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Plant Decoration

by on Saturday, September 13, 2014 8:44 under Do it Yourself.

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Herbaceous borders bring wonderful colour in summer but die down to next to nothing in the winter, so it is good to provide an evergreen structure of plants to get you through all the seasons. These can also contribute to the ‘architecture’ of the garden, creating levels, screens, and even sculpture. You can plan to have taller shrubs at the back of the borders, slowly graduating toward the front, or you can make more structured steps. You can arrange rows of small, lightly screening plants across the garden to create a living screen, and you can use specimen trees or neatly trimmed topiary as living sculpture.

The colour scheme can he planned against this basic structure. The decorative garden room is at its prettiest with plenty of colour. The structural shrubs and trees also can be chosen to make certain there is some colour all the year round — fruit trees for blossom in spring; shrub roses for summer colour and late-flowering clematis and wonderful berries, such as those of the pyracantha, in autumn, and of holly in winter. This display can he complemented by autumn-flowering bulbs such as colchicum, schizostylis, and cyclamen.

But the most variety of colours can be added with pots and containers. There is always a choice of seasonal colour at garden centres. By planting up in movable pots, you can easily put the colour where you want it and replant with new seasonal colour as the old blooms die.

Colour creates much more impact if it is kept to a theme — of blues and pinks, perhaps, or oranges and yellows. This theme can be strengthened with the use of paint and stain on nearby fences, garden buildings, furniture, or even the pots themselves.

Adding decorative colour

In a decorative garden, colour is very important. Not only can the paint you choose suggest mood and ambience, just as it does indoors, it can emphasize the colour scheme of the planting.

The surfaces you paint may be the house walls, walls of outside buildings, or the garden walls. Maybe you have a hopscotch of fencing and trellis work, all of slightly different woods and ages, that has resulted in a visual muddle. Paint them all in the same decorative finish, and you will have a much more coherent look. Or you may have newly erected trellis work that has a year or more to wait for a verdant covering of creepers. Paint it, and you will have a reasonable finish while you wait.

Colour can also be used to highlight areas. You may pinpoint an area destined for a particular colour scheme or you may wish to highlight the planting. Burnt-orange fencing would provide a stunning background for marigolds, while yellow picket would highlight the nodding heads of pansies. Painted fences and surfaces also lend colour throughout the year. They are particularly valuable in winter when many plants have died down.

Ideas with paint

Whether you want to paint your garden wall or a house wall that makes up part of the garden, there is plenty of inspiration to be had. Experiment not only with colour but with technique.

As well as straight colour, you can create depth by layering the colour. Try to add effects such as marble, stone, slate, or moss or by stenciling to a wall. The trick is to consider the scale of the garden.

These effects will have to be seen from much further away than they would be if used inside the house. Even a 10 m/30 ft garden is much larger than the average room, so everything has to be exaggerated a little.

An enchanting little pond, complete with fountain and cherub, adds colour and interest to a shady corner of the garden.

Although you may spend less time in the front garden, colourful plants growing by the door will create a welcoming impression.

Paint Practicalities

Any outdoor paint job has to be able to withstand a lot of beating from the weather, such as frosts, strong winds, torrential rain and the summer sun.

For this reason, it is best to use exterior-quality products. They are less likely to peel and flake, their colours are less likely to fade and they are specifically designed to protect the surface they are covering.

Alternatively, when decorating items such as pots and containers, which are not crucial to the garden structure, you can achieve a reasonably hard-wearing finish using a wider variety of paints over a primer, finished with a varnish.

Whatever you plan to paint or stain, it is important to use primers and varnishes that are compatible with each other, otherwise they may react adversely. Remember too that, if you have the patience and time, several thin layers of paint always produce a more enduring and better-looking finish than one thick one

Illness and Child Care

by on Tuesday, September 9, 2014 7:25 under Do it Yourself.

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Abdominal pain

This can be caused by indigestion, colic or wind, and antacids or charcoal tablets will help to relieve the symptoms quickly. Anyone suffering from abdominal pain accompanied by diarrhea, vomiting or fever should be seen by a doctor.

Bad breath

Bad breath may simply be the result of smoking or eating spicy foods, but can also be caused by gum disease. Cleaning teeth regularly and using dental floss will ensure the health of gums and, with the use of antiseptic mouth washes, the problem should disappear. If gums are not the problem, there may be a digestive disorder and you should seek the advice of a doctor.

Chickenpox

In the first few days a slight fever may occur, which can be treated with paracetamol. Try to prevent a child from scratching the spots, as this may lead to infection. A daily bath or shower will prevent the spots from becoming infected, and calamine lotion applied afterwards will help to reduce and relieve the itching.

Colds

Resting as much as possible and taking plenty of fluids will help to clear up a cold quickly. Aspirin or paracetamol will help to reduce the discomfort and lower fever, and medicines containing decongestants will ease congestion.

The herbalists’ traditional standby is an infusion of equal amounts of peppermint (Memiku piperita),elderilower (Sumbucus nigra) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium). Taken hot just before going to bed, this will induce a sweat, and if the cold is caught early enough, may stop it altogether.

Cold sores

After the initial infection, the virus that causes cold sores lies dormant in nerve cells until, under the right conditions, it re-activates and causes the familiar blistering. The blisters are highly contagious, so avoid touching them as the virus can easily be transferred. Cold-sore creams are available from chemists (drugstores). They should be applied when the symptoms of prickling start, but before blisters appear.

Constipation

Lack of dietary fiber and exercise, and an insufficient fluid intake can cause constipation. Eat plenty of foods containing bran, whole meal (wholegrain) bread, vegetables, pulses and fruits. If the problem persists, it would be advisable to see a doctor.

ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE

The main launches of alternative medicine are: acupuncture, the ancient Chinese practice of inserting needles into the body to restore the balance of vital energy, which can be used for a wide range of conditions, including headaches, sprains and even strokes. The others are osteopathy and chiropractic, which involve the manipulation of bones and joints; and homeopathy, which takes into account the patient as a whole rather than just the physical symptom and treats them accordingly. You may wish to try some of the homeopathic remedies, available at many chemists (drugstores) and health food shops, for nesting simple complaints at home, but for a full diagnosis of a serious complaint, it is essential to see a qualified homeopathic doctor.

If you do try alternative medicine for treating more serious conditions, let both your orthodox doctor and the alternative practitioner know about each other. Tell each of them what the other has prescribed and about any medicines or treatments you are already having. Make sure you see a fully qualified practitioner before embarking on any new treatment.

Convulsions

Convulsions usually affect small children and are often the result of a high fever. These are known as febrile convulsions, and will only last for a few minutes at a time. Reduce the child’s temperature by sponging with tepid water. Once the convulsion has passed, paracetamol elixir will help to reduce the fever. Always call a doctor even when the convulsion has stopped.

Coughs

Numerous cough remedies are available, depending on the type of cough, ask your pharmacist for advice. Whichever treatment you use, if a cough does not improve within a few days, seek professional help, especially for children. Breathing in steamy air can help to loosen phlegm, and inhaling a few drops of eucalyptus oil in a bowl of hot water can have a cleansing effect.

This is an area where herbs are of special benefit; if in doubt get qualified treatment. Choose from one or a mixture of the following, taken as warm infusions. Coltsfoot (Tictsilagofatfara), one of the best cough remedies, particularly for irritating, spasmodic coughs, will soothe, loosen mucus and reduce the spasm. llyssop(1-1,tssopus officinalis) is a calming and relaxing expectorant for a cough that is associated with restlessness and irritation. For a harsh, dry and painful cough always include marshmallow (Althea ojicinalis) in a mixture, to ease the soreness. Thyme (Thymus valgaris) is powerfully antiseptic and relieves a dry cough linked with a respiratory infection. As an expectorate, white horehound (Manubiunt valgare) frees up thick, sticky mucus.

Aromatherapy oils used in a steam inhalation can help a cough do its job mote effectively; they can be chosen to soothe the lining of the air passages, fight infection if needed, and loosen mucus to make it easier to be removed. Soothing oils include benzoin and lavender; thyme and eucalyptus are antiseptic; and frankincense or marjoram increase expectoration. Choose a blend that you like the smell of. Essential oils have an ancient link with water and have been used since classical times.

Diarrhea

Loose, frequent bowel movements can happen as a short term reaction to infection, inflammation or food poisoning, and as such are quite a positive, cleansing action. A common experience is holiday diarrhea, and this is usually a response to exposure to unfamiliar bacteria.

As a herbal treatment if mild food poisoning or infection has upset the bowels, try eating garlic as a natural gut disinfectant. Agrimony (Aggiimontacapawria), astringent and healing to the inflamed and swollen membrane lining the gut, is helpful in mild gastro-enteritis. Chamomile, (Chamomillarecutiut), one of the first herbs for many digestive disorders, is calming and anti-inflammatory, and so reduces the impact of tension on the digestive tract. Meadowsweet (Filipenduio ulmaria) will help to settle an acidic stomach. Ribwort (Amigo lanceolaut) has excellent toning, soothing and healing properties for use in diarrhea from many causes where there is inflammation. Thyme (Thymuscalgaris) will fight infections and improve digestion generally, settling churning, loose bowels and killing harmful bacteria.

Massage of the abdomen with antiseptic and relaxing oils like chamomile, lavender and neroli can ease diarrhea caused by minor upsets and also by anxiety and nervousness. Eucalyptus can be used in the same way if an infection is definitely suspected as the cause. Add fennel or ginger if there are griping pains with the diarrhea. For all these oils, dilute to 3 per cent in a base oil.

Causes of diarrhea vary, some foods have a laxative effect naturally, for instance prunes or figs, so over indulgence will give temporary diarrhea. Stress and anxiety often increase peristalsis and hurry bowel contents through. Repeated diarrhea may indicate more complex digestive problems and should be treated professionally. Prolonged diarrhea, especially in young children, can be quite serious as it causes dehydration; ensure adequate fluid intake and seek professional advice.

A simple yet dramatically effective rehydration drink can be made by dissolving 5 ml/1 tsp salt and 15 ml/ 1 tbsp sugar in 600 m1/I pt/21/2 cups of boiled water. Keep in the refrigerator in a screw-topped bottle and give small amounts frequently, use for a short time only.

Earache

This can be the result of a heavy cold, or of an infection of the inner or outer ear causing pain and deafness. Aspirin or paracetamol will help the pain. See a doctor if fluid builds up behind the ear causing it to rupture and the fluid to seep out.

Hot compresses over the ear are the most effective home herbal treatment; chamomile (Chamontitla recutita) maybe used as an infusion for this purpose. Taking garlic internally will help to reduce any catarrh and fight infection. If on professional examination the eardrum is not perforated, then crush some garlic into 5 m1/1 tsp of olive oil; this is warmed to blood temperature and a few drops gently inserted into the ear for a local antibiotic.

Two very good essential oils to draw the inflammation outwards as hot compresses are chamomile and lavender; or try a combination of both. The pungency of garlic and other bulbs and fruits, speeds up the metabolism and acts as an antiseptic.

Ear ache in children

Ear aches, especially in children, need to be treated quickly as an infection within the middle ear can be both painful and damaging. Speedy home help can be very useful to avoid these problems, but get medical help if the ear ache worsens or persists.

Eye infections

Conjunctivitis is a common eye infection that results in sticky eyelids and sore, bloodshot eyes. Make up a dilute solution of 1 part bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) to 20 parts of boiled and then cooled water, and use cotton-wool (absorbent cotton) swabs to gently ease the sticky ‘glue’ from the eyelids. Always use a fresh swab on each eye.

