DIY

How To Make Cut Lilacs Last As Long As Possible!

Lilacs have always been a part of MY life for as long as I can remember.

In both of my childhood homes we had a hedgerow of lilacs. When I was little I would make forts under the branches and it would become my magical woodland home.

I shared recently on Instagram how God blessed me, abundantly, with our current property. I was only looking for a piece of property with one established lilac bush but God saw fit to give me an entire 100+ foot fence line of mature bushes.

Every May I await anxiously for them to get leaves, then buds, AND finally the wait for blooms is over.

Lilac season has begun!

If you know anything about lilacs, it is that their season is a short one… just a two or three weeks and their fleeting beauty and aroma is gone until the next year.

Their vase life can be even shorter… just a day or two after being picked. But there are ways to make your blooms last longer- up to a week or slightly more.

Harvest

  1. Cut your branches with a clean (bleached) pair of snips.

  2. Cut early morning or late evening.

  3. Choose branches with blooms that are at least 3/4 open as the flowers do not open much after cutting. However, the more blossoms that are open, the shorter the vase life will be.

  4. Cut branches as long as possible. (This will help next seasons blooms have longer and straighter stems.)

  5. Make the initial cut sharply diagonal and as long as possible.

  6. Immediately dip your cut into FloraLife’s Quick Dip 100 - an instant hydrating treatment that will help the branch take up more water. (Available on Amazon.)

  7. Place in a bucket of fresh, cool water with FloraLife’s Crystal Clear Flower Food in it. (Again on Amazon.)

Condition

  1. Move harvested blooms to a cool area and remove most of the leaves. This helps the branch keep the blooms hydrated as it doesn’t have to worry about hydrating the leaves as well. (If you want leaves in your arrangements, cut those branches - with out blooms- separately , and condition in a separate bucket.)

  2. Using your clippers, recut the stems diagonally and make a vertical slice up the stem of about 2 or 3 inches. Twist one side of the cut backwards and put in a new bucket of clean, cool water (with flower food)

  3. Leave lilacs in a cool dark place to rehydate before arranging. If I pick in the evening I will let them sit overnight, but a couple of hours will do.

  4. I have read, and tried this technique last year, that if you smash the ends of the branches this will help the stem take up more water. I found this to actually shorten the life of the flowers as it encourages bacterial growth to clog the branch and actually inhibit water uptake.

Arrange

  1. You can choose to have any size bouquet. I used to make small little ones and leave them on my grandmother’s porches wrapped in wet paper towel and aluminum foil. (Ahhh… small town life.) But don’t be afraid to try a large container overflowing with blooms and branches. Don’t be too concerned about placing branches precisely. Just let the bend of the branches speak for themselves.

  2. Once you have your flowers arranged, make sure to change the water daily and add more flower food. Lilacs are too beautiful to have around for only a short time.

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Growing and Caring for Lilac Bushes

If you have your own bush(es) or are thinking of planting some there are a few key things to know so that you will get the best blooms possible.

  1. Plant new bushes in the fall and layer generously with mulch. It will take a new plant a few years to flower so you will have to be patient.

  2. Mature bushes will send up suckers. Simply dig these up in the fall and plant where you want them and they will mature into new, hardy bushes.

  3. Add a layer of compost and mulch each year but do not over-fertilize or your bushes will not bloom.

  4. Prune any lilac bushes shortly after their blooming season is over. (Within a couple of weeks.) This not only helps the bush keep an attractive shape but encourages more flowering the following year.

  5. Lilacs set the next years bloom during the summer. If you wait too long to prune then you are essential cutting off next years flowers. It’s better not to prune if you missed the window of opportunity.

  6. For mature bushes, prune the oldest cane down and remove dead wood. Remove small suckers. Cut back weak branches and cut tall canes to a lower height.

  7. Lilacs are hardy. If you have old bushes tackle the pruning process in thirds: Oldest canes cut to the ground the first year, half the remaining wood in year two and the rest in year three. You can also chop everything down to 1/2 a foot high at once. Drastic yes, but in a few years they will grow back, healthier than ever.

