Posted in cottage life, loreeebee.ca, nature

Cottage Season is Coming

Cottage season is coming, fast. With increased COVID numbers and resulting restrictions, it cannot come too soon. Isolating at the lake is something we were grateful for last summer, although spending time there is always a relaxing, “unplugged” experience, regardless of what is happening around the world.

Ice on the Lake

A few weeks ago we visited Palmerston Lake to check on our cottage. We took our four year old uber-adventurous grandson with us to show him what the place looks like in winter. He was thrilled to walk on the ice and climb on the frozen pile of leaves. He was disappointed however, that the snakes and frogs were still sleeping…

This Easter weekend, less than three weeks later, we visited again to begin the annual spring cleanup. The grandson stayed home to enjoy Easter festivities, but I couldn’t help reflecting on how much he would love to see the ice breaking up.

It always amazes me how quickly the ice leaves the lake every spring. The property is now snow-free even though we had to park on the road and wade through the snow last visit. By next week the ice will be totally gone!

Cottage Season is Coming

Spring Cottage Chores

Even though we rake up most leaves in the fall at the end of each season, there are always some that are still clinging to the trees as we are closing up. That means there are still lots to rake up in the spring too.

That’s the downside of a heavily treed lot. The advantage of course, is the natural beauty and shade these trees provide in the summer months.

We use plastic bags saved from new mattresses to collect and transport the leaves to the huge leaf pile. These bags make the chore much easier, and fold up for storage between uses. Over the season the leaves break down, providing soil amendment for garden areas.

lots of leaves

Unfortunately, a cold north wind was blowing off the lake during this visit, much to the annoyance of my arthritic hips. I paid for that in pain on return to the city. Once the cold gets in my bones, the ache is hard to dispel.

Gypsy Moth Damage

Last year I told you about the infestation of gypsy moths at the lake. Apparently it was a record year for them in Eastern Ontario, affecting not only deciduous trees but evergreens too.

We have been praying that our trees will survive this onslaught. While the deciduous trees don’t appear to suffer long term, (their leaves return each year) the growth of the evergreens (spruce and pines) is much slower. The needles take much longer to regrow, if they do at all.

I hesitate to cut the damaged tops off these pines and spruce as that would alter the natural shape of the trees, making them bushier and rounder at the bottom. Instead we will wait to see how much regrowth they put out this season.

COVID Affecting Cottage and Campsite Rentals

Last summer Canadians stayed close to home, visiting local cottages and campgrounds more than ever before. We were no exception. With the heat wave we experienced it was a no brainer to isolate at our family cottage. While visitors outside our immediate family were not invited, we managed to get our sons’ families to join us, albeit separately.

Conclusion

This season promises to be even busier for cottage and campsite rentals as we head into a (possible) second summer of isolation restrictions. I’ve heard that campsites are booking up fast as families know to expect availability shortages this summer. If you haven’t already, you might want to get on it soon!

As spring weather warms us up, we relish the fact that cottage season is coming!

Cottage Season is Coming
Posted in gardens, loreeebee.ca, weather

Late Winter, Early Spring Garden Chores

photo credit

Spring is here according to our calendars and the nice weather, although I’ve heard rumours the colder stuff will return for a bit soon. There are many garden or yard chores that should be done this time of year and not put off until the last frost date.

Late winter is considered to be approximately 6 weeks before the beginning of the spring thaw, so will depend on where you live. If you are not sure, count backwards from your area’s last frost date. To me (in zone 4 or 5) this means early April is (usually) late winter or early spring. I can always hope earlier.

It is much easier to see the “bone structure” of your trees before they leaf out, so pruning shade trees like oak and maples now, while they are still dormant, is perfect timing.

Pruning is done for several reasons, even cosmetic ones.

Dead, Broken, Diseased or Crossing Branches

Dead, broken, diseased or crossing/rubbing branches can be cut back at any time during the year. This applies to trees and shrubs. Cut right to the next branch, without leaving a stub.

