Monday, September 28, 2009

Planting Pansies

In the Garden
By Catherine Dougherty
This year promises the most lovely Autumn in ages. The crisp mornings are delightful, perfect for outdoor coffee and a leisurely walk to see the glories in the garden. The sunny days are a comfortable temperature and are calm and relaxing after the frenzied rush of summer. The morning glories have reached a zenith, climbing to dazzling heights on and around anything that reaches upward and the mums are delightful to behold. As darkness falls and the cool patters in, night blooming flowers open filling the evening with their sweet scent. The trees have begun to thin and their leaves are drifting, whispering with an almost inaudible rustle as the gently fall. A walk through their ever-accumulating masses is a joy of crunching, swishing sound and motion. Autumn awakens every sense for even the names of the colors are exciting; scarlet, bronze, ruby, burnt sienna, golden cinnamon.

This is the season most favored by many gardeners because of the quietude; it is the time to enjoy the fruits of their labors without hurry. For a brief moment in time there is nothing particularly pressing and now is the time to enjoy all that the garden offered… before it is time to say goodbye.

For the energetic gardener, the precious pansies have begun arriving in the nurseries and it is a wonderful time to plant them. Originally a common viola growing in fields and hedgerows in England they were cultivated by William Richardson, gardener to Lady Mary Elizabeth Bennett I the early 1800’s. Despite his efforts, their first noted appearance was on the estate of James, Lord Gambier. His gardener, William Thompson, began to cross various viola species with a viola tricolor in an effort to achieve a round flower of overlapping petals. In the late 1830s he found by chance a flower that no longer had narrow nectar guides of dark color on the petals but a broad dark blotch instead; from this pansy came the future ‘flowers with a face’. Released to the public in 1839 with the name "Medora," this pansy and its progeny, including "Victoria", rapidly became popular with gardeners and breeders throughout Europe.

If planted now, they will survive nicely over the winter and will have a head start in the spring. Such a cheerful, adorable little flower is always a welcome guest at the garden party and the color options are positively stunning. Their faces are delightful!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Socialize health Care!

How in the name of common sense (if perchance it still exists) could an insurance industry be based on illness? Insurance is based on Actuary Tables. For example with home insurance, everyone who buys a policy pays 'in' but not everyone will have a home disaster. Actuary Tables say so. Thus the money paid 'in' will cover the losses of the nominal group who have had a disaster. How could any Actuary Tables possibly conclude that industry involvement in health care presents viable risk factors when literally everyone will process a claim? It makes no sense. If you have insurance you have a ’health agent’ who is nothing more than a paper-shuffling middleman who should be dumped. Less cost right there.

Obviously I really don’t think the Insurance Industry should be in charge of Health Care any more than I think the Food Industry should be in charge of it. Although the food industry does seem to keep the shelves stocked. (Maybe put them in charge, they do a good job.) Why is an industry in charge of our national health care in the first place? With significant change will another corrupt giant (like the Housing Industry) come crashing down and is that fear the reason all the suggested reform protects the Industry?

People in all of the industrialized world, except us, have health insurance but it is not a for profit industry! Here our not-for-profit health care, Medicare and Medicaid, cost 3% to process claims. However it costs 33% to process an insurance claim because investors must get their share first. Socialize the whole thing IMO... there I've said it.

I don’t have insurance anymore and am not yet old enough to qualify for the socialized government program. My (rarely used) insurance (Blue Cross/Shield) premiums continued to rise as the children left coverage. It was $225 in 1986 for 8 of us and ended up costing $880 a month with A $5,000 deductible for two healthy (knock on wood) adults. Unaffordable. As I was negotiating a lower premium, after my agent’s assurances everything was ’on hold’ until we reached an agreement, they cancelled us; I had missed the payment after 22 years of prompt payments. So we are now among the uninsured.

Hipe has made people afraid and televised programs promoting the latest medical panic are not helping allay the fear of illness driving most people to the doctor; this fear overburdens the system. Consequently I think advertising by pharmaceutical companies should not be allowed on TV. ’Ask your doctor for...' is ridiculous. Additionally common sense would suggest that 86 year old Aunt Mary use a cane rather than spend 60,000 taxpayer dollars for her hip replacement. People used to know a cold lasts three days so no need to rush to the doc until the fifth day when the phlegm turns green, a fever begins, and the symptoms increase. Then go to get an antibiotic

Unfortunately many of those who are insured have not a clue what they cost the system by their easy access to care. I know several young people who have full coverage insurance and go to the ER every whip-stitch for gas or anxiety. They were convinced several times last year it was a possible heart attack. With good coverage, the hospital took advantage of them and referred them to six or seven tests, including stress tests, that concluded after $30,000 they had gas... or an anxiety attack. Please folks, take an antacid or half a xanax before rushing to the ER; it costs everyone and perpetuates the problem. And shame on the hospital!

