North Wind sucks the moisture out of everything – a little bit of aloe vera can bring it back!

We’ve been having the worst North wind, dry and irritating, tearing new branches and buds off shrubs and trees, and sucking the moisture out of the ground. All that rain we had – you’d never know it now.

Yesterday I noticed, it had torn several branches of new grapes off the vines, and an entire branch of pretty orange blossoms off the flowering vine my friend gave us.

And it’s blowing all that grass pollen around – eek! My neighbor threw up her hands and quit mowing her back acre – it waves at me from outside my windows. I call it, “The Pollen Nation.”

My grandma used to suffer this time of year, a Kleenex tucked into the band of her watch, her hair sticking out like a fright wig.  We kids didn’t get it – now I get it. Every time I do chores outside I feel like my brains have been sandblasted. I wander into the house feeling completely disoriented – I do exactly what my grandma did, I make a cup of steaming coffee, and I hold it under my nose.

My husband has been working on our house for sale. He found out stucco is really easy to use, so he’s been patching cracks and holes in the old siding. He and my son also went around checking for rot, removing and repairing trim and window sills that were getting crappy. That, of course, required re-painting, and when the repainted items didn’t match the rest of the trim, they went around and painted everything. I thought it would never end. While they were painting, my husband noticed the hail storms had damaged a section of shingles on the roof, so he dug the leftover shingles out of the shop and went about replacing the damaged ones.

He’s been out in the North Wind and the sun, and he’s looking pretty beat up, despite long sleeves, a hat, and plenty of sunscreen.

So we’ve both been using a lot of aloe vera. It’s been tough – my plants took a hit during a couple of prolonged cold streaks last Winter, and then a good pummeling from a couple of hail storms later in Spring.

This pot was just outside the protection of the patio cover during that last hail storm.

I kept them wrapped in the green house during the cold snaps, but the green house doesn’t get any sun in Winter, and I’m too cheap to get lights in there, so I finally moved most of them back to the front porch.  They didn’t like the rain, and the hail storms left the plants around the edge of the porch  bruised and broken. They tend to mold  when they get too wet, so I’ve had to trim them extensively. It looked like there wasn’t much left of them a month ago, but we pinch away at them anyway, looking for relief from itchy skin.

This is my “nursery” where I put the babies I’ve thinned out of the bigger pots.  See where I’ve trimmed off leaves, the remaining leaf gets big and fat and keeps growing.

Somehow they keep growing, the warming weather is good for them, they are getting new leaves.  They don’t like direct, hot sun, but they like bright indirect light. The sun moves a little farther that way every day, they seem to be responding.

I used a stick to loosen up the soaking wet dirt in the pots, and that really seemed to help.

Trimming them actually seems to help. I leave a couple of inches at the bottom of the leaf, and that seems to fatten up and keep growing.

Both my kids took plants and are glad to get them. My older son got a sunburn from painting the old house, and had trimmed his plant so extensively he had to ask me for more, but reports the trimming he gave it has made it grow bigger and fatter.  My younger son took a plant off to college, he says he and his girlfriend take leaves regularly for chapped hands and face, and the plant is flourishing. So, today I am going to take a paring knife and cut back all the wilty leaves, thin small  plants out of the bigger pots, etc.

It’s a cluttered little rag tag garden, most of the plants in old plastic  pots from various plants we’ve bought at the nursery. They seem to like plastic pots the best, they don’t do so good in terracotta.

Have you noticed how expensive the bottled sap is at the store? And plants are getting pretty expensive too – a big aloe vera will sell for $50 to $100 at the big box stores. It’s better to look for small plants at the grocery store or farmer’s market, and start your own garden. 

Organic, hand filleted, these small leaves will yield about a teaspoon of sap. I just scrape it out with the back of the knife, right into my smoothie.

