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flora corner

I grew up in a small community off of Flora Corner Road. When giving directions to my house, you had to start with “know where the Wonder Bread is? Turn there onto the road with the cows.” Well, the Wonder Bread distributor apparently closed this month and the cows have been gone for many years. The cow fields have laid grown corn or soybeans since the cows left, and  the fields across the street have always grown corn. Ever since the cows left, I’ve always wanted to walk around that area, just to see what’s there. The houses on the road are, with very few exceptions, all older and smaller and with larger properties. Most of the people on the road have some sort of summer vegetable garden, and one of the farmers on the road grows a large crop of sunflowers that’s just gorgeous for a few weeks every summer. Another always has an interesting crop of scarecrows.

My parents still live in the house I grew up in, so I still drive down that road all the time. There are 3 new, smaller developments right at the end of the road my parents live on. But they’re not an eyesore. The homes are larger and they are in a wooded area with a decent amount of land per house.

flora corner

Now, a developer has started building homes in the spot that used to be a cow pasture. The one home that is almost complete is large and gorgeous and on a hill where a barn used to be. I’d love to live there, with 5 or 6 homes as neighbors and a few acres to call my own. But the developer wants to built more homes there. How many more? 100 buildings, equaling 1,700 more residences (including, presumably, townhomes etc). Yes. One thousand seven hundred residences on what is currently 384.5 acres of beautiful old farmland (that could, incidentally, still be used as farmland).

Our County Commissioners are set to designate this land for rural preservation, but if they don’t do it before the builders start building, then the builders win. They can build their 1,700 residences. I’m sort of horrified. But I’m also thrilled that the community has come together to fight back. Lots of residents showed up at the zoning meeting, my parents have been passing out flyers and petitions, and someone in the community started (saw the sign for the site when I was driving by last week.)

flora corner

St. Mary’s County is considered rural, but even now I have a hard time describing it as such. We have a Naval Air Base (PAX) at the southern end of the county, and that accounts for some growth. But slowly over the past few years, I’ve seen numerous stately old farm homes (that I’d always wanted to poke around in) torn down, and numerous corn fields turn into developments where homes 4x the size of mine stand on a piece of property 1/4 the size of mine. We are a waterman’s and farmer’s county – turn down many of our side roads and you will eventually end up at the river or a tributary after passing lots of corn and soybean fields (maybe even a few lone tobacco fields). I’d really like to keep it that way. We’re a Chesapeake watershed community.

flora corner

My husband and I desperately want to buy a few acres, secluded a little on some old farmland or cleared woods, so that in 15 years or so (depressing it will take that long…but that’s a different story) when we can afford to move out of our apartment-sized house and build our dream home, we have a beautiful spot to do so. Several of the places I’ve thought would be a gorgeous spot for a house or two over the years now sport about 50 homes. It’s crazy, it’s ugly, and I hate it. One of the developers that most frequently does this is actually the one that a BFF’s parents work for, so they will remain nameless. But I hate that these companies – may of them local – look only at profits and build McMansion communities instead of building a few nice homes for a few nice families in the same spot. Of course equally to blame are the cash-strapped farmers who sell to the developers instead of doing it the hard way and dividing up their property so people like me can afford it and buy for the future.

I know I have few readers who are local to me, but many of you can probably sympathize with the situation. I’m sure this is not the only area where this is happening. If you support keeping your hometown rural, I’d really appreciate it if you could take a minute and send the pre-written sample letter to the Board of County Commissioners asking them to keep my hometown rural, too. Let me know if you do – I may be able to send out some personal “thank you gifts.”

flora corner

Maybe the scarecrows will help scare them away. (I didn’t get a photo of the one he always does with a bent traffic cone that looks like a witch hat in my drive-by-shooting.)


[There are more barns, but I didn’t want to go behind the padlocked gate to get closer to them for photos – at least not today. They already took down one silo closer to the road a few years back.]


