Cooking / Gardening / Insights / Making life better

On cleaning house, recipe for chocolate avocado pudding, the seed viability list [Column #1337]

Last Tuesday, Cindy and Bob (not their real names) participated in an event they call ‘Tackle Tuesday’ where they select a room and clean it from top to bottom. They both love to hike… I don’t suppose they would spend a sunny day indoors, but as luck would have it, Tuesday weather was perfect for tackling… the bedroom.

They emptied the drawers and wiped them down. Clothes were sorted into piles: Keepers and giveaways. All the furniture, bed included, was moved for easy access to dust bunnies.

‘Tackle Tuesday’ has nothing to do with hunkering down, COVID style, like so many people did during 2020. “I’ve never cleaned the top of my fridge so many times in my life,” a friend remarked later that summer.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Is moving furniture difficult? Try “Super Sliders.”[/perfectpullquote]

[Dear reader, This article you’re reading was originally published in the Kodiak Daily Mirror, the hometown newspaper for Kodiak, Alaska. GO HERE  for the link to access the archive page for past columns, written each week since 1986].

Cleaning house is a universal happening…
  • Around the world, cleaning house is considered essential to starting the new year on the right foot. For example, one Celtic tradition is to sweep the floors from the outside of the room inward. (Apparently, this prevents any good energy from escaping out the front door).
  • In China, cleaning the house before Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival) involves cleaning the grounds, the walls, and every corner of the house.
  • Cleaning house also means to “pulverize the opposition” as in, “Madeline cleaned house at the chess tournament last weekend.”
  • And there is a slang definition for cleaning house, as found in the Urban Dictionary: “To eliminate or discard what is undesirable.”
  • Cleaning house can mean scrubbing floors and organizing the garage, as well as adopting better eating habits and replacing bad habits such as anger or restlessness with positive ones.

I’ll I assume you know how to clean and straighten your own house so I won’t go there. But I will tell you that as a B&B owner, I thank my sister every day for sending me a copy of Speed Cleaning, by Jeff Campbell. Filled with dozens of time and back-saving tips, it deserves to be a New York Times bestseller.

So let’s tackle a few variations of “cleaning house”…

Venetian blinds ‘plant markers’

If you’re a gardener and the proud owner of an old or broken set of Venetian blinds, be happy! Cut them into 3 to 6-inch strips to make markers for transplants. Speaking of markers, a fellow gardener uses old wooden spoons to mark plants.

“My kitchen container always seems to sprout extra spoons and I pick them up at garage sales. My husband laughed when he saw the wooden spoons in the garden. ‘Wow,’ he said, ‘look how they’ve grown. Just last year they were little teaspoons.’”

Eating to live

A few years ago, a friend suffered a mini-stroke. Mini-strokes, also known as TIA’s (Transient Ischemic Attack), are caused by a temporary artery blockage in the brain.

The doctor told her, “Your blood work looks pretty good, but I think we can do better. I suggest going on a whole-food, plant-based diet. Start by eliminating all dairy and animal protein, especially red meat, from your diet. And watch the documentary, ‘Forks Over Knives.’ You can find it on Netflix.”

She took his advice to heart. I spoke with her several months later. “It was a wake-up call, for sure,” she said. “The best thing, other than seeing my cholesterol figures improve, is that I’m having fun with new recipes. I’m learning how to cook all over again.”

Here’s a recipe she fell in love with…


Okay, so this is an odd marriage of avocado and chocolate. It’s smooth, delicious, and surprisingly simple. You’ll have fun fooling your friends.

1 ripe avocado
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup water or coffee
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Process all ingredients in a food processor or blender.

On sorting seeds: Are they still good?

Will those 5-year-old lettuce seeds in the garage still sprout?

Here is a seed viability list from Johnny’s Selected Seeds:

  • 1 year: onions, parsnips, parsley, salsify, and spinach
  • 2 years: corn, peas, beans, chives, okra, dandelion
  • 3 years: carrots, leeks, asparagus, turnips, rutabagas
  • 4 years: peppers, chard, pumpkins, squash, watermelons, basil, artichokes, and cardoons
  • 5 years: most brassicas, beets, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, muskmelons, celery, celeriac, lettuce, endive, chicory

Take the germination test

The best way to check is to conduct a germination test.
Here’s how: Fold a paper towel into quarters and dampen it with water. Sprinkle a minimum of 10 seeds in the fold. Place the towel in a plastic bag and keep it damp and in a warm place.

After a few days, your seeds should begin germinating. If a seed becomes moldy consider it dead. At the end of 10 or 14 days, divide the number of seeds that germinated by the number you started with to determine the germination rate. If the germination rate is low, you can still use the seeds. Just sow a few extra.

How to re-purpose old shower curtains

Years ago I attended a wedding reception dinner for over 100 guests. The tables were draped with plastic tablecloths embossed with flowers and leaves. They were lightweight, and perfect for the garden.

After the event, everyone pitched in to clean up. I ended up with a bumper crop of frost covers. So think twice about tossing old sheets and shower curtains. They’re the perfect frost cover out in the garden or in a hoophouse.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]In Chinese, “Dust” is a homophone for the word “old” (Chen), thus cleaning means to drive the bad luck or the old things away from the house to get ready for a new start.[/perfectpullquote]

Yes, cleaning house can yield many surprises; perhaps you’ll gain some new and healthy life lessons out of the process. You might even find the TV remote you misplaced last year. If so, don’t use it. Rather, start sweeping, from the outside in.

Thank you very much for stopping by today. Cheers!

Here are more resources for you:

Hi gardeners! Want to create your dream garden? You can do it, step-by-step with Marion Owen: The Gardener’s Coach. Visit my YouTube channel: The Gardener’s Coach.

Compost is the answer to everything in the garden!
And if you have enough of it, you won’t need much of anything else. To learn more, take my 60-second assessment.

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