gauge)

Burlap-wrapped wreath

Hot glue gun and glue sticks

Wire cutters

Beige twig stems

Brown floral tape

2 pinecone pick stems

2 onion grass cattail stems

5 fall leaf foliage

5 bags medium birch rounds


Craft bow out of burlap garland and dark brown raffia. Wrap wire around middle of bow and poke it into burlap wreath in desired location. Secure with hot glue.

With wire cutters, cut twigs to length and tape together with brown floral tape. Add pinecone stems to twigs and tape together with floral tape.

Wrap twig and pinecone stems with wire and poke wire into wreath under bow. Use hot glue to secure.

Add cattails and fall foliage to accent. Attach to wreath in desired locations with hot glue.

Cover remainder of wreath with birch rounds using hot glue.

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Harvest moon total eclipse


Dark Sky Parks offer ideal viewing

from the Michigan DNR

Something about the night sky simply inspires awe. As the stars begin to appear after sunset, we can go outdoors and see the vastness of space, and perhaps realize that our day-to-day stresses are not so big after all. Michiganders are fortunate to have access to several ideal locations for stargazing, including three state parks with dark sky preserves: Port Crescent State Park (Huron County), Lake Hudson Recreation Area (Lenawee County) and Wilderness State Park (Emmet County).

On the night of September 27-28, there will be even more reason to visit these parks due to the Super Harvest Moon Total Eclipse. The Harvest moon will be a spectacle to see, and Michigan state parks and state forest campgrounds are ideal viewing locations. The eclipse begins at 9:07, but the best views will be from about 10:10 to 11:30 p.m., from anywhere east of the Rocky Mountains.

Here are a few tips for viewing this natural nighttime show:

  • Show up to your stargazing destination while it’s still light out to allow your eyes to adjust slowly as the light disappears. This also allows you to see where you’re going as you choose the perfect viewing spot.
  • Don’t use artificial light sources such as flashlights and cell phone displays. The first tip above should allow you to see enough to get around without damaging your night vision. If you need to use light, try placing red tape over a flashlight, since red light is less damaging to night vision ability.
  • Make sure you have any necessary parking passes, such as the Recreation Passport, which grants access to any Michigan state park, state forest campground or state boat launch. Please note that Michigan state park day use areas are closed after 10 p.m. For late-night viewing opportunities, be sure to book a campsite and watch the skies from the campground.
  • Bring chairs, blankets, water and snacks to make your night comfortable. You may be there for a couple hours, so don’t let hunger or discomfort ruin this spectacular evening!
  • Know what to look for: visit a site like www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/sky-at-a-glance/ to see what will be in the sky during your visit. Stargazing is even more fun when you can point out constellations, planets and other celestial elements.

For more information about the eclipse, including diagrams and a full explanation, visit http://earthsky.org/?p=51212.

To find a nearby state park or state forest campground, visit www.michigan.gov/recreationsearch.

To check camping availability and make a reservation at www.midnrreservations.com or by calling 1-800-44PARKS (1-800-447-2757).

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Fall home and garden clean-up project tips

Get ready for colder weather with quick and simple outdoor clean-up tasks.

Get ready for colder weather with quick and simple outdoor clean-up tasks.

(StatePoint) Fall is the ideal season to tick items off your home exterior to-do list. The weather is finally cooler, making the work more enjoyable; and a thorough fall clean-up will give you peace of mind all winter.

Your MVP during home maintenance season can be the pressure washer. Up to 75 times more powerful than a garden hose, a pressure washer is a versatile tool that offers an efficient way to get a variety of cleaning tasks done.


Once you’re ready to stash away outdoor furniture for the season, remember to wash it down first for a deeper clean than a garden hose can provide. Before moving these items into storage, first let them dry completely.

Ensure your deck is free of mold and debris. A thorough clean will also serve to prep your deck for weatherproofing with a stain or sealant (another useful task to include on your fall checklist.)

Outdoor Surfaces

Rejuvenate driveways, patios, sidewalks and other large flat surfaces quickly and with no streaking using accessories like the Briggs & Stratton Surface Cleaner that works on a 14-inch diameter in one stroke. It features a dome shape to control overspray to protect walls and flower beds.


