Write on Saturday – Making a Leaf Casting – March 23, 2019

On Wednesday things had dried out enough that I was able to get out in the yard for a couple of hours. I was thrilled to be able to cut back the Knock-out roses in the back and cut back some of the perennials that I leave through the winter. Then on Thursday it rained. Again. All day! And now at 5 on Friday morning I can hear it raining. Hard. Yesterday the back yard was as wet as I’d ever seen it. It’s too dark yet to see how big the lake is this morning. I’m not going out to try and take pictures, so will do a post on something a couple of you have asked for — how to make a cement leaf casting.

When going through my photos I found some which show the process. The pictures don’t quite show all the steps, but it should be enough if you want to give this a shot. I’ll explain what’s missing. I wasn’t thinking about doing a post about the process at that time. There are lots of YouTube videos, too.

  1. Don’t make the mistake I made the first time when I put my work board on the ground. Very hard on my back. The next time I put an old slab door on saw horses and covered it with plastic so I could work at waist height.

I used large leaves from my elephant ear bulbs. I’ve also done hostas.


2. Make a mound of sand that is a little larger than the leaf you are casting. I used builders sand because it was what I had. When I needed more I got play sand. I thought it was a little fine. You have to dampen the sand to get it to retain the mound shape.

In the photo below (with the hands) the sand mound should be bigger to support the pointed part of the leaf. You aren’t trying to make a flat casting and you won’t need gloves until you get to the concrete.

3. I used Quickcrete Vinyl concrete patcher that I got at Lowe’s. I mixed the concrete in my wheelbarrow with a hoe and at the end used my hands to get into the corners. Put on rubber gloves or you may burn your hands. I think you could mix the concrete in the plastic bucket it comes in but I didn’t try that. One bucket made two medium sized castings. It needs to be the consistency of peanut butter. If it’s too dry it will crack and if it’s too wet it will slump. Don’t forget to hose out your barrow,  hoe  and any other tools you’ve used when you are finished.


Take handsful of concrete and pat it over the leaf all the way to the edge. You can cut the stem off close to the leaf or leave it and have a hole in your casting. If you are making a bird bath you don’t want a hole. You want the thickness of the cement to be half an inch or less. Don’t make it too thin. Make the edges smooth with a putty knife. You can see that we made flat spots on the casting bottom so they would be more stable.


4. If your work area is in the sun, cover with some plastic while the concrete dries. In a couple of hours when the concrete begins to solidify you can do some more smoothing on the edges before the cement gets too hard.  After a day or two (when the concrete seems dry enough), lift the castings off the sand and remove the leaf. You’ll be able to tell when the casting is hard enough to move. On smaller castings it might just be a day. Sometimes I just turned them over and left the leaf on for awhile before pulling it off. If it dries in the veins use a small screwdriver or a wire brush to clean the casting.


5. I made the first ones in the fall and left them to cure in my garden shed through the winter because I wanted to use some craft paint on them to give them a little color and enhance the vein definition. You can use a file to smooth the edges if you want. As I went along I got better at smoothing the edges while the cement was still soft and since my work surface was waist height I could lift the plastic and check every couple of hours.

On the casting below you can see (left side) where I should have taken some of the overlap off before the concrete dried. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where the leaf stops. You don’t want the edges to be too thin.


6. Below my writing partner, Laura Ambler, is holding the casting I made for her after I had painted it. It filled the trunk of my honda. The other photo is my yoga buddy, Gail, who made the largest leaf casting of the bunch. It was forty inches long and took two bags of Quikcrete. It sat on the table for a week before we lifted it off the sand. On somthing this size you want the concrete (except for the edges) to be thicker. You don’t want it to break.

The past several years I’ve put my castings in the shed for the winter. This year I left a couple out to see what would happen. I made sure they were sitting off the ground and turned so water wouldn’t freeze in them.

Two years ago I taught thirteen women friends (one or two at a time) how to make leaf castings. Last year my workshop was closed! But I might get the itch again this year. If I do, I’ll take better photos of the process.

That’s my Six on Saturday, photos this week of making cement leaf castings.This meme was started by The Propogator, a UK gardener.  This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

Write on Wednesday – Why I Write – March 20, 2019

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
― Toni Morrison

This quote is probably the reason I’ve written three romantic suspense novels set in the Caribbean. I loved the humid air that enfolded me when I stepped off the plane, the hummingbirds that visited bouquets of flowers through the open windows of our rental house, the sunrises and sunsets. And the glorious flowers… who couldn’t look at this flower and imagine a story that needed to be told.


This Angel’s Trumpet invites one to lift it and explore the pendulous bloom. But beware. All parts of it are poisonous. Hmmm. The dark underbelly of the tropics. A sub-plot is emerging.

