I'm one of those people who make New Year's resolutions.
Dutifully, I count off the improvements I want to make in -- my lifestyle, my home and my garden. I am not very good at remembering in December what I had resolved to do at the beginning of the year. Consequently, I have no way to gauge whether I actually kept my resolutions. No matter, that doesn't stop me from setting more goals for the coming year.
Just for the fun as well as the challenge of it, would-be do-it-yourselfers might consider these few resolutions:
- Learn how to do more chores around the house -- things you have never done before-- perhaps repairing the flush ball of the toilet, fixing floor squeaks or replacing window screens. Home improvement books and many Internet sources give step-by-step instructions on a variety of home repair techniques. Of course, leave the serious stuff -- like furnace repair, major plumbing and electrical work -- to the professionals. In fact, resolve to use only licensed professionals, if a license is required, for major home repairs.
- Pass along your talent by teaching someone how to do something you are really good at -- like cleaning up after painting, refinishing furniture or hanging wallpaper without a hassle.
- Resolve to be a good neighbor. Keep the noise down and your yard up. Mow the lawn when neighbors are likely to be awake and mow the neighbor's lawn if he or she is struggling through a tough time. Keep an eye on the neighbor's house when the neighbor is away, being alert to anything unusual. Keep your pets under control, including picking up their messes when you take them for walks.
- Stretch your muscles before beginning strenuous garden or home repair work. When enthusiasm kicks in, adrenaline makes our minds more optimistic than our muscles are pliable. For muscles that have wintered in the comfort of an overstuffed chair, a few stretching and toning exercises are probably in order. Ease yourself into the tasks of hammering, lifting, digging, stooping and hauling to reduce the likelihood of major soreness or serious injury. Better yet, stay in shape during the winter by adhering to a regular exercise program.
- Slip, slap and slop faithfully when out of doors. That is slip on a long-sleeved shirt, slap on a sun hat and sunglasses and slop on sunscreen to do your gardening and outdoor home improvement chores. Protect your skin and eyes from the damaging effects of the sun.
- Have the garden soil tested before dumping all sorts of chemicals into it. Although soil nutrients leach out over time and need to be replaced, the only way to know what is lacking (and consequently what amendments need to be added) is to test the soil. This can be done through the extension office.
- Weed the garden faithfully every week -- maybe every day. Keeping on top of this task really makes for a healthier garden. The less competition for soil nutrients, the better. Once the weather becomes too hot, the chiggers too awful and the weeds too abundant resort to "cosmetic" weeding -- pulling out only those weeds that are terribly noticeable or noxious -- like the dandelions and the poison ivy.
- Resolve to work safely no matter if you are a novice or an experienced gardener or handyman. Read safety instructions and the operator's manual on power tools. Use equipment like ladders, extension cords and saws carefully. Wear protective gear such as safety goggles, dust masks, ear protection and gloves when needed. Follow directions when using chemicals and wash your hands when you are done, certainly before eating or drinking.
- Be patient. Projects take time to complete. A newly planted garden will look sparse for several seasons because plants need time to mature. The kitchen remodeling won't look like the picture in the brochure for weeks. In the meantime, the dust and disruption must be accepted as part of the process. And finally,
- Enjoy life and bring laughter into your 2003. I know, we consider building, fixing, planting and puttering relaxing. Resolve to add more time to celebrate birthdays, seek new adventures and be with friends even when they play with whoopee cushions. So, Happy Birthday wherever you are and ... Happy New Year!
-- Carol Boncella is education coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and home and garden writer for the Journal-World.