Archive for the ‘General’ Category

All About Pillows

April 13, 2013

Pillow of your dreams

No need to lose sleep about where to rest your head

RHONDA OWEN
SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

Getting a good night’s sleep rests on a variety of factors — room temperature, peace and quiet, whether your partner snores — but none of those matter if you’re sleeping on a pillow whose better days are as faded as the pattern on its cover.
The nonprofit National Sleep Foundation’s 2011 Bedroom Poll reveals that 91 percent of people believe the right pillow is the stuff of sweet dreams and restful nights. Chances are, most of us agree. When we lay our heads down to rest, we want them upon pillows so comfortable that we don’t even give them a second thought.
What type of pillow is the most comfortable? The answer lies with the individual, who must search for his ideal headrest in a vast and confusing pile of pillow types and materials — memory foam, anti-microbial, hypo-allergenic, down, feather, latex, polyester, buckwheat, contoured.
The variety of choices might make you want to hide your head under a pillow, if only you had the right one. Add to that trying to figure out when and how often you need to replace your pillow and you conjure up quite a headache. Recommendations range from every few months if you buy cheap pillows that lose their fluff quickly to every one or two years for more expensive models. If you need an orthopedic pillow for a back or neck problem, your doctor can make a recommendation of how often to replace it.
Dr. David Davila of the Baptist Health Sleep Center in Little Rock says you won’t know how well a pillow suits you until you sleep on it. He suggests starting a pillow quest by noting what appeals to you in terms of texture, scent, density and thickness. Think back to pillows at places where you’ve slept such as hotels and homes of friends and family, make a list of the most comfortable and try to find out the style and material of each.
While the right pillow can affect quality of sleep, Davila says he doesn’t tell his patients what pillow they should have because the best pillow for a person is the pillow he likes. For example, some people prefer squishy pillows while others want to sleep like a log on something nearly as hard.
Choosing a pillow can be a daunting task, but it helps to understand that unless you have a special consideration like a neck problem or a dust-mite allergy, all you have to do to begin pillow shopping is know your sleeping style and how much money you’re willing to spend. A polyester-filled pillow may cost as little as $12 up to $200, while a high-quality down pillow that has a long fluff life could cost anywhere from $60 to more than $200. Have your pillow custom-made and the price tag goes even higher.
HOW DO YOU SNOOZE?
Sleeping style more than price, however, probably will be your first consideration, according to webmd.com, because how you sleep determines the type of pillow and filling you need. A person who sleeps on his back, for example, needs a thinner pillow so his head isn’t thrown too far forward, making him wake up with a stiff neck. A side sleeper needs a firm or contoured pillow to fill the hollow between the ear and outside shoulder. Stomach sleepers either should have a thin, flat pillow or none at all.
Then there are scrunchers, people who like to wad their pillow into a ball, the folders who want to fold their pillow into a desired thickness and the “Cloud Niners” who want a pillow that’s all puff and fluff.
How a pillow scrunches, folds, springs or holds its shape depends on its filling, for which there are two basic categories: natural and synthetic. Here’s a look at materials within those categories, based on information from the Better Sleep Council (bettersleep. org), eHow.com, webmd.com, wisegeek.com and consumerreports.org. Prices are approximate and based on standard and queen pillow sizes.
ALL NATURAL
Down — The soft under feathers of ducks and geese make wonderfully fluffy pillows because down holds its shape. The interlocking feathers also hold in warmth, which makes these pillows especially great during winter. Price: $30-$270
Feather/down combo — Most “feather” pillows actually contain feathers and down because down increases softness and fluffiness. The highest quality “feather” pillows contain more down than feathers, but a typical ratio is 25 percent down/75 percent feathers. Price: $30-$95
Wool and/or cotton — Both are dense and warm, but firm. They tend to pack down over time to become flat and hard. Price: around $50
Latex — Molded of soft foam, a natural latex pillow is made from the sap of rubber trees. Some companies mix natural latex with synthetic latex, so check the label if you want a pillow that’s all natural. Latex pillows are among the most durable and long-lasting — many hold their shape and firmness for up to five years. Price: $30 and up.
Buckwheat — Pillows filled with buckwheat hulls are firm, but also mold to the shape of your head and neck. Price: $20-$30
SYNTHETIC
Memory foam —Dense foam that retains warmth, shaping itself to the contours of your head, neck and shoulders as you sleep. When you move, the foam will spring back to its original shape. Memory foam is often used for contoured pillows for people with neck or spine problems because it provides support and give where necessary. Memory foam pillows are rated by density, with a 3-pound pillow being softer than a 6-pound pillow. Price: $12-$160.
Gel memory foam — These typically have memory foam on one side and a gel-coated foam on the other to provide two sleeping surfaces. People who find traditional memory foam uncomfortably warm can use the cooler gel side, which retains less body heat. Price: $35-$70
Microfiber gel pillow — Made of polyester fibers that have been coated with a gel to extend their life and make them softer, these are supposed to be the synthetic equivalent of a down pillow. Price: $22-$70.
Polyester — Polyester fiber, often touted as a down alternative, is softer than other fill materials. It has the advantage of being machine washable, but pillows will lose their shape after a couple of washings. Polyester pillows are also the most common and least expensive pillows, with the type of covering (sateen, microfiber, cotton) figuring into the cost. Price: $6 to $60.
When pillow shopping, test firmness and resilience by placing pillows on a flat surface and pressing them with your palm until they are about half their original thickness. Firmer pillows need more pressure and the quicker a pillow returns to its original shape, the more resilient it is.
Sleep tight.