I totally missed the July bloom day! Oops. I kind of missed June’s as well. It was a crazy week last week. Hubby and I had gone on a trip to WVA to stay in a friend’s family cabin for the weekend. We had a great time. But I woke up around 3:00AM Monday morning with a lovely bout of what was clearly…food poisoning! Hubby’s started around 6AM. I had to call out sick from work (note: food poisoning in two people is EXTRA FUN when you only have one bathroom!).

I’ve had some things I’ve had to deal with lately that have meant a lot of days off work. Having already taken a one week vacation in May and having already scheduled another in September, that all adds up to me having to take some unpaid leave days this year. So I tried to make up as much time as I could during the week (I made up about a half a day) so I wouldn’t have to take as much leave. PLUS my parents are at the beach this week, so I had to feed and care for their plants and cats on the way home from work. PLUS it was my aunt’s birthday so I had to take her gift to her, AND it was my dad’s birthday ON bloom day! So I didn’t even realize I’d missed it until yesterday. (There are literally about 10 family and friend birthdays in July. Add in June, too, and it gets a little crazy.)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Dad, cousin Andy, cousin Mary, me

So here are some late bloom day pics for ya.

This balloon flower is in a pot right now because it didn’t work where I had plunked it last year. It might find a home in the shadier rain barrel garden, which accidentally has kind of a purple/blue theme.
balloom flower
balloon flower



One of my favorite and first “not everyone has it or knows what it is” plants, the blackberry lily.
blackberry lily
blackberry lily


A few months ago, I was asked by the people of Troy-Bilt if I’d like to review something this season. Last year I won a cordless trimmer in a contest and reviewed that on the blog (though I didn’t have to). Um, heck yes!

Hubby and I went back and forth trying to decide whether to get a tiller or a pressure washer. Both are things we could definitely use. We borrow a tiller from either my or his parents at least once a year to till up a spot to fix grass seed or build a new garden. Both sets of parents also have pressure washers, but we hadn’t borrowed one of those since moving in (to clean the deck). In the end, we decided on the Troy-Bilt 2700 PSI 2.3 GPM Gas Pressure Washer. Though we’d get use out of a tiller, we figured we’d get more use from the pressure washer: deck, cars, siding, driveway, sheds, etc.

We got it in a while back – I was disturbed to find a giant box that said, more or less “Big Expensive Thing You Can Steal!” sitting on my front stoop one day after work. Way to go, FedEx man! (The mail lady and UPS guy know to leave stuff, especially stuff like that, on the back deck.) I dragged it in the house and it sat there until hubby very quickly put it together when we were cleaning up before going on vacation a couple weeks ago (assembly was very easy, according to hubs). He broke it out this weekend to use it.

First of all, let me just say that you seriously never know how many plants and things you have on your deck until you have to take them off one-by-one after getting home from work.

Anyway…deck before and afters! We’re pretty sure this deck was never sealed or anything (built by previous owners), and we would like to eventually do a bigger one ourselves, so we aren’t going to seal it and all that since it will likely be coming down in a few years anyway (we’ll see). It’s kind of weirdly shaped and not built great anyway. Power washing makes it look a TON better, though. There were tons of gross green spots and darkened spots from having plants and stuff on there. They are pretty much all gone and the whole deck looks WAY better. For some reason you can’t tell as much of a difference in the first set of pics (may be a lighting thing), but I assure you that our deck is a different color now.

Hubby also did the driveway (nice long cord and hose…it allllmost reached to the end of the driveway). He also did the siding. The siding really needed it. It was gross. This is the original 1979 siding (thank god they picked white back then), and most likely it has never been washed. He bought a big siding brush and some (garden safe!) siding cleaning solution and went to town. Now granted, we have a VERY small one-story house, but he got it all done in a few hours (with the help of a ladder – which the hose did not encumber him from using) in one night. Pretty good in my book! He even did a quick spray-off of the cars.

We’re very happy with this and will definitely be using it a lot. Now that we have it, we’ll probably pressure wash the deck each year and the siding every few years. It’ll be used to especially grimy car days as well. Probably its next big project will be when we repaint the old shed that came with the house (from the icky color gray it is now, to taupe and maroon to match the other shed and what we’d eventually like for the house). We’ll use the pressure washer to clean off the old paint and get a nice clean surface for the new paint. Many projects to come!

