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This is a story about new beginnings – one for a new cactus and another beginning for my second-oldest daughter, Rachele.

Believe me when I say that both stories are connected in a way.

This cactus, above, is a Mexican Fence Post (Pachycereus marinatus), which has been happily growing in my front garden. 

What may not be initially obvious is that 11 years ago, I started this cactus from a 2 ft. piece of one (called a ‘cutting’) given to me by a client from their large Mexican Fence Post cactus.

Well, exactly 1 year ago, I repeated the favor for our neighbors.


Look carefully at the photo above and compare it with the first one.  Can you see where we cut off a piece of the cactus?

Our neighbors had recently re-landscaped their front yard and wanted a cactus like ours.  Of course, they knew that they would have to start out with a much smaller one – but they were unprepared for how expensive it would be to buy one at the nursery.

Our cactus had been growing so well, we decided to offer them a piece (cutting) off of our Mexican Fence Post.  So, my husband, daughter and I gathered together to take a cutting from our cactus.

Here is how we did it…


We selected a good-sized length of cactus and while I held onto it, my husband took a pruning saw and started sawing it off at the bottom.

Multiple layers of newspaper and gloves are helpful to use to grab onto cacti with short thorns. For cacti with longer thorns, you can use carpet remnants.

When you cut out a piece of cactus, it will be much heavier then you are expecting – so be prepared.


My husband and daughter wheeled the cactus cutting over to our neighbor’s house using our wheelbarrow.


We then placed the cutting in a dry, shady spot for 2 weeks in order to allow the cut site to ‘callus’ over, which would protect the cacti from rotting when it is replanted.

*Exactly 3 days after helping us with the cactus cutting, my daughter, Rachele, left for the Navy and basic training.  It was a sad goodbye for us, but a new beginning for her.

After 2 weeks had passed, the new cactus was planted in its new location with a wooden stake for support.

No water was applied for the first month after planting, in order to make sure that the entire cut end had callused over.

One month after planting, the cactus was watered deeply, monthly, until November.


*Whenever I looked at the newly-planted cactus, thoughts of my daughter and how she was doing in her new Navy life always crossed my mind.


One year later, the new cutting is doing so well and has even grown two new sections.

You can see the parent cactus in the background.

Now, I may not be located as closely to my daughter as these two cacti, but like the new cactus, she is growing and doing so well in her new career with the Navy.  We are so proud of her!


You can read more about Rachele’s adventures, here.

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Propagating cactus via cuttings can be done with many species of cacti.

But there are some guidelines to follow for success:

1. Propagate cactus during the warm season, when the threat of frost is over.

2. Make the cut at the joint where the segment attaches to the parent plant.  For prickly pear cacti, you can cut a segment that consists of 1 – 3 pads.

3. Place the new cutting in a dry, shady spot for 2 weeks to allow the cut site to ‘callus’, which protects the cacti from rot when it is replanted.

4. Plant your new cactus in full sun with well-drained soil.

5. Don’t water for a month after planting.  Then water deeply, monthly until fall.

5. Provide temporary shade for the first summer.  You can do this by placing a plastic patio chair over the top or using shade cloth.

Soon, you will begin to see new growth on your cactus.
This is the view today from my kitchen window.

My flowering shrubs normally reach above my wall.  But, given the fact that it has been raining non-stop for the past 20 hours, that is certainly understandable.

While I normally enjoy rainy days, I am feeling a bit blue today.

Today is my daughter, Rachele’s 22nd birthday and the first one that we are spending apart.  


It seems like just yesterday that I was driving her to her first day of preschool.

Rachele was such a petite, little girl with a little giggle and curly hair.  But she was always a tomboy through and through.

She loved to dress up as a police officer.

Now Rachele is a proud member of the Navy.


While I am missing her especially on her birthday, I am so proud of her and am thankful that she loves what she is doing.


That is all I ultimately want for all my children – to spread their wings and fly. 

Even if it takes them far from home….

This past weekend was a busy one in our household.  Packed with a homecoming, a celebration, working with heavy equipment, a little bit of pruning, a night outdoors and a goodbye.


At the end of all of our comings and goings, it turns out the weekend was all to brief…


Homecoming:


Our weekend began on Friday night when we all loaded up into the car & truck (one vehicle doesn’t fit us all), and headed out to the airport to pick up our daughter, Rachele, who was flying in from Mississippi after finishing up her combat school.


After showing up at the wrong terminal, we were just in time to meet Rachele as she walked into baggage claim.

