Christmas KISS!

Make your Christmas season a KISS – keep it simple season.   You can keep Santa in the season with simple, low-stress ideas that keep your budget in the green.

Social and commercial pressures to buy, buy, buy from October through December seem to increase every year.  In a down economy, many people are down-sizing their Santa budget.

Here are our green tips for a KISS Christmas without Scrooge or Grinch side effects:

* When giving a gift for any occasion, take the time to consider the recipient and his or her needs and wants.  Gift-giving should come from the heart.  My motto is “If you feel like you must get me something, give me something because you want to  not because you are obligated or  have-to.”

* Buy local.  For every $100 you spend at a local store, approximately $68 stays in the community and supports local businesses – your friends, neighbors and family.

* Gift certificates to local restaurants, gyms, classes, clothing stores, jewelers are great examples.

* Support local artists, writers and craftsmen and crafters.  Arts and crafts fairs are fun to shop for local talent and bargains.

* Share your heritage and family history with heirloom gifts.  Include a short anecdote or story about why they are meaningful.

DIY Gifts
Simple, handmade gifts are often the most meaningful and memorable. Here are some of our favorites:

* Books are great for all ages.  Choose a book for a favorite child and record a CD of yourself reading it so he can follow along.  Great to develop reading skills.

* Create a family calendar with pictures of family members, gatherings and outings and special dates noted on the calendar.  Include contact information for distant relatives.

* Create an ornament that represents a special event or travel.

* Recipe book of family favorites.

* Framed recipe cards with favorite recipes from family members written in their handwriting.  Spills, spots and stains make them authentic.  We’ve done this with recipe cards from family members who have passed.

* Photo collage of the past year’s activities.

* T-shirt memory quilts, pillows or totes from those t-shirts you’ve collected through the years.

* Homemade Christmas treats – include the recipe.

* Time-share coupons – share your time to babysit, dog walk, fix a meal each week, do laundry, garden chores or the recipients least favorite cleaning chore.  Be creative.

* Transfer old photos to a CD.

* Each year my mother writes memories of her childhood for her children in a journal.  We return the journals to her at Thanksgiving, and she writes new stories each year as our Christmas gift.  It’s a treasured gift of her memories and penmanship.

* Seed packets or cuttings from plants in your garden

Gifts from the Heart

Give beyond your family and friends.  Consider making a contribution to help someone help him/herself.  These are just a few of many organizations that change lives that we’ve worked with:

* Heifer International

* American Red Cross

* Habitat for Humanity

Also consider your local Domestic Violence Shelter, Humane Society or other agencies that help people help themselves to an improved life.

More ideas at http://www.retroeco.net/.

 

Retro-Eco Tips for a Green Christmas!

Let Elvis have his blue Christmas; let Bing dream of his white one.  And forget black Friday!  Let’s celebrate a green Christmas without putting your budget in the red.

* Bring the outside in for eco-decorations.  Holly, evergreens and pinecones are seasonal favorites – and the pinecones make good fire starters for your fireplace or chiminea.  Check out www.moplants.com/ for more ideas.

* Get a live Christmas tree that you can plant in your landscape after the holidays.

* Enjoy a family outing to a Christmas tree farm to cut your own tree.

* For authentic Retro-Eco decorations, string popcorn and cranberry garlands to decorate your tree – also a great decoration for outdoor trees and a treat for the birds.

* After the season, many communities recycle or tree-cycle trees by chipping them for mulch or adding to lakes and ponds for fish habitat.  You can also leave your tree in your landscape as shelter for wildlife during winter months.

* Make your own tree decorations.

* Follow Santa’s advice: Make a list and check it twice (or more). Combine errands and shopping trips.  BTW – while shopping, remember your reusable shopping tote – it also makes a great green gift!  In fact, use a tote as a creative gift wrap.

* Consider need versus greed when buying gifts.  How much additional stuff do people really need?  Give people what they need or want instead of what you think they need or want.

* Be creative with wrapping.  Use brown or white craft paper and decorate with stickers, stencils, stamps, recycled Christmas cards or original artwork.

* Give works of heart.  Everyone has a talent – cooking,  painting, drawing, needlework, woodworking, stained glass or writing stories.  Share your talent!

* Support local artists.  Buy their works at local galleries and arts and crafts shows.

