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When it comes to gardening or even small-scale farming, it’s hard to imagine that we can actually grow more by doing less. But, when we work in alignment with the principles of Mother Nature, she gladly rewards our dedicated efforts. And, that’s what no-till practices are all about!

“No-Till” describes an age-old agricultural practice that leaves the tractor behind. Conventional farming methods often rely on a plow-based approach to prepare beds for planting, disturbing the beneficial microorganisms deep within the soil and leaving the topsoil susceptible to erosion, threatening the sustainability of our lands. On the other hand, no-till farms count on a few basic, minimally-invasive hand tools, and the natural processes of decomposition to provide long-lasting benefits to the land (and, your pockets!) for decades to come. So, how exactly does no-till work and why should you integrate this practice into your own garden or farm?

Better Soil, Better Everything!

All good farmers know that the basis for a bountiful harvest rests in healthy soil, high in organic matter and nutrients. Using plow-based methods to turn over beds aerates, or oxygenates, the soil, leading to the overproduction of certain bacteria in the soil microbiota, disrupting the natural balance of the soil ecosystem. This disruption leads to heightened destruction of organic matter and the release of carbon in the soil overtime. Through the no-till process, crop residue following a harvest remains on the surface of the soil, providing a necessary food source for worms, fungi, and other beneficial insects to properly restore organic material to the soil. Thus, the higher the organic matter, the higher the crop yields with fewer soil amendments! Who can deny more nutritious vegetables for you, your family, and your community?!

While You’re At It, Save the Planet

As farmers rebuild the soil with no-till, today’s farmers are also thinking ahead. A result of no-till is the accumulation of crop residue protecting topsoil from the leading cause of agricultural degradation and desertification today, wind and water erosion. No-till also acts as method for water conservation as the increased organic matter holds moisture in the soil for longer periods, preventing water evaporation and reducing your time (and, money!) spent watering.

Need Even More Convincing?

No-till farming practices are becoming increasingly popular amongst small, organic market gardeners not just for its sustainability but also for its ability to drive market profits and lessen labor costs. Of course nutrient-dense soil allows for intensive crop spacing and high-yields, maximizing what you bring to the market. But, what about the endless hours spent weeding your freshly planted beds? Once no-till is in place, most farmers see a dramatic decrease in time spent in weed removal (time that most farmers just don’t have!) as weed seed is no longer resurfacing with plowing methods.

So, although no-till may seem too good to be true, what have you got to lose? Give no-till a try in your own garden or farm, and start saving your soil, your time, and your planet, too!

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Are You Making These Winter Skin Care Mistakes?

Few things are quite as refreshing as crisp, winter air. The cool breeze may be just the breath of fresh air you need, but that fresh air can also cause your skin to lose moisture. Staying indoors to warm up in the comfort of your heated bedroom can be relaxing, but it can exacerbate problems with dry skin too. In fact, there are a handful of things many of us do that actually contribute to dry skin in the winter months. Check the following list of common winter skin habits to see if you have committed any of these skin care faux pas.

Culprit #1: Thinking in extremes – Too much hot and cold

When it’s cold outside, it’s natural for us to run inside where it’s warm. But you should limit your exposure to extreme temperatures that can dry out your skin. Cold air dries the skin and hot air is drier than cold air, according to Harvard Health.

Beyond just the temperature of the air, you also need to be conscious of the temperature of your body. Dress in layers when you go outside so that you can add or remove layers as needed to maintain a consistent body temperature. Too few clothes and your skin can dry out from the cold. Too many clothes and your skin can become irritated from the moisture of your perspiration.

The same rule applies to hot and cold water. Bathe and shower in warm water, not hot water. It’s inviting to come in from the cold, take a hot bath and sit in your plush robe with a cup of hot cocoa, but hot water is a skin care no-no.

Culprit #2: Hanging on to your summer skin care regimen

Chances are, your summer skin care regimen will need to be different from your winter skin care regimen. In the summer months, we tend to rely on lotions and light, water-based moisturizers. In the winter months, however, WebMD’s Susan Davis recommends switching to a thicker, oil-based moisturizer that will protect your skin from the elements and help it to retain moisture.

You may respond, “Oil-based moisturizer? Won’t that clog my pores?” The answer is no, not if you use the right oils. There are several oils that tend to be better for skin and face than other oils. Good oil choices include jojoba, avocado, primrose and almond oil. For your hands and feet, you may want to consider a heavier product. Pay special attention to your feet. You should plan to exfoliate your feet at least once a month. Removing the dead skin will help healthy skin cells to more readily absorb moisturizers when applied.

Culprit #3: Wearing itchy fabrics

Let’s make another strong case for cotton by confirming that it’s very gentle on human skin. You may have a wool coat and wool accessories, but you would be best served to steer clear of fabrics that may cause skin irritation. If you plan to wear wool, consider wearing cotton underneath for an added layer of protection for your skin.

Culprit #4: Cracking a window at night

Tsk. Tsk. Cold air may not be the best strategy to combat hot air. Instead, adjust the setting on your thermostat and rely on blankets to help you sleep comfortably through the night. One way to help control the drying effects of the heated air being pushed through your home at night is to get a humidifier. A humidifier will put moisture back into the air, making it a little easier for you to breathe and minimizing the feeling of a room being “stuffy.”

Culprit #5: Using the wrong soap

Mild soaps help to reduce the likelihood of skin irritation and excessive dryness. But hand soaps can be quite the culprit in the dry skin battle. Particularly in the winter months, you want to make sure that whenever you wash your hands, you pat them dry and immediately replenish the moisture with a thick hand cream or lotion. It’s also a good idea to keep hand cream readily available when you’re out.

Skin care is very personal matter. No two bodies are exactly alike. No matter what you read here or anywhere else, you should get to know your skin so you can do the absolute best thing for it. Go with what works and seek the advice of a skin care professional like a dermatologist or an esthetician who can provide you with the information you need to address trouble areas. Making the right decisions will help battle the winter skincare blues.

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