Saturday, January 25, 2014

Winter Watering and Compost

In spite of the moisture from snow and ice from a month ago, the garden is absolutely bone dry. Sunday we set sprinklers and almost instantly the winter grasses resumed their verdant green and perked up while the grateful garden sent forth small shoots of the Jonquil and crocus.

Now is a perfect time to apply compost to the garden. Compost was first described as useful for the garden in 1587 so its properties have a time tested tradition. Compost is simply decomposed organic matter which improves the soil and gives it a lighter consistency. Since Oklahoma soil is difficult, the addition of compost will greatly improve the quality.

The merits of compost may be noted on the forest floor which is covered by undisturbed leaves. These leaves break down over time creating the rich soil that nourishes the fledging saplings as they grow to become forest giants in an ever-repeating cycle. If one takes inspiration from this natural cycle, the value of this process may be utilized in the garden. Since the average gardener does not have the quiet decades of the forest to break industrious individuals may make a compost bin and create their own rich matter.

In the 1930’s to ’40’s when America was encouraged grow vegetables for the war effort, most urban homes had a compost bin. My father had one and was fairly constant with his enthusiastic interest in it. It was located in the farthest corner of the yard and consisted of three wooden sides approximately four feet high and it was deep enough to move about in. Leaves were the basis of his compost with grass clippings, old newspapers, coffee grounds, and other organic matter added, all of which were in 12-18 inch layers. Bone meal and ammonium nitrate were sprinkled between the layers to aid in decomposition and give it a boost. The mixture was tossed about while sprinkling with water occasionally to dampen it and encourage it to ‘cook’. By Spring the process was complete, producing dark matter that had a deep and rich aroma. For those who do not have their own compost readily available, it is reasonably priced at most nurseries and may be purchased by the truck load. Apply some this year and work it into the soil…the garden will thank you.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Cedar Time Again... Know the Enemy

Over the weekend, the weather warmed however as in all of life there was a downside… the wind. The velocity was so fierce as to blow about small children and the elderly as they fought their way to vehicles after Church. The dust blew in billows as the cattle braced against it and walked slowly through pastures and the tumble weeds were truly tumbling.

The Cedars are pollinating once again and if one merely brushes by one a fine yellow mist will fill the air. The Cedar is the product of sophisticated and evolved survival tactics. During the drought they produced pollen which was a thick and prolific, and the like of which had never been seen before… it was an alarming testament to their determination to survive.

The female trees are covered with small blue berries; each one is an infant Cedar tree. The birds find the berries delicious and baby Cedars are spread through their bodies. The birds gorge themselves, fly to rest in treetops, and invariably drop a Cedar ‘package’ of unprocessed berries to grow at the base of the tree. The aggressive adolescent Cedars surround and literally choke or starve any other species of tree, taking all water and nutrients from the soil for themselves, leaving less aggressive trees to perish.

Cedars are also infamous for the effects they have upon the human race, causing much misery as their pollen drifts through the air this time of year. Their pollen is microscopic and can travel hundreds of miles on the wind, and of late we have had wind aplenty!

It is wise to make efforts to partially protect yourself from pollen based illnesses. Obviously the more time spent outdoors the more problems with allergies so do not invite pollen inside by opening doors and windows for fresh air on pretty days… there is no fresh air during Cedar season. Wash your hands after playing in the yard, wash your hair before bed, and change your pillowcase daily. If necessary take an antihistamine to relieve allergy symptoms and remember Cedar season does not last forever, it just seems so.

Allergy Medications 101
Medications for Allergies~  For basic relief, take an antihistamine. There are many kinds of antihistamines, most of which do not require a prescription. The antihistamines that have been around for a long time are called first-generation antihistamines. These have been used for many years and are considered very safe and effective. Some of the best-known ones are Benadryl, Demeaned, Chlor-Trimeton and Zirtec-D. The main negative to these antihistamines is that they cause most people to become sleepy, however the effect may be modified if one takes a low dose headache remedy containing caffeine, which combats the drowsiness with no ill effects. A decongestant such as Sudafed opens up the nose, makes breathing easier, and reduces the amount of drainage from the nose.

The decongestants tend to be a stimulant for many people, and when they take a combination of antihistamine and decongestant, the decongestant helps to counter the sedating characteristic of the antihistamine. If you can successfully use the first-generation antihistamines, they are much, much cheaper than the new second-generation antihistamines.
The second-generation antihistamines such as Allegra and Claritin do not cause drowsiness, but are much more expensive with Allegra requiring a prescription.  Loratdine does not require a prescription, is easily available, and the site suggests it as one of the first things to try when having allergy problems.

For those who are wondering when Spring will arrive just ask the onions whose internal clock has said ‘Why wait, it‘s coming… let's grow‘!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Cabin Fever!

 The weather certainly took center stage this year, making for an icy holiday. The ice gathered and lasted much longer than expected and last Sunday reminded one of Antarctica… at least an Antarctic of my imagination. Never has the North wind been so bitter or so biting! This weather with overcast days of icy rain and snow, or sunshine with howling winds and bone-chilling temperatures is rather depressing for those who love to be out doors. It is down right dangerous in many parts of the nation!

With too much ice on rural roads for days, many were trapped and could not leave home. They may possibly be experiencing a weather related syndrome called ‘Cabin Fever’. First recorded in 1918, cabin fever is a term for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group of persons are isolated and unable to leave a confined space for an extended period of time. Symptoms of cabin fever include restlessness, irritability, laughter, forgetfulness, excessive sleeping, and finally distrust of anyone they are trapped with. Often there is an urge to race outside even in snow or darkness as the individual assumes 'the unknown' is possibly better than entrapment with their companions. The most famous case of extreme cabin fever is horrifying as depicted by Jack Nicolson’s character in the horror flick, ‘The Shining’. Who could ever forget the typed message, ‘All work and no play make Jack a dull boy‘… over and over again as Jack famously ‘lost it‘. Humorously cabin fever has been referred to as a reaction of extreme boredom caused by an infusion dull company, with visiting relatives often to blame.

It can safely be assumed that the recent power outages may have contributed to a rash of cabin fever for how many hours can one find entertainment sitting in the dark listening to clocks tick? We may expect more dastardly winter weather, but it will not last forever. All of this house-bound misery will end with the arrival of spring and each dawn brings her closer to us. Last week, as though fulfilling a promise, the brave and precious freesias peeked through the frozen garden soil. Happy New Year... stay warm!
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