It was so great to see her again.  

I apologize for the a few of the following pictures, since all I had was my phone camera.


Kai decided that he wanted to try to carry Rachele’s sea bag to the car.

Well, it was so heavy, that he almost fell backward 😉


So dad carried it instead.


What you are witnessing in the photo above, is a joyful reunion.  Rachele had bought her first new car all by herself and had only 2 days to drive it before leaving for Mississippi for combat school.  So, she was very happy to see her car again.

Celebration:


On Saturday morning, we celebrated my oldest daughter, Brittney’s, 27th birthday.  I can hardly believe that she is mine 🙂

Brittney had two requests for her birthday.  One – she wanted a cast iron skillet.  She loves to cook!


Of course, if you give someone a cast iron skillet, you need to pair it with a cookbook.  
Now, my daughter is not a ‘dummie’, but that was the only cast iron cookbook that our local Barnes & Noble had.


My nephew, Oliver and my son Kai are trying their best to look interested while Brittney is opening her gifts, when they would much rather get back to playing ‘zombies’.


Now it was time for the cake.  Every year my two oldest daughters request that I make the same cake, which is called ‘Holy Cow’.  And every year I try to convince them to let me make another type of cake.

Not that I don’t like ‘Holy Cow’ cake – but I am a recreational cake baker and like to experiment with different cake recipes.

But, every year, I give in and make their favorite birthday cake.


The cake starts with a chocolate cake mix with lots of good things added including sweetened condensed milk, caramel, whip cream, cream cheese and crushed Butterfinger candy bars.

You can find the recipe here if you are interested in making this delicious cake.  But be forewarned – your family will not let you make any other kind of cake after they taste this one.


While the birthday celebration wore on, my daughter, Rachele, showed us the 7 different ways that you can carry people that she learned in her combat school.

Her younger sister, Gracie, was happy to help her demonstrate.


My granddaughter Lily was intrigued.
Notice the mother-daughter matching Vans shoes?


Lily decided to volunteer to help her Aunt Rachele show how to carry people.


Then it was time for Lily to visit the object of her latest obsession – our 4-month-old puppy, Penny.


Lily did her best to get Penny to come so she could pet her.


But Penny was too tired to get up 😉

Heavy Equipment:

My daughter Rachele is an Equipment Operator in the Navy.  She has just finished 6 months of training and can operate all types of heavy equipment.


So, when she stopped by the family farm (where my mother, sister and her family reside), she volunteered to help with some of the work they were doing.


They were leveling parts of the backyard to get rid of gopher holes.

It was so fun for her dad to see her do this for the first time.  He said that he was so proud to see what she could do – it felt like he was witnessing her college graduation.

Pruning:


Meanwhile at our homestead, there was pruning to be done.  
I took this picture just as half of the shrubs were pruned away.

You see, I have a pair of Red Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) growing underneath my kitchen window.  

In the summer, I love how they grow in front of my window because they visually cool my kitchen with their pretty foliage and flowers.

But, once fall arrives, I want to see my side garden again.  So, even though you should wait until January to prune them back to 1 foot, I asked my husband if he wouldn’t mind doing it now.

Night Outdoors:


On Sunday night, my son decided that he wanted to camp outdoors – or rather on our patio.

So, he and his dad set up the tent and got it all set up.  

Of course, you need vital equipment including wearing your ‘camo’ pajamas and backpack, a knit hat, a sleeping bag with a few blankets just to make sure you will keep warm.

I half expected Kai to wake up in the middle of the night to come indoors to sleep in his own bed.

BUT…


At 9:00 in the morning, he was still sleeping.

Goodbye:

Early on Monday morning, Rachele, left for her permanent posting in California.  It is an exciting time for her, now that she has finished her Navy training and can now begin her career with the Navy.

Because she lives so close to us now, we will be able to see her much more often.

**Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day to read about our family’s adventures.  

I’d love to hear about your past weekend.  What did you do?

The past couple of weeks have been quite busy with helping others with their landscapes, writing articles, keeping up with the kids, throwing a baby shower and my first television appearance thrown in to boot.


You would think that all of that would be enough to keep me preoccupied.  But, there was something else going on during those two weeks that made me very happy.



My second oldest daughter, Rachele, came home on leave for the first time since leaving for the Navy 5 months ago.

She has finished with her much of her Navy training and we couldn’t wait to see her.  

While my husband and I had seen her in Chicago after she graduated from basic training in May, the kids hadn’t seen her for a long time.