Winterize your power tools

December 1, 2012

This is an article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette from 12/1/12 – I thought it might be a good idea to save it for future reference!!

Mower, blower winterizing tips

DEAN FOSDICK
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

You can avoid the silent treatment from your power tools in the spring by providing some tender loving care before storing them in the fall.

Gasoline-powered garden gear isn’t guaranteed to start when it’s left idle for extended periods of time, say 30 days or more. A thorough cleaning is essential.
    “The first thing you want to do is take a blower and clean everything off — the leaves and debris that have built up over the growing season,” said Mike Ballou, a product manager with John Deere. “This is the time for maintenance.”
    Don’t delay taking equipment to a dealer if you don’t have the time or inclination to do the work yourself, Ballou said. Not only will that extend its working life but it also will save you time and money.
    “What a lot of dealers do is have service specials in the wintertime to attract customers,” he said. “Otherwise, there’s a two-week backup in the spring because everyone tends to put things off.”
    Some steps you can take now to ensure your tools are ready when the weather warms up again:
  •     Change the oil and spark plugs in gasoline-powered equipment before storing it away.
  •     Dump leftover fuel into your vehicles. The shelf life for gasoline generally is 30 to 60 days, Ballou said. “Run your equipment until all the old fuel is gone, and then add fresh along with some fuel stabilizer. Let that run five minutes or so, giving it enough time to cycle through the carburetor. That prevents sludge from forming and gumming up the fuel system.”
  •     Disconnect the batteries. “Every two months, put them on a charger and charge them back to full,” Ballou said. “At that point, you’ve done what you need to ensure they’ll start again in the spring.”
Here are some additional tips to ease seasonal garden chores:

  •     Buy an extra set of lawnmower blades and another chain for your chain saw. “That way you’ll always have one on hand while the dull blades are being balanced and sharpened,” Ballou said.
  •     Clean or replace air filters to aid engine combustion.
  •     Store your equipment and fuel in a clean, dry place, said Randy Scully, national service manager for Stihl Inc., a manufacturer of chain saws and other handheld equipment. “That helps prevent rust and corrosion.”
  •     Lubricate and tighten moving parts. That includes wheel bearings and throttle cables. Tillers, mowers, string-cutters and chain saws take terrible beatings and tend to loosen up over time. “Anything that’s not quite right or broken, get it repaired,” Scully said. “Clean away oil that’s dripped onto handles for safety.”
    Get to know your instruction manual, Scully said. “It has complete listings of things in there about what should be checked and how often.”
    John Deere, Stihl and many other manufacturers have begun emphasizing easier-to-maintain designs for do-it-yourself equipment operators.
    “For example, no tools are needed for changing the oil in our newer garden tractors,” Ballou said. “We’re trying to make things simple to extend their working life.”
For more about winterizing power tools and garden gear, see the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service fact sheet at tinyurl.com/c3axuv7.

Good suggestions for trees to plant

November 4, 2012

 

I grabbed the following from http://www.mnn.com/your-home/organic-farming-gardening/stories/the-best-trees-for-urban-and-suburban-yards but since it might not be there forever… I cut and pasted the following from it:

 

What to look for in an urban tree

In choosing an urban tree, look for the following qualities:
• Appropriately fast growth to a size at full maturity that provides enough shade without becoming overwhelming or dangerous. Keep trees under 30 feet tall around utility lines or in restricted spaces. Also avoid trees with strong, wide-reaching roots that could damage foundations or sidewalks.
• The ability to grow in your hardiness zone, as shown on this U.S. Department of Agriculture map
• Partial shade tolerance, if necessary
• A tolerance for salt and potentially weak urban soils, which tend to be dry, compact and sandy
• The ability to tolerate pollution, pests, diseases and other urban ravages
• Strong, sturdy limbs
• Lack of thorns, particularly around children.
A few good trees
Though it seems like a tall order, here are a few trees that fit the bill. The U.S. Forest Servicethe Ortho Books Complete Guide to Trees and Shrubs, and the Cornell University horticulture department all endorse these trees for urban gardens.
Amur maple: This native of China and Japan is more tolerant of a range of soils and shade conditions than some maples, and grows up to 20 feet tall and wide. It is showy and bright red in the fall, and very cold-tolerant, growing well in zones 3 to 8.
Cumulus serviceberry: This single-trunk tree attracts birds and offers year-round color, with white spring flowers, small red summer berries and orange fall leaves. It is ideal for streetside planting, and also grows in zones 3 to 8. It reaches 25 feet tall and 15 feet wide.
American hornbeam: Also known as musclewood, the tall hornbeam typically has a long sinewy trunk capped with a ball of blue-green leaves. The shape lends itself to streetside planting, and grows in zones 3 to 9. It grows slowly, and hardily tolerates flooding and shade. It reaches up to 30 feet tall and 25 feet wide.
Goldenrain tree: This tree only grows from zones 5B to 9. However, this 30-foot tree makes up for not tolerating cold by tolerating heat, drought, pollution and poor soils. It also has bright yellow flowers in the summer when few other plants are flowering.
Crabapples: The hundreds of varieties of crabapple tree have beautiful white, pink or red flowers, and namesake fruits that last well into the fall. Sizes vary but many don’t exceed 15 feet tall or wide. Be sure to choose a disease-resistant cultivar. The forest service recommends the “David” for its creamy white flowers, and “Prairiefire” for its pinkish-red flowers.
Japanese tree lilac: This pest-resistant tree grows to 25 feet tall and 15 feet wide and flowers best in full sun, but tolerates partial shade. It has large clusters of summer flowers, but they may only appear in full bloom every other year. It grows in zones 3 to 7, but may face some problems in warmer Southern climates.

