Identifying Ragweed

Are you allergic to ragweed?  Jon is.  According to Wikipedia, Ragweed is a very common allergen.  Just ask around and you’re sure to find people who know they are allergic to it.  But do you know how to recognize it?  It’s a very common weed and I realized recently that I’ve seen it’s growing all over my neighborhood. 

A few weeks ago, I came home from a 10 day summer vacation to find 3 beautiful bushes growing in my front yard.  I’ve been trying to get some pretty flowers and bushes to grow in our tiny, mostly shaded front yard, so I was thrilled.  I was also pretty surprised, because that spot had been absolutely bare when we left for vacation.  I’m not kidding.  See the pictures for both how bare it was, and why I was thrilled to have a pretty bush there! (I’m trying to replace the fake looking mulch with a more natural front yard.)  

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Bare spot in our front yard

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Beautiful, mysterious bush in our front yard

I was excited by this beautiful new addition to our yard. Yet, I was skeptical. What kind of bush grows from nothing to the size of my 4 year-old blueberry bush in just 10 days? I had a bad feeling about this.

I knew my co-worker had recently been to a class about identifying wetland plants and that he had bought some books on identifying plants. I took some photos in and asked him.  He happily did some research and came back with “Alicia, I’m afraid I have bad news. I think your beautiful new bush is ragweed.” I was devastated! So devastated that I did my own research, even googling “Looks like ragweed” to try to find something else it could be. 

I was convinced. It was ragweed. Ragweed has ragged leaves (see the pictures), green flower-like stamens that come out of the leaves and stems that are tan and red with tiny little hairs on them.  I have seen it growing mixed in with grass and looking like plants and bushes. If you decide to pull it out by hand, I strongly recommend wearing gloves.  I found out the hard way that I have a contact allergy to it as well as I had itchy spots on my arms for about five days after pulling the ragweed bushes from our yard. I don’t react to poison ivy, so this was especially surprising.

Closeup of ragweed stem

Closeup of ragweed stem – notice red color and tiny hairs

Common North American Ragweed

Common North American Ragweed

Ragweed with green staminate flower spikes

Ragweed with green staminate flower spikes

Ragweed with  more mature  green staminate flower spikes

Ragweed with more mature green staminate flower spikes

Please share this information with others. My hope is that the more people that can identify ragweed, the more we can eradicate it with simple hand pulling and save a lot allergy suffering.

Happy Greening!



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How Many Times Should You Use Your Disposable Razor?

There are a lot of things that we have been taught should be disposable, like silverware and diapers. I agree, sometimes it is wonderfully convenient and helpful to have disposable items. We took plastic forks and spoons to the beach with us this week so that we didn’t accidentally loose any of the real silverware from our rental house in the sand or leave it in our coolers. It was helpful and we washed and re-used the disposables, but we didn’t have any stress making sure we didn’t lose it either. 

razor with disposable tips

How many times do you reuse your razor?

I’ve been using disposable razors for the same reason for years. I inevitably, accidentally, leave my razor in the shower at hotels and my mother’s house.  After I shower I like to leave the razor in the tub or shower because it is wet and I don’t want to make a mess. Then when we’re leaving, somehow I frequently manage to leave it behind. Therefore I started buying disposable razors for travel. The important thing to realize though is that “disposable” doesn’t mean “one time use.” I take the same razor and use it over and over until it either doesn’t give a good enough shave, or appears to have rust on it.  I always rinse it well during and after each use and I always inspect it for rust before using it. 

My life has a lot of stress in it, and if not having to worry about whether or not I’ve left my razor behind somewhere is worth the trade off of using something that is considered disposable. At home I generally try to have the kind of razor where you periodically replace the blade, but keep the same handle for years. I consider these “semi-disposable”.  The trick is then trying to remember exactly which kind you have when you’re getting the replacement blades. I was recently very frustrated to find that the new handle and blades my husband had bought me said that the blades were not sold separately – implying you need to buy a new handle after you use up the 4 blade-heads in the packet.  However, I figure that each head can last me anywhere from 4-7 months, so the package with 4 heads in it is likely to last me over 2 years. 

At this point I figure the next time I have to worry about buying a handle with replaceable blades is a good two years out, as long as I keep this one as my home razor and keep totally disposable razors in my travel bag. 

So, how many times do I reuse a disposable razor or razor-head?  Well, I probably use it twice a week for at least 4-7 months, which would be 35-50 times.

How many times do you reuse a disposable razor?

Happy Greening,


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Charcoal vs. Propane Revisited

food on wood pellet grill

Last summer I blogged about the age old controversy: Which is the greener way to grill: Charcoal or Propane? My conclusion was that it matters far more what you grill than how you grill it. Now I have discovered something new and I … [Continue reading]

Music That Inspires Me To Be Green

drawing of acoustic guitar

I can relate to Kermit the Frog saying, "It's not easy being green."  Recently, I have been struggling to stay motivated and write blog posts to motivate others to be green.  With everything going on in the world these … [Continue reading]

Living Smaller – Make Friends With Your Neighbors

metal measuring cup with organic sugar

"Bye mom, I'm going next door!" "Can I go to David's house to get Daddy?" "Run across the street and get a cup of sugar." Making friends with your neighbors is generally a good idea. Life is better when you know the people who live around you … [Continue reading]

Amazon Packaging FAIL

small plastic card packed in a big box

Why does Amazon insist on using a card board box to ship everything? Today I received a Windows Update Card (i.e., something the size of a credit card that has the license key printed on it) attached to a card board insert inside a much bigger … [Continue reading]

Addicted to Electricity

tangle of charging cables in a car

"My life would be miserable and I wouldn't ever be happy, unless I had a shelf full of boardgames in my room [if I didn't have electricity]." "If you're not charging your iPod, could you plug in my iPhone?"  "I have another cable, I can … [Continue reading]

Upgrading Historic Church Pendant Lights to LED

300W LED Upgrade

Have you noticed that many churches have the same lantern-style chandeliers? Our church and my mother's church both have them. Jon and I can't help ourselves, but we notice the lighting wherever we go.  We don't necessarily notice how bright it … [Continue reading]

Is Poison Walking Around Your Home?


When I was a kid we finally sweet-talked my mom into a cat. She kept saying she didn’t want to be responsible for another thing that had to be taken care of, she already had four children. One day a cat started hanging around our house and we … [Continue reading]

Identifying Invasive Plants: Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard in seed pod stage

Recently I had the opportunity to go out in the woods with Eagle Eye Institute.  They were teaching students from our high school how to identify invasive plants in our area and remove them. This time we were focused on garlic … [Continue reading]