  8. If you prune a bit yearly, this will eliminate the need for drastic pruning and you need never be without blooms.

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Now… go out there and bring those fragrant beauties inside! If you liked this post and found it useful please share it! Also, to get more great tips and tricks for creating beauty and health for your body and soul, please sign up to be a part of the Fox & Glove family, in the footer at the bottom of the page!

Until next time…

Keep blooming and growing!

Cyndi



Amazingly Easy Flowers & Veggies For Summer Goodness

As a little girl growing up in the Pacific Northwest suburbs of Seattle, Washington, our lilacs would usually be blooming around the time that May rolled in.

I have fond memories of picking lilacs and blue bells, and making May Day baskets to leave as surprises on my grandmothers’ porches.

Alas, in Michigan the lilacs don’t bloom quite as early, but their purple beauty has started to form and soon we will be blessed with an abundance of color and fragrance.

Michigan’s last, average frost date is May 15th. That is the day that it is generally recognized as safe to plant warmer weather loving plants outside. So now is the perfect time to start thinking about what you might want to consider growing.

If you’ve been longing to try your hand at a few things, but don’t know where to start, here are a few amazingly easy options:

Flowers

Zinnias

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These flowers may be last alphabetically, but they are first in a brilliant array of colors.

Planting a package of zinnia will ensure you lots of blooms that hold up well in the summer heat and humidity.

They, generally, have long sturdy stems and last a long time in arrangements once picked.

They will also continue to grow more blooms after cutting until the season’s first frost.

I recommend a variety called Benary’s Giant in a mix. That way you get lots of colors.

Follow the planting instructions on the seed packet and in about 2 1/2 months you’ll have blooms.

Sunflowers

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Sunflowers are some of the quickest summer flowers to grow and you have a myriad of types to choose from.

For the big, tall, single blooms we all love, try a Procut Orange and for a little variation try the lighter, more pale yellow, of Procut Lemon. These beauties grow in about 50 - 60 days, but only grow one flower each.

If you like a shorter, branching type of sunflower with lots of blooms, try Sonja for standard flowers or Strawberry Blonde for a red tint. Branching sunflowers grow anywhere from 55 to 85 days depending on the variety. Branching varieties will bloom multiple times each season.

If you don’t have a space for taller varieties of sunflowers, consider a dwarf version. These are perfect for containers. My absolute favorite is the Teddy Bear! It is as cute as its name; looking like a fluffy version of its bigger relatives. (Grows in about 70 days, producing one flower per plant.)

Sunflowers will survive some frost can be grown into fall.

Cosmos

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While not as well know as some other flowers, these lovelies will grow tall and proud in your garden. They range in color from white to pinks, and dark burgundy. A “double” variety will give you a more fuller flower in bloom, while single varieties look more daisy-like.

Cosmos will grow and bloom in about 2 1/2 months. Once picked, they last an amazingly long time in arrangements.

Plants will continue to produce more blooms. So come and cut again until the first frost.

Vegetables

Zucchini

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I’m sure you’ve heard the jokes about locking your doors during zucchini season so that you don’t get mysteriously gifted hoards of excess zucchini from well-meaning neighbors.

That is never a problem in my house because I use zukes for just about everything. My favorite is to substitute them in for pasta, in recipes.

I recommend only growing one or two plants for the home gardener as these babies really do produce and I don’t want you to have to be a secret squash ninja, dropping off produce on your neighbor’s steps.

I like to grow the long, straight Dunja variety.

Summer Squash

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Technically the long yellow squash I refer to as summer squash, and the zucchini, are both summer squashes.

I recommend growing both the traditional green zukes as well as it’s yellow cousin.

The tastes are similiar and they are interchangeable in recipes but using both in your dishes and recipes really makes a colorful pop!

Try the Yellowfin variety or the nuttier tasting Zephyr. But you only need a couple of plants because these produce just as much as traditional zucchini.

Both zucchini and summer squash grow in around 50 days and will keep producing until first frost.

You can also shred and freeze excess for use in the off season.

