December ABODE: Green Scene

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Gifts from here
Missing your weekly local kale fix? The farmer’s market heyday might be over for 2011, but locavores in the know have shifted their energies to holiday shopping, and they’re not heading to Target. Each Saturday in December, the Holiday Market delivers the buy-local vibe from 8am to 2pm, right up through Christmas Eve. Check it out in the City Market spot between Water and South Streets. Buy a locally made gift, and you’re giving back to the local economy too.—Erika Howsare

LEAP loans at 0 percent
There are fewer and fewer reasons not to upgrade your house’s energy efficiency. Now you can cross “loan too expensive” off the list, because LEAP and the UVA Community Credit Union are offering PowerSaver loans at an extremely reasonable 0 percent.

This offer’s for residents of Charlottesville and the five surrounding counties who sign on to the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program through LEAP. You can use the loan money for stuff like better insulation, new skylights, HVAC upgrades, and so on—the kinds of improvements that make your house tighter and your energy bills lower.

Best contact LEAP soon if you’re interested; this offer’s for a limited time. See, e-mail or call 227-4666 for more info.—E.H.

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A gardener’s yule
What does the gardener dream of, dozing by the Yuletide fire? Favorite tools that need tending or replacing, a longed-for extravagance like a load of compost (and someone to spread it)? Perhaps plans for spring.

My favorite tools are three: a long, narrow “poacher’s spade” that will slip out a sliver of plant in a heartbeat; a soil knife with a boxwood handle carved by an old friend; and the “Clawdia,” which fits snugly in the palm of your hand and looks exactly like it sounds, invaluable for scuffing through small weeds around new seedlings and breaking through a dried pudding skin of ground. Composed of a plastic grip that allows your fingers to wield a hand of curved metal spikes, it is nearly indestructible, but the wooden handles of the others could use a light sanding and rubbing with a rag dipped in linseed oil.

Another timely tool-related task is to see to the saw blades. I am loath to admit I share with our previous president an appreciation for the therapeutic benefits of brush-cutting. Through this dormant season I want implements sharp and clean for cutting back the redbud that’s getting too close to the house, thinning witch hazel trunks (sculpt a crape myrtle if you have one) and cutting up fallen trees and shrubs that lay along the creek bank.

I prefer a folding saw with a curved blade for pruning larger branches because it’s easier to fit in narrow angles and more maneuverable than a straight saw. Long-handled loppers are handy for smaller offshoots, hand shears for the little stuff. For saws, if the tips are broken or the blades dulled, buy new ones from the hardware store or garden center. If they’re dirty and stained from sap, give them a little alcohol rub and a squirt of WD40. Hand shear blades can be sharpened if you know what you’re doing and like to putter, or taken to Martin Hardware, which sends them on to a local sharpener.


  • Inventory and tend tools.
  • Cut back invasives.
  • Plan spring beds.

If not brush along a waterside or woodland, you may have a problem with invasives like bittersweet, Japanese honeysuckle, multiflora rose, or English ivy. This is a much better time to rogue them out than when they’re threatening to strangle you in summer. Save herbicides for then when they’re actively growing and can suck that poison down. For now, cut and mow everything as close as possible.

As long as the ground’s not frozen you can dig out roots and pile on cardboard, newspaper and foot-thick organic mulches (wood chips, sawdust, stable straw, hardwood mulch, leaf-mold, compost) to prepare a planting bed for spring: shrubs and perennials, trees and groundcover, vegetables. Alternatively, you could keep it mowed on the same schedule as the turf. Or perhaps treat it as a meadow, cutting once each winter to allow wild-flowers to self-seed and keep the woodies down. You might be surprised at what comes up.
Whatever your heart’s desire. This is winter after all, the time for dreaming.—Cathy Clary

Cathy Clary is a gardening teacher and consultant; she tends ornamental beds and a kitchen and cutting garden at home in a hollow south of Charlottesville. Read more about her at, and e-mail her with questions at


Six ways to shop local
This season, Betty helps you think outside the gift box. Don’t fall into the Amazon trap; instead, give the gift of patronizing local businesses!


(Courtesy Red Rocker Candy)

1. Couch shoppers, head to a cool new online gift shop created by Kate Bennis, Redbud Gifts, which offers local gifts, goodies, and experiences as well as charitable giving opportunities. Purchase a massage or language class, or have a local filmmaker “make your movie.” Everything in the shop originates within 100 miles of Charlottesville. See

2. Visit the Craftacular, a favorite venue of mine for unique hand-made gifts featuring local artists and designers, held this year at Cityspace on December 10 and 11, 10am-6pm.

3. Check out the great selection of upcycled clothing at Firefish Gallery, on Second St. NW just off the Mall.

4. Choose a book written by Virginia authors at Crozet’s Over the Moon Bookstore and Gallery or at one of the many used bookstores in town.

5. Support the local live-performance scene with tickets to a show at the Jefferson Theater, The Southern, The Paramount or Live Arts.

6. Bring your holiday host a fine Virginia wine, or Red Rocker Candy (I’m addicted) made in Troy.

Check out Better World Betty’s green living resource list at and blog at

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