Disclaimer: I received this item from Troy-Bilt to review, good or bad. I receive nothing in return for posting a good review versus a bad one – these opinions are my own and are an honest review of the product mentioned above. I read reviews extensively before purchasing almost anything, so I’m happy to review things so others can do the same. Let me know if you find this review helpful!

Additional note: Allergies have been KICKING MY ASS all day long. Leaky faucet nose all day. It’s one of those days where you just say “eff it” and do this:

I HIGHLY, highly recommend any tissue with menthol in it. Whenever I find them in the store I buy a bunch of boxes because it’s hard to find. It’s never good news when I have to break it out. It has finally calmed down a bit though (gah as soon as I typed that I sneezed, though), and I am drinking my second cup of pineapple mint and (an eensy bit of) stevia tea from the garden. Very nice! (And I keep on not doing the Herbal Almanac thing. I’ll feel motivated to do it eventually).

It’s been really nice to have my Aunt Debra in North Carolina as one of my blog readers. She’s always had a gorgeous yard (I’ve always loved the NC pine needles as mulch thing!), and she’s shared lots of great stories about my grandparents since she learned that I’m a gardener now. I unfortunately never got the chance to meet my Grandaddy Batts, a career Navy man. I lost my Granny Batts to Alzheimer’s when I was in 9th grade.


Grandaddy Batts and Granny on his last day in the Navy

My dad’s side of the family is fun for me, because I have lots of cousins my age. Actually, 4 of us were all born within a few months of each other in the summer of 1983 – my Granny always said it must have been one cold winter 🙂


Aunt Deb, my (beautiful!) mommy, Aunt Tereca, Aunt Kathy

1983 babies

I'm the big fatty!

So anyway…Aunt Deb has been sharing garden stories with me, and I love it! Since I lost all of my grandparents young, I love hearing the stories about them that I missed when I was younger and not concerned with it.

Over email, I was talking with her about “heirloom plants” – ones that have been passed down from family members over the years. I have some lemon balm that belonged to my Mom Mom (my mother’s mother). I remember she had it planted by their garden shed, and I used to love to pick leaves from it and crush them between my fingers to smell the lemon. I thought it was such a cool plant, and was glad that my mom had some of it still that she could share with me. I also have lots of daylilies from my mom and several irises that came from a friend of my mom’s who recently passed away.

I also have some Lily of the Valley that came from my Granny. My mom and aunt both have some of this. I’ve tried to take seedlings of the cypress vine/hummingbird plant that belonged to her as well – but mine never seem to work! (I’m going to try to start it from seed this year.) My mom has shared seedlings of that plant with her sister though, so it’s a cross-family plant!

Apparently my Grandaddy was a gardener. My aunt shared:

“Your Granddaddy Batts loved a good garden and would be so proud that you are planting “veggies”. He would be very impressed and would say, “pretty work”. I may have told you before that I used to think it so strange when a rain would come along and he would open the den door and sit a lawn chair in the doorway, beer in hand, and watch it rain. It wasn’t until I got much older that I realized he was doing this after a really dry spell and I guess it was so refreshing to watch the earth come back to life. I guess he was “watching his garden grow”.

I’m glad to keep the green thumb going. My Mom Mom and Pop Pop were both gardeners (I’ll have to share some stories about them as well), so I think of them a lot when I’m in the garden.

Aunt Deb shared this story about a Gardenia when I was having trouble with having pruned mine at the wrong time last year. (With her wonderful dog Scout, who we lost last year, pictured – click to see it bigger.)


