22 June 2014

Caring for yourself in the summer heat

While extremes are never my personal choice, I know many who thrive in warmer temps.  Don’t forget to be mindful outside on these warmer days.  Pay close attention to what the heat can do to your body and take care to not over-do.

The four major environmental conditions that affect heat stress are air temperature, humidity, wind velocity, and radiant heat. Combine these with individual factors such as age, gender, weight, physical and medical conditions, and a person's degree of heat acclimation, and you can begin to predict how well a person might hold up in a hot, humid, still environment.

The majority of heat-related illnesses - early heat illness or fainting, heat cramps, heat rash, and heat exhaustion - are considered minor. Just because these illnesses are considered minor doesn't mean that they aren't important to recognize, and to try to avoid or minimize. For ill or frail individuals these illnesses may require medical attention.

The one heat-related illness considered to be very serious is heat stroke. Someone suffering from heat stroke can be in a life-or-death situation to which the first response should always be a 911-phonecall.

The following are just some of the signs, symptoms, causes and treatments of these illnesses - consult medical references for additional information:

Signs and symptoms - dizziness, fatigue and irritability; difficulty concentrating or making decisions.  Cause - reduced blood flow to brain. Treatments - drink water; loosen clothes; rest in shade.

Signs and symptoms - painful arm, leg or stomach muscle spasms; thirst and heavy sweating; (may not occur until after gardening activities).  Cause - body salt loss due to sweating.  Treatments - drink water, and avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine; remove hat and loosen clothes; rest; lightly stretch muscles in a cool location.

Signs and symptoms - pricking sensation and tiny, blister-like red skin spots usually on body areas covered by clothes.  Cause - plugged and inflamed sweat glands.  Treatments - wear loose clothes; wash skin; apply talcum powder.

Signs and symptoms - early heat illness signs, plus: loss of coordination; collapse; heavy sweating; cool, moist, pale skin; dry mouth with excessive thirst; fast pulse; low to normal temperature.  Causes - reduced blood circulation and flow to brain; dehydration.  Treatments - if conscious, give cool water to drink (do NOT give beverages containing caffeine or alcohol)-- make sure they drink slowly by giving a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes; rest lying down in a cooler, shaded area; loosen or remove clothing and hat; splash cold water on body and massage arms and legs.
 Heat stroke - (May occur suddenly and is life-threatening. According to the American Red Cross. Follow the following recommendation.)  Signs and symptoms - dizziness, confusion, headaches, irrational behavior, coma; reduced or no sweating; fast pulse; rapid breathing; convulsions, nausea, vomiting.  Causes - dehydration; sustained exertion; reduced blood flow to brain, heart, etc.; body unable to cool itself; overexposure to high temperatures even without exertion.  Treatments - call 911; move to shaded area; remove shoes and outer clothing, wrap in wet cloth/pour water on/fan rapidly; elevate legs; clear vomit to prevent choking; if victim refuses water, is vomiting, or there are changes in level of consciousness, do not give anything to eat or drink. 
How should gardeners avoid becoming a safety threat to themselves when it's hot? Start by evaluating the risk of heat stress relative to the individual factors listed above. Someone who is older, overweight, in poor physical condition, taking allergy medication, or not used to being out in the heat is at far greater risk than someone who is young, trim, on a regular exercise program, and used to the heat.

Become a weather watcher. Set up a small weather station (with a high/low thermometer, rain gauge, etc.) to monitor not only the temperature, rainfall, etc., relative to plant growth, but also relative to personal safety. Watch or listen to the weather forecast each morning and noon to know in advance when stressful environmental conditions may occur. Plan activities for cooler time of day or season.

Evaluate work tasks and the time of day during which they must or can be done. Tasks that occur outdoors in sunny areas should be done in early morning or late afternoon whenever possible, not during the midday heat. Most watering, pruning, dead heading, etc., is better for plants when done in early morning. Many chemicals, especially insecticides, are better applied late in the day when the wind is down and beneficial insects are not present. Also, many chemicals volatilize quickly in the heat, losing their effectiveness and possibly causing harmful reactions to the applicator.