* Give heirloom gifts.  Christmas is a perfect time to pass along family treasures and heirlooms with stories of why they are important and how they were used.

* Give gifts from your garden – pass-along plants, cuttings or packets of seeds for next season’s garden.

* Enjoy a Christmas outing to see a light display, seasonal play, music program, movie or storytelling.  Many are free.

* Visit a botanical garden to enjoy nature’s celebration of the season.

* Give creative no-wrap gifts: outside adventures such as nature walks and feeding the bird and time with family and friends.

* Create memories by giving the intangible gifts of time, conversation, compassion, attention and love.

* Think beyond yourself.  Instead of giving more stuff and trinkets, consider giving a gift that will make a lasting change in someone’s life ~ like clean water, nutritious food or education to help him or her achieve his goals. Two of our favorite charities are Heifer International and World Neighbors. What’s yours?

Enjoy retro traditions from the past.  Create eco traditions for the future.  We’d like to know your tips for a green Christmas.  Share with us at retroeco.net/.

How to Weather the Weather – Winter Version

Brrr!  It’s November and winter has made an early arrival here in Oklahoma with freezing temperatures, wind chills in the teens, sleet, freezing rain – the full menu of a winter mix – that are hazardous to health and safety.  Loss of heat, electricity, phone service and a shortage of basic supplies can leave you powerless both literally and figuratively.  The best advice for surviving winter weather is to be prepared – credit to the Boy Scouts!

Keep these emergency supplies ready:

* Flashlight and batteries.  Make sure the batteries are fresh.  Limit use if the weather is extreme and expected to last several days.

* Battery-powered AM-FM radio or weather radio.

* Sign up for a weather app on your smart phone.

* Extra food and water.

* Medications and first-aid supplies.

* Emergency heating source.  Make sure you have plenty of dry, seasoned wood and kindling for fireplaces and a supply of pellets for pellet stoves.  If you have a generator, share the heat with friends and neighbors.

* Fire extinguisher.

More safety tips!

* If you have no heat source, close off unused rooms.  Tuck rolled towels along outside doors and windows to reduce outside drafts.  Stuff rags, towels or even newspaper in cracks under doors and along door jambs.

* Layer-up.  Layers of loose-fitting, light-weight clothes keep you warmer than one heavy garment and can be removed if you get too warm.  For infants and small children, add one layer more than for adults.

* Wear fingerless gloves and a hat to help conserve body heat.  Use handwarmers in your gloves and shoes.  Snuggle up with your favorite person – or pet.  Thermal underwear and flannel sheets will keep you warm and snuggly.

* Eat!  In cold weather, the body requires more calories to keep warm.  Food provides fuel and energy for your body.  Stews, soups and caseroles are nutritious foods to keep you warm.

* Drink!  Keep hydrated to prevent dehydration.  Avoid alcoholic drinks.  Good hot drinks are teas (especially herbals), cocoa, cranberry or cranapple juices and even Dr. Pepper or hot water with lemon.  The heat of the cup will warm your hands.

* Pass the time with family activities.  Play cards or board games.  Share family stories. Read. Draw. Write.

* Stay inside!  Use common sense.  When the weather is severe, the weather guys are usually right.

* If you have to go out, be smart.  Hypothermia is a major danger.  Dress in layers, which help insulate the body.  Wear a hat- half of your body’s heat loss comes from your head.  Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.  Mittens are better than gloves for warmth.

* Limit physical exertion such as shoveling snow, pushing vehicles or walking long distances.  Strain plus the cold temperatures can cause a heart attack.

* Take your cell phone.  Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.

* If you have to travel, use only major roads and travel during daylight.  Check AAA for winter driving tips.

* Check on older, housebound and disabled family and frineds.

* Feed the birds!

* Make sure your pets have shelter from storms and cold temperatures.  Bring short-haired pets inside.

Stay warm!  Be safe!

Winter Air-Conditioning

When our homes are closed and insulated for winter, inside air can become stale and dry.  Tight, energy-efficient buildings often perform so well that they trap air pollutants, resulting in “sick building syndrome.”