My great grandmother's gardenia at my aunt's house

Aunt Paulette [my dad’s eldest sister] was here one summer and we went over to visit an aunt and decided to go by our Mom’s homeplace. This would have been your Great-Granny Smith. It is very overgrown there but we talked about the gardenia bushes that Granny had close to her living room window so that it would smell good coming in the house on a summer day.  We crawled all around just to check and see if it could possibly still be there.  Lo, and behold, there was a sprig of it still there.  The ground was very, very dry and we did not have anything to dig it up with.  We found a little stick and starting trying to dig.  Their roots are pretty much on top of the ground; another reason I was surprised that it was still living since the ground was so dry.  Anyway, we got the sprig up and I planted it close to my back door.  And it has flourished!  It did not bloom much last year, but I had cut it way back at one point.  I’m sure you have learned and could tell me a thing or two about when trimming a flowering bush back that you usually cut off the blooms for the next season.  Anyway, I hope it will bloom better next summer.  It smells good enough to eat!!  And it reminds me of being at my Granny’s. My sweet Scout used to love to lay under this bush on a really hot day.  It was close to the house and the pine straw kept the soil cool.  She would dig around it a bit and take a good nap.  The stuff in front is lemon balm. [Hey! Lemon balm!]

Hopefully I will get a chance to visit the NC family this summer. With all of us grown up now, we just don’t get down there as often as we’d like. I also want to meet Aunt Deb’s new puppy, Joy, who was recently named “Pet of the Week” at the prestigious local newspaper, compliments of the adorable photo below!



Thanks so much for sharing, Aunt Deb! Sending some “sugar” your way 🙂

I’m actually kind of glad I left work a bit late because of a meeting with my boss. As I was pulling out of the parking lot, I saw a rainbow. When I looked harder, I saw another! Thankfully, I had randomly thrown my camera in my purse this morning. Luck!

I stopped and snapped a few in the business park, and then as I was leaving I noticed a few cars pulled over by the cornfields outside the park looking and taking pictures, so I pulled over as well. I kind of love that after a busy Thursday at work, there were still people who pulled over together by a cornfield to look at a rainbow. Makes me a little verklempt, actually (and believe me, I hate myself for that). Even those that didn’t stop got a gorgeous show. Unfortunately I was driving away from it to go home, but it was still gorgeous.

I can’t decide in the pics below if I like the “enhanced” or the non-enhanced ones better. I should prob do some actual Photoshoppery to enhance them better (I just used the auto thingy in iPhoto), and the enhanced is prob more close to how I saw them, but they’re both so different (the bluer ones are the enhanced versions). What do you think?


in the business park






Total karma on the road line lining up with the end of the rainbow. I win!


This guy had a great view (taken while driving over the bridge)

Screen shot 2009-10-05 at 8.03.59 PMThis weekend I finally took out a stepping stone kit I bought last summer. I bought 2 of them using the weekly 40% off coupons from Michael’s, and also got anothet box of just the cement mix (I have a lot of random mosaic pieces, so I didn’t need all that stuff). One of the kits I did last year, and the other had these fun letter presses (and I also got letters in another font, but I haven’t used that yet. I love these!

Pics of all of them are below. The one from the actual full kit is the “Watters est 5-5-06” one. The others were from the supplemental box of mix (the mix is really just portland cement, which you can get at Lowe’s, but you have to buy it in GIANT bags which you have to both store and carry out of the store, so I’ll stick to the small ones). I combined the glass from the kit and other glass and jewels I had (Michael’s and dollar store) for all of them. For the smaller ones, I used various containers – the rectangles are the bottoms of the containers some of the mosaic pieces came in and the round ones are the plastic pot drainer things (do they have a name?). One of them actually has cool little feet because the drainer thing – might have to try and think of some cool way to utilize that if I make more of these.

So anyway – enjoy the pics! Some are repeats because I took pics before they were totally dry and then rearranged them. What do you think? And a question – do you think I can leave these out all winter, or should I bring them in because water might freeze in the letters and crack them? Also on the smaller ones, some are slightly brittle (too little water) and some the letters didn’t work well on (too much water). I don’t want any of them to break, but I’d like to have them out over the winter if I can…

Screen shot 2009-10-05 at 8.03.22 PM

Screen shot 2009-10-05 at 5.07.16 PM

Screen shot 2009-10-05 at 8.00.30 PM

Going to put these in the garden by the shells that I have from the beach.

