Welcome to December: the month of giving.
It is no coincidence, I am sure, that all of the charitable organizations that I have ever had contact with send me a request for a donation this time of year.
There is likely nothing much that I can add to the Christmas message that you don't already know: good will towards all people, peace on earth and the exchange of gifts between friends and loved ones and yes - the reaching out to people who are in need.
For this reason I draw to your attention a charity that gives in an extraordinary measure and does not advertise [much]. It is SHARE Agriculture Foundation. A uniquely Canadian charity that gives 'a hand up, not a hand out' to subsistence farmers in Central and South America.
Like any good charity, SHARE provides help to people who are unable to help themselves. In this case they help people who desperately want to help themselves but lack the resources to get started. A water well, a new kitchen stove, a cow or several chickens: whatever is needed to help people help themselves.
There are four things that make SHARE unique, in my opinion:
1. The 'pass on' principle. When SHARE provides help to a person or family it is expected that they will pass on some of the dividends of the gift as it grows. A cow has calves, chickens lay eggs [and make chicks], and a stove gets shared among villagers. The idea is to grow the gift exponentially.
2. SHARE monitors its gifts. There are two Canadians who visit the people and projects that are supported each year. They ensure that the support was given as planned and that the benefits of the gifts accrue to neighbours elsewhere. I have attended three of these monitoring trips and it is amazing to see a relatively small investment on the part of SHARE patrons grow and flourish under this system.
3. No admin fees. There is a lot of talk among donors here in Canada about the amount of money that supports office, staff and 'overhead'. While this is often necessary elsewhere, SHARE is 100% volunteer driven. Therefore, no overhead or admin fees.
4. CIDA [Canadian International Development Agency] supports SHARE with a 3 times grant. In other words for every dollar raised from private sources [you and me] CIDA adds three more dollars.
I am a believer. Have been for 25 years. I wanted to share this with you just in case you are thinking of giving some of your hard earned money to charity this December and are looking for something interesting and/or different.
Thank you for indulging me in this message. It is not meant to be a solicitation [though, I guess it is]. Merely an option for readers who are thinking about who they will support this Christmas season.
In Your Garden
What a great month to light a fire and read a gardening magazine. Or put your laptop on your lap and scroll through my website where you will find a weekly podcast, blog, syndicated newspaper column, hot links to my Twitter and Facebook pages and Canada AM appearances with my buddy Jeff. Look over the new Mark's Choice product line up and [if you have the time] check out my library that answers over 10,000 gardening questions.
This month I recommend that you:
- Check your indoor plants for re potting. With December providing us with the shortest day of the year your tropical plants have slowed down their metabolism. This is the best month of the year to consider repotting. December and January.
- Using evergreen boughs and a cut tree? Apply Wilt-Pruf to the needles to minimize loss of moisture and reduce fire hazard. Odourless, colourless and easy to use. Available at most independent garden centres.
- If you bring home flowering plants this month remember that all of them like to get a bit dry between waterings. Cyclamen like a cool room. Poinsettias like a warm room but not direct sunlight. [More details below.]
- Start an amaryllis this month. Check out the Mark's Choice amaryllis kit at Home Hardware. It includes an 'oversized' bulb for optimum performance. [More details below.]
- Bring an amaryllis kit to friends and family this holiday season instead of a bottle of wine [am I the only one who worries that I just might re-gift that wine to you when you invite me over?]
- Make sure that you truly did 'batten down the hatches' out in the garden: two layers of burlap around evergreens, a deep watering, hilled up the tender roses [as per my November newsletter] and wrapped the trunk of young fruit trees to prevent rodent damage.
- When it snows, avoid using salt on your walkway and drive. It is one of the most corrosive products on the market! Instead use a salt alternative [yes they cost a bit more, but they won't kill your plants!]. I use Alaskan Ice Melter.
When we speak next it will be the cusp of a new year. Imagine that.
I can tell you this: I have lots of exciting plans for the New Year and I can't wait to share them with you.
Thank you again for reading my monthly newsletter and for the privilege of allowing it to arrive in your 'inbox'.
Keep your knees dirty and warm.
A friend shared this with me and it is only fair that I share it with you.
When you want to go to another place entirely, watch this. When you have 10 minutes.