Using houseplants, especially tropicals is an eco-friendly and eco-nomical way to improve your home’s air quality.  A NASA study reports that plants can remove up to 87 percent of air-borne contaminants like formaldehyde, ammonia, carbon monoxide, benzine and VOCs  in 24 hours.  The report recommends 15 to 18 good-sized plants per 1800 square feet.  That’s just the endorsement I need to justify my winter green house filled with more than 25 plants when my husband claims, “It’s a jungle in here!”

In office buildings where windows are for light and not ventilation, air quality can become especially stale and stifling.  Companies that have added indoor plants to their decor report increased productivity and creativity in their employees, and workers report reduced fatigue, stress, headaches and coughs.

Plants also increase humidity, especially important during winter months when heating systems dry the air.   The increased humidity can help reduce fatigue, dry throat, headaches and decrease colds.  Maybe that’s why my husband and I seldom have colds.

In addition to the health benefits of house plants, they can enhance both the mood of a room and your personal mood with a feeling of well-being.  If I can’t spend my winter days on a tropical island, I can surround myself with tropical plants that give me a warm feeling inside when it’s cold outside.  Use a single show piece plant or groupings as a low-cost accent to decorate your rooms.

Tropicals are good plants to use for winter air-conditioning.  Their native environment filters natural light through a canopy of trees.  You can duplicate this in your home with the natural, subdued light of winter.  Avoid placing tropicals in direct sunlight and keep them away from heating vents.  Because heating systems tend to dry out soils, check your plants frequently to keep the soil moist.  Peace plants will show you when they need water with drooping leaves.

Here’s a list of the top 10 plants to clean and condition your home’s air:

~  Snake plant – aka mother-in-law’s tongue

~ Peace lily

~ Spider plant

~ Dracaena

~ Chinese evergreen

~ Bamboo or reed palm

~ Philodendron

~ Ferns

~ English ivy

~ Ficus or weeping fig

Caution!  Some plants are toxic.  Handle with care and keep all plants away from children and pets.

Spring Surprises!

50 King Alfred daffodil bulbs for $16.98 – 34 ¢ a bulb – a bargain!  And, it’s a perfect, no wind, autumn day in Oklahoma, so today was daffodil planting day.

When my sons were little, we planted the bulbs by throwing them high in the air and then planting them where they landed.  Of course, the boys pelted each other with them in a lively, loud daffodil bulb fight.  But they were good spotters to mark where they landed in our urban front yard.

The result was a yard full of daffodil bouquets randomly scattered in the winter lawn.  It was a car-stopping scene of spring beauty!

Now, 30 years later, I’m planting them at the farm in a large open area south of the house – with no energetic little boys to help me.  I wanted the same random effect without having to search for their landing place in the tall grass.  My husband used an augur on our power drill to dig holes big enough for 3 bulbs to a hole.  So we’ll have 17 mini bouquets to celebrate spring next year.  I used white spray paint to mark each planting site so we could randomly space the bulbs

Why not give a surprise gift to the future – or your neighborhood?  Daffodils are a guaranteed success flower.  Follow the planting directions on the package, water and walk away.  The bulbs hibernate peacefully under the snow until late February or early March.

You can buy enough for mass plantings in the fall at bargain parices.  The return on your investment will multiply through the years.  These buried treasures pop up each spring and increase through the years to cheer your winter spirits and celebrate the arrival of spring.

I wonder who will find the daffodils I’ve planted in the future.  I hope they will be as happy to see them as I am when I discover patches of happiness planted long ago by an anonymous gardener.

How to Stay Warm in a Cold House

Brrrrr. . . . For those of us whose blood runs cold from October through March, winter can be the season of our discontent and discomfort. Blizzards and winter storms are more frightful than delightful.  As we approach winter again, here are some simple tips we’ve learned to keep the chill out.

Tips to keep warm in a cold house:
Retro – Our grandparents wore long-johns as part of their everyday winter attire.
Eco- Thermal underwear and leggings replace long-johns. Turtlenecks, sweatshirts, sweaters and jackets help insulate. Flannel is not only warm – it’s fashionable with many designs and colors. I often wear my dad’s old flannel shirts. Memories of him and the soft fabric keep me warm.

– For cold hands, wear fingerless gloves. Tuck hand warmers in your gloves and in your shoes to keep your feet warm.

– Sleep tight. Thermal or flannel pjs and sheets topped with grandma’s quilts will keep you warm on a cold night. (You actually sleep better in a room that’s a bit cool.) Winter is time for a 2-dog night. Our dogs Zip and Zoe enjoy the comfort of shared body heat and join us on top of the quilts on especially cold nights.