Expired Drugs?

March 2, 2012

For the record… and from Cecil Adams
(The Straight Dope) straightdope.com

Dear Cecil:

Is consuming expired prescription medicines really all that dangerous? Some friends of mine insist taking pills beyond the printed expiration date is flirting with death, while another claims expiration dates on labels are BS, there solely to prompt us to order refills and spend more money. I once treated a nasty headache with the only thing I had on hand, some Vicodin that was about a year out of date. My headache went away, and I was no worse for wear. As time passes, are the pills in their little plastic bottles chemically restructuring themselves into poisons, or is there nothing to fear?

— Neil, Indiana

Cecil replies:

We have to tread carefully here, Neil. A few drugs don’t age well — for example, nitroglycerin and insulin. But they’re the exception. Most drugs retain their potency for years after they supposedly expire. What’s more, everybody knows this, or ought to; the Wall Street Journal once ran a front-page exposé on the subject.

But you don’t see anyone pushing for expiration date reform. Why not? No doubt because of the same combination of greed and excessive caution that drives up all healthcare costs: (1) The drug companies potentially could forego billions of dollars in lost sales; (2) the amount individual consumers could save is relatively trifling; and (3) there’s a remote but nonzero chance somebody relying on defunct drugs could die.

This last belief is based partly on a 1963 study claiming expired tetracycline had caused kidney damage. But that contention has been questioned, and in any case the problematic formulation of tetracycline is no longer made.

The FDA started requiring drug companies to place expiration dates on drugs in 1978 on the reasonable grounds that people shouldn’t be using medicine so old it was no longer safe or effective. What the FDA didn’t do was set expiration dates, leaving that up to manufacturers. In 1985 the U.S. Pharmacopeia, a not-for-profit standards-setting body, began urging that medicines not sold in the manufacturer’s original container (that is, most medicines dispensed by pharmacists) have a one-year expiration date. The theory was that pharmacy pill bottles left in the notoriously hostile environment of your medicine cabinet (or, to be fair, a hot glove compartment) were less likely to prevent their contents from going bad.

But the truth is your meds will probably keep just fine. In the mid-80s the FDA started testing drugs as part of the U.S. military’s Shelf Life Extension Program — the Pentagon then had a $1 billion stockpile of drugs it didn’t feel like throwing out. As reported in that Wall Street Journal article in 2000, around 90 percent of the drugs were safe and effective well after they’d nominally expired .

To be sure, some drugs deteriorate faster than others. For example, epinephrine, used to treat cardiac arrest, steadily loses its potency over time. Liquid drugs and suspensions are less stable than solids. Medications custom-prepared by your local pharmacy are likely to have a short shelf life.

But even then it’s not like drugs go bad at the stroke of midnight. An update on the Shelf Life program published in 2009 established that 88 percent of tested medications worked fine more than five years past their expiration date, which admittedly just confirmed previous research. The more pertinent finding from a practical standpoint was this: one year post-expiration, every drug tested was still OK.

Word has been gradually filtering out. In the January 2012 Consumer Reports, the magazine’s chief medical adviser, Marvin Lipman, writes, “Except for tetracycline” — and as we’ve seen, even that’s dubious — “expired drugs generally don’t appear to cause harm. But they do become less potent. In particular, throw out any drug more than a year past its expiration date [my emphasis].”

But let’s face it, not everybody reads Consumer Reports. And some drugs are good for much longer. What’s needed is a systematic revamping of drug expiration labeling so the dates reflect the actual length of time, based on tests, that particular medicines retain their potency.

The savings could be huge. From 1993 to 1998 the military spent $4 million testing expired medicines and saved $263 million. A follow-up study found that for every dollar spent on the Shelf Life program from 2006 to 2010, $10 to $20 was saved. In 2010 Americans spent $307 billion on four billion prescriptions, nearly double what they’d laid out ten years earlier. In one survey, only 2 percent of respondents said they used all their medication before it expired. (And more than a third flushed expired medications down the toilet, wreaking who knows what environmental havoc.) Even a small extension of expiration dates could save billions.

