Category Archives: Gardening

Dandelions

Dandelions

It’s Springtime here in Chicagoland … and although it is often referred to as “construction season”, it is also “dandelion season” … again. Both dandelions (and other weeds) and construction seem to be hardy perennials that do extremely well in the Midwest climate.

I say “dandelion season” again, because every year I think I have them under control, only to have them come back with a vengenence each spring.

My husband and I are not what you could call “lawn snobs” by any stretch of the imagination, but having a nice green lawn would be so nice. We don’t hire a landscaping company for lawn care, we cut our own grass. I’m trying to not you chemicals to kill them. My methods thus far have been trying “natural” remedies.

I have tried a homemade recipe using apple cider vinegar, salt and Dawn dishwashing detergent. It does kill the dandelion plant that is visible above ground, but apparently does nothing to get rid of the root. It also kills any grass that is surrounding your dandelion. Guess what? They grew back!

I have tried digging them out by hand. It is backbreaking labor, and is very hard to get the whole root out without it breaking off (to grow back again). I even bought an attachment for a power drill that is supposed to get the whole root out … surprise, surprise … it didn’t. Plus, I have so many in my front lawn; they will have gone to seed before I could possibly dig them all out 🙁

I have tried an organic weed control product that you apply using a spreader, only to find burnt patches in my lawn while the dandelions looked healthy and strong.

This year, I’ve read several articles online about letting the dandelions grow so the bees can get nectar after the long winter. I’ve read about how the bees are dwindling off because their habitat has changed so much over the last couple decades.

My plan for this year is to dig them out of my garden area and flower beds. My husband will mow them down each week before they go to seed. The bees will collect nectar and make wonderful local honey. Our lawn will be mostly green, but with some yellow dots 🙂

How do you handle dandelions and other weeds in your yard?  

 

Errands to the DMV

Time Consuming Errands ~ Tracy Helps You Will “help” You

Recently, I heard that the State of Illinois will no longer mail out license plate renewal reminders to the thousands, upon thousands, of vehicle owners. This decision is said to save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars each year ~ and hopefully be helpful in balancing the budget.

They suggest registering on their website to receive an email reminder. That will be fine for the majority of people … but then again, not everyone owns a computer and/or smartphone or has reliable internet access. Some people don’t have an email address (or if they do, feel comfortable using / relying on it).

Personally, I’m fine with remembering when my sticker expires and replacing it before they do. That being said, I do like having the post card in hand when I go to the DMV … it has all the info the clerk needs in one handy location. We all know what a joy it is to have to get in a different line / wait again because we didn’t have all the right info 🙁

Government agencies are usually great places to people watch … you’re probably going to be there awhile, and you’ve already taken time off work (thanks to their “convenient” business hours). It’s not how I envision using my vacation time 🙂

As a personal assistant, I run errands for people all the time. I’ll pick up your keys and cash from you at work, take your car for its emission test and get your new license plate sticker the same day … I can even return your library books & pick up the dry cleaning, then return your car.

Think of all the things on your To-Do List that can be accomplished … even while you are at work. Call Tracy Helps You … today 🙂

Happy Memorial Day ~ Summer is Here

Memorial Day Weekend Is the Unofficial Start of Summer

Memorial Day Weekend is upon us, and with it comes different meanings.

One being observing the actual holiday …

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May. It was formerly known as Decoration Day and commemorates all men and women, who have died in military service for the United States. Many people visit cemeteries and memorials on Memorial Day and it is traditionally seen as the start of the summer season. (from timeanddate.com)

Another being the beginning of summertime activities …

The school term is drawing to a close, the weather is getting warmer, it stays light longer in the evenings. Everyone wants to spend more time outdoors after being cooped up over the long Chicago winter.

Signs of summer are popping up all over:

  • The trees have leaves, lawns are green, flowers are blooming and vegetable gardens are being planted.
  • Burgers and brats are sizzling on freshly scrubbed grills 🙂
  • Beaches & pools are opening, people are hiking & biking ~ they’re camping & fishing.
  • Vacations and long weekend getaways are being planned.

It seems like a large part of summer is about relaxing & enjoying fun, leisurely activities. Of course, in today’s busy 24/7 world it’s not always easy to find free-time to rest and relax. That’s where Tracy Helps You comes in … having a personal assistant take care of some of your to-do list tasks frees up your time to do what you want to do, as well as, taking care of the things you have to do.

Call us to see how we can help you !

My Top 10 Favorite Things About Spring Time in Chicagoland

I think May is my favorite month in the spring. You can pretty much rely on having mild temps and sunny days. Of course, I do live in the Chicagoland area, so weather wise, nothing is ever for certain 🙂 I love getting to see everything come back to life after a long, cold winter.