Once she arrived, the kids were overjoyed to have their big sister back in the house.  Rachele was happy that the dogs remembered her and so did her cat.


Rachele had a full schedule of seeing family and friends while she was home.  She would often return home late at night and fall asleep on the couch.


Even though she was busy, she did find time to work on her 1970 VW Bug with her dad, changing the oil.


For her last night home, we had the family over for dinner (my oldest daughter and her family).

It was rather bittersweet to see her go.  She is off to Gulfport, Mississippi for more training where she will learn navigation, survival skills and advanced first aid.  Earlier this week she had to hike through the swamp & woods to learn navigation.

Rachele will be back in 1 month for a couple of days before she heads to her permanent base in Southern California.  I am so glad that she will only be a few hours away so we will be able to see her more often when she is not deployed.

In the meantime, life carries on with my other kids and work.  But now, I have a little more time to spend with the newest addition to our family…


Meet Penny – our black labrador retriever.  

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I hope you are having a good week.  

I am off to see a sick citrus tree tomorrow…

Some of you may have been following along as I have updated you on my daughter, Rachele’s, journey as she joined the Navy.

For those of you who are only interested in gardening content, here is a container of violas that we saw at the Art Institute of Chicago.  This will be the only gardening part of this blog post 🙂


We said “goodbye” to her in late March as she left for Great Lakes, IL for basic training.  During that time, we had very limited contact spread out with a few short phone calls and a few letters.  


Homesickness, discouragement were the subjects of our earlier correspondence.  However, as time passed, we started to see her resolve to finish and do her best.
 
The date of Rachele’s graduation was circled on our calendar and we anxiously counted down the days until we could see her again.
 
The last test that she had to pass was her running test.  She had to run 1.5 miles in 15 1/2 minutes.  Rachele was seriously worried that she wouldn’t pass it because she had twisted her ankle and had shin splints.  If she did not pass, then she would have to stay longer until she passed and forgo the graduation – meaning that we couldn’t come and see her.  A number of sailors don’t pass.
 
We got a call from Rachele a few days before graduation telling us that when she was running the last test -she was determined to run as fast as she could because she didn’t want to stay in basic training any longer then she had to.  
 
As she was running, she didn’t know that the lap counter wasn’t working correctly.  So, when she had finished running, she hadn’t run 1.5 miles….she had actually run 1.75 miles under 15 1/2 minutes!
 
So, our trip was on and her dad and I along with our oldest daughter, Brittney, boarded a plane for Chicago.
 
 
We arrived on a Thursday afternoon and drove up to Great Lakes, which is about 40 minutes north of Chicago.
 
It was hard to believe that we would see our Rachele in just a few hours.  We had to leave our hotel at 6:00 am, which was 4:00 on our internal Pacific time clock.  
 
But, the adrenaline was flowing the morning of her graduation and we were up early and got to the Naval base.
 
 
The ceiling was decorated with state flags.  We could see the copper star and sun rays of the Arizona flag.
 
We had to arrive early for good seats, which we got.  But then, we needed to wait 2 1/2 hours for the ceremony to start.  Thankfully, they had muffins and hot coffee.
 
We knew that the ceremony was about to begin with sailors holding the state flags came in and started marching in formation.


Did I mention that it was our 27th anniversary on that day?  I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it.
 
 
 
We then heard the drum corp and finally, it was time for 880 new sailors to enter…
 
Among those entering was my baby, now a sailor. I was so excited to finally see her!
 
 
Did I mention that it was quite cold that day?  The low that night was 39 degrees.  So, the sailors had their rain coats on until they entered.  They were holding their neatly folded rain coats.
 
Rachele is in the last row, the 8th person from the right.
 
 
Eighth from the left in the last row, above 🙂
 
 
The atmosphere was electric with all the families seeing their sailor.  There was a young girl who was wearing a very pretty dress and had a flower in her hair as she watched her boyfriend/husband march in.  She was all by herself and it was so sweet and sad to see.
 
 
Okay, you moms out there – I can tell exactly which one is my daughter from the back because “I gave birth to that behind” all those years ago, and would know it anywhere 😉
Kind of hard to explain exactly where she is in the photo above, but there are three girls in front of the blue/yellow flag.  Rachele is in the middle with the curly, brown hair.
 
 
The sailors stood for 1 1/2 hours for the entire ceremony.  They had to keep straight faces, no smiling.  I had binoculars so I could see her easily.  Her eyes kept looking up at where we were sitting.
 
