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Essential Oils for Health

Country MoonIn recent years new bacteria strains have become more and more resistant to the antibiotics that we have relied on for so many years. Once we could pop a pill and cure our ills, however that is no longer the case. Thankfully, there is new hope on the horizon in the form of essential oils. Great strides have been made in killing pathogens such as E. coli with essential oils on their own or as a combination of oils and antibiotics.

Essential oils are just plant extracts in the purest form there is. They have long been used in cleaning, personal care and pest control products. This is only a natural progression that we start harvesting their benefits, after all the plant compounds that make up the oils first existed to defend plants from diseases. Exciting research is finding that they are powerful enough to kill cancer cells of the breast, colon, mouth, skin and more.

More and more people are beginning to harvest the oils' healing qualities but there is still a lot of skepticism among the general public. The reason for this is basically two-fold. The Internet that we all know and love so much has been quick to jump on them as a cure-all, which they are not so they have gotten a bad reputation in many cases like the old cure-all tonics from peddlers.

The other reason is that our western culture is so used to lab-created synthetic medicines. Many folks have the philosophy that if it doesn't require a prescription, then it will not work. What they fail to realize is that many of our most important pharmaceuticals originated from plants. Many of these have been so chemically altered that their side effects are worse than what they were meant to help.

Consider that aspirin originated from willow bark, the treatment for malaria was derived from fever-tree bark and morphine comes from the poppy plant. The cancer-fighting drug pachitaxel is derived from the bark of the Pacific yew tree. Even more ironic is that the new Ebola treatment hinges on the use of the tobacco plant.

One of the most public instances of this fact concerns Scott Sechler, owner of Bell and Evans Farms, which produce high-end antibiotic-free poultry. In 2012 he told the New York Times that he used oregano and cinnamon oils to fight infection on all of his 140 farms, which supported 9 million chickens at any given time. "I used oregano oil to kill the bad bacteria and cinnamon oil to support the good. Even though this worked better than any other approach, I worried how I was going to sound talking about this, after all it took 10 years for me to convince the people I work with that it works."

Slowly, it is catching on. Today, some companies are selling plant extracts as feed additives.

Essential Oils
Photo by Getty Images/Madeline_Steinbach.

Another case in point comes from the dental world. Studies in the "Journal of Contemporary Dental Practices" report that cinnamon oil was tested for its effectiveness against certain bacteria in root canal procedures. It eliminated bacterial growth within seven and fourteen days of the procedure, which makes cinnamon oil a compatible natural option. It's a win-win situation since cinnamon not only tastes good, but every time it is used it fights infection in the body.

Exciting research is finding the benefits of many other essential oils. Lavender and cinnamon killed E. coli when combined with the antibiotic piperacillin. The oils reversed the resistance of the bacteria to the antibiotic. Basil and rosemary are both effective in inhibiting the growth of 60 strains of E. coli. Staph-infected wounds heal faster when treated with vapors of tea tree oil than with conventional methods.

Even though many oils are effective on their own, some oils provide a powerful weapon against bacteria when combined with antibiotics. Scientists believe the oils weaken the wall of the resistant bacteria, therefore damaging or killing the cells by letting the antibiotics in.

Seven other top essential oils that have antibiotic properties are:

  1. Thyme oil. This is a powerful antimicrobial. Results were very positive when tested as an antimicrobial preservative for food, especially against bacteria in milk and against salmonella.
  2. Oregano oil. Possesses very strong antibacterial activity against some drug-resistant bacteria. It helps control infection and is very effective against athlete's foot and toe fungus.
  3. Tea tree oil. This is an alternative to fighting bacteria topically. It is effective against E. coli and staph infections. It has an immediate effect as well as releasing benefits over a 24-hour span from when used. It is effective in protecting against infections from cuts, scrapes, burns and fights warts, eczema and psoriasis.
  4. Grapefruit oil. This oil is a highly effective natural antibiotic that helps eliminate microbes in the kidneys and gut. It supports endocrine function and encourages bile production and gastric juices to aid in digestion.
  5. Clove oil. This is only second to cinnamon as one of the best antibiotic oils. It is great for toothache.
  6. Lemongrass oil. One of the most potent antibacterial oils, it is commonly used in cleaners and to battle infections. Used internally and externally, it subdues bacterial growth.
  7. Bergomot oil. This is a strong antibacterial that will get rid of worms, heal scars, battle UTI's and meningitis and helps cold sores and the Herpes virus.

