Dealing With December

Things To Do This Month

  1. Finish mulching garden beds, shrubs and trees.
  2. Clean up vegetable garden. I clear away the plants and put down a layer of compost topped with hay. This should mulch and fertilize the beds and have them ready for planting in the spring. In the past, instead of hay, I’ve usually planted ‘green manure’ which is a cover crop of wheat grass or clover. But given the wild weather pattern, I’m not sure the seeds will have a fair chance to sprout. Hence the hay.
  3. Tie back climbers like roses, clematis. Be sure the plants as well as the supports on which they grow are secure.
  4. If a heavy snowfall tends to push apart and damage certain shrubs, tie them up with several turns of string all along it’s length. This will give the shrub more ‘solidity’ and keep it from falling apart with the weight of snow.
  5. Keep shovels and sand /grit on the ready. Salt damages plants so I don’t use it to melt the ice on paths, driveways and steps.
  6. Create burlap fences to act as wind breaks around vulnerable plants. I do this for all the roses.
  7. Protect all outdoor statuary and pots. I cover mine with thick sheets of plastic and then cover that with burlap. The latter is just for aesthetic effect.
  8. Remember to always keep bird feeders filled. If temperature is above freezing, provide some water as well.
  9. Pay attention to indoor plants. Water as needed, fertilize monthly, turn pots around so all sides of the plants receives sunlight. Try not to get the air too dry or the room too hot or too cold. In addition, stay vigilant for early signs of disease, stress or infestation.
  10. Hope you have paperwhites and amaryllis growing in the house right now. I cannot imagine getting through the month without these bulbs. Creates instant cheer. Watching the bulbs send out leaves and buds all the way till the flowers open is one big, happy making experience. And who doesn’t need more happy?

Looking Ahead

December is almost here but lets face it, once Thanksgiving is over, November feels pretty much done. December is fraught with to-do lists and commitments. Shopping, writing and mailing greeting cards, children’s holiday recitals and concerts, parties, decorating for the season, possibly a trip and that which goes with it, and then, the holidays themselves. In theory, all of this is supposed to be fun but, in actuality, there is some fun mixed in with a fair amount of stress and anxiety. How unfortunate that we should bring this upon ourselves. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Just stop for a bit. Hear me out. This could make all the difference.

Think global and act local. Arm yourself with your list of giftees. Beside each name, note down a couple of their interests. Now, make another list of charities and organizations that you think are worthy of consideration. Match up the two lists. By this I mean, assign a charity, museum or botanical garden membership, concert subscription to each person who has an interest in that cause. Make a donation or purchase in that individual’s name.

Next, take that list of people, and go into your local business district. For each person buy them something from the shops that depend on your patronage. With each of these gifts, add the card that informs about the donation/subscription/membership made in their name. Your budget will of course determine how much you can spend and you will make selections accordingly. If money is very tight then think of gifts that you can make or bake, skills you can use to teach or help out like baby sitting, weeding, planting, painting etc.,

The recipients will not only get something they like but your thoughtfulness will be appreciated. The local businesses, charities and organizations benefiting from this will also be grateful. Oh the good karma points you would have racked up!

Buy the food for your party from local stores, purchase cards that provide funds to UNICEF and other such invaluable groups. It’ll be well worth the time gained in not driving all over the place and by saving on gas, the environment too has been protected.

A shopping jaunt in your own community will have you meeting friends, making friends and generally feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. Add that to the good feelings that are generated from the donations and support you have provided and your December will be the best month ever. Now you have the time to enjoy the parties and recitals. Write cards by the fireplace where family and music can keep you company. You are right where you need to be. In the moment.

Just keep it simple and focus on what is truly important. Its not about the cost or size of the present. It’s the thought and time you’ve given to each person. Those are priceless.

My personal list of charities and organizations:

  1. Mukta Jeevan orphanage for children with HIV and AIDS. It’s outside Mumbai, India
  2. The Garden Conservancy.
  3. The New York Botanical Garden.
  4. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden.
  5. Wave Hill Gardens.
  6. Untermyer Garden.
  7. UNICEF.
  8. American Heart Association.
  9. American Cancer Association.
  10.  Friends of the Chappaqua Library.
  11. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  12. New York Philharmonic.
  13. Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.
  14. Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.
  15. The Clinton Foundation.
  16. Ars Antiqua.

Burlap clad pot

New Dawn rose in burlap

Star on the ground

Amaryllis in pot

Amaryllis in bloom

(c) Shobha Vanchiswar 2012

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