Friday, December 8, 2017

Living Christmas Trees: The Good, The Mediocre, The Pretenders

 



Looking for an alternative to the annual holiday household display of a decorated dead evergreen?



Consider a living Christmas tree instead. If chosen wisely and treated correctly, this Yuletide addition can thrive in your yard for generations. The main thing to remember when choosing a living Christmas tree: pick a variety that will flourish in our area. Among the conifers available at local nurseries that will do well outdoors in most areas of Northern and Central California after their indoor holiday use:

Aleppo, Mondell or Afghan Pine. Also called Pinus eldarica or Pinus halepensis. These evergreens can take sun and wind. As an added bonus for those who own acreage, these pines are good for windbreaks and erosion control. Rapid growers, these pines with gray-green needles can get to 30 to 60 feet tall with a 20 to 30 foot spread. They aren't that thirsty, either; a deep, twice a month watering is all they require during the summer.

 

Italian Stone Pine. Another good choice for the interior valleys. Can take heat and drought when established. Has a moderate rate of growth to 60 feet.

 






Colorado Blue Spruce. Can take sun, shade and cold, but is susceptible to spider mites. Likes most soils, as long as they're well-drained. This tree with the bluish needles is a slow grower that will eventually get 60 to 80 feet tall with a 40 to 50 foot spread.






Deodar Cedar. A tree that actually prefers clay soil, as long as there's no standing water. This evergreen can take sun, wind and heat. It's a rapid grower that will reach 50-80 feet with a 40-foot spread. Aptly known as, "The California Christmas Tree".
 

 
Some tips for caring for a living Christmas tree:

• Don't keep it in the house for more than a week.

• Keep it away from heating vents, wood stoves and fireplaces.

• Water the tree every day while it's in the house. A good way to insure a slow, thorough watering is to dump a tray or two of ice cubes into its container.

• Decorate it with the smaller, cooler, flashing bulbs.

• The tree can remain in a large container for a number of years, but you may need a furniture dolly to move it in and out of the house.

Marginal Living Christmas Trees:

 
Given a little care, the dwarf Alberta Spruce can survive as an outdoor living Christmas tree here. Give it afternoon shade for best results. 







Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). Give this tree plenty of room in the yard. The coast redwood can get 70 feet tall with a spread at the base of 30 feet. It can take our sun, but needs frequent, deep watering, probably more water than our wallets should spend on plant survival. During the last decade, many coast redwoods have been suffering from crown rot diseases, with extensive dieback, usually starting in the upper canopy of the tree. Our area's propensity for years-long drought conditions may be causing the coast redwood to be a poor choice for a long life here.

Limber Pines (Pinus flexilis), native to mountainous areas, tend to revert to rounded tops as they age. The exception is the "Vanderwolf Pyramid" variety, which keeps its Christmas tree shape. 

Another one to be wary of is the Grand Fir (Abies grandis). This tree could soon overwhelm a small yard, reaching heights of 200 feet. 

Other borderline trees that may have trouble here in the Valley include the Tempelhof cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) and the Blue Point Juniper (doesn't like too much water or slow draining soil).

 

At the top of Santa's horticulturally naughty list is the Monterey Pine, which is better for coastal environments; even in its native environment, Monterey Pines are in decline due to pine pitch canker. Here in the valley, the Monterey Pine is susceptible to pests, diseases and sulks in our summer heat.

    




Another Christmas-tree type plant that is widely available here is the Norfolk Island Pine. Known as the Hawaiian Christmas Tree, this is best planted outdoors...in Hawaii. Here, it makes a good house plant year round.

 


When is a Christmas tree not really a tree? When it is a Rosemary plant, an evergreen shrub that's been pruned into a pyramidal shape. This herb is a great addition for its culinary and bee attracting qualities (blooms in the winter and spring), but would require constant shearing to keep it looking like a Christmas tree...uh, bush.
 


