• Mar 23

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

African violets are one of my favorite houseplants.  Their care takes little effort, they do not take up a lot of space and they bless me during the winter with beautiful blooms.

A pleasing temperature for these houseplants is 65 to 80 degrees.  Anything above or below this will reduce blooming.   They like strong, bright light, but keep them away from direct sunlight as this can cause scorching of the leaves.  I keep mine in an east and south facing window.

African violets are a bit picky when it comes to how they like their water.  Not too cold or too hot, room temperature is best.  They are not fond of chlorine either.  If your tap water is chlorinated, let it stand overnight to allow the chlorine gases to evaporate.  This will also allow the water to come to room temperature.  Let the soil dry out slightly before watering, then water them from the bottom by setting the pot into a tray or bowl of water.  I can tell by lifting my African violet when it needs to be watered.  It is much lighter when the soil is dry than when it is wet.

Slow release fertilizers are the best way to give your plant safe levels of the nutrients it needs.  Water from the top once a month to flush out salts in the soil.

A light, airy soil texture is important to a vigorous root system in African violets.  In their native habitat they grow with much air reaching their roots.  Equal parts of peat moss, vermiculite and perlite is ideal.  Violets do not like to be placed in a too large pot.  In most cases roots only grow one third the diameter of the leaves and they do not grow very deep.  For example, a 9 inch plant should be placed in a pot no more than three inches wide and 4 inches deep.

Thrips and mealybugs are their main pests to keep a watch for.  They are both very small, about the size of a printed dash.  If you spot any pests, a rinse with lukewarm, soapy water may help or dab them with a cotton swab soaked with alcohol.

There are so many different kinds of African violets to choose from with many different leaf shapes and flower colors and combinations.  I recently acquired 3 “minis”.  They will only grow up to 6 inches.  For more information about the classes and cultivars visit the African Violet Society of America’s website at www.avsa.org/home.

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service

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  • Mar 16

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

Most Hellebores, also known as Lenten Roses, are an easy care plant and are a must have in my garden.  They are very hardy plants, grown in zones 4 – 8 and will survive some of the worst weather Mother Nature can throw at them.  Hellebores are primarily European natives, growing in open meadows in Bosnia, Turkey and China.  I was introduced to them a few years ago at the LaGrange County Master Gardeners Symposium.

This perennial plant typically flowers in late winter to spring.  Their lantern-like flowers come in shades of white, green, dusky pink and purple and can last from 10 – 12 weeks.  They will grow well in most soils, even tolerating acid soils.  However, their preference is for a neutral to slightly limey soil – a pH of about 7 would be ideal.  Most prefer semi-shade and are sometimes sold as shade loving plants.  Plants in deep shade will survive, but will exhibit sparser growth and produce fewer blooms. As with Hostas, the shade tolerance of these plants make them suitable for developing a woodland garden or growing under trees and large shrubs. Mature plants form clumps about 18 to 24 inches tall and 24 to 30 inches wide.

Most parts of the Hellebores are toxic.  The name hellebore comes from the Greek “elein” meaning to injure and “bora” meaning food. A mild skin irritation has been known to occur in people that are especially susceptible after an extensive period of handling these plants without using gloves.  Touted to be a deer resistant plant, these may be a logical choice, possibly as a ground cover, for a deer infested landscape.

Here in the north, where we live, the leaves may still remain green for much of the winter, but they tend to look rather ratty by the time spring arrives.  Trim off the old leaves and soon the “reinforcements” (new leaves) will be well on their way.  Amending the soil with compost will improve the vigor of the Hellebores plants as will fertilizing with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer in the spring.   For the lazy gardener, do nothing at all and they will most likely survive rather well.

These plants are a bit slow to get established, but once they are it is not very likely they will need to be divided.  However, if you would want to do so or need to transplant some, it is best to do that in September or October.  Dig the entire plant up, wash the dirt off the roots and divide with a sharp knife between the growth buds.  Keep at least 3 buds to each division.

When planting new plants or divisions, keep the crowns at soil level to no more than 1 inch deep (the crown is where the stems meet the roots).  Prior to planting, dig a deep hole, as many of these plants have deep root systems.  To prevent rot, do not mulch excessively or keep wet.

