Gardening: Improve your soil to increase productivity

A tradition garden

As we move from dreaming to planting, we all want to offer our plants the perfect soil. This leads some gardeners to buy a big bag of liquid fertilizer and sprinkle it heavily on everything. For others, manure or compost is the answer to increasing soil productivity and plant health. And then there are bagged minerals, organic bagged fertilizers, rock powders and more. Scientists agree that plants need minerals for good healthy plants. Nitrogen N for promoting green growth; phosphorous P for better roots and promoting flowers, seeds and fruits; and potassium K for strong cell walls to survive drought and cold weather. These three elements are often called “the big three” and listed as percentage by weight on fertilizer bags –, for example. Chemical fertilizers have just those three elements, plus inert fillers which would be in the example cited. Additionally, there are elements that are needed in smaller amounts including magnesium, calcium and sulphur. In very small amounts plants need iron, chlorine, manganese, zinc, copper, boron, molybdenum and nickel. None of those are found in chemical fertilizers, but are present in unlisted amounts in bagged organic fertilizers, and in good compost.

Compost ready for application in the garden

Bagged organic fertilizers are made from natural ingredients, things like ground oyster shells and seaweed, or dehydrated chicken manure, or cotton seed meal and peanut husks. Added to the mix are minerals such as rock phosphate a good source of slow-release phosphorus and green sand a source of potassium from the sea. These are slow-release fertilizers. Most of the ingredients are not water soluble, but are broken down and utilized in concert with bacteria and fungi in the soil. That is good, as they are not washed away in rainy times the way many chemical fertilizers are.

There are different types soils, but if the soil acidic due to acid rain, adding limestone is good for getting the soil near neutral. But not all plants need the same things in the soil. Blueberries, for example, need very acidic soil. Instead of lime, they may need sulphur to make the soil more acidic. A simple soil pH test kit can be purchased at a much cheaper price, or you can send a sample to your agriculture extension service for testing. Go online and search for soil tests in your location, and you will learn how to collect the soil, and where to send it. A basic soil test will tell you much in addition to the soil pH. I have been adding finely ground granite dust to my soil for years or so, and a commercially prepared rock and mineral soil supplement called Azomite for nearly as long. This can be done side-by-side trials of plants with rock powders and without them, and they can produce dramatic differences.

Soils with rock powders have helped plants survive drought, and have increased crop yield in most gardens. The mechanism by which rock powders work is unknown. I interviewed a soil scientist who pointed out that every, years or so we’ve had glaciers come down and deposit ground rock, distributing obscure minerals in the soil. Maybe the rock powders I add are just mimicking what the glaciers have done — though not recently. What about compost? It is pure gold, from a soil perspective. It has all the minerals needed by plants and good compost also has literally millions of beneficial bacteria, fungi and other living things in each spoon of goodness. Beneficial organisms in compost work with your plants, sharing minerals with your plants; they benefit from sugars exuded from the roots each night. That’s right, over eons the plants and microorganisms have developed a mutually beneficial system. I should explain that compost is not high in nitrogen. But most vegetables and annual flowers don’t need a lot of nitrogen.

Application of fertilizer

Nitrogen will make veggies like peppers or tomatoes grow big plants, but often those big plants do not produce a lot of fruit. Most annual flowers do not need much nitrogen. How much compost should you use? I have been putting an inch or two over my vegetable beds every year, and working it in. If you are buying it by the bag, even half an inch is good — with some extra in the hole with each tomato. What about trees and shrubs? Most do not need fertilizer or those tree fertilizer spikes sold at hardware stores. Mother Nature does not provide fertilizer, she adds organic matter to the soil over time as leaves decompose and living beings of all sorts die and add to the soil. That said, if you live in a new subdivision, your soil may be nothing but sterile subsoil with a thin layer of “topsoil” spread by the contractor. Adding organic matter to the soil in the form of compost will help it become biologically active. It will add minuscule amounts of the less common minerals. Mulch all your beds with ground leaves, grass clippings, mulch hay or straw. These will break down with time, and add organic matter to the soil. Breakdown of that mulch is done by bacteria and fungi. Treat your soil to some compost at planting time. And if you use fertilizer, don’t overdo it — more is not better. Read the directions of anything you add to the soil.

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Soil fetility

Tips on how to make garden soil fertile


Is The Covid19 Destroying Work-Life Balance?