As we’ve seen, however, neither the drug industry nor consumers have much incentive to demand change. Some outside crusader, maybe? Not likely. Suppose you announce you’re campaigning for office on a platform of prodding the pharmaceutical industry to push back expiration dates. Next day, guaranteed, there’ll be billboards all over town saying “MY OPPONENT WANTS TO SELL YOU STALE DRUGS.”

— Cecil Adams

The Straight Dope on saving pull tabs

January 6, 2012

I subscribe to “The Straight Dope” newsletter and consider it a reliable source for supplementing my education. I think Snopes and the like are excellent resources, but Cecil generally adds a bit of humor, and backs up his opinions as he gives a play-by-play on whatever research the question has required his team to make for a complete and factual answer, no matter how (sometimes) ridiculous the question. This rerun was in a recent newsletter so I thought I would save it for the benefit of those who are invited to participate in a pull tab campaign…

The Straight Dope – Fighting Ignorance Since 1973
http://www.straightdope.com/
A Straight Dope Classic
from Cecil’s Storehouse of Human Knowledge
Will saving pull tabs earn free kidney dialysis
for needy patients?

May 8, 1992
Dear Cecil:
A little over a year ago I was doing my coachly duty at a high school speech tournament when a fellow coach announced that she wanted the pull tabs from our empty soda cans. She said she was saving them for a woman who could turn them in to get cancer treatment. It sounded like an urban legend to me but I kept my mouth shut, since it’s uncool to dis one’s fellow coaches.

Not surprisingly, the story had legs. At the start of this school year my students started mentioning that we should be saving pull tabs to help someone get kidney dialysis. As it is OK to dis one’s students, I told them they were nuts and pressed them for evidence. None could name the generous hospital or even the needy kidney patient. I hoped I’d put an end to this goofy tale.

Sadly, the story has now appeared again, with the added authority endowed by the school public address system. Every day an announcement is read urging students to place their pull tabs in collection containers so they can be given to some poor nameless kidney patient. The kids are now convinced there must be some substance to this and my insistence to the contrary is losing credibility. Please, Cecil, find out what you can and restore my reputation.

— Lexy A. Green, Oakland, California

Cecil replies:
Don’t get your hopes up, teach. So-called redemption rumors have been floating around at least since the 1950s and probably earlier. Before kidney dialysis came along you typically were told to save cigarette packs to buy somebody time on an iron lung — one of your classic sick bargains.

Most such stories were false, but not all. For example, from 1948 till 1979 the makers of Vets Dog Food would make a one to two cent donation to an outfit that trained seeing-eye dogs for each Vets label redeemed. Today Heinz baby food labels can be redeemed to benefit children’s hospitals and Campbell’s soup labels can be used to buy school equipment.

The kidney dialysis legend may have started with the Betty Crocker coupon program run by General Mills. Most folks redeemed the coupons for kitchen utensils and stuff, but beginning in 1969 General Mills OK’d several fundraising campaigns in which coupons were used to purchase some 300 kidney dialysis machines. The company soon stopped dialysis drives due partly to complaints that it was “trading in human misery.”

But the idea evidently survived in the public mind, with one twist: the medium of exchange was somehow switched to pop can pull tabs.

The story was so persistent that in 1988 the kidney and pop can people decided to play along. Today if you walk into a Reynolds Aluminum recycling center with a pile of pull tabs and say they’re for “kidney dialysis,” the staff will nod knowingly, exchange winks, and send a donation equal to the salvage value of the aluminum to the National Kidney Foundation. However, the donation will not pay for dialysis, because there’s no need. Medicare picks up 80 percent of the cost of dialysis and state programs or private insurance typically cover the rest. Instead, the donation goes to kidney research, education/prevention programs, and patient services.

So saving pull tabs isn’t a complete waste of time. But let’s make one thing clear: there’s nothing special about pull tabs. You’d save yourself a heap o’ trouble and make a lot more money if you recycled the whole can. The Reynolds and kidney foundation people have tried to get that point across with a poster showing a red “Ghostbusters”-type slash through a cartoon of someone trying to detach a pull tab from a can. The headline says, “Keep Tabs on Your Cans.”

But the public hasn’t gotten the message. Supposedly responsible people — e.g., the honchoes at your school — will organize pull tab collection drives without ever bothering to get the whole story. Urban legends expert Jan Brunvand reports that in 1989 a Minneapolis VFW post organized a pull tab collection drive for the local Ronald McDonald House. When Brunvand asked the organizers why they didn’t tell people to save whole cans, they lamely replied that there were “hygiene problems” and that people liked mailing in the tabs, even though the postage often exceeded the value of the aluminum. In other words, it’s not important to DO good as long as people FEEL good. Excuse me while I grind my teeth.

— Cecil Adams

Flowers and Shrubs & the heat of summer!

July 24, 2011

This article appeared in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette on 7/2/11 – I wanted to capture it here for reference sake so that we might make some intelligent decisions for our backyard garden when we’re ready to plant.