Food poisoning

The sufferer should have plenty of rest and only be given fluids for 24 hours. With an adult, call a doctor if the condition does not improve within this period. Food poisoning can be more serious with children and the elderly, so they should be watched carefully. Call a doctor straight away if a baby or young child is suffering from sickness and diarrhea.

Hay fever

Hay fever symptoms can be similar to those of a common cold. Antihistamine medicines can be prescribed by your doctor, and air purifiers in the house can help to reduce airborne irritants.

Headaches

A doctor should be seen for long-lasting, acute and recurring headaches, as they could be caused by another ailment. However, a rest in a quiet, and possibly darkened, room, a cold compress on the forehead and an analgesic will be sufficient to deal with most headaches.

Indigestion

This can be caused by eating too large a meal or rich and spicy foods, or by eating in a hurry or just before going to bed. For immediate relief take antacids. Alternatively, 2.5 ml/1/2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) dissolved in a glass of water will relieve indigestion.

Herbal teas may well sort out indigestion. Choose from the following. Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita) relieves the effects of over-eating, and being in a stressed state. Lemon balm settles a churning stomach due to nervous indigestion, whether related to meals or not. Meadowsweet is good for acid indigestion, especially if accompanied by some looseness in the bowels. Peppermint (Meruha piperita) is good for indigestion coupled with flatulence and bloated abdomen, or even nausea. Also think of taking slippery elm (Minus fiduct) if indigestion pains are persistent, either 5 ml/1 tsp of the powder thoroughly blended in a cupful of water, or the pure tablets, with one or more meals, to soothe the stomach.
A warm compress of some essential oils, including chamomile or lavender, may give some relief. For mild indigestion, try gently massaging a 2 per cent dilution of either of these into the abdomen.

Influenza

The symptoms of influenza often include fever, aching muscles, nausea, headaches, a cough, a sore throat and a running nose. A doctor may prescribe antibiotics to prevent a secondary infection from causing additional problems. Otherwise, rest in bed, plenty of fluids and an analgesic: taken every 4 hours should help.

Note: the first symptoms of meningitis can be similar to those of influenza. If the symptoms shown are accompanied by vomiting, a stiff and sore neck and joints, a skin rash, bruising or some patchiness of the skin and an aversion to bright lights, call a doctor at once.

Insomnia

Irregular working hours, depression, stress or being in an unfamiliar room can lead to sleeplessness. A doctor can prescribe drugs to help, but try to restrict their use as it is easy to become dependent on them.

A milky drink before going to bed can be relaxing, avoid alcohol and stimulants, such as coffee and tea, as these will all only exacerbate the problem. A walk during the day in fresh air and a warm bath before going to bed may also help.

Measles

All children should be immunized against measles, but can suffer from the disease before then if they come into contact with an infected person. A blocked nose, fever and conjunctivitis are the first symptoms, followed a few days later by a red, blotchy rash spreading from the head down wards. Call your doctor to see whether the child should be examined. Otherwise, give plenty of fluids and paracetamol elixir to reduce the fever.

Mumps

This is a viral infection of the parotid glands, which are situated just in front of and below the ear. Discomfort and fever can be reduced by giving either paracetamol or aspirin, or paracetamol elixir to young children. The virus is usually infectious for up to 6 days before the swelling appears, and for 10 days after the onset of the swelling. Adult men can suffer from swollen testes and should visit a doctor.

Nausea and vomiting

The remedy of first choice is probably ginger (Zingher officinalis); either take frequent sips of a weak tea, or 10 drops of tincture in a little water, or chew a small piece of fresh ginger. Another possibility, say, for travel sickness, is to chew a little crystallized ginger, or drink flat ginger ale. Other potentially useful herbs to settle the stomach are chaitunnile (Chamomilla recurita), croon balm (Melissa officinalis) and peppermint (Mentha piperita); try weakish herb teas. All these herbs aid digestion and so can help to sort out the causes of nausea as well as the symptoms themselves.
Causes of nausea or vomiting can usually be linked to specific things, eating too much rich food, or drinking too much alcohol, anxiety or travel are common triggers. Continual feelings of nausea indicate greater disturbance; again this may be obvious as in 1110Minp, sickness of pregnancy. Where the cause is not obvious, and if symptoms are not quickly cleared up with self help, get medical advice as soon as possible. Children in particular can easily become dehydrated.

Occupational hazards

Many occupations involve excessive use of the voice, e.g. teaching, and sore throats are common place. The regular use of herbal gargles can ease this discomfort, and help you prevent loss of voice or an actual infection. Keep the throat moist by drinking liquids.

Parasites

At one time or another, most children and some adults suffer from parasites.
Fleas: are usually passed on to their host by cats, birds or other pets, or in infected bedding, carpets or upholstery. Treat animals with a veterinary insecticide. Where flea bites have occurred on your skin, use an antiseptic wash to prevent infection. Spray throughout the house with a flea killer and vacuum thoroughly.

Head lice: these are tiny brown insects with 6 legs. They feed on blood and lay eggs (known as nits) which are attached to the base of the hair shaft. They are usually found behind the ears and cause irritation. If head lice are detected, the whole family should be treated with insecticidal shampoo.

Tapeworm: eggs can be seen in feces. Consult your doctor, who will prescribe a suitable medicine.

Threadworms: live in the lower bowel and lay eggs around the anus, causing itchiness. The eggs are minute, but occasionally a fine, thread-like worm may be seen around the anus or on bedding. A doctor will prescribe a suitable medicine to eradicate them.

Ticks: these live in long grass and will latch on to humans and animals to suck blood. Remove with tweezers, using a rocking motion to release them then wipe the area with an antiseptic.

Sore throats

With increased airborne pollution, smoky, dry atmospheres in air-conditioned buildings and so on, sore throats are more and more common. The irritation can range from an annoying tickle to a rasping soreness, and may be linked to other infections. Where the throat inflammation, or pharyngitis, also extends down to the larynx, the voice may be affected.

