How Worms Can Deliver The Very Best Compost You’ve Used

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Image source: gardeningknowhow.com

Image source: gardeningknowhow.com

Image source: gardeningknowhow.com

Vermiculture or vermicomposting is the method of using worms to break down organic matter into useable compost for your garden. This method is catching on throughout the US, and you can often find “worm bins” for composting in your gardening catalogs.

To the uninformed, keeping worms in a bin outside or even in your home is pretty odd. However, vermicomposting has a range of different benefits that heavily outweigh any initial ick factor or hesitation over taking on a new project.

Benefits of Vermicomposting

Here are just a few benefits of harnessing the power of worms for composting:

1. Can Be Set Up Indoors.

Worm bins can easily be set up right in your home or even in a kitchen corner. A properly maintained worm bin doesn’t have a noticeable odor and to visitors it often just looks like a trash can. The real benefit of having a compost system right in your home is that you can add your table scraps right away rather than throwing away food or having to carry it out to your compost pile.

2. Organic Matter Composts Quicker.

In comparison to traditional composting methods, the vermiculture composting process is done in a third of the time. Even a substantially smaller worm bin could still produce more, and a better quality, compost compared to a compost pile.

3. Vermicompost is Superior to Other Types of Compost.

Science backs vermicompost as being higher quality and overall superior to other composts, even store-bought. You can see a data table of this on the New Mexico State University website by clicking here.

Due to its chemical makeup, vermicompost increases germination in seeds, boosts plant growth and also delivers nutrients to the plants for a longer amount of time.

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4. Microbes Present in Vermicompost Improve Plant’s Disease Resistance.

Those who use vermicompost regularly have noticed that plants fertilized with vermicompost are more disease-resistant and fare much better if pests are present. This is believed to be due to the presence of healthy microbes that live with the worms. They help break down organic matter but also are taken with the harvested compost and mixed into the soil.

5. Vermiculture Worm Bins Offer Two Forms of Compost.

There are two ways worms produce compost or fertilizer that you can use. The first: worm castings, which are the actual compost the worms create. The secondary way you can get fertilizer from the bin is through the excess moisture the worms create. This “worm tea” is a liquid that is rich in nutrients and can be poured right on your plants. Your worm bin set-up, even if it’s DIY, should have a spigot on the bottom bin so you can drain out this excess liquid.

6. Vermicompost Increases Soil’s Water Retention Abilities.

The worm castings which make up the vermicompost are extremely effective at retaining water. In fact, this compost can hold up to nine times its weight in water. When you mix the compost into your garden beds or pots, you are giving your soil a helping hand. This water retention means you conserve more water and also help those in dry climates improve their garden’s productivity.

7. The Whole Process is Pretty Much Hand’s Off Until Harvest.

Compared to traditional composting methods, vermicomposting is hands-off until the worms have completed the composting process. You don’t need to turn piles over or mess with the worms. All you do is feed them table scraps, inspect them regularly to ensure they aren’t underfed or overfed, and drain the extra worm tea so the bin doesn’t get too moist. You don’t go into the bin until you are ready to harvest the worm castings.

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Setting Up a Vermicomposting System

Even those who live in an urban setting with a container garden or have only some herbs growing in pots can set up a vermicomposting system. The wonderful thing about using worms is that you can scale it to your needs, whether you’ve grown a couple of tomato plants or are growing a large garden that feeds your whole family.

The first step is to determine what system you want to use.

Choosing a Worm Bin

There are plenty of manufactured worm bins on the market for a good price. These are often a nice choice for those who don’t need to produce a lot of compost. They are also ideal for those of us who aren’t so DIY-inclined or just prefer the streamlined look of plastic, especially if it’s in the home.

If you’re brand new to vermiculture, it may be a good idea to start off with one of these bins. If you decide you need to scale up then you can buy additional bins or make a larger system yourself.

That being said, there are many DIY projects that you can build to save some money.

Selecting Your Worms

Even though the common regular old earthworms compost organic matter, they aren’t especially suited for a vermicomposting set-up. There are two species of worms that are best for vermicomposting: brandling worms (Eisenia foetida) or, the most common species, red wigglers (Lumbricus rubellus).

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These worms are smaller than the earthworms you tend to find in your garden and are composting powerhouses. Earthworms prefer a soil-based environment, which is why they don’t thrive in a composting set-up. Red wigglers or brandling worms prefer the more wet compost set-up and will even live right in manure.

You can purchase red wigglers or brandling worms from many different sources on the Internet, from Amazon or eBay to worm breeder’s websites. I’ve purchased worms from Amazon and from worm breeders who have listings on eBay. I recommend you do a litter research or read reviews to ensure the person or company has a history of delivering healthy worms.

You will need about one pound of red wigglers to start up a worm bin the size of the commercial ones listed above. If you need to scale up, it is recommended to go with two pounds of worms per pound of food scraps/organic material you need to compost. The worms will produce roughly their body weight in castings.

Setting Up the Bin

Setting up the bin involves simply adding bedding for the worms. Some commercial set-ups will come with bedding to get you started. If yours didn’t or you’re building one, you can use the following different materials for bedding:

    • Shredded newspaper or printer paper.
    • Shredded leaves.
    • Hay or straw.
    • Moistened peat moss.
    • Old/aged manure.

Fill the bin with bedding and allow it to sit for a couple of days before introducing the worms. Make sure the bin is aerated (use your hands to lift the material) and slightly damp (not wet!) before adding the worms on top.

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Feeding Your Worms

Your worms can be fed a wide variety of different table scraps or other organic matter, such as:

      • Vegetable scraps.
      • Fruit scraps.
      • Eggshells.
      • Tea bags.
      • Used paper towels or napkins.
      • Coffee grounds.

Never feed your worms any dairy or meat products.

Harvesting Your Compost

The average-sized worm bin can be fed for roughly three months before you can harvest the castings. Fed on a daily basis, the worms should have eaten and broken down their bedding within that time. Once you’ve noticed that the bedding is gone, it’s time to remove the worms, separate the useable compost and replace new bedding for the worms.

There are a couple of ways you can do this, but the easiest is to construct a sifting frame from some leftover lumber and hardware cloth. Set this over a wheelbarrow or a bucket. Dump your worms and compost over this and then shimmy the frame to sift the compost through. Some little worms will get through, and you can pick these out if you want.

Vermicomposting is a super-easy process and quite fascinating since it’s powered solely by worms. It is a simple project to set up and requires very little maintenance. In return, you get some of the most powerful compost available.

Do you currently have a vermiculture set-up or plan to buy/build one? Please share any tips or other comments in the section below. 

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The post How Worms Can Deliver The Very Best Compost You’ve Used appeared first on Off The Grid News.

5 Gardening Myths That Seemingly Everyone Believes

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5 Gardening Myths That Seemingly Everyone Believes (No. 2 Shocked Us)

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

We have all grown in our gardening experiences by words of wisdom from those gardeners who have come and gone before us, and we’ve even followed gardeners who have TV shows, blogs and websites dedicated to their art.

Of course, there’s a lot of advice that we’ve accepted that is nothing more than myth. This is not to say the advice is not entirely false, but it is not entirely true, either.

These myths have been around so long that even some of the experts take them to heart.

1. All organic pesticides and sprays are safe. Although it’s common sense to question how safe a pesticide is, many gardeners take organic pesticides for granted. Most of the time it is safe, but there are some natural ingredients that are just as dangerous, or more so, than commercial chemicals.

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Sulphur, for example, was used by early gardeners, but it can be deadly. The same goes for warfarin, sabadilla, rotenone and nicotine, even though they are plant-based. Even pyrethrin, when used long enough, can harm you and your garden. When looking for natural alternatives, be sure to investigate their safety.

2. Fresh vegetables are far more nutritious than frozen or canned vegetables. Well, how fresh is fresh? It is true that fresh vegetables are healthier for you, but only when they are freshly picked. The vegetables you purchase in the grocery stores usually make quite the trip from the field to the shelves of the store. Sometimes the journey takes several days or even weeks to get to the final destination. Enzymes are naturally being released by the vegetables during storage and shipping, causing the vegetables to lose nutrients and minerals. However, when the produce is fresh-picked and quick-frozen, most of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are preserved. This is good to keep in mind for your own garden produce: If you’re not planning on eating your harvest within a short time, don’t delay in preserving it.

5 Gardening Myths That Seemingly Everyone Believes (No. 2 Shocked Us)

Image source: Pixabay.com

3. Kitchen scraps are all you need for compost. How many of us have compost bins by our gardens, and walk our kitchen scraps out there after each meal? Yet kitchen waste, if that’s all you’re using, is too strong for your garden. You need a mix of leaves (known as brown) and kitchen waste (known as green). There needs to be the correct balance between the two, meaning having more brown than green. The breakdown of these two things creates compost. You can always put extra kitchen scraps into a worm box, or vermicomposter.

4. Watering vegetable plants in the sun will kill them. How often have we been told this one? It’s definitely one believed by many experts. The most common reason gardeners accept this myth is on the premise that the water acts as a magnifying glass. The sun’s rays will hit the water and they will burn the vegetable plants, especially the leaves.

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The truth is the water isn’t strong enough to magnify the sunlight enough to the required heat needed to burn the leaves and plants. Now, this doesn’t mean high noon is the perfect time to water your garden. Be reasonable.

5. Organic gardens are more expensive than traditional gardens. This myth has become more common as people are starting to want more and more organic products and food. Organic produce from any grocery store is more expensive — it’s true. Growing your own organic vegetables are not, however. When you cut out any commercial fertilizers and pesticides, you are saving money. By making your own mulch and compost from scraps and leaves from your yard, you will be saving even more money. Re-use containers and use mixtures of hot soapy water, garlic and hot pepper to keep away unwanted pests. Dead leaves can be used, along with lawn cuttings and scraps, to make fertilizer. Save seeds from your current produce to use for next season. Dry the seeds out and store them in a cool, dry place away from the sun. This is a great way to have a successful garden, as the healthy plants have healthy seeds.

The best way to garden is to do your research and speak to experts and fellow gardeners alike. The more you know, the better your garden will be. You will be able to decide what is true and what isn’t, and your garden will thank you.