In the case of crossing or rubbing branches, decide which of the crossing branches lends best to the overall shape of the tree or shrub and remove the other. Keep in mind branches should grow upwards and outwards for optimal shape.

Heavy snow falls and winter winds can snap even the healthiest of branches. These broken branches should be removed for aesthetic purposes as well as for the continued health of the tree or shrub.

Although it may be difficult to determine if branches are dead or diseased yet, you can mark any suspicious ones for pruning later if this is the case. There is no wrong time to remove dead or diseased branches.

Shaping or Rejuvenating

Trees and shrubs always look nicer and tidier when shaped properly and not overgrown. Now is the time to do this, before new growth begins blurring the shape. This is especially true if you have a hard time cutting out perfectly healthy branches.

Pruning to enhance the shape will encourage and stimulate new growth in spring, which is when you want to encourage new growth. Pruning in fall however, encourages growth when future cold weather could kill it off.

Overgrown shrubs and trees also benefit from drastic rejuvenating this time of year. Again, this is because the new growth that will be stimulated has a better chance of survival heading into spring rather than winter. I have had particular success drastically cutting back overgrown dappled willows and forsythia in my business. Even though forsythia is on the list of shrubs not to trim back early, this one was so overgrown my client just wanted it reduced in size, willing to sacrifice the blooms that year.

Evergreen Trees and Shrubs to Prune now

If removing the lower branches of evergreens in your landscape is something you have been considering, now is the time to do so. This is a great way to drastically change your landscape and even improve the condition of your lawn that tries to grow under them.

Boxwoods, yews, holly and other evergreen shrubs should be trimmed now, while dormant, and before new growth appears.

Spruce and firs can be trimmed back now, but pruning pines should wait until June or July, after their first growth of what are called candles (new shoots at the tips). No earlier and no later. With pines, prune (delay growth) by cutting back the candles by half or remove dead, diseased, broken (or unwanted lower) branches to their main stem.

Shrubs or Trees You Should NOT Prune Now

There are exceptions to the “most trees and shrubs” that benefit from spring pruning. These would be the ones that flower early and prefer pruning after they flower. They include:

  • Lilac
  • forsythia
  • bridle wreath spirea
  • mophead and oakleaf hydrangea
  • spring blooming clematis
  • rhododendrons
  • magnolia
  • wisteria
  • flowering almond
  • mock orange
  • weigela
  • nine barks
  • viburnum
  • witch hazel
  • spring flowering trees like plum, cherry, pear or dogwood

The general rule of thumb is “if it blooms before June, prune after flowering. If it blooms after June, prune in spring.” That is because spring bloomers do so on older (last year’s) wood, while later flowers come from new (spring generated) wood.

Cutting Back Ornamental Grasses and Perennials

If you left your ornamental grasses to sway in the winter winds, cut them back as soon as you can get to them, even if you have to wade through some lingering snow. Ornamental grasses should be cut back to four to six inches from the ground. It is much easier to do this now than to wait until new growth starts when you will have to pick the dead and crispy brown stalks from the tender new green shoots. I did mine a few weeks ago when I was itching to do something garden related.

This applies to other perennials you left over the winter. Bird lovers often leave seed heads and pods for their fine feathered friends to snack on. Some leave perennial stalks for their beauty when covered in snow or some variation in an otherwise bleak-looking winter garden. For whatever reason you have left yours intact, now is the time to cut (snap off) the brown and crispy stalks down to ground level.

Conclusions

For more ideas on what you can tackle in your garden this early, check out last year’s post at this time of year.

I’ve got my ornamental grasses cut back already and my lawn raked and seeded, with edging next on my agenda. Garden cleanups will have to wait a few more weeks.

Posted in health & wellness, loreeebee.ca

If You Dont Use it, You Lose it!

photo credit

As I get older, the phrase “if you don’t use it you lose it” is becoming more obvious. Not just the rusty physical parts of my body, but the good habits, routines, and comfort zones too.

