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Archive | Awesome Autumn

Here I am, where are you?

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Red-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

 

Here I Am, Where Are You? sings the Red-eyed Vireo all day long through the summer. Now it is silent but I watched one feeding on abundant insects this past week. Some years frost arrives by mid September but this year it is not expected until late October.

The olive back, white breast and belly of this long sleek bird is not often observed but it is one of the most abundant birds in deciduous forest. The bird spends much of it time high in trees or among the thick foliage. This past week one was lower to the ground gleaning food morsels on tree branches. I suspect it may have been a female because they are report to feed lower in trees than males. The two sexes look similar so I cannot distinguish them. I often wonder what food could be found on branches or among the leaves. When I look, I do not find many insects but the bird is looking thoroughly on twigs at very close range. Their eye focuses at one inch from the twig or leaf where it seeks food.

I once observed White-crowned Sparrows actively feeding in the lawn below my window but I could not see insects. I went out and got on my hands and knees. When I looked from only inches away, I could see many tiny insects flying about the grass. The birds were picking these tiny bits and making a collective big meal from them.

Vireos are about as long as sparrows but are slimmer. The vireo stands with an elongated body. When feeding, there is almost a straight line along its back from beak to end of tail. Most warblers hold their head up slightly so it is not in a straight line with back and tail. If one gets a good look, there is a white stripe over the eye with a black line before and behind the eye. If lighting is very good one can see the red eye iris for which the bird is named. The crown is dark above the light stripe over the eye. The stripe helps distinguish this vireo.

Vireos often nest low in trees and shrubs so one may encounter a nest. They suspend the nest in a fork where twigs diverge. The hanging suspended nest is a give away that it belongs to a vireo. I seldom find them during the nesting season but they are more obvious in winter.

Unfortunately nests are not hidden as well from Brown-headed Cowbirds. Cowbirds spend time watching the activities of other birds. When the vireo repeatedly enters a thick, the cowbird checks to see if a nest is present. When a nest is present the cowbird will lay an egg in the nest when the vireo is away feeding. The young cowbird hatches first and often pushes other eggs from the nest. It other young remain they often starve because the larger cowbird gets most of the food.

The bill of all vireos is heavier and longer that of warblers. It’s not thick and stout like the bill of cardinals, goldfinches, or sparrows. Its bill is well designed for capturing insects but the diet changes to include more small fruits in fall. By mid October few will not be found in these northern parts. They head for South America where they will be able to continue feeding on insects suitable for their nature niche.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.

 

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Fresh Market – The Pear

By Vicky Babcock

Ginger Glazed Chicken and Pears a la Orange

Ginger Glazed Chicken and Pears a la Orange

 

Because they are considered hypoallergenic, pears are often one of the first foods we introduce to babies.  Soft and easily digestible compared to other fruits, these are excellent choices for first time foods.  As children, we remember growing up with canned pears and Fruit Cocktail.  Given that association, many of us might label the pear as a “kid” food.

Not so. Pears—especially in its natural state—are an excellent choice for our diets at any age! Even more so than others, pears are a fruit that should be consumed with the skin intact, as the skin contains a majority of the phytonutrients (about 75-80%) and about one-half of the dietary fiber.  These phytonutrients have been shown to provide us with antioxidant as well as anti-inflammatory benefits. Consumption of pears has been associated with reduced risk of several chronic diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes—often referred to as adult-onset diabetes.

In addition, the consumption of pears has been shown to aid in the prevention of cancers such as colon, stomach and esophageal cancers.

The pear is a member of the rose family, joining a large group of fruits including apples, cherries, peaches, plums, raspberries and strawberries.  It is an Old World fruit, originating in both Europe and Asia as well as some parts of Africa.  The ancient Chinese believed the pear to be the symbol of immortality.

There are over 3000 varieties of pears throughout the world.  Most pears grown in the United States are of European origin.  The Bartlett, best known of these varieties, is most often the choice for canned pears.  In Europe, it is known as the Williams.  It was renamed by a Bostonian, Enoch Bartlett when he purchased an orchard and began distributing them himself, not knowing they were already named.  Other varieties you might recognize include the Bosc, the Green Anjou, the Red Anjou and the Red Bartlett.  Red varieties are higher in nutritional value as they contain anthrcyanins, a powerful antioxidant .

