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I’ve been absent from the blog for several months because I’ve been immersed in a genealogical/clerical project of massive proportions.

I’ve been researching our families since about 1989. A genealogy hobby or vocation can really bring out your inner “hoarder” just by virtue of the fact that you have to document your sources. You’ll more than likely encounter records that you think might be your person of interest, but you can’t tell for sure. I don’t know about you, but I print out and save all that stuff, for further research.

Over the years, my collection of documentation grew. When I moved to Richmond 20 years ago, I had two file boxes. Now I have five. My filing system back then was to create a file folder for each marriage that had documentation. If the marriage produced children who didn’t live to adulthood, those documents stayed in that folder. If the children had their own marriages, they got new folders and their documents went into it. If the children reached adulthood but never married, they got their own folder. It worked well for a long time. (Obviously, I didn’t make folders until I had something to file in them.)

But this system just wasn’t sustainable. I looked at those five file boxes and I imagined them expanding to 8 or 10. Yikes! And the stack of filing I needed to do reached at least 2.5 feet. I wish I’d taken the photo when it was at its highest, but I’ve indicated about where it was and I’m not exaggerating.

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And on top of all this filing, I also had piles of papers and more folders sitting on the floor around this, my sewing room, of research in progress. Another unsustainable/unscalable system. I had a folder for each ancestral surname, which was better than nothing, but if you’ve done genealogical research before, you know that the number of direct ancestors increases exponentially with each generation.

In the olden days, a researcher probably relied on 5-drawer office filing cabinets. I would have easily run out of room for those. As it was, my husband shared this space with me as his office when the kids were still living at home. After they left, I quickly pushed him into one of the spare bedrooms and took over.

So I needed a solution and quick! I decided the only sane system for me was to digitize everything and recycle the paper documents. But I needed to make another decision: where to house the scans and how to find stuff later. A blogpost by Dick Eastman gave me my answer. He told about a hardware/software bundle and I bought it. It still took me a long time to decide between the Paperless software and Evernote.

I chose Evernote. I am not going to go into an in-depth review of this product, it’s been around long enough that you’ve probably at least heard of it, if not already familiar with it.

With the Fujitsu Scan Snap 1300i, I can scan directly to Evernote as a PDF document, or to Evernote or local folder on my MacBook Air as a jpeg. I use PDFs for documents, jpegs for photos. The scanner isn’t the fastest in the world, especially when I set it to convert the PDFs to searchable text. I get about 4 pages per minute that way. I also have it set for duplex scanning, meaning it will scan the front and back of the paper at the same time. If the back is blank, it discards it. That’s quite a time-saver! I also have it set to name each file with a date and time stamp. I can go back and rename them later, but not having to worry about it during scanning is also a huge time-saver!

Evernote allows you to set up notebooks to house your documents (aka notes). I have one called Inbox, which is where almost all my documents go straight from the scanner. If I have a gigantic stack of papers that would all go in the same notebook, I can set that one as the default, and the scanner targets it. Once the documents are scanned, I go through them one-by-one, tag them with the who-what-where and move them to a notebook I called Genealogy, which is just a big dump of documents that I’m finished with. I decided that rather than create tags with names, I’d use tags with the people’s ID numbers from my genealogy software, The Master Genealogist (that’s the “who”). If I want, I can rename the note with the person’s name. But with so many duplicate names in my family tree, I figured it would be hard to differentiate one from the other in a tag. But the ID numbers are unique and there’s always the searchable text! I also tag the type of document (the “what”), and the “where.” I haven’t been as good to tag the “where” as I probably should, but I can always go back and add tags later. And I decided against using date tags. I also tag each document with the surnames of the closest ancestors that I have in common with the subject of the document. For example, if the nearest closest ancestor pair that we share is my grandparents (it doesn’t matter if that pair are their grandparents too or any other generation) then I tag that document with “Hoff” and “Schmieder.” This is probably the hardest thing for me to describe, but it works for me.

