I Talk to the Trees
Years before Peter Wohlleben wrote The Hidden Life of Trees, wherein he makes a strong argument regarding trees communicating with each other, I sensed this was true. I was sitting by the stump of an 80+-year-old Oak an owner had cut down because “it’s awfully close to my screened-in porch.” The tree was healthy and at least fifteen feet away from the porch. In truth, tears blurred my vision as I touched the still-wet sap.
Humanity covered the globe in asphalt and concrete and, in so doing, lost its once intimate connection with the earth. Our senses face climate change issues, including droughts, severe weather, floods, and famine daily. Yet, a more significant loss is our collective mental health. I believe we face a worldwide mental health crisis of epic proportions. Many factors contribute to this disaster, but we can temper the effects before they burrow too deeply into our well-being.
Recently, I caught the end of a discussion on NPR about birds and how they positively impact mental health. I immediately remembered seeing canaries and parakeets in large cages in the open common area of a nursing home I’d visited. Later I did a Google search about birds and mental health and found an article titled “Chirpy. . .” by Ryan Hammoud, Research Assistant at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College London, in which he stated: “There is growing evidence on the mental health benefits of being around nature, and we intuitively think that the presence of birdsong and birds would help lift our mood.” (https://neurosciencenews.com/birds)
In my mind, if birds and their songs lift our spirits, it’s evident that just being in nature must also have such an impact. Spending time outside in the warm, sunshine-filled fresh air, planting six-packs of annuals, smelling the heady scent of spring daffodils, feeling the loamy soil, seeing squirrels scamper about, and hearing Robins sing will fill one with contentment. Articles and studies show clear evidence that spending time in nature benefits our mental and physical health.
Gardeners know this simply because they know they “feel good” being outside. Still, it may be inciteful to look at just what this means. My mood continuously improves when I’m outside. While teaching, I looked forward to getting outside, where I immediately felt my stress dissolve as I relaxed among the flowers. In addition, meeting other gardeners reduces loneliness and often adds a new plant one does not grow. When I shared cuttings of a rare but easy-to-grow vine, I felt good and pleased to share them with others.
If my plans work out, this spring will find me in Missouri sitting out on my enclosed porch or walking out into my new woodland habitat. My mental health will improve because I’ll be far from city noises, feeling spring breezes and walking in the dappled shade of many trees. As I walk, I’ll be exercising, which reduces mental stress. In last month’s column, I said we need to be in nature at least 120 minutes a week to reap any positive mental health changes, so get outside often!
Early on, as I discover my new “forests,” I’ll look carefully at the trees. Our ancient ancestors connected to the woodlands by living among trees and using trees for shelter and warmth. I feel confident I’ll benefit from just being close to the trees, touching them, walking among fallen leaves, and breathing in the air filtering down from the leaves.
Finally, I’ll leave all my distractions behind once I close the patio door or step into my woods. My phone will be in the house, and the traffic noise will be miles away. My brain will clear, and my thinking will perk up. I’ll listen to the birdsongs, perhaps hear the hammering of a woodpecker, and my mind will wander, not needing to make any decisions or draw any conclusions. My head and heart will be at peace and over time, will be restored.
Do Cats Really Need Potty Training?
DEAR PAW’S CORNER: I read with interest your recent column about cats using shop towels rather than kitty litter to do their business. How did their owner manage to train the cats to use the towels and switch from litter? And why not just let a cat do its business outside? — Caroline D., Winchester, Virginia
DEAR CAROLINE: Compared with dogs, cats are usually easy to potty train (or litter train) because they have very specific potty behaviors. Cats instinctively bury their poop to hide their scent from potential predators — hence the use of cat litter, which also absorbs urine well and masks the scent for a few days.