If possible, use the following herbs as tinctures for gargling; if unavailable then use cooled infusions: agrimony (Agrimorda eupatoria), sage (Salviaofficinalis) and thyme (Thymus vulgaris) are all astringent, toning up the membranes, the latter two also being quite antiseptic. For a more powerful effect try using a tincture of myrrh (Cutraniphura mulmol), together with one or more of the others. If making infusions, add two liquorice sticks to give a more soothing effect, or else use marshmallow (Althea officinalis) leaf in equal amounts with the other herb(s).

With essential oils such as benzoin or thyme, use steam inhalations. One drop only of essential oil of lemon on2.5 ml(1/2, us!) of honey acts as a local antiseptic, as well as being soothing.

Preparing for Paperhanging

by on Thursday, September 4, 2014 17:45 under Home & Garden.

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Unrestricted access is a must for paperhanging. When working on just the walls, move all the furniture to the centre of the room and cover it with dust sheets (drop cloths). When tackling the ceiling too, it is best to remove all the furniture completely if there is space to store it elsewhere in the house; otherwise group it at one end of the room so that most of the ceiling can be done, and then move it to the other end to complete the job.

Next, take down curtains and Hinds (drapes and shades) and remove wall-or ceiling-mounted tracks. Turn off the electricity supply at the mains, then disconnect and remove wall or ceiling light fittings as necessary, covering the bare wire ends thoroughly with insulating tape before restoring the power supply to the rest of the house. In the USA, ceiling roses, wall switch plates and socket outlets can be unscrewed and removed without disconnecting the wall receptacles or switches. Isolate, drain, disconnect and remove radiators, and unscrew their wall brackets. Call in a professional electrician or plumber for these jobs if you are unsure of how to do them safely.

Take down pictures, and remove other wall-mounted fittings such as shelves and display units. To make it easy to locate the screw holes afterwards, push a matchstick (wooden match) into each one.

Start paper hanging at the centre of a chimney beam (fireplace projection) if the wall covering has a large, dominant pattern. Otherwise start next to the door so the inevitable pattern break can be disguised above it.

Work outwards from the centre of a dormer window so the design is centred on the window recess.

If the walls and ceiling are at present painted, they need washing down to remove dirt, grease, smoke stains and the like. If they are decorated with another wall covering, this will have robe removed and any defects in the surface put right. Finally, they need sizing — treating with a diluted coat of wallpaper adhesive to even out the porosity of the surface and to help to improve the ‘slip’ of the pasted wall covering during hanging.

Measuring up

The next job is to estimate how many rolls of wall covering will be needed to decorate the room. If using a material that comes in standard-sized rolls, simply measure the room dimensions and refer to the charts given here for the number of rolls needed to cover the walls and ceiling. They allow for atypical door and window area; fewer rolls are needed for a room with large picture windows or wide door openings. If using a paper-backed cloth covering which comes in a non-standard width, measure up each wall, and ask the supplier to estimate what length of material you will need; such materials are too expensive to waste. Walls are sufficient roils with the same hatch coverings in the USA vary in width number; colours may not match exactly and length but arc usually available in-between hatches.

Ovaries

by on Thursday, August 28, 2014 15:14 under Health.

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The pelvis contains two ovaries in the female, each measuring about 3 cm in length by 1 – 1.5 cm in width. Until the onset of puberty, they remain inactive, but then come to life, being stimulated by hormones called gonadotrophins produced by the pituitary gland. These start to act on the ovaries about two years before the menarche, the time when puberty occurs.
The gonadotrophins consist of two separate hormones. one called the follicle- stimulating hormone (FSH), and the other the luteinising hormone (LH). Both are necessary for the natural progression of ovulation that occurs each month. and pregnancy.
The ovaries contain a large number of Graafian follicles. Each menstrual month, under stimulation from FSH, one of these matures, comes to the surface of the ovary and ruptures in the process known as ovulation. The cavity left fills with fluid, and under the influence of both FSH and LH develops into a white organ called the corpus luteum, which itself starts to excrete a hormone called progesterone. The aim of this hormone is to prepare the uterus for a possible pregnancy. If pregnancy does not occur, the corpus luteum tends to atrophy after 10 days, but it persists for about seven months if pregnancy ensues.
FSH and LH are both produced by the anterior lobe of the pituitary, an endocrine gland located at the base of the brain. Both of these hormones may be measured by the modern methods of radioimmunoassay. They are in peak concentrations at the time of ovulation.
In the past gonadotrophins have been used in women with infertility problems. Their use has sometimes resulted in multiple foetuses in the resulting pregnancies. The use of these hormones for infertility has been largely replaced by bromocriptine that lowers plasma prolactin. a hormone known to prevent ovulation. With prolactin levels reduced, ovulation can return to normal and pregnancy ensue, if this was the basic cause of the infertility problem. LH is very similar to chorionic gonadotrophin, a hormone produced during pregnancy by the placenta (later the afterbirth).
This product can readily be measured in the urine of the pregnant woman. Indeed, most of the simple home  “do-it-yourself” immunochemical pregnancy tests depend on detecting this substance in the woman’s urine. It may be detected about six weeks after the last menstrual period in the event of pregnancy having become established. The ovary secretes important hormones itself.
Oestrogens arc produced by the ovary and corpus luteum in direct response to FSH and LH. Oestrone and oestradiol are the primary hormones, and they readily convert into oestrogen. Oestriol is a breakdown product of oestrogen, and has its main effect on the vagina and cervix, whereas oestrogen mainly acts on the uterus.
During pregnancy, oestriol is secreted, and its detection in the urine is a handy guide as to the efficiency of the placenta in carrying out its work. These hormones have confusing names,but although they are only of academic interest to the reader, they are very important in gynaecology and obstetrics, for they give excellent guidance to the obstetrician as to the progress of the pregnancy. Progesterone is secreted by the corpus luteum under stimulation from LH.
Progesterone has a depressive effect on the higher centres, and has often been incriminated for the common sensations of irritability and depression that trouble many women in the week or so prior to normal menstruation. It may also increase the risk of attacks in epileptics, and even bouts of kleptomania or suicide in susceptible women.
Fortunately, medication is now able to overcome most of these problems. It is also responsible for the outcropping of acne and facial pimples that is notorious at this time, and complained about most volubly by teenage girls. Although the contraceptive pill will often reduce the mental changes, it will tend at the same time to make the skin problems worse, particularly if the pill has a fairly high level of progesterone.
Tests for ovarian function are possible. The vaginal smear takes cells from the upper walls of the vagina, and shows a typical pattern if hormonal secretions are normal or otherwise. The urine may be checked for the metabolites (breakdown products) of oestrogen. The cervical mucus can be examined, and cells will show a typical pattern if hormonal secretions are normal. Similar tests are available for a check on progesterone secretion, the pregnanediol test, and others.
Often taking scrapings from the walls of the uterus (as during a D and C examination) can also yield valuable information on the hormonal levels of the ovaries.

