An Easy to Grow Succulent: String of Pearls

String of Pearls Succulent in a Chicken Planter
Southern Chicks Wear Pearls!

If you are wanting to start growing succulents, I would suggest beginning with this lovely variety known as 'String of Pearls.' This simple little plant adds so much whimsy to any area of the garden, porch, or indoors. And, if you don't have a green thumb, this is an excellent place to start! 

Many years ago, I used to have several pots of the odd, string of pearls, but for one reason or another, I no longer had them. I stumbled across this lovely planter at a local garden shop, and of course, the beautiful 'String of Pearls' was sitting right next to it. So, I had to start growing it once again, and yes, I have missed them.  After all........

"Pearls are always appropriate" ~ Jackie O.

String of Pearls is easy to maintain.  If it is over 60 degrees, I leave it outside, in the direct sunlight. During the cooler months, bring it indoors, and place them near a window so that it can still get light. I love putting them in containers like this or hanging baskets so the tendrils can grow long. Your new plant will start off very small, but with a little care, the tendrils can easily reach 2-3 feet in length.

A Few Other Tips:

1. Make sure the pot has a drainage hole. 
2. Don't over-water, this is a very drought tolerant plant. Watering once a week is perfect, too much water, and the plant may start root-rot.
3. The 'pearls' can be toxic, so make sure that your pets or children can't eat them.
4. You can grow more by taking a simple cutting and allowing it to take root in a new pot!
5. Trimming the ends will make the pearls more compact and healthier.

Easy Coffee Ice Cream & Westrock Coffee

Westrock Coffee and coffee trees

I am going to take just a moment to tell you a little about my favorite coffee. Westrock Coffee Company has created a coffee that literally changes lives. Now, if you are like me, coffee changes my life daily! However, they literally change lives. The history of the development of this company, and its' mission is amazing. This company provides jobs to farmers, especially women, in some of the poorest areas, such as Rwanda. They teach them how to grow the beans, they teach them how to farm the land, and then, they even teach them how to manage their new income streams wisely. These women use this money to provide for their families, increase there land holdings, hire people to help them, and so much more. I was amazed as I listened to them recount the stories of their travels to these areas, and their work with these women. To learn more about this wonderful company and their products, click here.
Easy to make coffee ice cream with Westrock Coffee
Now, besides drinking this wonderful coffee, let me share my favorite recipe for coffee ice-cream. It is so easy, and you only need a strong cup of coffee, and four other ingredients.

2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup half/half
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup brewed coffee (strong)

Mix the cream and sugar together until sugar dissolves. Then, add half/half, coffee, and vanilla.
Add to ice cream maker and follow their instructions.

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Rabbit Safety in the Summer- Heat Exhaustion and Warbles

Summer time is dangerous for rabbits for several reasons, especially outdoor rabbits. Can you imagine being confined to a small cage, in the summer heat, with a fur coat on?
A rabbits optimal temperature is 60-70 degrees. Heat strokes and exhaustion can begin being experienced in temperatures around the upper 80's, especially if the humidity is also high.

My first suggestion is to take any rabbit that appears to be suffering from a heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or warbles to the vet, immediately.
Make sure your rabbits outdoor cages are not in the sun! Make sure they have a full bottle of fresh water, fresh timothy hay, and some romaine lettuce and herbs, or some cool treat. Another really good trick is to put a fan on their cages, and put a bottle of frozen water in the path of the air. This helps keep the air moving around them, and will greatly help keeping them cool. My indoor rabbits love to sit in front of a fan.  The fan also limits the ability of flies and gnats to land on your rabbit and their food.

Did you know that rabbits enjoy sitting on bricks or tile during the summer? They are much cooler, and if you dampen them or place a frozen bottle on them, it is even better.
All these may help keep your rabbit from suffering from heat exhaustion. If you notice your rabbit seeming lethargic, not eating, or any odd behavior, move them to a cooler location and provide fresh cool water, (add some mint if you have it available). Mint helps bring down their body temperature.

In extreme cases,  use a cool washcloth with a piece of ice in it to wipe their ears. If they appear to have had an actual heat stroke, inability to stand, unconscious, fever, refusing to eat/drink, etc., take them to a vet immediately. Rabbits with a health condition will deteriorate very quickly, and many times the only chance for survival is immediate vet care.

If you have outdoor rabbits, on extreme days, I would offer an additional water bottle or water dish that has electrolytes in it.  Never fully replace an outdoor rabbits water with this, however, rabbits are so picky that they may refuse to drink it, and end up severely dehydrated. (You can make your own electrolytes using water, sugar, and salt, purchase an electrolyte pack, or even keep a bottle of pedialyte on hand for emergencies.

Believe it or not, my indoor rabbits suffer from the heat too. I place this frozen ice pack in their cages every morning, and a new one every evening. They are always laying on them, or laying on one of the air conditioning vents. 

I purchased several ice mats and ice brick packs from the dollar store, and I made this cover to slip them down into, to ensure the fact that the frozen pack wouldn't damage their skin, and that they couldn't chew into the ice mat.

