Time to Talk Garlic

garlicharvest1I know you will think this sounds weird, but I’ve been waiting for the third week in October for almost 5 months now (although yes, I’m most definitely bemoaning the loss of what seemed like a very quick summer). In late May/early June, I was walking through my nature center’s organic garden, where I came across some very tall greens – looking like they were almost ready for harvest.  My little Sam asked, “what are those Mommy?” And I replied, “I think they’re onions.”  Luckily Mr. Organic Gardener was there himself, and he told me it was garlic.  He went on to say that garlic is his most favorite thing to grow in the garden – it’s hardy, it’s easy, it’s virtually animal proof, and it’s delicious.  The garlic we’re used to consuming from the grocery store is typically 8 months old.  He said once you taste fresh garlic, you can never go back.  And there are a huge number of varieties – some very sweet, some quite spicy.

So ever since then, I’ve loved the idea of planting garlic – you plant it in the fall, and it comes up in the spring, ready to pick in early summer.  One of the best things – the deer and chipmunks don’t like it.  You can actually plant the cloves from a garlic bulb you buy at the grocery store, but I ended up ordering a couple of bulbs from Burpee.com – an “Early Italian” variety and “California Extra Select.”  Gurney’s also offers a variety of garlic bulbs for sale – including one that sounds quite interesting – Spanish Roja Garlic which is quite hot and spicy.

If you get the same kind of hankering to do a little late season gardening, follow these easy steps from ehow.com, on how to plant garlic.  And get those gardening gloves out one last time before those first flakes begin to fall.

Does a Failing Economy make us Revert to Simpler Times?

wow_151c1As I was driving home yesterday from work, I was struck by the image of a man dressed in a nice business suit, with his brief case slung over his shoulder, driving 60mph down the Merritt Parkway. For whatever reason, this image made me smile; I gave him the thumb’s up sign. While we can all assume that this man elected to find a more economical way to commute to work, funny to say, it was a very retro image for me, a throw back to simpler times. This made me start thinking…can the spiraling out of control economic down turn actually have a silver lining?

The Stamford Advocate just ran a series of articles on how people are adjusting to the high gas prices. Everything from buying mopeds to selling their SUVs, this economic crisis is unfortunately severe enough to make us all rethink our normal course of action. One of my girlfriends even mentioned to me (somewhat tongue in cheek, somewhat seriously) that no longer is the deposit money from the beverage recycling pocket money for her children! Paying $85 to fill up my car does force me think more carefully about the actions I take. My neighbor just bought a moped, his thought being that the cost of the moped will be paid back in the gas savings of running errands in the minivan.

Way, way back when, people stayed home….and life happened around them. Kids played in the neighborhood, parents hung out – chatting in the streets. The front porch was the focus of the house – welcoming all in; not the back deck. We were not maniacally driving around town, taking kids to their upteenth activity of the week. Maybe just maybe this “crisis” allows us to more readily say “no” – and thereby enables us to enjoy our homes more and the surroundings of our home. I crave those weekends where nothing is planned or scheduled…where we can just be home.

And maybe if we’re not so exhausted from being in the car all day, and the endless hours that are wasted being in that car, we can enjoy our home time more. We won’t be so stressed trying to squeeze in all the chores into a limited amount of time, and instead can focus our attention on good cheap family fun. A good game of Parcheesi with the kids, more family hikes vs. paying to go the amusement park, playing 23435229backyard badminton and volleyball, growing a vegetable garden for the first time, saving an errand for another day when you can combine two trips to the same area of town, commuting to work with a friend, and enjoying the camaraderie of the drive, instead of becoming stressed about what lays before you for the day. Maybe it’s about walking and getting on the bike more often vs. always reverting to climbing in the car. Letting your child ride his bike the four blocks to his friend’s house. During the school year, when school was released early, my son would take the city bus from school downtown to the skate park. If I was home from work, I could see myself insisting on picking him up from school and driving him myself. But I wasn’t home. So I decided that it’s a good experience for him to take that bus – economically, environmentally, as well as a growing experience of demonstrating his independence. And what about “stayvacations” – the latest buzzword in the travel industry which is all about staying at home, being a tourist in your hometown and going places for the day.