Essential oils definitely have their place in medicine. They are a back-to-basics approach that many of our synthetic medicines stem from. I believe that God did not give us any illness that He did not give us the cure for. Essential oils are not the total answer, but they are a big part of it.

Riding Royal Blue Trails

Country MoonThere are many different ways to enjoy nature and not all of them include the traditional ways of baseball, golfing, hiking and the like. One of those ways that more and more folks are discovering is riding ATV, or all-terrain vehicle, trails.

No matter where you live, you are never very far from an ATV trail. Where you choose to ride depends on what kind of terrain you prefer. Naturally, mountainous terrain is totally different from riding trails through forests or on sand dunes. What kinds of trails fit your liking also dictates what kind of ATV you choose to ride, whether it be a Polaris Ranger, a 4-wheeler, dirt bike or countless other variations. Each type performs better on different terrain.

This is a fact that I learned this past weekend when we traveled to Pioneer in eastern Tennessee to ride the Sundquist North Cumberland OHV (off-highway vehicle) trails, more affectionately known as Royal Blue. These trails, managed by the state of Tennessee, consist of more than 200,000 acres with 600 miles of marked trails. The trails offer scenic views, boulder formations, abandoned mines, waterfalls and elk viewing. Elevations rise from 1100 feet to 3200 feet. All trails are marked for difficulty.

We headed down with my Polaris Ranger, which provided a totally new experience for me. I had been used to riding on trails in northern Michigan, which are pretty much access roads that wound through forests and wilderness. Some are narrow with overgrowth and a few are hilly, but most of the trails are on sandy soil. I am also not one that likes to drive, but rather, I prefer to enjoy the ride and see what photos I can capture.

Royal Blue provided a totally different experience. The first evening out the temperature was in the 40s and the rain they had been having throughout the week was just beginning to taper off. Needless to say, everything is colder when you are riding with being wet added to that factor. Even though we had our rain gear and heavy winter layers on, it was COLD. The next day was as promised, the rain had subsided and was replaced by beautiful sunshine. However, the rain had left its lingering effects; mud, more mud and then more mud.

After a big rain, every trail was a step up in difficulty. Even though we chose to ride the ones marked easy, they turned to moderate and the moderate ones were turned into difficult ones. There were gullies where trails had washed out and the smaller rocks that were in the path became boulders that needed to be hurdled over. This is sheer joy for some riders. They come to see how muddy they can get their machines, how steep of muddy hills they can make it up and how large of boulders their machines can navigate over. There were machines and drivers that were literally covered in mud.

It certainly didn't take me long to learn that we weren't in Kansas anymore. This was a whole new ballgame from what I had been used to. Mind you, it wasn't bad nor good, just different. A Ranger, unlike some of the other ATV's, was not made for the real rugged terrain. For one thing, it doesn't have as much clearance underneath to navigate over larger boulders and we had trouble with the fuel and air filters getting plugged so the machine wasn't running at its maximum efficiency.

This was the downside. Some was our fault and some was not. There is no way we would have started out without a trail map. But we soon learned that, although the trails were marked, some markers were easy to miss. Because of this, we ended up on a couple of the more difficult trails that caused us trouble. Also, the rains had turned parts of the easier trails into more difficult areas.

Would I go back? I definitely would, especially since the first time makes one a little smarter. I would not do it right after a big rain, I am not into mud. I would hope that the trails would be marked a little better and I would definitely keep a better eye where the trails switched up.

There is something about being in nature and being surrounded by others that are there for the same purpose that is a good feeling. Look out, Royal Blue, I will be back, just a little smarter next time!

