Reflecting

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: this week’s challenge is ‘Reflecting

Wordpress Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflecting

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflecting

I was taking a walk though the Portuguese countryside when this reflection caught my attention. Can you see what is missing from the picture that is reflected in the rather large puddle?

Mosaics -My New Hobby

As part of a gardening project I decided to ‘tart’ up some old flower pots to add colour and interesting focal points to shady areas of my garden and as a feature for pots containing cacti. So after a visit to a local garden centre, where the lady owner tiled anything and everything, I felt inspired to try my hand at mosaics.

To get a feel for handling and cutting the glass tiles AND, not covering everything in glue, I started with four basic coasters. Considering I have twelve fingers and four thumbs I am ‘reasonably’ pleased with the result.

Stage 1.

Mosaic Coasters - Adding the border

Mosaic Coasters – Adding the border

Glue the border tiles to the wooden coaster.

Okay, I know the border tiles aren’t straight. I was procrastinating elsewhere and by the time I realised the glue had set!

Stage 2

Mosaic Coasters - Adding the pattern

Mosaic Coasters – Adding the pattern

Once the border tiles were set, I cut some tiles in random shapes to fill in the centre.

Stage 3

I mixed the black grout to the consistency of peanut butter and then applied with a small trowel and damp sponge. The one thing the teacher drilled into my brain was do not wash the grout down the sink or toilet. IT BLOCKS THE DRAINS.

Finished coasters.

Finished coasters.

This is a good hobby if you want to be creative while you write.

 

Next project: Plant pot

Piglet’s Plot: Problems With My Onions

Onion Blight

Onion Blight

You name it, my fruit and vegetables probably have caught/will catch it. I was a sickly child and my fruit and veg seem to be following in the family tradition. With this in mind I literally love my plants to death, or so I’ve been told.

In December I added rotted horse manure to the plot, so I was anticipating bumper crops of the usual suspects such as onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, peppers and beans to name a few.

The  baby onion plugs bought from the local market and planted in February were looking good and we’d already enjoyed several feeds of Spring onions. I always plant more than required then thin the rows and leave the remaining onions to develop. Well, that was the plan until disaster struck!

Last week I went to talk to my onions, as you do, and was horrified to discover they had developed, according to Mr. Google who dug up no-dig-vegetablegarden.com to help solve the mystery, a virus: Botrytis (I think).  This is a fungus species which affects onions and as there are three different types.

  • Botrytis squamosa (leaf blight)
  • Botrytis cinerea (leaf fleck)
  • Botrytis allii (neck rot)

I decided the problem was leaf blight (Botrytis squamosa) which spreads rapidly or Downy Mildew. (Downy Mildew is fungal and can be treated with a weekly application of organic fungicide)

onion blight

onion blight

I don’t know what caused this other than high humidity.

After deliberating for several hours I decided not to take any chances and dig up the crop and salvage what I could – some for immediate use and dry the smaller onions ready for pickling.

The leaves were disposed of so as to avoid cross-contamination to other plants.

I will not attempt to plant further onions this year but will focus my energy (and water) on the remaining crop of tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, radish, peppers and rocket.

Do you care about the environment?

National Geographic will be streaming Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental documentary ‘Before the Flood ‘ entirely free from October 30th till November 6th.

Before the Flood will also be available on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, iTunes and Google Play, in over 170 countries and 45 languages.

National Geographic says it’s distributing the movie for free as part of its cause to spread the word about the dangers of climate change. This marks the first time the popular nature channel has made one of its productions entirely available for free.

 

If you care about the environment please share and spread the word.

Article ref: TNW

Strawberry Quest

 August Strawberries in Portugal

August Strawberries in Portugal

I’ve been meaning to set myself this challenge for some time so after reading the theme for this week’s photo challenge is  ‘Quest’.

and according to Merriam

Simple Definition of quest
: a journey made in search of something
: a long and difficult effort to find or do something

I think a ‘quest’ to pick strawberries for nine months out of twelve for the next year is ‘long and difficult. So this will be my quest.

Growing Strawberries containers
stawberry-quest

Diet in Denial

Today my friend gave me a nice top she’d bought on a whim but then decided it ‘was not her colours’. Great I thought, until I got it out of the bag – it was huge!

Convinced it was going to swamp me I tried it on.

REALITY CHECK!!!