I’m not sure how the reader did it, but one way to switch a cat from litter box to a pad is to place the new pad and tray next to the old litter box so that a cat can sniff around it, check it out and become familiar with it. After a day or two, remove the litter box and put the pad in its place. Many cats will get the message right away. Others might hunt around for their box; if you notice this, place them gently on the pad to help them make the connection.
I’m not a big fan of letting indoor cats go outside to do their business. They’ll often head straight for the nearest flower bed, leaving a surprise that I’m personally not thrilled about. They also are at risk in the outdoors, from coyotes, turkeys (yes, turkeys in the Northeast), cars and other cats. It’s better to provide a safe spot indoors with a clean litter box.
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© 2023 King Features Synd., Inc.
This toy car was a clever ad for Moxie, a soft drink
popular in New England. It sold for $2,600.
Antique toys, especially those that move and make noise, are popular with both young and old, and many are very expensive. Advertising toys bring back special memories and are wanted by those who collect advertising and those who want toys.
This car with “Moxie” on the side is in mint to good condition. It is a rare blue version of an 8-inch-long tin toy car with a man on a horse in a Moxie jacket and cap driving a Moxiemobile. It sold for $2,600 at a Morford’s auction in Cazenovia, New York.
Moxie was a drink introduced in 1885, two years before Coca-Cola. It claimed to be a health drink and was flavored with bitter herbs. The taste was so strange that people said you had to be brave to drink it. So by 1930, the word “moxie” become a slang term for brave or daring, and “He had a lot of moxie” became a common saying. The company was purchased by Coca-Cola in 2018.
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I have a book, “The Life of George Washington-Maps and Subscriber’s Names,” published in 1807 by C.P. Wayne of Philadelphia. The book includes several map “plans” for different states, a list of subscribers, and a signature of the subscriber. The book is in fair condition given its age. Can you tell me the approximate value?
This book is part of a biography of George Washington written by John Marshall between 1804 and 1807. It was originally published in five volumes. Marshall, who later became justice of the Supreme Court, was a friend of Washington and served with him in the Revolutionary War. First editions of the books are rare and sell for high prices. Copies of the book of maps have sold for several hundred to more than one thousand dollars. You should contact an antiquarian book dealer or an auction house that sells antique books to see what your book would sell for. Copies have sold from $75 to $1,700 in recent auctions.
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TIP: To remove a crayon mark from paper, coat it with a thin layer of rubber cement, let it dry, then rub it off.
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Glass paperweight, Baccarat, sulphide, blue tint inside, gold tone bust of Martin Luther King Jr. inside, faceted with 10 round panels, marked, 1970s, 2 3/4 inches, $155.
Furniture, table, drop leaf, Chippendale, cherry wood, two shaped leaves, tapered square legs, 18th century, 28 x 34 x 35 inches, $250.
Postcard, Martin Luther King Jr., 1929-1968, Distinguished Civil Rights Leader, portrait, first day cover with King’s image on stamp, postmarked Atlanta, Ga., Jan. 13, 1979, autographed by Rosa Parks with date 1982, $375.
Salesman’s sample, Howard Plow, wood, metal, with advertisement picturing an image of the plow, late 19th century, 8 inches, $750.
Jewelry, belt, 19 scarabs, carved Czechoslovakian glass, marbled colors, in brass frames with art deco rays, repousse scarab links between, filigree medallion buckle, Egyptian Revival, Joseff of Hollywood, buckle 4 inches, belt 38 inches, $1,125.
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© 2023 King Features Synd., Inc.
Stuffed Pork Chops with EZ Apple Pan Gravy
Follow the cooking instructions on the label of either the pork chops or chicken breast. Finish off this go to meal with a simple apple pan gravy that is sure to add a little sweetness to your Valentines dinner. In the same pan you browned the chops/breast in, melt 2 Tbsp butter. Add a small sliced onion and 1/2 chopped apple until soft. Add 2 cups of chicken broth and simmer. Mix 2 Tbsp of flour with 1/2 cup cold apple juice, whisk into broth mixture until thickened.