How I Got Started

I started Butterfly gardening many years ago. My yard has been a progression over the years, and has made many transformations. Twenty years ago I experienced Hurricane Andrew. My yard and house were destroyed. We decided not to replace the pool screening and open up the backyard and put in some landscaping. That was the official beginning of my love for gardening in South Florida. I added a beautiful water garden years ago, and have been adding host and larvae plants for pollinators, mostly for the butterfly, for as many years as I can remember. I had my yard certified as a Natural Habitat, through the National Wildlife Foundation. To have a natural habitat you need to provide and meet certain requirements: 1. Provide a food source, 2. Provide a water source, 3. Cover, 4. A place to raise young. I try not to use any pesticides in my yard. I vermicompost and recycle as many of my food scraps as possible. If I had more land I would have a huge compost bin to recycle all my yard cuttings. Basically, I try to lessen my carbon footprint on this earth. In my own little world or backyard I try to provide an ecosystem in my water garden, provide birdbaths, birdfeeders, hummingbird nectar sources, feeders, puddling areas, host plants and nectar plants for butterflies and other pollinators. I am hoping to raise everyone’s awareness of the importance of saving our Butterflies, Blooms & Bees. Without them our world and food source will be in trouble. I hope you all enjoy my journey. I am not a Master Gardener, or Master Beekeeper, an Entomologist, or Journalists. I am simply a Backyard Gardener who is trying to lessen her Carbon Footprint of this Earth.

I hope you enjoy my blogs.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down!

Well today isn’t exactly Monday, but I use to love that song by the “The Carpenters.” With all the rain we’ve had I couldn’t help but sing that song. The phrase isn’t exactly true for me. As a gardener I welcome the rain, but we’ve had so many rainy days here in Miami since May 1st, that I am really over the rain. Mondays, on the other hand, are always difficult! With tropical storm Debbie spinning around in the Gulf of Mexico we have had an excess of rain over the past few days. Luckily the storm headed north, and many parts of northern Florida that were drought ridden have now had an overabundance of rain as the storm was very slow moving. I went out into the garden to check how everything was handling all the wind and rain from the tropical storm. Yesterday was very windy, and today we are still getting the feeder bands from the storm. Everything in the garden was soggy and weeping downward from the rain. Several of the Mexican Sunflowers were leaning over and I had to stake them up. The Popcorn Senna (Senna Alata), which is a host plant for most Sulphur Butterflies, is totally leaning

over. It is just big enough that I am not able to lift it myself. On the east side of the house there is another species of Senna, Cassia Senna (Senna Mexicana), that went through hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. At that time it was uprooted from the ground. My yardman helped me get it up right, but it always has had a little lean to it. I haven’t taken it out because it is a great host plant for the Yellow Cloudless Sulphurs, all the Senna family are. I have noticed the last few days that the branches of the tree are almost touching the ground. When I was walking around the yard this morning I noticed that the trunk has split in half. Unfortunately, I think it’s time for that tree to come down.

I don’t know what it is about my yard, but I swear that somehow the wind just swirls around my house. The west side is always very susceptible to wind damage. Many years ago we added an addition on our house. I think it is the way the addition sits on the property that makes the wind circulate around the addition and creates a little wind tunnel. It is so frustrating though because it just kills me when one of my plants breaks or is falling over. I think it is called Murphy’s Law! Most of my neighbors are not into gardening. I am not really sure it would be fair to say that they wouldn’t care if a tree or plant would be damaged, but it seems like they never have any damage to their yards. Mine, the wind blows, and down go the plants. WHY??

I think when these things happen to my yard I need to take a step back, and realize that I have no control over Mother Nature. My yard has changed so many times over the years due to storms. I need to just accept this change and move on. That is very difficult as a gardener. Actually I think change is one of the hardest things to accept for most people!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mango Madness Continues

I had a really busy week this week with work deadlines. I also had personal deadlines as my daughter Katie, her boyfriend Tyler, his cousin Aaron and his wife Amanda were coming in just for the night on Friday, on their way from Rochester, NY to Jamaica. With everything I had to accomplish I found myself just wanting to continue with my “Mango Madness” and make Mango Jam and Mango Bread. My Lancetilla tree is almost finished producing fruit and most of the fruit has ripened at this point. I have eaten so many mangos in the past few weeks. I have a delicious recipe for Mango Salsa which has become a tradition. It is very easy to make, so refreshing, which I just serve with nachos.

