Tuesday, February 28, 2012

First World Problem

You just knew this was coming after yesterday’s Monday Musings post, didn’t you? Oh come now, you should know me by now; I couldn’t possibly allow an opportunity like this to go by. Especially if a little humour is involved.

Anyway...

At least for 2012, I will post a photo each week of a ridiculous ‘First World Problem’ or ‘FWP’ (an issue perceived as difficult to those residing in the more developed nations, but which is banal when compared to the difficulties encountered by those in the less developed ‘third world’ countries). And I’ll be the first to admit when I’m guilty of the week’s ludicrous ‘First World Problem’...

So, let’s get started. Here is this week’s shameful bellyache...


Today's Trivia - Elephant Festival

Elephants have held a special place in Indian society for thousands of years; they have served in armies as living tanks and troop carriers, done hard labor, carried great burdens, lent dignity to official functions, and even helped level the very forests on which their lives depended. They are the living embodiment of the god Ganesh, and are considered precious, to be preserved and protected. It’s hardly surprising, then, that this magnificent animal is associated with an annual festival.

The Elephant Festival, celebrated every year in the month of March before the holi festival, is one of the most popular events held in Jaipur, Rajasthan in India. Tourists and locals gather in large crowds for this celebration at the Jaipur Chagan Stadium where elephants are the center of attention.

The participating elephants are females, and their keepers take great care to decorate them with vibrant colors, flowers, jhools (saddle cloth) and heavy jewelry. Elephant polo, Elephant race, and the tug-of-war between Elephant and 19 men and women are featured events of the festival. The most beautifully decorated elephant is awarded.



This sounds like a lovely festival. It must be quite a treat to watch elephants with anklets that jingle as they walk, and hot pink elephant toenails!


Monday, February 27, 2012

First World Problems

Every Thursday evening after supper, I drive my 14-year-old daughter to her guitar lesson, and while she’s there, I pop over to WalMart across the street, and hang around their books section until it’s time to pick her up (in the summer I hang around the garden center, obviously).

Anyway. After the lesson is over, I pick her up and we stop in at McDonald’s where we each enjoy a snack-sized Oreo McFlurry and some mother-daughter quality time that includes conversation (we don’t just sit and stare at each other as we stuff our faces). The topic of discussion varies, but it’s always interesting. A couple of weeks ago, I asked my daughter how things were with her boyfriend (yes, she already has one of those) to which she answered ‘great’. She likes many things about him, how thoughtful and caring he is, and that they have a lot in common.

“Like what?” I asked.

Like how they both agree that their generation is rotten. Spoiled. Whiny.

Huh?

“Have you heard about first world problems?” She asked.

“Yes, I have. There’s even a funny video about it that’s quickly circulating around the web”

“We complain about stupid things.” She said.

“We sure do.” I added. “Where do you think you fit in there?”

She surprised me by answering something like this: “Well, I’m a little bit like that. But maybe not too bad. I do complain about stupid stuff, but I know I shouldn’t.” (Admitting to be less than perfect in the teen years?)

“We all do.” I told her. “It’s all relative. We are complainers, and the complaints are relative to the lives we lead. The cushier our lives are and the smaller our problems are, the stupider our grievances. It’s shameful when you stop and think about it. There are people facing real problems in this world. Perhaps we should remind ourselves of that once in awhile, so we can practice gratitude instead of whininess.”

Sadly, she’s right. For a society that lives quite comfortably, we sure can find a lot to bellyache about.

Here is the video that makes me hang my head in shame because I’m guilty of some of the things depicted in it.



Perhaps today we can all practice gratitude for the comfortable lives we lead in wealthy, industrialized countries. Particularly those of us who don’t know what real problems are.

Book It - Blood Done Sign My Name

This week’s featured book:

Blood Done Sign My Name
Author: Timothy B. Tyson

Overview:

"Daddy and Roger and 'em shot 'em a nigger."

Those words, whispered to ten-year-old Tim Tyson by one of his playmates in the late spring of 1970, heralded a firestorm that would forever transform the small tobacco market town of Oxford, North Carolina.