Turn up the heat! These plants will thrive when summer sizzles
STORY AND PHOTOS BY JANET CARSON

You know the saying, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” The same goes for an Arkansas garden: If plants can’t take the heat, they shouldn’t be there!
Summer has already been a scorcher, as well as dry in most areas of the Natural State. Rainfall has been spotty at best. Even for gardeners who are diligent in their watering, some plants seem to be faring better than others.
Color in the garden is something most gardeners strive for every season, whether blooming shrubs, perennials or annuals. When choosing plants for the landscape, consider their season of interest and how adaptable they are.
The first step is to look at the USDA climatic zone map, by which plants are rated for their hardiness. We have three such zones in Arkansas. The bulk of the state is Zone 7 (average low winter temperature of zero), while south Arkansas is Zone 8 and north Arkansas is Zone 6. Keep in mind the only piece of information you get from this hardiness zone map is the average low winter temperature. It doesn’t tell you anything about summer heat, rainfall or humidity.
So use this as a guide, not as your gardening bible, because while many plants are rated for our climatic zones, some aren’t as tolerant of summer as others. Still, we do have a wide range of plants that can take the heat. Some require ample water, while others withstand hot and dry conditions.
SHRUBS, SMALL TREES
Few plants are as associated with the South as crape myrtles and most are thriving, even in this summer’s weather. They not only take heat, but do well in dry conditions. The more sunlight they get, the better they like it. While they are drought tolerant, a little extra water can go a long way in helping them with their flowering ability. Deadheading (cutting the spent flowers) can also put more energy into new blooms.
Other shrubs and small trees that are blooming now include Vitex, or chaste tree; Buddleia (also spelled Buddleja), or butterfly bush; Althea, or rose of Sharon; and summerflowering spireas. Abelia has been around for a while, and keeps on blooming regardless of the weather. New varieties give you options on size and foliage color.
Our native Clethra, or summersweet, is blooming now in sun to partial shade and has fragrant flowers which are quite attractive to bees and butterflies.
NATIVE PLANTS
Speaking of native plants, because they rely on Mother Nature to water them, they have to be tough to survive an average Arkansas summer. Some natives that are blooming now include the spiky perennial Liatris, or gayfeather; the lovely orange butterfly weed, Aesclepias tuberosa, with its strong taproot; and Echinacea, or purple coneflower.
Nativars and improved cultivars of our native species are readily available at many nurseries and garden centers. With Echinacea, if you don’t like the native pink variety, they now come in red, orange, white and yellow. Coupling a little moisture and fertilizer with deadheading encourages them to bloom for months.
Gaillardia, or blanket flower, is a tough Oklahoma native that loves hot, dry weather. So does Gaura, with a summer-long explosion of pink and white flowers. Goldenrod is a long-lived perennial with a long season of flowering — and no one is allergic to it, even though it is often blamed for hay fever instead of the real culprit, ragweed. The hotter and drier it is, the happier the goldenrod is. And don’t forget sunflowers. The native saw-toothed sunflower blooms a long time, but give it room since it can grow quite tall.
OTHER PERENNIALS
Other perennials with long staying power include Ruellia, or Mexican petunia; yarrow, with a wide array of flower colors; old-fashioned Crinum lily, which is also winter hardy in at least half the state; and the long-blooming catmint (Nepeta x faassenii).
Agastache is another great perennial with lots of colors to choose from. It blooms all season, and bees and butterflies love it. Monarda, or bee balm, and almost all of the ornamental grasses tolerate heat and drought.
SUCCULENTS, SILVER LEAVES
Succulents are plants that have thick, fleshy leaves. Just by their appearance, you know they can take dry conditions. Some are groundcovers and others grow 2 feet tall. Hens and chicks, Sedums and Euphorbias are proven performers. Yuccas and cactus can also take very dry conditions, but make sure they fit the style of your landscape.
Silver-foliage plants are another group of plants that give you clues to their heat adaptability by their appearance. Lamb’s ears, Artemesia, dusty miller and old-fashioned rose campion prefer poor, dry sites. Too much water and they fade away. They also do very well in hot conditions.
TROPICAL
Tropical plants love heat and humidity, so are quite at home in the summer garden in Arkansas. While they won’t survive winter outdoors, they can be protected inside or carried over in a protected garage or storage building.
Or you can simply buy new plants every season. Since they basically bloom from the day you buy them until a killing frost, they are a good source of color, so a great investment, even if just for one season.
Hibiscus, Bougainvillea and Mandevilla are popular and have been around for years but try some of the more unusual ones that grace our markets: Jatropha has clusters of pink flowers, while Ixora has clusters of yellow or orange flowers. Tibouchina has large, velvety purple flowers while Plumeria has fragrant, large flowers in a wide range of colors and esperanza is a sea of yellow all summer. Mandevilla is usually associated with hot pink flowers but now comes in white, red and several shades of pink.
While most tropical flowers do best in full sun, there are some that will take the shade. Chrysothemis, or “Black Flamingo” flower; Plectranthus “Mona Lavender”; butterfly Clereodendron; and bromeliads can add color in the shade. Remember, because most tropical plants are grown in pots, they need regular watering and fertilization because frequent watering leaches nutrition.
HOUSEPLANTS
Most of our houseplants are also tropical plants, albeit grown more for their foliage than flowers. They can make great accents in the shade garden. Everything from Dracenas and Philodendrons to mother-in-law’s tongues (or Sansevieria), arrowhead plants and Chinese evergreens can be planted in the ground for the season, or their pots can be interspersed in the outdoor landscape.
Croton is a great houseplant for seasonal color in full sun. The more light it gets, the more color the foliage has, and it blends beautifully in fall gardens with its array of orange, yellow and red foliage. And we now have a wide selection of palms, some hardy and some not, that can give a tropical feel to the landscape. Bananas in standard and dwarf sizes are also showstoppers in the summer landscape. New varieties are now winter hardy statewide, but don’t produce bananas.
SUMMER ANNUALS
And last, let’s not forget summer annuals. Annuals have to be planted every season, but they give a great deal of color for relatively little care. Some are more heat tolerant than others, and water needs vary. Some of the most heat-tolerant varieties include Lantana, Pentas, Angelonia (summer snapdragon), Melampodium, periwinkle, Cosmos and sweet potato vine. Coleus and Begonia can take sun or shade, and Impatiens and Caladium thrive all summer if they get ample moisture.
Petunias and Callibrachoa will bloom all summer, if you keep them well fertilized. If you don’t, you won’t have constant color. If summer annuals get leggy, pinch them back, fertilize and water and they should rebound, lasting until a killing frost. If you forget to water and they burn up, replacements are still available at local nurseries.
VISIT GARDENS, NURSERIES
Visit other gardens or botanical gardens to get ideas. If they are doing well now, think how well they would do in a milder season. Keep a journal or a list of plant ideas. Visit nurseries even in the summer. The great thing about being a gardener is you can never have it all. There is always a new variety or cultivar on the horizon.
To learn more, plan to attend the Aug. 4 Rice Expo at the Rice Research and Extension Center, 2900 Arkansas 130 E. in Stuttgart. “Plants that can take the heat” is the last topic in a jam-packed day of events with everything from rice information to cooking, insects, diseases and plants. It all begins at 9:30 a.m. For more information, contact your local county Extension office.

