I often wonder why is it that weeds have no problem at all with drought-like conditions. They don’t require a thing—not water, fertilizer or protection from pests and predators.

Weeds don’t even need soil. They’re happy to grow in cracks in the sidewalk—even asphalt.

Weeds don’t complain, don’t need to be babied and do their best work under the worst of circumstances—the hotter the better! Weeds never give up. I wish I were more like weeds.

Still, weeds are the bane of every gardener; a problem for every homeowner. Read more

I may be more than a little bit obsessed with gardening and it’s a good thing. This summertime hobby improves both my mental and physical wellbeing.

EFFECTIVE EXERCISE. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (doesn’t everyone check with the CDC before doing anything strenuous?), just one hour of light gardening and yard work burns 330 calories—more than lifting weights for the same amount of time. I’ll take it!

BLOOD PRESSURE. Gardening scored on the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s recommendation list for battling high blood pressure. I’m sure they’re thinking the physical movement aspects of gardening. But for me? Beautiful flowers and well-manicured beds calm my soul and refuel my joy like little else.

Don’t miss: Get Pesky Rabbits Out of the Garden

IMMUNE SYSTEM. It’s the sun, I’m sure of it. When I’m in my garden, I’m soaking up vitamin D which helps the body absorb calcium and in turns keeps bones strong and the immune system healthy.

GRATIFICATION. I can see the transformative results of my hard work. So many things that we spend time on have temporary results. A garden is satisfying because it builds on itself—plants and trees get bigger and healthier, and the garden gets more beautiful over time.

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If the heat of summer is bringing ants into your home and yard, don’t panic. You may not require toxic pest control products or a professional service to take care of the problem. In fact, chances are good you already have everything you need to do it yourself.

Here are 10 ways to get rid of ants using ordinary things from around the house or in the garage.

SOAP AND WATER. If you have ants or other bugs around the house, pour a 50/50 mixture of Blue Dawn dish soap and water into empty spray bottle and keep it handy. When you see the insects, spray them with the mixture. Provided you really saturate those little critters, the soap actually breaks down their exoskeletons, and they die almost immediately. Cheap and easy cleanup, too.

MOP AND VACUUM. To get rid of sugar ants, start by mopping the floor at least once a day. Mopping and vacuuming help to remove the ants’ pheromone trails. Cleaning and mopping will also rid your home of the food and crumbs that attract the ants. Make sure you don’t leave any dirty dishes in the sink and empty the trash bin regularly.

BLACK PEPPER. To deter sugar ants, sprinkle black pepper around the home’s entry points to keep the ants from coming inside.

VINEGAR AND WATER. A 50/50 ratio of water and white vinegar can also deter ants. Spray this mixture on countertops, window sills, and high traffic areas.

WD-40. Spray any areas where ants are feeding or accessing your house with WD-40. The spray will kill ants and also serve as a deterrent from further access as long as residue from the spray remains. Not sure where they’re coming in? Spray WD-40 along the outside perimeter of the house. They will not cross it because ants hate the smell of WD-40. (So do rabbits!) Repeat as necessary.

CHALK. Keep ants at bay by drawing a line around your homes entry points using ordinary blackboard or sidewalk chalk. The ants will be repelled by the calcium carbonate in the chalk.

BOILING WATER. If fire ants plague your yard or patio and you’re tired of getting stung by those tiny attackers, a flowerpot can help you quench the problem. Place the pot upside down over the anthill. Pour boiling water through the drain hole and you’ll be burning them and their house for good.

CITRUS. You don’t need insecticides or ant traps to ant-proof your kitchen. Just give it the lemon treatment. First squirt some lemon juice on door thresholds and windowsills. Then squeeze lemon juice into any holes or cracks where the ants are getting in. Finally, scatter small slices of lemon peel around the outdoor entrance.

COFFEE. Sprinkle your used coffee grounds in the garden and around the outside of your house. Ants are repelled by the scent given off by the grounds and as a bonus coffee grounds are good for your soil and plants.

DIATOMACEOUS EARTH. Make sure you’re using food-grade diatomaceous earth, NOT swimming pool DE, which has been chemically altered. Sprinkle the food-grade DE outside around the perimeter of your home. You can also safely sprinkle it inside where you see the ants. Do not wet the DE or it will not work. Once the ants walk in the fine powder they’ll die because the DE quietly destroys  their exoskeletons.

Confession is good for the soul, I’m told, and so I’d like to confess. I came this close to clocking the woman standing in front of me in the very crowded pick-up line at the airport last week. It’s not that she was rude or jumped in front of me or anything like that. She was holding a bouquet of fresh flowers … Sweet Peas!