The only thing about Evernote that I would put on a wishlist, is the ability to nest notebooks at least one more layer deep. I had to come up with a system for all that research-in-progress. So I created what Evernote calls a “stack” and named it Ongoing Research. Then I created a surname notebook for each of my ancestors and put those documents where they belong. It would be great if I could have one more level of notebooks in the hierarchy that I could name for specific people, just to organize the surname notebooks a little better. I suppose had I thought it out, I could have lots of surname stacks at the highest level and then put the specific person’s notebook below that. Something to think about for future.

I’ve been scanning for the last 6-9 months. I have over 6,700 notes and I should mention that I do pay for Evernote so that I have additional storage with them. All the piles of paper on the floor are gone. That pile of filing is gone. All I have left are the file folders in those 5 boxes plus another file of correspondence. I figure I should be done by Christmas.

 

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Wow, it’s been almost a year since I posted about my attempt at propagating hydrangeas from cuttings. You’ve surely forgotten, so here’s a reminder: Grand Experiment, garden style.

I took 12 cuttings. Over the course of the year, I nursed them in the plastic box in my Florida room. Nursing is a relative term as all I had to do was water them a little every week or two. I ended up with 6 viable plants. I had labeled them with a pencil and they are unreadable. I think most or all of them are the Nikko Blue variety, now I am going to have to wait until they bloom (fingers-crossed) to confirm. Note to self, don’t use a pencil for the labels. Try a Sharpie next time. The labels are saturated and maybe if they dry out, the wording will reappear. We’ll see.

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These first two came from my friend’s garden. She has several different varieties and I remember wanting to take cuttings from her white Annabelles (is that the name?) but as I recall, either I couldn’t reach them or the ground was too wet, or something. I think I ended up getting Nikko Blues from her, too.

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The remaining 4 came from my plants. I thought I had lost the little one on the right just above, but after the original leaves fell off, it sprouted again. So I went ahead and potted it up with the others, it will just have to be the runt of the litter.

So, I’m pleased that we’ve gotten this far. One of the reasons I dragged my feet about potting them up last fall after they’d taken root, was I couldn’t find instructions on the internet about what to do next. I don’t really have a place to plant them in the ground yet (and I may just give them away) and I didn’t want them to sit outside in pots over the winter. I still have that cat and there’s no way I could keep the pots inside the house.

So I’ve placed all six of these in terra cotta pots so that they won’t easily tip over and placed them in the garden next to a Nikko Blue that is planted in the ground and doing well. I figure if the conditions are right for it, they should be good for these guys, too.

So my plastic box is empty, it’s time to do it again. This time, I’ll try for those Annabelles and some Oak Leafs.

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Lewis Ginter Conservatory Watercolor

 

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After we bought a Vitamix blender, we started making daily smoothies. The recipe book included contains a recipe for a tropical fruit smoothie and that’s the one I like. It uses oranges, bananas, pineapples, and spinach.

An issue I struggled with was the fruit and spinach going bad if I didn’t use it in time or especially when I had leftover spinach which was every time. I like spinach, but we don’t eat many salads around here and I was always throwing away yucky spinach. I don’t like wasting food or money.

So I decided to freeze it and that solved my problem. Except that it introduced a new one: I use zip top freezer bags and they’d get so much fruit juice on the outside from me wrangling the bags open with juicy fingers to get the fruit inside. The bags won’t stand up by themselves when they’re empty.

So we were at Sur la Table the other week and I saw these on the clearance table. They had enough (I need 3 or 4 for a batch of fruit) and they were cheap so I bought them. They work great!

 

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The arms are adjustable and they hold the bags open.