On May 11, 1970, Henry Marrow, a 23-year-old black veteran, walked into a crossroads store owned by Robert Teel, a rough man with a criminal record and ties to the Ku Klux Klan, and came out running. Teel and two of his sons chased Marrow, beat him unmercifully, and killed him in public as he pleaded for his life. In the words of a local prosecutor: "They shot him like you or I would kill a snake."

Like many small Southern towns, Oxford had barely been touched by the civil rights movement. But in the wake of the killing, young African Americans took to the streets. While lawyers battled in the courthouse, the Klan raged in the shadows and black Vietnam veterans torched the town’s tobacco warehouses. Tyson’s father, the pastor of Oxford’s all-white Methodist church, urged the town to come to terms with its bloody racial history. In the end, however, the Tyson family was forced to move away.

Tim Tyson’s riveting narrative of that fiery summer brings gritty blues truth, soaring gospel vision, and down-home humor to a shocking episode of our history. Like To Kill a Mockingbird, Blood Done Sign My Name is a classic portrait of an unforgettable time and place.


My Comments:

Written by a professor of African-American studies, this is a candid and engaging autobiographical story about the racial struggles, which often prompted vileness and violence on all sides, in a segregated southern town where white supremacy ruled, unapologetically, after the Civil Rights Act.

This book, which goes far beyond being a story about a racist murder, is an amazing journey through racial attitudes and beliefs. You will laugh and you will cry, but most of all, you'll be haunted by the view of race in the 1960s and 70s that is not commonly portrayed. This powerful book includes historical truths that we’d rather forget, truths that still bear repeating, over and over again, so we may learn from them.

Demotivational


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Our Garden Has Blossomed With TLC

“Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest.” - Douglas William Jerrold -


When we first bought out home in 2009, the gardening aspects of it were a neglected mess. I knew it would take a lot of work – and many years – before all the landscaping was at a level that would appeal to us and add some natural beauty to our house. But I didn’t really mind; it was a project I embraced wholeheartedly. I still do. And although there is still so much more to do, things have come a long way since then.

For example, this is what you saw in our backyard that first summer:

Nothing to see here, folks, nothing to see...

And this is what you saw by the end of August 2011, two years later:

Hubby and I sit on that swing and enjoy the beauty around us.

There are so many flowers around our home now.

This is where you'll find me hanging out soon.

We're getting there...slowly but surely!

This year’s gardening season is just around the corner, and I have a list of glorious plans for it. I can’t wait to get down and dirty with Mother Nature!

After An Erratic Winter...

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
- Albert Einstein -

With the winter having been so erratic, I fear that some of my more fragile plants will not be returning this spring, like the gorgeous Rudbeckia hirta ‘Indian Summer’. That would be sad.




We’ll just have to wait and see what happens this gardening season. I have my fingers crossed...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sunny Side Up

"Isn't it strange? The same people who laugh at gypsy fortune tellers take economists seriously."
- Cincinnati Enquirer-

If you’re concerned about your clothes getting tighter, this week’s end of the week smile will finally explain what’s going on...


Enjoy the weekend!

Converting Plants To Hydroculture

Here is a step-by-step explanation - with photos - on how to convert houseplants from soil to hydroculture. The information below has been written to help anyone interested in hydroculture fully understand the conversion process.

Let’s get started.


PART ONE: THE HYDROCULTURE SYSTEM EXPLAINED

What Is Hydroculture?

Hydroculture is the method of growing plants without soil. You have most likely heard about ‘Hydroponics’, an automated method of growing plants in water, mostly related to the production of food. Hydroculture, related to hydroponics but functioning quite differently, is the low-end of growing plants in water. It is also referred to as passive hydroponics, which means that it lacks all the automation commonly associated with hydroponics.