Allow yourself to acclimate to the heat slowly. Over a period of a week or two, gradually increase the amount of time spent in hot, still areas or in direct sun. Don't save hours of hoeing weeds from garden beds for the first day it goes over 90°F. Avoid working on surfaces such as asphalt, or near items such as metal, that may become very hot.

Be sure to stay hydrated, drinking as many liquids as possible. Don't wait until you are thirsty to have a drink, as thirst is an indicator that your body is already dehydrated. Water is preferred, except when heat cramps occur (then drink a lightly salted beverage like a sports drink). The water's temperature should be cool, not cold. Flavored beverages, such as fruit juices, iced tea and lemonade, as long as their sugar and salt content is low, are good water substitutes if they encourage large quantity consumption.

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to reduce heat stress is to dress appropriately. Though tempting, do not work in the yard in a tank top or without a shirt due to the potential for sunburn and other sun/skin related, longer term issues. Wear loose fitting, light colored clothes. Keep the fabric content high in cotton to aid sweat evaporation. Neckbands, headbands, wristbands, visors, and hats can increase evaporation to keep the body cool.

Lastly, take frequent breaks to reduce the amount of time spent in the sun or heat. After working for an hour, take a break to cool down and have a drink in the shade to reduce the build up of heat stress on your body.



21 June 2014

Out with the old...

The last few years have been a wild ride, culminating with a huge variety of endings and beginnings, some good, some not so good and some that looked like pure crap but turned out to be the best of all!

I have come to the realization that it's ok to start a blog and let it lie around, malingering.  I've also realized that I should be using my printed voice more often in a more positive way.  Sure, I write a ton; mostly for other people.  This blogging thing...has been so sporadic, so many starts and stops and just drops.

I don't imagine that anyone is going to find any life-changing advice or thoughts on this blog, but hey...you're here and for that I'm grateful.

Hopefully, I won't drop the ball on this again.  If I do, know that I'll be back.  

13 November 2010

The cold season is upon us, people!

Here’s a way to get some quick relief from that head cold that your ten year old brought home from school to share!

1.     Take two cloves of garlic and crush them into a stout coffee mug.
2.     Take two rose hips, either from your yard or purchased from the health food store, quarter them and add them to the garlic in the mug.
3.     Pour boiling water over all.
4.     Allow to steep 7 to 10 minutes.
5.     Using a spoon, remove the bits from your mug.
6.     Sweeten with honey and drink.

Many gardeners here in the Rogue Valley grow their own garlic and most of us have roses growing in our gardens.  In fact, there are so many wild roses growing out and about the rural areas of the valley that have not been sprayed that – with permission from the property owner – a person could realistically gather plenty to support a family through the cold season.

The back-story on garlic and rose hips:

Garlic has been promoted as having a plethora of health benefits.  Some are substantiated and some are not.  Three areas in which garlic’s benefits have been proven are:

Colds:   One of the most common ailments garlic has been touted to treat is the cold.  Upon the onset of the sniffles, many people testify that consuming a clove or more of garlic takes them away.  How can a clove of garlic possibly help?  Studies have shown that garlic extract improves immune function; giving our natural defense system a boost and helping it conserve the levels of antioxidants in our system. It is this strengthening of the immune system that aids in its support for other health related conditions.

Hypertension: Another heart benefit of garlic is its ability to help control blood pressure by thinning the blood. The chemical found in garlic, called ajoene, thins the blood and keeps clots from forming. Studies done with general populations have shown that where there is more garlic consumed in a population, there is also a reduced incidence of hypertension and heart disease.  Although garlic's heart healthy benefits may be new to some, for centuries Chinese herbalists have been using garlic to treat people with angina attacks and circulatory disorders.