Photo property of Lois Hoffman

Not All Rototillers are Created Equal

Country MoonLike most things in life, when you start with a good foundation, your overall project has a better chance for success. Establishing and maintaining a garden is no exception.

Rototillers are divided between garden tillers and cultivators. Garden tillers come in three styles: front-tine, mid-tine and rear-tine. All three have powerful engines that are designed to break up new ground, although all three were designed for slightly different tasks.

Front-tine models are usually less expensive and are designed for weeding or stirring established beds. This is probably the most popular model. Most have a drag bar feature that makes the tiller easier to handle by helping to eliminate the "jumping" motion created when the tines encounter hard ground.

Mid-tine models are the most maneuverable of the models. The engine is mounted directly over the tires, which provides for more weight and balance.

Rear-tine tillers are further divided into standard front rotating tines, counter-rotating or backward tines and dual. Here, most models have the standard tines that pull the ground into them as they break up the ground.

Some tillers have the capability to be both front and rear-tine driven and are billed as dual tine rototillers. Needless to say, these models provide the best qualities of the other two models combined but also usually come with a higher price tag.

Tillers come in various sizes and size is what determines what engine each model uses. Smaller and lighter models are equipped with two-stroke engines. With these, oil has to be mixed into the gas, the spark plugs are more prone to fouling out and the tiller has a shorter shelf life. Four-stroke models are your heavier tillers which use regular oil, require less maintenance and are geared to lasting longer. Which model you choose depends on what the task at hand is.

If you don't have big jobs to do, the "mini-tillers," often referred to as cultivators, are the handiest of all the tiller groups. They are lightweight, portable and are perfect for cleaning between established beds, weeding between the rows of gardens and getting in other tight places. I love mine for going around rock gardens and doing other edging. It digs up the dirt, makes a nice neat edge and prevents weeds from growing between rock and around other landscaping.

Don't be fooled by its size either. Although it is smaller and requires more passes, I have used mine to break new ground and clean up borders around the garden where grass had started to invade. They come in gas or electric models and are propelled by cutting tines that rip through dirt and soil.

Before rototillers made their real mark on the gardening scene, most everyone mold board plowed their gardens each year. There are still some advantages to this method as plowing turns the soil down deeper than a rototiller can. However, not everyone needs nor wants to own a plow and plows definitely are limited when it comes to smaller garden spaces. Many times, folks will opt to hire someone to plow their garden since it is only done once a year. This eliminates buying a plow and tractor, maintaining them and storing them. Sometimes it boils down to just a personal preference.

Rototillers make loosening the soil and maintaining a weed-free garden easier. When choosing a model, just make your choice based on what you want to accomplish. Whether digging new gardens or mixing and blending soil and compost, the model and type of rototiller you choose can make a big difference in your gardening experience.

Photo by Getty Images/FotoDuets

Beauty in Beach Glass

Country MoonWhen folks go to the beach, they usually comb the shore for rocks or seashells. But there is another treasure, though often overlooked, that can be just as precious as the other two. Beach glass is the smooth, frosty product of broken glass left to tumble in the waves and eventually become the jewels of the sea.

I was first introduced to beach glass when we visited Maine back in 2012. Just off the coast there is an island named Islesboro where we were supposed to go on a lobster boat for a day. However, the owner got sick at the last minute and we were left with a whole day of nothing. The owner's sister decided to be our tour guide and asked if we would like to visit a little known spot where we could find some beach glass. What a treat, the beach was literally covered in beach glass and we were hooked.

Beach glass is sometimes referred to as sea glass although there is a definite distinction. Beach glass is found in fresh water, whereas sea glass is a product of salt water. It is usually formed when sharp edges of broken glass get smoothed by sand, stones, salt and other elements that continually wear on the broken glass until it becomes smooth. The glass itself is nothing magical, but rather it is ordinary glass that finds itself in the oceans, seas, rivers and lakes.