Because a pear ripens from the inside out, it can be difficult to determine when it is ripe.  We recommend pressing gently at the top of the pear near its stem.  If it gives to pressure it is likely ripe for eating.

Ginger Glazed Chicken and Pears a la Orange

Ingredients:

2-3 T. butter

About 8-10 chicken tenders

Morton’s Nature’s Seasons or similar seasoned salt

2 T. soy sauce

2  T.  white vinegar

1/4  cup (or less) sugar

1  tsp. ground ginger

2 T. dry white wine

½ cup orange juice or 2 T. orange liquor

1 onion, cut thin

1 unpeeled pear, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 cup rice, cooked in 2 cups water with 2 bullion cubes (3 cups cooked rice)

Arugula

Directions:

Season chicken with Nature’s Seasons and braise lightly in butter in large pan over medium heat on both sides. Remove from pan—do not rinse pan.  Add soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and ginger and heat until sugar melts.  Add wine and orange juice—stir.  Add onion, pear slices and chicken; cover and simmer over medium low heat until chicken is cooked through and onion is tender—about 12 minutes.  Serve over rice.  Add a couple leaves of Arugula to the side of the plate. (Although this was originally intended for garnish, it adds a nutty flavor that truly enhances this dish!)  Serves 4-6.

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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Protect your winter landscape from hungry wildlife

AWE-Protest-winter-landscape-Fencing-for-animal-protectionby gardening expert Melinda Myers

There’s no doubt that managing critters in the landscape can be a challenge especially as food supplies start to dwindle. If you are battling with rabbits, deer, groundhogs or other wildlife, don’t let down your guard as the growing season begins to wind down.

Be proactive. Start before they get into the habit of dining on your landscape. It is easier to keep them away than break the dining habit.

Fence them out. Fencing is the best defense against most wildlife.  A four feet tall fence around a small garden will keep out rabbits.  Secure the bottom tight to the ground or bury it several inches to prevent rabbits and voles from crawling underneath.  Or fold the bottom of the fence outward, making sure it’s tight to the ground. Animals tend not to crawl under when the bottom skirt faces away from the garden.

Go deeper, at least 12 to 18 inches, if you are trying to discourage woodchucks. And make sure the gate is secure. Many hungry animals have found their way into the garden through openings around and under the gate.

A five foot fence around small garden areas can help safeguard your plantings against hungry deer. Some gardeners report success surrounding their garden with fishing line mounted on posts at one and three foot heights.

Break out the repellents. Homemade and commercial repellents can be used.  Apply before the animals start feeding and reapply as directed. Consider using a natural product like Messina’s Animal Stopper (http://www.messinas.com/. It is made of herbs, safe to use and smells good.

Scare ‘em away. Blow up owls, clanging pans, rubber snakes, slivers of deodorant soap, handfuls of human hair and noisemakers are scare tactics that have been used by gardeners for years. Consider your environment when selecting a tactic. Urban animals are used to the sound and smell of people. Alternate scare tactics for more effective control.  The animals won›t be afraid of a snake that hasn›t moved in weeks.

Combine tactics. Use a mix of fencing, scare tactics and repellents. Keep monitoring for damage. If there are enough animals and they are hungry, they will eat just about anything.

Don’t forget about nature. Welcome hawks and fox into your landscape. Using less pesticides and tolerating some critters, their food source, will encourage them to visit your yard. These natural pest controllers help keep the garden-munching critters under control.

And most importantly, don’t give up.  A bit of persistence, variety and adaptability is the key to success. Investing some time now will not only deter existing critters from dining in your landscape, but will also reduce the risk of animals moving in next season.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments. Myers is also a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ web site,http://www.melindamyers.com/www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos, podcasts, and garden tips.

 

 

 

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Fresh Market—the Pumpkin

 

By Vicky Babcock

 

Nothing says Fall quite so well as the pumpkin! Its bold color and robust texture are characteristic of the season. It is a fall favorite in the U.S., selling over 1 billion pounds annually in its relatively short season. Over 90 percent of our nation’s processed pumpkin comes from the State of Illinois, with a majority (85 percent) being processed for sale with the Libby’s ® label.  Most Americans today have never made a pumpkin pie that has not come out of a can.

Pumpkin popularity grew enormously in the U.S with the advent of the Jack o’ Lantern, a tradition brought over by Irish immigrants, who used carved turnips in their home country as lanterns to chase away evil spirits.  According to legend, Jack tricked the Devil into agreeing to never claim his soul. When Jack died, the Devil gave him a lit coal to light his way in the afterlife. Jack placed the coal in a turnip and became known as “Jack o’ the Lantern.”

