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Columns

  • Plants, flowers hidden dangers to pets

    Buds burst forth, plants bloom in rainbows of color, the air is cool and refreshing. But don’t be fooled. There are hidden dangers in our yards and gardens, not only for our sensitivities, but for Kitty and Fido.

    Pet owners know that dogs and cats can often find the strangest things to chew on. Whether it be plastic, wool or plants in the house or the garden, it can be at odds with your pet’s health. Here’s a list of some of the most common plants to be concerned with.

  • Beat the heat with icy treats

    Growing up in the south Texas heat, my sisters and brothers and I were always either in the lake, the pool or the sprinkler.

    If for some reason we ever took a break from the water, we were running around barefoot with the other neighborhood kids, laughing and playing and secretly hoping to hear the music of the ice cream truck so we could enjoy a cool treat.

  • Dad’s lessons still resonate

    “Hello, may I speak with Mr. Barker?”
    I sigh and start my well-rehearsed speech, explaining to the caller they have reached Ricki Barker the younger and that I am the female Ricki in my family.
    My father and I share many things: a love of animals, good books, lemon meringue pie and a name.
    The latter similarity has led to many humorous moments throughout the years.

  • Tobacco growers should watch for blue mold

    On June 2, active blue mold was found in a greenhouse in Greenville, Tennesee and in field plants that were set from the same greenhouse.

  • Now is the time to fertilize your garden

    It’s the popping season. Blooms are popping open and turning into fruit. Visually it is a wonder to watch. Whether it’s a flower, fruit or veggie, it’s fun to watch the changes as the growing takes place.
    Tomatoes are especially cool because we get such a big red fruit from such a tiny yellow flower. Watermelons and cucumbers also follow that same fast forward path. Beans and peppers start with a little white blossom. No matter the color, the result is the same, food from flowers.

  • Programs exist to help you find affordable housing

    Housing is usually the biggest expense for a family, whether you are a family of one or 10 people. Help is available with housing costs for families who qualify.
    There are more programs available than the ones mentioned below. Please read this even if it doesn’t fit your situation. You may be able to help someone else in the future by telling them about HUD housing rentals and sales and the Good Neighbor Next Door program.

  • Speed up ripening process in fruit

    Summer signals the arrival of fresh, seasonal produce, which promises eating at its finest. Sometimes that produce isn’t as ripe as you need it to be.

    Some produce that has traveled a great distance is picked while still green and won’t be ripe when it reaches the store. For some fruits, you can speed up the ripening process at home.

    Common fruits that can be ripened at home include bananas, cantaloupe, peaches, pears, pineapples and tomatoes.

  • Help livestock beat the summer heat

    Summer is almost here. We’ve already experienced some heat, just a taste of what’s to come. Humans aren’t the only ones who suffer when the temperatures rise. Farm animals feel it, too. You can recognize when your livestock may be in danger from the heat and what you can do to increase their comfort.

    Livestock become uncomfortable when the heat index reaches about 90 degrees. The heat index is a combination of air temperature and humidity, and is used to describe how it feels outside.

  • Don’t let cool, damp nights sicken plants

    These are the days I’m grateful to live two to three hours away from my relatives. If my mamma lived next door she’d have me up all night cleaning.

    Needless to say, the majority of my free time is spent either sleeping or outdoors this time of year. Thank goodness for Sunday morning rituals.

  • Reduce your risk of being victimized by identity thieves

    Over $2.5 billion were lost to identity theft in 2012. Victims younger than 18 represent 6 percent of the total.

    The perpetrator is almost always a family member, frequently the parents.

    Parents who have financial problems will use their child’s social security number to fraudulently obtain credit cards, apply for loans and even employment. The children don’t have any idea until they later apply for jobs, credit cards or loans and find out that they have a negative credit history themselves.