The Equipment Used

The hydroculture system consists of five basic parts:

1) outer pot (for holding the water reservoir)
2) culture pot (inner growing pot)
3) growing medium (expanded, fired clay pellets)
4) water level indicator
5) nutrient (fertilizer)


Outer Pot

The outer pot (container) is a closed water reservoir that can be any size, shape or colour and is available in many different forms: ceramic, plastic, stone, glass, terracotta, etc. Any closed planter or container can be used as an outer pot as long as it’s impermeable and incapable of releasing harmful chemicals into the water. If you decide to use chemical-releasing containers, such as brass or copper, consider lining them with plastic to protect your plants.


Culture Pot

The culture pot is the heart of the hydro system, available on the market in many different sizes to accommodate an assortment of plants. Fitting snugly into the outer pot, it is made of plastic with slits all around the base that guarantee maximum air flow through the growing medium and the root zone. The design of the culture pot also allows for a water level indicator to be attached firmly.

With its concave bottom, only the external portion of the pot makes contact with the outer pot and the nutrient solution. The special design of the culture pot assures that the plant’s root are not growing in water; they are growing above the water, surrounded by the clay pellets, which draw the moisture up by capillary action from the supply in the outer pot. Roots are never wet, just evenly moist.


The Growing Medium

Clay pellets are the growing medium of choice. They take the place of soil, are porous, retain moisture and transfer water to the roots by capillary action. These pellets are light in weight, do not compact, are inert, ph neutral, contain no nutrients and are completely reusable; you can clean and sterilize them after use.

The pellets drain freely and don’t hold excess water, providing good oxygen levels around the root area. This growing medium called LECA (Light Expanded Clay Aggregate) also provides the necessary support for the plant along with its ability to absorb the correct amount of water and oxygen. Healthy and beautiful plants are guaranteed with this optimal ratio of water and oxygen.


Water Level Indicator

The water level indicator, resembling a thermometer, fits neatly into a slot in the culture-pot and is used as a water gauge. There are three markers on the indicator: min (minimum), opt (optimum), max (maximum). The marker in the indicator rises as water is added and falls as the water is used up by the plant. When the indicator reaches the minimum level, it signifies that the pot is completely empty and it’s time to add water. The water level should always be kept at the opt (optimum) level. Only under special circumstances should you fill the pot to the max (maximum) mark, such as extended absences from home.


Nutrient

Hydroculture plants have a regular feeding schedule, which eliminates the guesswork involved in traditional growing methods. Feeding frequency depends on which kind of plant food you decide is most convenient. The two basic choices are liquid fertilizer and slow release nutrient. Liquid fertilizer can be added at every watering while the slow release nutrient - loose granules sprinkled on top of the clay pebbles or a gelled disk that is placed in the bottom of the hydroculture water reservoir – is added every 4 - 6 months.



PART TWO: HOW TO CONVERT PLANTS FROM SOIL TO HYDROCULTURE

Prepare The Pellets

If you’ve just picked up a new bag of clay pellets, rinse them under running tap water in a colander or strainer to remove dust caused by shipping and handling. Likewise, clean pellets that haven’t been put to use for a long time. When the water runs clear, which signifies that the clay pellets are clean, soak them in water overnight – or at least for a few hours - to saturate them. If your pellets are not new, and they’ve been used recently, just rinse them a bit and use them right away.



Convert Only Healthy Specimens

No matter how hardy a plant, converting it from soil to water will cause it stress. If the plant is in poor shape the results will be less than satisfactory and the plant may even die, so choose only healthy specimens. In addition, do not convert plants that are infested by pests; get rid of the infestation first and convert the plant only after its health has been fully restored.



To Water Or Not To Water

Before you convert your plant, decide whether you want to let the soil dry out completely or whether you want to give your plant a hearty drink. there are advantages and disadvantages to both. A plant whose thirst has been quenched may be able to handle the conversion much better, but it will be more difficult to remove all traces of caked on soil from the roots. Those roots will eventually rot so it’ll be important to check the plant regularly below the surface. On the other hand, a parched plant will have a more difficult time dealing with the process, but the roots will be easier to clean. I personally convert my plants when they are dry, but my ‘practical’ advice to you is this: Water thin-leaved, thirsty plants thoroughly before converting and let succulents dry since they have the ability to store water and easily survive droughts.