Beach glass can be found all over the world from the beaches of the northeastern United States, California, Hawaii and North Carolina to countries like Bermuda, Mexico, Italy, Spain and even down to Australia. Although folks think of combing ocean beaches and the shorelines of the Great Lakes, this unique glass can also be found on the shores of rivers, lakes and bays. The more currant or wave action, the more top quality the beach glass becomes.

Geological terms like inclusions, clarity, color, facets and purity pertain to sea glass just as they do to gemstones. However, the impurities and inclusions (things inside) that are bad in gemstones are excellent qualities in beach glass.

Beach glass comes in most all colors but some are rarer than others, thus making certain colors more valuable. White sea glass is the most common color, made from clear glass that has been tossed and turned by waves until it is frosted and white. Fire glass is the rarest of sea glass. Fire glass is glass that passes through fires and has inclusions in the glass itself. After that, orange is the rarest because there has been very little orange glass made. A single quality piece of jewelry made from a piece of orange sea glass can easily command $650.

Red sea glass is also hard to come by. Both red and orange glass originally couldn't be made without a colorant that required real gold as an ingredient. Rare red pieces are referred to as the "rubies of the beach" and come from perfume bottles, tail lights and old beer bottles like Anchor Hocking produced for Schlitz in the 1950s.

Blue beach glass isn't just blue, but rather many shades of it including soft blue, cornflower, and the aqua used in Mason jars, medicine bottles and decorative pieces. Turquoise is the rarest blue sea glass. The most sought-after and very rare cobalt blue glass is known as the "sapphire" of the beach. This glass is from Milk of Magnesia, Vick's Vapor Rub and Noxzema bottles.

All in all, beach glass is one of the little-known treasures that can make a trip to the beach a little more rewarding. So, the next time you are walking in the sand, be sure and scavenge the shores for more than just seashells. There is nothing so pretty as a jar of beach glass gleaming in the sun on a windowsill.

beach glass
Photo by Getty Images/BruceBlock

The Itch

Country MoonJust about this time every year it happens. Pretty much everyone gets it and it makes life rather uncomfortable for a few days…a few very long days. Husbands and wives feel the tension, school kids are irritable and workers feel the lackluster.

Ahh, you probably thought I was talking about the January thaw or spring fever. Not yet, it is just a bit too late for one and too early for the other. I'm talking about what comes after the thaw and before the fever: THE ITCH. It's the few warm, bright, sunny days that roll around sometime later in February or early March.

These days start with bright and crispy mornings that melt into warm, sun-kissed afternoons. You can shed all those bulky winter clothes for short sleeves. The sunshine feels so good that you just have to get outside. Here lies the problem.

The first day or two of this weather is great because there is always something to catch up on. There has never been a year yet when there weren't limbs to be picked up out of the yard. Sometimes you can get a jump on spring cleaning chores like washing windows. Farmers make sure all of their equipment is ready for spring planting, lawn equipment is checked over to make sure it is ready for the season and garden debris is cleaned up.

But after these chores are done, the weather is still nice and there is nothing that can be done outside. It is too early to plant anything because you know that cold weather will return and fields and gardens are too wet to get into. Now, you know what I mean by "the itch."

Farmers want to get in the fields, but they know it's not time. Gardeners want to get an early start but it is not time. You want to haul all that lawn furniture back outside but you know it is not time. You definitely don't want to be inside but there is really nothing to do outside. This is the breeding ground for grumpiness. Most everyone has a little shorter fuse than normal and folks seem to get irritated for no reason at all.

For those of us who have a bit of a stubborn streak, like me, "the itch" makes our life even tougher. Last year when these days rolled around I cleaned out my flower gardens. Yep, I raked all the dead leaves off that I was using as mulch and thought I would get a jump on my cleanup. They looked so nice when I got done and I had the job out of the way for when spring really hit and there would be more important tasks at hand. The flowers also looked so bad when frosts and freezing temperatures returned and they were all exposed. This year the temptation to do the same thing tugged at me but, so far, I have resisted.