Cleaning your grill is a breeze with a pressure washer. First disconnect the propane tank and move it away from the area. Disconnect any electrical lines. Prop up the hood and remove the grates. Treat the entire grill with a degreasing solution, working from the bottom of the cart up to the grill bed. Let the degreaser work for a few minutes. Be careful around gas hoses, connections, electrical components or heating elements.

Using a general medium-pressure spray pattern, flush detergent and rinse any residue, working from the top down. Let the grill dry thoroughly, then coat with nonstick oil to help reduce future build-up.


Operate a pressure washer only outside, far away from windows, doors and vents to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide gas from accumulating and potentially being drawn towards occupied spaces.

Always wear goggles and closed-toe footwear when operating a pressure washer. Don’t spray near children, pets, electrical wires, or power lines. After use, allow the unit to cool down before storing.

For more outdoor fall cleaning tips, and for resources on choosing a pressure washer right for your home’s needs, visit www.briggsandstratton.com.

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Plant now for a beautiful garden now and in the future

Photo credit: Melinda Myers, LLC.    Plant daffodils and other spring flowering bulbs in the fall for extra color next spring.   

Photo credit: Melinda Myers, LLC.   
Plant daffodils and other spring flowering bulbs in the fall for extra color next spring.

By Melinda Myers

Don’t pack away that shovel and trowel. Fall is a great time to plant a few new additions in the landscape. Here are just a few ideas for adding immediate and long term beauty to your garden.

Add cool season annuals like pansies, snapdragons, ornamental kale and stocks to brighten the fall garden. Those in milder regions will enjoy them throughout the winter. Consider adding cold hardy pansies. They provide color in the fall garden, survive most winters, and are back blooming in the spring just as the snow melts.

Fall is also a good time to plant perennials, trees and shrubs. The soil is warm and the air cooler, so the plants are less stressed and establish more quickly. Select plants suited to the growing conditions and be sure to give them plenty of room to reach their mature size.

Plant trees so the root flare, the place where the roots curve away from the trunk, is even with the soil surface. Dig a hole, the same depth as the rootball, and two to five times wider. Roughen the sides of the hole and backfill with the existing soil. Water thoroughly and spread a two to three inch layer of mulch over the soil surface, keeping the mulch away from the tree trunk.

Follow a similar planting procedure for shrubs. Plant these so the crown, the place where the stems meet the roots, is even with the soil surface. And be sure to keep the mulch away from the stems.

Plant daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and other bulbs in fall for extra color next spring. Set the bulbs at a depth of two to three times their height deep. Then cover them with soil and sprinkle on a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer, like Milorganite (milorganite.com). This organic nitrogen fertilizer promotes rooting without stimulating fall growth subject to winter kill.

Start planting spring flowering bulbs after the nighttime temperatures hover between 40 and 50 degrees. Be patient; waiting until the soil cools reduces the risk of early sprouting that often occurs during a warm fall.

Those gardening in the far south and along the gulf coast can purchase pre-cooled bulbs to compensate for the warm winters. Or the chilling can be done at home by storing the bulbs in a 35 to 45 degree location for at least 14 weeks before planting.

Those tired of battling the animals may want to plant resistant bulbs such as daffodils, hyacinths, Fritillaria, alliums, Camassia, glory-of-the snow, snow drops, squills, and grape hyacinths. You may find it is easier to avoid the problem than battle the animals with repellents and scare tactics.

Plant a few short season vegetables in your garden for fresh-from-the garden flavor this fall. Simply count the days from planting to the average first fall frost to determine how many growing days are left in your area. Select vegetables that will mature and can be harvested in that amount of time. Leaf lettuce, spinach, mustard greens, radishes and carrots are fast growing, cool weather tolerant vegetables that make great additions to the fall garden and your dinner plate.

Get these vegetables off to a good start with a side dressing of low nitrogen fertilizer. Incorporate it into the soil prior to planting or sprinkle a narrow band along the row of plants.  This organic nitrogen will provide needed nutrients without damaging the tender seedlings.

Extend the harvest season with the help of floating row covers. These fabrics allow air, light and water through while trapping the heat around the plants. No construction is needed; just loosely cover the plants with the fabric, secure the edges with pipes, boards or landscape staples and let the plants provide the support.

So be sure to get a jump on next spring’s garden season with a bit of fall planting now.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books. Myers is also a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.