What myths would you add to this list? Share your myths in the section below:

Every Spring, Gardeners Make This Avoidable Mistake — But You Don’t Have To. Read More Here.

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Prepper to Prepper: Our best gardening advice

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Many, many years ago, close-knit communities would spend hours together in the course of a year sharing from their own experiences what worked and what didn’t when it came to gardening and farming. Much of that old-time, best gardening advice and wisdom has been passed down to younger generations, but unfortunately, most have been lost. […]

GMO! Gluten! Organic!

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GMO! Gluten! Organic!

GMO! Gluten! Organic!
Lynna… “A Preppers Path” Audio player provided!

GMO! Gluten! Organic! Free range and Grass fed! What are they? Why are they? Is it important? Some of the real questions we should be asking ourselves long before a trip to the grocery store. When I was a youngster non of these words were used. Not in mainstream conversation let alone as advertising buzz words. Today we are inundated with these words and catch phrases daily.

Continue reading GMO! Gluten! Organic! at Prepper Broadcasting |Network.

TGN Interviews Marianne Cicala, Local Changemaker

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Marianne Cicala, Local Changemaker

Marianne Cicala
Local Changemaker

Companies: Cricket’s Cove Farm & Forge (working biodynamic farm) in Victoria, VA; Twigs & Berries (organic grocery store) in Kenbridge, VA

Website: CricketsCove.net

Follow on social media at: Twigs & Berries (Facebook) and Cricket’s Cove Farm & Forge (Facebook)

Fast facts: Cricket’s Cove not only offers regular permaculture workshops, but also serves as the studio of artist and blacksmith Jim Cooper (who also happens to be Marianne’s husband).

Nominated by:
Patricia M. | Kenbridge, VA
Joyce J. | Palmer Springs, VA

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

When did you first become interested in organic farming and clean eating?

In college, I rented an old sharecropper house on a working farm. The caretakers were an elderly couple, born at the turn of the last century and raised during a time when self-sufficiency and true homesteading were the norm.

Mrs. Skinner (the farmer’s wife) couldn’t comprehend that I grew up without a home garden, and my knowledge of canning involved buying them at the grocery store. I became her project and mission.

Mrs. Skinner read the night sky as the basis for everything that happened in her kitchen garden, referred to a silver maple as her “rain tree,” split open persimmon seeds in the early fall, and looked at corn silks and the undercoat of her beloved donkey’s rump for the winter forecast.

She taught me how to can, make jam, and pickle everything from squash to pole beans. It was literally a brand new world which grabbed me in a way that nothing else ever has or will. Mrs. Skinner introduced me to the importance of observation and being a partner with nature. Those memories underscore how much knowledge we’ve lost in an age when the ease of buying bottles and bags from garden centers has replaced a millennium of skills.

What path led you to the countryside of southern Virginia?

I was reared in Memphis, Tennessee, then got out of school and pursued a corporate career. I escaped that world as often as possible to go hang out in the country or woods.

My career took me to North Carolina, and my escape act continued—whether it was in my garden or the forest. My husband, Coop, had the same passion about the peace of the country, but, as an artist, residing in a large city also had professional benefits.

While living in Raleigh, we began looking for land with a short punch list in hand: not farmed for at least 50 years; running water via a river, creek, etc.; rolling hills; and loads of wildlife. We were lucky enough to eventually find our “home.”  As we bushwhacked our way around this land, we instantly knew it was perfect.

We spent the next 10 years buzzing back and forth between our city life and our future life, and we’ve now lived here full time for 10 years.

How did your passions grow into what is today Cricket’s Cove Farm & Forge and your Twigs & Berries organic grocery store?

I didn’t intend to be a farmer; I only wanted a personal garden. But I was completely sucker punched by the lack of good food available living deep in the country. I had naively assumed that by being in an agriculture-based community, I would have access to an abundance of mouthwatering, clean, fresh produce. I had a lot learn.

Unbeknownst to me, the stars began lining up for my future. While a local man helped me install a small orchard, I also faced the challenge of planting a proper kitchen garden. Since I was dealing with compacted clay for the first time, I began educating myself by listening to Dr. Elaine Ingham’s podcasts about soil. However, not only was the closest garden center almost an hour away, but it was also a big-box store. I was frustrated by the selection and was forced to blindly purchase via the Internet.

Out of the blue, the same man who had helped with my orchard called to let me know that a dilapidated building and bit of land on Main Street in nearby Kenbridge were for sale—and they would make a great garden center.

My future began to unfold. Twigs & Berries would come to specialize in young fruit trees, berries, and other edibles, hence its name. We also invited local truck farmers to sell their produce inside, since there was only one area chain grocery store and no farmers market in this county.

As I began getting to know the local growers and their practices, though, I realized the common approach was to pelt the crops with Sevin® Dust regularly and use Roundup® between seasonal plantings. I also realized that my edible plant customers weren’t buying the local produce, but were driving over an hour to get clean, fresh food.

It was inexcusable to me that so many locals like us, people who had left city life for the peace of country living, were heading back to the city every week to buy food.

I contacted the USDA and, since our homestead was untouched by “modern” farming practices, we got certified organic quickly—and my kitchen garden grew into Cricket’s Cove Organic Farm (my last name translates to cricket). Twigs & Berries then shifted our edibles to only organics. (The local grocery store didn’t offer any organic goods at the time.)

How did you earn the title of first certified biodynamic produce farm in Virginia? What differentiates biodynamic from organic?

We’ve been certified organic for seven years and certified biodynamic for three years. In the United States, you must be certified organic for a number of years before applying for biodynamic certification—and you must maintain both.

Biodynamic is an internationally recognized certification that is actually older than USDA Organic Certification. I learned of biodynamics a few years after we had been certified organic—and as I watched the constraints of organic certification ease to allow synthetic amendments and accommodations for industrial farms. I became disenchanted to a degree and asked around for direction to a cleaner alternative. What I got was an avalanche of responses pointing to biodynamics.

It’s a holistic approach that I prefer to coin as “wholistic.” It is heritage growing, right up there with what Mrs. Skinner educated me about all those decades ago.

Our farm is basically a closed system with next to nothing coming in, and almost everything coming from within. I use no mechanical equipment on any of our gardens today and no fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides.

Planting, transplanting, and harvesting follow the biodynamic calendar, which maps moon phases and more. Our beds are permanent (no till), we plant intensively, and we companion plant like mad. We have massive compost piles that we empty and start up again throughout the year.

There are so many practices common to permaculture, sustainable growing, and biodynamics—like our orchards serving as food forests, complete with herbs, berries, perennial flowers, annual crops, etc.—that the transition was virtually seamless. This is the basis of the entire farm’s design.

You’ve earned both Permaculture Design Certification and your Advanced Permaculture Practicum. How do you balance the “bookish” side of your expertise with your love for the “down-and-dirty” aspects of daily farm life?

I see them as one thing.

How can you be really good at anything without constantly learning, especially with something so fluid and ever-changing as farming?

I know that I have so much more to learn, and the deeper I dig into this life and passion, the more questions I have about it. The beauty of this exploration today is the open dialogue on an international basis. People like me are so ready to share their practices, their successes, and their failures and questions. The massive number of global comrades in this quest for deeper discovery is truly awesome and so important given the current challenges.

You’ve said that your farm experiments extensively, resulting in both successes and what you describe as “epic failures.” Can you cite an example of one of your victories?

An example of a success beyond my hopes happened this past fall. Our challenge was impressive heat and 10 weeks without more than .10” of rainfall. In early August, I began to hear a lot of chatter about a possible fall drought and began reading about growing practices in desert areas.

We grow rice in conventional rice paddies; the base of these beds is below ground level. We harvested our rice in late August, which left several unoccupied below-grade beds. In deserts, sunken beds are a common approach, since their soil temperature and evaporation rate are lower (i.e., they hold water longer). We carved out narrow walking paths and used that soil to build up beds within the paddies.

I’m kind of a maniac about water retention and movement, so we also sculpted waterways so that we could simply flood the paddy, allowing the water to move around the raised beds. This resulted in easy and quick watering (since by dropping a hose at one end, the water would meander throughout) and deep, root-soaking penetration (since this approach works much like a swale and berm, which it is).

We planted the same crops in these beds as in our other above-ground gardens. There were marked differences. We watered the paddy gardens much less, and they boasted bigger, healthier plants and an earlier harvest. We even got a second fall crop planting in a couple of these beds.

Here’s the surprise—the plants in the sunken beds did just fine when we dipped to temps in the low 20s; plants in our other beds got smoked.

How about an example of a failure?

An epic financial failure was our foray into aquaponics. I loved the idea, especially since it is a closed system for the most part, with fish-fertilized water pumped throughout the grow beds and plant roots supplying some shelter and food for the fish.

We dedicated half of a greenhouse (normally used during the winter for veggie and herb propagation) and three 650-gallon drums for the fish. We cut the tops off the drums for grow beds and invested in pumps, pipes, heaters, and pea gravel; pipes for crawfish homes; baby tilapia; and, of course, fish food.

The first mental failure on my part was assuming that the submerged heaters would be enough to allow this tropical fish to thrive in an unheated greenhouse. They survived, but were incredibly slow to grow.

Technically, the experiment worked—and we enjoy some of the sweetest strawberries, peas, etc.—but from a financial standpoint, it was folly.

It was too small to produce anything other than for personal consumption, but we still had to power the pumps and heater. It was a great novelty, and had it been a much larger system and our primary focus, it would have worked. Instead, it was simply a distraction. Lesson learned—keep your eye on the ball and don’t spread yourself too thin.

Of the many hats you wear (among them farmer, educator, and business owner), do you have a favorite?

I’m always happiest when I’m knee deep in and covered with soil, but I think presenting workshops is probably my favorite aspect of what we do.

It’s easy to sometimes get overwhelmed with the day to day of farming, so it’s important to me to surround myself with new faces and like-minded people. Spending the day with others interested in the moving parts of how we do things and happy to share what they’re doing as well is important. It’s an incredible mental break and reaffirmation when I see our farm through the eyes of our guests. It just does my soul good.

How do you and your husband partner in the workings of your businesses?

We share the same passions about life and, luckily, are incredibly different in our approach to it. I’m a bit of a taskmaster, while he’s laid back, usually rolling with the flow. We mutually admire what the other is doing, and I think that ensures a great partnership.