The treadmill is my saving grace when the winds are howling outside and temperatures plummet, but on warm days I can't wait to walk outside. I love walking around the farm and by the woods. With all the snowmelt and recent rains, the intelligent part of me knew that it would be a field of mud but "the itch" still grabbed me anyway. After all, if I stayed by the fence rows and did not venture out into the middle of the field, I should be just fine. Those are famous last words as a particularly wet spot sucked my boots down to the ankles.

I love photographing nature. I have so many unique photos of Mother Nature at her finest in all four seasons. I dare say that not one of them was ever taken during "the itch," I know better. It is the end of February and beginning of March and it is Mother Nature without her makeup. It is ugly out there. The trees are bare, there is no green to be seen, the world is brown and gray. But I drag my camera with me anyway and, not to be defeated another year, I take a few shots. Now, not only do I have mud-laden boots to deal with, but also I have my camera to deal with and hope that it will not fall into the mud when I eventually will. This all for the sake of a few photos that I will, invariably, delete once I am inside. And the really sad part is that I will do it all again next year.

The only thing that is my saving grace is that I see many of the farmers going for a little drive, just to check out their neighbors and see if they are doing anything in the fields. Oh, they all know in their hearts that it is still too wet and too early, but just in case their neighbors are doing something they have to check it out. At least they are smart enough to check it out in a vehicle.

It doesn't help through these few days either when you see the first couple of motorcycles whizzing by and boats on trailers headed for the lake. Last week ice fishermen barely got their ice shanties off the frozen lakes and this week boats are headed for the open water. My bet is that next week I will see boats going back in the opposite direction, passing the ice shanties on their way!

No wonder we all get growly. "The itch" isn't spring, it's not winter, it's sort of like the nothing time. We are confused between what we want it to be and what we know isn't quite yet. It's just another facet of human nature and we just plain don't know how to deal with it. This is so frustrating because, hard as we try, we can't fool Mother Nature even though she can fool us.

Most of you may call this whole phenomenon cabin fever. I call this time of year "the itch."

Photo by Getty Images/goikmitl

Wolf Spirit

Country MoonFew animals touch our hearts and speak to our spirit like the wolf does. For centuries they have been symbols of guardianship, ritual, loyalty and spirit. Wolves have the ability to make quick and firm emotional attachments and to trust their own instincts. They teach us to do the same, to trust our hearts and minds and to have control over our own lives.

Perhaps our fascination with them stems from what their very being symbolizes to us. They are free creatures, living in the wild, unencumbered with life's dramas. They embrace life's freedoms that were meant for all of us.

Beyond their mystical side, wolves also have a dark side, a side to be feared. They are sometimes portrayed as creatures of nightmares, fanged beasts who lurk in dark forests. This is a bad rep that they have acquired; most of the time they only kill to survive. We credit this fear of the wolf to the Europeans who brought this fear with them.

At one time, wolves populated all of North America but, as they became the hunted, their populations dwindled. In 1600 the North American gray wolf population hovered around 2 million and today they number 65,000 and the world population stands at 150,000. Wolves were the first animals to be placed on the United States Endangered Species list in 1973. The last wolf in Yellowstone Park was killed in 1926 and in 1995 wolves were reintroduced. After ten years, 136 wolves roamed the park in 13 wolf packs.

New wolf
Photo by Getty Images/KenCanning

Whether they are mystical creatures or not, both red and gray wolves have distinctive characteristics that set them apart from any other animal. Some of these stats give them an almost "human" side:

1) Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of wolves is their howl which can be both eerie and intriguing. Wolves howl in packs to contact a separated member of the group, to rally a group before hunting or to warn rival packs to keep away. Lone wolves howl to attract mates or because they are alone. They will respond to humans imitating their calls. The International Wolf Center in Minnesota periodically sponsors "howl nights," when people go into the wilderness and howl, hoping for answering calls.

2) They have been attributed to be human-like because they communicate within the packs by using a variety of facial expressions.