Prune The Roots And Remove All Traces Of Soil

Remove the plant selected for conversion from its pot. If the plant does not slip out easily, squeeze the sides of the pot or use a knife or spoon to loosen the soil. Remove dead or unhealthy roots and prune back the
rest - especially the longer ones - about 1/3 to encourage new growth. Don’t be afraid of this step; as your plant grows new water roots, the soil roots will become useless either way.


Crumble away as much of the soil surrounding the remaining roots as possible. Remember to be gentle when you are working with the root system.


Once you have removed as much dirt as you can by hand, rinse the roots under tepid running water in your sink or bathtub to remove whatever traces of loose soil are left. Massage the root area with your hands to help with the cleaning but don’t be too rough.


For traces of soil that are too hard to remove, use a soft toothbrush, sponge or cloth and scrub lightly. You can also soak the root ball in water for several hours or overnight to aide in this process. Be sure that the roots are completely free of all traces of soil. Any soil left on the roots can lead to rot.


If it is utterly impossible to remove all the soil, even after a night of soaking, don’t fret. Clean the roots as thoroughly as you can and pot up the plant in hydroculture. After ten day to two weeks, disassemble the setup, give the roots another rinsing and repot.


Pot Up The Plant In The Culture Pot

Before you begin, install the water level indicator in the lining of the culture pot. Your plant is now ready to be added to its new container.


Pot it up the same way as you would in soil. Add a layer of clay pellets at the bottom of the culture pot. The amount of medium added can be an inch or two, maybe more. It all depends on the depth of your pot and how tall your plant is. The process is similar to the way you add some soil at the bottom of your pot before placing your plant on top of it in traditional growing styles.


Place the plant into the culture pot on top of the layer of pellets, spread the roots out across the medium and slowly fill up the pot, adding clay pellets to within ¼” of the top of the pot; this will anchor the plant.



Place The Setup Into The Outer Pot

The roots are clean, the water level indicator is inserted and the plant is potted. There’s only one thing left to do: move the whole kit and caboodle into an outer pot and add some moisture.


Pour water over the pellets until the water indicator reads optimum. Do not water again until the indicator reaches the minimum setting. Something worth remembering: clay pebbles retain moisture for a few days so don’t worry if you don’t add water immediately when the indicator reaches the minimum level; your plant will be fine.



What To Expect

The development of water roots may take anywhere from 2 - 12 weeks. During that period, there are a few things you can expect that are perfectly normal.

  • Most of the plants will react with some wilting but hold onto their leaves.
  • Some plants will go into shock for a short while and display minor symptoms of stress such as wilting, minimal leaf shedding and yellowing of leaves.
  • A very small number of plants will shed almost all of their leaves and grow new ones after they’ve converted.
  • The majority of flowering plants will lose their buds. You might want to consider converting these specimens after the blooming period is over.
  • A few plants suspend the growth process of emerging leaves, no matter what stage they’re in, until water roots form. Then they resume the growing process as if nothing happened. This is a truly amazing thing to witness.
  • A surprisingly large quantity of plants does not react negatively - at all. They are either oblivious to the conversion or - most likely - unconcerned. These champions grow water roots very quickly.

The reaction of each plant is unique; no two plants convert the same way. But no matter how your newly-converted plant reacts, don’t give up on it during this period. Whether it sheds a couple of leaves or hangs over its pot miserably, be patient. It will survive and bounce back. Never toss out a plant simply because of its dramatic display; chances are it is still alive.