Friday, June 23, 2017

Heart Healthy Tips for Battling Cholesterol and Type 2 Diabetes


After being diagnosed with four cholesterol-jammed heart arteries in March 2012, I underwent quadruple coronary artery bypass graft surgery in April of that year. At the same time, I was told (to my surprise) I had full-blown Type 2 Diabetes (A1C of 10.4). The surgery went well and the long road to healing from heart disease and diabetes began. 
 
2011 (210 pounds)                        2013 (150 pounds)

 
Thanks to regular exercise and a healthier diet, I lost 60 pounds, the arteries that now service my heart are still flowing without problems, the blood sugar levels are way down (A1C = 6.0), and within eight months of surgery, I no longer needed to take any prescription medications for either of these ailments. With the doctors' blessings, of course. It's now five years later, and I am still prescription free, with the help of good food and regular exercise. How did I do it? Here are some tips I use every day. Remember: I am not a doctor or nutritionist. I’m just a guy. A guy lucky to be alive, who could've easily keeled over and died back in March 2012. But I'm still here, riding my bike 100 miles a week. Maybe some of these tips can help you! 
• WRITE IT DOWN.
Track all the foods and liquids you consume, as well as time spent exercising. Good apps include myfitnesspal.com and calorieking.com 

• WEIGH IT. MEASURE IT.
Get a small kitchen scale with a Tare weight (unladen weight) function.

• READ THE LABEL.
Pay attention to serving size, calories per serving, sugar and fiber content. What are the first ingredients listed? Avoid foods where sugar is in the top 3. Is the first ingredient whole grain, or flour? Choose whole grains. 

• ADDED SUGAR IS YOUR ENEMY.
Too much sugar in the diet can make you susceptible to many diseases, not just heart disease and diabetes. Read “Fat Chance” by Dr. Robert Lustig for more information. 

• SOLUBLE FIBER IS YOUR FRIEND.
Studies at the Mayo Clinic and other institutions have shown that soluble fiber may help lower blood cholesterol levels by reducing low-density lipoprotein, or "bad," cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber may have other heart-health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, blood glucose levels and inflammation. 

• SMALLER PLATES, SMALLER SERVINGS. 

• THE KITCHEN CLOSES AT 730 P.M.
Mindless evening calories can kill you. 

BREAKFAST LIKE A KING, LUNCH LIKE A PRINCE, DINNER LIKE A PAUPER. A 12-week study published in the journal Obesity compared two groups of women: one ate a large breakfast, the other ate a large dinner. Both groups consumed 1400 calories a day. While both groups lost significant amounts of weight, the women consuming the large breakfast lost an average of approximately 19 pounds compared to only about 8 pounds in the large dinner group. The breakfast group also lost twice as many inches around their waists than the large dinner eaters. These women also experienced higher levels of fullness throughout the day. In addition, large breakfast eaters also had significantly lower levels of insulin, glucose and fat in their blood, which may help lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease. (Journal, Obesity: July 2, 2013) 

• EAT MORE FIBER. EAT LESS SUGAR.
My goals: at least 35 grams of fiber per day and less than 45 grams of added sugar per day. Choose foods with more fiber than sugar. 

• SHOP FOR BREAD FROM THE FREEZER, NOT THE SHELF.
Freezer breads usually contain whole grains. Dr. Robert Lustig, UCSF: “Eat only whole-grain bread; that's not the same as whole wheat bread. The fiber is in the whole grain, which slows the sugar and glucose absorption.” 

CHOOSE WHOLE GRAIN BREAKFAST CEREALS.
Refined flours have only 25% of the fiber compared to whole grain cereals. (wholegrainscouncil.org) 

ADD WHOLE FRUIT, NOT SUGAR, TO CEREALS.
When you bite into a piece of fruit, the fruit’s fiber helps slow your absorption of fructose, the main sugar in most fruits. 

GROW IT YOURSELF.
Heirloom varieties are more nutritious. (http://www.utexas.edu/news/2004/12/01/nr_chemistry/) 

DON’T DRINK YOUR CALORIES.
Too much sugar! And that includes fruit juices. 