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Fresh Market: The Pumpkin—a Halloween tradition


By Vicky Babcock

Google “pumpkin” and you will find everything from riots in (Keene) New Hampshire to Ichabod Crane’s unfortunate encounter with the headless horseman, to pumpkin scones. We have pumpkin festivals, pumpkin carving contests, smashing pumpkins, pumpkin tossing, pumpkin baking and biggest pumpkin contests.

A true Native American, the pumpkin has been embraced by our cultures as both an important food source for people and livestock, and an excellent medium for carving. Something about these colorful canvasses really stirs the creative juices in artists of all ages! Throw in a candle and you have a lovely Jack-o-lantern. With its growing season complete from early to mid October, is it any wonder that this vibrantly colored fruit has become synonymous with Halloween? Yet pumpkins have a relatively short history with the holiday known as Halloween, which is believed to have evolved from the ancient festival of Samhain. It has its origins in European culture. Samhain was the Celtic harvest festival, a time to stock up supplies for the winter. The ancient Gaels believed the final day in October to be a time when the two worlds (the living and the dead) overlapped allowing the dead to return to Earth and cause havoc among the living. Offerings from the harvest were left outside their doors to appease the spirits in an effort to prevent them from bringing sickness and blight to the crops. Door to door begging, or “souling,” (a precursor to our modern day trick-or-treat) came much later and was associated with All Souls Day.

Our native pumpkin entered into the holiday when Irish immigrants brought the tradition of the Jack-o-lantern—originally a carved turnip or gourd—to the U.S. during the 1700s. Turnips had their drawbacks; they were relatively small and dense, with no pre-formed cavity in which to place a lit coal. With its broad base and large capacity, the pumpkin quickly became the preferred medium for the practice. Today, a large percentage of fresh bought pumpkins lends itself to this Halloween tradition, decorating our porches and giving young artists a chance to stretch their creative wings. Once used as a welcoming light for the spirits of our loved ones and to ward off any malevolent spirits, the Jack-o-Lantern has become a Halloween fantasy, a joyful pastime and a profitable market for farmers of the crop. Unfortunately, few of us these days consume pumpkin that does not come out of a can.

Unfortunate, because pumpkin, one of the winter squashes, is an excellent source of dietary nutrition. Pumpkins are rich in beta-carotene, an important antioxidant, which the body uses to convert to vitamin A. Foods rich in beta-carotene have been linked to lower risk of certain cancers and offer protection against heart disease as well as an aid in the degenerative aspects of aging. Pumpkin is high in potassium and dietary fiber as well, necessary nutrients for the heart and digestive tract respectively. A cup of cooked pumpkin contains about 49 calories, a dieter’s dream!

So, as you carve your pumpkins this year, consider using the cut outs (minus the rind) in soups, stews or rice dishes. Or try some pumpkin chili. Any way you slice it, it comes out deliciously nutritious.

Like pumpkins—and despite its ancestry—Halloween is a true American treat. With the mix of cultures that make up today’s Halloween, what greater place to celebrate than the Great Melting Pot of the world? Have a safe and happy Halloween. And happy “souling.”


Pumpkin Chili

1 ½ pounds lean ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, diced

2 large carrots, washed and diced (ends removed)

2 cups fresh pumpkin, peeled and diced

1 jar salsa—medium heat

1 15-oz can diced tomatoes

2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained

Chili powder (to taste)

In a large skillet, brown beef. Drain most of the oils and remove beef to a Dutch oven. In saucepan in remaining oil, cook and stir onion, garlic, carrots and pumpkin for about two minutes, until onion is tender. Drain the rest of the oil and add to the beef. Add remaining ingredients except for the chili powder. Cook and stir until boiling. Reduce heat and add chili powder to taste. This will gain some heat as it cooks, so start lightly. Cook over med to low heat about 30 minutes or until pumpkin is tender and flavors have mixed. Add additional chili powder about 15 minutes into the cooking process if you wish.

Serve with grated cheese, crushed corn chips (I like Frito’s™ Chili Cheese) and sour cream if desired. Other additions include chopped fresh onions or chopped bell peppers. This is even better the next day.

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718.  Like us on facebook for updates.