Highway Driving

I’ve never been anxious driving on the highways, in fact I much prefer it to city driving where you have pedestrians, bikes, and cars coming at you in all directions. When I moved to Ottawa from the much smaller town of Cornwall, I forced myself to drive up and down the Queensway (the major highway running east to west through the city) getting off each exit, then back on.

It feels like I hardly ever drive on the highways anymore, in fact I haven’t for about a year now, since the pandemic shut us down.

On a recent adventure (that’s what my four year old grandson calls our weekly outings) to my favourite farm, the first few minutes of highway driving felt strange. And then the enjoyment returned, the feel of the open road beneath me, the winding roads and the relaxing rural scenery.

Organized Routines

When I worked outside of the home, especially when my kids were young, I was incredibly organized. At least when I look back to those days now, I think I was. Beds were stripped every Friday for a weekly wash. Grocery lists were mandatory, in preparation for weekly shopping every Thursday. Once the boys were out of diapers, bath nights were Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays.

I learned that kids thrive on routine, but so do busy moms.

When I retired, and the kids were much older, routines flew out the window with the alarm clock.

Let’s not forget the more obvious physical parts that suffer from the lack of use…

Brain Power

How many of you reach for a calculator or your phone to figure out a mathematical equation, even the simple ones? I admit to forcing myself to use my brain power with a pen and paper to ensure I remember how to. It is so much quicker and more convenient to use the electronics.

One of the reasons I loved helping my granddaughter with her online lessons is that it forced me to think like a seven year old again. At that age, kids’ brains are like sponges, absorbing every tidbit of information they encounter. I like that feeling, and I really enjoy finding the right way to answer their never ending questions. Do you remember how some teachers were so much better than others at explaining things?

Arthritic Joints

When I refer to my rusty body parts, I am talking about my achy, arthritic joints. My ankles, knees, hips and wrists are anxiously awaiting warmer, drier weather.

The problem with arthritic joints is that the less you use them, the harder it is to use them when you want or need to. It is indeed a viscous circle, but the trick (I find) is to make sure you keep using them.

Conclusion

Use it before you lose it!!

Posted in gardens, loreeebee.ca, nature

Propagating Plants From Seeds: What I have Learned

Anyone who has tried propagating plants from seeds will tell you the process is not as easy as it seems. Each year I give it a try, without much success. The ideal time to start the process is six to eight weeks before the last frost date in your area when they can be planted outdoors.

This year I started way back in the fall with my oldest granddaughter. We have had some success, but not much.

Since then I have researched more and tried different techniques. I can get the seeds sprouted but the sprouts always flop over and shrivel up.

My latest attempts (it has been a long winter) have been more successful, using these techniques:

Humidity

Humidity is a must to coax the seeds to sprout. I have several mini greenhouses and peat pellets that are perfect for for achieving humidity levels the seeds require. This is especially important as most homes have lower humidity levels during the winter months.

propagating plants from seeds: what I have learned

Labels

My granddaughter convinced me to use labels to differentiate the seedlings in their rows within the greenhouse. She noticed my memory is not as good as hers, so thought the labels would help me remember what I planted. She was right.

Grow or Heat Lamps

Once the seeds sprout, the seedlings need heat and light. This can be achieved by keeping the seedlings in a warm window, rotating them often so they grow straight up and not tilted towards the sunshine. Or, you can create warmth and artificial light with a grow/heat lamp.

I am using a desk top in a south facing, sunny window as my propagation station.

propagating plants from seeds: what I have learned

Hydrogen Peroxide

With the humidity comes the growth of mold and mildew on the soil surface. Both are disastrous to seedlings, causing them to wither away.

Cleaning all your (previously used) containers before use with undiluted 3% hydrogen peroxide will sterilize them, reducing the chance of mold. You can purchase hydrogen peroxide in your local grocery store or pharmacy and pour it into a spray bottle, or already in a spray bottle here.

Spraying the soil surface daily with a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water (1:4) once the seeds have sprouted will keep mold at bay. This solution will also kill any fungus gnats (the tiny fruit fly-like bugs) hovering around your baby plants.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is not just a tasty and aromatic ingredient in your spice cabinet. Sprinkling it liberally on the top of your seed pellets, before the seeds sprout, will help control mold growth so the seedlings have a fighting chance breaking through the soil.