Or, I rub the split leaf on my skin.  It provides immediate relief, and dries without leaving any sticky feeling. I don’t like hand lotion because it only works if you leave it on for prolonged periods, and reapply every time you wash your hands. Aloe works immediately – you can wash it off five minutes later but you still got the benefit of using it. And there’s no smell, you can eat with those hands and not taste perfume.

Looking out my window, I think that North wind has finally passed. May is looking good! 

 

 

 

Mow, burn, pull that weed!

Yesterday I stood in my yard, sun shining warm on my head, rain drops sprinkling across my face.   This is absolutely fantastic weather for growing just about every variety of weed.

Just what is a “weed”? For some people, it’s a plant they didn’t put in, or plants that grow where they don’t want them to grow. 

Oh yeah, I got weeds.

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Whenever the weather dries out a little my husband is behind the mower.

The pollen coming off this yard is a health hazard.

So my husband mows and whacks, and I pull and burn. But Nature is having a big laugh on us – we can only work so many hours a day,  the weeds grow and grow, 24-7.

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Here’s where I dump the weeds I pull from along fence lines and flower beds.

Part of my solution is philosophical – I have learned to accept some weeds as harmless, even pretty.   They don’t make stickers or copious amounts of pollen, and they thrive with nothing but sun and rain water.

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This is “dock” – my grandpa showed me how to squeeze the sap from these plants to soothe the welts from stinging nettles.

Dock is really invasive, if you don’t want it to take over your yard, you need to look for it when it’s small and either pull it out by the roots or burn it out with the torch. This plant was in a nice spot, so I let it go. It stands over my head now, it’s very pretty. In Fall it will turn purple-red. It is actually a popular herb for skin solutions, shampoos, and other natural products. This blogger says it has the same dietary benefits as spinach, kale, and other leafy greens.

http://returntonature.us/stalking-the-curly-dock-rumex-crispus/

Another of my favorite weeds is mullein. There are two kinds that grow in my yard, this big furry leaf variety, and a smaller variety with shiny leaves and bigger flowers. 

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This plant has shot up to over a foot during these rain showers we’ve been enjoying.

These furry leaf mullein get to be very big – our biggest was over 9 feet, and Whipple claims he has had bigger ones. They get a tall stalk with lots of tiny yellow flowers, as the stalk grows taller, more flowers. Mullein is believed to have fairly strong antiseptic properties and you’ll find it in tinctures and salves down at Chico Natural or S&S. 

The bees love it. When the flowers are done, they turn into hard little seed balls. The tiny Downy woodpeckers come over and peck them open, eat the teeny tiny seeds.  They look so elegant, we don’t pull or cut them until late Fall.  Sometimes you can cut the dead stalk and the plant will grow another in Spring.

I sit here in the morning trying to plan my day – I can hear them growing out there right now.

 

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Mow me down!

 

 

 

 

 

 

May is National Bike Month

May is National Bike Month. 

http://www.chicovelo.org/bike-month.html

I like to use my bike to get around.  I do not have a demanding schedule, and in the event of bad weather or the occasional flat tire, I can call my husband to come and get me in the F-150.  Or I can walk – Chico isn’t so big you can’t just walk.

I call my bike “Myrtle the Turtle” because she is green and slow but she always gets me where I want to go. She is a 1956 Raleigh Superbe, I picked her up at a Deseret Industries thrift store back in the 1980’s. She has been my commute bike ever since. 

I took Myrtle to work today.  The morning was bright and cheerful, I figured I’d be home before the rain set in. I didn’t count on the wind, which started to pick up about 11 am. 

Sheesh!  Did you ever notice, when you ride a bike on a windy day, the wind seems to be coming right into your face no matter what direction you’re traveling. When I got home I looked like Little Richard.  Wooooo-oooo-ooo Bay-beeee!

Cycling isn’t always the practical way, but I work it in whenever possible.  It’s free compared to the costs associated with a car, and it’s a good work out. The best thing is, there are routes available to bikes that are not available to cars.  I’ll say, Chico has a lot of nice bicycle amenities, bridges, trails, etc.