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Cucumbers

These is a must grow on our farm. Once you taste the sweetness of fresh-from-the-garden cucumber you will never want to go back to the bused in supermarket variety ever again.

Cucumbers take around 50 days from planting to develop.

I recommend the Olympian or Marketmore 76 varieties. Both produce well until the end of summer.

Put up any extra produce as pickles for the off-season.

Sources

My go-to source for all my seeds is Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Great prices, service, and quality as well as a wide variety of seed quantity options for different garden sizes and needs. Many professional growers use their seed, and their catalog and websites are full of growing information.

Other great sources include:

  • Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

  • Botanical Interest Seed Catalog

  • Territorial Seed

  • Floret Flowers

  • Gardener’s Workshop

Don’t forget that we grow all these and more, here at Fox & Glove Farmstead as well, and we’d love to be your farm!

Please don’t hesitate to ask questions about cultivation (planting, growing, harvesting). We love to share our knowledge with you.

Also don’t forget to sign up for our email list. You get a great free gift and lots of other great gardening, herbal and wellness tips, stories and recipes in your mailbox twice a month. You can sign up below in the footer section of this page.

Have an awesome month of May!

Bloom & Grow,

Cyndi

Eggcellent Traditions I know you'll love for Easter!

Easter is my absolute favorite holiday!

It outweighs even Christmas as far as my enjoyment goes.

I love that it falls in the spring season (even if Michigan still has snow on the ground- yes, it happens.)

I love putting together colorful baskets of goodies for my kids, dying eggs, Easter egg hunts and family dinner served on my mom’s good china.

But more important than what we do, to celebrate, is the reason my family celebrates.

The day marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ. An action that completes God’s gift of salvation, free for us to receive. It is a joyous occasion of freedom worth a celebration.

Just like my family gathers around the table at Christmas to frost cookies, we also gather around the table the day before Easter to dye eggs.

We do it the old fashioned way. The way I grew up doing it.

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Dying Eggs

My mom could never see the sense in purchasing a pricey egg dying kit when we had the ability to do it with what we had at home.

  • Mugs

  • Spoons

  • Food Dye

  • Vinegar

  • Hard-boiled eggs (room temp.)

  • Rags

  • Egg cartons

We simply filled the mugs with boiling water, added a Tbsp. of vinegar to each mug and then added a few drops of food dye to each mug. We placed eggs on spoons and lowered them into the mug, where they would sit until the desired color was reached. After we took them out of the mug, they rested on rags (or paper towel) to dry. Then they went back into the cartons and were stored away in the fridge until it was time for the egg hunt.

When my husband entered the picture, we got even more creative.

  • Sharpies of various sizes

  • clear nail polish

Sharpies allow you to draw extra (or should I say eggstra… hahaha) details and designs on your eggs. Use fine and regular tips to allow you the most creativity.

Our favorite way to use sharpies is our traditional Charlie Brown egg. Using a black sharpie draw a chevron stripe design on an egg and then place it in a mug of yellow food coloring. The result is an egg that looks like Charlie Brown’s shirt.

Clear nail polish lets you write and design secret messages on your eggs that won’t show up until you put them in dye. We like to write names and draw symbols, shapes and pictures before placing them in the colors.

After the festivities of egg hunting are done, my favorite way to use up our decorated hard-boiled eggs is as Deviled Eggs.

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History Lesson

The term deviled was first used, in reference to food, in 1786. (Though stuffed eggs were a favorite since ancient Rome.) In the 1800’s it was used for spicy or zesty food, including eggs, that were prepared with mustard, pepper and other ingredients.

In 1896, Fannie Farmer was one of the earliest to suggest the use of mayonnaise in regards to the filling, though that did not become the classic combination until the 1940’s.

Today there are many recipes for fillings that use everything from pickles, bacon, seafood, and hot sauce to kimchi and caviar.

My family’s favorite is a simple, basic recipe from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. (A classic that I received as a wedding shower gift, twenty five years ago, and still use to this day.) Deviled eggs from this recipe are always the first to disappear at any function we bring them to.