Pumpkins, as other squashes, are native to America and Native Americans grew and harvested them for centuries. It was one of a group of crops known as the “three sisters” and was grown in conjunction with corn and beans. The corn stalk provided a pole for the beans to grow, while the pumpkin covered the ground, providing cover to deter weeds and to keep the soil moist. The Iroquois legend of the three sisters speaks of a Sky woman who fell to Earth, becoming the first woman on Earth. Being with child, she gave birth to a daughter who in turn, gave birth to twins by the West Wind. The woman died in childbirth and the children buried her; from the ground where she lay, sprouted corn, beans and pumpkins, which served as the main food staples of the Iroquois.

While pumpkins are most popular here as a carving base these days, the fruit is loaded with nutritional value. Pumpkins are high in vitamin A and beta carotene; the seeds are high in protein and rich in a highly nutritious, flavorful oil. The flowers and the leaves are edible and considered a delicacy in some countries.

Some little known facts:  pumpkins are used as a feed for livestock; the raw fruit can be used as a supplement to chickens during the winter to aid in egg production; the biggest pumpkin on record weighed in at a whopping 2009 pounds; Columbus brought the first pumpkins back to Europe from the New World; the largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds; canned pumpkin (not pie filling) has been recommended by veterinarians as a supplement for dogs and cats experiencing ailments such as constipation, diarrhea or hairballs.

Still not convinced that you should buy a pumpkin? Consider pumpkin chucking. A competitive sport in which teams build devices to throw a pumpkin as far as possible.

Crustless Pumpkin Pie

1 32oz can of pumpkin

1 12oz can of evaporated milk

4 eggs

3 teaspoons pumpkin pie mix

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cups sugar

1 box yellow cake mix

1 stick butter

Pecans to scatter on top as desired.

 

Mix pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, pumpkin pie mix, salt and sugar in bowl.  Pour in 13”x9” cake pan. Cover with 1 box of Yellow Cake mix.  Scatter pecans on top.  Melt butter and drizzle over the top. Bake at 400 for about 40 minutes.

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.

Note:  Solon Market will be closed October 5 for Red Flannel Festival. We will be open again the following week.

 

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Six Steps to a Beautiful Landscape Next Season

_AWE-Six-steps-Recycling_Leaves

by gardening expert Melinda Myers

 

Don’t let a busy schedule stop you from creating a beautiful landscape. Incorporate a few of these changes in your fall landscape care. You’ll create beautiful results with a limited investment of time and effort.

Cut the grass, recycle fall leaves, and improve the soil with a pass of the lawn mower. Shred leaves and leave them on the lawn as you mow this fall.  As long as you can see the grass through the leaf pieces, the lawn will be fine. As the leaves break down they add organic matter to the soil, improving drainage in clay soil and water holding ability in sandy soil. As an alternative, use excess leaves as soil mulch. Shred the leaves with your mower and spread a layer over the soil to conserve moisture and insulate the roots of perennials. Fall mulching gives you a jump on next spring’s landscape chores.

Improve your lawn’s health by fertilizing this fall with a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer, like Milorganite. You’ll reduce the risk of disease problems and with slower weed growth in fall, your lawn, not the weeds, will benefit from the nutrients. Fall fertilization also helps lawns recover from the stresses of summer by encouraging deep roots and denser growth that can better compete with weeds and tolerate disease and insects. Northern gardeners can follow the holiday schedule and fertilize Labor Day and Halloween. Southern gardeners should make their last fall fertilization at least 30 days before the lawn goes dormant or the average first killing frost to avoid winter kill.
Do a bit of planting. Cool season annuals brighten up the fall garden and, for those in warmer regions, the winter garden. 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 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. This type of fertilizer promotes rooting without stimulating fall growth subject to winter kill. Base your bulb planting time on the weather not the calendar. Start planting after the night-time 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.
Leave healthy perennials standing for winter. This increases hardiness and adds beauty to the winter landscape with their seed heads, dried foliage and the birds they attract. Plus, it will delay cleanup until spring when gardeners are anxious to get outdoors and start gardening. However, be sure to remove any diseased or insect-infested plants to reduce the source of pest problems in next year’s garden.
Start composting or add shredded leaves and other plant debris to an existing compost pile. Combine fall leaves with other plant waste, a bit of soil or compost, and sprinkle with fertilizer to create compost. Recycling yard waste saves time bagging, hauling and disposing of green debris. You also reduce or eliminate the need to buy soil amendments to improve your existing garden soil.