Frankly, you are the only one who can guarantee your own safety – be careful out there.

If you are new to cycling or new to Chico, Chico Velo is a good resource for route information. They have lots of socials where you can meet other riders and learn the ropes of getting around town.

Of course their big event is the Wildflower, coming up at the end of April.  My husband rode in the century as a high school kid, and we participated with our kids in the “Child Flower,” a shorter ride over to Durham Park, which I would recommend. You don’t need a fancy bike to do that route, just good brakes and tires, water and a snack. Child Flower registration is only $20 per rider and I believe you still get the official bandanna with the route map printed on it. 

http://www.chicovelo.org/store/c11/Bags%2C_Bandanas%2C_Bottles%2C….html

Get out there and enjoy your wheels! 

Happy Good Friday!

We’ve got used to sleeping with our windows open a crack – don’t want to let in too much pollen with that fresh air, but the evenings have been very pleasant. This morning I woke up shivvering – 38 degrees! 

What the heck!

I hope my porch plants are okay. Yesterday afternoon the skies opened up and dumped hail.

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By the time it was over, it looked like Winter had rode back in.

I don’t remember the last time my driveway ran like a little river. 

I was surprised we didn’t lose power, the thunderstorm was intense, and directly over head. The sky took on that eerie blue light, and the thunder was right on top of our house, rattling the eaves.  BOOM!  It went on like a mad housewife for about an hour.

When it let up, and the sun was just sparkling,  I ran out to the orchard, expecting to see tiny fruit all over the ground. I was relieved to find the trees in good  shape, the fruit still hanging on. I also noticed, some fruit was getting noticeably bigger, it will be easier to thin out the littler fruit. I spent a few minutes pinching baby apples. 

We still have more rain in the forecast – weatherman says we will have today and tomorrow to dry out a little before another storm moves in on Easter Sunday.

So that makes today Good Friday. 

Every year on this day I try to watch the old British mobster movie “The Long Good Friday.” I found it on youtube but they won’t let me post it here. Why are they so protective? They should be thankful anybody remembers a movie from 1980.  

This year I’m going to finish it if I have to lock the doors. I’ve tried to watch it all the way through several times, but my family doesn’t like British movies cause they can’t understand the dialog. I have to admit, Bob Hoskins’ heavy cockney requires a steady hand on the playback.

You might need to turn to your “cockney rhyming slang” dictionary.

http://www.cockneyrhymingslang.co.uk/

Learn something new every day, it makes your brain bigger!

PS: I finally watched it to the end – worth it! I won’t spoil it for you.

The fruit is here, the pests aren’t far behind – set up your bug traps!

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My husband went to the freezer to get me some chicken and came back with a bag of peaches from last Summer.

I’m down to my last bag of frozen peaches – you know what that means!

Time to set up the bug traps!

When my kid was playing hockey he drank a lot of Snapple. The bottles make great bug traps.

Everything is growing like crazy after this wonderful wet Winter we had, including the bugs. Our peach and apple trees have a lot of fruit, so much we will have to thin it, and I’ll bet there’s a hungry bug for every peach.

These bugs lay their eggs in the young fruit, and the damage really comes in just as the peach or apple is getting good sized. It will look great on the outside – maybe you will see a tiny bruise or hole where the baby bug has eaten its way out – but just when it should be ripe and delicious, you find it is rotten to the core, spoiled from the inside out.

So, as soon as the fruit is as big as the end of my pinky finger, I set the traps.

Apple-looooo-jah!

You’ll need to save up some plastic soda bottles, 12 – 16 ounce size is good. Then you’ll want to make your bug juice.  I can’t take credit for this recipe, I got it online, but I will say, it brings the bugs a-runnin’. Or a-flyin’, actually.

