The Old Farmer’s Almanac for April 8: HERBAL FOLKLORE AND OLD-FASHIONED TIPS

 

HERBAL FOLKLORE AND OLD-FASHIONED TIPS

NATURAL REMEDIES WITH HERBS

We all know that herbs make great companions in the garden and kitchen. Herbs also have a long history as a natural remedy—and many other more unusual uses, too! Read on…

Anise
Romans paid taxes with anise, and it was used in cough drops.

Anise seed steeped in milk is said to be a sleep-producing drink, but it is also quite likely that the warm milk alone would do the trick.

Basil
Precious to lovers in Italy and considered sacred in India. Many years ago, Italian men wore a sprig of basil to indicate their intended marriage. A cup of basil tea after dinner helps digestion. Ease a headache by drinking tomato juice blended with fresh basil.

Borage
The Romans believed the herb to be an antidepressant, and ancient Celtic warriors took it for courage.

Caraway
Caraway was used to scent perfumes and soaps. The Greeks used it for upset stomachs.

Chervil
Eating a whole plant would cure hiccups; chervil was said to warm old and cold stomachs.

Chives
Bunches of chives hung in your home were used to drive away diseases and evil.

Dill
Romans made wreaths and garlands out of dill. Dill keeps witches away.

Fennel
Bunches of fennel were used to drive off witches. It was used in love potions and as an appetite suppressant.

Garlic
It was thought to give strength and courage. Aristotle noted garlic’s use as a guard against the fear of water. It’s also been widely used against evil powers.

Lovage
Chewing on a piece of the dried root will keep you awake. Lovage warms a cold stomach and help digestion. Added to bathwater, it was believed to relieve skin problems.

Marjoram
The Greeks believed it could revive the spirits of anyone who inhaled it. At weddings wreaths and garlands were made of marjoram.

Mint
It was believed to cure hiccups and counteract sea-serpent stings. The Romans wore peppermint wreaths on their heads. It was added to bathwater for its fragrance.

Oregano
Used for “sour humours” that plagued old farmers. Also used for scorpion and spider bites.

Parsley
Used for wreaths and in funeral ceremonies. Believed to repel head lice and attract rabbits.

Rosemary
Rosemary in your hair will improve your memory. It will protect you from evil spirits if you put a sprig under your pillow.

Sage
Thought to promote strength and longevity and believed to cure warts. American Indians used it as a toothbrush.

Summer Savory
It was believed to be an aphrodisiac. Some thought it was a cure for deafness.

Tarragon
Put in shoes before long walking trips to give strength. It has been used to relieve toothache and as an antifungal.

Thyme
Burning thyme gets rid of insects in your house. A bed of thyme was thought to be a home for fairies.

Anyone who has sage planted in the garden is reputed to do well in business.

 

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The Old Farmer’s Almanac for April 8:SUPERSTITIONS AND OLD WIVES’ TALES AROUND THE HOME

 

SUPERSTITIONS AND OLD WIVES’ TALES AROUND THE HOME

There are many superstitions and old wives’ tales about the house and home. Are they fact or fiction? Let us know what you think.

These sayings for good luck in your home come from The Old Farmer’s Almanac folklore archives.

Scatter Solomon’s seal on the floor to banish serpents and venomous creatures from the room.

To protect your house from lightning, gather hazel tree branches on Palm Sunday and keep them in water.

Add caraway seeds to chicken feed to keep poultry from wandering. Feed the seeds to homing pigeons to help them find their way back.

Stuff fennel in your keyhole or hang it over your door to protect against evil spirits. (Of course, we now know fennel has many natural remedy benefits to help keep us healthy!)

Never carry a hoe into the house. If you do so by mistake, carry it out again, walking backward to avoid bad luck.

Never walk under a ladder, which is Satan’s territory. If you must do it, cross your fingers or make the sign of the fig (closed fist, with thumb between index and middle fingers).

If you give a steel blade to a friend, make the recipient pay you a penny to avoid cutting the friendship.

Never give a knife as a housewarming present, or your new neighbor will become an enemy.

Never pound a nail after sundown, or you will wake the tree gods.

Nail an evergreen branch to new rafters to bring good luck. An empty hornets’ nest, hung high, also will bring good luck to a house of any age.

When you move to a new house, always enter first with a loaf of bread and a new broom. Never bring an old broom into the house.

 

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The Old Farmer’s Almanac for April 8: 100 WAYS TO AVOID DYING

 

100 WAYS TO AVOID DYING

ACCORDING TO FOLKLORE, THESE ARE THE BEST WAYS TO STAY ALIVE!
By Tim Clark
Doctors and scientists are always telling us ways to live longer. Usually they involve a healthier diet or lifestyle: that is, eating fewer carbs and more vegetables, getting more exercise, or giving up smoking. Instead, here are 100 ways to avoid dying according to folklore!

We wholeheartedly endorse the rigorous and unpleasant methods of extending life suggested by doctors, but our research into centuries of American folk wisdom has turned up 100 EASY ways of avoiding death by observing a few simple rules in everyday situations. These beliefs come from all over this country and were actually collected by students of folklore and anthropology.

None of them were made up. Just remember: if you fail to observe these rules, we won’t be responsible for the consequences!