Plaster Wall Repair

by on Monday, August 25, 2014 14:02 under Do it Yourself.

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Plasterboard (gypsum board) is an immensely versatile material for lining walls and ceilings, as it provides a smooth surface for any finish and also has useful sound-deadening and fireproofing properties. The one thing it does not do very well is to resist impacts, and resulting holes cannot simply be patched with filler (spackle)because the board’s strength will have been lost at the point of damage. The solution is either to strengthen the board or to replace it section altogether.

Very small holes can he disguised with self-adhesive scrim rape and cellulose filler, but holes more than about 5 cm/2 in across need a more substantial repair. Use an off cut of plasterboard and cut a piece slightly narrower than the hole width and twice as long as its height to use as a patch. Pierce a hole in it, thread through a piece of string, tie one end to a nail and pull this against the face of the patch. Then hurter some plaster or filler on to the other face of the patch and push it into the hole, keeping hold of the string with the other hand. Position the patch against the inner face of the plasterboard, pulling on the string to help the filler stick it in place. When it has stuck fast, fill the hole and cut off the string.

For larger holes — a foot through the ceiling, for example — in plasterboard and (in older properties) lath-and-plaster surfaces, the only solution is to cut out the damaged piece and nail on a new section in its place. You will need to fix supports around the edges of the opening where you have cut out the damaged section. Fill the cut edges, apply joint tape to hide them and then skim over the patch with a little plaster to complete the repair.

Patching Small Holes in Plasterboard

1 Cut a plasterboard patch slightly longer and narrower than the hole, and thread a length of string with a nail tied on through it hole in its centre.

2. Butter some plaster or filler (spackle) on to the edges of the patch and feed it end -on into the hole, keeping hold of the string with the other hand.

3. Pull the string to hold the patch against the rear face of the board, then fill the recess with either plaster or filler and cut off the string.

4. Complete the repair by applying a skim coat of plaster over the patch. Flick water on to the plaster with a brush and polish it smooth with a steel float.

Patching a Larger Hole in Plasterboard

1. It the plasterboard surface is more extensively damaged, cut through it with sharp knife back to the adjacent wall studs or ceiling joists.

2. Cut across to the stud or joist centres, then make 2 vertical cuts down the centre of the stud or joist to free the damaged panel and remove it.

3. Cut 2 strips of wood to fit between the studs/joists, and screw or nail them into place so that they will support the edges of the main board and the patch.

4. Cut a plasterboard patch to match the section removed, and nail it into place. Fill and tape the joints and skim plaster over the repair, then polish with a steel float.

5. If the wood laths are split or broken, pull them away from the surface. Remove any loose sections of plaster from around the site of the damage.

Undescended Testes

by on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 9:21 under Health.

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Undescended Testes happens fairly frequently. Normally the testes descend from the body to the scrotum shortly before birth. But occasionally they seem to get lost. They may partially descend, then return to the body. This may keep on occurring. Alternatively, the testes may have developed in an abnormal manner, and are situated in some different place. This is termed an ectopic testis.

The testes belong in the scrotum from birth onwards. If they remain in the body, as age progresses, the sperm-producing capacity is adversely affected and infertility may take place in later life.

The other may be very hazardous. Testes remaining in the body have a high risk of turning cancerous. What’s more, it may be a very serious, rapidly growing and spreading type.

Undescended Testes Treatment

If a parent notices the testes are missing or come and go, referral to the doctor is essential, and the sooner the better.

What treatment is carried out? This will vary with the patient and the exact diagnosis. Some doctors prefer to give hormonal treatment a trial run first. They administer the hormone chorionic gonadotrophin, and this is occasionally successful in bringing the testes into the scrotum.

What if this fails?

And fail it often does. Then a surgical approach is taken. This is invariably successful. The testes are found and anchored securely into the scrotum. The operation is quite straightforward; the patient rapidly recovers, and usually the beneficial effect is lifelong. It is a highly successful procedure. But as you said earlier, the sooner a parent takes action, the better. Never neglect any disorder in this region. It’s often quite obvious, and a check is very simple.

Using Cushions

by on Wednesday, July 30, 2014 16:18 under Health.

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Cushions are the quickest and least expensive way of changing the mood and style of a room, so it is surprising that we don’t all have cupboards(closets) bursting with alternative covers awaiting their chance to be the main feature in response to our prevailing mood. It is difficult to imagine having too many cushions because each one adds to the atmosphere of comfort and relaxation, which is a priority in any living space.

Use the colour, texture, shape and size of cushions to add interest to a room. The same room with a plain sofa, carpet and neutral wall colour can be transformed by an arrangement of Chinese embroidered and tasselled satin cushions, rough homespun earthy-coloured bolsters or frilled red gingham squares mixed with patchworks and cotton lace. The mood each time will be entirely different. Just a few other options to consider are Provencal prints, Indian hand-blocked cottons, rich brocades, velvets and satins, or tactile velvets.

