Dreaming in February

Knee deep in snow

Seed starting

First, I'll point out the obvious: the snow cover from last week and the week before that is still here and is not going to melt because the temperatures have stayed consistently below freezing. If this keeps up, The Weekly Gardener is going to become The Weekly Totally Unrelated Subject.

Seeds

Remember these?

Candytuft from summers past. See? Maybe spring will come after all...

I can't force myself to get annoyed, as we all know, no matter how mad you get about the weather, the weather doesn't care. Just to distract myself, I checked out again this year's long range weather predictions from the Farmer's Almanac, whose accuracy is simply uncanny. If you don't believe me, check it out for yourself.

Anyway, since they got November, January and February right almost to the precise temperature, I'm going to swoon with anticipation about April and May and get lost in happy reveries of hot, dry summer days and long warm fall months blessed with rain. It seems we're going to skip the late killing frost this year, who would have thunk it?

I'll probably revisit my enthusiasm for hot dry weather when it finally comes along, although the plants are always happy to welcome it, just as long as you dote on them faithfully and water them twice a day.

Speaking of coddled summer loving plants, don't forget to pre-order bare root roses, 'tis the season!

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Activities for cold winter days when you can't believe it's seven below

Essential oils

Do you want to treat yourself to a bit of lavish overindulgence that is not illegal, immoral or fattening? Goodness knows the last thing we all need during this dull and depressing month is to match it with equally dull winter skin.

You probably already have some, if not all, of the following ingredients in your kitchen: quick oats, honey, cornmeal, lemon, milk, yogurt or cream, salt, baking soda, oil, brown sugar, eggs, fresh fruit, almond meal, a bowl and a whisk. Almost any combination of these will turn out a very effective face mask, moisturizer or exfoliating paste. Since making your own recipe is half the enjoyment of this home spa treatment, I'm not going to suggest combinations, but rather outline the skin benefits each of the ingredients provide.

Honey is a wonderful moisturizer and skin balancing agent. It is slightly more acidic than the skin's natural PH, so it works as an exfoliating agent. It draws moisture in to give the complexion a dewy appearance and supports the invisible barrier of fatty acids and beneficial bacteria that keeps skin glowing and blemish free.

Egg yolk is rich in protein, A and B vitamins, and zinc to keep acne under control, and its cholesterol content makes the transfer of said nutrients to your skin extremely easy. Egg whites shrink pores.

Milk is skin softening and dissolves dead cells, which makes it particularly beneficial for sensitive, thin or dry skin that can't tolerate scrubs. Yogurt and lemon are bleaching agents and of course lemon works wonders to restore nails to health.

Oats, cornmeal, almond meal, salt, brown sugar and baking soda are gentle and effective exfoliating agents. The first three, in combination with nourishing and moisturizing agents like milk, egg or honey, can be used both as a scrub and as a mask. Be careful with exfoliating agents if your skin is irritable or prone to broken capillaries. Sugar is slightly gritty and contains glycolic acids, which makes it a good exfoliating agent through both abrasion and chemical means.

Oil restores the skin's lipid balance. Since many make-up products are water proof, it is the safest, most effective substance to remove them. It also loosens the dirt that tends to build up on skin throughout the day and clog the pores. Your choice of oils is extensive: some prefer the lightness and highly absorbable feel of grape seed, almond, or peanut oil, but if you can tolerate the heavier quality of olive or avocado oil, their rich vitamin and mineral content makes them worth this slight annoyance factor.

Fresh fruits, like peaches, pineapples, papaya or strawberries, are slightly acidic and contain enzymes that dissolve dead skin. They act as gentle chemical peels, toners and astringents.

You might have noticed that all of the ingredients above are edible. In a pinch your morning oatmeal can double as a glorious face mask just the way it is. Just make sure it's made from scratch and not too hot.

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