Monday, May 31, 2010

Aphid Death

Since we bought our house two years ago, I have attempted to make all of my gardening organic, natural and sustainable and have had mixed results on all fronts. To be honest, I have never really tried using chemicals or pesticides on plants so I have no real experience with how much better or worse my natural and/or organic methods are than conventional gardening, only which natural/organic methods work and which do not. For all I know, I am battling Goliaths that agri-farming hasn't seen in decades. If so, I can only hope that my heirloom, pesticide free fruits & veggies taste better and help me live longer, and that all this isn't in vain!
    Anyway, in addition to my herb, fruit & veggie garden, we have a full yard of all sorts of plants leftover from the previous owner. My favorite is the towering magnolia tree who I am most impressed by after seeing the FEMA records on our home and knowing that she was quite a few feet under salt water on at least a dozen occasions and yet she keeps on plugging on strong. A close second in my romantic Southern fantasy garden (I dream it will look like the gardens in Charleston one day and I have desperately planted a half dozen hydrangeas out my back steps in the hopes that they will one day cascade heady blooms over the rail of my porch... the sandy soil and extreme heat have succeeded in keeping them only about a foot high and two feet wide for two years... a girl can dream, can't she?) are the two fabulous gardenias that flank my raised bed garden. But, the bane of my existence, are the aphids who frequent said gardenias like they are a biker bar serving free liquor. Last year I spent the entire summer (and it's a long one in Florida) spraying both plants daily with a diluted mixture of dish soap & water and the results were minimal to say the least. This year, while wandering around Lowe's on a paint color scouting trip, I saw that Ortho (the usual pesticide folks) also had an EcoSense line and that they touted their Insceticidal Soap as able to stop aphids in their tracks.
    On May 12th, I started an experiment to see which was better: my dishwashing mix or the insecticidal soap. Was this $5 spray bottle full of nothing more than what I was mixing up myself at home? Or was there a secret to what made the little buggers fly away and never return that I hadn't mastered yet? Anyway, I was going to spray one bush with insecticidal soap and one with my dishwashing mix (I didn't have a control... my apologies, it's a small garden) and see who did the best after two weeks. My experiment stopped after Day Two, the insecticidal soap won. Hands down. No contest, no second judge... my dishwashing mix was a pitiful pop-gun compared to the bazooka of the insecticidal soap.
Now, I know $5 a bottle is pricey (and I hate that there weren't any refills available at my store or even online it seems) so the waste potential is enormous. I have two good size (4ft wide x 4 ft tall) gardenia bushes and I generously coated them on the top and bottom of EVERY leaf until the tree was pretty much dripping with soap. The one bottle, with this level of coverage for two bushes, only lasted me one use. Thankfully, the aphids stayed away for nearly a week before I had to use a second bottle to try again. That lasted just as long, but then my husband did some overzealous pruning and cut both gardenias way back and the aphids haven't returned, so I'm not sure if the weather changed somehow to run them off or if the pruning cut back on their numbers. Either way, I am happy!
    Previously, with my dishwashing soap solution, I would spray the tree off with water (to disturb the aphids and encourage a lot of them to fly away) and then coat each leaf just as thoroughly with the soap solution. The next day the aphids would be much fewer (as you can see from the first photo of the gardenia above, the plant was just lousy with them. They would rise in great plumes when you rustled the leaves and even took off and started eating my tomato plants, which I didn't even know they liked!) But there was never a real elimination of the aphids, just a decrease in their general numbers. I got so angry toward the end of the summer and I was so ruthless toward the little buggers, my husband started to make fun of me (hence the title, "Aphid Death," though I still maintain that would make a great band name for the right group...). The next day after spraying the insecticidal soap, the aphids were gone. Not one little flying creature for an entire week!
    Overall, I give it 3 stars out of 5. Now, I can't in good conscience give this product too many stars because #1. The packaging is so small (even for a spray bottle, it's a small spray bottle) and doesn't appear to have refill available to reuse the bottle; #2. Though the company statement says:
“Formulated with specially selected active ingredients, Ortho® EcoSense™ Brand* offers sensible effective solutions for insect control, plant disease and rose care. Kill bugs and control disease to help flowers, vegetables and roses thrive.”
I feel like (and perhaps it is just the environmental skeptic in me) that this product can't be 100% natural when coming from Scotts/Ortho brand who makes their living on lush, chemical laden lawns at all costs (though, to be fair, I couldn't find any compelling evidence one way or the other that this branch of the company was actually "green." All the reviews I found were far more anecdotal than scientific). Otherwise, I love this product for the results I had. I was so frustrated by aphids and this completely eliminate my problem. Now, if your aphid infestation is not that bad, the dishwashing soap trick may work for you (two tablespoons liquid dish soap in a spray bottle and fill the rest with water) and save you a bundle of cash in the process. But for the length of my frustration, this product is currently well worth the money for me... now if I could just find it in a larger bottle...