It seems that she’d just returned having chaperoned an entire class of high-school students on a Spring Break trip. Amazingly, she appeared to have all of her mental faculties intact and a sweet attitude, too!  As for those flowers, a grateful parent presented them to her as a kind of welcome-home-I-still-can’t-believe-you-were-brave-enough-to-do-this kind of gift.

I don’t mind that she had flowers. But Sweet Peas? Clearly, homegrown from a garden within driving distance of my home? Not only were they beautiful, they were abundant. I mean gigantic blooms with perfect ruffles, and a bouquet so large this woman could barely get her hands around it.

I inched ever closer to her just to get a whiff of that fragrance. But I couldn’t appreciate it much for all the envy that flooded my soul. My garden should be overflowing with Sweet Peas at this very moment. It’s not. I am so angry at myself. You see, I procrastinated. I thought I had plenty of time to get my seeds into the ground for a glorious spring harvest of Sweet Peas.

But no … I had other things to do. Then it rained. I got busy. I lost my window of planting opportunity.

Saving money is a lot like planting. You need to do it early then you can sit back and relax. But unlike those of you who’ve lost your window of opportunity to save early and reap a big harvest come retirement, I’ll get another chance.

Next fall I will plant early and spring 2018 is going to yield a bumper crop of Sweet Peas like the world has never known. You just wait.

While you’ll never be able to catch up fully on what might have been if you’d started an aggressive savings program years ago, that should not stop you from starting now. Today.

Determine to put away the same amount (or more, never less) every month, week … or day. Just do it. You won’t notice much of anything in the beginning. But some time from now you’ll be reaping a bountiful harvest that’s going to make life much more enjoyable down the road.

There is no doubt that this whole “cheapskate” thing can be taken too far. There are matters of time, if not personal dignity, that dictate for each of us to what extent we are willing to go to maximize our resources.

That can change from time to time given the personal challenges that we face. Take dumpster diving, for example. I draw the line at any activity that requires me to climb into and root around containers filled with trash that is destined for the landfill. I just don’t go there. However, if my children were starving, I have no doubt that I would experience a miraculous change of heart. All that to say that, generally, I am not one who could easily be convinced to make dirt. The earth seems to be well endowed.

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You may have figured out by now that I am obsessed with gardening and it’s a good thing. I’m convinced this summertime hobby improves both my mental and physical wellbeing.

Effective exercise. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (doesn’t everyone check with the CDC before doing anything strenuous?), just one hour of light gardening and yard work burns 330 calories—more than lifting weights for the same amount of time. I’ll take it!

Blood pressure. Gardening scored on the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s recommendation list for battling high blood pressure. I’m sure they’re thinking the physical movement aspects of gardening. But me? Beautiful flowers and well-manicured beds calm my soul and refuel my joy like little else.

Immune system. It’s the sun, I’m sure of it. When I’m in my garden, I’m soaking up vitamin D which helps the body absorb calcium, which in turns keeps bones strong and the immune system healthy. Read more

Something weird is going on in Washington D.C. and I’m not talking politics. It’s the big, white, marble dome on the Jefferson Memorial. The caretakers of that beautiful structure are flummoxed by what to do about the grungy, gooey mold-like gunk that has begun collecting on the dome, turning it from white to a dingy, dirty mess!

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So far, experts have managed to give the yuck a name—biofilm—and determined that it’s a combo of algae, bacteria and fungi.

Here’s the problem: How to treat this icky stuff without damaging the soft marble of the Jefferson Memorial so that it remains safe for the environment and visitors alike.

When I read about this situation, of course I knew what to do. Of course! But I won’t be calling anytime soon to share my directive, which would include a helicopter with a huge sprayer and a thousand gallons of one of the most amazing products I’ve come across in a very long time. However, I am excited to share that with Ruby, who wrote:

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The best part of my job as your humble columnist is the mail I get from my loyal readers. I had to laugh today when the first two letters I pulled from my inbox requested help with ants and … sharks!

 

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Dear Mary: Once again this summer, I am dealing with an invasion of ants in my kitchen. Please advise. Exterminators are terribly expensive. Lola

Dear Lola: You’re not the only one! I’ve been hearing from so many readers who are frantic to know how to get rid of  carpenter ants, sugar ants, fire ants, acrobat ants … big ants, tiny ants and every kind of ant imaginable—even crazy ants!

Fortunately, I have a solution for you that is inexpensive, natural and completely safe to use around  kids and pets—a very effective tactic I wrote about recently, and am happy to repeat.

Food grade diatomaceous earth (DE) will take care of this problem and continue to work as long as it stays dry. It is available in most garden centers and home improvement stores and also online at Amazon. I just checked and you can get Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade 10 Lbs from Amazon with Prime free shipping for about $22. Read more