Click here to learn how to make a no-sew ice pack cover.
Next, whether your rabbits live inside, in the garage, or outside, please keep their litter boxes clean. If you have an outdoor rabbit and don't use litter, please keep the area under their cage raked up. The importance of clean living conditions cannot be stressed enough. Sitting in urine, can easily degrade their fragile skin very quickly. Besides this, gnats and flies are immediately attracted to the dirty cage bottom, litter box, or even the ground under the cage.
The problem with this, besides the obvious, is the fact that rabbits are highly susceptible to a condition known as warbles. Warbles is a condition where a fly or gnat lays eggs in wounds, scratches or any moist area, such as the eyes or even the anal area of any larger animal. Once this happens, the eggs hatch and they begin to actually eat the flesh of the rabbit. It is a horribly painful condition that usually ends in death, or an extremely high vet bill. This is 100% preventable with clean living conditions, and the attention of the owner.  Also, having a fan blowing on the cage whether it is outside/inside or in the garage will keep the flies and gnats from being able to land on the rabbit. Indoor rabbits can also have issues with gnats, but only if their cages are dirty enough to attract gnats into the house, or if the house already has a gnat issue.  These litter boxes make keeping their  cages clean so easy, and rabbits are extremely easy to train.

Remember our animals, that are kept in cages, are totally dependent on us to provide everything they need. Be responsible and keep them healthy, happy, clean and safe. They will reward you in many ways for providing for their needs.

(The below items are part of my amazon affiliate list. If you purchase using this link, I may receive a small commission from the sell of the item. Thank you)

Benefits of a Raised Bed Gardens

raised bed, pallet gardenOur farm is situated about six miles outside the city limits of Burlington, NC on eight acres of old pasture land. Most of the property is wooded. When we moved to the country, it wasn't our intent to start a farm and grow our own food. We did however, do some landscaping around the house, as I have always loved having flowers. 

A few years ago, we decided to try a little garden by turning several pallets into raised garden beds. One of the pallets was placed on the North side of the house, close by a water source. Even though it is on the North side, it still gets sun most of the day. We planted tomatoes, squash, and zucchini, along with a few herbs. The yield wasn't bad for such a small space. The other pallet bed was placed at the chicken coop, planted with mint and lemon balm. (Here is a link to my article on the pallet garden.)

Raised Bed, vegetable garden, protected flower gardenLast year, we decided to built a larger raised bed with room for more vegetables. We have deer and rabbits on our property, so we included "walls" and "boxes" around the perimeter of the garden for annuals.The garden included a larger, rectangular box in the back and two other rectangular boxes in front, with a path or walkway in the center. I of course had to decorate it. The decorations are pretty as well as functional. There is a chippy white garden bench on one end, and a potting table on the other end. It turned out so lovely. We planted sunflowers in a row along the back of one of the boxes with tomatoes in the front. In the front of the tomatoes, we planted bright yellow marigolds and basil in front of that. In the small rectangular boxes, we planted squash and zucchini. Green beans and cucumbers were planted long the edge of these boxes so they could climb the walls of the garden. (For more information on this larger raised bed, click here.)

Raised Beds, Raised Garden, Vegetable Garden, Herb Garden

Let's get back to the pallet garden. After about three years, the wood began to decay. It was definitely time to start thinking about replacing. We decided to replace the pallet with a more permanent structure, and one that would look attractive yet durable. We chose a 4x4 vinyl bed from Raised Beds and it was the perfect solution. This bed was so easy to assemble, taking only a few minutes, and now gives the space a pretty and crisp look. I have Lemon Balm, Marjoram, Thyme, Dill, Oregano, Basil and white Marigolds in this bed. We really like the idea of raised bed gardening. Presently, our family is small, so this suits our needs and is easy to maintain.

This little garden is placed in an area that we wouldn't have been able to plant very easily. We put some landscaping paper down, set the garden frame on top  if it, and just filled it with dirt. It was so easy.

There are so many benefits to having a raised bed versus an in-ground bed. We are just going to discuss a few that we have encountered.

1. In North Carolina, we have so much clay in the soil, and it is hard and very dry.  Taking advantage of raised beds means that we can decide on the soil we want to use, and amend it easily.

2. Next, we have extremely hot summers, and being able to situate water-needy plants near a water source saves so much work! Anything that requires daily watering is placed in a bed near a hose pipe. Things like herbs, which are not so needy, can be placed further away in hotter locations.

3. Having a bed so easily assembled means that I can place a finished garden anywhere in my yard with a little bit of planning. The white bed, which came from Raisedbeds.com, was assembled in about 3 minutes, using no tools. Our large bed was constructed in less than a week.

4. The smaller gardens, like the white one pictured in this post, can even have a piece of sheer netting wrapped around it to protect it from bugs like Japanese Beetles, cutting worms, squash bugs, etc.

5. During cold months, you can even purchase a small covering and frame and create a mini-greenhouse. (Learn about frost hoops and quilts here)

6. When you are determined to grow an organic garden, this is an excellent way to ensure the fact that your dirt is safe. If you want to place a garden in an area you usually treat with a chemical weed killer, then your plants will be exposed to the left-over chemical residue, and your produce will also. However, placing a ground barrier down, putting in a raised bed, and bringing new soil in, is a great way to have a fresh start. 

7. The last point to consider is that a raised bed is an excellent way to get started whether you are a seasoned gardener or a newbie! A small contained area that is easy to maintain is a great way to teach children to plant a seed and watch it develop into a meal that ends up on their plate. 

(Photo Courtesy of RaisedBeds.com)
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