Infection:  Since 1858 garlic has also been known for its anti-bacterial properties. At this time Louis Pasteur discovered that bacterial cells died when they were saturated with garlic. Other instances of garlic being used as an antibiotic in history include WW II, when British doctors used it to treat those wounded in battle.  Albert Schweitzer used garlic to treat typhus and cholera. Garlic is known to have not only antibacterial but antiviral and antifungal properties as well. It is effective against intestinal parasites, recurrent yeast infections and the growth Candida albicans is slowed by garlic. With this in mind, it should be considered only as an aid to antibiotics in fighting infections, as it is not enough to replace them. Garlic can help by stimulating T-cells that help fight infection.

People have been talking about rose hips tea for years.  When you think of roses, you probably think fragrance, beauty, softness, but how often do you think vitamin C, vascular system or capillaries?   During World War II, the English government organized the harvesting of all available rose hips to make vitamin C syrup, since fruits were virtually unattainable at the time. Rose hips are reported to have up to 60 percent more vitamin C than citrus fruit and are rich in bioflavonoids.  Bioflavonoids are important to build and strengthen body tissue. This in turn strengthens the vascular system.

Rose hips are taken by many today as a natural way to get vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K,  and help to prevent and treat various infections, especially colds and flu.  Rose hips are also taken to speed the healing process for bruises and skin irritations.  Inflammation and sore throat can find relief with rose hips, which come in capsule form and are usually taken 3 times daily. Women receive extra benefits from rose hips which help uterine cramps, heavy menstrual flow and some breast disorders.

In addition to vitamins C, E, and K, rose hips contain calcium, citric acid, iron, niacin,  phosphorus, tannin, vitamin A, B1, B2, and P. As a natural stimulant it gently allows movement of the bowels, as a diuretic rose hips helps cleanse the urinary system and as a tonic the rose hips strengthen organs and supports the immune system.

Stressed and tired? Rose hips will help. Nervousness? Try rose hips for relief. As a matter of fact, rose hips provide innumerable health benefits to the skin, the immune system and the urinary tract.  Studies have even shown that rose hips can help prevent the development of kidney stones and prevent diarrhea. Additional studies have proven rose hips are helpful to the circulatory system, respiratory system, the thymus gland and as a blood cleanser.

There are few side effects for most people who take rose hips. Some do complain of headache, heartburn, insomnia or nausea.  Most people have no issues or complaints with rose hips. 

Never attempt to replace any medicine with herbal or plant based remedies without talking to your doctor first.  Although rose hips have medical benefits, they are not a substitution for many prescribed treatments.

31 October 2010

Rain, Halloween and Green Tomatoes

I was awakened at 3 this morning with a cat on my head and Bekah kicking me.  Every chance she gets, that girl will sleep in my bed.  I always said that she wouldn't be leaving for college still sleeping in my bed.  She's starting to scare me.

And Luna C. Kitten...You are DARLING, really you are, but those fish hooks and needles that are your claws and teeth?  I'm really not so enamored of this kitten at three in the morning.

I also learned it was raining when I finally gave up on sleep and got up for good at 3:45.  Raining on Halloween.    Lizzy did win a second place prize at the costume contest last night with her Marcel Marceau, but they are both looking forward to TOTing.  Even Bekx, at her "advanced" age.  We have plans, too.  One of Lizzy's friends, her mom and little sister are supposed to go with us.  Bekx is working on finding someone else to go since her friend got grounded at the last minute.  Really and truly a bummer, but I totally get the mom's position on why she felt it was necessary.

I was poking around the remnants of my garden yesterday, trying to make a decision about the tomatoes and wondering if the rain has ruined the hollyhock seed pods.  I have green tomatoes.  Lots of folks have green tomatoes still on the vine.  Over here, I wrote about how to dry them and how to store the dried 'maters:  
http://www.examiner.com/gardening-in-medford/wrapping-up-the-season . 