I am not the kind of cook that measures ingredients exactly. In fact, I am the kind that looks at different recipes and says “ok this looks good from here, and I’ll add that from there.” Usually this works very nicely for me. Making jellies and jams always concerns me because I know it is important to have the right amount of fruit to sugar to pectin ratio. I thought I added the exact amounts but could tell the jelly wasn’t quite setting up the way it needed to. I tried a little twist on my normal Mango Jam and added some orange rind to make Mango Marmalade. I grew up with my mom making marmalade and just love the flavor. I think that the orange compliments the mango very nicely. Well the jelly didn’t set up properly so the next day I found myself re-cooking it and adding another box of Sure Gel. I think that is exactly what it needed. Now I have several jars of beautiful Mango Marmalade Jam to give to family and friends.

Somehow when you are the busiest you find time to get everything completed. I don’t know how that is possible. I had to be very disciplined this week and set goals and deadlines so I could complete everything that I had on my agenda. I completed all my deadlines for work and took the day off on Friday to clean the house in preparation for my daughter’s arrival. My four children are scattered across the U.S. I am so excited when they come to visit, and hate them being so far away. Unfortunately because of bad weather in the New York area the plane was diverted to Detroit and they never arrived here in Miami. Well what can I say, we were disappointed, but I do have a really clean house. I was able to see her briefly in the airport on Saturday morning just long enough to exchange hugs and bring Miley, her adorable Pomeranian, home so Grandma could babysit her for the week.

Well back to the Mango Madness. Since my plans for the weekend changed with my daughter’s visit cut short, I decided I should try to use some more of the mangos and make Mango Bread. I made two different recipes. One of the breads was a traditional recipe and the other I found had a Caribbean twist. The traditional recipe is a recipe I got from my mom many years ago for Zucchini Bread. I just added a cup of fresh mango to the recipe. The other recipe had ingredients such as ginger, rum soaked raisins, toasted coconut, mango puree and chocolate chips. Both were delicious. The mango puree in the second recipe was so delicious I wanted to drink it all before it went into the recipe. The puree gave the bread a beautiful golden mango color. I also added a cup of mango chunks just because I like to see the mango pieces in the bread.

Next weekend my daughter and her travelling companions will visit just for the night on their return to Rochester. I will get to visit with her and give her some mango jelly, chutney and mango bread to bring back with her, oh and of course Miley will be leaving to go back with Katie and Tyler.

Well despite all the jellies and bread making this week I still have mangos left. Tonight I cut the rest up, made some plain mango jelly, the rest I will freeze so I can enjoy them throughout the year. Hence the Mango Madness continues!!

I found out tonight that Miley, my grand dog, is a big fan of mangos also. All the dogs were at my feet just waiting for a taste. Miley was especially excited about her mango treats. Paco, my male Chihuahua has been enjoying the mangos all season as they have fallen off the tree. He reminded me of Marley in “Marley and Me” always outside eating the mangos that were on the ground. I haven’t mentioned that I also have a Pot Belly Pig, whose name is Moo. Moo also loves mangos. I remember the first year that the tree produced fruit. I noticed the pig looked like he was throwing up. I thought the pig was sick and it was my fault because his yearly vaccinations were due. I felt just awful and blamed myself. I didn’t realize that the orange foam on the pig’s mouth was from the mangos. There had been a rain storm that knocked some of the ripened mangos from the tree. He must have eaten so many that he was sick. Guess the animals even enjoy mango madness!

I am still waiting for the Florida Reds to come into season, which should be any day. I think this may be the year for Mango Wine Making again! I love Mango Season in Miami!
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