3) Wolves are carnivores and are celebrated to be some of the greatest hunters in the animal kingdom. A hungry wolf can eat 20 pounds of meat in a single meal. This is like a human eating 100 hamburgers in one sitting. They are also able to go 12 days without eating. They have immense power in their jaws which possess a crushing power of 1500 pounds per square inch, compared with 75 pounds per square inch for a dog. They are equipped with 42 teeth that are specialized for stabbing and shearing flesh and crushing bones.

4) They have about 200 million scent cells which enable them to smell other animals more than a mile away. Humans have 5 million, by comparison.

5) Wolves also possess a keen sense of hearing which lets them detect sound six miles away in the forest and 10 miles away on the open tundra.

6) Wolves run on their toes to help preserve their paw pads and this ability also helps them to stop and turn quickly. They run at 20 mph on an average but can get up to speeds of 40 mph for a couple minutes at a time when in pursuit. Equipped with webbing between their toes, they can swim 8 miles at a time when needed.

7) There is a light reflecting layer in wolves' eyes called tapetum lucidum, which causes a wolf's eyes to glow in the dark, thereby adding to the mystique of the species. This may help them with night vision in tracking prey. Their eyes are extremely sensitive to movement.

8) All female wolves can bear pups but only a few in each pack do. By doing this, they produce only the strongest pups, which limits how many the pack has to care for. Males and females mate for life and are both devoted parents. They maintain sophisticated family ties, so much so that females in the pack that do not bear offspring will babysit and care for wolf pups in the pack that are not their own.

9) Wolf pups are born blind and deaf. All wolf pups' eyes are blue at birth but turn yellow by the time they are eight months old.

10) Wolves spend one-third of their lives roaming and they shed their winter coats in sheets.

11) Most times, where there are wolves there are also ravens, sometimes referred to as "wolf-birds." They follow the packs to not only tease them, but also to help themselves to the leftovers of the kills.

12) Many North American Indian tribes consider wolves, like bears, closely related to humans. The Aztecs used wolf liver as an ingredient to treat melancholy and they also believed that piercing a person's breast with a wolf bone would delay death. Cherokees would not hunt wolves because they believed that a slain wolf's brother would exchange revenge.

Many think that wolves hold a mystical power that is both ancient and wise. They are symbols of our own desires to be free, wild and untamed. These attributes speak directly to our souls. Farley Mowat perhaps put it into words the best, "We have doomed the wolf not for what it is, but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be — the mythological epitome of a savage, ruthless killer — which is, in reality, no more than a reflected image of ourself."

Thus, we get wolf power and wolf symbolism. Wolf power teaches us to find resources which we need to use wisely to keep moving forward and to keep evolving. Wolf symbolism teaches us to assess each situation and to adapt as needed — always ready, always prepared.

But the greatest lesson that we get from the wolf is the wolf spirit. This spirit enables us to be intuitive to our surroundings, to sense movements and to anticipate every move of ones we are stalking or ones who are stalking us. We can learn these attributes by bonding with the soul of the wolf. Wolf spirit, the spirit to be free, unencumbered and untamed, lives in all our souls to some degree.

Shoebox Season

Country MoonIt's getting close to that time of year again...shoebox season. Some more politically correct people refer to this time of year as "tax time," for others it is crunch time but, I would be willing to bet, that for most it is shoebox time.

I say this because for me, and many others, we start every year out with good intentions of doing a better job of keeping receipts and other tax information in some kind of order. However, that notion usually goes by the wayside and the year's paperwork invariably ends up in a shoebox.

I have such vivid memories of this happening every year with my parents when I was a kid. When we saw "The Shoebox" come out, we knew we were in for a rough couple of days. First of all, the shoebox came out of the closet and sat in plain sight for a few days. Every time Mom and Dad walked by it they would glance at it and give it a quick sneer. No one dared mention anything about it, the shoebox was taboo.

Then the dreadful day came when the table was cleared and the shoebox took its place in the center. The three of us kids were banished from the kitchen, given a few snacks and told not to interrupt unless it was a matter of life and death, literally. The few times that we did venture out to the kitchen and dared to ask a question we got "the glare" and turned around and left the room.