HOUSEKEEPING HINTS

1. Don’t take ashes out of the fireplace or wood stove between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
2. Never place a broom on a bed.
3. Close umbrellas before bringing them into a house.
4. Avoid sweeping after sundown.
5. You mustn’t wash clothes on New Year Day.
6. Don’t shake out a tablecloth after dark.
7. Never wash a flag.
8. Don’t turn a chair on one leg.
9. Keep cats off piano keys.
10. Don’t hang a dishcloth on a doorknob.
11. Sweeping under a sick person’s bed will kill him or her.
12. Don’t ever, ever rock an empty rocking chair.

RENOVATION AND DECORATING

13. Never add-on to the back of your house.
14. You mustn’t cut a new window in an old house; the only way to avoid fatal consequences is to toss your apron through the new window, and then jump through it yourself.
15. Never drive a nail after sunset.
16. Don’t move into an unfinished house.
17. Avoid carrying axes, shovels, and other sharp-edged tools through a house; if you must take one inside, always take it out by the same door.
18. If you move out of a house, don’t move back into it for a year.
19. Don’t hang your sweetheart’s picture upside-down.
20. If a picture falls from the wall, don’t pick it up.
21. Never carry a peacock’s feather into a house.
22. Keep cut flowers out of bedrooms overnight.
23. Don’t ever carry a bouquet of wildflowers indoors before May 1.

SEWING AND FASHION

24. If you cut out a new dress on Friday, you must finish it that same day.
25. Don’t make new clothes between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
26. Never hold a stick in your mouth while sewing.
27. Always sew cross-stitching on your underwear.
28. Don’t walk around in one shoe.
29. If you see a will-o’-wisp while out walking at night, turn your coat inside-out.
30. Never wear another’s new clothes before they have worn them.
31. A woman who makes her own wedding dress will not live to wear it.

COOKING AND TABLE MANNERS

32. Never set three lamps on a table at the same time.
33. Don’t set the table backwards.
34. Never serve 13 at a table.
35. Avoid drinking coffee at 5 o’clock.
36. You mustn’t write on the back of a dish.
37. Never return borrowed salt.
38. Don’t ever cross knives while setting the table.
39. Be sure that someone else cooks your birthday dinner.
40. Don’t put two forks at one place setting.
41. Never, never turn a loaf of bread upside down.

 

SLEEPING

42. Sleeping with your head at the foot of the bed is surely fatal.
43. Don’t sing in bed.
44. If you hear a dog howl at night, reach under the bed and turn over a shoe.
45. Don’t count stars.
46. A man should never dream of a naked woman; a woman should never dream of a naked man. (You know who you are…)

PERSONAL HYGIENE

47. Never rub soap on your skin on a Friday.
48. Don’t look into a mirror over another’s shoulder.
49. Avoid combing your hair after dark.
50. Absolutely no haircuts in March.
51. Let a baby’s hair and fingernails grow until their 1st birthday.
52. Don’t let two people comb your hair at once.
53. Never shave at night.
54. NEVEREVER share a razor used by a dead man.

FUNERAL ETIQUETTE

55. Never hold a funeral on a Friday.
56. When a person dies in a house, you must immediately cover all mirrors and stop all clocks.
57. Children should not pretend to have funerals.
58. Don’t ever try on a mourning veil.
59. Always remove a dead body from a house feet first.
60. Never ride in a hearse, unless you are the driver.
61. Don’t count the cars in a funeral motorcade.
62. Avoid wearing new clothes to a funeral, especially new shoes.
63. Pull the shades in a room where a funeral service is taking place; if the sun hits a mourner’s face, he is the next to die.
64. When walking in a funeral procession, don’t look backwards.
65. Never point at a grave.
66. Try not to step across a grave.
67. Never leave a grave open overnight.
68. Don’t ever be the first to leave the graveyard after a funeral. (And hope that not everyone else follows this rule, too…)
69. If a corpse lies unburied on Sunday, another in town will surely die soon.
70. Wait a year before putting up a tombstone for a family member; if you don’t, another family member will go before the year has ended.

 

GENERAL AND MISCELLANEOUS

71. Drink May rainwater.
72. When sick, don’t look in mirrors.
73. Don’t give a person a peony.
74. Never measure your own height.
75. Try not to imagine it’s Saturday when it’s not.
76. Don’t count cars on a passenger train.
77. Never whistle in a coal mine.
78. Avoid measuring a person who is lying down.
79. Don’t walk backwards.
80. You mustn’t allow a candle to burn itself out.
81. Never sell a dog.
82. Try not to kill a crow; but if you do, be sure to bury it while wearing black.
83. If you transplant a cedar tree, you will die by the time it is big enough to shade a grave.
84. The same is true of a willow tree (as in 83)
85. Don’t ever hang your hoe on a tree branch.
86. Don’t skip a row when planting corn or beans.
87. If you watch a person out of sight, you’ll never see them again.
88. Avoid stepping over a person who is lying down.
89. When your name is called, don’t answer the first time—it may be the Devil calling you.
90. Never shake hands through a window or over a fence.
91. Try not to sit with your back to the fire.
92. Don’t burn sassafras wood.
93. If you walk with your hands locked behind your head, it will kill your mother.
94. Don’t even THINK of mocking an owl. (Who?)
95. Don’t store your shoes above your head.
96. Never kill a locust.
97. Never kill a lizard.
98. If you hear a hen crow, you must kill the hen.
99. If you are on a train when a woman boards, dressed in black, get off.
100. Whatever you do, don’t let a lizard count your teeth. (Seriously, just DON’T.)

