Adventures in Sunflower Gardening

Let's go full circle

Adventure isn't always about travel. Sometimes adventures happen at home and today I would like to share part of our adventures in gardening.

Every year I try to grow sunflowers. And yes, I mean TRY because it does't always work out so well.  A few years ago I put down some 3" PVC pipe pieces, that Curtis cut for me, in front of all our fence posts in the front yard. Then I planted the sunflower seeds inside. My hopes were to keep them from getting run over by the lawn mower or weed eater. They just didn't get enough sun to grow more than a few inches high.

Last year I decided I was just going to buy a big bag of bird seed full of sunflowers and put them in between our fence and the ditch. I was hoping for a field of beautiful sunflowers to grow along the fence and brighten everyone's day who happened to pass them along their path.  I do believe it made a lot of birds happy because they were always hopping around out there. While watching the birds gives me a smile, the sunflowers did not get very big, nor was there a field of them. The fence blocked most of the sun through the day, and sunflowers need sun. Most of them had tiny blooms and just ended up looking sad.

So this year I decided to do something else. I'm going to make a giant sunflower garden in the front yard. I plotted out my circle with a stick, some string and a can of gold spray paint. First I did a large circle and then a smaller circle inside of the larger one. Then I marked a spot where I wanted the walk way to be.

With the help of my daughter, we dug out the space between the  large and small circle. It made a really nice area in the center where we could sit and relax while being surrounded by sunflowers. After all the digging, we planted a package of Burpee Mamoth Sunflower Seeds. As well as two packets of wildflower seeds. After two and a half months of carefully trimming the grassy area inside and daily watering, we finally have some tall sunflowers growing in the front yard.

The kids just love playing inside the circle and it makes a nice spot to sit and watch birds.

I do find it interesting how you can tell, based on the height of the sunflowers, which spots in the circle get the most sun. Because of our fence in the front yard and the large oak tree in the back, sun shines on different areas at different times of the day.

Below you can check out a photo time lapse video of the sunflower growth progression, or you can enjoy the pictures.

How to make a Fire Starter

Hey guys! Mendi here again... I've got another little DIY post for you.
Today we are going to discuss Fire Starters! Now,as anyone who knows me KNOWS  that  I love a great fire to keep my toes warm and toasty on those cooler nights.

And even on some not so cooler days.  And since we live in good Ole Florida, we call those days Martin Beach mosquito control days.

Now, on the the good stuff. You will need a few things to get you going...

  1. Wax
  2. Combustible material
  3. Silicon Mold or paper container
  4. Pot of water
  5. Glass jar or Pyrex Measuring cup
  6. Something to stir with

So, as you can see I was not too very specific for that list. That's because there are many different ways you can go about making your own water proof fire starters. We'll start with the wax. You can use new wax, plain wax, paraffin wax, scented wax, soy wax, beeswax, or my favorite... those bits and pieces of wax that are leftover from the used candles. The left over wax bits are great because you don't have to buy anything extra to make the fire starters and you probably were just throwing them out before anyway.

Next we'll talk combustibles. Again, ,there are many different choices for this. There is dryer lint, cotton balls, pistachio nut shells, peanut shells, saw dust and more. For the fire starers I am making, I will be using saw dust. Since we have been using our planer a lot during the construction phase of our bus conversion, it seemed like the best way to go, especially since we have collected several large garbage bags full of saw dust.

For the third item on the list we need something to put our wax and sawdust in. Many people choose to use small paper cups or even muffin liners. I decided to use silicone ice cube tray as my mold. These can be picked up generally anywhere and are fairly cheap. The mold I'm using for the skull fire starters is the same one I used for the buttons for the Pirate Jacket costume that I made for Curtis for our friends' pirate  themed wedding. That's another post for another day.

Pirate Skull Buttons

Items four and five on the list sort of go together. The glass jar or Pyrex measuring cup is to sit inside the small pot of water. We're just creating a double boiler here. Now I've used Pyrex measuring cups for melting wax before, but I have also used the same container that a large candle comes in. Since the glass container is for a candle, it can generally stand the amount of heat required to melt candle wax in.  Just don't let your water level get too low.

Number five on our list is pretty simple. I used two different items... Popsicle craft sticks and plastic spoons. I chose them basically because they were really just a one time use sort of thing since they would be covered in candle wax, rendering them unusable for anything else. Don't ruin your good utensils everyone. The pop sickle sticks worked great for stirring the wax as it melted and the spoons worked great for putting the wax in the molds.

And now that we have our ingredients together and our wax is melted, it's time to put it all together. I tried several different ways to make the best possible ratio of look cool to usability. First I tried adding saw dust to the mold and then adding the melted wax into it by the spoonful. The results for this were varied depending on how tight the saw dust was packed into the mold.

Next I tried mixing the saw dust into the melted wax and then spooning it all into the mold. The results for this were not what I had expected at all.  The mixture was too hot and didn't pack into the spaces quite as well as I had hoped. On my third attempt I did something a little different. First I put a small spoonful of wax into each mold cavity. Next, I quickly packed in some saw dust before the wax melted. And lastly, I finished it off with a few spoonfuls of melted wax. This was the best outcome in terms of a visually pleasing and usable product.

So after letting the wax cool down and solidify, I popped them all carefully out of the mold. I set them on some wax paper to fully cool before putting them in their final containers.

These are made for use in a fire pit outdoors. Do not use inside or attempt to burn as a candle.

Check out the cool video of them in action...

Now get out there and get to making! Enjoy!

~Mendi

P. S.

Perhaps you aren't that crafty or just don't feel like spending the time to make a batch of this stuff, but you still really want to have some... Well we have you covered!

Head on over to Our Artiful Adventures on Etsy and pick up your very own jar of our Wax and Saw Dust Fire Starters!

 

Get some Fire Starters!

They make great gift items!