Althea, or rose of Sharon, a shrub

Bougainvillea, a tropical plant

Asian moon Buddleia, a shrub

Lamb’s ear, a silver-leafed plant

Echinacea, or purple coneflower, native of Arkansas

Butterfly weed, native of Arkansas

Ixora, a tropical plant

Coleus, summer annuals

Pink Cosmos, summer annual

Double purple Althea, a shrub

Freedom Riders Revisited

July 4, 2011

There was a great article published in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette on Sunday July 3, 2011. I felt it was worth preserving here so I did….
It was written by one of the Freedom Riders, John Curtis Raines, a man born to privilege, but moved to participate in the fight for freedom and equality. The punch line is found in the final paragraphs, when he points out that the battle is not over yet… the problem now is huge difference between the rich and the middle class in America today… well worth the read!!!

Get on the bus
Freedom Riders’ work remains unfinished
BY JOHN CURTIS RAINES
SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

Fifty years ago this month, I arrived here in Little Rock for the first time. I road in on a Trailways bus with four other Freedom Riders. Fifty years ago, here in Little Rock, I was arrested and put in jail because the five of us—three blacks and two whites—got off the bus together and went together into the “white” waiting room, and sat down. We were arrested on the charge of “a threatened breach of the peace.” We were quite properly arrested. We did intend to breach the peace, the socalled peace of legalized segregation. We wanted to and did challenge and break those laws that should never have been made laws in the first place.
The judge who found us guilty and put us in jail was named Quinn Glover. For me that jail sentence would become a moment of truth, the beginning of a second education that I wasn’t supposed to get. How so? What kind of education was I not supposed to get?
I was born white and male. Less obvious was the fact that I was born into a family of considerable class privilege. When I first became aware of things around me in Minneapolis, Minn., back in the late 1930s, my family and I were living in a house with five fireplaces and seven bathrooms. There was a live-in maid and for the first five years of my life I would be raised by a governess. I didn’t ask for any of that, but that’s what I got.
It was the total package of privilege. There were private schools and private clubs and private summer camps. There were tennis lessons and sailing lessons and horseback riding lessons. The first world I learned, my first education, was a world I learned from top down, from inside privilege and power. But nobody back then told me that.
Fifty years ago this month, one of my own kind—a white male of class privilege, Judge Quinn Glover—sent me to jail. For the first time in my life I found myself outside power and regarded by power as an enemy—and power had the power to punish me for that. Without that jail I would be much less suspicious, much less critical of power than I am today. Without that jail I would have remained selfsatisfied and tame—enjoying without thinking about it the privileges I got without my choosing it with my birth.
I came to the South 50 years ago riding a bus because I wanted to help black folks get some of the public freedoms I already enjoyed—not a very radical or radicalizing reason—a kind of noblesse oblige. Instead the black community of the South saved my life, both literally and figuratively. It was an education most of us privileged white boys never got, and didn’t even know enough to miss it. Without asking for it or even wanting it, I got a second chance at life.
So, thank you, Little Rock. Thank you, Judge Glover. But especially, thank you Rev. Benjamin Elton Cox and Bliss Ann Malone and Annie Lumpkin and all the other courageous young and not-so-young black folks of the South who stood up for America by sitting down at the lunch counter, who went to prison and by that act saved freedom in our land, who found a way and made a way where there was no way. Thank you to all those nameless ones who made history even as the forgotten ones of history.
Let me share the stories of a few of those forgotten ones. I never learned their names, but they taught me things I needed to learn and, in one case, literally saved my life.
I came to the South again in 1964 to join the Mississippi Freedom Summer. The idea was to bring a thousand students from the North, mostly white, and join with Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee workers in Mississippi to work on a voter registration drive and establish local freedom schools. I was assigned to Hattiesburg, Miss. By then I was married and had two small children. My wife Bonnie gave me permission to go. The majority of the white folks in Mississippi regarded us white protesters as betrayers of our own race. There were, however, a few exceptions. One was a music professor at the local university who spoke with a thick German accent. One night he gathered perhaps ten local white Mississippians who were in favor of our activity. We met in his living room and because of the fear of local white retaliation the windows were covered with blankets.
I asked him: “Why are you doing this? The administration of your university is highly politicized and if they find out you could lose your job.” The man, a white man of some 50 years or so, answered simply and directly and very powerfully. He said: “Why do I do this? Because I come from Aushwitz.” It was the first time I met a Holocaust survivor.
The last time I would go South as a civil rights worker, and the time I nearly got killed, was in May of 1965. A black Baptist preacher, Charles Sherrod, who had been a fellow student with me at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, was leading a voter registration drive in Newton, the county seat of Baker County in southwest Georgia. In that county, the black population constituted a two-thirds majority, but in 1965 not one black was registered to vote. Sherrod phoned from Newton back to the seminary in New York because the black demonstrators were getting routinely beaten by the local white toughs. And the FBI and the northern news media would not come the 50 miles from Albany, Ga., to Newton because back then white violence against blacks was not considered newsworthy. So Sherrod asked for some white guys to come and join the protest. I was one of two who did that. And sure enough, the FBI and the northern news media showed up.
We were marching together around the county courthouse where the voter registration office was located. Just in front of me was a black woman of some forty years with two of her children marching just in front of her. A white woman half her age came up and said: “Bessie, you get out of that line or never come to work at my house again!” Bessie stayed in that line, lost her job, but a few months later she got her vote.