Do you know any folklore like the above? A saying passed down from parents or grandparents? Let us know in the comments!

SOURCE:

Originally published in The 1990 Old Farmer’s Almanac

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for April 7: MOSQUITO REPELLENTS AND BITE REMEDIES

 

MOSQUITO REPELLENTS AND BITE REMEDIES

HOME REMEDIES FOR REPELLING MOSQUITOES AND SOOTHING BUG BITES

Use these natural mosquito repellents and mosquito bite remedies to keep the mosquitoes away and get relief from itchy bug bites!

We love summer but staying away from mosquitoes is annoying. No one wants to wear long clothes in the heat just to prevent mosquito bites, but the bugs can be relentless.

It’s not all mosquitoes that feed on blood, though: male mosquitoes only drink nectar, whereas female mosquitoes nourish their developing eggs with protein-rich blood. To that end, the female mosquitoes prefer to bite ankles and wrists, where blood vessels are nearer to the skin’s surface. Ever noticed where you get bitten?

WHY DO MOSQUITO BITES ITCH?

When a mosquito bites you, it injects a small amount of saliva into the wound to stop your blood from clotting. Our bodies react to this foreign substance and, in defense, produce a protein called histamine. Histamine triggers the characteristic inflammation seen around mosquito bites, as well as the itching.

Note: Though it’s rare, mosquito saliva can also carry encephalitis, malaria, West Nile virus, yellow fever. If you have any complications with bug bites (besides itching), check for symptoms of these other diseases.

NATURAL BUG REPELLENT REMEDIES

Did you know: A higher body temperature and more sweat make you more likely to be bitten. A first step is to wash off any sweat and keep your body temperature down.

Topical Mosquito Repellents

  • Many readers claim that rubbing apple cider vinegar on your skin helps to repel insects. If you take in enough apple cider vinegar by putting it on foods you eat, you’ll develop a body odor that will repel insects, including black flies. One great and refreshing summer drink for this purpose is switchel, made from apple cider vinegar.
  • Lemon Eucalyptus oil is recommended by the C.D.C. to repel mosquitoes, as is picaridin.
  • Some people swear garlic works and swallow slivered garlic to ward off these summer pests. Others take garlic tablets or rub garlic juice directly on their skin.
  • If you are going to use a DEET repellent, do not use one with more than 25% DEET. Unlike the SPF rating in sunscreens, higher concentrations of DEET don’t mean more protection.

How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes in Your Yard

  • To keep mosquitoes to a minimum, eliminate their breeding sites on your property. They need standing water to lay their eggs in, so empty those puddles, old cans, buckets, and plant pots. If you have a pond, don’t worry—dragonflies love ponds, and they are a big mosquito predator.
  • It is thought that certain plants repel a broad spectrum of insects. Marigolds, chrysanthemums, asters, and pyrethrum daisies, as well as herbs such as basil, anise, and coriander, are all thought to repel insects. See more plants that repel mosquitoes.
  • Citronella candles are not proven to work, however the smoke repels mosquitoes. Or, burn a little sage or rosemary over coals to repel mosquitoes.
  • Add a bat house to your home! Did you know that one small brown bat can eat as many as 600 mosquitoes in one hour? Check this page for more information on bats and other creatures that eat annoying pests!
  • Be aware that using pesticides to get rid of mosquitoes can also harm more beneficial bugs like fireflies and dragonflies. Try some home remedies before making that decision!

MOSQUITO BITE RELIEF: HOME REMEDIES FOR BUG BITES AND ITCHING

  • It helps to ice the area of the bite to constrict the capillaries near the skin’s surface and reduce swelling.
  • If you are going to use a topical cream, stay away from caladryl and calamine lotions for mosquito bites; it’s better to apply a low-potency hydrocortisone and simple patience.
  • Remember not to scratch the bite; this will only make it worse. For itchy bites, rub on meat tenderizer or lemon juice. A paste of mashed garlic can also help make bug bites stop itching.
  • White vinegar is another remedy for relieving the itch of insect bites. Apply it in full strength. Don’t use vinegar if the area is raw. See more household uses for vinegar.
  • A paste of baking soda and water can provide much-needed relief to bug bites. Learn more about the countless household uses for baking soda.
  • Oatmeal can also help to provide itch relief—not only for bug bites.
  • Some people have luck with high doses of vitamin B1 (100 milligrams, two or three times a day), but it doesn’t work for everybody.
  • If you have an intense reaction to mosquito bites, consult your doctor.

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The Old Farmer’s Almanac for April 7: TICKS AND MOSQUITOES: PROTECT YOURSELF

 

TICKS AND MOSQUITOES: PROTECT YOURSELF

Ticks & mosquitoes have become abundant. Time for warnings. Protect yourself with safe but also effective solutions!

First, let’s just talk about ticks and mosquitoes. Not to be scary, but lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Powassan virus, West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis, dengue, and now zika are just some of the diseases transmitted by these biting insects.

Everyone should check local or state public health agencies to learn the habits and life cycles of the biting insects and ticks in your area, as well as labs that will identify ticks. Learn to remove a tick safely  and check every inch of your body (inside and behind ears, scalp, belly button, behind knees, between toes, etc.) after outdoor excursions.

But remember: not all species of ticks and mosquitoes in any given area are able to transmit disease, and even if they do have that capability, the one that bites you might not be carrying enough of a viral or bacterial load to infect you.

