North Wind sucks the moisture out of everything – a little bit of aloe vera can bring it back!

We’ve been having the worst North wind, dry and irritating, tearing new branches and buds off shrubs and trees, and sucking the moisture out of the ground. All that rain we had – you’d never know it now.

Yesterday I noticed, it had torn several branches of new grapes off the vines, and an entire branch of pretty orange blossoms off the flowering vine my friend gave us.

And it’s blowing all that grass pollen around – eek! My neighbor threw up her hands and quit mowing her back acre – it waves at me from outside my windows. I call it, “The Pollen Nation.”

My grandma used to suffer this time of year, a Kleenex tucked into the band of her watch, her hair sticking out like a fright wig.  We kids didn’t get it – now I get it. Every time I do chores outside I feel like my brains have been sandblasted. I wander into the house feeling completely disoriented – I do exactly what my grandma did, I make a cup of steaming coffee, and I hold it under my nose.

My husband has been working on our house for sale. He found out stucco is really easy to use, so he’s been patching cracks and holes in the old siding. He and my son also went around checking for rot, removing and repairing trim and window sills that were getting crappy. That, of course, required re-painting, and when the repainted items didn’t match the rest of the trim, they went around and painted everything. I thought it would never end. While they were painting, my husband noticed the hail storms had damaged a section of shingles on the roof, so he dug the leftover shingles out of the shop and went about replacing the damaged ones.

He’s been out in the North Wind and the sun, and he’s looking pretty beat up, despite long sleeves, a hat, and plenty of sunscreen.

So we’ve both been using a lot of aloe vera. It’s been tough – my plants took a hit during a couple of prolonged cold streaks last Winter, and then a good pummeling from a couple of hail storms later in Spring.

This pot was just outside the protection of the patio cover during that last hail storm.

I kept them wrapped in the green house during the cold snaps, but the green house doesn’t get any sun in Winter, and I’m too cheap to get lights in there, so I finally moved most of them back to the front porch.  They didn’t like the rain, and the hail storms left the plants around the edge of the porch  bruised and broken. They tend to mold  when they get too wet, so I’ve had to trim them extensively. It looked like there wasn’t much left of them a month ago, but we pinch away at them anyway, looking for relief from itchy skin.

This is my “nursery” where I put the babies I’ve thinned out of the bigger pots.  See where I’ve trimmed off leaves, the remaining leaf gets big and fat and keeps growing.

Somehow they keep growing, the warming weather is good for them, they are getting new leaves.  They don’t like direct, hot sun, but they like bright indirect light. The sun moves a little farther that way every day, they seem to be responding.

I used a stick to loosen up the soaking wet dirt in the pots, and that really seemed to help.

Trimming them actually seems to help. I leave a couple of inches at the bottom of the leaf, and that seems to fatten up and keep growing.

Both my kids took plants and are glad to get them. My older son got a sunburn from painting the old house, and had trimmed his plant so extensively he had to ask me for more, but reports the trimming he gave it has made it grow bigger and fatter.  My younger son took a plant off to college, he says he and his girlfriend take leaves regularly for chapped hands and face, and the plant is flourishing. So, today I am going to take a paring knife and cut back all the wilty leaves, thin small  plants out of the bigger pots, etc.

It’s a cluttered little rag tag garden, most of the plants in old plastic  pots from various plants we’ve bought at the nursery. They seem to like plastic pots the best, they don’t do so good in terracotta.

Have you noticed how expensive the bottled sap is at the store? And plants are getting pretty expensive too – a big aloe vera will sell for $50 to $100 at the big box stores. It’s better to look for small plants at the grocery store or farmer’s market, and start your own garden. 

Organic, hand filleted, these small leaves will yield about a teaspoon of sap. I just scrape it out with the back of the knife, right into my smoothie.

Or, I rub the split leaf on my skin.  It provides immediate relief, and dries without leaving any sticky feeling. I don’t like hand lotion because it only works if you leave it on for prolonged periods, and reapply every time you wash your hands. Aloe works immediately – you can wash it off five minutes later but you still got the benefit of using it. And there’s no smell, you can eat with those hands and not taste perfume.

Looking out my window, I think that North wind has finally passed. May is looking good! 




Getting ready for Winter

Well, be careful what you ask for, eh? That’s what I thought every time I looked out the window yesterday. The rain had started when I was taking the dogs for a walk, it was precisely 7am by our clock. By 4pm I wondered if it had let up for a half hour the entire day.

Our rain barrels were already full, so I attached hoses to drain them away from the house. I sure wish I had a big tank to store rainwater, I wonder what that would do to the water dynamic in town if people started installing tanks in their back yard.

I kept myself entertained in the house yesterday.  Dumping rain and mud slicks in every direction outside, I finally got motivated to do chores like,  wash my kitchen cabinets. There were spider webs strung out between the cabinets and the ceiling, knickknacks covered with greasy dust puppies, the cabinets dull except where fingers constantly polish the corners. This is the kind of job I have to be stranded inside on a rainy day to do, but wow, I always love to get it done. First I washed everything with Murphy’s Oil Soap, that didn’t take long, although I had to change the water in the sink a couple of times. Then I rubbed in a dose of Old English furniture polish – makes the kitchen shiny and the house smell lemony fresh. Which is good, because I didn’t get around to cleaning the p-traps before the storm set in.

I’ll tell you what, after that electric storm Monday (ka-BOOM!), I been thinking about the next one. My husband and I went out the other day and bought a new generator to back up our old one. We’ve had to loan out our generator at times, so we didn’t want to get caught without again.

We also bought an absolutely ridiculous size box of AA batteries – oh yeah, we had flash lights out the pa-toot last Monday, hardly a good battery in any one of them. I know – that storm was over fast, and the crews were able to get right out and fix stuff. But there’s always Next Time. And The Time After That. Don’t forget That Other Time.

Summer has finally let go, Fall halfway through, and Winter will dig her icy fingers in soon. I saw frost on my neighbor’s roof right after that last storm, so I spent Saturday afternoon cleaning out the green house for my sensitive plants. It had been too hot to spend much time inside there – just a week ago I went in to take a look, and the 3:00 sun stifled me right out the door. Now it’s cold and damp, the inside of the greenhouse offers some shelter to my little army of aloe vera plants.

I started propagating aloe vera from my original plant about a year ago, after I found out how good the sap is for my eczema, both as a salve and an addition to my morning smoothie.  They grow like crazy, and have so many shoots I have to keep dividing them into new pots.  I have so many now, I have considered selling a few, but I’m a hoarder at heart, it makes me feel wealthy to have so many.  I go out every morning and slice off a few leaves without worrying about damaging the plants, they grow so fast.

While I had started growing them for the sap, I see they’ve transformed my patio into a garden. They are beautiful, the bigger the pot, the bigger they get. A couple of them are too big to move, I’ll have to cover them with a sheet when the time comes.

At this time a week ago we had no idea what was coming. That’s going to make me paranoid all morning.