I am a lover of horticulture, gardening and the environment. At age 8, I sent away for a package of Zinnia seeds for 10 cents and I've been hooked ever since. After 25 years of being self-employed, I retired. That only lasted 4 years and I now work in a water conservation program: I buy grass from homeowners who are willing to convert to desert landscaping and lose that thirsty green stuff. I pursue what interests me and you can blame my sister for getting me into this blogging thing.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Fall In The Desert

It seems to be officially
fall here in the desert.
The ash trees are turning yellow and red and the Chinese pistache is also turning red. And my lemons are something to behold. I think they are a bit ahead of schedule. There are several hundred on my tree. I now have to think of creative ways to use some of them. Mostly they are given away. The nice thing about lemons is they will stay on the tree for a long, long time. I made some chicken picata the other day, with lemon juice and white wine. It was quite tasty.

With the advent of cool weather, some of our plants are bursting into bloom. It's an anomaly that many things stop blooming in summer but respond to cooler weather. I have a lovely array of things blooming 12 months out of the year. The excessive heat is gone and our days are gloriously comfortable. It's a bit chilly in the morning but shirt sleeve weather in the afternoon.
We've had about an inch and a half of rain in the past two weeks and that is contributing to blooming in several species. One is the little fuzzy blue flower called Boot Hill Eupatorium amongst the Radiation lantana. It's a little hidden treasure that you have to walk near to notice. The nice thing about cool weather here is that we can plant annuals that would be crispy critters here in July and August. I like to add pansies and stock to some of the pots that have succulents in them. The pansies will bloom until the weather gets hot in the spring, around March or April. All in all, this is the nicest time of year, after spring of course. It's a very lovely time of year to visit as well. All of you snow bunnies should think about a nice trip to Las Vegas. I'll be happy to show you my garden.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Wow, who ever thought I'd be saying that. Our annual rainfall is about 4" a year. Pretty skimpy. Until Friday, we have only had about 1/2 inch of rain for the entire year. It's really been hampering our water conservation efforts. For the first time in 4 years we are using more water than in 2002. Of course our population has exploded by about 5000 people per month moving here.

Back to the rain: It rained on Friday, causing a major problem at the PGA golf tournament. The second round was suspended on Friday the 13th due to dangerous weather conditions -- marking the first time in over 75 years that it had rained on Oct. 13th in Las Vegas. It caused major traffic delays on the highway so some players were late for their tee times. We got about 1/2" of rain on Friday.

Saturday was a day I was looking forward to. It was our annual Day with the Experts at The Gardens at the Las Vegas Springs Preserve. I was honored to be asked to conduct tours through the gardens to talk to people about the plants. I was so excited. Last week I presented a program to the new Master Gardener class about designing with desert plants. Nothing I like more than talking about plants, I must have some teacher genes in my personality, and I love helping people find the right plant for the right place. I woke up to very overcast gray skies, but didn't worry too much. I figured if it rained on Friday, it sure wouldn't rain on Saturday. Usually, if there is any moisture in the clouds, it dumps it on its way on the mountains just to the west of Las Vegas. So I got up and got going a little early. When I entered the expressway, I should have had a clue. It took me 30 minutes to get about 5 miles. I later found out that it was raining south of us and standing water on U.S. Highway 95 forced the closure of that freeway at Decatur Boulevard from Saturday morning until late afternoon, snarling traffic for hours. Rain caused an embankment on Interstate 215 to collapse, closing the Beltway for about five hours. I finally reached the gardens on surface streets, and you guessed it, it started pouring down rain. I've been a volunteer at this event for 10 years and its the first time it's ever rained. Bah humbug.

Well, needless to say, I was majorly disappointed. But we did get another inch of desperately needed water. I'm hoping for better weather next Saturday. I'm working at an event called Bite of Vegas at one of the local parks. I'll be giving people information on the conservation program I work with to save water. So wish us clear skies and NO RAIN.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Junk Mail

I spent about an hour this morning sorting through the weeks mail. Junk mail seems to get worse, like the traffic, it increases every year. Then there's the junk advertising in the Sunday paper and the junk they stuff in your screen door. You can't seem to lessen the amount of paper that clogs your life. How many trees die every year for all this paper? If that isn't bad enough, there's spam on your computer. I really hate it when some anonymous person puts advertising under my windshield wiper on the car. What's a person to do?

Your name, address, and buying habits are a commodity that is regularly sold & traded on the open market. These days organizations you deal with virtually all sell your name unless you specifically ask them to stop. Here are some general techniques:
Whenever you donate money, order a product or service, or fill out a warranty card, write in large letters, "Please do not sell my name or address". Most organizations will properly mark your name in the computer.

  • Product warranty cards are are often used to collection information on your habits and income, for the sole purpose of targeting direct mail. They are not required in most situations - avoid sending them.