Deviled Eggs Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 6 hard boiled Fox & Glove Farmstead eggs

  • 1/4 cup mayo

  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard

  • 1 tsp. vinegar

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Paprika for dusting

Instructions:

  • Halve the cooked eggs lengthwise, remove yolks.

  • Place yolks in a bowl and mash with a fork.

  • Add mayo, mustard, and vinegar and mix well.

  • Season with salt and pepper.

  • Stuff the egg halves with the yolk mixture and dust with paprika. (You can simply drop filling into the yolk cavity by spoon or get fancy and use a piping bag to fill your eggs.)

I have a few final tips that will make working with your eggs easier on both egg dying and prepping days.

  1. Bring the eggs to room temp. for both boiling and dying eggs. Don’t use cold, straight from the fridge eggs.

  2. Use older eggs… they’ll be easier to peel.

  3. Do use a good dose of salt in your water when you boil your eggs… they’ll be easier to peel this way as well.

I hope you enjoy your Easter Holiday and find these tips useful! If you have any egg tips or tricks I’d love if you’d share them with me. Leave a comment below or email me at cyndi@foxandglovefarmstead.com and don’t forget to sign up for your free gift from Fox & Glove Farmstead down below in the footer.

Also if you are local to the Grand Rapids, Michigan area we’d love to be your supplier of farm fresh eggs.

Until next time,

Bloom & Grow,

Cyndi

Starting a garden is as easy as A, B, Seed!

It’s February and, depending on where you live, winter may be loosening it’s grip or (like here in Michigan) it may be still going strong.

If you’re like me, you might just be getting a little bit antsy to get your fingers back in the dirt and get things growing.

Good news…

It’s Not Too Early To Start!

The biggest mistake most gardeners make is thinking everything goes into the ground at one time, about the time the weather gets nice. But that technique will leave you disappointed.

Both vegetables and flowers have cool season growers and warm season growers. A plant that thrives in the cool temps of spring will wither or bolt during a hot summer. Reverse that for a warm season plant: put it in the cold ground of spring and you will be watching nothing grow.

So now is the perfect time to start thinking about your cool spring garden and while the ground outside may not be workable there are flowers and veggies that will thrive if you plant them now, indoors as seeds.

5 Flowers To Start Indoors From Seed Now:

  • Snapdragons

  • Delphinium

  • Sweet Peas

  • Pansy

  • Black-eyed Susan

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6 Vegetables To Start Indoors From Seed Now:

  • Spinach

  • Kale

  • Tomatoes

  • Peppers

  • Peas

  • Eggplant

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Supplies Needed:

  • Seeds

  • Small pots: I like to use plastic cells and plastic starter pots. I reuse them as much as possible. Make sure they are dirt free and sterilized with a water/bleach solution before using. (One gallon water to 1 or 2 Tbsp. bleach.)

  • Trays: Hold water to allow the plants to suck it up from the bottom.

  • Lids (optional): Help hold heat and humidity in.

  • Seed starting mix: From your local garden center.

  • Large plastic container: to hold wet seed starting soil mix.

  • Small gardening shovel

  • Garden gloves (optional)

  • Plant markers: Craft popsicle sticks work well as do old plastic blinds.

  • Sharpie: To label your plant markers

  • Spray bottle: Make sure it can spray with a fine mist..

  • Water: Non-chlorinated, non-salted. When in doubt purchase distilled water from the grocery store.

  • Grow lights (really helpful)

  • Heat mats (optional)

Techniques:

I’m clearly no Joanna Gaines or Ree Drummond on camera but watch the video demonstration below for a short tutorial. We shot this in one take so I’d like to clarify that when I said most plants have to start when we have snow still on the ground, I meant cool season plants and plants with long growing times. Don’t start pumpkins now! LOL!

To help you know more about start dates I have put together a handy guide for both indoor seed starting and outdoor seed starting. Email me at cyndi@foxandglovefarmstead and ask for A… B… Seed! I’ll be happy to send you the FREE guide.

To see our seed starting setup with grow lights, and other information watch this video.