Transplanting

The use of peat pellets make it simple to transplant the seedlings into larger containers. I just squish them into a pot filled with soil. The size of the new container will dictate how many pellets I transplant into each container.

I like to use a premium potting soil with lots of moisture retaining ingredients to enhance drainage, aeration and add some nutrients.

This is when I use the hydrogen peroxide solution described above to keep the bugs away.

Sticky Bug Catchers

In between the spraying of the peroxide solution, sticky bug catchers work great too to capture the little fungus gnats that like to hang around the plants. They are durable and harmless to kids and pets.

I also use these bug traps in my house plants to keep other insects at bay. They work on the fruit flies and mosquitoes that are more prevalent around here in the summer months…

propagating plants from seeds: what I have learned
warning: bugs appear much bigger here, zoomed in.

Conclusions

A heat source might be a good addition to my experiments as my house does cool off at night. I am considering purchasing heat mats to place below each container to maintain a more consistent temperature for the seedlings. I would love some feedback on these.

There are lots of seeds that can be directly sewn into your gardens and outdoor containers. Of course, they have their own issues. Birds, wandering grandchildren, overgrowing established plants are just a few.

Obviously I could use advice to improve my rate of successful propagation. If any of you have had greater success in propagating plants from seeds, please pass it on!

Oh, and the labels work well outside too to remind me where I planted which seeds.

Posted in gardens, loreeebee.ca

Nothing Screams Spring Like Pussy Willows and Forsythia

Nothing screams spring quite like pussy willows. Or forsythia sprigs. I love both, together.

I spotted some pussy willows at my local grocery store this week and took them to our local hospice to spruce up the containers at the front door.

A few (artificial) forsythia sprigs were added for their spring-like yellow cheeriness. I am not usually a fan of artificial flowers, but unfortunately forsythias are not quite in bloom yet, at least not here in Ottawa.

The red dogwood stems and birch branches were left over from the winter arrangements, left in for their additional colour and texture.

Posted in gardens, loreeebee.ca, weather

Itching to get Gardening? What you Can Do Now.

Photo Credit

Is spring looking promising in your neck of the woods? The warmer, sunny days here (Ottawa, zone 4/5) are making me itch to get into my gardens.

Use Caution!

It is still (at least it is here) early to get into the gardens to clean them out as many (most) hardy perennials and shrubs are still dormant. I know it is tempting when you start seeing green shoots, but hold off a bit. At least until the soil is not mushy.

The same cautionary rule applies to your lawn. If the snow is gone, wait until it is no longer squishy to walk on before raking, aerating, top dressing etc. I have been aerating in the fall for the past few years, so I am one step ahead.

You also should beware of overwintering bees and other beneficial insects. Gardening too early will disturb them before they are ready to come out of their cozy spots under the debris in your gardens.

Also be on the lookout for nests belonging to our fine feathered friends. Spring is nest and baby season for birds. If you discover one being used, avoid it for a while, until babies have left.

Rabbits have their babies in burrows or holes in the ground in a protected area. I came across one a few years ago when weeding a client’s garden. I was pulling weeds, when I spotted movement. The only way I could distinguish that they were baby rabbits was by their big feet. They had no hair yet. I replaced the weeds to protect them and moved onto another area of the garden.

What can You Do This Early?

Prune Trees

You can prune trees now, in fact this is the best time to do so, before the leaves come out. Just do not prune anything that blooms early, like lilacs or forsythia, as you will cut off the spring blossoms. And, if you have to trample all over your soggy lawn to get to the trees to prune them, perhaps you better wait for a few weeks.

Use a good quality, sharp set of loppers to prune branches. This is one of those times it pays to purchase quality. Choose a set you can handle, as some are quite heavy and create a workout for your arms.

If cut branches are diseased, wipe lopper blades with disinfectant (rubbing alcolol or hydrogen peroxide) between cuts.

