Bzzzz May 24th, 2007

I am a warrior. I am an adventurer. I face dangers every day without fear. Unflinching. Unfailing. Unafraid.


The past few weeks have taught me that there is a host of dangers lurking out there among the butterflies and buttercups. I am a walking, itching, oozing example.

In the wee hours of the morning I awoke with a burning and itching sensation on my face. This morning–there it was. There was a slash of red rash from my forehead to my cheek and creeping down the back of my neck. Poison ivy. Ugh.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, about 85% of people are allergic to poison ivy.

I don’t want to boast, but I happen to excel in this regard. I just have to THINK about poison ivy and I start to break out. If I stand downwind of a poison ivy sproutlette, I’m a gonner. A couple of years ago, I got such a bad case the doctor told me it was the WORST he had ever seen. At first he didn’t even believe it was just poison ivy. He thought maybe it was leprosy or some sort of hazmat accident.

Harry, on the other hand, is bulletproof in this respect, as in about every other way I can imagine. He doesn’t need to eat or sleep as much as normal human beings. He never–ever–gets sick. He does not catch colds or get tired. He can have a POISON IVY SALAD and walk away unscathed. IS THAT FAIR?

I see this as yet another joke God has played on Robin. Nothing makes me happier than being outdoors, gardening and playing with the little dogs. So what does God do? He makes me allergic to everything outdoors and to DOGS! I HAVE TO GET SHOTS!

To add insult to injury, I was taking my ravaged face out for a walk this morning up and down our long driveway. (Exercise, you know?) I looked to my right and what did I see? A mysterious cloud arising from the hayfield on this otherwise sunny day. At first I thought perhaps something was on fire. FIRE!!! The air was filled with this MYSTERIOUS CLOUD.

But then…it dissipated. And there was no lingering smoky smell.

But I started to SNEEZE and my head nearly exploded. Yep. Hay pollen.

I got to thinking about my explorer friends and the dangers that they face climbing Everest or braving the venomous snakes of the Amazon. It seems to me that as a gardener I face more than my share of hazards. If my ravaged face and exploding, sneezing head weren’t enough, let me give you a few MORE examples:

-The hand surgeon people tell us that gardening can wreak havoc with our hands and much more. In fact, they give us the handy statistic that there are more than 400,000 outdoor gardening-related emergency room visits each year. There is a mighty useful article that I won’t bother to re-state here, so go visit it now and save yourself a lot of pain and embarrassment.

-Sunburn. Put on some filmy, gauzy clothing or some coconut scented lotion, but save yourself the sunburn issue. Myself, I have invested in a fetching floppy hat. Think of it as a fashion statement. And I also make sure to use an SPF 24 on my face and other extremities.

-Falling down on your butt. NOT ME, but a clumsy-favored-relative-by-marriage recently did something quite silly and managed to slip and fall on his BEE-HIND, landing him in the emergency room and hospital for a couple of days. I haven’t heard the story first-hand, but Harry tells me that it was a mowing incident gone awry. Be careful with big machines and wet grass.

-Branches. How many times have I nearly been blinded by a branch or wayward twig as I was reaching just…a…little…bit…farther into the bushes?

-Similarly, I have learned to wear eye protection when using the weed wacker. Bad things can happen when it kicks up stuff (a technical gardening term).

-Protect your ears. Aaaah. The day that the monster mulcher people gave me my very own ear protection, I started wearing them all the time. I can do the weed whacking a LOT longer, use the blower for an ETERNITY and do all sort of other nifty power tool tricks now that my ears don’t take the beating and I don’t get a headache. (Now that I’m thinking about it, they might come in handy INDOORS when my 16-year-old son is lobbying to get the banished TV back into his room.)

    There are a bunch more hazards out there waiting for you…bees, cuts, bites and such. But think of the whole thing as your own personal adventure into the wilds. I don’t need to join an African expedition or jump from towering cliffs to get my adrenalin pumping. I just have to walk out the back door.

    How sweet is that?

    Posted In: Gardening, Lifestyle


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    Bzzzz May 22nd, 2007


    Yes, it’s Vegetarian Week. Did you know that only about 1% – 2% of Americans are vegetarian?

    That little fact is probably not a surprise to you. I say that not because being a vegetarian entails such a Spartan diet. It really doesn’t. You have all these FABULOUS vegetables and vegetarian dishes, particularly from India and the Middle East, that provide lots of savory satisfying flavors. The difficulty, at least as I am experiencing it, is threefold:

    1) Not all, but a LOT of really good vegetarian dishes take extra time to prepare. You can’t just toss a couple of steaks on the grill and be ready in 20 minutes. Now, I am TOTALLY behind the whole Slow Food Movement. In fact, the food around our house is so slow it routinely takes me 1-2 hours to make dinner, which is typically served at 8:30 p.m. But TIME is not necessarily something I have an abundance of, so I have to really work hard to carve out that bit of space to make a dinner we’ll all eat and enjoy. (On the upside, at least we eat a family dinner 6 out of 7 nights I’m home.)

    2) The rest of the world has not customized itself to accommodate vegetarians. Sure, things are a heck of a lot easier than when I became a vegetarian for the first time back in the 1980s when I was…well, younger. Even living in California I was hard pressed to find much more than a tossed salad and some steamed vegetables in those days. Now, although there are nearly always vegetarian options available, they are slim pickins’ in the overall scheme of things, which leaves us true food lovers a bit left out of the party when it comes to restaurant eating. That’s not even to mention that people are generally disinclined to invite you to dinner, for obvious reasons.

    3) Traveling is PARTICULARLY difficult. And I travel a LOT. It’s quite frustrating to be stuck in an airport with options that only amount to cheese pizza and ice cream and then landing late at night at a hotel that offers only a tossed salad and fruit. It does make a girl a bit cranky.

    I was just reading an article in Yoga Journal about some of the popular yoga teachers and how they travel with their own cooking supplies. Shiva Rea even packs a whole extra suitcase with a hot plate, pot, mung beans, rice and other supplies so she can cook in her room. She has even served up to 12 people by cooking up beans on her hot plate!

    Well, I’m not sure how I feel about that. As much as I would like some of those mung beans and rice, I don’t know that I have the wherewithal to cook in my hotel room late at night. I generally am more in the mood for SERVICE, preferably in 30 minutes or less.

    Despite these drawbacks, if you’ve considered a vegetarian diet but just can’t make the commitment, I recommend reading Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. It’s a very compelling read that puts a whole new face on the way most Americans eat. Believe me. You WILL NOT want to eat any beef, pork, chicken or fish after reading this book. You might not eat again.

    Another helpful tip: PETA, whether you love them or hate them, is well organized and has sponsored its own Go Vegetarian website where you can even order a free vegetarian starter’s kit. I tried to send some to a couple of friends in need, but their form for friends isn’t working properly. Sorry, you’ll have to download or oder your own. Check out the website though. You can “Meet Your Meat,” take the “30 Day Veg Pledge,” get recipes and even become an activist.

    And if you’re ever in Calvert County and in need of a good vegetarian meal, just let me know. It may be slow, but it’ll be healthy and vegetarian.

    Posted In: Food and Recipes


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