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Fall clean-up tips for your lawn and garden tools


(BPT) – As the temperature drops, your lawn and garden will start settling into a dormant state. As you prep your landscaping and garden for a winter’s slumber, it’s a good idea to review the tools you used all summer. Taking care of this task now will ensure they’re in good shape come spring when it’s time to use them again. From sharpening edges of blades to making certain the tool is still doing the job it was designed to do, put all your lawn and garden tools through a thorough fall cleaning. Here are some tips:

* Lawn mowers – Check your owner’s manual for information about sharpening the mower deck blades and what to do with any unused gasoline before putting the mower into storage. It’s a good idea to keep the mower in a dry location where moisture won’t collect and potentially rust the blades.

* Hand trimmers – Hand clippers, tree trimmers and saws all take a beating during the summer. Check these tools to make certain the handles are still secure, the cutting blades are sharp and the locking mechanisms all work. If anything isn’t up to par, replace the tool so you have it ready for the first sign of spring.

* Chainsaws – These heavy machines get put through their paces, and they can be taxing on people, too, after extended use. If you’re ready to upgrade your chainsaw, the Husqvarna low-weight 436Li is quiet, easy to operate and has the same power as gas machines. The 536LiXP and the T536LiXP models are also available, and they come with low maintenance and high-performance delivery. All battery-operated chainsaws come with two rechargeable batteries that can be interchanged with any Husqvarna hand tools you might already have in your collection. The batteries have a 40-minute charge time, helping to keep the tools lightweight and quiet.

* Weed trimmers – These tools are invaluable for keeping the grasses and weeds trimmed around trees and garden edging. In the fall, be sure to replace the string so you’ll have a fresh spool come spring. Also check the air filter on the tool. If it is dirty, replace the filter to allow your machine to perform at its best.

* Hoses – When it’s time to store your hoses for the winter, check all the connections to make certain nothing leaks; replace the connectors if you notice water spraying or dribbling from a connection. And if the hose itself is leaking, put it on your list to be replaced. Make certain you’ve drained all the water out before putting the hoses away for winter. If you have a hose cart, roll up the hose neatly without any kinks. Otherwise, you can just roll the hose into a neat pile of loops for storage in a dry place.

With all of your lawn and garden tools safely stored for the winter months, you’ll know they’ll be ready the minute you need them in the spring.


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Fresh Market: The Pinecone

AWE-PineconeBy Vicky Babcock


Consider the pinecone. While not a viable food source for humans, pinecones are invaluable to birds and mice that eat the tender seeds when other sources of food are scarce. Dried pinecones make great fire starters, with or without candle wax. They are a crafters choice for wreaths, picture frames and candle rings. I’ve even seen them used to create charming baskets. A pinecone, a milkweed pod (split in two halves) and an acorn make a rustic angel for your tree.

Pinecones added to your greenery create interesting focal points and pinecones are the main base in many winter potpourris. Pinecones open when they are dry and close when they are wet, allowing them to distribute seed at the most opportune time for maximum travel. This phenomenon is the base for an interesting puzzle. While a pinecone is wet (tightly closed), push it into a narrow necked jar and allow it to dry. As it dries, it will open and expand, making it impossible to remove from the jar whole. Ask your kids if they know how you managed to get it into the jar.

Pinecone cows were a popular toy back in the day. These were made simply by sticking matchsticks into pinecones for legs.  In parts of the world they are still popular. In Finland there is a fairground with statues of pinecone cows for children to play on.

Nest a candle in a bowl of pinecones for a charming centerpiece. For an added touch, add a few glass ornaments or a string of dried cranberries. Never leave a candle unattended, as pinecones are extremely flammable.

An unopened pinecone is a symbol of virginity. Conversely, pinecones are symbolic with fertility and were often carved into bedposts as an aid to conception. The pinecone is considered a luck charm, favorable influences, protection from harm and sexual power. There are those who believe it promotes healing and inhibits negative influences.

Pinecone Firestarters

Pinecone Firestarters are easy to make and create charming gifts for those who have fireplaces. Gather pinecones and allow them to dry. Collect old candles or crayons for the wax.

Other optional ingredients:


Salt—yellow flame

Salt substitute—violet flame

Borax—green flame


Melt wax in the top of a double boiler. This is necessary as wax is extremely flammable—do not heat directly on the stove. If you would like to create colored flames, mix sawdust with desired color ingredient (see above). Dip dried pinecones in the melted wax, then dip into sawdust mixture. These can be given in a pretty basket or a recycled onion or orange bag. Add a bit of greenery and a bow, and you have a charming gift for a housewarming or for Christmas. Just be sure the recipient has a fireplace.