Other Tips and Tricks:

Plants that have been started in the comfort of your cozy house will need to be “hardened off” before you move them to their outside home. This means exposing them to the great outdoors, a little bit at a time, gradually lengthing their exposure so they can build up hardiness to the outdoors.

To know when your plants should go in the ground, make sure to email me (cyndi@foxandglovefarmstead) to get your free growing calendar and seed starting guide.

Reference & Sources:

  • Seeds: Territorial Seed Company, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

  • Supplies: Family Farm and Home, Lowes, Ace Hardware

  • Books: Cool Flowers by Lisa Mason Ziegler, Better Homes and Gardens Vegetable, Fruit and Herb Gardening, Floret Flowers- Cut Flower Garden by Erin Benzakein

Happy Growing:

Are you convinced to give seed starting a try this year? I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.

You can drop me a comment here on the blog, on facebook, on instagram or shoot me an email at cyndi@foxandglovefarmstead.com

And don’t forget to email me for your free guide and calendar to seed starting… cyndi@foxandglovefarmstead.com

Bloom and grow!

Cyndi

Whip Up These Bath Bombs For Great Last Minute Gifts

Bath Bombs- a compacted mix of fizz and fragrance that dissolves in your bath water- aren’t new. (I made my first ones around 20 years ago.)

They are, however, extremely popular right now.

They’re in all the stores and people are going crazy for them this holiday season.

But did you know Bath Bombs are easy to make at home?

You probably already have some of the ingredients sitting in your kitchen right now and by making them at home you can:

  • Avoid any nasty ingredients that sneak their way into the mass produced “bombs”.

  • Save some money.

  • Enjoy learning a new skill.

It’s so easy your kids can do it. (And they will want to when they see you doing it!)

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup baking soda

  • 1/2 cup corn starch

  • 1/2 cup citric acid

  • 1/4 cup epsom salts

  • Water or witch hazel

  • Essential oil(s) of choice

  • Food coloring if desired

Tools:

  • Large Bowl

  • Small Bowl

  • Molds

  • Mini spray bottle

  • Measuring cups

  • Spoons

Directions:

  • Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl.

  • Spoon a 1/2 cup of dry mixture into a smaller bowl.

  • A few drops at a time, mix in color and fragrance as desired. Do not let the mix sit and fizz but rather work in the liquids quickly and thoroughly into the dry mix.

  • Fill spray bottle with water and/or witch hazel and lightly spritz dry mixture a few times and then stir. Repeat until the mixture clumps when squeezed in your hand.

  • There is a learning curve when spritzing your salts: To much liquid and the mix will fizz, “bloom” and not keep it’s shape. To little liquid and the “bomb” will not hold together or crack apart after curing.

  • Fill desired mold with damp mixture and pack firmly.

  • Carefully turn out molded mix onto a firm surface and let cure overnight. (If it breaks apart when unmolding you can crumble it up, return it to the bowl, respritz it and try again.

To use Your Bath Bomb simply fill a tub with water, drop in the “bomb” and enjoy!

Tip: Almost anything will do as a mold. Avoid anything too large or detailed.

My favorite thing to use is a piece of 2” wide, plastic, pvc pipe along with a “tapper” of wood to pack the “bomb” firmly. This makes a flat tablet that I call a “seltzer”!

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Tip: You can incorporate a skin loving oil like: coconut, olive or any other liquid oil, with your water/witch hazel mix but the oil can clog the sprayer.

A better choice might be to add it by drops with your essential oils and colors. I do find, though, that the oil stays behind in the bath tub and leaves it greasy.

Tip: If you want to incorporate herbs into your creations, I recommend powdered versions that won’t be scratchy or be left behind for you to clean up out of the tub.

Another way to use herbs would be to infuse them into your oil of choice and then into the mix as the oil.

I love creating all sorts of herbal bath and body care products so if you have any questions or need an ingredient source please don’t hesitate to ask.

You can contact me by leaving a comment below or via my email cyndi@foxandglovefarmstead.com or find me on social media: facebook and instagram @foxandglovefarmstead.

I hope you have a Merry Christmas. Until next time:

Bloom & Grow

Cyndi

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