  • On the telephone, ask "Please mark my account so that my name is not traded or sold to other companies".
  • Your credit card company probably sells your name the most often. Call them and ask them to stop.

  • "Contests" where you fill in a little entry blank are almost always fishing expeditions for names. If you fill one out at a football game, for example, expect to get a catalog of football merchandise within a few months. Avoid these if you don't want the mail.

To stop specific types of unwanted paper mail:

The amount of paper junk mail sent each year in the USA is staggering -- some 4 million tons, nearly half of which is never opened. Even if you recycle there are still enormous environmental costs in terms of ink, energy to produce deliver and recycle the paper, recycling inefficiencies and loss of virgin forest to create the high quality glossy paper much junk mail uses. There is a lot you can do to reduce the cost to the environment and your own time:
First class mail: Cross out the address and bar code, circle the first class postage and write "refused: return to sender". Drop in any mail box, it will be returned to the sender.
Bulk mail: The post office throws away bulk mail it can't deliver, so returning it does no good. Bulk mail is the hardest to deal with because the USPS actively provides addresses, support and encouragement to mailers. However, if "address correction requested" is written on the label: circle "address correction requested" and treat like first class mail.

Credit offers: The major credit agencies all sell aggregate credit information any bidder. Direct mail and credit companies generate mail based on demographics including zip code, income band and credit payment patterns. Stopping this is easy, you just need your address, former address within two years, and social security number. One call does it all for agencies Equifax, Trans Union, Experian and Innovis. Dial 1-888-5 OPT OUT (or 1-888-567-8688) 24 hours a day.

Catalogs:Call the company's 800 number and have the label handy.Write your instructions on the mailing label and fax it to the company. Mark "ATTN: customer service".

AOL (America On-Line): You could pave the nation with the free discs these people send out, call 1-800-605-4297 (24 hours a day) to get off the list. Tell them your first name is "current", last name "resident".

Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes: You can get the Clearinghouse to stop clogging your mailbox by contacting customer service at 1-800-645-9242 (8:30 am to 8:30 EST), sending a fax to 1-800-453-0272, mailing to 101 Channel Drive, Port Washington, NY 11050, or you can send email to PCH will remove any number of names from a specific address, but you have to list each name exactly and insist nicely.

American Family Sweepstakes: Ed McMahon and Dick Clark will stop telling you "You have definitely won 11 million dollars (maybe) " if you call them at 1-800-237-2400.

ADVO (Mail comes with pictures of missing children). Call 1-860-285-6100 to get off the list. You may have to send a postcard to "ADVO Consumer Assistance, POB 249, Windsor CT 06095-4176".

Val-Pak Coupons: click the link and fill out the form - easy, but don't give them your email address.

Carol Wright Call 1-800-67-TARGET to get off the list.Your local newspaper & supermarket (look for a phone number on the piece).

Too much junk to deal with individually: Start by sending a postcard or letter to Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, PO Box 643, Carmel, NY 15012-0643 Include your complete name, address, zip code and a request to "activate the preference service". For up to five years, this will stop mail from all member organizations that you have not specifically ordered products from.
The Direct Marketing Association estimates that listing with their mail preference service will stop 75% of all national mailings. They process 50,000 requests a month and requests are kept active for five years. If you fill out the post office change of address form, the DMA will track the new address (you'll get a few months of mailings to the new address before they catch up to you). It can take up to six months for your request to be fully processed. You can also opt-out online, but they charge $5. The best way is to fill out their online form, then mail them a printout.

This is a great idea and it works:

If you rent you are probably familiar with receiving mail for a dozen or more former residents of your dwelling. Since you probably don't want any of the stuff, you can use two powerful techniques that might not be appropriate for yourself:
First class and some bulk mail: If the former residents neglected to fill out a Post Office change of address card, or it expired, you can fill one out for them. You must fill out one card for each unique last name. Write "Moved, Left No Forwarding Address" as the new address. Sign your own name and write "Form filled in by current resident of the house, [Your Name], agent for the above". You must write "agent for the above". Hand this form directly to your carrier, if possible, as your carrier must approve the form and see that it gets entered into the post service National Change of Address (NCOA) database. This is very effective.

To stop specific types of unwanted telephone marketing calls

Federal law prohibits telemarketers from "Initiating an outbound telephone call to a person when that person previously has stated that he or she does not wish to receive an outbound telephone call made by or on behalf of the seller whose goods or services are being offered.". You may simply interrupt the telemarketer and say "Please permanently remove me from your calling list". Remember that they just interrupted you. If the same people call back, they are violating the law. Ask them for their company name, supervisor name and phone number.