As always, happy gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

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  • Mar 9

by Karen Weiland, Purdue Master Gardener

So you have selected the seeds, carefully planted them in their pots, watered them, kept them warm, watched them germinate and start their growing process and then, one by one, fall over, shrivel up and die.

This horticultural disease is called damping off.  It is caused by soilborne fungi and it can occur before or after the little seedlings sprout from the soil.

The first sign that damping off may have occurred is the failure of the plant to emerge from the soil.  If seeds are attacked before they germinate, they will become soft and then decay.  If seedlings are attacked after they emerge, the plants stem tissue at the soil line will begin to decay and weaken, then fall over and die.  Sometimes only the roots are affected.  The stunted plants may continue standing for a time, but will eventually wilt and die.

It is best not to use old seed which may be weak.  If you do use old seed, test a sample for its ability to germinate by sandwiching the seed between two warm, moist layers of paper towel.   Look for seeds that have been pre-treated with a fungicide.  If none is available, you can add an amount of fungicide, equal to two match heads, to the seed packet.  Close the packet, give it a shake, then plant.  Seeds and seedlings are more susceptible to damping off if the soil temperature is less than favorable or is kept too wet.  The optimal soil temperature is dependent upon the type of seed being grown but most germinate when the soil temperature is between 68 and 86 degrees.

Sanitation is important because spores of the organisms that cause damping off can survive in dust and planting medium that is left over in flats, pots and plug trays.  Seedling pots and trays should either be new or used ones should be disinfected with a bleach and water solution.  Tools and surfaces being worked on should also be disinfected before preparing pots/trays for seed planting.  Use an uncontaminated soilless growing mix.

I have a little diy project for you.  I like to use the black plastic trays measuring 2 ½”x10 ½”x21” for seed starting.  They are rather flimsy and tend to break or tear when being lifted while full with plant plugs.  Using some scrap lumber I had saved for who knows what, I made a wooden tray that makes transporting my seedlings a snap.  Inside dimensions are 1 ¾”x11”x21 ½”.  I just cut 2end pieces using ¾”thick lumber 12”x1 ¾”, 2side pieces 21 ½”x 1 ¾”and 3 bottom pieces 23”x1”.  Sandwich the side pieces between the end pieces to create a rectangle, then fasten the 3 bottom pieces to the bottom, spacing them evenly.  Easy peasy!

As always, Happy Gardening!!

More information about gardening and related subjects can be found online at www.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

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  • Jan 26
  • Posted on Monday, January 26th, 2015
  • by rene_h in
  • Uncategorized

by Rene Hostetler

I know that many of you are trying desperately to achieve your annual New Year’s resolution of loosing a few pounds so you may not appreciate the pun I used in the title.  When could bulk possibly be a good thing?  Bear with me and read on…

The Amish have this thing they do, called “bulk food.”  It is not in any way similar to what you experience at Sam’s or Costco where you have to buy 50 of one thing in order to be the recipient of “huge” savings.   Sure!  I had not heard of this idea until I moved to Amish Country.  They don’t do “bulk food” in the Chicago suburbs!  But in just about every Amish community you will find a bulk food store where the proprietor packages food items in various sizes and the savings are quite real no matter how many you buy.

I’ve been to several stores like this (oh yes, the “English” are welcome), and my absolute favorite is E & S Sales in Shipshewana.  When I first started finding bargains at this store it was a small family business with a fairly small store, but they dreamed big and the summer time tourist season has enabled them grow into a much bigger facility.  Of course, with the new facility has come more culinary delights to enjoy such as a bakery, an ice cream counter and a deli with indoor seating.  Have lunch and then enjoy the great prices throughout the store!  What could be better?  Their growth has also included adding more check outs and staff to accommodate the crowds they’ve attracted.  I believe the word is out!

When I go there my must have list includes nuts, nut butters, oat meal, green tea, and quinoa.  The prices on brown sugar, flours, and other groceries are substantially lower than you may be used to, and they offer produce, some frozen items, and a wonderful cheese case where you can sample before you buy.  My grandkids love that!