Cut Back Ornamental Grasses

You can and should cut back ornamental grasses that were left tall for the winter. By now they look weather-beaten. Cut them back to 4 to 6 inches from the ground. This will ensure the new green shoots (when they appear) wont have to compete with the dead brown ones.

Use a sharp pair of garden shears to make the job of cutting back the ornamental grasses much easier.

Plan and Dream

This is also a great time of year to plan. Make a list of things you want to do, even if they seem far-fetched. Sometimes dreams become reality!

Get Ahead of Crabgrass

If crabgrass is making an appearance in your lawn, treat it quick! As soon as the snow is gone crabgrass germinates, so the earlier you get to it the better. The snow is always gone from my south facing lawn first, so I have to get on the crabgrass now. You can recognize the sprouts as they are bright green in an otherwise drab lawn, and whorled like spokes on a wheel.

I have tried corn gluten, a preemergent, with varying results; the biggest problem is finding it in the stores so early. Scotts has a product out with good reviews for treating crabgrass. I have yet to try it.

This year I poured boiling water on the germinating sprouts, will let you know how that works.

Disinfect Tools and Pots with Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is an environmentally friendly alternative to bleach for cleaning and disinfecting in the garden.

If you use containers on your patio, deck or in your gardens, a warm sunny day is a great time to clean them out. Rinse them out and spray with undiluted 3% hydrogen peroxide to disinfect them. Let the pots sit in the hydrogen peroxide for at least ten minutes. Rinse again, then fill them with new soil so they are ready to fill with annuals when your last frost date arrives.

If you intend to fill any containers with perennials (I have some with ornamental grasses in them) you can do that now. Contact your local nurseries to see what they have available, my favourite here is Ritchie Feed & Seed.

Hydrogen peroxide is also an effective way to clean your tools. Spray or soak them, let them sit for a minimum of ten minutes, then rinse and dry.

Change up Your Outdoor Decor

Remove your winter arrangements (the evergreens that are not so green anymore) and replace them with harbingers of spring. Nothing says spring like pussy willows (I saw some at Farm Boy yesterday) or forsythia branches!

Start Some Seeds

Non-hardy seeds should be started at least six weeks before your last frost date, so this is a great time to get them going. I have learned a few tips over the winter regarding seedlings. Stay tuned for a future post on that subject, coming soon.

Conclusions

While it is still too early to really get started, there are a few things you can do to scratch that gardening itch.

Stay tuned for a more detailed post next week on the next steps in spring cleanups.

Posted in loreeebee.ca, relationships

Retirement Practice AKA a Long Vacation

My husband is on vacation for the next month; this will be a practice run for his looming retirement, so wish me luck. And patience.

I say patience because I have been spoiled. Retiring myself nine years ago from alarm clocks, stress, and strict schedules, my daily routine has evolved into one I am completely comfortable and enamoured with. I have gotten used to picking and choosing what I feel like doing for the day. Or week. Or month. Sounds selfish, I know, but it has been nice. And don’t get me wrong, my hubby is the rock to my kite, still the partner of my dreams, thirty-seven years in.

Last Year at this Time

Last year at this time hubby was off for three weeks, using up vacation time for the fiscal year too, but also planning to retire. With the pandemic just in its onset, although we were not able to travel, we were able to “isolate” to prepare for our granddaughter staying here while her baby brother was born.

Obviously, his retirement didn’t materialize either, another victim of the ever-lasting pandemic.

I also took advantage of my husband’s presence to get a thorough spring cleanup in my own gardens, although I did have to keep nagging him to watch out for still-dormant plants, bees, and other beneficial insects.

Renovation dreams for our cottage and home were put on hold too as supplies were limited. It took the whole summer just to replace the base for our dock, with the dock itself still needing replacement. With most stores closed to the public, we were unable to look at the options for a new one, and unfortunately, a dock is not something easily assessed online.

A Year Later

It is hard to believe one year has passed and we are now entering a second of pandemic restrictions. Everyone is pandemic weary and frustrated. Still not able to travel and still no concrete renovation plans. No new babies (grandchildren) are on the way this year; it now appears that the birth of our grandson last April was the highlight of that year.

