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Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - December 2, 2011

Garden tips for December

Plan ahead: Figure out what to do and when to do it

by Jack McKinnon

There is something about working with the land that inspires creativity and innovation. Ask a farmer what he or she knows how to do and they will look at the elevation of the sun to see if there is enough day left to even begin to tell you. Usually there isn't.

There is a tradition in the horticulture professions to be able to do whatever is required and to do it when it is needed and for next to nothing. Here are some tips that can help with the work ahead and keep the spirit of this great country and this season moving forward.

1. Get up before the sun comes up and go to bed when it goes down. This gives you plenty of sleep and gets you to work when you are fresh and thinking the clearest.

2. Don't stay in bed thinking about getting up. When you wake up jump out of bed, do your libations, exercise, say your prayers and whatever else you need to do and then get going on the day's work.

3. Plan the day out so you know what and when you are going to do it. If you need to milk the cows or goats then that has to come first, then breakfast, then the next thing on the list.

4. Study your subject every day. If you plan ahead for planting then you will have the ground prepared by the time the ground temperature or light or harvest timing is here. Know what is coming, put it on your calendar and work toward that.

5. Know basic and a little advanced first aid. Understand how to stop bleeding, clean a wound, disinfect scratches and treat sprains. Know when you need to ask for help. Know your emergency information like allergies, blood type, doctor's number and insurance information.

6. Learn how to fix things. Why buy a new tool when you can replace the handle yourself? I knew a Mexican man who at 70 could outwork me at 40 and when his tools broke he replaced the handles with steel pipe. You may not need to know how to weld metal but it can't hurt knowing how to wire something together, screw a screw or sharpen a knife.

7. Learn how to catch things. Gophers are a good start, then you may want to catch mice, rats, bugs, dogs, horses, rambunctious roosters and little kids (human). If you cannot catch things they will take over your lives and that is not OK.

8.Know how to build and fix a fence. There are all kinds and they all have a good job to do. Squirrels are taking over Palo Alto and they are protected so you cannot catch them. You can sure fence them out though, even if it means putting your fruit tree in a cage until you can harvest. The less food they get the less babies they will have and maybe the cats and hawks can thin out the rest.

9. If you get in an argument with someone, fix it as soon as you can. Remember, the first one to apologize for their part in the conflict is actually the winner.

10. Keep on good terms with your Mother. You only have one, and your job is to be grateful for her.

Good gardening.

Garden coach Jack McKinnon can be reached at 650-455-0687 (cell), by email at jack@ Visit his website at


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