Incorporate one or all six of these practices to increase the health and beauty of your landscape now and for years to come.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening. She hosts the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments and is 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 – Garlic, the “Stinking Rose”

_AWE-Fresh-Market-GarlicBy Vicky Babcock

 

Thanks to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, everyone is aware of the power of garlic to ward off vampires, evil spirits and the like. It is rich in folklore, dating back—by some reports—over 7,000 years. Garlic has been found in the tombs of Ancient Egyptian Kings and was given to their slaves as part of their diet to ward off illness and increase strength and endurance. Greek soldiers and athletes used garlic for these same properties and Roman soldiers consumed garlic before battle for courage. The Egyptians swore on garlic, invoking the Ancient deities, much as we use the Bible in courtrooms today.

Garlic was placed on piles of stones at cross-roads by the ancient Greeks as a protection from demons as it caused them to become confused and lose their way. This also served as a meal for Hecate, the goddess of the wilderness. Europeans believed garlic had the power to ward off the evil eye and Central Europeans considered it a deterrent against devils, vampires, werewolves and the like. Dreaming of garlic in the house is considered lucky and to dream of eating garlic means you will discover hidden secrets.

Garlic originated in Central Asia. It derives its name from the Old English garleac—spear leek. The Greeks had another name for it—scorodon—the “stinking rose.” Indeed, its pungent odor—the bulb gained the sobriquet halitosis during the 1920’s—appears to be a critical part in its role as a natural insecticide. And pungent bulbs (garlic included) have been used for centuries to aid in the prevention and fighting of the common cold. The Cherokee used it as an expectorant for coughs and for croup. Modern science supports its role as a preventative, although experts caution that it has not been proven to fight pre-existing colds.

Garlic is a heart healthy food. Components of it aid in lowing blood pressure, as well as helping to prevent blood clots. Because of these factors alone, be sure to check with your doctor if you are on any medications before using garlic in quantity. Components of garlic also aid to reduce oxidative damage to blood vessel linings, a key factor in increasing risk for cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and atherosclerosis, commonly, hardening of the arteries. Garlic is very high in vitamin B6 and high in vitamin C. It is also a rich source of Manganese, which helps your body maintain strong bones, nerves and blood sugar levels. It also helps to promote optimal function of the thyroid and protects your cells from free-radical damage.

Garlic is an important ingredient in most spaghetti sauces, goulash and many tomato-based foods.  It is highly prized in Italian and Oriental cuisines and blends its unique flavor well with chicken, shrimp and lemon. To make the most of its nutritional value, chop garlic and let rest for a bit before using; toss into the recipe towards the end of the cooking process.

And about vampires?  It turns out garlic really does keep the bloodsuckers away—blood sucking mosquitoes, that is.

 

Easy Scampi

¾ cup butter

¼ cup chopped onion

3 to 4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 pound uncooked med. shrimp, deveined

¼ cup dry white wine

2 T. fresh lemon juice

Salt and ground pepper

 

Melt butter in medium skillet over low heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté until golden.  Add shrimp and stir just until pink. Remove shrimp and place in ovenproof dish. Cover lightly and keep warm. Add wine and lemon juice to skillet and simmer about 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and pour over shrimp.  Serve with rice or noodles.

 

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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Extend the harvest this season

AWE-Extend-the-harvest-seasonBy gardening expert Melinda Myers

 

Didn’t get enough gardening in this season? Don’t worry there is still time to grow garden-fresh vegetables and herbs this fall and winter.

Purchase transplants and seeds that will grow and flourish in the cooler fall and winter temperatures. Lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, root vegetables, edible pansies and calendula as well as cole crops, like broccoli, are a few to consider.

Those gardening in colder regions need to select short season crops like lettuce, spinach and radishes that will mature before extremely cold winter temperatures set in. Extend the fall garden season into winter with the help of floating row covers, coldframes and portable greenhouses. Many of the elevated garden systems now have built in cold frames or row cover attachments to make extending the season much easier.