Mosquitoes usually become infected from feeding on infected birds. Ticks generally pick up infectious bacteria as young larvae feeding on infected rodents.

Fortunately, there are ways your can protect yourself and your loved ones from getting bitten in the first place.

HOW TICKS FIND YOU

Lacking wings, ticks can’t fly. They also don’t leap, hop, drop from trees, or even move very fast. Instead, ticks at every stage of development seek their hosts with a behavior entomologists call “questing.”

They climb the stems of grasses, foliage plants, and low shrubbery, and extend their forelegs–which contain sensing organs that respond to carbon dioxide, body heat and odors, vibration, and moisture–grabbing on when a suitable host brushes by. They crawl, generally upward, until they find a patch of skin to attach to, secreting anaesthetics and anticoagulants, and “cementing” themselves in for a meal.

Ticks have evolved an ingenious two-way system that sends concentrated nutrients from the blood meal into the tick’s gut in one direction, while returning excess fluid–along with any pathogens living in the tick’s saliva–back into the host’s body.

HOW MOSQUITOES FIND YOU

Only female mosquitoes bite; they need blood to develop their eggs. Recent research shows that mosquitoes use a combination of smell, sight, and thermal sensing to locate a suitable host. Unlike the tick, which can attach for hours or days, a mosquito zooms in for a quick nip and flies away.

HOW TO PREVENT TICK AND MOSQUITO BITES

A few simple strategies can help you avoid tick and mosquito bites when you go outside:

  • Avoid times of day when most mosquitoes are active (early moring and dusk), and areas where ticks are most likley to abound.
  • Dress to defend. Cover up with long, light-colored pants tucked into socks, long sleeves with tight cuffs, long gloves, and tall rubber boots (ticks can’t climb the shiny surface) Wear a head net with netting that comes down over your shoulders if you’re walking through brush or pruning shrubs, berry bushes, or fruit trees.
    Better yet, invest in a full netting suit that covers you from head to ankles. (Yes, the photo above is me in my Bug Baffler.) At first you may feel like the village eccentric working your garden, mowing your lawn, or tromping down a local nature trail—but hey, think of yourself as a public-health trendsetter.
  • For even more protection, wear garments treated with permethrin, a serious pesticide that disables or kills ticks or flying insects that land on it. You can purchase treated garments from outdoor retailers, or buy permethrin sprays to treat your own clothing. The protective effect will last through several washings, but wash permethrin-treated clothing separately from other clothes.

Warning: Don’t spray or rub permethrin directly onto skin. Follow label instructions. Always spray outdoors on a calm, dry day. Keep permethrin containers locked and away from children.

  • Use bug repellents. These products don’t repel as much as confuse insects and ticks, so they don’t recognize you as a potential host. Repellents come in sprays, lotions, sticks, and wipes, and they vary widely in what biting pests they work against, the concentration of effective ingredients, and the hours of protection they provide. Check those labels carefully.
    • DEET is the current gold standard for insect and tick protection. It’s been used and studied since 1946, though it has caused health concerns. For good protection against ticks, use in 15 percent to 50 percent (but no nigher) concentrations.
    • Picaridin is generally considered safer (especially for children) than DEET, and also won’t damage fabrics. To protect against ticks, use the 20 percent concentration.
    • BioUD, a relatively new product developed by research scientists at North Carolina State University, works as well or better than DEET against mosquitoes and ticks. Its active ingredients are naturally occurring essential oils from wild tomato plant.
  • Although the many other products manufactured from or homemade plant extracts or essential oils may have good short-term use against mosquitoes and other biting insects, I wouldn’t trust them to repel ticks in a heavily infested area. Researchers have several plant-based repellents in the pipeline that may come on line soon.

 

ABOUT THIS BLOG

“Living Naturally” is all about living a naturally healthy lifestyle. Margaret Boyles covers health tips, ways to avoid illness, natural remedies, food that’s good for body and soul, recipes for homemade beauty products, ideas to make your home a healthy and safe haven, and the latest news on health. Our goal is also to encourage self-sufficiency, whether it’s relearning some age-old skills or getting informed on modern improvements that help us live better, healthier lives

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The Old Farmer’s Almanac for April 7: TICK BITES | LYME DISEASE | TREATMENT

 

TICK BITES | LYME DISEASE | TREATMENT

TICK BITE TREATMENT AND REMOVAL

If you spend time outside or have pets that go outdoors, it’s important to be aware of tick bites—their symptoms, prevention, and treatment. Some ticks transmit Lyme Disease, so we’ll also help you understand types of tickets and disease symptoms.

Ticks are small bloodsucking parasites. Ticks not only carry the dangerous Lyme disease, but also Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever, or a number of other diseases. In fact, ticks are the leading carriers of diseases to humans in the U.S., and second only to mosquitoes worldwide. Similarly to mosquitoes, toxins in the tick’s saliva cause the disease.

As many as 300,000 people may be diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease each year through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. It is a regional affliction with 95% of the cases occurring in 14 states in the Upper Midwest, New England, and the Mid-Atlantic, but the only state that has had no reports of Lyme disease is Hawaii. Lyme disease is most common in children 5 to 15 years old and adults 40 to 60 years of age, and risk of infection is greatest from May to August.

WHAT IS LYME DISEASE?