Multitasking working mom

Work-life balance. It is an often-thrown-around phrase, and its meaning is open to interpretation. But for the most part, it refers to some semblance of being able to separate work life from one’s personal life and carving out a reasonable amount of time for the latter. Many people struggle with work-life balance, in general. But the COVID- crisis could be making an existing problem even worse. Are you working nonstop these days? With many people being told to socially distance themselves in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-, many companies have shifted employees to remote or work from home arrangements.

At first glance, that seems like a good thing. Workers can continue doing their jobs and getting paid without dealing with the hassle of commuting. And with all the time saved not sitting in traffic or riding on a bus, it stands to reason that working folks should have more time on their hands for household maintenance, exercise, and hobbies. But many people are working longer hours now than ever before. The reason? There is no excuse not to. Prior to COVID-, it was easier to pack up and unplug at the end of a long workday. Back then, people had dinner plans, appointments, or other obligations. Now, there are no plans to be made or kept and nowhere to go other than the supermarket for an occasional stock up.

Rushing home after work

There is nothing compelling workers to shut down their laptops and walk away from their desks because they’re not running to beat traffic or make it to the next bus. So a lot of people are instead working longer and harder — and are teetering on the edge of burnout because of it. Of course, with talks that COVID- could spur a full-blown economic recession, many workers are putting in longer hours as a matter of strategy. The logic may be that if widespread layoffs occur, they are less likely to land on the chopping block if they knock deadlines out of the park and answer email at all hours. But this willingness to please, coupled with a sheer obligation to always be available since there is no excuse not to be, may be hurting many people from a mental- and physical-health perspective. Reclaim your right to work-life balance Maybe you feel that since you re being given the flexibility to work from home and you are not spending hours commuting, you should make up for it by working longer hours and being perpetually available. But actually, that is a lot of pressure to put on yourself, especially at a time when COVID- worries may be occupying more of your brain space than you would like. While work may be, to some extent, a nice distraction, you should not be pushing yourself to work so much that there is little-to-no time to catch up with friends and family by phone, bust out a good book, or binge-watch a TV series that brings you joy. Chances are, at least some of that pressure to succeed on the job is coming from you, not your employer, so recognize that and get your own potentially unreasonable expectations in check.

Balance in all aspects of life

Now is a time to function in survival mode, and there is nothing wrong with not going beyond, so if your work-life balance has been non-existent since this whole crisis began, set some boundaries and stick to them. Right now, more so than ever, we all deserve a break. This article originally appeared in the Motley Fool. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Tips on work life balance

Tips on how to not burn yourself out during this period of working from home


Air Zimbabwe upbeat as revival plans gather pace

Aerial View of the Mighty Victoria Falls

Air Zimbabwe WELLINGTON TONI MARCUS MUSHONGA HARARE, CAJ News – AIR Zimbabwe, the national carrier, is confident of a turnaround in fortunes when the raging coronavirus COVID- pandemic is brought under control. The airline has earmarked Victoria Falls, the major tourist hub, as central to its revival after years of turmoil besetting the company in recent years. First met Vitori, the Air Zimbabwe Public Relations and Corporate Communications officer, outlined the carrier’s resuscitation plans in an exclusive interview with this publication. “Post COVID-, our plan is to develop a hub and spoke network with Harare as the main hub and Victoria Falls as the tourist hub,” she said. Air Zimbabwe’s fleet shall comprise the B- for domestic and some regional routes. “A schedules maintenance D-check has been successfully completed on the aircraft and it is currently going through test flights and assessments until final certification for serviceability and air worthiness,” Vitori said. This aircraft, she said, would be deployed to service Harare-Bulawayo, Victoria Falls and Harare in the mornings with a second frequency in the evenings. “This brings the much-needed travel convenience to our business and tourist day trippers including schools and other institutions.” The same aircraft will also link Victoria Falls and the Tanzanian commercial hub of Dar-es-Salaam on the same day, three times weekly. Air Zimbabwe also intends to bring the Embraer fleet to operate between Harare, Johannesburg South Africa and Harare twice daily as well as Johannesburg and Bulawayo four times a week. Additional regional routes will include Cape Town South Africa, Lusaka Zambia, Lubumbashi, Kinshasa both Democratic Republic of Congo through to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates UAE. Vitori disclosed the Victoria Falls hub will be operated under Air Zimbabwe’s flagship brand – Flame Lily. The flame lily is Zimbabwe’s national flower. The Victoria Falls hub will be invigorated to include the imminent launch of daily domestic scheduled air services between the resort town, Harare and the major tourist destinations of Zimbabwe including Chiredzi, Hwange, Kariba and the Lower Zambezi Valley. The plan will also include the launch of daily regional scheduled airservices between Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa. “These flights will initially focus on leveraging the historic tourism links with the Southern African Development Community SADC region,” Vitori said. Domestic tourism revenues have always been lower with most locals preferring to travel to Botswana, China, Dubai, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Tendai Madziwanyika, the Rainbow Tourism Group Chief Executive Officer, said the inflows to Victoria Falls would assist in the revival of the tourism sector. Victoria Falls has been hard hit by the halting of international flights since the COVID- broke out last December. All major hotels in the resort town have shut in line with a lockdown to curb its spread. “I think there is going to be a lot of demand after this war,”Madziwanyika said in reference to the virus. Zimbabwe has confirmed over cases and four deaths. “Our cases are still low.

