My wife found a young sapling tree with deep burgundy leaves at a nursery a couple weeks ago that she really liked. It turned out to be a KV ornamental plum tree. If you look it up, you’ll find that it’s gorgeous in the spring when it’s covered with blooms. After the blooms are gone, it’s still a distinctive looking tree because of it’s burgundy foliage. Based on it’s future promise, we decided to get it. Yesterday, I planted and staked it in our front yard, and wrapped the trunk with protective tree tape. It looks a bit frail now, but it should be beautiful in a couple years.
I wrote a blog last summer about a small fig tree I’d planted in our back yard. It has doubled in size since then, and this year it’s a bearing couple dozen figs. They’re still green, but I wrapped some netting around the tree to protect them, and we may have some of our own sweet figs this summer. Simply homegrown pleasures are the best!
I’ve been blessed with calls from all three of my children today. They‘re adults with grown children of their own now, and they each live over a thousand miles away, but visiting with each of them is always a joy. It’s been a wonderful Father’s Day!
My neighbor was puttering around his front yard when I went out to do some yard work this morning. He motioned toward the front of his house. When I looked more closely, I could see a newborn baby deer lying behind a rock in his landscaped area. He said it had been lying there a few hours. Mama deer was nowhere to be seen. We agreed the best thing to do was leave it alone and wait for Mama to return. As I trimmed bushes in my yard for the next couple hours, I noticed that Bambi moved around a bit, wobbling behind nearby bushes for a few minutes, and then lying back down near the rock.
I went into the house to have some lunch. When I came out, Bambi was still lying down, but a little later it went back into the shadows between our houses. About 3 pm I walked down the block to get our mail when I noticed a young doe walking slowly up the street, stopping to glance around and occasionally nibble a bit of grass in someone’s yard. On a hunch, I turned around and followed her, staying back a little. She’s a doe I often see on my daily walks. She’s familiar enough with me that I can walk close to her when she’s grazing near the sidewalk. She’ll look at me as I walk by, but doesn’t bolt.
Today, she sauntered on up the street, her pace picking up a bit as she got close to our house. Then she disappeared into the side yard between our house and the neighbor’s. The next few pictures tell the story of what I saw when I got there.
Once the baby deer was satisfied, Mama led it to the sidewalk, and then toward our little neighborhood park with a quicker pace. Freshly re-energized, Bambi scampered along behind her. Then they disappeared into a wooded area behind the park, leaving me with memories of a remarkable day!
A clump of daylilies was part of the landscaping of our front yard when we bought our new home in Mountain Lodge a little over six years ago, but we never got to see them bloom. It turned out that deer love daylilies, and they kept our clump chewed down to the ground. The clump didn’t die. It kept putting out new leaves, but the deer just as regularly nibbled them down as soon as they saw them.
After three years, I finally wised up and transplanted the clump to our fenced-in backyard that the deer can’t get into. The clump then put out new leaves, but it didn’t seem to have enough energy to grow any blooms. After three more years of watching our non-blooming clump of leaves, I’d given up on them. They provided a patch of green, so I left them alone.
About two weeks ago, I noticed two or three delicate stalks rising from the clump. Could it be that we were actually going to get some blooms? Yesterday, we had our answer. Two beautiful blooms opened on the stalks. After six years of dormancy, we had flowers!
After a leisurely breakfast, I spent most of the day puttering around in the back yard. It was a gorgeous sunny day. I had decided a week or so ago to dedicate this day to yard work. Our trash service had sent everyone a notice that their twice-a-year bulky yard trash pick-up would be next week, so today was the day to weed, trim, and get the yard into good shape.
I do most of my yard work the old-fashioned way with hand tools. It’s slow work, but I’m not in rush, and as I work, I enjoy the various sights and sounds around me. The birds chirp and sing, and the neighborhood squirrel checks on me as he runs along the top of the fence. The sun warms me up, and a gentle breeze kisses my cheeks as I work. When I’m doing this work I have a deep sense of peace and of being at one with the universe. I can only describe it as wonderful.
By the end of the day, I had four large black plastic bags filled with weeds and other debris from the yard. The lawn and our little box gardens looked neat, and I was tired but happy. The last thing I did before going inside was gather our mini-harvest. Today it included a couple dozen blueberries, two nice-looking tomatoes, a bunch of baby salad greens, a few sprigs of parsley, and a handful of cooking greens. It was our best harvest of the spring. Our reward was a delicious, home-grown, organic supper.