An infected tick transmits the spiral-shaped bacterium called a spirochete to us through a tick bite. Because of the spirochete’s shape, it is able to corkscrew its way from the bloodstream into soft tissue, tendons, joints, and bones. There is some controversy about how long the tick needs to be embedded to transmit the disease. The CDC says 24 hours, but some doctors claim only four hours or less will do it.

LYME DISEASE SYMPTOMS

Lyme disease is hard to diagnose because so many of its symptoms—such as fever, chills, sore joints, headaches, and exhaustion—mimic other diseases. Tick bites are also generally painless and may go completely unnoticed.

If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.

One common symptom is the telltale Lyme disease rash, called erythema migrans. This rash forms the shape of a bullseye around the location of the tick bite. It is red and usually appears within 3 to 14 days of the tick bite. The rash will then grow larger, and sometimes more than one rash can develop. Go to the doctor immediately if you have the rash. Other rashes can develop around tick bites that are not associated with Lyme disease, but it is best to be safe. Not everyone who is infected with Lyme disease contracts the rash, so it is actually a lucky sign that will allow the doctor to make a quick diagnosis and provide treatment.

If Lyme disease is allowed to progress, it can be a debilitating illness. If you live in an area that is prone to ticks carrying Lyme disease, check yourself regularly for ticks and be aware of Lyme disease symptoms. Even if you think you might just have a cold, if you’ve recently had a tick bite, you should check with your doctor.

TYPES OF TICKS

Hard ticks have a tough back plate and tend to feed for hours to days. With hard ticks, disease transmission usually occurs near the end of a meal.

Soft ticks have a more rounded body and lack the back plate. They usually feed for less than an hour and disease transmission can occur in less than a minute.

Lyme disease is caused by hard ticks including deer ticks. Sitting on a log in the woods, leaning up against a tree or gathering wood are risky activities when trying to avoid ticks.

The deer tick or black-legged tick is so tiny that it can be difficult to see. At the nymph stage it is even smaller—about the size of a poppy seed and translucent. Since the nymphs are so hard to see, they can latch on to us unnoticed. This can make it even harder to recognize the symptoms of Lyme disease for what they are. Normally these nymphs feed on mice, deer, and birds, but any warm body will do.

The deer tick is known to carry Lyme disease. If you have a tick bite from a black-legged tick, save the tick for disease testing.

The black-legged tick has a two-year life cycle. Adults feed on large animals like deer, mate, and lay eggs in the soil in fall and early spring. These eggs hatch into larvae which feed on mice, birds, and people until they become adults in the fall and start the cycle all over again.

Ticks are highly active in the early spring and again in the fall. Ticks may get on you if you walk through areas where they live, such as tall grass, leaf litter or shrubs, woods, meadows, and near the water’s edge.

HOW TO PREVENT TICK BITES AND LYME DISEASE

There are several ways to keep ourselves tick-safe. Take the following precautions when working outside:

  • Stay out of tick-infested areas such as overgrown grass, brush, and leaf litter.
  • When outdoors, wear light-colored protective clothing
  • Shower after working outside to wash off unattached ticks.
  • Check yourself, the kids, and pets thoroughly for ticks on days you go outdoors.
  • Tall rubber boots are too slippery for ticks. Wear long sleeves and long pants to keep them off your skin.
  • Tuck your pants into your socks to keep ticks from crawling up your leg.
  • Use a repellent that contains at least 20-30% DEET or wear treated clothing.

For more information on ticks and Lyme disease, visit the American Lyme Disease Foundation website.

TICK REMOVAL

If you find a tick on your skin, use fine-tipped tweezers will remove a tick quite effectively.

  • Use the tweezers to firmly grasp the tick as close to its head and as close to your skin as possible. Avoid squeezing the tick’s abdomen; crushing a tick may transmit diseases.
  • Pull gently upward until the tick comes free. Do not twist and turn the tick, as the head or mouth parts may break off and stay in the skin, increasing the chances for infection.  If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

When removing a tick with tweezers, be sure to remove the entire tick and leave no parts in the skin. (Photo Credit: University of Maine.) 

  • Disinfect the tweezers with rubbing alcohol, and wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Observe the bite area for several days. Illnesses transmitted by the tick often begin only days or weeks after the tick is gone. If symptoms occur, tell the physician if you have been outdoors.
  • Symptoms may include fever, numbness, rash, confusion, weakness, pain and swelling in the joints, shortness of breath, nausea, and/or vomiting. Blood tests are needed to diagnose any illness.

 

What to Do with a Removed Tick

  • Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag, and wrapping it tightly in tape. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
  • When disposing of a tick that has not attached yet, drop it into a sealed plastic bag and throw it into the trash. Or, you can drop it into a jar of rubbing alcohol; with this method, you can save it for later identification, although it is better not to do this if you want to have it tested for disease.
  • Do not flush a live tick down the toilet. Ticks do not drown in water and have been known to crawl back up out of the toilet bowl.
  • If you are bitten, it is recommended that you save the tick for identification and send it to a lab to test if the tick is carrying a disease. In this case, place the tick in a tightly closed container, such as a vial or a zippered plastic bag (doubled, if the tick is alive). Do not soak the tick in alcohol. If the tick is alive (which is preferable for testing), some labs ask that you place a cotton ball moistened with a few drops of water in the container. Label the container with the date, your name and contact information, the bite’s location on the body, and your general health at the time. If known, also list the geographical location from which the tick may have originated. Send live ticks as soon as possible to a lab; some labs accept dead or damaged ticks as well. If the tick is dead and you don’t want to have it tested, you can store the container in the freezer for later tick ID in case symptoms develop.