And, yes, that is a buggy hanging over the cheese case.  The store also features a wonderful collection of kiddie cars and wagons on display in various locations throughout the store.

Another favorite for most shoppers is the candy aisle.  They have hard candies, mints, chocolates, caramels, candy bars, and candy supplies for those who want to make their own concoctions.  You’ll experience a sugar high just walking through this candy utopia!  You name it….they have it!

Excuse me while I pop a chocolate truffle in my mouth!

Did I mention ice cream?  I don’t know about you, but I eat ice cream all year long.  Why do some ice cream shops close in the winter time?  I have never been able to figure that one out.  But not at E & S.  They believe in the “ice cream all year long” philosophy!  My kind of people.  It’s yummy and again, you won’t believe the prices.
All.  Year.  Long.

E & S Sales is located right on State Road 5 on the east side of the road as you are heading north into Shipshewana.  You can’t miss the sign and the large parking lot (which welcomes buses too, by the way.)

So for those of you who are committed to eliminating bulk from your life, I certainly want to encourage you in that endeavor.  I leave you with some wonderful pictures of things you can buy in bulk, save some money, and achieve your worthy goal.

These things are yummy too!

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  • Jan 19

by Rene Hostetler

I have to confess.  I have a pet peeve about people who go out in public in their pajama pants….even sweatpants.  Yoga pants are good, but sweatpants?  Eeeekkk!  Especially men…in sweat pants…in public.
Oh my!

I apologize to any of you who in the past (or yesterday) may have needed to make a quick run to the store to pick up something.  I’m sorry, but I just don’t understand why people don’t take the two minutes it takes to slip on some jeans so you don’t look like you just got out of bed.

I admit, there are some people who do this really well.  I mean, it certainly must be okay to shop in your pajamas if you have a really great bag on your arm and a coat that matches your slippers, right?

There is one and only one time that I believe it’s entirely appropriate to shop in your pajamas.  In fact, it’s a lot of fun, and you can get some really good deals if you do show up in your pajamas.  And that is, of course, the annual Pajama Sale in Shipshewana.  My daughter and I started making this an annual “must do” many years ago and soon we included her daughter, my grand-daughter as well.  Part of the fun is always finding the perfect matching pajamas and then anticipating getting up in the dark to arrive just in time to capture the best deals.  Eventually we got smart and realized the best strategy was to stay in town at our favorite Shipshewana hotel making it an annual “Girl’s Night Out” event we all looked forward to.

The discounts are oh so worth the loss of sleep and cold temperatures (I don’t recommend slippers!) and appearing in public without makeup or perfect hair.  It’s really kind of liberating every once in a while to be accepted in public without all the “requirements.” And, yes, I do include shopping in pajamas!

This year the Annual Shipshewana Pajama Day Sale is February 7th and most of the stores open at 6am.  There are a few that open even earlier!  Look for great giveaways and drawings…and bargains.  Did I mention bargains?

So make a list, bring your friends and get some warm, fuzzy pjs to remind you later of a fun event you can enjoy every year on the first Saturday in February.

Embrace the cold. Chase away the winter blahs, but maybe don’t show up like this person….for so many reasons!

Are those some hairy legs…
or what?

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  • Jan 14

Shipshewana….Where Moments Turn Into Memories

Enter this gate to warm thoughts!

Remember the crossroad of beauty!

Hang out for a while and bloom in the sunshine!

Remember the world as a colorful place!

Take the path to simple beauty!

Don’t forget!

Appreciate the winter sunshine, but don’t forget that color and warmth will return soon!

Let these photos remind you of what is soon to be again, and encourage you to add a little color to your day!

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  • Jan 8
  • Posted on Thursday, January 8th, 2015
  • by rene_h in
  • Uncategorized

Happy New Year to all of our Shipshewana friends!

The holidays zip by every year, and every year after the dust settles and the green and red is put away, we are left with the same question.

Now what?

For most, it’s more of the same.  We keep moving forward…or we just keep moving!