I remembered my Mama Grande making this for us as kids.  While I haven't quite figured out how to work around my red-dye-sensitive elder child and red jello (or artificially dyed red anything else for that matter...), I have fond memories of the faux raspberry jam she made with green tomatoes.  I don't have her exact recipe, and she's long gone now, but the method is still out there...

I know what you’re thinking and, while I may be certifiable in just about every other area in life, this is not one of them.  Jill Nicolaus from Dave’s Garden has provided the method and it’ll give you something entertaining to do with those last green tomatoes.

I’m sure that, with the recent threats of frost, you fled to the garden to save those last tomatoes.  Maybe you’ve got some set aside to slowly ripen.  Maybe you’ve been making fried green tomatoes, green tomato chutney and green tomato pickles.  Run out of ideas?  Round up your kids or grandkids – it’s time for something totally fun!

This jam is perfect to make with kids.  Three ingredients, no canning – just some chopping and stovetop cooking.  Be sure to gauge how much help your helpers are going to require.  Move a chair or step stool to the stove so they can reach for stirring.

Admittedly, “red raspberry” jam from green tomatoes likely won’t bring home a blue ribbon from the county fair compared to Mrs. Nesbit’s very best quality raspberry preserves.  However, the seeds give it an authentic look and the tang of the green tomatoes makes a nice counter to the sweetness.  A recipe attributed to Southern Living magazine reduces the amount of sugar to 1-1/2 cups and increases the amount of tomato to 2-1/2 cups.  I’ve heard that you can add a packet of unsweetened raspberry Kool Aid drink mix for extra zing.  For us, that red dye could be an issue, but moderation in all things is the key!

There’s an entertainment factor of epic proportion by transforming green tomatoes into something that tastes and looks like red raspberries.  Imagine the kick you and the kids will get out of revealing the “secret” of your homemade “raspberry” jam.  Imagine the kids giggling themselves silly attempting to explain to their dad that he’s just eaten a peanut butter and tomato sandwich!  Whether or not you have kids to help you, give this recipe a try.  Faux food recipes are not only tasty, but they’re really amusing to serve to unsuspecting guests.  You Red Hat Ladies – whip some of this “jam” up for one of your teas.  After all, it’s the right color! 

Green Tomato “Raspberry” Jam

2 cups minced green tomatoes
2 cups sugar
1 – 3 oz. Package red raspberry gelatin

Wash and stem or core the tomatoes and remove any bad spots.  Then dice or shred the tomatoes.  A food processor to roughly mince them also works well.

Put the tomatoes and sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar and reduce the heat.  Simmer 20 minutes.  If you diced the tomatoes, cook them long enough so that they don’t look chunky anymore.

Add the raspberry gelatin and bring to a boil.  Now the jam is ready to be poured into clean jars.  This is not a shelf-stable recipe and you have to store it in the refrigerator or freezer.  This recipe makes about a pint and you can totally double it if you wish.

26 October 2010

Well, it HAS been a year...

I know.  I'm pathetic.  I haven't updated this blog in forever.  I've been horrifically busy and - of course - 92 million other totally lame excuses for not checking in here.

After talking with someone earlier today about an article on winterizing roses and rose hips, it was pointed out that I should write about what to do with the hips - the teas, the oil, the boo-boo juice I put on the kid's scrapes.

Ah, but that's not gardening.  So would go the statement from my editor, I'm sure.  I can't OFFICIALLY write about homemade botanicals or food and I find that odd.  Aren't these two thing intrinsically tied to gardening?  WELL, SURE THEY ARE!!!  If you're growing callendula to make a healing oil, and you're sharing how to get the best and biggest blooms, why isn't it also OK to tell how to make that oil.  (Which is great as a barrier for diaper rash, by the way.)

So - I'm taking to my blog and I'm gonna talk about everything (except politics and religion - I'm kind of offensive when I start ranting about either of those!).

There's so much in this big wide world - Great food, a fun craft here and there - maybe with something you've found or grown in your yard, some silly movie I saw that made me laugh, or even how to make a balm to save your feet from turning into camel claws this winter - Dude - I'm gonna share it. 