Do you often deal with ticks? How do you keep yourself tick-free? Please share with the Almanac community in the comments section below!

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser’s backyard gardening tips and tricks. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer’s Market.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for April 6th: A KITCHEN HERB GARDEN

 

A KITCHEN HERB GARDEN

By Samantha Jones

A kitchen herb garden can be simple or ornamental, blended with decorative flowers or combined with other edibles. Herbs will thrive in pots on the patio, in raised beds, and in plots-even on a sunny windowsill. The Old Farmer’s Almanac Garden-Fresh Cookbook lists the best herbs to grow!

A Kitchen Herb Garden

The following herbs have a range of culinary uses:

Basil, an annual, grows 1 to 2 feet tall in moist soil. Encourage bushy growth by pinching off flower buds. Pick the leaves often, from the top. Use them with pasta, vegetable dishes, soups, salads, and oils or vinegars.

Chive, a perennial, grows 12 to 24 inches tall in moist soil. Harvest the hollow, grasslike leaves in the spring by snipping them close to the ground; they will soon grow back. Chives enliven rice, cheese dishes, eggs, vegetable dishes, dressings, sauces, and dips.

Cilantro/Coriander, an annual, grows 6 to 30 inches tall in light soil and full sun to partial shade. Pick the leaves (cilantro) sparingly when the plant stands 4 to 6 inches tall. Pick the aromatic seeds (coriander) when they ripen. Use leaves and flowers raw in salads and cold vegetable dishes, and the seeds in pastries, custards, confections, and meat dishes.

Dill, an annual or biennial, grows 2 to 3 feet tall. Harvest the leaves when the flowers begin to open; collect the seed heads when they are dry and brown. Use the leaves with soups, seafood, salads, green beans, potato dishes, cheese, and sauces, and the seeds for pickles.

Mint, a perennial, grows 1 to 3 feet tall in moist soil and partial shade. (Mints can be invasive. To prevent spreading, plant them in pots.) Harvest young sprigs and leaves frequently for a bushy plant. Use fresh or dry leaves and stems with roast lamb or fish and in salads, jellies, or teas.

Oregano, a tender perennial, grows 1 to 2 feet tall and tolerates poor soil. Harvest leaves when young and use in any tomato dish. Try it also with beans, mushroom dishes, potatoes, and summer squashes, or in a marinade for lamb or game.

Parsley, a biennial, grows 12 to 30 inches tall in partial shades. Leaves can be curly or flat, depending on the variety. Cut or pinch the leaves as needed. Use fresh in soups, salads, and sauces or as garnish for anything.

Rosemary, a tender perennial, grows 4 to 6 feet tall in neutral to slightly acidic soil. Gather leaves and sprigs as needed for use with vegetables or in lamb, poultry, and tomato dishes; breads and custards; and soups and stews.

Sage, a perennial, grows 1 to 3 feet tall in well-drained soil. Pick the leaves as needed for use in soups, salads, stuffings, cheese dishes, and pickles. Its strong flavor makes it excellent for salt-free cooking.

Thyme, a perennial, grows 12 to 18 inches tall in well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade. Harvest the tops of the plants when they are in full leaf. Use the leaves, fresh or dried, in casseroles, stews, soups, and ragouts, and with fish, potatoes, green vegetables, and eggs.

ABOUT THIS BLOG

This new corner of Almanac.com will feature news, information, and cool stuff from The Old Farmer’s Almanac and its family of publications.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for April 6: GROWING HERBS IN THE GARDEN

 

GROWING HERBS IN THE GARDEN

Growing herbs in containers or a small space is so easy—and who likes paying for a package of herbs from the grocery store every time you need a few sprigs or leaves.

If the meals at your house have been a little bland, fresh herbs can make a huge difference in flavor; they are considered the mark of a serious cook and are essential ingredients in many culinary classics.

In late spring, garden centers offer a wide selection of herb plants making it easy for you to start an instant herb garden. Or, many annual herbs like dill or cilantro are easy to grow from seed. Having trouble deciding what to grow? Take a look in your cupboard and start with the herbs you already like to use. Once you have become a seasoning pro, you can branch out and add some new herbs to your repertoire.

BEST HERBS TO GROW

Annual herbs such as dill, basil, cilantro, and summer savory are easy to grow from seed. The plants last for one season only so grow plenty of extra to dry or freeze for use over the winter. Once you get used to their flavors you won’t want to cook without them.

Biennial herbs such as parsley and caraway can be started from seed also. They will grow well the first year and come back the second year when they will bloom and set seeds. Then the original plants will die.

Perennial herbs include Greek oregano, thyme, sage, winter savory, chives, and mint. Once established in your garden these plants will increase in size and come back every year.

Tender perennial plants such as tarragon, rosemary, and stevia need to be grown in pots so they can spend the winter indoors. Put the pots outside as soon as the weather warms in the spring.

It is fine to have your herbs scattered throughout the landscape—many are as attractive as they are useful—but it is easier for you to harvest them if they are all in one or two spots. You can spend a lot of time planning an elaborate herb garden if you like but you don’t have to. A sunny corner close to the kitchen door is an ideal location and will make it easier for you to step out and snip what you need for the meal you are making.

A small space is all you need to grow a gourmet herb garden but if space is really limited or even non-existent, culinary herbs grow well in containers. Use window boxes, hanging baskets, or a whiskey barrel to grow a mini-garden of kitchen herbs.