Going to put these in the garden by the shells that I have from the beach.

Screen shot 2009-10-05 at 8.02.15 PM

I finally put together my pumpkin man, too - love this guy!

I finally put together my pumpkin man, too - love this guy!

Just a few random pics from last week.

I love how this zinnia has a hint of purple with the orange

I love how this zinnia has a hint of purple with the orange

I've been trying to let my dianthus/bachelor's buttons reseed themselves for next year. I'm not usually a big pink flower fan, but I do hoe this one comes back next year. I love the painted look.

I've been trying to let my dianthus/bachelor's buttons reseed themselves for next year. I'm not usually a big pink flower fan, but I do hope this one comes back next year. I love the painted look.

Most of my cosmos (started from seed!) are about a foot tall or so. But this one plant is almost as tall as me!

Most of my cosmos (started from seed!) are about a foot tall or so. But this one plant is almost as tall as me!

The zinnias are just as interesting before they've opened up all the way.

The zinnias are just as interesting before they've opened up all the way.

I like the front garden from this angle - which is OK because this is the side people see it from while sitting at the stop sign. The rain barrell is just off the right edge of this pic.

And to answer the implied question of the day: 8 years ago today I was starting to hate life as a freshman at UMBC (I would transfer to College Park sophomore year and love it). I woke up at around to my (much hated) roomie sobbing and being weird and running out (I later found out she had an aunt in NY – not connected to anything at all, but whatever she liked to freak out). I got on the computer and turned on the TV just in time to get the news of the second tower. I slowly realized it was a Big Deal. I called my mom and went and hung out with an old dance friend who also went to UMBC. I also talked to hubby (then boyfriend), who was in College Park. He was close to DC (and the Pentagon – which when that happened, really hit home for everyone in the DC-Metro region), I was close to another World Trade Center in Baltimore. Classes were in limbo for quite some time, iirc. No one really knew what to do. The craziest thing about it was that we all SAW it happen. We saw the pictures immediately afterwards. What do you do with that?

When we did go back to class, a punk rocker kid from my American Studies class (who would later “borrow” and never return a recording of TS Eliot reading “The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock”, which I still need to re-gank from the internet) shared that he put an American flag on his car upside-down—the Naval distress signal, as a symbolic token. Clueless people were outraged and thought he was defaming the flag. That’s pretty much all I remember. Oh – and it’s BFF’s sister’s bday. I always thought that must suck. Though my hubby kind of has a cursed bday too, for quite a few other reasons.

Anyway, if you haven’t shared yet, feel free to share what you were doing on 9/11/01! (Am I the only one who gets weird when anything is scheduled for that day? It just seems weird. Like “oh – I shouldn’t have this work request due on 9/11!” but obv that makes no sense. At least my job’s current company prez doesn’t come over the loudspeaker and make us have a moment of silence and pray – that’s always super awkward.)

Sorry – bad about posting lately. Busy, I suppose. I got outside and did some deadheading today and planted one of my double coneflowers. I tried to plant the rest of the stuff left, but the ground is just too frigging hard. It did rain today later on, so maybe that helped. But I told my hubby that he’s going to have to help me plant them the next weekend he’s off, because I just can’t do it! I am very bad at digging holes. Had fun last night, though – got to go out with a bunch of friends to celebrate bdays at The Pub (yes, it is called “The Pub,” I’m not just being fancy). And with that night ends the crazy month and few days of birthdays!



I plan on getting out this week and getting some updated pics of my veggie garden. In the mean-time, here is the load for CSA week 4 (my half). I am LOVING the white cucumbers, and the crazy green striped squash is yummy! Also kind of excited to try the white eggplant – I haven’t liked them when I’ve had them in the past, but I really WANT to like them – so we’ll see.

CSA Week 4

CSA Week 4

Between the CSA and my garden, I have a LOT of tomatoes right now. I still have this many, plus another quart container I picked today. Time for more salsa, I suppose. I’m proud of my hubby, though – he has never liked tomatoes (likes them in sauce and stuff). Lately he’s been trying them! I actually used to not like them (the goo freaked me out) and I still pretty much never eat them when they aren’t bright red and fresh, so I get where he’s coming from. But it’ll be MUCH easier to use them if he likes them in things besides salsa and sauce!