It means Zimbabwe will become a major attraction. We are also experiencing record water volumes at Victoria Falls,” Madziwanyika was quoted as saying. Air Zimbabwe is marking years of operations, coinciding with the Southern African country celebrating that independence milestone. – CAJ News Short URL:

Innovation Ultimatum:

A Futurist Looks At How Business Can Use New Technology

Business leaders ned to look at the far horizon once in a while. What’s that thing in the distance? Is it a pot of gold, or is a gorilla coming our way? Busy executives and small business owners all agree on the need to look deep into the future, but have many urgent problems that need attention today. But all leaders need to carve out some time to ponder what’s ahead. A good approach is to read the new book, The Innovation Ultimatum, by Steve Brown. The author was Intel’s in-house futurist, so he knows a lot of gee-whiz technology. Business, though, is the focus of the book, with technology the tool to achieve better business results. Even when Brown is diving into a new technology, he comes back to how companies can use the technology to better serve customers at lower cost. Six strategic technologies drive the book, followed by many examples of industries using these six technologies today. The first technology is artificial intelligence. Brown provides a layman’s introduction to the field, offers examples of what is working today and what will be working tomorrow, then ends the chapter—as he does each of the six technology chapters—with strategies that business can and should start thinking about today. Some of the book’s business advice can be implemented immediately, such as “gather data today to feed the AIs of the future.” Other recommendations lay the groundwork for future action steps. For example, Brown recommends “build a comprehensive digital voice strategy” around technologies for voice recognition and computer-generated speech. This seemed a little bit early to me, so my first draft of this article included, “Not many mechanics today are talking to their tools.” That’s true, but an internet search to check my assumption showed me a voice-controlled torque wrench, allowing the user to say something like, “Wrench, give me pounds of torque.” All across business functions, writes Brown, voice technology will change the way we interact with customers, employees and suppliers. Sensors and the Internet of Things is the second key technology, with suggestions for getting “eyes on your business” to act on events in real time or at least very quickly. We have a great deal of this already, such as my tires reporting in to my car’s central nervous system. Brown reports that a Starbucks in China uses its wifi system to count how many people are in the store, even if they are not connected to the store’s wifi. Music adjusts automatically to encourage lingering when the store is not crowded, but transitions to up-tempo, high energy tunes when the store is full and they want people to leave and make room for new customers.. Autonomous machines, including robots and self-driving vehicles, constitute the third major technological trend. Autonomous cars seem not to be developing as rapidly as we expected, but other aspects of robotics are taking off. Brown provides a valuable insight: “Most automation will involve the semi-automation of business processes. Rather than using automation to replace human jobs, the goal of semi-automation is to build human-machine partnerships and elevate the work of humans.” On a recent home improvement project, I was screwing in a fixture that my father would have installed with a screwdriver. My battery-powered drilldriver did not replace me, the human, but made my work a lot faster and easier. In a factory setting, most screws can be installed by robots, explaining why manufacturing productivity is rising faster than construction productivity, but also illustrating the opportunities for robotics outside of factories. Distributed ledgers and blockchains are Brown’s fourth major technology. This is a daunting subject to explain in simple terms, but the author succeeds by continuing the focus on what the technology means for business. Virtual, augmented and mixed reality form the fifth major technology. Virtual reality may be less relevant aside from games, but augmented reality will be huge. In a speech about technology a decade ago, I told the story of trying to replace a burnt-out lightbulb on an old car. The owner’s manual had a sketch diagram that was hard to match up with what I was looking at. If I was in the right space, the panel should slide easily. Maybe it did when the car was new, but not now. Was I in the right place? Should I grab the big screwdriver. Fortunately, I checked on-line forums and learned that somebody else had caused $ of damage with his big screwdriver. Here’s what should happen. I sync my eyeglasses with the car’s owner’s manual. I say using voice operation technology, “I want to replace the right rear taillight bulb.” My glasses then outline the exact panel I’m looking at, to make sure I’m in the right spot. An arrow appears pointing in the direction I’m supposed to push. And if a screwdriver appears in the picture, an alarm sounds and a red slash is superimposed on the nasty tool. The final technology is connecting everything and everyone using G networks and satellites. Brown mentions that applications such as telemedicine need faster connections. We’ve learned that many activities can be done remotely, but there are still frustrations. This is the least surprising part of the book, as we can all envision data connections becoming faster. Any list of major technologies will disappoint some. My personal regret is not seeing more about modern genetic technology. Not only is it transforming medicine, but agriculture as well. Food production is slowly moving outside the farm and into the fermentation vat, allowing the planet to feed more people using less land. Molecular biology can also transform fabric-making. We began clothing ourselves with all natural products, such as leaves and bark, leather, cotton and hemp. Now we wear many petrochemical-based fibers such as nylon and polyester. Natural products may well be produced by reverse-engineering nature to develop great materials in a chemical plant without using petroleum derivatives. After describing the six major technologies, Brown dives into different industries. Even those outside of a given industry can glean ideas from other sectors. These chapters discuss transportation, retail, supply chains, manufacturing, construction. The healthcare chapter is especially valuable. The book concludes with insights about education and keeping people at the forefront of technology The Innovation Ultimatum is occasionally a recitation of items we’ve seen in business magazines, but it’s easily skimmable. What sets it apart from other futurist books is the continual focus on business applications. It would be a great conversation-starter for the management team. One of Brown’s final recommendations left me optimistic: “Honor every customer as a unique individual.” Early technology forced us to conform to the machine’s standards. We received cards with the admonition, “Do not fold, staple or mutilate.” In the new world, we can communicate with the machine by card, typing or voice. We can fold, staple or mutilate if the spirit moves us. That’s liberating technology.