Spring Cleaning

Spring is a great time to clean all areas of the house, inside and out. On the list are:

  • garage
  • windows
  • eavestroughs
  • removing Christmas lights
  • powerwashing front veranda and back deck

Garden Chores

Of course, there are garden chores to be shared too, with a few branches of our apple trees on the list for removal. This is the time of year to prune many trees and shrubs, and it looks like I have the manpower to do the job.

It is also a great time of year to edge the gardens if you use a natural, trench method, top-up and amend the soil, divide perennials, add mulch, clean out birdhouses, birdbaths, and the pond, rid the lawn of crabgrass, prepare containers for annuals etc, etc.

Renovations

We have had chats with a neighbour on how they renovated their (identical to ours) ensuite bathroom, so that might encourage my resident DIYer to firm up some plans. He knows I have been dreaming of a bean (freestanding) tub to soak my weary gardener bones in. I would still love to head to the cottage for a month while the work is being done, but I will accept a compromise.

Conclusions

I am looking forward to a loyal companion for my long daily walks, although we would both prefer to be walking on a warm, tropical beach. A brisk walk is great exercise and easy on my aging joints and bones. Remember, sitting is the new smoking, so any form of exercise is a good thing.

I would also like to shop for a small garden shed to fit in the back corner of my yard, something else that is hard to envision online.

Wild Birds Unlimited has moved to our neighbourhood, within walking distance, with visitors now permitted in the store. I have purchased products online since their arrival, with curbside pickups in effect due to pandemic restrictions. I know my husband will love this store as much as I do.

My honey-do and shopping lists continue to grow! Fingers crossed we will get something accomplished this year during our retirement practice.

photo credit

Posted in business, gardens, loreeebee.ca, motivational

Turn your Hobby into a Business

I am proud to report that I was recently featured in an article in First for Women magazine about turning a hobby into a lucrative business opportunity. The picture of me isn’t the most flattering one, taken in a hurry first thing in the morning (my grandkids take better selfies than I do) because the one I had submitted was too blurry, but the garden pictured is one of my favourite projects. I have literally watched it evolve over the years from a weed filled, uninspired, large area into a stunning, colourful, well-planned perennial garden bed.

I was approached in January to submit a story on how and why I started my own business, then told it was accepted to be published. The magazine is on newsstands from March 11th through to March 31st. This, of course, is a much-edited, sugar-coated version of my story. I have learned tons over the years, including how to create a website, blog and invoicing or accounting system. I’ve also learned what not to do. If anyone needs further motivation or details on how to get a (very) small business up and running, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

While many people have been inspired to find unique ways to earn income during the pandemic, my gardening hobby-to-business adventure began in the spring of 2012. In fact, last summer my business took a hit, due to the fact that many of my clients were working from home and able to manage their own gardens. Others gave up their gardener to tighten their budget as the pandemic stretched from weeks to months. I was excited, however, to be able to design a few new gardens, something I have been doing less of in recent years. It was a hot and dry summer too, so the cottage season was an exceptional one.

I was thrilled to see the magazine article in publication, especially as the weather appears to be warming up to what could soon be gardening weather. I do still have quite a bit of snow covering my gardens, but it is melting. My south-facing front yard is always the first on the street to reveal the grass under the snow…

In the meantime, I am still repotting, dividing and increasing my collection of houseplants. I think I need a larger house!

Posted in gardens, gardens4u.ca, loreeebee.ca

Essential Garden Tools

Everyone has their own list of what they consider to be essential garden tools. As the owner of a gardening business, I am no exception. These are my essentials, although you don’t have to use specific brands:

Diggers

A shovel, a spade (shovel with a sharp, flat cutting edge) and a trowel will cover all your digging needs. Choose a light weight, but good quality version of both so they are easy to use and will last forever. I have several sizes of shovels too, sometimes you need a small one to get into tight spaces.