– Drink hot liquids. They heat you from the inside out and help keep you hydrated. Try herbal teas and cocoa. Add a twist of lemon or orange or a slice of apple to hot cider, cranberry, cranapple juices or Dr. Pepper. Hot water flavored with a lemon or orange slice is good. Use a Christmas candy cane as a swizzle stick to flavor your drink. Just holding the mug will warm your hands!

– Snuggle under a throw, quilt or one of the popular snuggies. Even better, snuggle with someone you love or your pet!

– Move! – Not away from your home – instead, burn a few calories by exercising. Get up, get moving and get your circulation going.

– Space heaters and fireplaces provide inexpensive heat. But, they also have more risks than standard heating. Space heaters require space for safety. Keep at least 3 feet from curtains, furniture, plants, paper – anything flammable. Use with caution around children and pets. Turn off and unplug when not in use, when you leave the house and when you go to bed.

– Make sure your chimney is clean so you don’t heat your house with an unwanted fire. Burn only seasoned wood.

– Make sure your smoke detector has good batteries.

– Cook! Simmering soups, chowders and stews on the stovetop will add heat and humidity to your house. Bake bread, casseroles, cookies and cakes. The heat of the oven will warm the area. Freeze extras for use when it’s too hot to bake.

– Eat hearty – and healthy. Soups, stews and casseroles filled with vegetables will help keep you warm and healthy. Your body requires more calories to keep warm. Make your calories healthy ones.

– Snakes in the house??? Not the living kind – they’re cold-blooded too. Use fabric “snakes” or draft dodgers to block drafts around windows and outside doors. Even rolled towels will work.

– Close off unused rooms to concentrate heat to the parts of the house in use.

– Close drapes, curtains, and shades when the sun goes down. Open when the sun is out to capture heat and light. Often the natural light makes the house feel warmer.

– Check on neighbors and friends who are older or housebound.

– Add energy upgrades such as insulation and energy efficient windows and doors when your budget allows.

Be safe! Be warm!

What’s Buggin’ You?

It’s harvest time in my garden, and I’m ready for the fresh taste of summer; succulent, red tomatoes, the size of tennis balls; a palette of green, red, yellow and orange peppers; goose-neck squash; crisp cukes and juicy melons – the list of delights goes on and on . . .

But . . . I’m not the only one harvesting my garden’s bounty. From aphids to worms, there’re salad surfers trying to beat me to the prime pickins. Worms, beetles, turtles and birds like to shop and sample my open-air market produce before I do.

I’m a prude and purist about what goes in the soil, on my plants and eventually into me and my family, so I use herbicides and insecticides only for drastic measures. Here are my eco ideas to get those garden nuisances to bug off:

Hand-picked Bugs
The most eco-friendly way to deal with destructive insects is hand-picking. If there are only a few, pick them off or pinch off the affected foliage. Check under leaves for eggs and webs. Use a craft stick or tongue depressor to gently scrape off bugs that are attached to the plant. Put discarded insects in a pail of hot, soapy water for a final kill.

A strong blast of water from your garden hose will also dislodge unwelcome invaders.

Slugfest
Host a beer party for the slugs. Place a jar lid or shallow saucer ground level and fill with beer – the cheaper the better. Slugs will come to the party, overindulge and drown. Another remedy is shaking table salt on their soft bodies, which makes them disintegrate before your eyes – but that’s a bit cruel.

Beat the Beetles and Squash the Squash Bugs!
Seriously. Place a piece of newspaper or old towel under beetle-infested plants. Use a wooden spoon or small stick to shake or swish the leaves of the plant to dislodge the beetles. Empty the paper or towel in hot, soapy water.

Squash bugs – simple enough – squash ‘em. Another option that I have tried one time with success is to sprinkle flour on plant leaves and around the roots. Voila! Next day – NO BUGS! Definitely worth trying again.

Herbal Tea – FOR BUGS ONLY
Clip leaves from your most aromatic herbs, like sage, rosemary,chives and garlic. Place in a gallon of water in the hot sun for about a week. Strain the leaves from the brew and add 2 tablespoons of liquid soap. Mix and spray on plants affected by aphids, beetles and cabbage loopers.

