Monday, May 16, 2016

Mulch, the local approach

At first glance I thought it was a hay truck, but the hay was more brunette than blond, and the bales were kind of small. Turns out it's not hay, but straw: "pine straw," which is to say, pine needles.

I would think they'd be awfully prickly, but apparently the trees and bushes don't mind. It's good for insulation, reduces evaporation, keeps the weeds down, and (at least according to the folks who promote the stuff) is a great way to beautify your landscape.

By the end of the day the bales had been slung out all around the apartment complex. Today contractors are out with rakes and spreading the contents of those bales thickly around all the bushes and trees. Each item looks like it's growing from its very own giant nest. Apparently this is the finished "look," though it will flatten in time to give the appearance I guess I had stopped noticing; last year's pine straw application.  

Have you ever gardened with pine straw? Just an East Coast thing?

Help. I can't get this to rotate. Sorry!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Summer Blues

Hey, it's my old friend, the summertime blues, my very own Seasonal Affective Disorder. This time it's a whole month early. (Usually I fight this battle in June). That may be due to the summer weather and the academic calendar; school was out almost two weeks ago. I graduated April 30.

I suppose it's possible my SAD response is rooted in some long-buried childhood trauma that happened this time of year. But I don't think so. As usual, I had a super-busy spring, and now face that "school's out, there's nothing to do, and nobody wants to play with me" dynamic. After a few weeks I'm usually OK again, and in the long run a quieter season is good for me.

A diagnosis of clinical, or major depression requires that you can check off the boxes on a number of symptoms and have experienced them most of the day, every day, for two weeks, and thankfully I'm far from that threshold even at my lowest lows. Bad days are mixed with good ones. That means drugs and doctors are not the answer...  though counseling, nutrition/exercise, and other behavioral treatments may help.

My favorite description of depression and a rather smart cure for it come from Brer Rabbit. See Depression: Its Causes and Cures (per Uncle Remus).

By the way, garden-variety depression has a much lower threshold than clinical depression, and at least once or twice a year you can put me down for that. The PHQ-2 Depression Screening Indicator asks these two questions:
  1. Over the past two weeks, have you ever felt down, depressed, or hopeless?
  2. Over the past two weeks, have you ever felt little interest or pleasure in doing things? 
Apparently, 82% of those who can give a positive response to one of those questions is depressed, and 92% of those who give positive response to both of them are (read more here).

Want do you think, is that assessment TOO sensitive? I mean, don't normal people feel down or hopeless at some point over the course of a fortnight (at least many a fortnight)? Isn't it normal to have some sad thoughts?

What I once heard described by a medical professional as the Single Item Depression Indicator is probably just as effective. Want to know if someone is depressed? Just ask them: Are you depressed? There you go, there's your answer.