Even though I have large patches of culinary herbs in the garden, I always keep a hanging pot of rosemary, thyme, oregano, summer savory, and basil growing just outside the back door. Since it is so convenient I find myself using those herbs in my dishes more often and the fresh flavor makes a huge difference in my otherwise plain cooking. When the weather gets cold, I bring the pot indoors and keep it going in a sunny kitchen window. It doesn’t get much handier than that!

TIPS TO GROWING HERBS

Herbs are forgiving plants and will grow in less than ideal conditions.

  • Drainage is the most important thing to consider since many herbs do not like wet feet.
  • The soil does not have to be overly fertile. In fact, if herbs are over-fertilized they tend to be less flavorful.
  • Most herbs grow best with at least six hours of sun a day.
  • When planting, give the perennial herbs room to grow. It may look a little bare at first but they will expand to fill the space. Crowded plants compete with each other for nutrients and water and can be difficult to harvest. Air circulation is important for healthy growth, especially during humid weather.
  • Herbs respond well to regular pruning and when you clip them often to use, you’ll be encouraging fresh new growth.

The season for bumper crops of fresh produce is approaching fast! Be ready by growing the herbs necessary to flavor your world and spice up your life!

 

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser’s backyard gardening tips and tricks. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer’s Market.

 

The Old Farmer’s Almanac

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for April 6th: STARTING SEEDS INDOORS

 

STARTING SEEDS INDOORS

WHEN TO START SEEDS INDOORS

Starting seeds properly can make or break your entire growing season! Here’s are some tips that include when to start seeds, which seeds to start indoors, and how to do it.

WHY START SEEDS INDOORS?

  • Mainly, people start seeds indoors in order to get a jump on the gardening season. Doing so allows you to gain a few weeks of growing time, which can really matter in regions with short growing seasons.
  • If you want to grow a lot of plants, buying packs of seeds is usually cheaper than buying young seedlings from the nursery.
  • While some nursery plants are grown really nicely, others are poor quality. When you plant your own seeds, you have control over the way the baby is raised. This may be especially important if you are an organic gardener.
  • Finally, there isn’t always a great selection of plants at nurseries. When you plant from seed, you have a much wider choice of varieties, tastes, and textures—and you can experiment with new ones, too.

WHICH SEEDS SHOULD YOU START INDOORS?

Consult the table below to see which crops are typically started indoors, which are typically started outdoors, and which can be variable. (Note that gardeners in warmer climates will be able to start more crops outdoors than gardeners in colder climates.)

Start Indoors Start Outdoors Variable
Broccoli Beets Beans
Brussels Sprouts Carrots Celery
Cabbage Corn Kale
Cauliflower Garlic Spinach
Eggplant Okra
Lettuce Onions
Peppers Peas
Pumpkins Parsnips
Swiss Chard Potatoes
Tomatoes Radishes
Watermelons Squash/Zucchini
Sweet Potatoes

BEFORE YOU START SEEDS

  • Be seed-savvy. Obtain seed catalogs from several companies and compare their offering and prices. Some of the regional companies may carry varieties better suited to your area.
  • Make a list of what you’d like to grow. A good rule-of-thumb is to imagine your garden one-quarter the size that it really is. This allows for good spacing practices! See Vegetable Gardening for Beginners for popular beginner vegetables.
  • Prepare for some losses. Though it’s good not to plant too much for your garden space, it’s also good to assume that some of your seeds won’t germinate, or that they will inexplicably die off later. Plant a few extra, just in case.
  • Consider a grow light if you start in late winter. Most veggies need 6 to 8 hours of direct sun, so it’s important to have a grow light if you are sowing your vegetable seeds indoors in late winter. A grow light will also keep your seedlings from getting too leggy. Learn more about using grow lights.
  • Team up with a neighbor and share seeds if you have leftovers!
  • Use clean containers. Most seed catalogs offer seedling flats, peat pots, and other growing containers, but egg carton compartments make good containers, too. Be sure to poke holes in the sides near the bottom of the containers you use in order to allow excess water to drain.
  • Label your containers now! There’s nothing more frustrating than forgetting what you planted.

WHEN TO START SEEDS

  • We’ll get right to the answer: Just check our Planting Calendar, which lists when to start your vegetables and herbs indoors. We’ve created a customized tool, based on your zip code!
  • As a general rule, most annual vegetables should be sown indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost in your area.
  • Don’t start your seeds too early, especially tomatoes. Wait until six weeks before your last frost date to start tomato seeds.

 

HOW TO START SEEDS

  1. Fill clean containers with a moistened potting mix made for seedlings. Use soilless peat moss and mix in equal parts vermiculite and perlite to hold enough water and allow oxygen to flow. Don’t use regular potting soil, as it may not be fine enough for seeds to root through properly. Pre-formed seed starters (such as Jiffy pellets) work well, too.
  2. Plant your seeds according to the seed packet. Most seeds can simply be gently pressed into the mixture; you can use the eraser end of a pencil to do so. When planting seeds, plant the largest seeds in the packet to get the best germination rate.
  3. Cover containers with plastic to keep them from drying out too quickly. Poke a few holes in the plastic with a toothpick for ventilation.
  4. Water newly started seeds carefully. A pitcher may let the water out too forcefully. A mist sprayer is gentle but can take a long time. Try using a meat-basting syringe (turkey baster), which will dispense the water effectively without causing too much soil disruption.
  5. When seedlings start to appear, remove the plastic and move containers into bright light.
  6. When the seedlings get their second pair of leaves, prepare individual pots filled with a potting mix with plenty of compost. Move the seedlings carefully to the new pots and water well. Keep seedlings out of direct sun for a few days, until they’ve had a chance to establish themselves in their new pots.

