COLUMN: New year good time to break old habits

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By Cheryl Steenerson

OK, repeat after me, two sticks, two sticks.
That’s how I’m going to try to remember to write 2011, not 2010, anymore.
Writing the date on something comes almost automatically, but when it first gets here it seems to take us a while to adjust and stop writing the old year. Hopefully, the two sticks mantra will help.
Each new year offers an opportunity for a fresh start. It’s a time to make changes in our lives, or at least to make resolutions for change. But change is hard, usually. Habits are hard to change.
It’s like moving the silverware drawer in the kitchen. After you move it, you keep going back to where is used to be. It takes practice to change a daily ritual. A piece of tape to close the old drawer serves as a reminder. The trouble is finding the right piece of tape for habits.
Verbal, visual and physical reminders help us turn change into habit. I have a habit of starting my seeds too early. I run out of room before the weather warms enough for outside transplanting. This year I’m writing all the dates to start seeds on my calendar so I’ll have a visual reminder. Find a reminder to attach to the change you wish to make and you’ll be successful.
January is typically the month that we really experience winter. I think we got a head start on it last month, though. The meteorologists are telling us that it’s going to be colder and drier than normal this winter. We’ll just have to wait and see if they’re right.
My friend John Marks told me his father used to swear by an old adage that if it rained on the first day of the month that we would have 15 days of rain in that month, although precipitation type may change into snow, depending on the month. He kept track his entire adult life. It was always right. Good to know.
Poor Richard’s Almanac said, “Fog in January makes a wet spring.” It also said, “As many days old as the moon is at the first snow, there will be as many snows before crop planting time.” We had our first snow Nov. 26, 2010. The new moon was Dec. 25. Hmm.
OK. We only got a dusting that first time, maybe that doesn’t count. On Dec. 4 we got 1 1/2 inches of snow and that was eight days after the new moon. So, let’s see if we have eight snow events this winter. We’ve already had four, so as it stands today we’re halfway there.
There are not many gardening chores to accomplish in January. Sure, you can fertilize your poinsettias and Christmas cactuses, prune the butterfly bush to the ground and cut the old flower heads off the hydrangea. Still, most of us are just paging through the catalogs and dreaming of this year’s gardens and the changes we’re going to make.
If you didn’t like the outcome of last year’s garden, now is the time to plan your changes.
You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome. So, get new ideas by looking online and in books.
We’ve got a great new crop of gardening books, magazines and even DVDs at the library. Come check them out.
I’ve already discovered a great new way to grow potatoes and I won’t have to dig a thing or depend on rain. Now, figure out what you’re going to change this year and get going on those reminders. Spring is only 75 days away. Happy New Year and happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News. Comment at theandersonnews.com.