More quarantine hobbies

Hair, nails and hobbies: Businesses see a flood of customers as ‘hunker down’ is eased in Anchorage

At a.m. Monday, Aslan sat down to his first pedicure in more than a month. He also got a fresh haircut, a bath and had his ears dyed purple. Even an elderly bichon frise’s regular routine was disrupted by Anchorage’s “hunker down” mandate. His fur and nails were twice as long as normal, said Brigitte Beitter, like many of her other Monday clients. “They were all behind a little bit, she said. Beitter owns and operates Brigitte’s Dog Grooming, which she runs out of her home in Midtown. Beitter is one of several business owners feeling relief after the city of Anchorage started allowing many businesses to open their doors Monday morning, after six weeks of closure due to the coronavirus. It’s a huge shift for Anchorage residents, who again have access to the services they were missing, albeit with strict guidelines. While nonessential businesses can open, they are restricted to % capacity, and some can only take reservations. Many Anchorage parking lots were still barren Monday afternoon, though more had flashing neon “open” signs than they did a week ago; a signal that life as the city knew it is slowly crawling back. B&J Sporting Goods owner Troy Arnold talks to a customer on the phone as businesses in Anchorage began to reopen on Monday, April , , during the coronavirus pandemic. Arnold said reopening for business is ’a relief. ’ ’We ve had nothing but happy customers coming in today and the employees are happy to get back to work. ’ Bill Roth ADN B&J Sporting Goods manager Mike Olson adjusts his ’Gone Fishing ’ mask as businesses in Anchorage began to reopen on Monday, April , , during the coronavirus pandemic. Bill Roth ADN The economic boon isn’t felt across the board. Creature comfort businesses, like hair and nail salons for humans and pets, seemed to come out on top. Beitter said over the last two weeks, she’s received about calls per day from people seeking dog grooming services. She’s booked out more than a week in advance. A few miles north, Lucy Castro ran an emery board across a long set of human nails, this pair belonging to one of the lucky few able to get an appointment at Lucy’s Nails. “If you want a last-minute appointment, it’s not going to happen,” Castro said. “We’ve been receiving calls all day today, unfortunately just turning down clients.” Castro is limiting the shop to two employees and two customers at a time, working on opposite ends of the room. Bev Holding, who has owned Bev s Dog Grooming for years, readies to reopen her business Tuesday with the help of groomer Angela Wilhelm. Bill Roth ADN Likewise, Bev Holding of Bev’s Dog Grooming, received about calls from customers since she shut down. She’s now booked out almost a month. And she needs it. “Moneywise, I don’t really want to say, but it’s been a lot,” she said of her losses during the city’s “hunker down” order. Something like grand.” Olivia Jenkins writes down a customer number while helping out her mother-in-law at the Northern Lights Barber Shop on Monday, April , , during the coronavirus pandemic. Jenkins who works as a personal trainers said, ’we thought it would be crazy today. ’ Bill Roth ADN Buy This Photo Steven Cehula wears a mask as barber Brian Lena cuts his hair at Northern Lights Barber Shop on Monday, April , , as businesses began to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Cehula said he tried cutting his own hair and ’screwed it up. ’ Bill Roth ADN At Spenard Road and Northern Lights Boulevard, Nick Jones was one of several waiting in line or in their car to patronize Anchorage House of Hobbies, which opened up curbside sales Monday. Jones was looking for drone supplies. The hobby shop was the only place Jones had visited Monday. He liked that they offered curbside service, and thought flying a quadcopter could help him kill some time. He figured the dozen or so other customers waiting their turn had a similar mindset. “This is a good way to get some of that time spent in a way that feels productive,” he said. Amanda Moser, executive director of Anchorage Downtown Partnership, said some downtown businesses are cautiously opening their doors, following safety guidelines that include limiting shoppers. That includes Skinny Raven Sports on Monday and Second Run consignment shop on Tuesday. Other businesses have reported struggling with finding enough personal protective