The Pueblo story of the pine tree as told by the Quères is a detailed (and somewhat disturbing) tale in which a witch is tricked into eating magic pine seeds. The seeds sprout in her belly and turn her into a great pine tree that sways in the wind and moans and sobs forever—as all her pine children do to this day.

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718.  Like us on facebook for updates.


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Beware of poison ivy

Richard Cone, of Sparta, cut down this tree with a large poison ivy vine growing on it.

Richard Cone, of Sparta, cut down this tree with a large poison ivy vine growing on it.

Richard Cone, of Camp Lake, near Sparta, found out the hard way that getting rid of poison ivy can be a tricky business. Cone recently cut down a tree in his yard, and attached to it was a poison ivy vine that he said measured 8 inches in diameter. The woody vine looked like a tree branch on top of the tree. He said he was using a chainsaw, and woodchips were flying everywhere, which meant he got the poison ivy oil on his clothes and hands.

“I used some Dawn dish soap to scrub the oil off, and the rash was gone in a couple of days,” he said.

We sent the photo of the poison ivy vine to Ranger Steve Mueller. He said that if it was poison ivy, then it was larger than he had seen before. He couldn’t positively identify it from the photo. “It looks like it might be ivy covering a woody stem of something else but I can not tell from the picture,” he said.

“I have seen large ivy vines that are about three inches in diameter and climb high into trees. Ivies in southern Michigan grow larger than I typically see in our area. I have seen quite a large one but do not recall if I have seen any 8 inches in diameter.”

This photo from WebMD shows the leaves of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac.

This photo from WebMD shows the leaves of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac.

The Post did, however, find similar photos of poison ivy vines in an online search.

Mueller said that he would cut the ivy vine at the base of the tree with branch pruners and not remove the vine from the tree. It will grow from the ground again. “After cutting the ivy, it is good to wipe the cutting blade with some bleach. Wear disposable protective gloves,” he cautioned.

Mueller said he uses poison ivy herbicide on poison ivy and some other exotic plants. “I do not encourage use of chemicals but there occasions where I do use chemical treatments sparingly,” he explained.

How do you recognize poison ivy? Mueller said most grow as vines, though some can be free standing plants, under two feet tall. “The plant has leaves divided into three leaflets. The leaflet has three lobes and the margin has a few scattered teeth. The leaflets on the common Box Elder Trees look a lot like Poison Ivy so people can compare the two. Box Elder usually has more leaflets. In the fall the ivy may have white berry clusters,” he explained.

If you do come into contact with poison ivy and develop a rash, the American Academy of Dermatologists recommends the following:

Immediately rinse your skin with lukewarm, soapy water. If you can rinse your skin immediately after touching poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, you may be able to rinse off some of the oil. If not washed off, the oil can spread from person to person and to other areas of your body.

Wash your clothing. Thoroughly wash all of the clothes you were wearing when you came into contact with the poisonous plant. The oil can stick to clothing, and if it touches your skin, it can cause another rash.

Wash everything that may have the oil on its surface. Besides clothing, the oil from poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac can stick to many surfaces, including gardening tools, golf clubs, leashes and even a pet’s fur. Be sure to rinse your pet’s fur, and wash tools and other objects with warm, soapy water.

Do not scratch, as scratching can cause an infection.

Leave blisters alone. If blisters open, do not remove the overlying skin, as the skin can protect the raw wound underneath and prevent infection.

Take short, lukewarm baths. To ease the itch, take short, lukewarm baths in a colloidal oatmeal preparation, which you can buy at your local drugstore. You can also draw a bath and add one cup of baking soda to the running water. Taking short, cool showers may also help.

Consider calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream. Apply calamine lotion to skin that itches. If you have a mild case, a hydrocortisone cream or lotion may also help.

Apply cool compresses to the itchy skin. You can make a cool compress by wetting a clean washcloth with cold water and wringing it out so that it does not drip. Then, apply the cool cloth to the itchy skin.

Consider taking antihistamine pills. These pills can help reduce itching, however use with caution. You should not apply an antihistamine to your skin, as doing so can worsen the rash and the itch.

If your rash is not improving after seven to 10 days, or you think your rash may be infected, see a board-certified dermatologist. A dermatologist can treat your rash and any infection and help relieve the itch.


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