Plant Collars
To protect new seedlings and small transplants from cutworms, place a small paper collar or paper towel roll (cut to size) around the stem of the plant and extending about 1/2 inch below the soil line. Placing a nail next to the stem of the plant also works.

In the Net
Place a piece of old,clean nylon stocking or plastic mesh from produce loosely around ripening vegetables or fruits that tempt birds, turtles, raccoons and other garden pests. The netting will expand as the fruit grows. To protect small garden areas, drape dark netting loosely over plants.

Hair Today – Pest Repellent Tomorrow
Scatter human or dog hair loosely around your plants to deter deer, raccoons and other rodents.

Chicken Tractor
If you live in a rural area or if your city allows chickens within the city limits, create a chicken tractor to cultivate the soil, provide fertilizer and gobble up insects. The “tractor” is actually a mobile coop with no bottom, which can be moved from area to area as needed.

BFF – Plants – aka Best Friend Forever Plants
Also known as companion plants to many gardeners, these plants complement each other with benefits like producing pollen that attracts good insects or scents that repel the bad ones. They also improve the growth, flavor and general health of their companion plants. Herbs are especially good companiaon plants because of their aromas. Check thevegetablegarden.info/ for compatibility lists.

Flour Power

Here’s a new strategy I’ve learned from garden sources on the internet: Sprinkle baking flour on the leaves of plants to discourage grasshoppers and squash bugs.  The theory is that the flour will gum up the insect’s digestion, eventually causing it to starve.  It’s not a quick kill.

This year, we have an invasion of grasshoppers.  I’ve periodically sprinkled flour on the leaves of my plants, and although there are grasshoppers on the plants, the plants exhibit little damage.  So far, it’s working for me.  Good luck!

Note: The challenge in Oklahoma is to have a windless day so the flour will stay on the plants!

Mosquito Madness
No, mosquitos won’t damage your plants, but they will annoy you when you’re trying to enjoy time in the garden. The best solution is prevention. Get rid of standing water, their preferred breeding areas. Use pet and fish-friendly mosquito tablets in water gardens. Some sources recommend carrying a square of dryer sheets or rubbing leaves of herbs on your skin to repel mosquitoes. Note: To relieve the itch of a mosquito bite while in the garden, put a small dab of mud on the bite until you can clean and treat the bite.

Good Garden Hygiene
Prevention is the best strategy for controlling insect populations in your garden. Keep diseased or insect-infested plants out of the compost bin. Mulch, mulch, mulch – it helps keep the incidence of insects and other garden intruders down. Encourage the good guys – bees, lady bugs, praying mantises, dragon flies, earthworms toads and frogs – to visit or take up residence in your garden with rich, healthy soil, a water source and a variety of pollinator plants.

For more eco-friendly and entertaining pest control ideas, check out Sharon Lovejoy’s book Trowel and Error.

Eating Green for Life

January is the traditional month for resolutions and goals like losing weight and eating a healthy diet.  But, summer is an equally good time for food resolutions, and they’re easy to keep with the delicious fresh produce available from  your own garden and the local farmer’s market.   Here are our ideas to eat green and stay lean – and they’re good for the planet too!

Eat simply.

Fresh vegetables and fruits are packed with nutrition, and they’re easy to prepare.  The fresher the better – uncooked or lightly blanched and just minutes from the garden even better!  Heavy on the fruits and veggies = light on the scales!

Use the color wheel to select vegetables and fruits.  The darker the color, the more nutrition.  Let the soul of the soil nurture both your physical and spiritual body.

Red – tomatoes, radishes, beets, peppers, strawberries,  raspberries, apples, watermelons, cranberries

Yellow – corn, peppers, summer squash, lemons, bananas

Orange – carrots, peppers, winter squash, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, apricots, oranges

Green – green beans, peas, spinach, lettuce, chard, broccoli, cabbage

Purple / blue – onions, cabbage, eggplant, plums, blackberries, grapes, blueberries

White – cauliflower, onions, turnips, potatoes

~ Preservatives are great for preserving food, but long-term, not so good for the human body.

~ Limit highly processed foods and go on a fast from fast foods.

~ Avoid salt, sugar and saturated fats.

~ Limit meat in your diet.  Trim the fat and grill, bake or broil instead of frying.