Cushions with borders (Oxford pleated or gathered), edges adorned with colourful piping or braids, appliquéd patterns and pictures created from embroidery or fabric paint and patchwork covers: the ways that cushions can he adorned are limitless. Mix similar patterns but with different colours, or similar colours but a variety of patterns. Look at the many textured fabrics that add a tactile pleasure to the visual: cottons, suede, leather, velvet, silk, wool; each has a place in the sitting room.

Large, square cushions mixed with smaller, rectangular or round ones can be piled very successfully one on top of the other. Bolsters, too, can be used as the base for a luxurious mix of cushions. The secret is to use them to fill the angle between a sofa sear and back or bed mattress and head. Then pile other cushions on top to make a gentle slope at the perfect angle for an afternoon cup of tea or a long and absorbing hook. Wrap a bolster in a lace-edged tablecloth, tying up the ends with ribbon, Christmas-cracker style, so that they spill out over the edge of the sofa, or use velvet-edged ribbons, fancy cords and tassels for flamboyant Renaissance look.

A comfortable cross between a bolster and loose cushions can be made by stitching together a row of same-sized cushions. Use cushions covered in the same fabric or choose a mixture of plain covers and co-ordinating prints. Using a strong thread, sew one edge of each cushion together to make a single long, jointed cushion that is the same width as the sofa or bed.

Look out for fabric-remnant bins because they usually contain a wealth of short lengths that arc ideal for cushion covers. It is also worth looking in haberdashery (notions) departments for dressmaker’s trimmings such as fringing, lace, braids, ribbons and beadwork borders. These are not as hard for caring as upholsterer’s trimmings but cost a fraction of the price and are perfectly adequate for cushions. Don’t despair if you don’t like sewing as covers can be made just as effectively using iron-on hemming tape, double-sided carpet tape or pins and knots.

Few things immediately suggest luxury and comfort as easily as white linen cushions do, and they are well worth the investment.

If you have always thought that cushions just belonged in the living room and pillows were only for sleeping on, then perhaps it is time to consider giving cushions a bit of bed space too. A cushion can be merely decorative and it can be highly pleasing to dress up your bed during the day, particularly if it is going to be on show, and then removed at night. This sort of bed dressing is fun when decorating, because there will be periods when the room stands empty but still needs to look welcoming.

In addition to the essential equipment needed for creating any form of soft furnishing, there are specific items to help make cushions:

Corner turner: this tool is useful for turning points and corners of cushions. Embroidery hoop: this consists of two hoops that fit snugly inside each other. Made of wood or plastic, with a spring closure, it is used for both hand and machine embroidery.

Fabric dyes: hot and cold dyes are available. Fabrics with natural fibres, such as cotton and linen, can be dyed most successfully.

Fabric paints: there is a wide range of easy-to-use products. Choose water-based paints that can be fixed (set) with an iron. The paints can be mixed and applied with a brush to create an unlimited number of colours.

Pair of compasses: use these for drawing circles. If you do not have your own compasses, draw around cups for small circles; to draw larger circles use plates or bowls.

Watering Plants

by on Monday, July 14, 2014 10:32 under Do it Yourself.

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Feeding really does pay dividends. If you see a garden with particularly lush and healthy-looking plants, the chances are they have been well fed and supplied with sufficient water. Giving plants sufficient nutrients will ensure strong growth, abundant flowering and fruit production, and make them healthy enough to withstand pests and diseases.

Types of fertilizer

There are two groups of fertilizer: organic and inorganic. The organic ones are derived from natural ingredients, such as other plants (seaweed or nettles), blood, fish or bone, and generally last longer, although they tend to become available to the plant only slowly after application. Inorganic fertilizers are mineral-based and breakdown more quickly after application.

Feeding used to be a job that had to be tackled several times during the course of a season, and sonic enthusiasts still feed their plants once a week or even more frequently with liquid feeds. If you use modem slow-release and controlled-release fertilizers, however, feeding is something you can do just a couple of times a year.

Slow and controlled release fertilizers both allow the nutrients to seep out into the soil over a period of months, but the latter are affected by soil temperature. Nutrients are only released when the soil is warm enough for growth in most plants.

Liquid feeds are more instant in effect and still have a use, being invaluable when plants need a quick pick-me-up. This is especially true of feeds, which are applied directly to the leaves rather than the soil around the roots, and are absorbed straight into the plant’s system. These can have an effect within 3-4 days, compared with up to 21 days for a general granular fertilizer applied around the roots.

Applying fertilizer

In an established garden, you can apply fertilizer in granular form as a dressing around the plants early in the season, or in soluble form as the plants are watered during the spring. For a new plant, mix fertilizer with the soil as it is replaced in the planting hole around the root hall. Lawns will benefit from dressings of mixed weed-killer and fertilizer in the spring and autumn, keeping the grass healthy, and helping fight the effects of any dry periods in summer and cold spells in winter.

Watering

Lack of attention when plants are firstplanted can easily kill them if there hasnot been much rain recently.

The best water to use is rain water. If possible, use water butts or tanks connected to the down-water pipe to collect water that falls on the roof of the house, garage or any other building. Tap water can be used but it is best poured first into a barrel and left to breathe before you use it. This allows time for any chlorine used in the treatment of the water to be given off.

Beware hard water that comes from chalky (alkaline) areas. Although your soil may he acidic, the water from your tap may he collected, where the soil is alkaline. Hard water should not be used on ericaceous (lime-hating) plants.

The most important aspect of watering is to always be certain to give the plants a good soaking. A sprinkle on the surface is not enough. If in doubt, dig well into the soil and see how far the moisture has penetrated through the surface.