Try container and elevated gardens like the VegTrug™ (www.gardeners.com) to extend the growing season and increase your enjoyment. These contained gardens allow you to plant herbs, vegetables and flowers anywhere. Place a few right outside the front door or on the balcony for fun and convenience. Plus, contained gardens can easily be moved to a sheltered location or covered and protected from frost.

Or move your garden indoors. Select vegetables and herbs that can tolerate the less-than-ideal indoor growing conditions. Greens, onions and root crops, like radishes and short carrots, will grow in a sunny window. Expand your selection with the help of artificial lights.

Basil, oregano, thyme, sage, parsley, chives and of course mint are a few favorite herbs to grow on your kitchen or other sunny windowsill. Increase your harvest with the help of artificial lights or try an indoor tiered grow light stand to save on space.

Take cuttings from healthy herbs growing in the garden, purchase new transplants or start herb and vegetable plants from seeds.

Take four inch cuttings from healthy herbs. Remove the lowest set of leaves and place the cut end in a well-drained potting mix. Once rooted, plant the herbs in individual containers or mixed with other herbs in a windowsill planter.

Start the seeds in a flat, in individual pots or directly in a planter. Keep the rooting mix warm and moist until the seeds sprout. Move to a sunny location or under artificial lights as soon as the seedlings break through the soil. Wait until the seedlings develop two sets of leaves and then transplant them into their permanent planter if needed.

So get busy planting and soon you will be enjoying the tasty benefits of fall and winter gardening.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments. 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 Butternut

AWE-Fresh-market-butternutsquashMeet the Butternut, a winter squash similar in flavor and texture to the pumpkin, but without the thick skin. Butternuts are harvested late in the season, usually October. However, as with much of the produce this year, they appear to be ripening earlier. You have probably seen a few coming into Market already.

Diligent research has given me little history on this tasty squash. One source (the Stow Independent) credits Charles Leggett with its development in the mid-1940s. It most certainly has its roots in the Americas, although it is relatively new to the table, arriving (according to some sources) in the 19th century.

It is considered a pumpkin in Australia and New Zealand, where the two are used interchangeably.

With all due respect to its summer cousins, winter squashes are a powerhouse of nutrients, far eclipsing that of the zucchini or summer squash.

The butternut is an excellent source of Vitamins A and C, providing a whopping 457 percent and 51 percent RDA respectively, in one cup, cubed. Vitamin A has been identified as a deterrent against breast cancer as well as age related macular degeneration. It is heart healthy, protecting against heart disease. Low in fat, yet high in dietary fiber, the butternut is an excellent choice for your diet. It provides significant amounts of potassium and vitamin B6 as well, important to bone health and the function of the nervous and immune system respectively.

Butternut is a versatile squash, lending itself well to soups, casseroles and dessert dishes. It can be baked or microwaved whole for an easy fix. Remove the peel and seeds while still warm, then puree for a buttery flavored soup or a base for pumpkin pie.

 

Holiday “Pumpkin” Pie

1 ½ c. cooked and pureed butternut squash

½ c. sugar

½ tsp. salt

1 ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

½ tsp. ground nutmeg

½ tsp ground cloves

2 large eggs, slightly beaten

* 1 ¼ c. Holiday Nog

1 tsp. orange liquor or brandy

1 9-inch unbaked pastry shell

Whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 400◦ F. In large bowl, combine squash, sugar, salt and spices.  Blend in eggs, nog and liquor. Pour into pastry shell. Bake 50 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between edge and center comes out clean. Cool. Refrigerate. Serve plain  or with whipped cream.

*Substitute Holiday Nog with milk if desired—add ¼ c. sugar

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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More sunflowers

AWE-Sunflower-OstromWe received two more sunflower entries this week. One was from Lori Ostrom, of Nelson Township. Grandma Hale and Harlee are standing next to the sunflowers in their garden, with the tallest reaching 11 feet 6 inches.

Marjorie Merritt, of the Village of Sand Lake, also sent us photos of the sunflowers in their garden. She said that this year, she didn’t even plant any sunflowers—they just came up on their own! Her tallest one also reached 11 feet 6 inches.

AWE-Sunflower-MerrittThanks to both Lori and Marjorie for sharing their sunflowers with us!

Do you have the tallest sunflower in the area? Send your photo to news@cedarspringspost.com, with “sunflower” in the subject line. Give us a little bit of info about the sunflower, your name and where you live, and we will print it as space allows.

 

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