I rarely see monarchs at my house – usually it’s the blue and black butterflies. So when I saw this guy, I ran and got the camera. He likes the zinnias (as do the other butterflies). I have one gigantic zinnia in the veggie garden that a goldfinch likes, too! They pick off the petals, but that’s OK with me. Now if he could only find his way to the other side of the house where the finch feeder is…hmm. My hubby says he’s been there all week long. Yay!

monarch on zinnia

monarch on zinnia

monarch on zinnia

monarch on zinnia

monarch on zinnia

monarch on zinnia

One of my favorite things about summertime is that I get to make my own salsa with ingredients fresh from my garden. Neither my hubby nor I like onions. (Yes you CAN taste them, and more than that you can feel their texture that totally weirds me out. I am not a picky eater other than meat and onions – it just so happens that both of these things can be very hard to avoid!) Though we can handle them in things like salsa and spaghetti sauce, it’s sooooo much nicer if I just make it myself without. Of course, add onions to this recipe if you’d like, but I don’t think it needs them.

Jennah's salsa

Jennah's salsa

My tomatoes (besides the cherries) aren’t quite ready yet, but I had some tomatoes from the Amish that needed to be used before they went bad, so I figured I might as well do my first salsa of the season. The peppers are from my garden, and I use seasonings from my garden when I can. Most of these things are easy to find, and fresh salsa is a great healthy snack to have on hand. The measurements here made the jar in the pics, but it’s all to taste. But here’s what I use…

Does anyone have a Tostito?

Does anyone have a Tostito?

Jennah’s Easy Garden Salsa

  • Tomatoes! 3 large red and about 8 cherry (I usually like to use a mix of large ones and cherry/grape ones.)
  • jalapeno peppers – 2
  • cayenne pepper – 1 large or 2 small
  • banana peppers – 2
  • cilantro – small handful
  • a little bit of pineapple sage and lemon balm (a leaf or two or each)
  • splash of lemon and/or lime juice
  • sugar – about 1/4 cup to taste
  • salt and pepper ( I use sea salt) – about 1t
  • taco or fajita seasoning – about 1t (adjust salt if this has a lot of salt already)
  • hot sauce – to taste – I used sriracha this time
  • If you’d like, you can also add a slice or two of peach or pineapple

Cut everything up into small pieces and mix together well. I prefer to slice by hand – I have an electric chopper, but I find that tends to turn things (esp tomatoes) into more of a sauce than small pieces. If you’d like, you can stop here and it tastes great, but I tend to prefer it cooked a little bit.

So, if you want to cook it, just put it all over low heat for a while (cover if you like). Once it starts to bubble, turn off heat. You’ll need to drain the excess water – I use a small strainer over a glass or bowl. The one I have lets me prop the salsa jar up and let it drain on its own for a few minutes. Don’t throw the juice away! It’s great for a marinade or to add when cooking rice or various stir-fry dishes. So drain the excess water and let it sit. That’s it! Salsa is best after it’s been sitting in the fridge for a few hours at least. (Keep it in the fridge, of course!)

Let me know if you try it or if you have your own variation!

Here are the winners of my first t-shirt giveaway. Congratulations, guys! I’ll be contacting you all by email and/or twitter shortly. (Note: I gave my comments/the pingbacks a number, but if the number of those was picked, I picked again! Also I was going to take screenshots of the winning numbers, but I got excited and forgot. So trust me!)
#9: Sarah from Toronto Gardens
#3: Jeanette
#1: Hostageek

Also, be sure to check in with Kylee of Our Little Acre – she has a few of these tees that she’ll be giving away soon. And if you don’t want to chance it on a contest, head on over to the store for You Grow Girl, where you can buy one in a similar design.

And now, a few pics from this VERY RAINY week. ugh.


@jennahw on twitter!


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grow some food!

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