Sadly, my son and daughter-in-law lost a baby in vitro at less than three months. A DNC was necessary but why did it cost $10,000 with their $3,000 deductible? Why was there a $65 towel warming charge when no one asked if she cared if her towel was warm. Why were there other absurd charges... listed among them were expensive blood thinning medications she did not receive. The cost of the procedure was $300 twenty years ago so why has it risen so? Shame on the doctors and hospitals again!

Personally, I knew we were in health trouble when doctors could no longer use their educated discretion and give meds to their patients... suddenly, at the request of government, the police were in the mix. I wondered then why police were making medical decisions, but then they appointed a Drug Czar to explain it all for me. With the police-produced list of dangerous substances paregoric (among many other old and useful drugs) vanished. Banished not by physicians, but by law enforcement. So what I think really worries many objecting to the thought of government intervention is which agency would make what rules and at what public price. Any agency BUT the law enforcement in charge is okay with me. I'll gladly pay the $100-125 a month for universal care the Medicare recipients do... after we get rid of the blood sucking Industry and socialize medicine. Everyone under 65 deserves the same care the elderly recieve, don't we?

Seems everywhere we look someone is dancin’ with the devil in the pale moonlight because common sense apparently died a painful death years ago when corporate giants murdered it for profit.
Stay well.

Monday, September 21, 2009


The lovely song of the field cricket is heralded this month and its melodic symphony can be heard everywhere each evening. Fall is the time for cricket mating and the male, who is the only voice of the cricket, is singing to potential sweethearts. Although the female can not sing, she can hear the song through her ears which are located on her front legs just below her knees. A shy and reclusive little insect, the cricket rarely makes a public evening appearance until the urgency of mating begins.

Cricket eggs are deposited in the soil in the autumn, soon after the rains begin. They will rest there until time to hatch in the spring and once they are born, baby crickets hide during the day. They eat in the evenings and enjoy grasses, pieces of grain, wool and their favorite snack… book bindings.

Apparently the darling cricket will sing, mate, then come inside to eat a good pair of wool pants or a book or two before its life cycle ends. In China and Japan, singing crickets are kept as pets in special cages as they are said to bring a household good fortune. Luckily for them, the Asian fabric of choice is silk…not wool!

In the Garden... Dirt.

It is quite possibly the most lovely Autumn in many, many years. Fall is arriving exactly on schedule, ushering in the season in a splendid manner with gentle rains. The rains have come at a perfect time to replenish the sub surface moisture before the freezes and thus insure the winter safety of the garden perennials. Plus they have provided dampness necessary for fabulous fungi, the like of which is rarely seen.
The leaves on the trees are beginning to thin and soothing sunlight is flooding the garden again. The tiny self-sown seedlings are emerging and the mornings have become pleasurable. As the sun travels to the south, fall awakens the gardener’s soul and we begin to emerge from the lull of late summer. Almost overnight the garden becomes a mass of overgrown exuberant flowers and foliage and there is a renewed energy and joyfulness about the raucous displays that have emerged. The flowers blooming in the final days of the growing season have the deepest color and the wildest foliage. It is as though Nature has saved the best for last in order to leave with us the impression of endless possibilities.
When the foliage in your garden begins to thin, it is a good time to check out the places where some plants have not done as well as others and smell the soil. Everyone who gardens knows that soil is alive and the well-being of your plants depends on the nutrients in your soil. When the children were little I took them to the river, the creek, the fields, and the woods to feel and smell the differences in the soil. Healthy soil has a rich distinctive aroma; soil devoid of nutrients looses this all-telling “dirt smell” and will need some help to regain any strength.
The texture of dirt depends upon the mineral content in it. Sand has the largest particles that can be seen, silts are very small and clays are microscopic. To acquaint yourself with the smell of healthy soil, go to a spot in your garden under a tree, dig a trowel full and inhale the will smell alive. It has gathered nutrients from the leaves which have fallen and the grass clippings which have been thrown its way. The decomposition which has ensued over time has created a rich, nurturing soil full of nutrients, which is why the forest floor is always occupied. Since no amount of processed fertilizer can add to the garden what decomposing vegetation can add, remember to toss grass clippings and fallen leaves into the flower beds. Over the winter with rains and snow, they will meld into the garden, disintegrate, and replenish the soil while you are not noticing. The timely rains have already begun this process.