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Prepare to be prepared
by Heidi Kyser | posted September 18, 2014

People have scheduled all kinds of September festivities to celebrate National Preparedness Month, showing FEMA they’re ready for any eventuality. On September 10, local chefs used ingredients from nonperishable emergency kits to create gourmet bites at Las Vegas City Hall. The city is also hosting a Twitter chat on September 30 to get government agencies talking among themselves about training for emergency situations.

But the award for most ambitious plan may go to casino corporation Las Vegas Sands and nonprofit Clean the World, which are teaming up in hopes of assembling 100,000 hygiene kits this weekend. Clean the World’s specialty is collecting and repurposing unused toiletries from Las Vegas’ myriad hotel rooms. The hygiene kits that volunteers will put together on Saturday and Sunday will be used for disaster relief efforts both at home and abroad.

“This will have a huge impact,” says Ron Reese, a spokesperson for the Sands. “These kits will be distributed by American Red Cross and during natural disasters around the world, as well as locally at organizations like Shade Tree Shelter.”

Volunteers ages 8 and up will work assembly-line style at the Venetian-Palazzo in two-hour shifts, while organizers keep their spirits up with refreshments, raffles and prizes. As of Thursday morning, 2,300 people had signed up, but Clean the World says there’s room for at least 500 more. For more information, click here or contact Clean the World’s Shae Hagen at  702-221-8777 or


by Jarret Keene | posted September 17, 2014

I think about blindness sometimes,

What my life might be like without

Vision, without being able to observe

The sun rise in the east and set in the west,


Without the ability to see birds singing in trees,

Dogs barking as they strain against leashes,

Neighborhood children laughing in the street.

How would I work, get from point A to B?


How would I shower? Would I care about my

Appearance or be content to expect others to

See the person inside? Sometimes I shut my eyes

In the presence of friends, family, co-workers,


And I listen to their voices. Their words. Hearts.

Sometimes, to my dismay, I discover that there are

A few people I’d be better off without, given what

They say and suggest. Sight can obscure, I realize.


In those moments, I think of Tiresias,

prophet of ancient Thebes, who saw

Things more clearly than the sighted.

The gods had blinded him for revealing


Their secrets to each other, to mortals.

Even in death, banished to an underworld,

Tiresias was intuitive, giving Odysseus

Useful advice. If only the hero had heeded.


If only we all listened to soul soldier Stevie

Wonder, who in three minutes teaches us

The true power and blessing of sunshine,

What it means for the apple of one’s eye


To stay forever in one’s heart, when in fact

The singer himself was born premature,

His retinal blood vessels undeveloped,

But his ears musically clairvoyant.


Wonder, in a funkier song, explains why it’s

Important for 13-month-old babies to not break

The looking glass, or risk seven long years

Of bad luck. And I think, Tiresias and Wonder


Aren’t alone among sightless superheroes.

There’s Daredevil, a comic-book character

Blinded by radiation. Senses heightened,

He absorbs the din of New York City, a sonic


Buffet to his ears. When he notices a mugger’s

Switchblade SNAK!, or a bank alarm clanging

Miles away, he arrives to billy-club robbers,

Echolocating around and through them, bat-like,


As if they’re statues. Panic-frozen and terrified,

The thieves are routed by the horned, red-suited

Man Without Fear. Still, it would be scary, I ponder,

To exist minus sight. Until I recall those living in


This neon-lit city who see no neon. They go to work,

Pay bills, raise families, and meet challenges that can

Daunt the rest of us, leaving us dazed, desperate.

Causes of blindness vary—congenital, car wreck,


Common disease. But the human spirit, the heart,

The need for friends and independence and love,

Is strong in all of us in this illumined valley.

So tonight I plan to do something different.


Tonight I’m going to mute the TV and dim the lights.

I won’t light a candle, though. I’ll wait a moment,

Letting darkness bathe me. I’ll permit my eyes to adjust,

Adapt. I’ll allow the moment to extend, a prayer


For the human soul, for connectedness based on

The essence of who we are. For the air to envelop us

Like a dream. For Wonder’s voice to ring out like a bell.