• Lilacs ~ so many varieties, colors and glorious scents

• Seeing the brave little Hyacinths, Tulips and Daffodils breaking through the ground

• Seeing and hearing all the robins everywhere

• Having more daylight hours

• The smell of fresh cut grass (sorry allergy sufferers)

• Starting my organic vegetable garden

• Getting to wear sandals

• Being able to have the windows open for fresh air

• Cooking and eating outside

• Going for long walks in the forest preserves or on the IL prairie paths

These are some of my favorite things in the spring. It is usually a short-lived season in the Chicagoland area. We tend to move into hot and humid summer weather fairly quickly … but I do love the few blissful weeks in May with its mild weather and promise of new life 🙂

Many thanks to http://www.manylittleblessings.com & http://www.weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers.com/ for co-hosting List It Tuesday 🙂

Garden

7 Standbys You’ll Always Find in My Organic Garden

Spring weather is in the air this week, we’ve had quite a few days that have been sunny and in the sixties 🙂

I’ve started my vegetable garden seeds indoors over the weekend. Now I patiently wait to see signs of life. I get so excited when I see tiny bits of green coming out of the soil.

This year I got seeds from a company that specializes in Heirloom Non-GMO seeds. I want to try to save seeds from this years harvest to plant to next year … wish me luck 🙂

Here’s my list of the 7 vegetables I’ll always have in my garden … my standbys for having fresh produce for summer and fall.

  1. Tomatoes ~ I just love fresh tomatoes … there’s nothing like the first bite of a vine ripened tomato of the season … I’m planting Roma and Grape tomatoes
  2. Peppers ~ Green Bell Peppers and Jalapeño
  3. Broccoli ~ Lots of broccoli
  4. Green Beans ~ I like the kind that climb up a trellis
  5. Cucumbers ~ I like the burp-less variety
  6. Carrots ~ I’m actually planting these in large planters, they seem to grow straighter in the softer soil … no rocks means less resistance
  7. Potatoes ~ This year I’m trying these in a large container as well … hopefully, I’ll be able to just dump the container and pick up the taters

Spring is my favorite time in the garden … planting is fun ~ weeding and watering ~ not so much 🙂

Many thanks to  http://www.manylittleblessings.com & http://www.weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers.com/ for co-hosting List It Tuesday 🙂

Little green signs of life means Spring has come.

Outdoor Spring Cleaning in the Yard and Garden

Spring has finally sprung … well not quite, but it is trying 🙂 I can at least say all the piles of snow have melted. We had one nice sunny, warmish day last week. My husband and I took advantage of it to start the process of getting the yard tidied up a little.

Chicago endured a long and harsh winter this year … the high winds and 5+ feet of snowfall really took its toll on our yard. When it finally warmed up enough to be outdoors for a couple of hours, we found that the wind had tried to blow down a section of our fence … it didn’t succeed entirely, but it is leaning at a precarious angle. Repairing that is at the top of our to-do list when the ground is more thawed. After walking around and sizing everything up, we realized that we were quite blessed by only having to repair the fence.

Living on a corner lot, we’ve come to understand that our house is kind of like a windbreak. During severe storms, you can almost feel the wind howling all around us. All that wind blows a lot of debris and litter into our yard. We filled a whole outdoor trashcan with what we picked up.

I went around picking up lots of branches that had been broken off during the cold, hard winter. Lets just say we have plenty of kindling for whenever we want enjoy a fire in our fire pit. We also were reminded that we didn’t have time to get all the leaves raked up last fall before the snow came. With 6 trees on our property, raking leaves is like a full time job in autumn. After the litter was cleaned up, we thought that if we were to take a picture of the front yard it would be actually hard to tell if it was autumn or spring. We got to work and filled several bags with leaves.

The best part of that afternoon (besides enjoying some fresh air and feeling a sense of accomplishment) was finding little signs of life peeking out of the ground. If my memory of their locations serves me, we have seen signs of life from the Crocus, the Daffodils, the Hyacinths and the Tulips. Soon we will be able to start turning over and preparing the soil in the garden area. I plan to start my vegetable seedlings indoors this weekend.  

Welcome Spring … we’ve been waiting for you 🙂

Cold Snowy Chicago January Weather

This Long Snowy Chicago January is Giving Me Cabin Fever

It’s the last day of January, and I already have cabin fever. Normally the winter weather doesn’t really get to me until early March, and I then I start to dream and plan my summer garden. This year my cabin fever started way too early. I don’t usually let the weather stop me from keeping to my normal schedule and doing my normal activities. I am blaming it on the extreme weather that Chicago has experienced for the entire month of January 2014.  

After all, I come from sturdy stock … I used to work outside on the ramp at O’Hare for over 15 years, for goodness sakes. While we have experienced extreme low temperatures a few times this past month, we haven’t broken the record. I vividly remember experiencing that record low temp of -24 (without the windchill) on January 20, 1985 … it was my first day working at O’Hare! I remember thinking to myself, “what in the world was I thinking?? I had a nice, warm, comfy desk job at a travel agency on Michigan Avenue”. Of course, I survived and have great stories to tell from that day. It was a great job, with great travel benefits. I have many wonderful memories of this time … it was the perfect job for me during my single days 🙂

According to the Chicago Weather Center Blog, we haven’t broken the record for snowfall this month either, but our 33.5 inches takes 3rd place in the record book. The blizzard in January of 1979 gave that month a total of 40.4 inches to take 2nd place. I remember making a lot of $$$ shoveling people out that winter 🙂 The 1st place Chicago snowfall record is from 1918 with 42.5 inches … wow!

