No Mothballs for Me Wednesday, Sep 17 2014 

Chipmunks rule the land. The cute little critters dig holes all around my house.

My sister suggested placing mothballs—those old-fashioned white, pungent balls grandmas used decades ago—along the perimeter of the house to ward them off. I don’t know how many chipmunks they kept away, but I couldn’t stand the smell and found that I was avoiding everywhere that the mothballs were. I retrieved and tossed them all. Surprisingly, the trash can smelled from them for weeks afterwards.

Mothballs are small balls of chemical pesticide and deodorant used to protect clothes from mold, moth larva, and silverfish. It also may repel snakes, mice, and other small pests. Not only is their smell offensive and overpowering, mothballs pose some serious health hazards. They must be used with great caution around family pets and children.

The ingredients have changed over the years but they continue to be somewhat flammable. They contain a chemical called 1,4-dichlorobenzene. Sometimes packaging lists it as para-dichlorobenzene, p-dichlorobenzene, pDCB, or PDB.

Mothballs are highly toxic when ingested. The US Department of Health and Human Services has determined this ingredient to be a carcinogen. It is a neurotoxin and may cause series illness or death. Large quantities in a basement or living space may also cause respiratory problems.

A better alternative to mothballs may be to spread blood meal or pieces of unchewed sticks of fragrant gum near chipmunk holes.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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Back to the Beginning Tuesday, Jul 15 2014 

Farming got a boost in productivity with the discoveries of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers but we now know that more food does not mean more nutrition. These substances have toxic results on our health. The nutritional differences between conventional and organic foods are debated, although most people see the health benefits of foods without chemicals.

A 2012 study, which some believe is flawed,  found no significant difference in nutritional value between conventional and organic foods. But a new analysis from the United Kingdom analyzed over 300 studies and concluded that organic crops are higher in antioxidants.

They also have lower levels of toxic metals and pesticide residues. Most significantly, organic crops are said to have an average of 48% less cadmium, a metal that can cause kidney failure, bone softening, and liver damage.

Organic farmers are not allowed to plant genetically engineered seeds or use synthetic pesticides, artificial fertilizers, hormones or antibiotics. Not only does this result in healthier food, organic fruits and vegetables have higher levels of favor-enhancing nutrients, so they taste better.

Organic farming also benefits the livestock, farmers, and environment. Organic farmers provide more humane conditions for the animals and leave soil and water supplies less contaminated. Additionally, farm workers avoid contact with the toxins used on conventional farms.

Organic foods can be expensive in some areas, but perhaps not in the long run. If we are healthier, we can live better and longer with fewer medical bills. Sometimes advances in science bring us back to the beginning where less is best.

Read more about organics at: Organic Center and the USDA website.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

 

Lily White Friday, Apr 18 2014 

The sweet, pungent fragrance of Easter Lilies along with colored eggs, chocolate bunnies, and baskets of goodies signal the season. If it is your tradition to include lilies in your holiday celebration, they are available in nearly every grocery, garden, floral, and gift shop, much like the poinsettia we see at Christmas.

The lily is a symbol of virtue, innocence, hope, life, and the resurrection of Jesus. It is called the milk of Hera in mythology and featured in early artwork of the Virgin Mary to signify the Annunciation and her purity.

The flower is sometimes referred to as the white-robed apostles of hope because it is said that lilies grew where drops of Jesus’ perspiration fell along the way to the cross. Another legend is that when the Virgin Mary’s tomb was opened three days after her burial, her body was not there but the tomb was filled with lilies.

The lily is mentioned in the Bible 15 times. Song of Solomon has 8 references. I particularly like the ones in Matthew and Luke because they are reminders not to worry about our daily needs if we are striving for the Kingdom.

Lilium longiflorum, which is the Latin name for the Easter Lily, is native to the Ryukyu Islands of southern Japan. Bulbs initially were brought into the United States in 1919 by a World War I soldier, Louis Houghton, but the Easter Lily bulbs sold here were imported from Japan until 1941. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, importing ceased and US production took off. The Oregon-California border is now known as the Easter Lily Capital of the World and produces nearly all of the bulbs used in Easter Lily pots.

Production is an exact and demanding science. The process begins with a small growth, called a bulblet, on a mother plant. The bulblet is removed and planted in another field. It is dug up the following year and replanted again in a new field and remains there for another year until the plant is harvested.

When purchasing a lily plant, look for flowers in various stages and an abundance of dark green foliage to signify a healthy, blossoming plant. Remove any paper, plastic or mesh sleeve and also the yellow anthers before pollen starts to shed for longer flower life.

Lilies prefer cooler room temperatures, preferably 60-65°F during the day and cooler at night. Avoid placing the plant near drafts or direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist but well-drained.