Here’s a link to them on Amazon:

Baggy Rack

Here’s the recipe as I make it:

One batch yields about two 16-oz glasses (give or take depending on the size of the fruit), so I drink one and save the rest in a container for the next day. Since the pineapple yields about 4 generous slices, this gives me 4 batches and I use two per week. And if you are using fruit that you’ve frozen, it needs to be at least partially thawed or the blender will have a tough time.

4 navel oranges

1 fresh pineapple

4 ripe bananas

1 bag baby spinach

Agave syrup, light or dark (use your sweetener of choice)

1 cup water if the fruit has been frozen or 1 cup ice cubes if fresh

Peel the oranges and bananas. You can cut them up but I generally leave the orange whole and break the banana in half to fit inside the bag. Cut the top and bottom off the pineapple, cut into 4 generous (about 1 inch) slices and cut off the outside rind or whatever it’s called (or cut off the rind first and then into slices) and then cut each slice into quarters so that they’re easier to handle. Throw one orange, one banana, four pineapple quarters and a hearty handful of spinach into a bag to freeze for later or into the blender to drink now. If straight-to-blender, add one cup ice cubes. If you’re blending thawed fruit, add one cup cold water.  Once the fruit is in the blender, add the sweetener. I use 4 swirls of the agave syrup. Blend on high for a good 45 seconds. One nice thing about the Vitamix is the pusher can be used to push the fruit down toward the blades while it’s blending, especially helpful when the fruit is frozen.  (That whole orange can be pesky.)

I hope you’ll try this recipe whether you buy the Baggy Racks or not. A couple of my coworkers were making a smoothie that they called the green monster. I think it had kale in it rather than spinach. It looked awful to me but if you can get past the color, this one tastes great!

 

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Gosh, I haven’t posted in a long, long time. I’ve been spending a lot of time with my genealogy software, updating family lines and fixing sources. I’m paying the price now for being lazy in my inputting in the past. And that’s way too boring to talk about on the blog.

So, what have I been up to otherwise? I decided to try to grow hydrangeas from cuttings. I’ve been researching the how-to of this online, finding that most articles and videos follow the same process but there isn’t just one I can point to that answered all my questions. So the procedure I followed is kind of a mashup of several of them.

Supplies

Most of the how-tos I found advocate using a plastic bag to enclose your cuttings once planted, but they never say what kind of bag. Ziploc? grocery? produce? dry cleaners? The point is to create a greenhouse-like environment and I just couldn’t envision how any plastic bag I could come up with would be successful. Plus, I have a very curious cat. So when I found a video on the This Old House website that showed using a plastic container instead, I knew that would be my solution.

You can see in the photo above that I have two plastic containers. The smaller one is the first one I bought, thinking it would be deep enough for cuttings planted in a layer of potting soil. But once I actually cut the stems, I found that it wasn’t deep enough. Plus, I had saved a plastic multi-pot thingy from some plants I bought from the local nursery last year for this purpose and it was too big for the box. So I bought the other one which seemed too big but actually worked out quite well.

You’ll need some soil. I found many different ideas about what to use so I bought some organic potting soil. I think any basic soil would work or you could make your own with peat moss and perlite.

You’ll need rooting hormone powder, a pencil and pruning shears.

You’ll need a mister.

Supplies

And don’t forget labeling sticks.

Supplies

Ok, let’s go take some cuttings.

Select branches that didn’t have a flower this year. Not a problem at my house because none of my hydrangeas bloomed.

You’ll want a cutting that has a pair of leaves at the top. I don’t know how important it is, if at all, if they’re mature leaves because you’ll be cutting them in half anyway, but that’s what I looked for. Then count down two more leaf pairs and cut just above the leaf pair after that.

Do:

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Do not:

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You don’t want to leave a stump on your stem. So here’s one cutting fresh off the shrub. Note that the topmost leaf pair is probably big enough that that I could have made the cutting shorter by one leaf node (in hind-sight).