They are predicting more snow for tomorrow, so it appears February will be more of the same, yippee! Oh well … I’ll have to figure out someway to keep myself amused in my nice, warm cozy “cabin” for a while longer. Don’t be surprised if I have a really big garden this spring 🙂

Tell me some of the things you do while spending these cold and snowy days at home …

Canning Homemade Fresh Organic Garden Tomato Salsa

Summer has officially come to an end … with autumn comes the task of canning and preserving the harvest. My garden crops differ from year to year, but this year, my tomatoes and broccoli were my star performers. Up until this point, I’ve managed to keep up with the ripened produce – by sharing with friends and neighbors and/or serving it to my own family. With the change of the season, it seems that all my grape tomatoes ripened at the same time. Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love grape tomatoes, but I think I may have had my fill of them for a while:) So, I started researching how to preserve them for later use. I checked out books about canning from the library (I know, kinda old school). I also looked at several websites. They all went into great detail about techniques for peeling and seeding the tomatoes. I didn’t have tons of regular sized tomatoes, I had hundreds of little, tiny grape tomatoes … there was no way I was peeling and seeding them 🙂 Continue reading

Fresh Produce from my Organic Garden

Top Ten Reasons I Love My Organic Backyard Garden

Thanks to Angie at http:// www.manylittleblessings.com and Top Ten Tuesday!

This is my 10th blog post; so I thought I would share my Top Ten reasons that I love having an organic garden

  1.   I just love daydreaming of how my yard will look come summer time. Reading garden blogs and leafing through seed catalogs. It takes some of the chill out of a snowy northern Illinois March.
  2.   I’m a planner at heart, so I love planning the layout of my garden plot. I started keeping a journal to keep track of what was planted where and the date … what worked and what fizzled. I actually map out my yard and pencil in the variety of plant that will be planted there. My journal also helps me remember what perennials and/or bulbs I have, as well as, when and where they are located.
  3.   I love starting the seeds indoors and placing them by the most sunny window in my house. Checking on them each day, waiting in anticipation to see the first newly sprouted seedlings.
  4.   I love when the weather finally warms up enough to get outside in the fresh air and do some initial yard clean up and garden prep work. While I don’t love picking up a winter’s worth of debris, I do love discovering my daffodils and hyacinth breaking through the ground and coming to life.
  5.   I love planting my thriving little seedlings in the moist garden soil. When I look over my work, they look so fragile and spaced so far apart. It’s hard to believe in a just few months they will be huge and seem crowded.
  6.   I love watering and nurturing my garden, especially in the early summer. I use homemade natural, organic mixtures ~ not chemicals to fertilize and to control insects. Notice that I didn’t say that I love to pull weeds, but alas, I do it so my plants get all the sun and nutrients from the soil they need. Plus it looks so nice ~ all neat and tidy J
  7.   I just love, love, love discovering the very first tiny, cute little green bean or bell pepper of the season … it’s so exciting !!
  8.   I really love the first delectable bite of the very first juicy, red, ripe tomato !
  9.  I love going out to my garden and picking fresh herbs and veges to use in preparing meals for my family. You just can’t get any fresher than that … from the garden to the table in under an hour.
  10. I love sharing the bountiful harvest with our friends and neighbors. I like canning and preserving the last of it so we can enjoy it during the long winter, while anticipating and planning for the next summer garden 🙂
photo by: OakleyOriginals

Organic Gardening

I recently started paying more attention to the ingredient labels on some of my favorite food brands.  I was shocked by all the ingredients I couldn’t even pronounce.  So many different chemicals, why were they needed?  As preservatives?  For longer shelf life? 

So I tried to start to eat more fresh produce.  That has to be good, right?  Then I started reading about how much pesticide they use for the mass production of produce.  How they pick the fruits and vegetables way before they are ripe and use other chemicals to ripen them enroute to the store.

Also, many of those chemicals are being found to be carcinogens.  What?  So eating fresh produce can now give you cancer?  This world we live in is becoming a very scary place.

So, I think to myself, I need to figure out a way (budget wise) to buy organic produce.  It’s like double the price, but my family’s health is worth it.  Then I discover that there are all kinds of loopholes so that companies can label their products as Organic even though they used pesticides.  So much legal mumbo jumbo.

So, I think to myself, summer is coming, I’ll try organic gardening. I’ll grow my own veges.  Then I learn about GMO seeds.  Really? Seeds that produce fruits with seeds that can’t reproduce?

Now I have to find Heirloom seeds …

Will it ever end?  Will we always have to be at the mercy of big business making the almighty dollar … whatever the cost?