equipment, such as hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes, so they won’t open immediately, she said. “Folks are really slowly easing into it and taking a measured approach,” she said. Some, though, gave it a go. “It’s pretty ghost town-y,” said Shane Rodgers, owner of the Sandwich Deck downtown. “It’s very, very slow. We’ve just been open to be open.” Niels Backers eats at Sandwich Deck restaurant in downtown Anchorage. Tables were separated for dine-in customers on April , . Marc Lester ADN Rogers had been doing takeout, but started dine-in service Monday. He said about six people made reservations. He hopes that the restrictions will continue to lift and that his business can operate at more than % capacity soon. Rogers’ business depends on an influx of tourists each summer and is sustained by loyal local customers and a tourism boost from the Iditarod in the winter. “Hopefully it all comes back soon. I don’t think anyone could survive how things are going right now,” Rodgers said. “I guess Alaska can only hope that by this time next summer, the tourists want to come back.” Tara Myers walks toward the entrance to Grizzly Gifts to hang a ’Yes! We re open ’ sign on April , . Marc Lester ADN At the Dimond Center, a few dozen cars dotted the expansive parking lot along Dimond Boulevard. Inside the mall, there was an after-hours feel as the vast majority of businesses remained shuttered. Dimond Center General Manager Robert Dye said the national chains in the mall, which make up about % of the tenants, weren’t given enough notice. He hopes they open up within the next couple weeks. Alaska Flower Shop owner Jennifer Grey said, ’I think people are excited to buy flowers, ’ as she made flower arrangements for customers after reopening her business off Tudor Road on Monday, April , , during the coronavirus pandemic. Bill Roth ADN Buy This Photo Bev Holding who has owned Bev s Dog Grooming for years displays some of the masks a customer made for her employees to wear as businesses in Anchorage began to reopen on Monday, April , , during the coronavirus pandemic. Bill Roth ADN Families, teenagers and couples milled about, all in masks and spaced far apart. They visited the handful of open restaurants and businesses like Arctic Pull Tabs and Indian Arts Emporium, a store selling clothing and accessories. “I just want to get out from the house,” Indian Arts owner Ibrahim Kouloo said with a laugh. His customers were equally stir-crazy, he said. And there was some financial benefit — Kouloo said he sold some products on Monday, but it was far from a normal day. Stylists at Salon Ivy in Midtown were busy Monday as they evened out home haircuts and corrected strands damaged by drugstore bleaches. “Some people have really done a number on themselves, and I do feel bad for them,” owner Brian Ivy said. By Monday afternoon, the salon had already filled appointments for the next few weeks and “the phone was ringing off the hook,” Ivy said. A teddy bear in a booster seat is set by the window at Snow City Cafe on April , . Snow City remained closed Monday, but a note on the restaurant s page said it would resume pickup and delivery service on May .Marc Lester ADN Differences between state and municipal regulations about when to open and what kind of personal protective gear was needed for salons was at first difficult to navigate, Ivy said. He managed to track down a box of masks and said he handed them out to cosmetologists who were in need. Everybody is having a hard time finding cloth masks and it is virtually impossible to find surgical masks because supply places are still reserving those for medical professionals, he said. Ivy said he let employees decide if they felt comfortable enough to work and some were hesitant to return. Ivy said he understands their concerns and thinks it may have been easier if all shops had waited a little longer to reopen. “We need to open now to stay open,” he said. “If we don’t open, our clients are going to go somewhere that is open. We’ve got a lot of other people’s clients that are coming to us because we’re open, or at least they’re calling us.” Because of a high volume of comments requiring moderation, we are temporarily disabling comments on many of our articles so editors can focus on the coronavirus crisis and other coverage. We invite you to write a letter to the editor or reach out directly if you’d like to communicate with us about a particular article. Thanks.