Plus, since we have separate businesses on the same piece of land, there is automatic interaction throughout the day. My college major was metals, so I have a bit of knowledge about what he does, and he is constantly reading up and watching the happenings on the farm, so he has a bit of knowledge about what I do. Coop is my sounding board, and his areas of expertise are invaluable to me and the farm’s success.

We’re also fortunate that Twigs & Berries is run by a few dedicated people, but Coop heads there once a week, and I’m there two and a half days—just to keep in touch with our customers. It’s a good break for both of us to be in town, see people, and keep up with the community.

What advice would you offer our TGN community?

At least a couple times a week, I schedule time to just walk about. I do this alone, so there are no distractions … no tasks other than observation. We have spots to sit and rest at throughout the farm and, after such a walk, I’ll pick one and just be. I think it’s important to make sure there are places to sit, take it all in, and just breathe for a moment.

 

The post TGN Interviews Marianne Cicala, Local Changemaker appeared first on The Grow Network.

Is This Organic Chicken Feed Good or Evil?

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A Funny Thing Happened at the Fair

A couple of years ago, I was invited to speak at the Mother Earth News Fair in Topeka, Kansas. I gave my talk about “How to Grow Half of Your Own Food in an Hour a Day.” The talk was really great and several people in the audience came up to me afterward to tell me how excited they were about starting to grow some of their own food and medicine.

I just love that energy when someone gets excited about working toward real food independence!

After my talk was over, I was walking around the aisles at the fair and chatting with all of the people there. There were some pretty cool products on display—heritage crafts and folk art, these awesome modular livestock fodder systems, local organic seed companies . . . you name it.

If it’s about sustainable living or traditional organic foods, it was there.

So I was walking around, taking in the sites and soaking up as much info as I could retain, when I had a chance encounter that I want to tell you about . . .

Read more: Grow Your Own Chicken Feed the Easy Way

Raising Meat Chickens_336x280

Strangers in the Crowd

This encounter didn’t exactly start out on a positive note.

To tell you the truth, we were in each others’ way. I was trying to round the corner on a crowded aisle, and I had identified a tiny little narrow pathway where I could just squeeze through.

But about halfway through, I realized that there was someone else coming from the other direction who was also trying to squeeze through the same narrow opening in the crowd.

We met in the middle and started trying to shimmy around each other, but the space was too tight. We were stuck there together, caught in the crowd face to face, and neither of us could get to where we were trying to go.

We were both a little embarrassed, and we both gave each other a slightly sheepish smile when our eyes finally met.

“It’s pretty crowded today,” I said, in an attempt to break the ice and relieve the awkward vibe that was going on.

“Yeah,” she said, “I can’t believe how many people came out.”

The crowd started to thin around us, but we had already struck up a conversation, so I decided to stick with it. “I’m Marjory Wildcraft. I just did a presentation over there at the stage in the back corner. Did you see it?”

“No, I’ve been in the booth all morning long,” she said. As she spoke, she pointed to a big booth across the aisle.

I had to do a double take, because the booth she pointed to had a huge logo on the banner that I recognized instantly. It was the infamous red-and-white checkerboard of Purina.

Read more: Ferment Your Feed for Happier and Healthier Chickens

A Fox in the Hen House?

I was a little bit shocked . . . .

There I was, surrounded by all of the latest and greatest products in the organic, sustainable, traditional living marketplace.

Purina was one name I definitely had not expected to see in this crowd.

I looked around a little bit to see if maybe she had pointed at the wrong booth.

And that’s when I noticed her name tag.

There it was, right in front of me the whole time—that same red-and-white checkerboard right above her name, “Jodi.” I tried not to be rude, but I simply had to ask…

“What are you doing here?”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m sorry,” I said, trying to take a step backward in the conversation. “I, uh, I’m surprised to see that Purina is here at the Mother Earth News Fair.”

“Oh. Ha, ha, yeah, a lot of people have said that to me today.” She smiled, and I knew that she wasn’t too offended by my surprise.

Read more: Are You Prepared for Peak Chicken?

Making a New Friendship

When Jodi laughed, we both relaxed. I could tell that she was used to getting responses like mine, and she could tell that I was happy I hadn’t offended her.

But I still had to know. I gave Jodi a gentle smile and took a second try at asking the same question . . . .

“So, really, what are you doing here?”

Jodi explained that Purina sees a lot of value in small-scale family farms. They recognize that homesteading is a growing movement; they think it’s important; and they want to make sure that they’re listening to those customers about what they need and want from the products they buy to feed their animals.

“Huh,” I said, still a little surprised. I was trying to tread lightly so I wouldn’t offend her again. “Have you gotten a pretty good response from the people here?”

Jodi lit up, “We have! We’re just here to listen to people, and I think that people really appreciate that.”

“I see,” I said.

My first instinct had been that the people at this fair would be somewhat hostile toward a company like Purina. But for a company like Purina to show up at a Mother Earth News Fair, just to listen to the people . . . well . . . you can’t really get too upset about that.

I looked over at her booth again, and sure enough, it didn’t look like they were trying to sell any products that day. I noticed that there was a small group of homesteader-type families standing around and talking to the Purina representatives, who were listening intently to what the people had to say.

All of a sudden it started to make sense to me.

“What are people saying to you?” I asked.

Jodi thought it over for a second and then replied, “Organic.”

Raising Meat Chickens_650x341_2

Is Organic Enough?

We talked for a while longer. Jodi explained that she had talked to lots of people with lots of opinions. Some of the people at the fair already purchased Purina feed regularly from their local farm supply stores. Others, like me, were just surprised to see Purina there at all.

But, one common thread that she heard a lot that day was that people want to give their chickens organic feed. It was a big deal.

And Jodi explained that Purina was already working hard to get a line of organic chicken feeds out on the market. It wasn’t a small task for them—they had to source all new suppliers, create a new production process, and find new distributors who were willing to stock the product.

I could see that Jodi knew all of the ins and outs of the project, and it sounded to me like Purina was serious about creating this new line of organic chicken feeds.

But still, even as Jodi was speaking, my mind kept wondering off. I was thinking about the Purina company that I already knew. The Purina company that supplies food to all of those big industrial chicken farms . . . . The Purina that formulated chemical changes in animal food to make eggs come out bigger and make hogs grow faster . . . . The Purina that has been passed around over the years—owned and operated by huge global conglomerates like BP, Koch Industries, and Nestle . . . . The Purina that has been blamed for poisoning thousands of cats and dogs with low-quality pet foods…

I was pretty confused.

Read more: Would You Eat Chicken-less Eggs?

The Benefit of the Doubt

After we had talked for a few minutes, I decided to give Jodi the benefit of the doubt.

“Well, I’m impressed that you’re here listening to people. And I’ll tell you what . . . If you ever get that organic chicken feed on the market, I’m going to buy a bag of it.”

Jodi laughed, “Oh, I hope you will!”

We parted ways, and I kept walking to take in the rest of the fair.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t even think about it again for the next few years. That is, until I bumped into Jodi again at the Mother Earth News Fair in Texas this past spring. This time, I was lucky enough to have Anthony—the Grow Network’s videographer—there with me:

I’m A Woman of My Word

Well, I’ve never been one to break a promise. After we shot this video, I asked Jodi where I could find Purina’s new organic chicken feed, so that I could buy a bag and let my chickens try it.

She said that my local farm supply should have it—if it wasn’t there, I should just wait a month or two and try again. Sure enough, I found it in stock at my local store.

I have been raising a big flock of meat birds for a project we’re working on for The Grow Network this summer. I gave this food to those chickens for a couple of weeks, as a test. Come to think of it, it wasn’t much of a test. I think these chickens would have eaten anything. But they did seem to like the organic Purina feed. They ate the whole bag and I didn’t notice any changes in their health or behavior while they were eating it.

But I’m dying to know. . . .

Would you buy organic chicken feed from Purina?

Some of the people I’ve talked to swear that they’d never touch anything made by Purina. Other people don’t have a problem with it, and they say their decision would just be made based on the price.

So, what do you think? Is Purina’s organic chicken feed good or evil? Drop a comment down below to let me know what you think…

Raising Meat Chickens_1200x6301

(This post is an updated version of an article originally published on August 9, 2016.)

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Cheap, Healthy Meals: How to Eat Sustainably on a Budget

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It’s a constant battle:

How can I eat healthy?

How can I eat healthy on a budget?

And how can I eat healthy on a budget while also living a sustainable lifestyle as an apartment homesteader? GAHHHHHHHHH…

Wuf. I feel ya.

It isn’t easy to eat healthy and sustainably in a world full of “quick and easy” meals—quite aptly named fast food—and inexpensive food trucked from hundreds of miles away.

In the last chapter we talked about ways we can grow some of our own produce. In this chapter, let’s talk about cheap, healthy meals—the best, most sustainable and budget-friendly ways to eat healthy as an apartment homesteader from all the food sources you’ll encounter.

Healthy Food is Sustainable Nutrition

If you’re healthy, you will save money at the doctor and the pharmacy. Saving money at the pharmacy means ingesting fewer pharmaceuticals that are unsustainable to make and distribute and that damage your body’s ability to naturally fight diseases. And to be healthy—and therefore avoid the pharmacy—you need to have good nutrition.

In other words, healthy body = sustainable nutrition = saving money.

When we eat non-organic, pesticide-heavy food, our bodies enter a toxic state. Our bodies don’t know what to do with the toxins, so they are pushed into our fat stores. Our cells build up thick walls to protect against the toxins in our blood streams so we cannot even absorb necessary vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to function.

And the same happens when we eat meat treated with antibiotics or drink water full of chemicals from crop runoff and water treatment facilities.

All the food, water, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and other environmental factors around us create a toxic equation. We live in a constant state of toxicity.

So how do we rid our bodies of those toxins? We already talked about replacing toxic personal care products with natural, DIY products. Later in this series, we’ll talk about using herbal remedies to replace pharmaceuticals.

With some simple switches in our food and water intake, we can begin the detox process.