We waited for the annual phrases that we always heard, "What did YOU do with it?" and the response in a little bit louder tone, "I never saw it!" If we were lucky, along about suppertime all the receipts would go back in the shoebox. This time, however, they were in neat little piles and we knew we would not have the shoebox ordeal again until next year.

It is said that there are three things that are certain in life: you are born, you die and you pay taxes. So, why is tax time such a big ordeal every year for so many people? After all, it rolls around every year at the same time. So many times it is not even the issue of whether you will owe money or be getting a refund that causes the stress. It seems to lie more in getting things around and ready to file than the actual filing itself.

Granted, the whole shoebox ordeal was before the time of personal computers which revolutionized the whole tax thing with programs like Quicken and Turbo Tax. But, even with all the programs in the world, there is just so much paperwork that needs to be dealt with.

I have to admit that I fall into the same category as my parents most of the time except that I don't have a shoebox. I am a little more organized than that. I have my receipts in their proper place in file folders in the filing cabinet. All paperwork is filed under the proper title except for the few that just don't fit anywhere. This file is appropriately labeled "miscellaneous," which is, in reality, just a smaller version of the shoebox.

Not only am I fairly well organized, I also have good intentions of getting everything ready to go to the tax man early in January. As a matter of fact, it is always one of my New Year's resolutions to get my paperwork ready to go the first week of January and just add the end-of-the-year tax items to the files as they arrive in the mail. My intention is to be ready to just pick up the folder and walk out the door on tax day. And like other resolutions, this one always gets broken. Uh-huh.

However, I think the reason that this one gets broken is all part of a bigger plan. There is always a list of things that I need to do before spring breaks and I am outside again. These always take precedence over taxes.

For example, I would have started the taxes but closets needed to be cleaned. This year I have every closet cleaned and organized. This even includes the dreaded closet in the office room where all the old photographs, various cards from different folks that I have kept from year to year, Christmas wrapping paper that gets thrown back in the closet after the holidays in no particular order, and generally anything else that doesn't have a home gets stashed. Not only did I clean the closet and organize it, I also managed to throw things out...things that I could not part with from year to year. I had to, I was running out of room for things that I just couldn't part with this year that I will keep for a few more years before they are tossed.

I would have started the taxes but I also needed to paint the office room. It's the only room in the house that has not been painted since we moved in. There were just so many things on the wall that every time the thought came up to paint this room, it was just easier to shut the door. It took a week to get the room torn apart and put back in order.

I also would have started the taxes but the kitchen cabinets needed cleaned and wiped down. So many people wait for spring to do spring cleaning and I really don't see why. Winter is when you are stuck in the house anyway so it just seems logical that this would be the right time to start these chores. On top of that, if I didn't start cleaning, I probably would have to start taxes.

I also made a resolution to really follow my exercise program this year. This one, I am proud to say, I have kept. I would have started the taxes on a few different occasions, but it was time to get my exercise in for the day. I literally had to choose between the two. It was a hard choice.

On a few occasions I did start my taxes. One day I added up the gasoline deductions. That was tiresome so I quit. A few days later I worked on my depreciation. That was a big one. I put it away for a week after that. Besides that, after each tax encounter, I thought I owed myself a treat. After each treat I had to go and exercise. It really is a vicious circle.

Mind you, I am not usually a procrastinator. My philosophy is that if something needs done, you may as well get at it and take care of it otherwise something else will crop up and things will just keep multiplying until you are overwhelmed. So why are taxes any different for many of us? They are just a fact of life, an unpleasant one, but still a fact of life.

I have come to the conclusion that by procrastinating on this subject makes me a better person. I actually work harder at not doing them than if I would just get them done. I know that. I also know that it will be the same next year and the year after that.

But I like the positive: by avoiding taxes, other things get done. It's a sacrifice. If I hadn't worked so hard at procrastinating on my taxes again this year, I wouldn't have gotten so many other things on my list accomplished. There really is a method to my madness for shoebox season!