For some of us though it’s a time to shake things up a bit and make a new plan…kind of a mulligan or do-over.  (No, I am not a golfer!  I just like that word!)  The new year is an opportunity to fix some things and some people call that “making resolutions.”  And that’s all well and good, but the truth is that most people fail at their New Year’s resolutions and they usually fail within the first week.  So here we are with the first week of the new year under our belts.  How’s that going for you?  Did you set yourself up to be disappointed in yourself for the entire year!

Why do people fail at their resolutions?  I thought you’d never ask!

They fail because they don’t include in their plan the steps they need to achieve their resolutions.  Those steps are called goals.  Goals are achievable especially if you are realistic as you set them up.  For instance; I, like the majority of women reading this post, would like to loose some weight in 2015.  I have a specific number in mind, but I have given myself the achievable goal of loosing just 3 pounds, and I have a realistic way of doing that through a 7 minute work out and eliminating sugar from my diet.  Ok, so the 7 minute workout took me 30 minutes the first time I did it, but every day I do it I congratulate myself because I’m getting better every day.  And the ache in my muscles is a good ache reminding me that I am being proactive toward my goal.  And, yes, you can eliminate sugar from your diet as long as you are allowed one piece of chocolate every day.  Just one!

What “goals” might you have for the new year?

I am also wanting to find bargains this year.  Well, that would be every year because that is part of my DNA.  And the hunt keeps me moving so that can be part of my exercise plan, right?

How about  spending more time with friends.  Small goals, right?  So make a date.  Find some event to attend.  I have a few ideas for you.

Coming up on the first weekend in February is the annual Pajama Day Sale in Shipshewana.  This is something you and your friends will laugh about for years to come.  Buy matching PJs and book a hotel room.  Get up really early and tromp around in the snow to find some amazing bargains.  You could accomplish three goals all at the same time!  Check out the details here!  Believe me, it’s a lot of fun!

If you are not into shopping in your pajamas before the sun makes an appearance,  find a show to go to at the Blue Gate Theater.  They offer comedians, country singers, and everything in between.  Just click the link to find one that suits you and your friend.

Today the weather is keeping us all indoors, and that is a good and safe choice.  But don’t forget your goals for the new year.  It kind of boils down to two things:  make some achievable goals and then celebrate every single one you achieve…with a friend!

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  • Dec 19

by Rene Hostetler

I just wrapped my last present and with lovely Christmas music streaming in the background, I can’t help but wonder why we do a lot of the things we do during the last month of every year.  For a lot of people this is one of the most stressful times of the year for so many reasons.   I’m hoping that’s not true for you, but I do understand.  It’s stressful financially, emotionally and physically.  The question is…is it worth it all?

For those of you who are still shopping and stressing over what to get Uncle Ralph or Grandma, here’s a simple idea to…well, simplify the whole process.  Think of gifts that will appeal to your recipient’s five senses.  Give them something soft to touch like a cozy throw or afghan.  Include some great music on a CD or tickets to a concert.  Tantalize their taste buds with some fruit or nuts.  Your gift will go on giving if it’s a beautiful piece of art or photograph for them to look at every day.  And an aromatic candle will remind them of your thoughtfulness and care.   Give all five or narrow it down to just one, but a gift that appeals to the senses somehow evokes more emotion and a lasting memory of the event for which it was given.

So, why all this gift giving at the end of the year?  Some would blame it on materialism and consumerism and greed, and I admit this season is a test of my own desire to do more and have more.  The simple answer is that it is time to show appreciation and love at the end of the year.  And that is always a very good reason.

And, of course, for those of us who believe in him, it is a time to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the One who came to change the world.  And even if you don’t believe in him, you have to admit…he changed the world!

It has always seemed strange to me that we are celebrating his birthday, and we get all the gifts!  But that’s kind of how it was from right from the beginning.
Because of him we get the Gift! And then it gets personal.  He changes my world!

Christmas is about love.   God’s love for us. Our love for each other.
Oh, yes…now that’s something to celebrate!

Merry Christmas to you all!