Hobbies During Quarantine

The Best New Hobbies to Try During Quarantine

Whether you like baking bread, folding origami, knitting sweaters, or have no idea what to do with all this extra time on your hands, now is an especially good time to pick up a new hobby — or rediscover an old favourite. On a hunt to find more ways to keep ourselves busy, we’ve spoken to dozens of hobbyists, both professional and amateur, to help you get everything you need to start getting crafty and keep busy at home. Each guide is fit for beginners and adapted with self-isolation in mind, so you’ll be able to start your new hobby right away and hopefully keep yourself occupied for hours on end. With bread-making on the rise, in-stock flour and yeast have been hard to come by — but if you are able to find some from an unlikely source, writer Andrew Parks calls baking bread, “quite addictive … You’ll be left wanting to rock just one more loaf every time one is wrapped.” Once you’ve got your ingredients, Parks shared the kitchen gadgets and ingredients he uses to bake the perfect loaf of bread while stuck at home, such as this three-piece bread proofing basket, complete with “a linen nonstick liner for a smooth outer crust and a plastic dough scraper that conforms to the curves of your mixing bowl.” here. For those who’ve grown tired of baking sourdough boules or just want something sweet to go with them, jam-making is a similarly relaxing, hands-on activity — that’s shelf stable and frozen-fruit friendly too. We talked to six jam experts, including cookbook authors, recipe testers, and jam-company founders, about the tools they recommend for an at-home canning operation, including this Strategist-tested kitchen thermometer, beloved in the jam world for its “speed and accuracy.” here. If you’ve burned through your candle collection while stuck indoors, we asked artist Janie Korn, known for her inventive candle creations, to teach us how to make sculptural candles at home. To make this smiley and totally burnable toadstool, she recommends detailing with this Stockmar modeling beeswax set, which is “supersmooth and looks almost like plastic, which gives it this nice glossy finish that contrasts well with the heavily textured beeswax.” Just cut your shapes, warm them with the blow-dryer, and press them on. here. London-based artist Kate Cadbury has been pressing flowers for most of her life, so we asked her to walk us through everything you’ll need to do the same this spring. “The best flower to press is one that literally just opened up; one that’s been in bloom for a few days will be less vibrant. The fresher the plant, the fresher the color,” she says, recommending daisies, pansies, and violas. As for the other supplies: a stack of books, parchment paper, and glue — all of which you’ll likely already have at home. But if you’re looking to press bigger species of plants, Cadbury recommends this handmade wooden flower press, made of high-quality birchwood and available in a variety of finishes. here. Quentin TyberghienAFP via Images Perhaps the most basic of the bunch, origami requires only two tools that you likely already have at home: scissors and paper. If you’re thinking about folding your first flower or frog, there are lots of resources available — from the comprehensive, free step-by-step diagrams offered by OrigamiUSA to helpful instructional videos from Taro’s Origami. To find out which supplies you’ll need to fold your first piece, we asked origami artist Talo Kawasaki, the co-designer of the American Museum of Natural History’s annual origami holiday tree and the resident origami teacher at Resobox, for his go-to kits, paper, scissors, and more advanced origami tools. For beginners, he recommends this kit that comes with “very clear diagrams and a DVD tutorial for extra help,” along with some more advanced folds that are “worth the challenge.” here. Out of all of the niche hobbies she’s ever tried, scrapbooking is one of the ones Strategist writer Chloe Anello has kept at the longest. If you’ve been looking for something more interesting and hands on to do with your photos, other than sticking them into a frame or photo album, Chloe shared her favorite scrapbooking products, including this “little machine that cuts different designs into paper that you can’t easily create with scissors” that will “take your scrapbooks to the next level,” she assures. here. “Like yoga or meditation, drawing has been a powerful tool for me in managing stress and anxiety during all of this self-isolating,” says Strategist writer and part-time illustrator Liza Corsillo. If you’re thinking