How You Can Help

You are aware that until your plant grows water roots it will be a stressful period for it. Without proper roots it does not have the
ability to pull up water adequately, and will struggle to stay hydrated. You can make the transition easier. Below are a few things you can do to aid in the process:

  • Spray the plant several times a day with water to provide it with much needed moisture.
  • Place the entire pot on a pebble tray filled with water that will rise and surround the pot with humidity.
  • Cover the plant with a clear plastic bag until it converts to keep humidity high.
  • Keep the plant out of the direct path of the sun and drafts.
When To Start Feeding If you surf the internet, you will find differing information on when to start feeding your newly-converted plant. Some sites will advise to fertilize right away, others will tell you to wait until the next watering. It’s all good. My personal recommendation is to wait until your plant develops its water roots, which signifies that it has successfully completed the transition and fully adopted the hydroculture system.
The information above has been written to provide you with a clear understanding of what’s involved in hydroculture – the conversion of the plant (the most pertinent) and the equipment included. But unlike the medium, which is the core of the system and cannot be compromised, culture pots, outer pots, water level indicators and hydroponics fertilizers – the standard hydroculture setup – can be customized, and even compromised, to suit your needs. I personally prefer clear glass containers that allow me to monitor the water level thus eliminating the need for water level indicators and the use of double pots.


Now that you’re equipped with all the necessary information, what are you waiting for? Get growing with hydroculture.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tune Time – Who Let The Dogs Out?

This song was written and originally recorded by Anslem Douglas (titled "Doggie") for Trinidad and Tobago's Carnival season of 1998. The Baha men released it as a single on July 25, 2000. It reached #40 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States and #2 on the UK Singles Chart in the United Kingdom. It was the 4th biggest-selling single of 2000 in the UK, and went on to become the highest-selling single of the 2000s It was also a big hit in Australia, where it reached #1. The track went on to win the Grammy for Best Dance Recording on the 2001 Grammy Awards.


Today's Trivia - Famous Last Words (Part 2)

This week’s trivia is the second part of a collection of last words spoken by famous people before they died...


“Thomas Jefferson still survives...”
John Adams, US President,
Died July 4, 1826
(Actually, Jefferson had died earlier that same day.)

“This is the last of earth! I am content.”
John Quincy Adams
US President
Died: February 21, 1848

“Is it not meningitis?”
Louisa M. Alcott
Writer
Died: 1888

“Waiting are they? Waiting are they? Well--let 'em wait.”
In response to an attending doctor who attempted to comfort him by saying, "General, I fear the angels are waiting for you."
Ethan Allen
American Revolutionary General
Died: 1789

“Nothing, but death.”
When asked by her sister, Cassandra, if there was anything she wanted.
Jane Austen
Writer
Died: July 18, 1817

“Friends applaud, the comedy is finished.”
Ludwig van Beethoven
Composer
Died: March 26, 1827

“I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis.”
Humphrey Bogart
Actor
Died: January 14, 1957

“Josephine... ”
Napoleon Bonaparte
French Emperor
Died: May 5, 1821

“Ah, that tastes nice. Thank you.”
Johannes Brahms
Composer
Died: April 3, 1897

“Et too, Brute?”
Assassinated.
Gaius Julius Caesar
Roman Emperor
Died: 44 BC

“I am still alive!”
Stabbed to death by his own guards - (as reported by Roman historian Tacitus)
Gaius Caligula
Roman Emperor
Died: 41 AD

“Don't let poor Nelly (his mistress, Nell Gwynne) starve.”
Charles II
King of England and Scotland
Died: 1685

“Ay Jesus.”
Charles V
King of France
Died: 1380

“The earth is suffocating . . . Swear to make them cut me open, so that I won't be buried alive.”
Dying of tuberculosis.
Frederic Chopin
Composer
Died: October 16, 1849

“I'm bored with it all.”
Before slipping into a coma. He died 9 days later.
Winston Churchill
Statesman
Died: January 24, 1965

“That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted.”
Lou Costello
Comedian
Died: March 3, 1959

“Damn it . . . Don't you dare ask God to help me.”
To her housekeeper, who had begun to pray aloud.
Joan Crawford
Actress
Died: May 10, 1977

“That was a great game of golf, fellers.”
Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby
Singer / Actor
Died: October 14, 1977