I could barely get it over my head. Further reality check, once on I could not get it off!

Seriously…

So what are my options?

I’ve tried most diets and all fail because I love my food and enjoy wine. Life is for living, right?

So can I have my cake and eat it?

Atkins Diet

I tried the Atkins Diet for a couple of weeks and lost 8lb. More importantly I was never hungry because while I could not drink alcohol I could eat as much of certain food as I liked. Although I was banned from eating carbs such as bread, potatoes, pasta, rice etc. or even fruit, milk and some vegetables in the early stages I never missed them.

But with every upside there is a down: the potential side effect of bad breath constipation, nausea, insomnia, dizziness to name a few, did not rest well with me. Plus the experts evaluation of the Atkins Diet was not that encouraging for long term health.

Weight Watchers

A non-starter for me I’m afraid. There are no classes where we live and I’m not going to pay £12.95 per month to join an online class. I need ‘people motivation’.

SlimFast

You buy ‘shakes’ etc to replace meals. This is a fad diet.

Slimming World

I actually like the idea of this diet because:
“There are no gimmicks, no special food to buy, no pills, no shakes, no tiny portions and no calorie counting.” BUT unfortunately there are no classes near us and I’m loathe to pay £60.00 for a three month online class when I need ‘people motivation’

The 5:2 fast diet

With this diet you eat normally for five days and restrict calorie intake to 500 calories per day on the other two. I can manage this. I found an online support group for this diet and it’s FREE. I’ve now signed up and set my goals and started a diary.
thefastdiet.co.uk

Diet starts tomorrow with 500 calories.

Anyone want to join me?

Why Are My Kumquat Leaves Yellow?

After making some Kumquat marmalade which was absolutely delicious, I decided to grow my own Kumquat tree.

Kumquats

Kumquats


Kumquats are expensive here in Portugal so planting my own tree seemed the logical step says she, who kills most things including fig trees which are meant to be indestructible.

Fingers firmly crossed I planted a healthy tree in April 2016.

Fast forward four months and the kumquat leaves are yellow but apart from that the tree seems healthy with no leaf fall. At first, I thought it was under-watering, no. Then over-watering, negative.

My kumquat tree has yellow leaves

My kumquat tree has yellow leaves – August 2016

I trawled the internet and the problem appears to be a nutrient deficiency

According to Best Plants

Yellow and dull looking leaves often means the plant is lacking the necessary nutrients magnesium or sulfur. Apply Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate), adding it to fertilizer placed in the soil once per month. For more direct approach, 1 tablespoon can be mixed with a gallon of water and sprayed directly onto the leaves. Be patient as different plants respond faster than others to applications.

This is an excellent website with lots of useful tips.

I then studied various other sites and yellowing of leaves could mean the roots are too wet or too dry, low temperatures, or lack of feeding. I can rule out low temperatures because some days the temperatures have been in the high twenties to mid thirties. Too much water/not enough? It receives no more than my strawberry tubs because it is on the same watering system.

Further investigation reveals it is probably Chlorosis which is used to describe the symptoms of uniform yellowing of leaves.

Kumquat Tree - Chlorosis, uniform yellowing of leaves

Kumquat Tree – Chlorosis, uniform yellowing of leaves

Green chlorophyll requires iron and manganese. Lack of these nutrients result in the yellowing between the leaf veins

So what’s the cure?

According to the Garden of Eaden blog (I won’t include a link to their website as I was bombarded with annoying popups) chlorosis is treated by

spraying leaves with soluble iron foliar feeds every 2 – 4 weeks or by lowering the soil pH.

Or by applying nutrients to the soil surface. Suggested: soluble, acidic plant fertilizers such as Miracid or Sequestration as a weekly liquid feed. As I have neither of the above in store cupboard I am going to try Epsom salts. It’s got to worth a try, yes?

Dosage: Dissolve 2 teaspoons of Epsom Salts to 1 litre of water and apply every fourteen days.

The experiment started today. I sprayed the leaves and watered the plant with the remainder.

All suggestions,tips and advice welcome!

FitBit and Senior Moments

I accept I’m not the sharpest tool in the drawer when it comes to mastering technology and digital gizmos, but even I had to groan at this particular ‘senior blond’ moment.

Wanting to lose weight I invested in a FitBit Charge HR. So far so good.