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  • Dec 9

by Rene Hostetler

Every year I have a new resolve when it comes to Christmas shopping, and every year I seem to slip right back into my old habits.  My resolve is always based on avoidance…avoiding the crowds, avoiding materialism, avoiding the frenzy, avoiding breaking my budget!  So, really, avoidance, in this case is a good thing!  I slip back into my old shopping habits because of my lack of a plan.  But some years there is a plan and when it works, it works really well.

One year my family decided that instead of buying presents for each other we would get away somewhere together for a Christmas weekend.  We agreed that we really don’t remember the gifts we receive from one year to another, but we would remember a fun family weekend.  We reserved a couple of rooms at The Farmstead Inn in Shipshewana and with the pool, hot tub, game room and activities we brought, we had a great time and obviously, I still remember it!  Another year we went bigger and spent it at one of those large indoor water park resorts.  I have an ornament hanging on my Christmas tree from that weekend, and I’m smiling just thinking about the fun we had.

Now that my family lives farther away it’s not as possible for all of us to get together like that.  I wish we could.  So, now the search is on every year trying to find that perfect gift for each and every one of them.  It can get exhausting, can’t it?

So… what’s the plan?

This year I started early and tried to find things a little out of the ordinary.  The best way to find things out of the ordinary is to shop at local shops.  I’m a  bit of a rebel, I guess. If the media tells me what the “gift of the year” is, I will avoid it like the plague.  There’s that avoidance issue again!  If you are struggling with your search for that unique gift this year, check out your local antique store, and buy someone a piece of the past.

My husband is a photographer.  I’m getting him an antique camera he actually picked out last summer when we were strolling through an antique gallery.  Shhhh…don’t tell him, ok?   It’s our little secret!

I also love to shop Shipshewana at Christmas time.  It’s not as crowded as the mall. There’s tremendous variety.  I can find multiple items all in one location.  The festive decorations around town help put me in the mood, and I’m helping out the local economy!  It’s about taking the stress out of shopping and putting the fun in!  I’m a believer!  Shopping is fun!

So, as you are searching for all those special gifts for the precious people in your life,  just remember my strategy…


Happy shopping!

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  • Dec 2

by Rene Hostetler

I have two confessions.  I’m coming clean right up front.   The first one is that the express purpose of this post is to convince you to abandon any ideas you might have about maintaining your weight over the next month.  Yes, that’s right.  I am going to tempt you to indulge!  Or at least give you a reason to do so!

The second confession has to do with my own inability to create the perfect pie.  I have long known it should not be me who volunteers to bring the pies to any holiday family dinner.  This year my sister-in-law brought the pies for Thanksgiving dinner, and no, they were not perfect, but they were far better than any I could have produced.  I am not sure where my deficiency lies, but my crusts are not flaky (even when I draft the Pillsbury Dough Boy onto my team!), my fillings do not set, and I usually use way too much whipped cream (is that even possible?) and, yes, it comes out of a can!  I do not do pie!

So…what do I do when I have no one else to assign this task to?  You guessed it!  I buy pie! What is kind of humorous about this is the fact that I’m really picky about where I buy my pie.  Even though I do not have the ability to produce the perfect pie, if I am going to have to pay for pie?  It has to be perfect!

The fortunate piece of news in all this is that I live in an area where perfect pie is produced daily.  I live in an area where other people travel long distances to come to in order to fulfill their quest for pie!  And they box it up, take it home, freeze it for posterity, and some even sell it for prosperity!  Really!

My mouth is watering right now just thinking about the many bakeries, restaurants and shops in Shipshewana that offer us the opportunity to indulge.  And here’s the kicker!  They do this all year round!  Not just for the holidays!  You can buy a perfect pie right smack dab in the middle of summer or in the bleakest, gray day of March.   They also offer other “indulgences” like cookies, candies, cinnamon rolls (if you’ve ever had one of those, you’d know why my mouth is watering), and fruit cakes.   I’ve never been a big fan of fruit cake, but I’ve heard the fruit cake from The Neighbor Next Door Bakery is unlike any fruit cake you’ve ever had.  I might just have to try it this year!

And now that I’ve gotten your attention here’s a link to help you on your own quest for the perfect pie… for the holidays or any time!  Click here to find pie!

I only have one question…what is a “sugar plum” anyway?

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