Here is how my life was put at risk, and how a local black farmer whose name I never learned saved my life. I had rented a car to get from Albany to Newton, and a local black protester had an epileptic seizure and needed to be taken to the hospital up in Albany. They asked me if I would take him, and I said I would. But I didn’t even get out of town before the cops arrested me for, so they said, “driving on the wrong side of the street.” It was early evening, and I was arrested and thrown into the local jail. Usually, the jail is in the basement of the county court house and is relatively safe. But not in Newton. Instead, the jail was an isolated, freestanding squat building out behind the court house and shrouded in darkness. There were only bars, no glass in the windows. There was a black part of the jail and a white part. I was the only one in the white part. All the local Ku Klux Klan would have to do is pour gasoline through the window and throw in a match and that would have been the end of John Raines.
But the local black community knew I was in danger and they got a local black farmer to put his farm up as collateral for my bail. The next morning, I was out.
Iwent South to help others get their freedom. And they gave me back my life, together with a second education a privileged white boy from the North wasn’t supposed to get, one many back then didn’t think I needed to get. I got what I needed and I am grateful for that. Thank you, South. Thank you, black community of protest. Thank you, Rev. Cox and Rev. Sherrod for being the pastors this white boy needed back then.
But that was then, and this is now. Back then the struggle for justice was a racial struggle. And we made some progress on that. But today, the struggle for justice is a class struggle, a struggle against the vastly expanding inequality of income and of wealth that today assaults our nation and threatens our freedom.
For working-class and middle-class Americans the dream is turning into a nightmare, a nightmare of unemployment and underemployment, a nightmare of being underpaid and overworked, a nightmare of owing more to the bank than your house is worth. Wall Street may be back in the big bucks, but Main Street is running on empty. And most of this has been going on for 40 years now.
Here’s what’s gone wrong. Successive administrations in Washington, both Republican and Democrat, stood by while our factories closed, stood by while the working class way of life was dismantled and destroyed. Yes, they talked about new, good jobs—first it was “high technology” and then “the dot-com economy” and now “the new green economy.” But those jobs weren’t that many and they didn’t pay that well. The jobs that did come were at the lower end of the service economy—clerks in Wal-Mart or Home Depot, or aides in hospitals or assisted living homes. Meanwhile, the top 20 percent of income earners were doing just fine, and the top 1 percent were doing even better; they were fast at work stealing America.
Here’s how that story of stealing America gets reflected in economic statistics.
Let’s go back 30 years ago. In 1976 the percentage of total U.S. income going to the wealthiest one percent was nine percent. Thirty years later, in 2006, that same one percent increased their income hold on national income to 24 percent. That’s nearly a threefold increase in inequality of income in 30 years. How did that happen? This is how. In those thirty years four-fifths of the increase in the total national income went to that wealthiest one percent. For most of us, our income was stagnant (even adding a second paycheck), but for the top one percent, their income was exploding.
When talking about inequality we should talk about wealth because, besides income, wealth includes the value of a house, the value of stocks and bonds, the value of retirement accounts, and so on. Wealth measures inequality more accurately than income alone. By the end of that 30 years between 1976 and 2006 the richest one percent of U.S. households owned 33.8 percent of all the national wealth. That’s more wealth in the top one percent than the combined wealth of 90 percent of the rest of American households. In those thirty years we became a vastly unequal country.
And that inequality is not just about money. Concentrated wealth translates into concentrated political clout. And in recent years the Supreme Court has made the political effect of that inequality much worse. The court decided to count money as speech and to count corporations as a person, so that wealthy persons and wealthy corporations can now spend as much on elections as they want. Money is speech, corporations are persons? That’s nonsense. But the result of that irrational rationalization is that Big Money is taking away from the rest of us the meaning of our vote. Big Money is buying America, and five out of the nine Supreme Court Justices say that it’s legal. Is it legal to steal a country from its own people?
That’s not the America I was taught. America is supposed to be about a promise, a promise about average folks working hard, living clean and each generation doing a little better. But that America is being lost.
Yes, it’s easy to get cynical. All you have to do is have your eyes open. But only those who don’t care about freedom can afford to get cynical. Those of us who do care have to fight. Because freedom can never be freedom for the few at the expense of the many. Political freedom is built upon and preserved by equality—not absolute equality but that relative equality of common citizens sharing an equal voice in how things are run, and for whose benefit. That’s the America I was taught.
Fifty years ago we got on a bus together. We went to jail together. Some of us lost our lives. Fifty years ago, struggling together, we won some freedom for America. But today that freedom is threatened once again. This time the issue is not race but a new class of the wealthy few who want to rule the rest of us as if they were princes or kings, rule us without our consent.
So, it’s time to get on the bus again, the bus called “freedom.” Our destination is “a nation of the people, by the people and for the people”—that dream of a nation that still lies ahead. We the people must demand of the wealthy what they don’t want to do—and that is to join with the rest of us and fight for the future of America that belongs to all of its citizens. And that means new taxation policies. And it means new regulations on the flow of international investments. It means the wealthy must join the rest of us and begin to re-invest in things made in America.
Fifty years ago we got on a bus together, 50 years ago we sat down at lunch counters together, 50 years ago we marched on the streets together, we went to jail together. Fifty years ago we put our dreams together—and we won some freedom for America. Well, it’s time to get on the bus together once again—the freedom bus of 2011. It’s right there, waiting for us.
John Curtis Raines is emeritus professor of religion at Temple University, a United Methodist minister and recipient of the Lindback Distinguished Teacher award. Raines was one of five Freedom Riders to arrive in Little Rock on July 10, 1961, and will be speaking at a symposium at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center on July 9 and attending the public commemoration to unveil a plaque in honor of the Freedom Riders at the Old State House the following day. For more information see lrfreedomriders.org.