There are several methods of watering, but a can is probably best for a small number of plants. Alternatively, a garden hose with a spray attachment can be used. For a large number of plants use a sprinkler or dribble hose.

Feeding containers

Container plants require supplementary nutrients to keep them in good health. The quickest way to feed your lawn is with a wheeled spreader and you can usually adjust the delivery rate. Test the rate on a measured area of path first, then sweep up the fertilizer and weigh it to make sure the application rare is correct.

WATERING PLANTS

1 Give the plant a good soaking, covering the whole area around the plant where the roots will he. A watering can is ideal for a small area, such as around a newly planted plant that is still getting established.

A controlled- or slow-release fertilizer added to the potting soil at planting time will keep most containers blooming well all summer. Follow the instructions for application rates.

The N:P:K ratio

On the back of the pack of fertilizer, there should he some information about the nutrient it contains, the three most important elements being nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Nitrogen promotes healthy growth of leaves and shoots, phosphorus is needed for healthy root development and potassium improves flowering and fruit production. The ratio is given on the pack because certain plants need some elements in a greater quantity than others.

FEEDING THE LAWN

1. The quickest way to feed your lawn is with a wheeled spreader and you can usually adjust the delivery rate. Test the rate on a measured area of path first, then sweep up the fertilizer and weight to make sure the application rate is perfect.

2 An easy way to give your lawn a liquid boost is to use a sprinkler system into which you can introduce special fertilizer pellets. It will feed the lawn as it waters.

3 A dribble or seep hose is an efficient method of supplying water to exactly where it is needed. It is snaked around those plants that need to be watered and left permanently in position. It can be covered with a bark mulch, to hide it. When connected, it provides a slow dribble of water.

WATERING PLANTS

1. Give the plant a good soaking, covering the whole area around the plant where the roots will be. A watering can is ideal for as small area, such as around a newly plant that is still growing and establishing.

2. If you need to water a large number of plants, a sprinkler is a good method of providing water. To make certain that you provide sufficient water, place a jam jar or other container within the sprayed area, to give a rough idea of how much water has been delivered. It should be at least 2.5 cm/1 in full if the watering is to do any good.

3. A hose-ended sprayer like this is a good way to to apply a soluble fertilizer for a quick response. You can use this type of hose-ended sprayer for beds and borders as well as for the lawn.

FEEDING BEDS AND BORDERS

1. Most established plants, benefit from annual feeding. Apply a slow- or controlled-release fertilizer in spring or early summer, sprinkling it around the bushes. Sprinkle it our further where most of the active root growth is.

2. Hoe it into the surface so that it penetrates the root area more quickly.

3. Unless rain is expected, water it in. This will make the fertilizer active more quickly in dry conditions

Planning Your Garden

by on Saturday, July 12, 2014 9:29 under Home & Garden.

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Simply moving a few plants is rarely enough to transform an uninspiring garden into something special. It is worth having a goal, a plan to work to, even if you have to compromise along the way. Bear in mind that you may be able to stagger the work and cost over several seasons, but having a well thought out design ensures the garden evolves in a structured way.

Use the checklist to clarify your needs, then decide in your own mind the style of garden you want. Make a note of mundane and practical considerations, like where to dry the clothes and put the refuse, plus objects that need to be screened, such as a compost area, or an unpleasant view.

Labour-saving tips

To minimize cost and labour, retain as many paths and areas of paving as possible, but only if they don’t compromise the design.

If you want to enlarge an area of paving, or improve its appearance, it may be possible to pave over the top and thus avoid the arduous task of removing the original.

Modifying the shape of your lawn is easier than digging it up and relaying a new one.

Garden styles

The garden styles outlined here are not exhaustive, and probably none of them will be exactly right for your own garden, but they will help you to clarify your thoughts.

Formal

Parterres and knot gardens: Shaped beds and compartments originally designed to be viewed from above. Knot herb gardens, such as ones based on intricate Elizabethan designs, can be stunning but are expensive to create, slow to establish and labour intensive.

Formal herb gardens: Easier to create than knot gardens. Seek inspiration from illustrated herb garden books -both old and new. It is easier to create one if based on a theme.

Formal rose gardens: Easy to create and can look good in first season. For year-round interest under plant with spring bulbs and edge beds with seasonal flowers.

Paved gardens: Particularly suitable for small gardens. Plant in open areas left in paving, up walls and in raised beds and containers.

Courtyard gardens: Floor tiles and white walls (to reflect light), together with some lush green foliage, an architectural’ tree or large shrub and the sound of running water will transform a backyard into a delightful courtyard garden.

A modern interpretation of an Elizabethan knot garden, with gravel and brick paving to keep weeding to a minimum

Traditional designs: A small formal garden, with rectangular lawn, straight herbaceous border plus rose and flowerbeds is a popular choice for growing a variety of summer bedding and other favourites.

Informal

Cottage gardens: The juxtaposition of old-fashioned’ plants and vegetables creates a casual but colourful look. Place brick paths or stepping stones through the beds.

Wildlife gardens: Even a tiny plot can attract small animals and insects. Planting must provide shelter and food, while a water feature will encourage aquatic wildlife.

Woodland gardens: Shrubs and small deciduous trees suit a long narrow garden and are effective for screening and dividing up the garden. Under-plant with naturalized bulbs, woodland spring flowers and ferns.

Meandering meadows: Where there is an attractive view, a sweep of grass between curved borders can merge with an unobstructed boundary. If the view is unappealing, curve the border round so that the lawn finishes beyond the point of view.

Decorative features

Barbecue

Beds

Borders, for herbaceous Borders, for shrubs Borders, mixed

Birdbath

Bright beds and borders: If plants are more important than design, use sweeping beds and borders with lots of shrubs and herbaceous plants to give shape. Use focal points such as ornaments, garden seats or birdbaths to create a strong sense of design.