If you wish to quote Federal law to the telemarketer, you may read it at Federal Trade Commission: Telemarketing Sales Rule.General Telemarketing calls: Send a postcard with your complete telephone number, area code, address, and names of people receiving calls to DMA Telephone Preference Service, PO Box 9014, Farmingdale NY 11735-9014.
To stop unwanted electronic mail ("SPAM")It is very hard to effectively combat junk electronic mail. It costs nothing to send out a few million email messages, so there is no disincentive for people to do so. Most SPAM mailers forge the headers, email return address and sending machine name because they are sick of reading the thousands of inevitable complaints. The offers to remove your name from a list are generally untrue, and often result in your name getting added to yet another list. Many internet providers have policies against SPAM, and will take action. Unfortunately some providers either don't care or are SPAM-friendly. There are ways you can reduce exposure and complain:Never never never reply to a SPAM email.
Stamp out Get Rich Quick schemes: If you suspect fraud, send a copy of the mail to the National Fraud Information Center. If it relates to selling stocks, send to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Use care with newsgroup postings: Post to a newgroup these days and you can be sure of getting both target SPAM (sports messages for posting in a sports group) and untargeted email. You can use an obviously false return address on postings: most news programs let you set this to whatever you want. Include your real email address in body of the message.

Complain to your Senator or Representative: Laws will be needed to regulate the eventual legitimate email advertising industry.

So now that I've learned some new techniques, I will be on the phone early tomorrow morning. I've already called the Do NOT Call list and warned Publisher's Clearing House to leave me alone. It's time to fight back.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Yesterday I met a remarkable lady, she was 101 years old. Her grandson and his wife stayed with her because she decided at 99 that she needed a little help. I was amazed at how cogent her questions were. She certainly hadn't lost many brain cells.

Since I've always said I wanted to live until at least 95 so nothing would happen without me, I decided to do a little research. Centenarians are the fastest growing segment of our population. The second fastest is the age group 85+.

Currently, there are about 40,000 centenarians in the United States, or a little more than 1 centenarian per 10,000 in the population; 85% of them are women, 15% are men.

More and more people are now able to achieve their individual life expectancy potentials. This is a dramatic change from the turn of the 20th century, when many people died prematurely especially in infancy and the average life expectancy was 46 years. Families on average would lose a quarter of their children to infectious diseases. With the advent of clean water supplies and other public health measures, much of this high childhood mortality disappeared resulting in an average life expectancy of 64 years by 1960.

By the first decade of the next century, there will be as many seniors as there are people under the age of 20. An important component of senior's ability to achieve extreme age is their relatively high level of education, income and attention to good health habits.

There are several geographical areas that have claimed inhabitants with extreme longevity, but after closer examination, these claims have been found to be false. These regions of purported exceptional longevity still merit careful study however. Though claims of extreme age are untrue, there still may be an unusually high prevalence of very old fit people in these regions. In the Tibetan mountains for instance, octogenarian and nonagenarian elders, impressively many of them men, still herd live stock and still lead physically strenuous lives.

One important finding shows that nearly all of the centenarians were independently functioning at least to the age of ninety. Many centenarians could come from ethnic backgrounds (e.g. Celtic, French/Acadian, Scottish) that predispose them to extreme longevity. This hypothesis is based upon the supposition that extreme old age does in fact run in families.

There are likely two types of genes influencing longevity. One is the type that has already been discovered; that is, "disease genes" that have variations that make it more likely for a person to develop a specific disease. Centenarians are more likely to lack such variations. The other type of gene, as of yet not discovered has been called a "longevity enabling gene." Such genes would influence aging at its most basic levels, thus affecting the rate of aging and how it increases a person's susceptibility to age-related diseases.

It is suspected that the ability to live to 100 results from getting a combination of factors correct. These factors, such as specific genetic traits or certain health related behaviors might be quite common. However, like the lottery, it is getting the right combination of these factors and behaviors that becomes the rare event. It makes sense that the actual factors and the correct combination of those factors varies from one person to the next. Some factors such as lacking a genetic predisposition to early heart disease or smoking tobacco are likely more potent and important than others.

A long healthy life is no accident. It begins with good genes, but it also depends on good habits. If you adopt the right lifestyle, experts say, chances are you may live up to a decade longer.

So what can you do? “You don’t stop laughing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop laughing.” Cultivating a sense of humor is one of the best ways to stay youthful. Appreciating humor can keep you “mentally fit” and add fun and enjoyment to your life. It is a great stress reliever. Keep you mind active. My aunt and uncle did the crossword puzzle in the newspaper everyday well into their 90's. Exercise, it doesn't have to be a half hour walk. Recent research indicates that even a small amount of exercise makes a big difference in health and fitness. As actress Helen Hayes put it, “If you rest, you rust.”

And last but not least, stay positive. Keep life's events in perspective. And drinking a little green tea can't hurt. L' life!