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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Can't Control the Weather, So Control the Attitude

Winter has been brutal with one snowstorm after another and temperatures in the teens or lower. It seemed as soon as the roads were decent and paths shoveled, we would get bombarded with the work all over again.
I am sure many people swore they were going to move or at least questioned themselves as to why they live where they do. There are times when we would say to ourselves that we are sick of all the work, that we are just tired of it all.

This Sunday afternoon the temperature climbed to 50 degrees and it was so good to get outside for a spell to clear the head, get some fresh air and enjoy the warmth of the sun. 
I've always enjoyed sitting on the front stoop of our deck, sipping a cup of coffee, and contemplating all the work that needs to be done once the weather breaks. With each passing winter season I stare at this Norway Maple and reflect on how tall it is getting. One of the few trees planted on our property when we moved here 23 years ago, its height makes me wonder what we've been doing all these years. Was it time well spent or should we have gone in another direction.

It just takes a little sun to seep into our bones to rejuvenate our spirits and get the energy flowing. Rather than that "to do" list continuing to drag down my mood, I can feel the old spark returning to "get started".

I suppose that is why people tolerate the cold and inconvenience of the winter months. We can always depend on the four seasons to keep us from getting bored. By the time we are sick of the summer's heat, the nip of fall and all the harvest activities are right around the corner. Once all the trees are bare and the gray of November settles upon us, we have the excitement of a white Christmas to look forward to. By the time our backs are aching from dealing with shoveling, we are counting down the days till spring. And when we are sick that fifth "mud" season, the sun returns in all its glory to heat things up, dry things out, and get us motivated in the planning of our summer vacations.

There is a magic in the arrival of spring. By March, we are so antsy from our need for fresh air, color, sun,  and the connection with growing things, that the draw to nurseries for those first potted flowers is like a balm for the soul.

By now, those who cannot wait to get their hands back in the dirt of their gardens are busy with the planting and care of their seedling trays, and dream of this year's garden plan layout.

Once the temperatures are tolerable, yet still too far away from the last frost date, it is time to get done those other outdoor projects such as early spring pruning and cutting back those now depleted seed heads on the plants left to feed the birds. It is time to check on our lawn and garden equipment and get things in working order before the mowing season begins. 

Perhaps it is that first smell of newly cut grass that helps us relish in the satisfaction of making it through another winter and helping us to really appreciate why we live where we do.

And then when we see the return of the swallows, the first daffodils, that first fluttering butterfly......
Perhaps we need the silence of winter to get us to notice


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Men's Personal Skin Care, Safe Cosmetics

 "The average American man uses six personal care products a day containing more than 80 unique chemicals. Many of these chemicals are absorbed into the skin, inhaled or ingested, and the vast majority of cosmetic chemicals have not been assessed for safety."

This statement was made by The Campaign For Safe Cosmetics. Usually when we think of the cosmetic industry we think of women, but this industry includes the personal care products used by men as well. Shampoos, shaving products, body wash, body sprays, deodorants...all advertised to help our men smell alluring and masculine.
Walk into a beauty salon, cosmetic section, or skin care line aisle and it is easy to get enveloped in the wonderful smells and appealing promises of slick packaging and advertising. You may wonder what the big deal is with the ingredients. I mean, you would think if there was something potentially harmful in these products they wouldn't be on the shelves in the first place.

It was very surprising for me to learn how vague the labeling laws are in the perfume and cosmetics industry. Unlike the food industry, there are no legal standards for organic or natural personal care products sold in the United States.

Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to you and your family's health. Don't think there isn't a problem just because the majority hasn't yet balked and made a fuss. Don't let the influence of the glamour and subliminal messaging behind the cosmetic industry cause you to doubt yourself just because you seem to appear the odd one in your circle. Sure, when you look around, people seem just fine. But if you or someone you love develops a condition where you find yourself far too often in some doctor's office, take another look around you. Our society really does have a lot of health issues.

 Our health is our own responsibility, therefore it is up to us to be willing to educate ourselves and search and check the labels on these products. The skin is our body's largest organ, and anything we apply to ourselves enters through the layers of skin into the bloodstream. Yes, the old saying about "anything in moderation" is true with most things, but...The cosmetic industry claims the amount of these ingredients are not high enough to pose a threat, but the problem lies in the fact that we use these products day in and day out.  Our kidneys and liver do their best to eliminate toxins but what about those that over time have been stored within the fatty tissues of the skin. The long term effects are a concern. The body reacts by way of allergic and inflammatory reactions, the havoc played on the the endocrine system is not always fully understood and the source of the problems are often hard to pinpoint.