Distant influences

Japanese gardens: Raked sand and grouped stones translate well to a small space, making a confined area appear larger. Plants can be kept to a minimum. Stone and gravel gardens: These materials can be used to create a dry-river bed feel. Minimal maintenance if you select drought-tolerant plants.

Functional features

Compost area

Garage

Tool shed

Necessities

Children’s play area Climbing frame

Clothes drying area Dustbin (trash can) area Sandpit

Swing

In most cities and urban environments, back gardens are small and shady, but these factors need not restrict the garden’s potential, as these great splashes of colour show.

Choosing a style

The most comfortable and visually pleasing gardens are usually the result of careful planning, even those with an informal feel to them. Formal gardens appeal to those who delight in crisp, neat edges, straight lines and a sense of order. Many traditional suburban gardens are formal in outline, with rectangular lawns flanked by straight flower borders, and perhaps rectangular or circular flower beds cut into them. Such rigid designs are often dictated by the drive for the car and straight paths laid by the house builder.

The informality of the cottage garden and the ‘wilderness’ atmosphere of a wild garden are difficult to achieve in a small space, especially in a town. However, with fences well clothed with plants so that modern buildings do not intrude, an informal garden can work even here.

Professional garden designers are frequently influenced by classic styles from other countries, especially Japan, but amateurs are often nervous of trying such designs themselves. Provided you start with the clear premise that what pleases you is the only real criterion of whether something works, creating a particular foreign style can be great fun. Adapt the chosen style to suit climate, landscape and the availability of suitable plants and materials.

CHOICES CHECKLIST

Before you draw up your design, make a list of requirements for your ideal garden. You will almost certainly have to abandon or defer some of them, but at least you will realize which features are most important to you.

Use this checklist of suggested features at the rough plan stage, when decisions have to be made… and it is easy to change your mind!

Herb garden

Lawn (mainly for decoration)Lawn (mainly for recreation)Ornaments

Patio/terrace Pergola

Pond

Raised beds

Summer house

Sundial

Vegetable plot

Plant Potting

by on Wednesday, June 18, 2014 0:58 under Do it Yourself.

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Never be in too much of a hurry to put a plant into a larger container. Plants do not appreciate having their roots disturbed, and any damage to them will result in some check to growth. Some types of houseplants also prefer to be in small pots.

Re-potting should never simply be an annual routine. It is a job to be thought about annually, but should not actually be done unless a plant needs it. Young plants require potting on much more frequently than older ones. Once a large specimen is in a big pot, it may be better to keep it growing by re-potting into another pot of the same size, by top-dressing (see below right), or simply by additional feeding.

When re-potting is necessary

The sight of roots growing through the base of the pot is not in itself a sign that re-potting is immediately necessary. If you have been watering the plants through a capillary mat, or have placed the pot in a cache-pot, some roots will inevitably have grown through the base to seek the water.

If you are in doubt, knock the plant out of its pot. To remove the root-ball easily, invert the pot and knock the rim on a hard surface while supporting the plant and compost (potting soil) with your hand. It is normal for a few roots to run around the inside of the pot, but if there is also a solid mass of roots it is time to pot on. There are several ways to re-pot a plant, but the 2 methods described here are among the best

POT-IN-POT METHOD

1 Prepare the new pot as in step 1 of the Traditional Method if you are using a clay pot. However, if you are using a plastic pot and you intend to use a capillary watering mat, do not cover the drainage hole at all.

WHEN TO RE-POT

A mass of thick roots growing through the bottom of the pot (top) is an indication that it is time to move the plant into a larger one. Equally, a mass of roots curled around the edge of the pot (above) is a sign that it is time for a larger container.

The vast majority of plants on sale are grown in plastic pots, which are inexpensive, light and remain largely free of algae. Plastic pots do become brittle with age, however, and even a slight knock can break them, whereas a clay pot will not break unless you actually drop it on a hard surface.

TOP-DRESSING

1. Once plants are in large pots, perhaps 25-30 cm (10-12 in) in diameter, continual potting on into a larger pot may not be practical. Try removing the top few centimetres (inches) of compost (potting soil), loosening it first with a small hand fork. Replace this with fresh potting compost of the same type. This, plus regular feeding, will enable most plants to be grown in the same pot for many years.

2. Put in a little dampened compost (potting soil). Insert the existing pot (or an empty one of the same size), ensuring that the soil level will be 12 mm/1/2 in below the top of the new pot when filled.

3. Pack more compost firmly between the inner and outer pots, pressing it down gently with your fingers. This will create a mould when you remove the inner pot.

4. Remove the inner pot, then take the plant from its original container and place it in the hole formed in the centre of the new compost. Gently firm the compost around the root-ball, and water thoroughly.

TRADITIONAL METHOD

1. Prepare a pot that is either 1 or 2. sizes larger than the original and, if the pot is a clay one, cover the drainage hole with pieces of broken pot or a few pieces of chipped hark.

2. Water the Plant to he re-potted, and leave it for a few minutes. Remove the root-ball from the old pot, either by pulling gently on the plant, or by inverting the pot and tapping the rim on a hard surface.

3. Place a little compost (potting soil) in the base of the new pot, then position the root-ball so that it is at the correct height. If it sits too low or too high, adjust the amount of compost in the base.

4. Trickle more compost around the sides, turning the pot as you work. It is a good idea to use the same kind of compost -peat- (peat-moss) or loam-based — as used in the original pot.

5. Gently firm the compost with your fingers. Make sure that there is a gap of about 12 mm-2.5 cm (1/2-1 in) between the top of the compost and the rim of the pot, to allow for watering. Water thoroughly.

POTTING ON, POTTING UP, RE-POTTING

Potting up is what happens the first time a seedling or cutting is given its own individual pot.

Potting on is the action of re-planting the root-hall in a larger pot.

Re-potting is sometimes taken to mean replacing the plant in a pot of the same size, but with the bulk of the compost replaced, if the plant cannot he moved into a larger pot.