After the plant has ceased blooming, it may be cut down and planted outside in a well-drained garden bed. Plant the bulb about 3 inches below ground level and mound up with three inches of top soil. As with the indoor plant, keep the soil moist but not overly wet or dry.

 “Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the filed, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well (Luke 12:27-31).

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

(Some of the information for this post was taken from Aggie Horticulture, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M System.)

LOL, My BFF Monday, Nov 11 2013 

Texting is not a verbal language. My son-in-law Steve says this to the young people whom he works with. But it probably won’t be long before some of it actually is.

Language is never stagnant. If you read a 20 year-old book, you will notice that some of the wording is dated. Words are incorporated into our language from other languages, cultures, and trends. The more we use new words, alter their meaning, or discontinue their use, the more likely they will become a part of our everyday language in their new form. There is a whole area that deals with this. Etymology is the study of the history of words – their origins and how they evolved.

Many of our newer words, or ways in which we use them, are associated with technology. My grandparents would have no idea what email or Internet means, and they used the words domain and reboot quite differently than we do today.

Texting also has created many words and prompted a shorthand young people know very well. As if written in code, those unfamiliar with texting have little to no clue as to the letters’ and symbols’ meanings. The danger is when we no longer know how to spell-out what they represent, such as R (are) and luv (love).

And yes, we will pick up many of these text words in our daily spoken and written language. B4 u know it the general public may simply say LOL (Lots of Laughs or Laughing out Loud) and BFF (Best Friends Forever). 🙂

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

Citronella Beetle Bath Thursday, Jul 25 2013 

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Discoveries are often found by accident. I recently made one such finding I’m excited to share with you.

Japanese Beetles have attacked my roses for years. The healthy rose buds open only to serve as tasty treats for the visiting pests, who immediately destroy them. Sprays intended to prevent this do little to help.

I recently set two unlit citronella candles out on the ledge of the deck during a barbecue. The following morning I found dozens of the Japanese Beetles frozen in the melted candles.  I hadn’t even lit the candles. They melted in the warm sunlight.

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Citronella is considered a natural insect repellent, but it must actually attract the beetles, which then get stuck in the wax. I have moved the candles closer to the roses and am morbidly delighted to see this collection continue to increase. The roses appear to have less infestation, but I honestly am not certain if in fact I am drawing more beetles to the garden.

Citronella oil is an essential oil obtained from the leaves and stems of different species of lemongrass. It is especially effective against mosquitos, lice, and stable flies. There are no known adverse effects when used as a topical insect repellent, including when used on children and people with sensitive skin. Citronella oil is used in chemicals in soaps, candles, and incense. It is also recognized as an antifungal.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

Cantigny Formal Gardens Thursday, Jul 11 2013 

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The 29 acres of gardens on the 500 acre Cantigny estate are in full bloom. The former home of Chicago Tribune editor and publisher, Robert R. McCormick, showcases themed gardens including an idea garden, reflection point, scalloped garden, fountain garden, rock garden, rose garden and prairie. Wandering down the manicured paths is both relaxing and educational as many of the plants are labeled.

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Located in Wheaton, Illinois, the magnificent estate also includes the First Division War Museum, historic McCormick mansion, a café, gift shop, and a golf course. The grounds and facilities are open to the public daily and feature special events such as concerts, festivals, and a Revolutionary War Reenactment.

At only $5 per car, the ticket onto the grounds is an affordable family outing. (There is an additional fee for some events.)

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See more about Cantigny at http://www.cantigny.org/gardens/explore/default.aspx

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

Japanese Gardens Monday, Jul 9 2012 

Japanese garden

haven for serenity

and contemplation

 

Looking for a quiet corner in our noisy world? Japanese gardens are designed to promote peace and offer an environment conducive to meditation.

Like life, gardens may appear simple but rich in beauty and experience. They are miniature replicas of larger landscapes. Sand, water, bridges, and particular plants are carefully placed. Every item is significant and maintained according to tradition.

Japanese gardens were constructed for the pleasure of emperors from as early as 500 and 600 A.D. They originated on the island of Honshu, Japan in connection with the Shinto religion.  Chinese Daoism and Amida Buddhism also influenced early gardens.

Seek public gardens in your area for opportunities to relax and enjoy quiet moments of thought and prayer. A simple online search will point you in the right direction. The Midwest has many from which to choose.

From 1910 to 1939 George and Nelle Fabyan designed and constructed the Fabyan Japanese Garden in Geneva, Illinois seen in these photos. The garden has undergone two extensive renovations since their passing. Now owned by the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, it is operated by the Preservation Partners of Fox Valley. The garden is open from May 1 through October 15th. For hours and directions, see http://www.ppfv.org/fabyan.htm or call 630-377-6424.

©Mary K. Doyle

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