~ Buyer Beware!  For canned and boxed foods, read the labels.  If you can’t pronounce the ingredient or don’t know what it is, don’t eat it.  Avoid foods with high sodium, sugar and cholesterol numbers.

Eat seasonally.

Vegetables and fruits that ripen during the current season are the best nutritionally and economically.  Prices are often low as the market bulges with the fresh harvest.

Buy what you need when you need it.  Buy extra to preserve for the future when the item is out of season.  Many can be frozen easily or learn the retro art of canning.  A cool, dry storage place will keep many vegetables and fruits beyond the season.

Eat sustainably.

Shorten the distance from farm to fork.  Eat locally – your dollars stay in the local economy and support local growers.

Check out local farmer’s markets, community gardens, food co-ops, community supported agriculture (CSA) programs - or best of all – grow your own grocery garden.  You don’t need an acre or even half acre of land to grow healthy food.  Container gardens can fit on small patios, decks or porches.  Consider growing vertically instead of horizontally for a space-saving garden.

Encourage schools to participate in farm-to-school lunch programs or to plant a garden at the school where students can learn where their food comes from and how it’s grown.  Encourage businesses and corporations to convert available land to an employee garden.  Excess can be given to local food banks.

Michael Pollan, author of Food Rules, reminds us of the retro-diet – the healthy ways our ancestors ate (not only food but rituals) – with these additional ideas:

~ If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made by a plant, don’t.

~ Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

~ Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize.

~ Eat only foods that will eventually rot.

~ If y0u eat real food, you don’t need rules.

Another tidbit of food wisdom comes from Hippocrates, often referred to as the “father of western medicine,”:  ”Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine thy food.”

 

Try this quick, colorful salad to eat simply, seasonally, sustainably and sensibly.

Healthy Detox Salad

Ingredients

2 heads broccoli (1 bunch), stems removed

1 head cauliflower, stems removed

2.5 cups shredded carrots

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup currants/berries…this step can be skipped depending on seasonal availability

1/2 cup raisins

4-6 tbsp fresh lemon juice, to taste

salt, pepper to taste (1/4-1/2 tsp salt and lots of pepper)

Pure maple syrup, to drizzle on before serving

1. In a food processor (or chop by hand) process the broccoli (no stems) until fine. Add into large bowl.

2. Now process the cauliflower (no stems) until fine and add into bowl. Do the same with the carrots.

3. Stir in the sunflower seeds, currants, and raisins. Add lemon juice and seasonings to taste.

4. Drizzle with maple syrup to taste.

 

Colorful Broccoli Salad

2 cups broccoli flowerettes

2 cups shredded cabbage

1/2 to 1 cup halved fresh cranberries – dried cranberries or golden raisins can be used instead

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 small purple onion – minced

Toss with just enough ranch dressing to mix ingredients.

Note:  1 cup chopped apple is a good substitution for the cabbage.

Chill, serve and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day – Keep It Simple Sweetie!

You don’t have to buy an expensive gift or send a fancy card to tell Mom you love and appreciate her.

For most moms, spending time with their kids is the best present.  I’m a mom, and I agree.  The gift of time creates memories that last longer than most gifts.

Here’re our suggestions for Mom ~ good ideas for Mother Earth and good for your wallet too.

- Enjoy a backyard picnic or picnic in the park.  You do all the cooking and clean-up.

- Visit the zoo.

- Visit a botanical garden 0r a nursery – you can stroll the aisles – you don’t have to buy.

- Plant a family tree.

- Plant flowers with Mom.

- Enjoy looking at old family albums.

- Take new pictures to update the albums.

- Go for a bike ride with Mom.

- Go for a hike with Mom.

- Play family games.

- Write a thank-you letter to tell Mom how much you appreciate her.

- Give Mom some time for herself.

- Do some chores for her that she doesn’t enjoy.

- Create art from the heart.  Write a poem, story or song, create a sketch, drawing or painting, cook a special dish or share your YOUnique talent in a special gift.  I still treasure the simple hand-made cards and gifts made by my sons even though they are now adults.  It’s the simple things that create great memories!

- Give the best gift = a smile, a hug and an “I love you!”

Remember Mother Earth with Random of Acts of Kindness.  Choose 5 ideas from our list to honor Mother Earth.

There’s no time like the present . . . There’s no present like time!