Rakes

I have a few different styles and sizes of rakes. The fan shaped ones are good for gathering leaves and debris. I have a tiny (child sized) version that is great for getting in and around plants in your garden. The larger ones work better on lawns.

I prefer the plastic ones as they are nice and light, but my husband prefers a metal one. Go with whatever you will use.

Rakes with straight heads and tines are best for removing thatch from lawns in the spring.

Secateurs or Pruners

This is the one area I advise splurging on because of the working mechanisms. In this case especially, you get what you pay for. If you buy inexpensive secateurs or pruners, they will not work well for long. I have a few different ones that I keep around my yard, in sheltered locations to prevent rusting.

Edging Tool

I consider an edging tool essential since I love the look of natural edging, rather than rocks or rubber edging. Of course, a shovel would work too, but an edging tool, whose head is a half circle, works wonders to create smooth edges in your gardens.

Loppers or Branch Cutters

Once again, pay a bit more to get a good quality pair of loppers. You won’t regret it. Buy some that are heavy (strong) enough, but not too heavy that you cannot handle them efficiently. They come in varying mouth widths too, so choose one that will cut branches up to at last one inch thick. Of course, you can have several (I do) for different chores.

Shears

Shears are like large scissors, great for cutting large sections of plant material at once. They make for quick results on a big plant. For example, I use them for cutting back my large ornamental grasses. I have also seen people using shears to trim small chunks of grass after mowing their lawns, around obstacles in the lawn such as trees. They are not however any good for cutting branches or even twigs.

Tool bag

It is great to have a bag to carry around your hand tools. I currently have one that the tools flop out from, so have been looking for a taller one. This tool bag from Tacklife looks great, perhaps that will be my next purchase. And, as a bonus, it comes with some garden tools. One can never have too many tools!

Nice to Have, but not Essentials

There are many other garden tools I have that the average person would not consider essential. I have a compartmentalized tool bag that contains a roll of string, stakes, a box cutter, a hammer, a tape measure, vine clips etc, in addition to my small hand tools.

I also have several sizes of rubber baskets that are essential to my gardens. They are great for toting garden debris, new plants, weeds, cut flowers, even water in a pinch.

Conclusion

What you consider essential will be different than what I consider essential, based on your needs, physical ability and even your budget. The one thing we should have in common though is keeping our tools clean and sharp. Tools should be cleaned off after each use and sharpened at least once per season. At the end of my gardening season, I spray my tools with a disinfectant, wash them well, then rub blades with a bit of oil to keep them all in tip top shape.

Posted in health & wellness, loreeebee.ca

Scoliosis Diagnosis, What Now?

Recently I was diagnosed with moderate scoliosis. The weird thing is that I was being checked out for something else when my curved spine was noted on my chest x-ray. At least I thought it was weird. Apparently, this is common in the otherwise healthy, aging population. The other weird part? I only read about the scoliosis when checking out my new online health file. The doctor never mentioned it until I asked, a year later, when I was perusing the new online health portal.

Let me explain the spine, in case you forgot or never learned anatomy. Your spine is made up of 33 bones, including the pelvis. These bones or vertebrae are normally stacked one on top of the other, with only the top 24 able to move. These moveable vertebrae can be divided into thoracic, lumbar, and cervical regions, based on where they are in the stack. The lower 9 vertebrae are fixed in place, and consist of 5 bones in the sacrum of the pelvis, and 4 that make up the tailbone.

A normal, healthy spine naturally curves slightly in three spots, looking like an S only if you were to look at it from the side. From the front or back it looks straight. This shape permits a spring-like function allowing the spine to move and absorb shocks. At the neck (cervical) and the lower back (lumbar) the spine naturally curves inward (concave) and at the middle of the back (thoracic) it curves outward. (convex) To visualize the “S”, keep in mind the inward curve that would continue at the top of this picture as the spine goes into the neck area.

wikiRadiography

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is defined as a medical condition involving an exaggerated or abnormal lateral (left or right) curvature of the spine, usually in a C or S shape. When diagnosed, it is categorized into a mild, moderate, or severe state, depending on the angle of the curve. The greater the angle, the more severe the condition.