  • The first step in detoxing is to increase hydration. But don’t just start downing tap water. Most tap water contains chemicals that will continue adding toxins to the equation. Drink distilled or filtered water. Most nutritionists suggest that we each drink half of our body weight in ounces of water every day. One way to jump-start the detox process is to drink at least twenty ounces of water right when you wake up in the morning. Drinking water after a nighttime “fast” will get everything moving and help flush out toxins.
  • Then, eat small portions of healthy foods multiple times throughout the day, plus lots of water to keep toxins moving through your body.
  • Also, consider adding therapeutic-grade essential oils to your daily routine in your personal care products and cleaning supplies, or to your diet in your food or water. Essential oils can help oxygenate your blood and can be absorbed in cells with even the thickest membranes.

It will take time for your body to detox, but once you do, you’ll find you’re able to eat less and that your body craves only healthy, organic food—food that will fill you up faster and leave you fuller for longer.

If you’ve been eating healthy, organic, toxin-free food for a while and your body seems to be going backward in some ways (e.g., if you have aches and pains or your digestion is arguing with you), DON’T STOP. That is your body’s way of telling you it is getting rid of the toxins it has been storing for years!

You’re almost there.

Keep feeding your body what it needs!

Budget for Organic, Budget for Sustainable

So what are those “healthy foods” we should eat small amounts of multiple times a day, and how can you fit them into your budget?

First, eat less meat. Meat is expensive. Organically raised meat is off-the-charts expensive. Try observing a Meatless Monday for a few weeks; you may be surprised how much money you actually save by simply cutting out meat one day a week.

Buy in bulk. Many organic grocery stores or regular local grocery stores have an area where you can buy bulk dry goods. My local store even has a place where you can grind your own peanut butter and fill your own honey jars! Buy in bulk and make sure you can preserve your purchases for future use.

Eat seasonally. Out-of-season fruits and vegetables have to travel from areas of the country or world with different growing seasons, so they are going to be more expensive (and less sustainable because of their use of fuel). Find a seasonal produce calendar for your region and buy only produce that is in season. Buying local will be mostly “seasonal.” Keep that in mind and support your local gardeners!

Make room in your budget to purchase organic produce on the “Dirty Dozen” list. Remember that list?

The Dirty Dozen

Dirty Dozen

  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Potatoes

Eating healthy means being careful not to ingest harmful chemicals like pesticides. Buying organic produce from the Dirty Dozen list—while slightly more expensive up front—will save you money in doctors’ visits and pharmaceuticals over time.

You’ll be healthier, and your bank account will thank you for it.

Cheap, Healthy Meals From the Grocery Store

If you’re working with a particularly tight budget, you may decide to purchase some conventionally grown produce from your local grocery story. If that is the case, purchase less expensive, non-organic produce from the “Clean Fifteen” list.

The Clean Fifteen

Clean Fifteen

  • Sweet Corn
  • Avocados
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Sweet Peas
  • Papayas
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Eggplant
  • Honeydew
  • Kiwi
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Grapefruit

But even produce on the Clean Fifteen list can be coated with some pesticides, so make sure you wash all produce you purchase from the grocery store.

Find or make your own produce wash that will remove as many potential pesticides and other toxins from the list as possible.

For produce with skin, soak for one hour in plain white vinegar. Then scrub gently and rinse.

For leafy greens, add two tablespoons of sea salt to two cups of water. Also add a little lemon juice. Spray the cleaning solution on the greens, then soak in a diluted vinegar solution for fifteen minutes. Rinse in cold water to plump them up (they’ll probably wilt a little bit in the cleaning process) and then dry them completely using a salad spinner before storing.

I like to add a few drops of lemon essential oil to the vinegar solution when I’m cleaning produce. The extra cleaning power helps me feel safe eating non-organic produce. Also, therapeutic-grade lemon essential oil is one of the least expensive essential oils, so it is a win for both your health and your budget!

Eating cheap, healthy meals from the grocery store doesn’t mean eating unsustainably. Many grocery stores purchase local produce. If the products aren’t clearly marked, ask the management what is locally grown. If you can’t afford organic, you may at least be able to afford local and then clean the produce at home.

Another way to eat sustainably from the grocery store is to cut down on your food waste. Set up your apartment homestead compost unit and dispose of your food scraps there. Then, use that compost in your patio or indoor garden.

Remember also to be conscious of your trash production. When you purchase produce from the grocery store or buy in bulk in the organic sections, make sure you have your reusable bags and avoid plastic and cardboard containers as much as possible.

Healthy, Budget-Friendly, and Sustainable Food Prep

One way you can be sure you’re saving money, eating healthy, and tracking exactly where every part of your meal is coming from is to cook meals at home.

My favorite recipes are the simple ones: roasting vegetables in the oven on a sheet pan, freezing fresh frozen fruit and making smoothies, or baking a whole chicken and using it for chicken quesadillas, chicken salad, and chicken soup throughout the week.

If you keep it simple, you’ll be more likely to stick to your health-food plan, your budget, and your commitment to sustainability.

Meal Plan to Waste Not

If you don’t have one yet, create a weekly meal plan. Consider seasonal produce, evaluate what food your garden is producing now or what you have left of your garden preserves, and check ads for anything you have to purchase from local vendors or from the grocery store.

Make sure your meal plan doesn’t stretch your budget. Cheap, healthy meals are easiest to come by when you prepare them yourself at home, but if you’re still strapped, consider these tips for creating a budget-friendly, healthy, and sustainable meal plan:

  • Eat less meat. Refer to my post on conserving fuel in your apartment homestead for more reasons to go meatless.
  • Eat less dairy. Animal products are expensive to produce—especially organically.
  • Substitute half of your meat each week with vegetable proteins like beans and lentils.
  • Buy in bulk when you can and preserve the products for future use. (For example, buy a whole chicken, bake it, and shred it. Store serving sizes of it in individual—reusable—containers and freeze whatever you don’t use that week for future meals.)
  • Double your recipes and freeze your leftovers for an easy go-to meal when you’re strapped for time or lack the motivation to cook a fresh meal. It’s easy to cave and go to a restaurant when you’re feeling unmotivated to cook, and that lack of motivation will cost you money and sustainability.
  • Make sure you preserve the food you buy so that it lasts as long as it possibly can. Use raw vegetables and fruit early in the week so they don’t go bad, or freeze what you won’t use right away. Research ways to keep produce, nuts, dairy, etc., fresher longer and implement those practices in your kitchen.

“Healthy,” “Sustainable,” and “Budget-Friendly” are three terms that can easily go together with a little bit of planning and a commitment to the process.

In the next post in the Apartment Homesteader series, we’ll talk about ways to set up your apartment compost system so your food scraps can help feed your garden and help you produce more of your own food in your apartment homestead. Stay tuned!

 

References

https://wellnessmama.com/28/diy-fruit-and-vegetable-wash/

https://www.cornucopia.org/2015/03/10-ways-to-eat-organic-on-a-budget/

https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwvOzOBRDGARIsAICjxoeqqHpeY0WWZKuzuyFzeiDKOG5P37Qb_jyjmTkgIqrqKoQQYR7J9DMaAstFEALw_wcB#.WdwzJ9OGMfE

http://3ewellness.com/

https://www.youngliving.com/en_US

https://foodbabe.com/2013/05/20/how-to-eat-organic-on-a-budget/

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5 Inexpensive And Homemade Natural Cleaning Products

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We live in a toxic world, but we can choose to step out of that world and create our own natural cleaning products that work just as well. Going completely chemical-free has been a goal of mine for a while now.

Going Chemical-free

I moved into an apartment (insert your sympathetic groan here). I’m working hard to establish my potted plants in my patio garden and implement my chemical-free lifestyle as quickly as possible in the transition.

Commercial products

There is a lot to like about chemical-free cleaning products on the market, but holy-moly, that stuff is expensive. Did you hear the whole, “I had to move into an apartment,” thing? I’m not exactly raking in the dough.

D.I.Y. cleaning products

Instead of spending hundreds of dollars to get every single chemical-free cleaning product on the market, I decided to find natural recipes for making them myself, or developing my own recipes.

Adding therapeutic-grade essential oils (EOs) in my cleaning supplies gives an extra-boost of bacteria-killing and cleaning-oomph to my cleaners.

Essential Oils for cleaning products

Before we get to the recipes, let’s talk about how EOs add to the power of cleaning supplies without the chemical yuck.

EOs are distilled from plants (woo, natural). Think of it as “plant blood”—they oxygenate and move nutrients through the plant, so it can grow and flourish.

When EOs enter your body through inhalation, absorption, or digestion, the essential oils oxygenate your blood and move nutrients through your body. The oils improve your immunity and help support every system in your body, from muscular to endocrine.

They keep our families and ourselves healthy!

Chemical Cleaning Supply Hazards

We know the dangers of inhaling bleach.

We have heard the horror stories of harsh chemicals that get splashed and irritate or burn the skin or cause rashes.

You probably have the local poison control number posted on your refrigerator. It’s in case you know someone who accidentally ingests poison in the form of laundry detergent or all-purpose cleaner.

Typical cleaning supplies …

… like bleach or laundry detergent, contain chemicals that fall into three categories:

  • carcinogens
  • endocrine disruptors
  • neurotoxins

Look at the label to see if the cleaning product has a warning.

If the label says:

  1. Protective clothing should be worn while using this product
  2. Says “proprietary blend of” anything as an ingredient, but doesn’t list the actual ingredients in that blend
  3. Warnings against major skin irritation
  4. Contact poison control in any occasion of use other than the intended use

The product probably has a nasty chemical that may be shown to cause cancer, mimic human hormones in the body, or disrupt brain activity.

Let’s stay away from those.

Stick with natural cleaning supplies that are cheap, easy-to-make, easy-to-use, and reasonably inexpensive.

Benefits of Natural Cleaning Supplies

With EOs, you get cleaning power and peace-of-mind, without having poison control on speed dial.

Not all EOs are created equally. Most essential oils on the market fall into one of three categories:

  • Aromatic
  • Perfume
  • Food Grade

Only the pure form of essential oil—the only one without chemical fillers or carrier oils added—is Therapeutic Grade.

How can you tell that an essential oil company sells only therapeutic grade essential oils?

Find out if the company owns and operates their own farm and has a promise of purity. If their standards are high, they grow their own plants, build their own distilleries, and are open about their processes and systems, you can bet that they are honest about the purity of their essential oils.