And what will next winter look like? Probably wearing fleeces inside and throwing an extra blanket on everyone’s bed. Building fires in the fireplace more regularly … so far, that picture doesn’t sound so bad.

I know we’re all conscious of changing our ways right now. For some, it’s an economic necessity, for others, it’s a general conscientious reaction. What about you? Have you changed your routines or are you doing things a bit differently than just yesterday?

Public Enemy #1: Deer

 

Day Laborers Assisting with the Spreading of the Mulch   Day Laborers Assisting with the Spreading of the Mulch

 

This time of year I love to get out into the garden, and soak in the warm fresh air and the colors of spring.  So I’ve been making my ritualistic trips to the garden center – and planting away.  I also have a gargantuan mound of mulch in my driveway – ordered by my husband; he must have forgotten that we didn’t live on a 50 acre farm when he ordered; consequently, I probably will be looking at this “mound” for the next 5 years of my life (the perpetual to do list).  I’ve even hired day laborers to help me get it out into the yard (see pic).

So, I’m enjoying the fruits of my labors…the perennials popping up and blooming, and the freshly planted flower pots along my front walkway….and then, disaster strikes:

Night One:  Variegated Geraniums – Beheaded

Night Two:  Two pots of Petunias – Mowed over

Night Three:  Two pots of Impatiens – Dug up, chewed up, spit out

Night Four:  Lilac buds – Missing in action

Night Five:  All Coneflower Sprouts – Stripped and gnarled

The Culprit:  The Vicious Neighborhood Pack of Wild Deer, Public Enemy #1.  Enemy #2 is Mr. Chipmunk, who suns in the Parsley pot, nipping at the leaves when he needs a snack.  The deer, these beautiful, docile, gentle animals, have pushed me to the edge.  I think I let slip between my lips tonight that I wanted to buy a shot gun.  Last Sunday evening – around 6 – when you could still hear the neighborhood kids running about, I was upstairs in my bathroom and glanced out the window.  There was Public Enemy #1 strolling through my backyard and looking hungry.  I raised the window and screamed in the loudest, shrillest voice I could find “Get Out of My Yard.”  I’m sure my neighbors must have thought there was either a horrific domestic dispute taking place or that I was actually being murdered.  (My throat was sore for the next two hours because I had screamed so loudly).  The deer looked up at me, and quickly made an exit (this at least was good, because sometimes it takes them great effort to even move one step away from you).

I also must add that this fine dining also took place despite the fact that I have been spraying a deer repellent on my plants.  Has anyone found a solution?  Any good home remedies?  I’m ready to put a barricade around my house…although not a very neighborly thing to do.  Help!  I can’t bare it any longer!

P.S.  And if they’re going to use me….I’m going to use them:  

Deer Butt Door Bells
Deer Butt Door Bells

 

 

Where Do Cell Phones Go to Die?

cell_phoneMy desk drawer has become the unofficial coffin for discarded electronics in our house. Four cell phones used during the last decade…old ink cartridges from my current and previous two printers… a digital camera that didn’t survive a trip to the beach… What to do with all that electronic crap accumulating down there?

Who would have thought that the U.S. Postal Service would be the source of salvation?!?!

Turns out that USPS is running a pilot recycling program in a few cities.All I have to do is scoop up some free postage-paid envelopes and mail off the equipment to Clover Technologies. Read the rest of this entry »

A Response to Earth Day Pessimism

earth-day5It’s funny that Elaine had such a strong reaction to the Earth Day blitz – but perhaps it’s because, more than anything, it has turned into an overt in your face marketing ploy and commercial opportunity for many companies (or perhaps a way to make you feel guilty about what you’re not doing – something that we don’t need).

The more I think of it, celebrating “Earth Day” really works against itself in today’s world – shouldn’t everyday be Earth Day? I’m not an Earth Day expert, but from doing a little research, it was officially sanctioned in 1968 by Senator Gaylord Nelson – a man who was frustrated by the fact that our environment and conservation never made it onto the political agenda (sad that this is still the case, 40 some odd years later). In fact, he convinced President Kennedy in 1962 to go on a national conservation tour – to give this issue visibility.