GOT A WATER COOLER?
Go here instead of opening the refrigerator, looking for something to drink. 

BECOME THE SHOPPER, BECOME THE COOK. 

SHOP THE PERIMETER OF THE SUPERMARKET.
That’s where the healthiest foods can be found: fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats. But read the label of dairy products for hidden sugar! 

DON’T SHOP AT COSTCO BEFORE LUNCH.
And stick to your shopping list. Hunger = impulse buying. 

TURN OFF THE TV AND COMPUTER.
Start counting the ads for unhealthy food and drinks. You are being seduced! 

LET’S GO FOR A WALK!
Walking helps maintain a healthy weight; helps prevent or manage heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes; Strengthens your bones; Lifts your mood; Improves your balance and coordination. Walking can burn 200-400 calories an hour. 

QUALITY SHOES, QUALITY SOCKS.
Choose shoes made for walking or hiking. Measure your foot in the late afternoon for a correct fit. Hiking socks with cushioned soles will make a difference. 

JOIN A GYM.
For cardio, weight training and comraderie. According to the Mayo Clinic, strength training also helps you: Develop strong bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Controls your weight. Boosts your stamina and balance. Manages chronic conditions, including back pain, arthritis, obesity, heart disease and diabetes. 

THE MORE YOU EXERCISE, THE MORE YOU CAN EAT!
Remember, you only count “net calories” (Total calories – calories burned exercising). Mayo Clinic: Get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic training. Do strength training exercises at least twice a week. 

YOU CAN’T OUT-EXERCISE A BAD DIET.
Exercise does not negate the bad effects of consuming too much added sugars as your “bonus calories”. 

BE YOUR OWN CHEERLEADER!
Try it for one day. The next day, use your previous day’s success to move you forward. 

SURROUND YOURSELF WITH BELIEVERS.
Join a walking group or a cycling club, and a gym. Follow people on Facebook and Twitter who reinforce a positive attitude. Daily Health tips on Twitter at twitter.com/ShutMouthNMove 

HOW DO YOU FEEL? WRITE IT DOWN!
Put it in your food notes. I’ve noted a correlation between down moods and the aftermath of excess sugar consumption. 

FIND YOUR NATURAL VALIUM.
A walk in a garden, an easy bike ride, enjoyable music, petting your dogs and cats! 

NAPS ARE GOOD. SLEEP IS GREAT!
Research by the National Institutes of Health shows that lack of sleep increases the risk for obesity, heart disease and infections. Get 7-8 hours a night. 

EVERYDAY IS A NEW DAY!
The beauty of looking at the online calorie counters such as My Fitness Pal or Calorie King: everyday starts with a blank slate. 

• IT’S NOT A DIET; IT’S A LIFESTYLE.
You “lose” car keys, cellphones, or pets. You hope they come back. Don’t “lose” weight. Get rid of it, permanently! 

• BABY STEPS.
Don’t overdo exercise at first. Work up to the recommended amounts. Choose healthier food alternatives: non-fat milk instead of low-fat milk instead of whole milk; lite salt, Mrs. Dash salt-free seasonings, meat substitutes. Salsa instead of ketchup, pico de gallo instead of salsa. 

ENJOY THE SIDE BENEFITS!
For me, the migraine headaches disappeared, more energy, less body aches, and new clothes that fit! 

• YOU’RE NOT TOO OLD TO ACHIEVE BETTER HEALTH!
People who eat right and exercise can substantially reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease and death even if they’re in their 50s or 60s. According to the American Journal of Medicine (July 2007), a multi-year study showed that older adults who exercise at least 2.5 hours per week, maintain a healthy weight, don’t smoke and consume at least five fruits and vegetables daily will lessen their chances of heart trouble by 35 percent, and the risk of dying by 40 percent, compared to people with less healthy lifestyles. 

YOU CAN DO IT!!!
If I can do it, so can you.