Using Essential Oils

I use essential oils in my cleaning supplies, but also in my food, in my fitness supplements, and in my personal care products. A lot of the same oils blend across the board, so cleaning with the same substances that I put on my skin is not a problem.

I won’t break out in hives from a laundry detergent I made with lemon, citronella, rosemary, and lavender essential oils. When I make my all-purpose surface cleaner with cinnamon, clove, lemon, eucalyptus, and rosemary essential oils, I know my skin isn’t going to burn when I touch residue left behind from cleaning the counters.

5 Inexpensive and natural cleaning products

Here are my recipes, equipment, and methods for making and using chemical-free cleaning supplies!

Chemical-free, Laundry detergent

Supplies: Glass Jar, Food Processor or Cheese Grater, Measuring Cups, Mixing Utensil

  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 cup Washing soda
  • 1 Natural Bar Soap (Dr. Bronner’s, Lavender is great), grated into fine shavings
  • 15 drops EO, 3-4 drops each of Lemon, Citronella, Rosemary, and Lavender (whatever smells best to you will work!)

How to make and use:

  1. Grate the natural bar soap of your choice (bonus points if you make your own!) with a cheese grater or food processor.
  2. Stir in Borax and Washing Soda.
  3. As you stir, add drops of EOs to distribute the oil in the mixture evenly. Store in an air-tight glass jar. A large canning jar works great.
  4. Add 1 TBSP of the mixture to your laundry. Use warm or hot water—especially if you don’t grate the bar soap small enough. If the soap pieces are too big, cold water doesn’t dissolve the soap very well. Also, add a couple of drops of EOs directly to your laundry for added freshness (Extra drops of lavender when you wash bedding is heavenly).

Note: I’ve had great results using Lemon EO for stain remover in the laundry. Apply a couple of drops and rub it into a stain (common stains like dirty knee stains from garden) before washing it with the laundry detergent above.

Chemical-free, All-purpose cleaner

Supplies: Amber Glass Spray Bottle, Measuring Cups, Funnel

  • 1 cup Distilled water
  • 1 cup Hydrogen peroxide
  • 15 Drops of EO, 3 drops each of Cinnamon, Clove, Lemon, Eucalyptus, and Rosemary

How to make and use:

  1. Use a funnel to pour all ingredients into an amber or brown glass spray bottle.
  2. Shake gently to combine.
  3. Spray to clean counters, appliances, and other surfaces. Wipe down with a rag.

Degreaser Variation

Add extra-lemon EO and a little lemon juice to the all-purpose cleaner above.

Window and Glass Cleaner Variation

Use less EO, and cut the Hydrogen peroxide amount in half for window or glass cleaner. Try white vinegar as another window and glass cleaner alternative.

Chemical Free, EO Dishwasher Detergent

The ingredient amounts are in “parts,” so you can make large batches. It’s easier to measure the ingredients into a large container in general amounts.

Supplies: Glass Container, Funnel

  • 2 parts Borax
  • 2 parts Washing soda
  • 1 part Kosher salt
  • 20 drops or so Lemon EO

How to make and use:

  1. Fill the container with equal parts Borax and Washing soda.
  2. Add half of that amount of Kosher Salt.
  3. Add the EO, so it smells the way you want it to. It will depend on how much detergent you make.
  4. Combine all dry ingredients in a large canning jar. Stir while adding drops of the EO to distribute it equally.
  5. Scoop 1 TBSP of this mixture into the soap chamber of your dishwasher, and add 1 tsp of Citric Acid to each load. (I use LemiShine, but you can find citric acid at natural grocery stores in bulk, or on Amazon).

Note: For hard water, add more citric acid in each load and increase the Lemon EO amount in the recipe.

These are just a few of the natural cleaning products that you can make for your healthy home.

Do you make your own cleaning products? Share your ideas below.

 

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4 Free Mulches That Can Revolutionize Your Garden

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4 Free Mulches That Can Revolutionize Your Garden

Image source: Pixabay.com

Gardening season is well under way, which means it is time to think about mulching. Instead of running to your local lawn and garden store, though, consider organic mulch choices, which are readily available and provide more benefits than basic wood chips.

Benefits of Organic Mulch

You might be surprised at the multitude of choices gardeners have when it comes to mulching. Some people use newspaper, grass clippings, leaves and other options. While some people do spread landscape fabric around their plants to reduce weeds, organic mulch is a better choice.

  • It is inexpensive. Living a sustainable lifestyle requires a sort of craftiness and ingenuity. We have to rely on the items we have at our fingertips. Instead of purchasing bags of wood chips, organic mulch can be things readily available in your backyard. The only cost may be the labor and time it takes.
  • It prevents weeds. The obvious reason to use mulch is to prevent weeds. Mulch stops sunlight from reaching the weeds. If your primary goal is to reduce weeds, then two inches of mulch is the recommended amount.
  • It adds nutrients to soil. One of the best reasons to use organic mulch is because it adds nutrients back into your soil. Over time, the mulch will decompose, putting nutrients right back into the ground. Grass clippings, for example, decompose quickly and are a great source of nitrogen.
  • It retains moisture. It can be a daunting task to water your garden regularly. Mulch helps to retain the moisture already present in the ground.

Organic Mulch Choices

If you are interested in using organic mulch, there are several choices available to you. Let’s take a look at each one and the benefits.

1. Pine straw. This is a fantastic choice for suppressing weeds. Once wet, the straw tends to mat down, making it nearly impossible for weeds to break through. If you have pine trees on your property, the mulch will be totally free. You also should know that it does take a while for pine straw to decompose.

The All-Natural Fertilizer That Can Double Your Garden Yield!

Another downside to pine straw: It is a source of acid. Your soil will increase in acidity, which is OK for some plants. Gardeners must consider the plants they are growing and if those plants like acid. Veggies such as sweet potatoes, radishes and peppers are good candidates.

2. Grass clippings. We all love free, and grass clippings fall into that category. If you cut your grass, you have clippings. The abundance is a positive reason to use grass clippings. They also are a fantastic source of nitrogen. All plants need nitrogen to grow, but some plants, such as lettuce and spinach, benefit from extra sources.

There are two negatives to using grass clippings. They decompose quickly, so you will have to continue to add layers throughout the growing season. Also, some gardeners despise the smell of decomposing grass. You’ll notice it heavily after rain.

4 Free Mulches That Can Revolutionize Your Garden

Image source: Pixabay.com

3. Shredded leaves. Fallen leaves contain minerals that the tree absorbed from the soil to aid its growth. As they decompose, leaves feed the earthworms, adding nutrients and microbes back into the soil. Gardens with sandy soil benefit from shredded leaves because they help to lighten the soil and retain moisture. Carbon, essential for balancing nitrogen, leeches into the soil as the leaves decompose.

The biggest negative is the look. Chances are you won’t win an award for the “Most Beautiful Garden of the Year.” It is worth the downside. Leaves must be shredded before used as mulch. Otherwise, water may not reach the soil. Also, never use leaves from walnut, eucalyptus or camphor laurel trees, as they have chemicals that stop plant growth.

4. Old hay. If you have access to old hay, your garden will thank you. While you could use fresh hay, the spoiled bales are cheaper and will add more nutrients to the soil. Over time, hay helps to act as a buffer and neutralize your soil. This could be a problem for some plants, but it is great for soil that is a bit too acidic.

The problem with using hay is that it is made from grass. It will have grass seeds that can cause weeds to grow in your garden. Since you probably want to avoid weeds, the best solution is to pile the old hay about a foot thick. At this depth, it is nearly impossible for weeds to grow through.  

What organic mulch would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Feds Mull Tax On Organic Food, Farms

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Feds Mull Tax On Organic Food, Farms

WASHINGTON — Some supporters of organic farming are warning about a sneaky effort to impose what amounts to a federal tax on organic farmers and products.

The proposal by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) would collect funds from organic farmers and food producers to fund pro-organic advertising programs. The funding is called a “checkoff.”

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) supports the idea, but other organic organizations oppose it and are calling the checkoff a tax. The checkoff would impact all organic certificate holders who vote on the issue – whether they support or oppose the idea.

“After reviewing the proposal, we’ve determined that this Check-Off would be a grossly unfair tax imposed upon small personal care processors, and we question the legality of its application to non-food personal care businesses,” businesswoman Diana Kaye wrote at NoOrganicCheckoff.com.

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Kaye operates Terressentials, a small company that makes and markets organic care products.

Feds Mull Tax On Organic Food, Farms

Image source: Pixabay.com

The Cornucopia Institute also opposes the checkoff, saying it will harm family farms and small business people.

The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance sent an email to supporters stating, “Say no to a new tax on organic farmers!”

Checkoffs fund some popular and successful advertising campaigns including “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner,” “Got Milk?” and the “Incredible Edible Egg.” The intent is to help farmers by increasing consumption of those products.

The problem by using a checkoff for organic food, though, is that – by rule – an organic advertising campaign cannot say anything negative about other foods.

“Checkoff dollars,” Cornucopia said on its website, “could almost certainly not be used to advocate for claims of organic food health, superior food quality, safety, sustainability or be used to expose differences between ‘natural’ and GMO-free food claims because these types of messages can be viewed as disparaging conventional food commodities.”

Another fear is unfair competition from big retailers and processors, such as Kroger and other large grocery stores, which would big beneficiaries of the publicity. Kroger, the nation’s largest standalone grocer, is expected to sell $16 billion worth of natural and organic products in 2017.

Another concern: the governing board for the checkoff program would be selected by the USDA. Farmers would have less than half of the seats, according to Cornucopia, which asserted that people “with political and corporate connections would likely be appointed by the USDA secretary.”

“We don’t trust OTA and USDA to speak for us in describing organic food to the public,” said Jim Crawford, an organic farmer at New Morning Farm in Pennsylvania. “We don’t want OTA and USDA to form another board, which is weighted in favor of corporate organics and which would control our message to the public.”

Persons can give their thoughts on the checkoff through a federal website. The USDA will close comments at midnight on April 19.

