Home and Garden

Spring cleaning: Refreshing your home and garden

By Cindy Brown
For The Taos News
Posted 4/11/18

With the lengthening of days, we begin to feel more energy.The pineal gland located at the base of the brain receives more light through the retina of our eyes, which signals the human …

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Home and Garden

Spring cleaning: Refreshing your home and garden

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With the lengthening of days, we begin to feel more energy.

The pineal gland located at the base of the brain receives more light through the retina of our eyes, which signals the human body to make less of the sleep hormone melatonin and causes a boost in our capacity for action, according to research published in Scientific American.

With more energy, comes the urge to clean and organize our spaces to get them ready for the warm weather to come. Traditionally, spring cleaning of the home was done to remove the soot that accumulated from burning kerosene and wood in the winter. Because so many households here still burn wood as the primary source of heat during the winter, this reason continues to be a compelling one to take on spring cleaning.

The spring is also the time of important religious celebrations, such as Easter and Passover. The altar of the church is cleaned and decorated with flowers before the Easter service.

Dr. Neal Friedman, president of the board of the Taos Jewish Center says, "In Judaism, spring cleaning is specialized. Passover marks the remembrance of the Israelites exit from Egypt. At that time, they had been slaves for many years. Moses led the people out of Egypt, and they had to rush, so there wasn't time to gather many provisions. The people took matzah, unleavened bread, which was considered the food of slaves and peasants. The Bible says 'Remember this exodus for all times.' One way we do this is to clean our houses to remove any trace of bread that is leavened."

Organizing your home

Spring cleaning projects can include deep cleaning, such as dusting the vigas and other hard-to-reach areas, along with scrubbing walls and washing floors. It is a good time to pack away sweaters and coats and make room for warmer weather clothes and to give away things you didn't wear during the winter.

Georgia Gersh of Magpie Gallery in El Prado is also a home organizer who helps people with home and wardrobe organization, art hanging, decorating, and shopping. She says, "Cleaning and organizing are instinct to me. I really consider it an extension of my creativity, an art form. I almost always enjoy it, and similar to when I'm doing collage or making jewelry, I try not to do it if it doesn't feel enjoyable. However, this time of year it becomes more than instinct, almost a primal obligation to mimic nature's transformation."

At home, she has been focusing on repotting and starting houseplants in her sunroom, arranging them in planted bouquets. She says that in the past, she hasn't paid much attention to plants, but this year she tried something new. "I've become very attentive and affectionate towards the plants and they are thriving, which is a great reward. It's transformed the space and made it new."

The rest of the house gets attention as well. "While I do a lot of cleaning and organizing maintenance at home regularly, I certainly shift gears this time of year. The covers come off the couch cushions to be washed, the cobwebs around the vigas by the woodstove get vacuumed, and the bathroom gets a fresh coat of adobe-colored paint to cover up the mottled green from four years ago."

Spring renewal also takes place at Magpie Gallery, where every shelf and wall has been freshened up. Regular art shows are starting and in the annex a new show will go up every month. Gersh says that she thrives on keeping things evolving and improving at work and at home.

When faced with a house that needs organizing and cleaning, it is sometimes hard to know where to start. "Reorganizing in spring can feel overwhelming," says Gersh.

"In many cases, things have been piling up for months, including stacks of newspapers and bags for the Community Against Violence thrift store," she says."There may be a few prints that need to be framed and somehow hung in a house where the walls are full. Sometimes it takes another pair of eyes to shift things into feeling more breathable. It might take another set of hands to arrange things differently, allowing the freshness and hope of spring to fill and transform our homes. I'm here to help."

Prepping the garden

The lack of moisture from the winter is a key concern for those who are beginning to prepare their gardens for spring and summer. Local gardeners on the Taos Home and Garden Facebook page recently shared their thoughts with The Taos News.

Adding moisture and fresh fertilizer to your garden before you plant are chief among their recommendations. Peg Staley says, "Now is a perfect time to add a good two-inch layer of well-composted manure to water in. It keeps the weeds down and provides fertilizer for what's growing."

At the end of last growing season, some gardeners planned ahead. Donna LeFurgey says, "I covered all of my raised beds with compost, manure, straw and leaves. I put burlap over it all to keep the material from blowing away. I watered it several times a month, due to the dry winter. I will dig it all in soon. "

Nan Fischer, who oversees the Taos Farm and Garden Facebook page recommends watering the planting areas to make it easy to pull weeds and then raking off any mulch and turning the soil to expose overwintering bugs.

Now is the time to think about how to keep your garden watered this summer at a time where acequias will have less water than many summers. "It's looking like we will only have a short run from the acequia, so I'm experimenting this year. After tilling the garden early, I've shaped it into paddies that I can completely flood from the acequia. I've already done this once and plan to do it as many times as I can before planting season so that there will be moisture to draw on from deeper levels," says Rick Brown.

Maintaining the acequia

The water that flows in the acequia nourishes us, our gardens and animals. It connects us with our past and future. Even though there may not be much water this year, the gardeners, farmers, and ranchers of Northern New Mexico will do their best to make good use of the water.

Olivia Romo grew up in Taos. She is a poet and the communications coordinator for the New Mexico Acequia Association. She says that for centuries acequia systems have been the nexus for community activities as well as the lifeline for a powerful cultural landscape.

"Un año si, y un año no is a dicho spoken by many acequia farmers in New Mexico who understand that our weather cycles present challenges like drought, crops and huertas freezing, and the uncertainty of water flow through the ditches in the spring," says Romo.

"Taoseños and farmers across the state are preparing themselves for the annual limpia, planting, and new beginnings," she said. "The acequia is much like our bodies. We need to have a wholesome approach to restore and maintain our health, like our acequias. Water is the blood that feeds our most vital organs and cells like the acequia feeds our farms, livestock and spirit. The spring is a time to clean the ditches, restore our farmland and prepare to lay down seed. During Lent we undergo spiritual cleansing, renewal and rebirth. Farmers know this best as they help bring baby sheep and calves into the world. They pray for water, the flowering of fruit trees and that our bodies and minds are baptized in the blessings of mother Earth's renewal, love and forgiveness."

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