 

 

Out! Out! **!!** Weeds!

It’s May!  It’s May!  The lusty month of May!  Although my new home in the country often has a Camelot-esque feeling to it, the dream has weeds in it ~ healthy, huge, and hard to get rid of!

The Good: They are green ground cover without which, the Oklahoma wind would deposit piles of sand in my house.

The Bad:  They make me sniffle and sneeze my way through the day with itchy, red, bleary eyes.

The Ugly: They don’t fit into my landscape design of well-manicured, weed-free flower and vegetable gardens.

First-time cultivation of land proves a relentless task of managing weeds.  I’m a purist when it comes to fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides; they have to be eco-friendly, which is often more labor intensive to achieve the desired results.  Here’re some strategies I tried and have proved effective in helping me keep ahead of the weeds.

Hand-picked – Hand weeding is tedious and monotonous, but effective.  I’ve found that choppping their ugly heads off with a shovel or hoe only deters their growth temporarily.  Good advice is to wear protective garden gloves when hand weeding and long pants, long-sleeved shirts and closed-toe shoes when working in thick, tall stands of weeds.  Some weeds have thorns and sharp prickles like the evil bull nettle, and thick brush often hides thorns, insects, spiders and other nasty critters.

Hand weeding is easier when the soil is moist after a rain or after you have watered the area.

Smothering – Death by black plastic was our strategy when we started our new gardens.  The soil had not been cultivated in about 40 years and was rich in cow manure – hence healthy, hardy weeds and lots of them.  Last fall, we plotted our beds and rows and placed black plastic over the soil.  We weighted the plastic down with stones and left-over lumber from the construction site to keep it in place in the strong, Oklahoma winds.

We removed the plastic in early spring and raked the area to pull out weed remnants and bermuda grass runners and roots.  We then deep tilled about 6 inches and pulled out even more bermuda roots.

Healthy peas, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers and beans now populate the garden with plans for corn, okra and berries later.  A few stubborn weeds still creep into the beds, but we remove them when they’re small and easily plucked from the ground.

Maintenance – Once you have the weeds under control, a daily stroll in your garden will alert you to any new intruders.  Just pinch and pluck them out of the soil before they take control of the space.

Broadleaf weeds like dandelions and thistle are especially robust and resistant.  Try dousing them with household vinegar (5 percent acidity) mixed with a few drops of detergent.  You can also use a spray bottle to spot treat weeds.  Apply when temperatures are high and in direct sunlight for best results.

For pesky weeds that creep up in sidewalk joints or brick or stone walkways, pour boiling water over them.  Be careful not to splash the water on yourself.

Preventive Measures – A little prevention is worth hours of time in the garden doing more pleasant tasks than weeding.

Mulch, mulch, and mulch some more.  Mulch is the multi-purpose solution for successful gardening.  It conserves water, adds nutrients to the soil and helps eliminate weeds.  Choose from grass clippings, shredded leaves, newspaper, cedar or bark chips, pine needles or compost.

Water with well-placed soaker hoses or a drip irrigation system to deliver water directly to your cherished plants instead of to the weeds.  A sprinkler system provides equal opportunity watering for all plants including weeds.

Dispose of weeds in an active compost pile or in a covered trash can to avoid scattering their seed.

Beware of imposters.  Poison ivy is often confused with Virginia Creeper, a vine which is harmless.  The creeper can overtake an area in short time and turns a showy orange shade in autumn.  For easy identification, remember that Virginia Creeper has five leaves to a group while poison ivy has three per group:  Leaves of three, let it be!  When removing poison ivy, it’s essential to wear protective clothing, especially if you are allergic to the plant.  Cut the plant as close to the ground as possible with long-handled clippers.  You may have to do this several times during the growing season to weaken the roots and eventually kill the plant.

Retro-advice from the 1845 edition of Everyman His Own Gardener suggests, “Do not be afraid of weeds, but cut away, They must either be your master, or you theirs.”  And so the gerdener’s never-ending labor continues.  Maybe it’s better to consider weeds as Emerson did:  “. . . A flower in a weed’s disguise . . . A plant whose virtues have not been discovered.”

For more ideas about a weed-free garden, visit The Garden Channel and EmilyCompost.com, and check out Trowel and Error, by Sharon Lovejoy.