Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

At Home Living: Gardening in Harmony with Nature

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

At Home Living: Gardening in Harmony with Nature

Article excerpt

Ranae Cushing and her husband, T.J. Ciaffone, love nature and have created an oasis for themselves, as well as for butterflies, bees and birds. "We wanted to give it a country-garden feel. Cushing said. "We wanted it to be aesthetically pleasing and support nature."

Beds of flowers and plants scattered around the yard give it a sense of peace and beauty. "On Sunday mornings it's just wonderful to sit on the back porch and have a vision to focus on," said Ciaffone. They designed their yard so that it would need minimum maintenance and require minimum water. "We have no-mow zones," Ciaffone said. "We took problem areas and made them into gardens so we wouldn't have to mow."

Beside many flower gardens, they also planted a vegetable garden that includes soybeans, cucumbers, kale, Swiss chard, tomatoes, bell peppers, lettuce and beans. To save vegetables through the winter, Cushing said, "I freeze everything, make V-8 juice and salsa." Ciaffone pointed out a row of spearmint that he called, "our Mojito garden."

They have four plants of stevia. When it flowers, Cushing harvests it, puts it upside down to dry, then strips off the leaves. After pulverizing it by hand, she puts it in a big sieve to have powdered stevia. She uses it as a sweetener.

They have a large mulberry tree and use mulberries to make jam and smoothies. They also have an apple tree. "It is dog heaven with the apples and mulberries," Cushing said. "One of our dogs turns into a purple dog because he rolls around in the mulberries on the ground and loves to eat them."

"I love to grow herbs," Cushing said. She grows herbs to use medicinally as well as to use in her kitchen. She has rose geraniums that can be made into rose geranium oil to use as a facial toner or oil.

Speaking about her Echinacea plants, she said, "If I need it, I could harvest it for medicinal purposes." She uses the root, so harvesting it would kill the plant. …

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