Because fainting sometimes occurs when standing so long, they had drill sergeants-in-training walking between the rows of new sailors making sure that no one looked like they were going to faint.  No one did.
 
After the ceremony was over, the families moved down and greeted their sailors.  I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to hold Rachele in a my arms once again.
 
 
Here she is, wearing her dress whites.  She had lost a lot of weight and her uniform was loose because she was fitted at the beginning of basic training.
 
Sailors also have their dress blues, which they wear fall through early spring.
 
 
It was a beautiful day, but cold.
 
 
My two oldest girls, together again!
 
 
Rachele was showing her dad how shiny her shoes were.  She worked a long time polishing them.
 
 
It is pretty impressive how straight she stands now.  Her mom (me) has terrible posture, but I blame it on my dad, who did too 😉
 
 
Rachele got ribbons for completing basic training and for marksmanship (guns).
 
 
We weren’t allowed to visit all areas of the Naval base, but Rachele pointed out where she stayed.
 
Rachele had liberty for the rest of the day until 8:30 pm, which meant that she was able to leave the base for the first time since she arrived in March.
 
 
She was also reunited with her telephone, which we brought.  Look at how happy she is! Recruits aren’t allowed to bring their phones.
 
 
Driving with our two oldest daughters in the backseat brought back memories of us being a much smaller family before we adopted our three youngest children.  
 
We told Rachele that we would do whatever she wanted that day.
 
 
Her first request was lunch at Chipotle, her favorite restaurant.
 
 
Then a trip to the local mall where we all went to see the latest Star Trek movie – I do love all things ‘Star Trek’.
 
We had a wonderful day with Rachele and returned to the base and went shopping at the NEX (Naval Exchange) for Navy souvenirs to take home with us.
 
We dropped off to sleep that night, exhausted, but so happy.
 
The next morning, the Navy put the new sailors on a bus and took them to the airport at 3:30 am.  There, they would wait at the airport until their flight took off for wherever their ‘A’ school was to be.  ‘A’ school is where they learn their skill that they will use in the Navy.
 
So, another early morning for us as we drove to the airport to visit with Rachele.  Sailors weren’t allowed to leave the airport and so we had to spend our time with her there.
 
 
Thankfully, O’Hare is a huge airport with lots to see and do.  We brought Rachele a set of civilian clothes (jeans, shoes and a shirt) that she would be allowed to wear at her ‘A’ school.  Here, she is showing us how to ‘correctly’ fold a pair of jeans.  This made me laugh because Rachele has NEVER been one to fold her clothes at home 😉
 
 
Starbucks was another treat that she enjoyed that day.
 
 
Video-chatting with her younger sisters and brother, who couldn’t come.
 
 
The yellow envelope is filled with her medical records, which she had to bring to her ‘A’ school.
 
 
One last meal with Rachele before her plane was scheduled to leave.  It was at this point that we started getting a little ‘teary’.
 
 
As we waited for her plane, my oldest daughter, Brittney, asked Rachele to teach her how to salute.  
 
At this point, I was trying to stay strong for Rachele and not focus on how few minutes that we had left together.  It was too short a time.  
 
As they announced boarding for her plane, Rachele started crying and I just lost it too (so did Brittney).  We hugged her goodbye and she boarded the plane with her fellow sailor who was going to the same school.
 
As for my husband, Brittney and myself – we walked out of the terminal with tears streaming down our faces.  I’m not sure what people thought of us, but I honestly didn’t care.
 
We drove Brittney to the other airport in Chicago (Midway) to catch a plane home and then my husband and I were on our own.  
 
I must admit that I was not prepared for how sad I would be after seeing Rachele again and then having to say goodbye.  But, it was very hard that night.  
 
Rachele is going to ‘A’ school in Fort Leonard Wood which is located in the middle of Missouri.  She will be there until mid September learning how to become a heavy equipment operator for the Seabees.
 
The good news is that Rachele is allowed to use her cell phone and we are able to talk to her everyday, which has helped a lot.
 
Sunday morning my husband and I drove to downtown Chicago and had a great time exploring Michigan Avenue with its architecture and gardens, which I will share with you soon.
 
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Thank you for allowing me to share our military journey with you.  Your supportive comments and emails mean so much.
 
My next post will be full of beautiful gardens, containers and more that we saw in Chicago.
 
 
Isn’t this flower beautiful?

You may be surprised that a vegetable produced this flower.
This is the flower from a onion plant.

You would expect that the onion plant that produced this flower would be equally impressive, like the one in the picture above.