I remember being on a plane (back in the days before Kindles…when you brought a hard cover or paperback book along) and thinking that although the author was someone who sold a ton of books, there was more I wanted. More description, a more intricate plot, more family drama. I wanted more than boy meets girl, the conflict that keeps them apart, and a happy ending where they are united. So my first novel was a book I wanted to read.

And then I wrote the second in which the same characters continued, needing to know what happened to those people who inhabited my brain. I was writing a series before it was the thing to do.

On my desk is the second edit of the third in my Caribbean series and I am desperately trying to clear the decks so I can give it my undivided attention. And wouldn’t you know, spring is finally here, the yard is finally drying out and all that clean-up that I couldn’t do in the fall (because it was too wet) is shouting at me.

My story is calling me, too. I need to get to work.


Six on Saturday – Spring Has Arrived – March 16, 2017

Thunderstorms were predicted for Friday afternoon. It’s now 5:00 and I suppose we could still get some rain, but I’m hoping not. I walked around the garden in my Sloggers because the standing water is gone. Things are still very muddy, but the garden is coming alive. A neighbor’s tree was full of noisy grackles, but I didn’t mind. It was over 70 degrees and I was outside without a coat, hat and gloves.

On the Eastern Shore March 17th is the day the ospreys return to their nests. We’re all watching.

  1. Daffodils are blooming — the tiny Tete a Tetes and another somewhat larger daffodil. In another part of the yard a different variety has some opening blooms.


2. The hellebores are stunning, even if you have to get on your knees to really see them. Lots of babies coming up. Does anyone know… do they cross pollinate? If it stays dry, I can get into that bed and clear out the winter damaged leaves. The epimedium next to the hellebores needs to be sheared. This bed was shady before we took out the river birch. I’ll be interested to see how everything does with more sun. The crepe myrtles should give them some shade.

3.  In another section of the garden the stump of the river birch clump is waiting for me to make the metal hoop sculpture to sit on top. One of the SoSers suggested I include one one of the big leaf castings in the sculpture. I’ll post a photo when I get it finished. I thought it interesting that the river birch stump is weeping. I know it will sprout up again.


4. Nearby a bird house is waiting for occupants. I found it at a garage sale for a quarter. I need to measure the hole to see what kind of birds might use it.


5. In a window box of herbs the tarragon looked dead but when I poked around I found green shoots.


6. My azaleas are full of buds but I won’t know if the buds were cold blasted for another two months.


That’s my Six on Saturday, photos this week of my waterlogged garden coming alive. The SoS meme was started by The Propogator, a UK gardener.  This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

Write on Wednesday – The Great Pivot -March13, 2019

I’m not the only writer in my family. My step-daughter has just published her first book. This is a big deal! There were some fraught moments at the end — as there always are, but when it’s your first book you don’t know that’s going to happen.  Now Justine is through to the other side and is a published author. Congratulations!

Great Pivot

Her blog describes the book better than I ever could.

“The new book The Great Pivot describes 30 sustainability projects in five areas – advanced energy communities, low-carbon mobility, the circular economy, food waste reduction, and nature restoration – that will create millions of meaningful jobs.

Building a sustainable future will not only restore climate stability and reverse mass species extinction, it will also address the crisis in the world of work. Current trends of outsourcing, automation, the gig economy, and low levels of employee engagement have left working Americans anxious about their jobs. Meanwhile, 37 million people of prime working age, 25-64, are not in the labor force, and the 626,000 people released from prison each year have a hard time finding work that will allow them to reintegrate into society.

The Great Pivot provides funding and program pivots for policymakers who want to help create green, meaningful jobs, as well as resources for those who want to switch over to sustainability work. Each sector — private, non-profit, and public sector — has an important role to play in realizing this vision.

With The Great Pivot we have a blueprint for building a sustainable future. Now we just need to find the courage to commit to it.”

I just got my Kindle copy and can’t wait to start reading.

If you buy the book and like it, don’t forget to post a review on Amazon.

Six on Saturday – Rescue Operation – March 9, 2019

A couple of weeks ago I asked if any of my friends had orchid plants they were going to throw away. If so,  I would love to see if I could make them bloom again. The following week I came home from my 7 a.m. yoga class with a plant. This is what I got from Paulette, my yoga instructor.


This phalaenopsis orchid had one purple bloom when I got it. There was no tag as to the original parentage so if I succeed in resurrecting this plant it will be called Paulette Purple.