We love blueberries, and I think most people like them. Not only do they taste great, but they are great for you. Yet, they can be a bit pricey in the off-season, which is most of the year. Happily, with April coming up fast, blueberry season is arriving and will be here for the next three months. The best way to get fresh organic blueberries is to grow your own. When we lived in Florida, I surrounded my garden with several varieties of 30 blueberry bushes. They had different ripening times, so we were in blueberry heaven every spring.
The limestone-based soil around San Antonio is not a good place to grow blueberries because they need an acidic soil to grow well. Yet, even here we found a way to get a taste of homegrown blueberries. We filled a half whiskey barrel with good soil, added sulfur to acidify it, and when it was ready, planted a small blueberry bush in it. Today we have a good blueberry bush producing a nice little blueberry crop. They’ll be ripe in another week and we’re looking forward to tasting them. There’s nothing like the burst of flavor you get when you bite into a ripe plump blueberry.
The problem is that the birds and the squirrels like them just as much as we do, and we lost half of our little crop to them last year. We bought a few yards of black netting, and yesterday I devised a primitive but simple support system for it. Now the netting covers the blueberry bush to foil our raiders. These blueberries are going to be the best yet!
By the way, we discovered a nice blueberry bonanza at our HEB grocery store to satisfy our blueberry cravings in the off-season. The store carries a two-pound plastic bag of organic blueberries in its frozen fruit section all year around. They are nice plump blueberries, almost as good as those freshly picked. At $6.95 for two pounds, they’re a good bargain. Now we enjoy great blueberries all year long!
I’ve discussed the value of fiber in the last few blogs, but there are more amazing plant-based values to write about. Plants are much richer in antioxidants than any other food source. According to Dr. Michael Greger in his book, How Not to Die, plant foods on average have 64 times more antioxidants than animal foods. A serving of fresh salmon has only 3 units of antioxidant power, and a hard-boiled egg has 4 units. Many plant-based foods have dozens or hundreds of antioxidant units, and some kinds of berries have over a thousand units per serving.
Most people have heard that antioxidants are good for us, but why are they good for us? The basic problem is that oxygen molecules become dangerous when they latch onto loose electrons. They turn into superoxide, a type of free radical that is very reactive and damaging to cellular structures, including our DNA. Antioxidants neutralize this oxidative stress, saving internal cells and tissues from serious damage. Plant-based foods gives us this protection much better than any other kind of food.
A different type of damage is caused by toxins called “gerontotoxins,” meaning aging toxins. Advanced Glycation End-products (AGEs) are a common kind of gerontotoxin. Evidence tells us that AGEs are a factor in premature aging, and much research shows that AGEs in the brain may contribute to causing Alzheimer’s Disease. In glycation, sugars and proteins become cross-linked to deform the proteins involved, damaging their normal function. For example when collagen is involved, it loses much of its elasticity. Since collagen is the main protein that gives our muscles, arteries, guts, and skin their flexibility, loss of flexibility in these tissues and organs is a serious problem. Deformed protein tangles in the brain are even more serious.
Some AGEs are produced through natural metabolic processes in the body, but many are introduced into the body by the foods we eat and the way they are prepared. In his book, How Not to Die, Dr. Greger says that over 500 foods have been tested for their AGE content. Meat, cheese, and highly processed foods had the highest AGE content, while grains, beans, veggies and fruits had the lowest. Meat averages about 150 times more than fresh fruits and vegetables. Researchers concluded that “even a modest reduction in meat intake could realistically cut daily AGE intake in half.”
Vital Insight: Since veggies and fruit are high in protective antioxidants and low in hazardous AGEs, it makes a lot of sense to eat plenty of them every day!
The editorial in the March 2016 American Family Physician, which I received yesterday, states: “Consistently strong evidence supports the benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables; in addition, moderate to strong evidence indicates the consumption of whole grains should be increased.” The editorial goes on to say: “Moderate to strong evidence supports a decreased intake of red and processed meat, and consistently strong evidence underscores the benefits of reducing consumption of sugar and sweetened beverages.”
The American Family Physician is the official publication of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) that goes to all AAFP members. This editorial comment emphasizes the impact that diet has on health. The Practice Guidelines state: “About one-half of the adults in the United States have at least one chronic disease, (e.g., cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus) that could be prevented. Data indicate that a healthy diet and regular physical activity can reduce the risk of these diseases.” Mainstream medicine is clearly taking a proactive stance on the value of adopting a healthy diet, and that is great news for everyone!