about picking up drawing, “Other than not judging yourself, the hardest part of getting into drawing is deciding what to draw,” Liza advises, so she recommends starting with static, everyday objects and bringing them to life with these calligraphy chisel-tip pens, which are “great for graphic comic-book-style drawings, filling in large areas, or just zoning out and drawing a bunch of satisfying stripes across the page.” here. Watercolorist Ashley Longshore, who’s collaborated with Bergdorf Goodman, New York Fashion Week, and Miley Cyrus, calls watercoloring “a medium that can be as beautiful as it is simple.” She shared her favorite watercolor supplies for beginners, including this travel-friendly Kuretake Gansai Tambi palette, which she loves for its wide color range and rich pigment. here. Beading expert Susan Alexandra, creator of the eponymous, celebrity-approved accessory line of acrylic-beaded jewelry, bags, wallets, and pet accessories, started beading when she was years old and has “probably , beaded items, total, if not more.” We asked Alexandra which beads, charms, string, trays, and pliers she recommends for DIY at-home jewelry-making, including these “supersharp and efficient” wire cutters with an ergonomic grip. here. Illustration: Joe McKendry We asked actress and longtime needlepointer Parker Posey to share everything a beginner needs to know and buy to get started with needlepointing. While on-set, Posey gifted Cameron Diaz and Selma Blair these needlepoint eyeglass-case kits from Etsy and reports “they picked it up and enjoyed it.” here. Casual entry-level knitter Mia Leimkuhler knitted this big, chunky sweater in a matter of weeks — and you can, too, she assures. This kit from Wool and the Gang, geared toward beginners, comes with everything you need — yarn, needles, and step-by-step instructions — and requires minimal construction. “Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give my handmade sweater is the fact that it doesn’t look handmade,” she says. here. John EllisJohn Ellis For an even longer-term project, there’s quilting, which is surprisingly beginner friendly with lots of available online guides, tutorials, and videos. We spoke to experts — including textile artists, designers, patternmakers, and teachers — to figure out exactly which tools the quilting beginner needs to get started, such as this how-to book which features beginner-friendly designs using minimal piecing and large swaths of fabric. here. If you’re more of an IRL learner or looking for something a little less DIY, online-learning platform MasterClass offers famous-expert-led classes, such as Kelly Wearstler, RuPaul, and Steph Curry, covering topics like cooking, acting, and physics. To find out if these MasterClasses, at $ per class, are actually worth it, we spoke to eight people including bloggers, writers, and founders of tech companies about their experiences. Takeaways varied depending on the subject and expert, but almost all recommended arts-focused courses, such as Texas-style barbecue taught by “hilarious” pitmaster Aaron Franklin, who one MasterClass tester calls “the Seth MacFarlane of cooking.” here. The LIFE Picture Collection via Time Life Pictures If you’ve been thinking about learning, relearning, or practicing a language during these next few months, we spoke with six language experts to find the best programs and resources for your at-home language learning, including tried-and-true Rosetta Stone, which “combines learning methodologies, like practicing vocabulary and listening to audio from native speakers,” unlike other game-based apps. here. Images Images If you’ve been feeling a little cooped up indoors and happen to live near a park or trail, trail running can be an accessible, socially responsible way to get outside while still maintaining your distance. Since trail running requires its own specific skill set, professional trail runner Emelie Forsberg suggests that you “not think about pace or distance in the beginning. Just go out there and enjoy.” To make sure that you have the right gear, we talked to seven experienced trail runners about their favorites, including beginner-friendly Hoka running shoes that are, according to assistant editor at Trail Runner magazine Zoë Rom, “burly but not too stout, light but have a good enough tread for more aggressive adventures.” here. Actually good deals, smart shopping advice, and exclusive discounts. Terms & Privacy Notice By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice and to receive email correspondence from us. The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.