Much to everyone’s surprised snickers I managed to ‘set it up’ and more importantly, and much to my surprise, I even synced it with my iPad which enabled me to monitor daily steps, distance walked, pulse, stairs and all sorts of other useful data. This is turn enabled me to take part in Challenges with family and friends. Hey, I was on a roll… or so I thought.

The FitBit became part of my daily routine and I became obsessed with steps walked and distance covered. Even to the point I would run round the house ten times to increase my daily steps if I was not on target. Yes, I actually did that on several occasions especially when my daughter and I were participating in a challenge.

Then disaster struck. It stopped syncing with my iPad and it could not collect the data.

I contacted FitBit customer service via Twitter and after twenty emails offering support and directions they cut their losses and sent me a new FitBit (It was probably costing them more in man-hours than the value of a replacement)

My new FitBit arrived, I charged it and then tried to set it up.

The FitBit arrived pulse set at 135

The FitBit arrived pulse set at 135

I kept pressing the button on the side of the Fitbit, but the data on the screen remained on 135. It was stuck. The back of the watch was flashing green but the screen data remained static.

FitBitCharge HR - I pressed the button and the screen lit up but numbers remained static

FitBitCharge HR – I pressed the button and the screen lit up but numbers remained static

I contacted customer services again and you could almost sense it was a case of ‘oh no, not that woman again’ Emails bounced back and forth offering various suggestion until I finally admitted defeat and passed it to Mr. Piglet.

He looked at the FitBit and then asked why I had left the Surface Protection film over the screen.

‘What…what film?’ I asked.

He peeled back the printed film to expose the screen and then laughed.

FitBit Charge HR - Beware it arrives with printed surface protection film

FitBit Charge HR – Beware it arrives with printed surface protection film

I was not amused.

Please, Mr. FitBit. Can you send an Idiot’s guide with your product or at least a note reminding people to remove the SPF.

PS

If anyone wants to link up for a Weekly or Daily Challenge please let me know!

Palácio de Mateus Reflections

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is all about reflections.

Palacio de Mateus2

Palacio de Mateus

Palacio de Mateus

One of the least memorable trips on our Douro river cruise was a visit to Palácio de Mateus, near Vila Real. Please don’t ask why but I was expecting to visit a vineyard for the Mateus Rose wine. Yep, the devil is always in the detail and I failed to connect the dots.

I am not a student of architecture so the building while providing an impressive photo oppotunity on our arrival failed to stir much interest within. Even Wiki only has a page stub.

The official website is www.casademateus.com

Why does my Aloe Arborescens have black leaves?

Is there a cure?

About a year ago I noticed my Aloe Arborescens were covered in dappled black marks, and after a few months the leaves turned black, shriveled and died.

 Aloe Arborescen - black marks on leaves

Aloe Arborescens – black marks on leaves

There is an old adage: Don’t put off till tomorrow what you should do today.

Unfortunately, I never acted immediately and when I did seek advice I was told it was a virus and there was basically nothing I could do to  cure it. I was then advised to remove all the affected leaves so only the new growth remained. I tried, but after spending many back-breaking hours pulling off the dead leaves I decided the plant was too far gone and we cut it back to ground level.

Apparently Aloe’s are rarely affected by pests although the root and dry rot can be a problem. I was about to give up on my mission to discover the cause of the black marks when someone suggested it could be a fungus due to humidity. Ah ha! After an extensive search of the web looking for clues I discovered:

Insects such as aphids and snout beetles sometimes attack aloes, and they occasionally fall prey to fungal diseases, such as rust, especially if they are growing close together. Spray the plants with a systemic insecticide to stop the sucking insects in their tracks.
Make sure that the poison runs into the growth points between the leaves as well. A fungicide with a copper base can help to control diseases such as rust, which are a nuisance in humid climates.

Credit: An article published on The Gardener

I am on a mission to find a fungicide with a copper base to save my one remaining Aloe Arborescen growing in another part of the garden. Can anyone recommend a product which I can buy here in Portugal or from the net?

Aloe Arborescen with black marks on leaves

Aloe Arborescen with black marks on leaves

All the plants pictured above have since been cut down to ground level in the hope they will regrow and I will get a second chance.

Fingers crossed!

Does anyone have any other suggestions or advice, please?

Other useful websites:
TipsPlants.com
PlantsAfrica.com