I could tell there was a new plant (a keiki — Hawaiian for baby) which had grown on a previous blooming stem. It had long aerial roots and Paulette told me it had two blooms this year.  Usually keikis are removed way before they get this big. I was uncertain about the two 18″ aerial roots. Fortunately there were a number of useful videos on Youtube. I ordered some orchid potting supplies. Special potting mix, plastic orchid pots with special drainage slots, and some New Zealand sphagnum moss.

The supplies arrived this week and on potting day the first thing I did was to soak some of the new potting mixture so it would be wet when I used it. (A tip from one of those helpful videos.)

I cleaned and sterilized my cutting tool with alcohol (another tip) and cut off the keiki. The photo shows it perched on a bowl in my kitchen sink but doesn’t really show the two long  roots. I sprayed the roots with warm water to hydrate them. You don’t want to break the roots and these needed to be bent around and around to go into the pot. When I am transpanting ordinary plants I often root prune. This was not recommended for orchids and after hydrating the roots they bent easily.


Below is the potted keiki. If it lives it will be genetically identical to the mother.


I also repotted the original plant with new potting mix. The three leaves look sad, but maybe it will send up some new growth from the crown.


Behind the repotted orchid is the one with white flowers that I’ve been bragging about. As soon as it’s finished blooming I will repot it as well. It will take months before I know if my rescue operation has been successful, but I’m a patient gardener.


This is what I hope for next year but with purple flowers.

That’s my Six on Saturday, photos this week of an orchid rescue operation. The SoS meme was started by The Propogator, a UK gardener.  This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.




Write on Wednesday – Writing to Make Money – March 6, 2019

I’ve written non-fiction and fiction but never gave up my day job. If I entertained  some fleeting idea that my novels would become best sellers, the reality of sales statistics brought that fantasy crashing down. My writing projects have always been big projects. Somehow it never occurred to me that I could make money by writing short projects.

A new book by Loriann Oberlin shows the kind of short writing projects that can generate cash.


Over the years I’ve bought a lot of books about how to write and how to market my writing, but Writing to Make Money: Short Projects was a surprise. I knew there were people who wrote the text for greeting cards, fillers for magazines, or humorous shorts for Readers Digest–see the back cover below for more–but I had no idea how a writer tapped into those markets. Or even what many of those writing markets were.

All of us have some specialized knowledge–cooking, gardening, childcare, birding, woodworking–often based on what we’ve done in a career or in our hobby time. If you’ve ever wondered if you could spin your knowledge or special interest into some income, this book is well worth the $12 investment for a paperback or $7.99 for the Kindle download. I bought the paperback so I could mark it up.

One of the surprises was the information and suggestions that I could use in my fiction writing. There was even a section on self-care for writers and a helpful chapter-by-chapter resource guide at the end.

How-to books don’t always tell you everything you need to know. This one does exactly what it says it will do. It’s full of information with answers to questions I didn’t know I needed to ask. I wish I’d had this years ago when I might have augmented my income with short writing projects.

WTMM SP Back Cover

Note: For several years I worked with Oberlin on the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference. Our meetings were always conference task oriented although occasionally we talked briefly about the novels we were writing. I had no idea about the extent of her writing background and the knowledge she is now sharing. Thank you, Loriann, for this excellent book.






Six on Saturday – Squelching in the Garden – March 2, 1019

I am not a shoe fashionista. I have almost as many pairs of boots as I do shoes. Last night it rained. Again! So this morning I was either going to squelch through my yard in search of pictures for my Six on Saturday, or abandon the effort. I put on a warm coat and hat and picked up my camera. In the garage the decision was about which boots to wear. Clearly the Sloggers were too low. My chicken boots might have done, but I didn’t want mud splashed on my pants. The choice was the bright orange boots that come almost to my knees. They are the tallest I own. If it keeps raining I may have to invest in waders.

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2. We have standing water in places where we’ve never had it before.

3. I found these little puff balls (the size of golf balls) growing on mulch by the raised beds. A poke with my finger released a cloud of spores.


4.  The invasive Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) along the lot line in the back of the property is beginning to leaf out. If I won the lottery I would take them all out and replace them with something else, but they do provide a green barrier between us and the neighbors in the back. I suspect these specimens are fifty years old. They have large trunks.

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5. Finally I see some daffodils with bloom buds. There are other clumps with leaves but no evidence yet of blooms.

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6. In the garage I found an amarylis bulb that needs to be planted. I can’t be bothered to try and force them inside in the winter, but I plant them outside late spring and they usually bloom. This one will have to go in a pot. It’s too wet to plant it in the ground. A friend gave it to me in January. It had been coated in red wax. I peeled the wax off and threw it in a box  under a table in the garage where it has remained. I only spotted it when I was pulling off my orange boots.


That’s my Six on Saturday, photos in my garden once a week, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener.  This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.