 It is time to fight back and take control of your health and that of your family. Read labels and educate yourselves. Don't expect the FDA or the government to have your family's best interests in mind as long as our society is so influenced by big business.

Two red flag ingredients that we are hearing a lot about are phthalates and parabens.  
For a more detailed list of what is in your personal care items:

Phthalates are a class of chemicals used to dissolve ingredients so that they blend efficiently. 
Diethyl phthalate (DEP) found in fragrance-containing products such as cologne, aftershave, shaving cream, shampoos and deodorants. You may not see the actual term, phthalates, on the label but you will see them listed as parfum or fragrance. Sounds harmless labeled that way but studies are finding links between DEP and reproductive development in infants and sperm damage in adult men. A study by Harvard University researchers have found that the regular use of colognes can increase the levels of DEP in the body.

Parabens are synthetic preservatives used in foods, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and personal care products such as deodorants, moisturizers and shampoos. Look for the words: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben. Parabens allow skin care products to survive for months or even years in your medicine cabinet; however, they also enter your body through your skin when you use these products. According to, the body can absorb as much as five pounds of cosmetic chemicals every year. 

Parabens can mimic hormones in the body and disrupt functions of the endocrine system, which involves the thyroid, adrenals and reproductive system. The endocrine system releases hormones into the bloodstream and is involved in a number of functions related to reproduction, waste elimination, digestion and metabolism.
You won’t, unfortunately, find phthalates listed on a label, but the best way to avoid them is look out for ‘fragrance’ or parfum’.

Colby College's Clean Makeup website reports that parabens can mimic estrogen and disrupt the body's hormone system. Your body does not easily break down synthetic estrogen, and it can accumulate in fat cells, including breast tissue.

Other product ingredients to look for in your personal care supplies:
Lead acetate: found in men's hair and beard colorants.
Coal tar: found in dandruff shampoos
Triclosan: found in antibacterial soaps and deodorants
Formaldeyde: found in some shampoos and body washes

Men today realize the importance of taking care of their appearance and it all starts with skincare. Men often don't experience the same problems as women with dry skin. Being men produce testosterone, their skin tends to be thicker than that of of women, therefore women tend to show signs of aging sooner then men. After the age of about 30, the skin's oil glands reduce their production and the loss contributes to drier skin. Both sexes experience a drop in hormonal levels as they age, but in women the decline is more dramatic. With a decrease in estrogen levels the skin's fat layer begins to thin, resulting in the skin becoming not only drier, but less firm and more fragile. Women usually know to use a moisturizer as part of their skin care routine, but men often don't even think about that until later in adulthood. Men need to moisturize too.

With awareness comes the task of making wise decisions. Rather than worry, educate yourself with the truth behind the hype, and be a wise consumer by going the all natural route.

Shaving Balm, Facial Moisturizer

Private Parts Powder

Fungal Powder

Stick Deodorant

Facial Moisturizer

Aftershave Splash

Dandruff Scalp Oil


Saturday, February 1, 2014


Time For Garden Plans and Dreams

Many gardeners have been inundated with the new year's
garden catalogs during the holiday season, and at least in our house, with the rush they've just piled up.

The bitter cold may keep you indoors but give your spirits a boost and think spring by digging out those catalogs and start planning.

Though the last frost date is months away, now is an ideal time to start thinking and getting a rough idea of this year's garden plans. Hopefully you've taken notes last season on what worked and what didn't in seed and plant selection, crop rotations,  and pest removal ideas.

Though you can buy what seed and plants you'll need at any Agway or farm supply store, if you're into heirloom seeds, new hybrids, or just want a great variety in which to choose, then catalogs are the answer and between now and March is the time to get those orders in.

Below are some favorites for gardening catalog companies. They offer a wide choice for those seeking organic and heirloom seeds and plants.


This company specializes in seeds and plants for gourmet gardeners. A true kitchen gardener's inspirational catalog. Not only do they offer a wonderful selection of vegetables, herbs and flower seeds and plants, they give information needed on how to grow for best results. Offered is a nice variety of lettuce types and mesclun blends, very gourmet. Tucked in are some very tasty recipes to encourage you to try new things.