Havin' a ball...

The thrill of victory...
Hopefully on this holiday weekend you are not only giving thanks for our veterans and their sacrifices, but you are also able to spend time with your friends & family and get a few projects done around the house. In light of that, today's posts (yes, post-S, multiple posts today... wow... feast or famine, right?) will be about spending time with your furry family (and hopfully the people kind too) and getting some work done in that long neglected garden before summer really kicks in.
     And without further adieu, the Romp-n-Roll review! We picked up this little beauty at our always fabulous, 3 Dogs and a Chick, based on rave reviews from the staff there. We chose the 6" ball (though the other sizes were available as well) because we thought the weight was probably the largest that Sadie, our smallest dog (about 40 lbs) could successfully swing around and fling by the rope on her own while playing. Though the ball comes in Red, Blue, Baby Blue or Pink the pink and baby blue balls are scented (bubblegum and blueberry, respectively) and the novelty of that was just too appealing for me not to get one of those. We chose hot pink because we figured (color blind as they may be?) that the color would be easier to see against the water when we tossed it out good & far.
   Jolly Pets, I'm sorry to say, does not appear to have any organic, sustainable or green commitments in their company's mission but they do claim to place a great deal of pride in the quality and durability of their products, and they all come with a manufactures guarantee. They also make toys for horses (which I love) and zoo pets (mixed feelings... hate that the animals are in the zoo, but happy that someone is making quality toys for them to play with if they are already there) and apparently horse products is where they got their start, so they have a long history of making durable items.
As you can see, Dad got in on the tug-o-war fun as well...

    To be honest, we haven't tried this toy indoors yet because it went to the beach the same day we bought it. We hung it outdoors to dry afterwards and it has gotten soaked in a thunderstorm everyday since so we haven't been able to bring it inside while it was dry yet. I imagine, based on outside play, it will be your average tug-o-war rope toy on dry land.
     In the water, this toy is awesome! Extremely buoyant, easy to throw (I felt like a medieval warrior with a mace every time I would swing it around my head to give it a really good chuck out into the sound!) and the dogs loved it! This one stayed buoyant, even when pawed down underwater, and the size (for better or worse) just fit in the mouths of my medium sized dogs. More so than the "Zisc", which is pretty much meant for one dog to play with at a time even if they all have fun chasing it, the Romp-n-Roll allowed all the dogs to hold on to the toy and even play with one another more as they tried to steal it away from one another before bringing it back.
After our beach session, the ball was in great shape, but it did have some pretty serious teethmark dents on it, but they did not appear to take away from the structural integrity of the toy. The rope was in perfect condition after all the tugging as well. Overall, I would give the Romp-n-Roll 3 stars out of 5. The dogs loved the toy (but really, they are generally easy to please! ;P) and I liked that they could use it to play with each other as well as with us. Its water performance was the best I have seen yet as far as visibility and floatation were concerned. I disliked that the company doesn't have any sort of green/sustainable mission or efforts (at least not that they publicize) and that the ball had dents after one use (I don't think they will hurt the toy long term, but you can tell it has been "used" for sure). Lastly, the cotton rope on the toy, though of good quality, retains a lot of water and having to leave it outside to dry makes it hard for the toy to transition from outdoor to indoor use.
    Hope you all found this helpful, and as always, enjoyed the photos of the "live testers" in action!
Ladies and Gents, No Photoshopping here, this is actually what
Scout's face looks like when he shakes off! Makes me laugh...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hump Day Happiness

I found an amazing chocolate bar at Fresh Market last week and may have fallen in love... it is not your "everyday of the week" kind of chocolate, but for a decidedly indulgent afternoon treat (especially in the bathtub with a glass of wine and a stack of magazines) this one is my new favorite...