For life’s sunshine to forever warm our skin.


Norm Schilling's fall planting tips
by Norm Schilling | posted September 16, 2014

“Desert Bloom” host Norm Schilling will irrigate your gardening knowledge this Saturday, at 9:30 a.m., with a talk at Plant World, 5311 W. Charleston Blvd. Can’t wait? Here are a few of Norm’s fall planting tips to get you started.

Spring is traditionally the time to plant in most climates, but in our hot patch of the Mojave, fall is better for most plants. That allows plants about nine months to build a root system robust enough to handle the most challenging time of year for most plants — our hot, dry summers. While plants appear not to grow during the winter, roots do continue growing, since our soils don’t freeze. So fall planting builds a root system for the spring flush of growth, and the endurance test of summer. 

Here are a few hints that will help you succeed in your planting endeavors.

Dig a $5 hole for a $1 plant. A hole that’s wider than the root ball of your plant, but not deeper, loosens the surrounding soil, so it’s much easier for roots to spread. Sloping the edges of the hole at about 45 degrees further encourages root development.

Amend the soil for nondesert species. This is one more reason I lean more toward desert plants, as they’re generally happier here and take less work. But if you do plant nondesert plants, amending the soil at a rate of about one part well-decomposed organic matter to three parts native soil will help them off to a good start.

Unless it’s a tomato, don’t plant it any deeper than it is in the pot; you might suffocate the roots. And soil piled on the trunk makes it susceptible to pathogens that cause rot.

For trees with stakes against the trunk, remove the stake the day you plant it. If it can’t hold itself upright, restake it using at least two stakes placed well away from the trunk. The new stakes should hold the tree up, but also allow it some movement — trees build tissue in trunks much like we build muscles.



It’s important to group plants in “hydro-zones” with plants of similar water needs: desert plants here, moderate-water-users there. If you put one moderate-use plant in with a group of desert plants, you end up over-watering all the desert plants.

Don’t plant a garden of just shrubs and a few trees. Be sure to include some ground-covers (Prostrate Germander, Teucrium chamaedrys ‘Prostratum’), succulents, accent plants and little flowering perennials (Indian Blanket Flower). This will add interest and give your landscape a more natural look.

Include plants with different foliage colors. Think silvers, blues and grays, and even purple.

Include plants for textural variety: succulents for fleshiness, and ornamental grasses for softness and movement when it’s breezy. Don’t do just succulents, or the landscape will look harsh and uninviting; the little leafy guys help soften the feel.

Include at least a couple of bold accent plants with strong form. These provide a focal point and can add a lot in interest and beauty (Blue Yucca, Yucca rigida or Webers Agave, Agave weberi).

Underplant trees with other plants. Plants share root space and water resources, so planting under a tree will encourage it to spread its roots out for structural stability. If you don’t underplant, add emitters every 3-4 feet anyway to get the roots to spread.

Keep desert trees away from lawns. Desert trees grow slower and stronger when they don’t receive too much water. If they find the lawn water, they’ll grow too fast and rip apart in the wind.

Don’t plant messy trees near your pool.



Research your plants.

If you do plant nondesert plants, use organic (wood chip) mulch. It’s the single best long-term, holistic health-care practice you can perform for moderate-water-use plants.

While cool weather planting is best for most plants, some prefer warmer weather and soils. Succulents plant and transplant best once soils warm up (April-October). And Red Bird of Paradise takes off much better if planted in warm weather (May is great)!

Want a great desert tree? Consider planting a native species. Some of my favorites include Screwbean Mesquite, Redbud and Gambel Oak. Desert Willow is my all-time favorite, for its amazing and long flower show and the beautiful curves and arches in its branches … as long as it doesn’t get too much water, which creates long straight shoots.

Finally, know this: Learn to expect and accept some gardening failures. Gardening is a learning experience. When plants fail, it’s just part of the game. I guarantee you, more plants have died on my watch then ever will on yours.


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