Do you support the checkoff program? Share your thoughts in the section below:

3 Simple Organic Fertilizers That Can Power Your Garden!

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The Power of Organic Fertilizers! Let’s face it, sometimes your vegetable plants need a little boost. When it comes to the dirt in the garden, vegetable plants can consume a lot of the trace elements, minerals and nutrients in the soil that are

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Gardening Wisdom From Thomas Jefferson: 5 Things You Should Learn

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Gardening Wisdom From Thomas Jefferson: 5 Things We Should Learn

When they consider Thomas Jefferson, many Americans first think of him as the author of the Declaration of Independence or as our nation’s third president, who was responsible for the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition. However, Jefferson’s contributions go deeper than those accomplishments.

Jefferson was a true Renaissance man with a variety of interests and hobbies. He was an accomplished architect, an inventor and a violinist. He could read more than five languages. Jefferson also was a horticulturist who made important contributions to American gardening.

In a letter to Charles W. Peale in 1811, Jefferson wrote, “No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden. … But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.”

At Monticello, his beloved Virginia estate, Jefferson became a pioneer of gardening practices that are useful for us today. Always passionate about growing things, Jefferson further developed this interest during a diplomatic trip to England in 1786 with his long-time friend John Adams.

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Gardening Wisdom From Thomas Jefferson: 5 Things We Should Learn

Jefferson’s garden at Monticello

During the two-month trip, he was able to tour and examine many English gardens. Those observations became the basis for his own extensive gardening ideas. Much of what he learned can be applied to any garden of any size.

Here are five examples of Thomas Jefferson’s gardening wisdom.

1. Experiment … extensively

Jefferson once wrote that the “greatest service which can be rendered to any country is to add a useful plant to its culture.” When he traveled throughout our young country and abroad, Jefferson often exchanged seeds and seedlings with other gardeners. He enjoyed cultivating those seeds and young plants in his Monticello garden.

Because he grew a variety of crops, including a mix of tropical species with cool weather crops, he devised a unique terraced landscape for his 1,000-foot-long vegetable garden. By placing the garden on a south-facing slope, he was able to capture abundant sunshine.

Creating this unique form of “hanging garden” involved the removal of about 600,000 cubic feet of red clay and the creation of a 1,000-foot-long rock wall that was 15-feet tall in some places.

2. Grow what you eat

Jefferson loved to eat vegetables. In fact, he wrote that “they constitute my principal diet.” Because of his extensive travels, he was exposed to a wide variety of cuisines. He frequently took recipes back home with him and encouraged his cooks to use Monticello’s homegrown produce in new ways. In this way, he created a new American type of cuisine he described as ‘half-French and half-Virginian.”

His Monticello garden featured 330 different varieties of vegetables and 170 varieties of fruits. According to Monticello gardening expert Peter Hatch, Jefferson’s garden inspired a “revolutionary cuisine.” A Monticello recipe for okra soup, for instance, reflects influences from Native Americans (lima beans), Europe (potatoes and tomatoes) and Africa via the West Indies (okra).

Karen Hess, a noted culinary historian, called Jefferson “our most illustrious epicure, in fact, our only epicurean President.”

3. Go natural

Jefferson would be quite at home with the organic gardening movement of today. When his daughter, Martha, wrote to him while he was in Philadelphia serving as secretary of state, she complained about insects damaging the vegetables at Monticello.

Gardening Wisdom From Thomas Jefferson: 5 Things We Should Learn

Image source: Pixabay.com

He responded, “I suspect that the insects which have harassed you have been encouraged by the feebleness of your plants; and that has been produced by the lean state of the soil.”

He recommended the garden be covered that winter with “a heavy coating of manure. When is rich it bids defiance to droughts, yields in abundance, and of the best quality.”

In 2009, White House chef Sam Kass reserved a section of the White House garden to showcase Jefferson’s Tennis Ball and Brown Dutch lettuce, Prickly-Seeded spinach and Marseilles fig, a few of Jefferson’s favorite plants.

4. Keep notes

Jefferson had a scientist’s mind, and because of that, he kept scrupulous notes about what worked and what did not work in his garden.

Seamazing: The Low-Cost Way To Re-mineralize Your Soil

He recorded his gardening efforts in his Garden Book, a personal journal he maintained from 1766 to 1824. Hatch reports that Jefferson was not afraid to admit defeat in certain gardening circumstances. “On one page in 1809 the word failed is written down 19 times,” Hatch writes.  “He had a holistic view, as we say today, of the gardening process. It is the failure of one thing that is repaired by the success of another.”

Gardening Wisdom From Thomas Jefferson: 5 Things We Should Learn

Jefferson’s garden at Monticello

In his “A General Gardening Calendar,” Jefferson’s only published horticultural work, he offered a monthly guide for kitchen gardening. In the calendar, which was first published in 1824 in the American Farmer, a Baltimore periodical, Jefferson instructs gardeners to plant a thimble spool of lettuce seed every Monday morning from February 1 through September 1.

5. Make your garden an area for retreat

Jefferson enjoyed the restorative aspects of being a gardener and believed that gardens should be seen, experienced and enjoyed.

For example, he designed and built an octagonal pavilion in a central garden location at Monticello and used this spot as a location for reading, writing and even entertaining.

“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth,” he once wrote, “and no culture comparable to that of the garden.”

Have you been to Monticello? What other “Jefferson advice” would you add? What do you remember about his garden? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Sources:

https://www.monticello.org/site/house-and-gardens/historic-gardens

https://www.monticello.org/site/house-and-gardens/jefferson-scientist-and-gardener

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/05/10/152337154/thomas-jefferson-s-garden-a-thing-of-beauty-and-science

https://www.masshist.org/thomasjeffersonpapers/garden/

A Rich Spot of Earth: Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello, a book by Peter Hatch

Bust Inflation With A Low-Cost, High-Production Garden. Read More Here.

10 All-Natural Ways To Repel And Kill Houseflies (No. 4 Is Super-Creative)

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Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

Ah, the sounds of summer – the laughter of children as they play in the lawn sprinkler, the ice cream truck’s calliope soundtrack as it winds its way through the neighborhood and THWACK, the sound of a flyswatter hitting another household surface.

There are more than 300,000 known species of flies, and they can be found all over the world. In addition to being annoying, flies can carry and spread disease. Scientists believe they can transfer more than 100 pathogens, resulting in diseases such as typhoid, tuberculosis, cholera and dysentery. During the Spanish-American War, for example, an estimated 5,000 soldiers died from typhoid, a disease that is spread by flies, whereas only 4,000 soldiers died from combat.

If annoying houseflies are ruining your summer fun and you do not want to use toxic sprays around your home, here are some all-natural ideas for getting rid of them.

1. Apple cider vinegar

There are so many reasons to keep a bottle of apple cider vinegar handy in your home. Here is one more. Flies are attracted to the smell of apple cider vinegar. Therefore, you can create an easy and efficient flytrap with apple cider vinegar and a few drops of dish soap.

Learn How To Make Powerful Herbal Medicines, Right in Your Kitchen!

Place one-fourth cup of apple cider vinegar in a cup or jar. Add a few drops of liquid dish soap. Next, partially block the entrance to the cup with a piece of plastic wrap poked with several small holes.

Place the cup in an area you have a fly problem and leave it there for at least 24 hours. Create and place as many traps as needed.

Flies will be attracted to the smell of vinegar and enter the cup through the holes in the wrap. However, they will not be able to figure out a way to escape. The dish soap causes the surface tension to break, causing the flies to sink into the liquid and drown.

2. Cloves

Here is a mess-free remedy that can help throughout your home. Flies dislike the smell of cloves. To keep flies away, place small bowls of dried cloves in rooms throughout your home. Another option is to stick cloves into an apple as a natural fly repellent.

Replenish the cloves when the scent fades.

3. Basil

Flies dislike the smell of basil and avoid areas where basil is present. Try placing some basil plants in sunny windowsills in your home. Place plants also near doorways and eating areas of your home.

To keep the scent of your plant strong, be sure to water it at its roots, and not on its leaves.

Another option is place bowls of dried basil in areas that flies frequent.

4. Natural flypaper

Commercial fly strips have toxic substances in them that can pose harm to your family and pets. You can make a natural version that works just as well. The key is to create a fragrant sticky substance to attract and then trap those pesky flies. Here is one recipe:

Ingredients

  • Cardboard or card stock paper
  • ½ cup corn syrup (there is an organic version)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Thread

Directions

Cut two-inch wide strips from cardboard or card stock. Punch a hole at the top of each strip and insert thread to create a loop for hanging.

Mix the corn syrup and sugar together. Coat one side of each strip with the mixture. Hang the strips where flies are congregating. Flies will be attracted to the strip, but they will become stuck to the strip when they land on it.

5. Lavender

You may love the fresh, sweet smell of lavender, but flies hate it. Try growing a large pot of lavender near your doorway, or hang sprigs of dried lavender in areas that flies tend to congregate inside your home.

6. Bay leaf

Dried bay leaves are another way to deter flies in your home. The leaves produce a subtle fragrance that flies dislike. Place some singly or in groups in areas where flies are a problem.

7. Mint

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

Fresh-smelling mint in plant form or dried form also discourages flies. Try placing a bowl of crushed dried mint leaves on your kitchen counter or in other areas where flies are a nuisance.

8. Lemongrass spray

You can deter flies and help your home smell fresh and clean by creating a lemongrass spray.

Ingredients

  • Lemongrass essential oil
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • Spray bottle

Directions

Place 10-12 drops of lemongrass essential oil into spray bottle.

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Pour hot water into bottle.

Shake well to mix the ingredients.

Spray mixture around thresholds and windowsills or other spaces where flies are entering your house.

9. Honey trap

Many of us have heard the saying, “You can catch more flies with honey.” Well, here’s how.

Ingredients

  • Plastic one-liter or two-liter bottle (cap removed)
  • 2 tsp honey
  • Water
  • Dish soap

Directions

Cut the bottle in half. Then fill the wider bottom section halfway with water. Add a few drops of dish soap to the water.

Next, smear honey near and all around the mouth of the top bottle section. Then place the top half over the water-filled portion with the mouth of the bottle in the water. Place this honey trap where flies are a problem. The honey will attract the flies, but they will become trapped and will drown in the water.

10. Eucalyptus oil

The strong odor of eucalyptus makes it a good fly repellent. Here is how to make a flytrap with eucalyptus oil.