  • 5 cups of water – warm water helps everything mix better.
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar (and this comes in a nice plastic bottle that you can use for a trap when it’s empty)
  • 1/4 cup of molasses
  • about a teaspoon of ammonia

Start with a bigger container to mix it in, like an old liter water bottle or a gallon jug, something with an easy pour top. Pour in about half of your warm tap water, then add the other ingredients and give it a good shake. Then add the rest of your tap water. This amount will be enough for about 6 traps – you only need to put 2 – 3 inches of bug juice in each trap, just enough to drown the bugs. The ammonia also helps to kill the bugs, poor little trespassers!

Remove the bottle tops and fit each top with some baling wire, or string if you don’t have baling wire. Wrap it securely around the top and then put the lid back on. Another trick is to heat the wire and burn it through the bottle top, but wrapping it has worked for me. Leave a good 8 – 12 inches of wire to attach your bottle to the tree. Then cut a 2 – 3 inch hole in the neck of the bottle, just below the top. This is where you fill the trap and then the bugs get in. Again, you only need two to three inches of bug juice per trap.

Check your traps regularly, when they start to get too full of moths or flies, throw them out and start over. These traps have worked well for me – I’ve got more good fruit since I started using them.

Shopping to sell

Life has been pretty blah since our friend died weeks ago. My husband and I continue to work toward fixing up our old rental for sale. The realtors we’ve met have been eager but we haven’t met one we feel confident with.  We’ve had good realtors, and we’ve been burned, it’s smart to take your time interviewing realtors. Once you sign with somebody, you’re stuck with them at least a few months. 

Our first realtor was an old landlady my husband had worked for, she had a lot of crappy rentals that always needed new rug.  She really screwed us over – she had an old slumlord friend who needed to get rid of some rentals. We were young and dumb, we didn’t know she knew the guy. The market was overpriced anyway, but the house had problems we didn’t know about – like an illegal septic tank that the buyer had signed off by his friend who owned a septic business.

There were no leach lines, and the tank was on the other side of the fence in our neighbor’s yard. We didn’t find that out until we tried to sell the house five or six years later. The guy who came in to do the septic inspection saw what was wrong, and then he saw his boss’s name on the old clearance. He said he had to get something out of his truck, and he drove away. We handed the paperwork to our new realtor, and – long story short – the bitch who signed the false clearance in the first place had to supply us with a brand new septic tank and new leach lines for FREE. Of course that necessitated tearing out our entire back yard, but when we finally sold that house we got at least twice what we paid for it.

We had that same realtor for years before we found out he was “flipping” us – he’d have a “straw buyer” buy our home for a lower price, then he and the straw buyer would sell it for a lot more without our knowledge. It took us a while but we caught him at it. I don’t know if that’s legal but it’s sure not very nice. 

We had another realtor who we found out later was not a licensed agent, he was not even an agent. His friend, a licensed agent, has given us to him as a test to see if he liked selling real estate. He decided he didn’t like it when he came to our house to sign the paperwork and our dog jumped up on his nice pants, left dirty foot prints all down the front. That was the end, he didn’t even try to market our house, didn’t call us with one buyer in the three months we were stuck with him.  Never even came back to get his signs, with is usually a sticker with these people, they cost a few bucks.  I’ve never seen his name in the agents’ listings, our dog must have quashed his dreams. 

Our best agent was Russ Hammer, but he was already in his second retirement when we got him, and he retired again after selling a couple of houses for us. He and his wife had a dream of living at the beach, hope that worked out.

So now we’re looking again. So far we’ve had two “buyers agents.” Some realtors work harder for the buyer than the seller. These gals were both about quick sales, we’re hoping to hold out for a better price because we know the potential in the property – it’s close to the park,  it’s big, and if you were a developer, you could probably tear down our old rambler and put three houses on the same spot.

I’m just saying. 

So we’re looking for somebody who “shares our vision…” 

I’ll keep you posted!