“I am not the least afraid to die.”
Charles Darwin
Died: April 19, 1882

“My God. What's happened?"
Diana (Spencer)
Princess of Wales
Died: August 31, 1997

“I must go in, the fog is rising.”
Emily Dickinson
Poet
Died: 1886

“It is very beautiful over there.”
Thomas Alva Edison
Inventor
Died: October 18, 1931

“No, I shall not give in. I shall go on. I shall work to the end.”
Edward VII
King of Britain
Died: 1910

“All my possessions for a moment of time.”
Elizabeth I
Queen of England
Died: 1603

“I've had a hell of a lot of fun and I've enjoyed every minute of it.”
Errol Flynn
Actor
Died: October 14, 1959

“A dying man can do nothing easy.”
Benjamin Franklin
Statesman
Died: April 17, 1790

“Turn up the lights; I don't want to go home in the dark.”
O. Henry (William Sidney Porter)
Writer
Died: June 4, 1910

“All is lost. Monks, monks, monks! ”
Henry VIII
King of England
Died: 1547

“I see black light.”
Victor Hugo
Writer
Died: May 22, 1885

“Oh, do not cry - be good children and we will all meet in heaven.”
Andrew Jackson
US President
Died: 1845

“Let us cross over the river and sit in the shade of the trees.”
Killed in error by his own troops at the battle of Chancellorsville during the US Civil War.
General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson
Died: 1863

“Is it the Fourth?”
Thomas Jefferson
US President
Died: July 4, 1826

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Today's Trivia - World’s Largest Gummy Bear

Topping the scale at 5 pounds, this enormous sweet treat comes in a variety of flavours and is the equivalent of 1,400 regular sized gummy bears. It measures 5.5 inches wide, 3.5 inches tall and 9 inches tall.


And don’t even think about gobbling one down in one sitting because each one of these heaps of sugar is 12,600 calories.

Mamma mia!



Monday, February 20, 2012

Love Your Pet Day

Today is the day you show your dog, cat, hamster, goldfish, canary, turtle, rabbit or [insert other] that you love and appreciate them. Extra treats, pampering and a whole lot of attention is theirs for the taking.

We have four pets in our home; two cats and two ferrets. (Actually there are five; we do have a blue Betta fish.)

Anyway.

Bailey was the first pet in this home. We picked him up in August 2009, two months after we moved to Kingston. He’s actually my daughter’s, and the sweetest, most docile animal I’ve ever run across.

Sweet Bailey. The first pet in this home, and our first ferret ever.
We picked up Nacho from the local humane society on January 2nd, 2010. She is the quirkiest cat I’ve ever had with the gentlest and friendliest temperament. She is totally fearless and very affectionate, and trusts us completely. She doesn’t hesitate to lie on her back and let you rub her belly.

Nacho thinks she's a ferret at times.
Nacho and Bailey hit it off from the start. They are very fond of one another. It’s heartwarming to see them together.

Nacho the cat and Bailey the ferret. Best buds.
Mocha is also a rescue cat from our local humane society. She was a very nervous kitten, if not slightly feral, when we first brought her home. She has made huge strides since then, and is especially attached to me. Not only does she follow me around all day, she enjoys curling up on my lap and can be found sleeping right beside my feet when I wake up in the morning, or right near the bed waiting for me to get up.

Mocha is still a little nervous, but is getting better every day.
Nacho was a little hard on Mocha when the two were first introduced to make sure the new kitten knew who’s boss, but because she just doesn’t have it in her to be mean, it didn’t last long. They are best buddies now, and there are never any conflicts between them.

Mocha and Nacho adore each other.
Spaz came into our lives in November 2010 after Clair (an adorable ferret companion to Bailey) passed away suddenly. He is just as gentle as Bailey, but with a lot more energy, bordering on spastic...hence, the name Spaz.

Always full of beans.
I can’t imagine our home without pets; they add a special joy in our lives. And ‘Love Your Pet Day’ isn’t necessary in our home; all our critters are cherished and overly pampered every day. They live the good life.

Do you have pets to spoil today?