Nyah nyah!

04 October 2009

I can't believe it's been so long...

since I've blogged here. Granted, since my editor decided that my posting my articles here before I sent them to her was something with which she did not agree - including, but not limited to, her telling me to take down this blog - I have limited time to devote to an extra article for the blog. I really need an extra six working hours a day. Who needs sleep, anyway?

Time has once again galloped along at a rate that I’m starting to find ... horrifying. It seems like just recently I was writing about fall clean up. Then it was winter, not being able to get to work due to the snow on the roads, building snow families on the back deck and gallons of hot chocolate. Spring and summer have come and gone – again – in seemingly the blink of an eye. We had some frost last Wednesday; not bad – didn’t kill the last straggling tomatoes or the watermelon that JUST WON’T GET RIPE – but frost all the same.

Conversations have turned from summer clothes and swimming in the river to how much snow we might get this winter and “Do you think Father Christmas could bring me a rad snowboard for Yule?”

The garden is not excluded from this either, you know. I’ve been thinking about the bags of shredded paper I’ve stockpiled from the paper shredder at work to mulch into the soil before it freezes. I’ve considered tilling and then covering with newspaper to kill off the weeds in the areas I’m wanting to use next spring. I’ve been wondering who made off with my garden cart and who I’m going to have to kill to get it back.

I’ve also been thinking about gourds…I grew some and it’s high time I did something with them.

Nothing really sets the mood for fall like gourds and Indian corn and pumpkins. Gourds are so cool and you can do a ton of things with them. Birds like them for housing, when they’re dried out with an appropriate hole cut into them for easy access.

Here’s what YOU can do so you can use them for fall decorating:

Harvest them when the stem is try but before the first serious frost invades. Cut them from the vine with a few inches of stem intact.

Wash and disinfect the gourds with either a diluted bleach solution (1 tsp. of bleach in a gallon of water) or white vinegar, water and grapefruit seed extract.

Gently dry with a cloth. Place your gourds on layers of newspaper in a warm and well-ventilated area (like the laundry room). Don’t put them in direct sunlight as this will fade the colors. And be careful not to scratch or bruise the tender skin.

Turn your gourds regularly and replace any newspaper the becomes damp with fresh, dry paper. Curing a gourd can take one to six months, so be prepared for your gourds to practically become members of the family – only members who eat a whole lot less than the human ones!

The skin of a gourd will take about a week to harden on the outside but will take at least a month to dry out on the inside.

When you shake the gourd and hear those seeds rattling around inside, it’s done. You can then apply wax, varnish or paint, cut a hole in it and get the seeds out, leave them whole for decorating or a variety of other crafts that you can easily locate through Bing or Google.

Happy Gourding!!

26 July 2009

Staying green...

Procrastination is generally not a good thing, but when it comes to your lawn in the summertime, a little bit can be a good thing. So says the turf grass specialists at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

Summer lawn care and maintenance knowledge will make the difference between a lush, healthy law – just begging to be tip-toed through with bare feet – and a scraggly brown one. Grasses usually go into a state of semi-dormancy and are vulnerable to disturbance.

There are a number of things to look at with summer lawn care:

Fertilizer –
Fertilizing is one of the best lawn maintenance choices you can make. Misusing it will make things turn really ugly, really fast. Using a fertilizer that is higher in nitrogen may be a good thing in the fall or the spring, but in the summer, when the only cooler place is on the sun, you can burn the daylights out of your lawn. Go for a slow-release fertilizer with lower nitrogen for this time of the year and carefully follow the instructions for use. You might even want to forgo fertilizing at all until the season starts to cool off and head into fall.