Hydrangea cutting

In one of the how-to videos I found the lady just stripped off the lower leaves by hand but all the rest showed people using pruning shears or scissors. The leaf nodes are where the new roots are going to sprout from, hopefully. I didn’t cut the leaves off flush with the stem, I aimed for about a quarter inch from the stem. I don’t know how important this is.

Where to trim cutting

You’re going to want to make a horizontal cut of the topmost leaves. This just leaves more room in your container. You don’t need the whole leaf. You can see that some of my cuttings are longer than others.

Hydrangea cuttings after trimming

Next step not shown, is to fill your pots with the soil and poke a hole for the cutting with the pencil.

Now, dip your cutting in water

Dip cutting in water

and then in the rooting powder. Shake off the excess. (Every how-to I found said not to dip directly into the powder container as it could spread disease. With the exception of one video where the lady just defied current wisdom and did it anyway. Or maybe she didn’t know any better. To be on the safe side, put some in a separate container where it won’t blow away if you’re doing this outside and discard the leftover powder, don’t put it back in the original container.)

Dip cutting in rooting hormone powder

Poke the cutting into the hole you made with the pencil and tamp down the soil around it.

Cuttings in pot

Label the cuttings with the variety if you know it or at least the color of the flowers, if you know that. You could also put the date you planted if you think that’s necessary. I just marked the date on my calendar.

Cuttings in pot with labels

Here are my cuttings in the bottom of the container. Not shown here, I went to a friend’s house later in the day and took some cuttings from her plants (hey, I was on a roll) but I had to buy little plastic pots for those. They fit perfectly in this container with the others.

Cuttings in plastic container

Before you put the top on, mist the soil generously around each cutting. Here is the finished greenhouse in my sun room. It’s got great light and the cat can’t get into it. My plan was to mist the cuttings every day, but after a few days there was still condensation on the container, so I decided I’d wait and only mist once a week, unless it dried out sooner.

Finished "greenhouse"

In 6 weeks I’ll test for roots by gently tugging on the cutting. If there’s resistance, there are roots and I’ll cheer for success! I don’t expect every one of them to make it, which is why I took so many cuttings. Increases my odds.

After that, I’ll repot them in a larger container and move them outside. I have to come up with a strategy for that step because we have squirrels that would delight in digging them all up. I’m thinking I’ll either buy a cold frame or get my husband to make one for me. That should protect the baby hydrangeas and they may be big enough by next spring to plant in the ground.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I still have that smaller plastic container and I may try looting my friend’s plants again (she has different varieties than I have) for shorter cuttings that only have one leaf node which would fit in the box better and I’ll see if the cuttings have to have two leaf nodes in the dirt to be successful or if one will suffice.

Watch this space for periodic updates!

 

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There were a number of things I would have liked to do in Cape May, like renting a bike and riding around town and hiking the nature trails by the lighthouse. Especially since Sunday’s weather turned out quite nice in contrast to Saturday’s. But part of my “plan” for the weekend included driving up to Allaire State Park and checking out Historic Allaire Village. A friend of mine talks a lot about dressing up in period clothes and joining the other re-enactors as a quilter. We have an historic village in our area, Henricus, and I thought Allaire might be similar and a nice photo op. And it would have been, except Allaire has a “no photography” policy inside the buildings. So I complied and restricted my photos to exterior shots.

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There was even a real wedding in the historic church. Apparently it’s a popular place for weddings.

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We decided when we left Cape May that we’d skip the Philadelphia portion of the trip because we wouldn’t get there in time to see the sights which closed at 5pm and I really didn’t have an after-5 plan. We didn’t want to spend another evening in a hotel without anything to do, although we would have been able to watch TV at the Courtyard:-)

So we drove on home, with a stop for dinner once we got into Virginia. Next time, we’ll drive up on Friday so that we can get an early start on activities on Saturday. I’m thinking we can do this in the spring/early summer because I’ve been wanting to see Longwood Gardens (about an hour outside of Philly) and Winterthur in Delaware.

 

 

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