Monday, May 28, 2012

Take it slow, weekend garden warriors

When weekend lawn and garden warriors dust off their posteriors and jump headlong into yard patrol, there may be some ill effects. One of the best tips, may be this doctor's first one, "begin slowly."
Here's a real backsaver from Dr. David Wang, a specialist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine (

  “Over 80% of people will have low back pain at some point during life, although most of them fortunately recover on their own.” explains Dr. David Wang, a specialist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine (, located in McLean, VA.  “When it comes to gardening and back pain, your body may need a few weeks after the long winter to become accustomed again to the physical stresses of gardening, such as squatting, twisting, lifting and digging.” 
Precautions you can take to limit back pain when gardening include:
  • Begin slowly, rather than trying to do too much in one session.  Split larger gardening projects into several shorter sessions while you build your stamina.
  • Think of it like other forms of physical activity, and always warm up before you begin with 10-20 repetitions of gentle exercises like standing hip circles, toe touches, back bends, and leg lifts.  Again, gentle is the key! 
  • Pay attention to your body position when lifting heavy objects, such as planters and bags of fertilizer.  Keep the item close to your body, and bend your knees (squat) so that you can keep your back as vertical as possible when you pick up the object, allowing you to lift with the leg muscles rather than straining the back muscles.
  • Be sure to take breaks and to change your position every 15 minutes or so, especially if you are kneeling, squatting, or sitting in a bent or twisted position.
  • Invest in good, long-handled gardening tools, which will help minimize the amount of back bending that you need to do.
  • If back pain is a consistent problem, consider creating raised garden beds, which will also help to reduce the amount of bending that is needed.
When it comes to minimizing back pain when playing sports, much of the same advice holds true.
  • It is important to always warm up, avoid over-exerting muscles, use proper equipment, , and take breaks to give your body time to rest.
  • If your muscles are not very flexible, it is also important to stretch after activity, holding each stretch for 30 seconds, to gradually improve your flexibility and reduce your risk of injury.
  • Consider working with a physical therapist or highly-qualified and experienced personal trainer for several weeks before starting the sports season.  This will allow you to properly prepare and condition your body for sports-specific activities.
Although most episodes of back pain get better on their own, there are certain situations where you should see a physician.  These include pain that is progressively worsening or lasts longer than three weeks, back pain accompanied by problems with your balance or bladder/bowel function, or back pain accompanied by leg pain, numbness and/or weakness.  If you do end up requiring medical care, it is important to realize that not all back pain is the same, and it can actually be quite complex.  “Several different factors may be contributing to your symptoms, including ligaments, tendons and mechanical alignment, and not just the discs, joints and nerves which are sometimes inappropriately blamed for back and leg pain,” states Dr. Wang.  “As such, be sure to see a specialist who has knowledge about a wide range of diagnoses and treatments, both surgical and non-surgical, and who focuses on treating the whole person and not just the symptoms.”

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Rhubarb recipes: easy and good

The rhubarb is coming up now and here are my favorite rhubarb recipes. Rhubarb and asparagus are our first garden products. I don't think they'd taste good in a dish together, but we've had a few meals which included both. We've grilled asparagus, rubbing the spears with olive oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper. Enjoy these desserts with the perpetual rhubarb, it keeps growing and growing.

Cream cheese rhubarb pie
¼ cup corn starch
1 cup sugar
½ tsp salt
½ cup water
2-1/2 cups rhubarb, cut in ½ inch pieces
1 unbaked pie crust, regular or graham cracker

1 package 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar

In a saucepan, combine 1rst 3 ingredients, then the water and rhubarb.  Bring to boil, stirring often until mixture thickens.  Pour into pie shell and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.  Protect edges of crust with aluminum foil.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Turn oven down to 325 degrees.
Meanwhile beat topping ingredients until smooth.  Pour on top of pie.  Bake for 35 minutes in 325 oven or until set.  Chill and garnish with whipped cream, and sliced almonds or strawberries.

Rhubarb Bars
3 cups rhubarb, chopped
1 ½ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ¼ cup water
3 Tablespoons corn starch
1 ½ cup rolled oats
1 ½ cup rolled flour
1 cup brown sugar
½ tsp. baking soda
1 cup butter
½ cup nuts

Combine rhubarb, sugar, vanilla, cornstarch and water. Cook on stove until thick, cool  slightly. Combine oats, flour, brown sugar, soda, butter and nuts. Mix until crumbly. Put ¾ of mixture into 15 1/3 x 10 ½  jelly roll pan.  Spread rhubarb mixture on top. Cover with remaining crumbs. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Asparagus recipe with ham and swiss

We've been picking asparagus for 3 weeks. My favorite way to prepare it is to roll the spears in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill it. Here's another tasty treat with asparagus:

Ham and Swiss, asparagus spirals. Pre-fry spears in olive oil, lay on a slice of ham and cheese, dollop with Dijon mustard and roll up with the asparagus in the middle. Slice into spirals 1-1/2 inches wide. Dip in seasoned bread crumbs, insert toothpick to hold each spiral together, and fry.