    I gave a bite to a friend and he said it tasted "like a cup of tea" but I think that was all of the orange flavour and spices that tickle your tongue... Really, it is amazing, it is organic... who could want for anything more? Hehehe...
    And though, I promise to avoid politics as much as possible on this blog, I did want to share this op-ed article with you all because of how much I love the author's conclusion... I don't know if we have to be paranoid about letting our children out to play in the public places of the world but how much better would it be for the entire family if we were out there playing with them?
"Sure, it would be nice to uncage New York's children so they can feel the ecstasy of free play. But it's no less fun if we watch over them. In fact, it might be more fun. Tag, you're it."
Enjoy tingling your tastebuds and engaging your mind... Happy Wednesday!
Photos courtesy of

Sunday, May 23, 2010


“Not what we say about our blessings,
but how we use them, is the true
measure of our thanksgiving.”
~W. T. Purkiser

I wanted to post today, but life has gotten away from me, and I must admit, I can't even genuinely apologize for it because I have so enjoyed my life this weekend... here are a few photos that made me smile today that remind me of all of my blessings... May you enjoy yours this Sunday as well...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hump Day Happiness

This past Friday night we attended The Hangout Beach, Music & Arts festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Though we got there a little late to enjoy the entire festival (those darn jobs holding us back from our weekends! ;P) we did catch the Zac Brown Band who had a real New Orleans jazz band on stage with them the whole night. I've always been fascinated by the power of live jazz, especially the improtu nature that creates so much of the music. Morbid as it may sound, I've always wanted to have a full New Orleans jazz band and a gospel choir to sing at my funeral, whenever that day may come! :) "Oh, When the Saints... Go Marching in.."

But I digress... the jazz band made my night and they played all the way out of the concert that night so I was able to catch these shots of them as they headed out. I have a special love for New Orleans (this past Mardi Gras I would get up early every morning and walk Bourbon Street for miles to photograph in the morning sunlight while everyone else slept off their Hurricanes until noon...) but the without the jazz, the Big Easy just wouldn't be the same. This Hump Day's Happiness is the music of the New Orleans jazz bands... download a bit onto your iPod (or whatever you have... buy a record, make a mixtape, etc.) and let yourself slip into the sunny South for awhile... I can almost taste the beignets now...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Life is Good Today...