Water –
One of the most common issues seen with summer lawn care is NOT ENOUGH WATER. You may be watering as you normally do, but remember – it’s summer – water evaporates much more quickly than other times of the year. Water your lawn until the moisture has penetrated the soil to around six inches. Also, consider increasing the number of times per week you turn on the sprinklers. Whatever you do, don’t let your lawn turn brown and then water them back to a green condition. This depletes energy reserves and stresses out the plants. A wise garden writer said in print recently, “Yes, grasses are plants, too.” Keep in mind that they need the same care as other plants in your garden. Water as early in the day as possible.

Yard Toys –
My kids bugged and bugged for a Slip N Slide. While I am generally not the mom to deny her kids summer fun – and I didn’t – I am a bit of a psycho (hey, now!) about them not leaving their stuff all over the lawn. That Slip N Slide (or tarp or whatever they’re covering your lawn with) will get smothered by that hot plastic. Of course, if you’re setting up a pool, it’s just not practical to tear it down and set it up. I’ve given instructions for repairing those spots in the past and may do so again in the fall, but the other stuff? Don’t leave that tarp or Slip N Slide laying around if the kidlets aren’t using them. No reason to damage your lawn when you’re doing all this work to keep it lush.

Mowing –
Mowing height adjustment is probably the most important practice in preparation for hot weather. Don’t mow ANY LOWER than three inches, even a little longer wouldn’t hurt. Lawns allowed to exist at this higher level will usually develop deeper roots and dry out more slowly than closely mowed grass. As the summer gets hotter and drier, the growth of your lawn should slow somewhat.

Other lawn care practices –
Avoid seeding, thatch control and the application of weed killers (including “weed and feed” if you use that type of product) until later in the season. September is a much better time for those things.

Mower Maintenance –
If you own your own mower, there are a few things you should do to take care of and insure the life of your mower. After each mowing, wait until the engine cools and then hose off the clippings and grass debris that may be clinging to the underside of the mower deck. Be sure to make sure that you have disconnected the spark plug cable prior to cleaning. Reconnect it afterwards.

It’s a good idea to sharpen, or have sharpened, the blades of your mower once a month or every six weeks. If you mow more than 4 times a month or happen to run over lots of rocks and debris, definitely once a month. Sharp mower blades are perhaps the one most important thing to focus on with your mower. Aside from the damage that dull blades will cause on your lawn, you could use up to 20% more fuel and you could spend a lot more time mowing that would ordinarily be required with sharp blades.

Always remember when reinstalling your blades that the sharp cutting edges of the blade should be facing down, not up! Most mulching blades are twisted, so make sure that the sharp end is facing toward the ground.

At the end of the season, don’t just put your mower away – prepare it first. Drain the fuel. Be sure to disconnect your spark plug prior to draining. By draining the fuel from your mower, you are preventing the remaining fuel from aging and potentially going bad inside your mower engine and carburetor.

Once the fuel has been drained, reconnect the spark plug wire and run the engine until it burns all the remaining fuel and runs out of gas.

Most mowers have instructions for putting your mower up for the season. If you still have the manual, follow those instructions.

Once spring rolls around again, bring your mower out of hibernation. If you’re not mechanically inclined, drag that mower to a shop to have it serviced.

If you’re up to doing this on your own, here are the few things you should do to get your mower ready for the season

Change the oil in the mower. If your mower has a two-stroke engine, oil is already mixed into the fuel and you can skip this step. Smaller, gas powered four-stroke engines will use 30 weight oil. Check the owner’s manual.

Replace the spark plug. These can fowl out and should be replaced at least once a year.

If your mower has a fuel filter, this should be replaced as well.

Replace the air filter. Your motor will need to breathe and if you kick up a lot of dust and debris while mowing, your filter could be choking your engine and it won’t function properly.

If there are issues with the way in which your mower runs, you may want to consider taking it in to a service shop.

With good cultural practices and mower maintenance, lawn care – all the way around – can be easily accomplished and extremely rewarding. Good luck through the rest of the summer and don’t forget to take care of yourself in this heat. Wear a hat and some sunscreen and be sure to drink lots of water if you’re going to be out in this heat for any length of time.