Things to Keep in Mind:

  • You may have to soak, scratch, or chill seeds before planting, as directed on packet.
  • Seeds sprout best at temperatures of 65 to 75°F (18 to 24°C).
  • Find a place in the kitchen where there is natural bottom heat—on top of the refrigerator or near the oven are good spots. (Move the tray if the oven is on, as it may become too hot!)
  • If you keep your seedlings next to a window, remember to rotate the containers every so often to keep the seedlings growing evenly. If you’re using a grow light, remember to raise it a few inches above the tallest seedling every couple of days.

MOVING SEEDLINGS OUTSIDE

Before transplanting seedlings to your garden, you’ll first need to do something called “hardening off.” This will prepare the seedlings for the harsh realities (i.e., climate) of the outside world!

  1. During their last week indoors, withhold fertilizer and add water less often.
  2. Seven to ten days before transplanting, set the seedlings outdoors in dappled shade that is protected from winds for a few hours each day, gradually increasing their exposure to full sun and windy conditions. This is the hardening-off period.
  3. Keep the soil moist at all times during this period. Dry air and spring breezes can result in rapid transpiration. If possible, transplant on overcast days or in the early morning, when the sun won’t be too harsh.

Watch our video on hardening off for more info:

After the hardening-off period, your seedlings are ready for transplanting. Here are a few tips:

  • Set transplants into loose, well-aerated soil. Such soil will capture and retain moisture, drain well, and allow easy penetration by seedling roots.
  • Soak the soil around new seedlings immediately after transplanting.
  • Spread mulch to reduce soil moisture loss and to control weeds.
  • To ensure the availability of phosphorus in the root zone of new transplants (phosphorus promotes strong root development), mix 2 tablespoons of a 15-30-15 starter fertilizer into a gallon of water (1 tablespoon for vining crops such as melons and cucumbers), and give each seedling a cup of the solution after transplanting.

Old Farmer’s Almanac

 

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for April 6th: WHEN TO START SEEDS: NOT TOO EARLY!

 

WHEN TO START SEEDS: NOT TOO EARLY!

HOW TO KNOW WHEN TO START SEEDS

The seeds are rolling in, and if you are as eager to get the garden party started as I am, it is hard to refrain from starting them too early. When should you start your seedlings?

There is always some debate about when is the best time to start seeds indoors. If you plant seeds too early, you need to be prepared to keep potting them up into bigger pots.

Here in New Hampshire, I run a plant business with my partner and Memorial Day is usually our biggest weekend for selling plants. So, we gear our seed starting to have the plants looking their best then. As soon as I get my new calendar in January, I turn to May and mark Memorial Day weekend as our end date. Then, I number each Saturday back from there into February; 15 weeks is when we begin, and as the season gets busy, we even do some planting on Wednesday—hence the half weeks. As the seeds roll in we sort them by the number of weeks recommended on the packets.

Every location is different, but here’s an example of the way we plant:

  • Week 15 – Gazania & calibrachoa. We want these plants to be blossoming by the end of May.
  • Week 13 – Onions, shallots, and slow-germinating perennials.
  • Week 12 – Petunias & ‘Profusion’ zinnias.
  • Week 11 – Impatiens & more perennials.
  • Week 10 – Parsley, thyme, coleus, last of the perennials.
  • Week 9 – Eggplant, snapdragons, cleome, hollyhocks, dahlias.
  • Week 8 1/2 – Peppers. We grow about 50 varieties, so they get a start day of their own.
  • Week 8 – Cole crops, asters, stevia, salvias, nicotiana, and other slow to start annuals.
  • Week 7 1/2 – Basil, cilantro & dill.
  • Week 7 – Tomatoes. This is another marathon planting day, since we grow over 80 varieties.
  • Week 6 – Marigolds, cosmos, zinnias, lettuce, and fast starting annuals. Vines are planted in individual peat pots so they don’t get their roots disturbed after they germinate.
  • Weeks 4 & 5 – Cukes, squash, melons, and sunflowers (get started in individual pots instead of the community flats)

For your planting dates, look at your local last frost date and use that as your end date.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac has an online planting calendar based on your last frost date, which makes it really easy to figure out when to plant what.

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER (OR EARLY)

It is best to err on the side of caution if spring is usually slow to arrive where you live. To avoid having leggy weak transplants, it is better to sow seeds a little late than it is to sow them too early. Younger, vigorously growing transplants will make the transition to the garden much more successfully than spindly, overgrown ones.

 

Bear in mind that small seeds usually take a lot longer to germinate than big ones, but germination time is usually on the packet. There might be a few seeds that need special treatment before planting so look for that when you are sorting them. You don’t want to find out at planting time that the seeds needed a month in the fridge first. Been there, done that!

If you haven’t ordered your seeds yet, it’s not too late!

 

 

Also, are you using the Almanac’s Garden Planner tool? It’s amazing and free for the first week—enough time to plan out a garden and give it a go.

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser’s backyard gardening tips and tricks. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer’s Market.