But sadly, the onion that created the flower in the top photo looked more like this when I pulled it out…


Kind of disappointing, isn’t it?

This was the first time that I tried growing regular onions in the garden.  I have had a lot of success with green onions, but evidently, my white onions need some help.

While there are only about two onions worth eating, I can chop the greens of my ‘reject’ onions and use them in the same way one would use green onions (scallions).  They have a mild, oniony flavor.

Every time that I try some thing new in the garden, I learn something.

I have learned since then that many of my fellow area gardeners, have had similar disappointments when growing bulb onions.  

However, there is one variety that many have told me they have had some good results growing.  It is called ‘Texas Sweet’.

So, next fall, I will be growing ‘Texas Sweet’ onions.


In the meantime, I will keep my remaining onions in the ground and enjoy their beautiful flowers.


**Check back soon for a fabulous giveaway that I will be doing where you can win a great TroyBilt tool that has many uses.  I have been having so much fun with mine.  

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I haven’t mentioned how my daughter, Rachele, has been doing while in basic training for the Navy.

It has been much harder than she expected.  She has had some injuries to deal with and a cold that has been present much of her time in basic training.

She has been homesick, but as her time in basic training has progressed, we sense her toughness and determination to get through.

On the home front, the first few weeks were very hard because we missed her so much.  But, as time passed, we have adjusted to her absence although we miss her terribly.

What has been so hard is the fact that our main way of communicating with her is by letter.  She only gets to send us one letter a week.

Phone calls are sporadic and you never know when they will come.  It has been 3 weeks since we last talked to her on the phone.

I cannot wait for her to graduate from basic training and will be flying out to Chicago soon to see her become a sailor.  We will have one day with her before she flies out to her ‘school’ where she will learn her specialty.  

Please keep her in your prayers as she is going through her last tests that she must pass.

Thank you!


HAPPY NEW YEAR 
TO YOU ALL!

I just finished watching the Rose Parade with my mother.  It’s a tradition in our family and reminds me of when my grandparents took me when I was a child.

We didn’t have tickets to the parade, so my grandfather carried a ladder from their house (which was close by) and set the ladder up at the edge of the parade route.  Each of us kids would take turns climbing to the top of the ladder to watch the parade.

Even though we didn’t see much of the parade, it is still such a special memory.

Well, Christmas is over and the decorations have all been put away.  But, we had a wonderful time over the Christmas holiday.

Here are a few highlights…


Baking Christmas cookies with my kids along with my young nephews.  Every year, I have all of them come over and we have so much fun making the cookies.  Then they get to take some home for ‘Santa’.


Christmas Eve.  Every year, my mother-in-law makes her famous lasagna.  It is delicious.  But, she says that this is the last year that she will be making it.  So, I took a picture of it just in case no one else takes up making it in her place.


Each year, on Christmas Eve, all my kids (those that still live at home), ask me to read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’.  The dogs enjoy the story too 🙂


Christmas morning at our house.


After Christmas morning at our house, the entire family gathers at Double S Farms.  My granddaughter, Lily is excited about opening more gifts.  Well, not really.  She just likes to tear the tissue paper up into tiny pieces.


Our family just keeps getting bigger.


After we finished opening gifts, it was time for our ‘treasure hunt’.  This is a family tradition where my mother writes clues, which eventually lead us to our last Christmas gift.  We all work together to solve the clues.

This year’s hunt took us to the chicken coop and to my mother’s vegetable garden…


Doesn’t it look fabulous for December?

Anyway, here is where found one of the clues…


There was a note inside this broccoli plant.


After gifts were all opened, it was time to play outside.  The men and boys played football.  My twin nephews had fun on the toy tractor being pushed by their mom.


Lily wanted to play ball, but Johnny wasn’t going to share.


So, her aunt and cousins decided to give her a ride in the toy tractor.


Trees were climbed by my nephew, Oliver.


The ‘men’ had fun talking.


And my 2-year old nephew, Danny, finally got to ‘climb’ a tree with a little help from my daughter, Rachele.


My mother got her wish…a photo with all of her grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Although, this was a wonderful Christmas for me, it was also a little bittersweet.

My daughter, Rachele, holding her niece.
You see, my second oldest daughter, Rachele, is entering the Navy in April.  While I am so proud of her, I will miss her.  She will probably not be with us next Christmas.  

And so, every memory from this past Christmas are extra special to me.

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I have lots of plans for the garden this coming year  and some road trips.  So I will have lots to share with you.