Strictly Medicinal, located in the town of Williams in southern Oregon, is a small family run business that began in 1985. The Cech family started out growing gardens of diverse medicinal herbs, and being fascinated by seeds and ways to become self-sustaining, they grew into a thriving source for people to find seeds and plants for their own needs and interests. Here you can find seeds and live plants for medicinal, culinary and environmental purposes.


This is a small company specializing only in seed orders. Don't expect a glossy, thick catalog. What they do is send a very personalized newsletter reflecting on their garden experiences with the seed they sell and a suggestion list of what is new. The seed isn't for the vegetable garden. Rather it is for annual, perennial, and biannual flowers, herbs, vines and flowering shrubs and trees. Great for those into fragrance or color themed flower gardens. Very quaint family company.

This company is wonderful for anyone interested in native seeds and plants for restoration and gardening. It is literally called the Native Gardener's Companion. They offer seeds, potted plants and bare root plants and even make things easy by offering kits such as that for the pollinator garden, the prairie garden, the woodland garden, the shade garden, the hummingbird garden, the butterfly garden and even a deer resistant seed mix. Small family business started with a dream.


Pinetree Garden Seeds is a catalog with a bit of everything. They not only offer a great selection of vegetable and flower seeds, there is a section of foreign vegetables for the cultural gardener. You can try Asian, Continental, French Italian, Latin-American, and Middle Eastern varieties. Listed are your Spring bulbs, tubers and plants such as rhubarb, asparagus and strawberries. Cover crops, sprouting seed, ornamental grasses, and herbs are all here. What is really cool is they offer such fun things such as soap making and body care supplies, gift ideas, unique books, and of course any gardening accessory or tool you may need.


A very well organized supply of organic, heirloom and rare plants and seeds. Each section has detailed educational information on the needs of each plant type, such as culture, disease, insects, harvest and seed specs. Loaded with what you may need in terms of natural fertilizers, irrigation, composting, disease and pest control. For those interested in preserving their harvest, there are plenty of supplies and how-to books offered. Just a wealth of information.


As expected, the Vermont Bean Seed Company has a variety of bean selections, but they certainly don't stop there. Catering to the consumer who seeks healthy food choices, they offer all you need for the environmentally conscious gardener. New this year is The Vermont Bean Garden Planner Software. They even offer a 30 day free trial. Based on your zip code, it becomes a personal tutorial for your own garden success.


BBB Seed is a small, family-owned company located in Boulder, Colorado.  They provide high quality, open-pollinated, Non-GE (genetically engineered) seed. BBB Seed specializes in wildflower seeds, pollinator mixes, native grasses and heirloom vegetable seeds. They strongly encourage heirloom seeds to avoid the common trend of mono crops where only one seed type is used to produce a worldwide crop. We now know this type of growing weakens genetic variations that can withstand emerging pathogens and climate changes.


100% certified organic, this company is dedicated to help reconnect people with where their food comes from and how it is grown.  By donating organic seeds through a program called Sowing Millions Project, they've inspired many individuals to become passionate about growing their own food. Selection includes rare and heirloom seeds along with traditional, great for those into sustainable organic gardening and farming


Prairie Moon Nursery presents this guide for readers of all experience levels to learn about popular native plants and seeds.  Most of the species offered are plants that had once thrived across the Upper Midwest and Northeast regions of North America. Insects are very plant-specific in their needs.  People have to realize that to attract the birds and butterflies, that includes attracting insects as well.  This catalog is perfect for those who want plants for more than just an ornamental pretty flower.


This is just a very fun catalog! Great for gift ideas for the gardeners on your list. This company shows you how you don't need a lot of space to enjoy a garden. Awesome ideas for container plants, bedding boxes and trellising to utilize small areas. Garden sculptures, gazing balls and bird supplies are all in there. Interested in composting or starting a worm bin, or maybe conserving water with a rain barrel?


A catalog for the environmentally responsible gardener. Loaded with information and supplies on how to prepare and take care of your lawn and garden safely and responsibly. A must for the organic gardener or homeowner who desires a beautiful yet nontoxic lawn and flowerbeds.


 For those who want to garden any time of the year, here is an array of earth-friendly products to garden anytime, anywhere, all year round. Learn about hydroponics, which is gardening without soil using mineral nutrients solvents in water. This site supplies you with all your lighting needs, growing medias, supplements and tent systems.

Remember to take lots of pictures of your growing season kaleidoscope of color to carry you through the gray doldrums of winter.