Ingredients

  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Ribbons or strips of cloth

Directions

Place several drops of eucalyptus oil onto the strips or ribbons.

Hang the strips near windows and doors or simply place them out on windowsills.

Please note: Doctors recommend that pregnant women and people with high blood pressure or epilepsy avoid contact with eucalyptus.

How do you get rid of flies? Share your tips in the section below:

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

hydrogen peroxide report

Introduction To Backyard Aquaponics

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The ability to grow plants and raise fish organically without the use of pesticides or fertilizers is accomplished through a method called aquaponics. This system of growing plants and raising fish without the use of soil was discovered by researchers from the University of Virgin Islands while looking for ways through which you can grow plants organically.  And, with just a little sweat equity and a few dollars, you too can have a backyard aquaponics system working for you!

How Does It Work?

Basically, aquaponics works in a win-win situation. What happens is that it combines the traditional aquaculture with hydroponics. In aquaponics, plants feed on the effluents released by aquatic animals.  Those plants, in turn, purify water to keep the fish more comfortable.

Backyard Aquaponics

Between 2006 and 2007, this technique was widely adapted and is now commercially used on many farms to grow plants organically. According to some farmers, aquaponics grows plants 50%-100% faster as compared to inorganic farming. With just a small amount of space, you’re able to deliver ten times more as compared to older methods.

What Is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is essentially the combination of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (growing plants). This process takes advantage of the aquatic affluent (fish waste) deposited in water to provide essential nutrients to your plants. When the water is affluent rich, it becomes toxic to the aquatic animals. During this stage, plants absorb and use the nutrients eliminating the high water toxicity for your fish to survive.

Backyard AquaponicsThere are so many benefits you’ll enjoy when you make a backyard aquaponic system. Unlike a fish pond where you’ll have to exchange water every now and then, an aquaponic system relies on the relationship between plants and aquatic animals. Freshwater fish release ammonia which is converted to nitrite by a nitrifying bacterium called nitrosomonas. Another nitrifying bacterium called nitrobacter converts the nitrite to nitrate which is used by the plants to freshen the water for the fish. This process of converting ammonia to nitrite then to nitrate is referred to as “the nitrogen cycle.”

Types of Aquaponic Systems

There are three major types of Aquaponic systems:

Media Filled Beds

This method is the simplest and is commonly used in most backyard aquaponics systems. It involves filling containers with medium and small clay pebbles then planting seedlings directly into the media.

Fish tank water is then pumped over the media to allow the plants to feed on the excess nutrients. The medium clay pebbles act as biological filters where they help to eliminate toxins giving your fish fresh and clean water in the long run.

There are two major ways which this Aquaponics system can be operated:  continuous water flow method and the flood and drain (also known as ebb and flow) method.

Nutrient Film Technique

This method involves pumping nutrient rich fish water through PVC pipes. Plants are grown inside cups with small holes at the bottom to allow the roots to reach the water in the PVC gutters.

It’s important to understand that this method is only suitable for leafy green plants with small root systems and not larger plants with bigger, invasive roots.

Deep Water Culture

This method is commonly used in both commercial and backyard aquaponics systems because it’s relatively cheaper to setup and operate. This method uses a foam “raft” which floats on top of water. Plants are held in holes made in the raft in a way that the roots dangle into the water. For perfect results, fish water can either be pumped on the floating racks or the racks can be placed directly on fish water.

Benefits of a Backyard Aquaponics System

Setting up a backyard aquaponics system in your garden comes with lots of benefits such as environmental improvement, better health and higher quality nutrition. This section will review some of the most essential benefits which farmers can expect to enjoy.

Saves Space

Unlike other gardening methods, aquaponics system allows you to plant your seedlings close together thus saving on space. Since this method involves submerging plant roots in nutrient rich water, there is less overcrowding which helps you save on space as compared to other gardening techniques.

No Weeding

Another benefit of backyard aquaponics system is that you don’t have to weed anymore. This method doesn’t encourage the growth of weeds since there is no soil involved. Farmers are able to enjoy the freedom of growing plants at home without weeding.

No Soil Pests

Since Aquaponics doesn’t rely on soil, farmers are relieved the burden of using pesticides to eliminate soil pests. Pesticides destroy the plant slowly over time due to toxins absorbed by the plant.

Plants Grow Faster

Backyard aquaponics system allows plants to access nutrients for 24 hours each day making them grow faster. According to research, vegetables such as lettuce have been proven to grow twice as fast as compared to when planted normally on soil.

Making Your Own Backyard Aquaponics System

Backyard Aquaponics

There are many ways through which you can make your own backyard aquaponics system. Regardless of the method you choose, always ensure that your system is able to grow plants in a way that confers most of the environmental benefits such as low environmental impacts and water efficiency.

Without wasting time, we will go through a step by step program on how to make a Flood and Drain system.

Flood and drain system

Necessary Equipment and Material

Build Process

  1. Place your fish tank on a flat surface away from direct sun to reduce algae growth.
  2. Place the pump and feed pipe in the fish tank.
  3. Place the grow bed near the fish tank. Fill it with gravel and make sure it’s close to the fill pipe.  Also make sure the drain pipe from the grow bed feeds directly into the fish tank.
  4. Install the timer on the pump and set it to cycle for 15min on, 45 min off.
  5. Join the pipes and the pump together to connect the fish tank with the grow bed. Also remember to connect the overflow drain in the grow bed to remove water.
  6. Plant your seedlings into the grow bed and place your fish inside the fist tank.
  7. Test your fish water to determine the level of Ammonium, nitrite and nitrate. If you notice that the pH level is high or low, you can adjust it accordingly to keep the water neutral.
  8. Turn on the pump to start the cycling process. This involves circulating nutrient rich water from the fish tank to the grow bed then back to the tank again. After a few days, you’ll notice that your seedlings are growing; a milestone which reveals that your aquaponics system was successfully established.

Conclusion

In summary, there are tons of benefits which farmers enjoy once they set up a backyard aquaponics system. The system is cost efficient and makes backyard gardening more productive and economical. According to research, aquaponic systems use about 1/10th the amount of water used when farming on the ground. This technique helps you produce a tremendous amount of fish and vegetables within a short time in a small area.

backyard aquaponics

 

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5 Gardening Myths That Seemingly Everyone Believes (No. 2 Shocked Us, Too)

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5 Gardening Myths That Seemingly Everyone Believes (No. 2 Shocked Us)

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

We have all grown in our gardening experiences by words of wisdom from those gardeners who have come and gone before us, and we’ve even followed gardeners who have TV shows, blogs and websites dedicated to their art.

Of course, there’s a lot of advice that we’ve accepted that is nothing more than myth. This is not to say the advice is not entirely false, but it is not entirely true, either.

These myths have been around so long that even some of the experts take them to heart.

1. All organic pesticides and sprays are safe. Although it’s common sense to question how safe a pesticide is, many gardeners take organic pesticides for granted. Most of the time it is safe, but there are some natural ingredients that are just as dangerous, or more so, than commercial chemicals.

Need Non-GMO Seeds For Your Organic Garden? The Best Deals Are Right Here!

Sulphur, for example, was used by early gardeners, but it can be deadly. The same goes for warfarin, sabadilla, rotenone and nicotine, even though they are plant-based. Even pyrethrin, when used long enough, can harm you and your garden. When looking for natural alternatives, be sure to investigate their safety.

2. Fresh vegetables are far more nutritious than frozen or canned vegetables. Well, how fresh is fresh? It is true that fresh vegetables are healthier for you, but only when they are freshly picked. The vegetables you purchase in the grocery stores usually make quite the trip from the field to the shelves of the store. Sometimes the journey takes several days or even weeks to get to the final destination. Enzymes are naturally being released by the vegetables during storage and shipping, causing the vegetables to lose nutrients and minerals. However, when the produce is fresh-picked and quick-frozen, most of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are preserved. This is good to keep in mind for your own garden produce: If you’re not planning on eating your harvest within a short time, don’t delay in preserving it.

5 Gardening Myths That Seemingly Everyone Believes (No. 2 Shocked Us)

Image source: Pixabay.com

3. Kitchen scraps are all you need for compost. How many of us have compost bins by our gardens, and walk our kitchen scraps out there after each meal? Yet kitchen waste, if that’s all you’re using, is too strong for your garden. You need a mix of leaves (known as brown) and kitchen waste (known as green). There needs to be the correct balance between the two, meaning having more brown than green. The breakdown of these two things creates compost. You can always put extra kitchen scraps into a worm box, or vermicomposter.

4. Watering vegetable plants in the sun will kill them. How often have we been told this one? It’s definitely one believed by many experts. The most common reason gardeners accept this myth is on the premise that the water acts as a magnifying glass. The sun’s rays will hit the water and they will burn the vegetable plants, especially the leaves.

Seamazing: The Low-Cost Way To Re-mineralize Your Soil

The truth is the water isn’t strong enough to magnify the sunlight enough to the required heat needed to burn the leaves and plants. Now, this doesn’t mean high noon is the perfect time to water your garden. Be reasonable.

5. Organic gardens are more expensive than traditional gardens. This myth has become more common as people are starting to want more and more organic products and food. Organic produce from any grocery store is more expensive — it’s true. Growing your own organic vegetables are not, however. When you cut out any commercial fertilizers and pesticides, you are saving money. By making your own mulch and compost from scraps and leaves from your yard, you will be saving even more money. Re-use containers and use mixtures of hot soapy water, garlic and hot pepper to keep away unwanted pests. Dead leaves can be used, along with lawn cuttings and scraps, to make fertilizer. Save seeds from your current produce to use for next season. Dry the seeds out and store them in a cool, dry place away from the sun. This is a great way to have a successful garden, as the healthy plants have healthy seeds.

The best way to garden is to do your research and speak to experts and fellow gardeners alike. The more you know, the better your garden will be. You will be able to decide what is true and what isn’t, and your garden will thank you.

What myths would you add to this list? Share your myths in the section below:

Every Spring, Gardeners Make This Avoidable Mistake — But You Don’t Have To. Read More Here.