     This morning I got up to go paddle-boarding with some friends but I couldn't find them at the beach so I decided to come home and take the dogs to the ocean instead. It was a gorgeous day out and the dogs were so excited when I told them to get in the back of the truck that our third pup took off down the road and took herself to the beach on her own!
     Our youngest dog, Scout, is a little obsessive about always carrying around a Frisbee in his mouth. His "outside Frisbee" is so dirty from playing fetch in the backyard that we won't let it come in the house anymore but he pitches a fit when he has to come in without it. I was at a local doggie boutique the other day and saw this soft, durable Frisbee and thought it would make the perfect "house Frisbee" for our obsessive little canine. The company engineers all of their toys out of "Zogoflex®," an extremely flexible material that is designed to be recyclable and to create virtually no waste during their manufacturing process, plus it is completely latex-free, a huge bonus for latex-sensitive owners and pets!
Even better if you have dogs that are even a little tough on toys, the company guarantees that toys made of Zogoflex material will last a lifetime or you get your choice of get your choice of a free replacement or your money back and the toy gets recycled! (West Paw Design Guarantee) At $13 a pop for these sucka's, a guarantee that you will never have to buy another one is pretty perfect!!
Okay, now for the review! As an indoor toy, this Frisbee is great! As long as you don't wing it too hard, you can throw it in the house without too much worry about knocking anything over. When it hits the walls/doors/furniture is is so flexible that it never does any damage and doesn't even leave a mark. The flexibility also helps the dogs pick it up because they can use their paws to bend it and get it in their mouths easier so no more loud scraping noises and frustrated barking as the pups nose a Frisbee along the floor for ten minutes trying to pick it up!
As an outdoor toy, the "Zisc" was touted for its ability to float so the first thing I wanted to try was to see if it would stay on top of the water. Good news and bad, the "Zisc" floats but if a pup runs into it the Frisbee sinks about six inches below the surface and takes awhile to come back to the top. This was a problem for the dogs in the beginning as none of them wanted to put their face underwater (apparently no one ever taught my pups to hold their breath... whoops!) and they kept abandoning the toy in deep water because they couldn't pick it up (and then I had to swim out to retrieve it!) But after a few tries, the dogs figured out how to hold their breath (Scout blowing bubbles underwater from his little snout was priceless!) and had a ton of fun with it. Plus, the bright color really helped them to see it when it was far out into the sound. When we used regular plastic Frisbees out in the sun, eventually the weather and sun damage would make them brittle and they would always break in the dogs mouths and I was afraid that they would swallow one of the pieces. 
     Overall, I would definitely recommend the Zogoflex "Zisc" but I would probably only give it 4 stars out of 5. I love the sustainability of the company, the flexibility of the product and how much the dogs love it. I wish it floated a little bit better and the price tag is still high, even if it does come with a money-back guarantee. I am especially happy with my purchase because I was able to support Nicole, the owner of "Three Dogs and A Chick," and local businesses!

As these tired pups will tell you, life is good today...
Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hump Day Happiness

     Wednesday is upon us, "Hump Day" as we always called it in college, and to celebrate being halfway through the week I have decided to begin a tradition (we shall see how long she shall wave!) of sharing something that has made me happy this week and hopefully will do the same for you... a bit of mid-week indulgence, like lighting taper candles for a Monday supper or eating an entire red velvet cupcake in one sitting... or two cupcakes... with that delicious cream cheese frosting... Mmmmm... smile...
     So this week, our debut is... drumroll please... silk pajamas! I spent all day Tuesday home with my husband wearing only silk pajamas (I didn't even sleep in them... I got up, showered and then consciously chose to dress in pajamas for the rest of the day...) from sunrise til bed. Delightful. They are warm when you are chilly, cool when you are hot, and they make you feel divine, etheral and decadent as you float around the house, whether you are doing dishes or picking out paint colors for your bathroom. My pajamas are covered in giant hibicuis flowers in a variety of shades of sunset and were a splurge after a college breakup, but here are a few that I thought you might love and appreciate in your life...

A fair trade option with a chic Asian inspired top... you could totally have friends over and still wear these...

This camisole top and bottom set is so pretty I may need to put this on my own wishlist for the future! I love the edging that looks like rose petals... sexy and adorable... score!

Pretty Plum Sugar
Gorgeous pajama sets and robes from a favorite Etsy seller... makes me want candlelight baths, hot tea & time to journal... simply divine...

And because moderation is key in all things, even indulgence, here is a significantly less expensive option in satin from Victorias Secret... it is neither fair trade nor organic, but if you reduce your footprint elsewhere you can still splurge a little and share in the experience... Enjoy!

Photo (Header) from

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Thank you for joining us at High Cotton Home! This blog celebrates “the good life” that we find in everyday living. A natural life lived in moderation celebrates happiness and the good things of this world and this blog seeks to do the same. Today, our “debutante” enters the world to share with you tips, tools and things to make you smile about building a home, raising a pack & celebrating the love found in a healthy life well lived. Please check out our “About Me” for more information on why we have embarked on this journey and thank you so much for joining us as we set sail! Bon Voyage!

Photo by Renae Sykes of Magical Moments by Renae

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