Bald Eagle Live Cam

March 29, 2011

My longtime friend and Emeralds drummer Don Skiles sent me a link to this great live Eagle Cam out of Norfolk Virginia. If you are a bald eagle fan at all, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Not only is the live cam interesting, there are historical videos available of the activity at the nest showing, for example, the first of the three eaglets being fed…

Click here: Live Bald Eagle Cam

Thanks Don!

actually, sort of after the fact, I learned that Don got the link from Jeanie Green (Jim Green’s wife, and Jim Green is also an Emerald and long-time friend)   so I should give credit where credit is due!! Thanks Jeanie!

update 4-23
The eaglets were banded on 4-21… here’s a great video of the banding: Eaglet Banding Video

Louisiana Purchase Historical Surveys

February 11, 2011

Recently put online, by the Arkansas Commissioner of State Lands, are some historical documents related to the original survey of the Louisiana Purchase.  Quite interesting, but a little hard to navigate if you don’t know the layout of the townships and sections…

Louisiana Purchase Survey Historical Notes and Plats

Maybe I’ll see if I can figure it out… but the amazing thing is that “Using today’s modern technology including lasers and GPS (global positioning system) imaging it was discovered that in the fall of 1815, in a black water swamp, in the middle of the wilderness, they missed the intersection point by almost 1 inch!”

Books to read? Derek Sivers’ reading list and blog

October 14, 2010

Here’s a book list from Derek Sivers with notes about each of the books… He’s read in the neighborhood of 100 books in the past 2 or 3 years. Here are the notes on one called “A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy” – by William Irvine – just one of the many I need to read, or maybe just read his notes. The notes are quite detailed and may eliminate the need of actually reading the book.

He was the founder and owner of CDBaby and some other stuff. After building it into a multi-million dollar company he figured out that he wanted to give it away to charity and retire…. It’s quite a story. He has a blog that I think I could probably spend hours browsing and reading. One of the entries describes why he decided to give it all away. Pretty interesting!!