Today, with the state of our environment, every day should be Earth Day. One day is not enough. We should all be thinking about the little things we can do to make a difference. I was just in a Hilton Hotel last week, and was surprised to notice that they were using the compact fluorescent light bulbs in their recessed lighting. I find myself buying more and more “green” products when I’m shopping – they have wonderful fresh, natural scents and really do a decent job. Plus the prices have become very reasonable. When I put my Costco dishwashing liquid into my dishwasher, sometimes I’m almost knocked out by the strong ammonia odor that it emits….I can’t help but to think that residue can probably remain on plastic cups – which of course the kids mainly use, so I’m also experimenting with “green” dishwasher detergents…to try to find one that does the job and fits the bill. So while I’m on my cleaning kick, I’ll share with you a few All Purpose Cleaners that are natural, smell wonderful and leave behind a nice fresh scent in your kitchen. (Now be mindful of the fact that I rarely find the time to really clean, but these almost make you want to spray them on the counters after you’ve cleaned up the kitchen after dinner):

My favorite: Parsley All-Purpose Kleener (Earth Friendly Products); can find on Drugstore.com if you don’t find it in your local store.

Other recommendations: Sun & Earth Citrus All-Purpose cleaner (wonderful fresh scent); Imus Greening the Clean Citrus Sage All-Purpose Cleaner; Clorox is also getting into natural products with their GreenWorks line – while I was skeptical at first, I think it is a decent line of products.

So I don’t know how I went from musing on the meaning of Earth Day today to All Purpose Cleaner, but I think you get it. Baby steps throughout the year we’ll put our earth on a more secure foundation.

Anne

Bah Humbug! Why Does Earth Day Bug Me?

earth-day-money

It’s Earth Day 2008! I know this because every time I turn on the radio or open the newspaper, I’m bombarded by “green” stories (even my favorite comic strips have Earth Day themes today). I must have a perverse streak in me because I roll my eyes at all the people jumping on the green-bandwagon for a day. The funny thing is, I totally support the effort to reduce consumption and conserve natural resources. Why is this day such a turn-off for me?

This morning I was feeling guilty about my anti-Earth Day thoughts, so I mulled over a few things I might do to honor the spirit (if not the hoopla) of the day. I was opening the mail and quickly scanned the most recent BC/BS explanation of health benefits form, those computer-generated forms I seem to receive and toss every week. For the very first time, I saw the words: “To opt out of receiving paper copies of your EOBs, go to www.bcbsil.com.” Eureka! I had my simple action step. Cut down on paper waste with one click of the mouse.

Well, 20 clicks of the mouse later and I still don’t see how/where to stop the flow of paper notices. I just emailed BC/BS customer service to ask them. And they won’t email me back with an answer, they have to CALL me (due to privacy issues, they say).

So, my simple action step is turning out to be a bit more involved. Figures …

If anyone has any words of wisdom to help me with an attitude adjustment, feel free to share them. I’m not proud of my Earth Day grumpiness and would love to have a different outlook for Earth Day 2009.

Baby Steps for the Environment

opener-1Like most women, I walk around all day with a zillion little things in my head about what I should do, what I need to do, what I want to do. One of the questions I’m constantly asking myself is: What can I do personally to help the environment? I was listening to a woman on the radio the other day who has a “green” website called idealbite.com. Her premise is that if everyone just does one small thing, it will make a HUGE difference overall.

Did you know that it takes 12 million gallons of oil and 14 million trees a year to produce grocery bags? Last week as I was getting out of my car at the supermarket, I noticed a friend across the lot loading up her car with her own reusable shopping bags. That vision finally converted me from the excuses -”I really should do this BUT I buy so many groceries each week” – to action. I bought some great reusable bags at my local store (only 99 cents) and they’re durable and hold a lot, and honestly I like them so much better than using the plastic or paper.

The other thing that bothers me is the amount of mail I throw away every day. I walk from my mailbox to my recycling bin and drop in about 75% of my mail before I even walk into the house. Did you know 100 million trees are cut down each year to support America’s junk mail? If we contact the Direct Marketing Association, we can remove our names from mailing lists of their members. That’s a start at least.

Similar to my last blog about the “10 minute work-out,” if we just start taking baby steps – we keep moving forward rather than being paralyzed and overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. I just came back from the store this morning with my 6 large colorful, reusable bags…and it made me feel good!

Anne

Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.
Marie Curie

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