The offending presence of a curved spine is categorized into where exactly the spine is curved:

  • lumbar, in the lower back region. Often presents with one leg longer and one hip higher than the other
  • thoracic, in the mid-back region, is the most common. Sometimes involves ribcage and shoulder deformity and/or lung and heart impairment.
  • thoracolumbar, involving both the lumbar and thoracic spine, often detected in utero or at birth. Also often associated with neuromuscular disorders such as cerebral palsy or spina bifida.

Who can Develop Scoliosis and Why does it Happen?

The condition is divided into three categories based on the age at which it is diagnosed or becomes symptomatic:

  • childhood: diagnosed in infants or toddlers with congenital deformities, it is termed infantile scoliosis, while developing (usually neuromuscular) symptoms between the ages of 3 to 10 is called juvenile scoliosis
  • adolescent: between 10 and 18 years of age where growth spurts are most common
  • adult: symptoms or diagnosis past the age of 18. This category is further divided into 2 groups, idiopathic (unknown reason) and degenerative (our bones do deteriorate with age)

The adult age group is quite large, so a more precise category of “elderly” is also often used. Scoliosis in the elderly is quite common, caused by aging bone structure, injury, or the progression of an (untreated) adolescent category.

For reasons (yet) unknown, female patients tend to be diagnosed with more severe curvatures, requiring a more drastic treatment process.

Treatments for Scoliosis

Suggested treatments are based on the severity of the condition. Options range from simple yoga poses and sleep patterns to surgery (spinal fusion) with lots in between. The in-between may include posture correcting, various methods of bracing, exercises, chiropractic manipulations, and inversion therapy.

Yoga poses, good and bad

 According to Healthline.com yoga poses beneficial for those with scoliosis include:

  • Half Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana)
  • Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasna)
  • Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha)
  • Side Plank (Vasisthasana)
  • Side-Reclining Leg Lift (Anantasana)
  • Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Be sure to avoid yoga poses (cobra, half moon, locust, sun salutation) that bend the spine backward as well as other exercises that twist the spine.

Adjusting Your Sleep Habits

Adjusting sleep patterns uses gravity to improve the alignment of the spine so the curve (sometimes) moves back into its proper position. So, if your abnormal curve is on your right side, try sleeping on your left side, and on your right side if your curve is on your left side.

Sleeping on your back would be a secondary choice, but lying on your stomach is not recommended.

Practice Good (Better) Posture

This might be the easiest way to alleviate pain and muscle strain. Find your natural body alignment and realign it as often as you can throughout your day.

Medical News Today lists the following strategy when standing:

  • Drop your shoulders down and back.
  • Position the ears over the shoulders
  • Slightly tuck your chin in so that it is not jutting forward or too far down.
  • Draw your stomach in slightly
  • Unlock the knees slightly.

When sitting, keep your back and neck straight and legs uncrossed. Your ears should be over your shoulders, not in front of them as they would be if your neck is inclined.

What Now?

I have learned a lot with my research into scoliosis. I went to the doctor complaining about left chest pain that radiates from below my breast up to my shoulder. I wouldn’t even call it a pain, more of a pressure. Due to the fact that both of my parents died of pulmonary ailments, I was concerned about the possibility of lung problems.

Regular mammograms have indicated no problem there, but a chest x-ray showed a moderate curve to the left in my spine. Even though my posture has not always been the greatest, I have arthritis elsewhere in my body, and my shoulders and neck get sore when I’m stressed or tired, I never suspected scoliosis. When I questioned my doctor (after reading the x-ray results) she agreed that the left curve in my thoracic spine is most likely what is causing pressure on my ribcage for over a year now.

I’m a proponent of natural remedies, so this is my plan. I already do many of the yoga poses and exercises recommended, but also a few of the ones I shouldn’t do, so will discontinue those. I will make a conscious effort to improve my posture when standing and sitting.

And, I will quit sleeping on my left side, something I have been doing for as long as I can remember.