5 Natural DIY Fertilizers For Your Garden And Flowerbeds

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When it comes to our garden and the food we provide for our family, we like to keep everything natural – and that includes any and all types of fertilizers used on our plants. The simple truth is, when it comes

The post 5 Natural DIY Fertilizers For Your Garden And Flowerbeds appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

Hair And Urine: The Best Way To Keep Animals Out Of Your Garden?

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Hair And Urine: The Best Way To Keep Animals Out Of Your Garden?

Image source: Pixabay.com

If you are into saving money and making the most of natural resources – and who isn’t? – then you may be overlooking some readily available and renewable options. In fact, you may be flushing one of them down the toilet or throwing the other one away when you clean your brushes and combs.

Yes, human urine and human hair can be surpassingly effective in your garden as deterrents to pests and as fertilizers.

Human Urine in the Garden

Contrary to what you might think, fresh human urine is clean and bacteria-free. It is only when urine is stored for more than 24 hours that it gets that familiar, unpleasant odor. Healthy human urine is about 95 percent water, 2.5 percent urea and 2.5 percent a mixture of hormones, minerals, enzymes and salts.

Seamazing: The Low-Cost Way To Re-mineralize Your Soil

In his 1975 study “Urinalysis in Clinical Laboratory Practice,” Dr. A. H. Free detailed some of the nutrients found in human urine, including creatinine nitrogen, urea nitrogen, uric acid nitrogen, amino nitrogen, ammonia nitrogen, chloride, sodium, magnesium, potassium, calcium, inorganic phosphate and inorganic sulphate. Plants require all of these macronutrients.

Hair And Urine: The Best Way To Keep Animals Out Of Your Garden?

Image source: Pixabay.com

The only real problem with the use of human urine as a fertilizer is the potential for excess nitrogen and inorganic salts. Soil conditions as well as rainfall and watering – in addition to the needs of your particular plants – should come into consideration when using human urine as a fertilizer, but diluting the urine usually takes care of the problem.

A ratio of one part urine with 10 parts water helps mitigate the excess nitrogen and reduces the chance of offensive odor as well.

Speaking of that odor, dilution will make the urine undetectable to the human nose, but garden pests will still be able to smell it. And that’s a good thing. Rabbits, deer, groundhogs and skunks dislike the smell of human urine and tend to stay away from it.

Try spraying your urine solution around the perimeter of your garden to discourage these unwelcome guests. Another option is to place cotton balls soaked in the solution around the edges of your garden, perhaps in disposable containers if you’re really squeamish. Human urine and hair (below) are particularly helpful if you have a garden that you can’t monitor on a daily basis. In fact, many gardeners say urine and hair are the only deterrents that work.

A few words of advice:

  • Use only healthy, fresh human urine
  • Use a spray bottle or bucket that is clearly labeled and dedicated for this purpose
  • Reapply after rainfall or irrigation
  • Some gardeners believe that male urine works better than female urine as a deterrent for pests.

Human Hair in the Garden

Another renewable resource for your garden is on the top of your head. Human hair can deter animals and work as a fertilizer for your garden. Working as a natural mulch, human hair adds nutrients to the soil as it decomposes. You can sprinkle it throughout your garden.

haircut-1007891_640Mississippi State University researchers found that human hair has significantly more nitrogen than manure, and therefore can serve as a natural replacement for some traditional fertilizers. In the study, researchers compared the use of human hair with commercial fertilizers on the health and productivity of lettuce, yellow poppy, wormwood and feverfew.

Plant yields were higher for the hair-fertilized plants when compared with the untreated control plants, overall, but were lower than for the lettuce and wormwood plants treated with commercial fertilizers. However, the yellow poppy saw higher yields with the hair treatment. Results did not differ with the feverfew.

The researchers concluded that since lettuce and wormwood are fast-growing plants, the time it takes hair to degrade and to release nutrients was a factor in the study results. Human hair, as a fertilizer, breaks down very slowly.

A report published in the journal Hort Technology found that human hair contains all the organic nutrients plants need to grow, but it takes a month or more for those nutrients to decompose into an inorganic form plants can use. The report suggested that hair is a good fertilizer for slow-growing plants such as basil, sage and certain ornamental shrubs. For quicker-growing plants, try mixing hair with other fertilizers for the first few weeks.

Another potential problem of using human hair in your garden is the effect of any styling chemicals on your plants. Be sure to use unwashed hair that is free from sprays, coloring or other additives.

Need Non-GMO Seeds For Your Organic Garden? The Best Deals Are Right Here!

Just as with human urine, human hair can serve as a deterrent to animals, especially snails, rodents, rabbits and deer. In addition to sprinkling hair in your garden, you can tie cheesecloth or nylon bags filled with unwashed hair onto posts or branches near your garden to deter animals.

Upon request, barbers and hair salon will save some of the snipped hair they sweep off their floors for you. Since it is unlikely this hair is chemical-free, it’s best to use this hair as a deterrent instead of a fertilizer, however.

A few tips:

  • Human hair will lose its scent within a week or two (less in rainy conditions) and will need to be replaced frequently.
  • Save clippings from shaving to add to your hair collection.
  • You can also mix dog and cat hair with human hair in your garden.

If you’re struggling to keep pests out of your garden this year – or you’re looking for a cheap fertilizer — then give these overlooked solutions a try.

What advice would you add? Share your tips for using hair or urine in the section below:

Bust Inflation With A Low-Cost, High-Production Garden. Read More Here.

Hair And Urine: The Absolute Best Way To Keep Animals Out Of Your Garden?

Click here to view the original post.
Hair And Urine: The Best Way To Keep Animals Out Of Your Garden?

Image source: Pixabay.com

If you are into saving money and making the most of natural resources – and who isn’t? – then you may be overlooking some readily available and renewable options. In fact, you may be flushing one of them down the toilet or throwing the other one away when you clean your brushes and combs.

Yes, human urine and human hair can be surpassingly effective in your garden as deterrents to pests and as fertilizers.

Human Urine in the Garden

Contrary to what you might think, fresh human urine is clean and bacteria-free. It is only when urine is stored for more than 24 hours that it gets that familiar, unpleasant odor. Healthy human urine is about 95 percent water, 2.5 percent urea and 2.5 percent a mixture of hormones, minerals, enzymes and salts.

Seamazing: The Low-Cost Way To Re-mineralize Your Soil

In his 1975 study “Urinalysis in Clinical Laboratory Practice,” Dr. A. H. Free detailed some of the nutrients found in human urine, including creatinine nitrogen, urea nitrogen, uric acid nitrogen, amino nitrogen, ammonia nitrogen, chloride, sodium, magnesium, potassium, calcium, inorganic phosphate and inorganic sulphate. Plants require all of these macronutrients.

Hair And Urine: The Best Way To Keep Animals Out Of Your Garden?

Image source: Pixabay.com

The only real problem with the use of human urine as a fertilizer is the potential for excess nitrogen and inorganic salts. Soil conditions as well as rainfall and watering – in addition to the needs of your particular plants – should come into consideration when using human urine as a fertilizer, but diluting the urine usually takes care of the problem.

A ratio of one part urine with 10 parts water helps mitigate the excess nitrogen and reduces the chance of offensive odor as well.

Speaking of that odor, dilution will make the urine undetectable to the human nose, but garden pests will still be able to smell it. And that’s a good thing. Rabbits, deer, groundhogs and skunks dislike the smell of human urine and tend to stay away from it.

Try spraying your urine solution around the perimeter of your garden to discourage these unwelcome guests. Another option is to place cotton balls soaked in the solution around the edges of your garden, perhaps in disposable containers if you’re really squeamish. Human urine and hair (below) are particularly helpful if you have a garden that you can’t monitor on a daily basis. In fact, many gardeners say urine and hair are the only deterrents that work.

A few words of advice:

  • Use only healthy, fresh human urine
  • Use a spray bottle or bucket that is clearly labeled and dedicated for this purpose
  • Reapply after rainfall or irrigation
  • Some gardeners believe that male urine works better than female urine as a deterrent for pests.

Human Hair in the Garden

Another renewable resource for your garden is on the top of your head. Human hair can deter animals and work as a fertilizer for your garden. Working as a natural mulch, human hair adds nutrients to the soil as it decomposes. You can sprinkle it throughout your garden.

haircut-1007891_640Mississippi State University researchers found that human hair has significantly more nitrogen than manure, and therefore can serve as a natural replacement for some traditional fertilizers. In the study, researchers compared the use of human hair with commercial fertilizers on the health and productivity of lettuce, yellow poppy, wormwood and feverfew.

Plant yields were higher for the hair-fertilized plants when compared with the untreated control plants, overall, but were lower than for the lettuce and wormwood plants treated with commercial fertilizers. However, the yellow poppy saw higher yields with the hair treatment. Results did not differ with the feverfew.

The researchers concluded that since lettuce and wormwood are fast-growing plants, the time it takes hair to degrade and to release nutrients was a factor in the study results. Human hair, as a fertilizer, breaks down very slowly.

A report published in the journal Hort Technology found that human hair contains all the organic nutrients plants need to grow, but it takes a month or more for those nutrients to decompose into an inorganic form plants can use. The report suggested that hair is a good fertilizer for slow-growing plants such as basil, sage and certain ornamental shrubs. For quicker-growing plants, try mixing hair with other fertilizers for the first few weeks.

Another potential problem of using human hair in your garden is the effect of any styling chemicals on your plants. Be sure to use unwashed hair that is free from sprays, coloring or other additives.

Need Non-GMO Seeds For Your Organic Garden? The Best Deals Are Right Here!

Just as with human urine, human hair can serve as a deterrent to animals, especially snails, rodents, rabbits and deer. In addition to sprinkling hair in your garden, you can tie cheesecloth or nylon bags filled with unwashed hair onto posts or branches near your garden to deter animals.

Upon request, barbers and hair salon will save some of the snipped hair they sweep off their floors for you. Since it is unlikely this hair is chemical-free, it’s best to use this hair as a deterrent instead of a fertilizer, however.

A few tips:

  • Human hair will lose its scent within a week or two (less in rainy conditions) and will need to be replaced frequently.
  • Save clippings from shaving to add to your hair collection.
  • You can also mix dog and cat hair with human hair in your garden.

If you’re struggling to keep pests out of your garden this year – or you’re looking for a cheap fertilizer — then give these overlooked solutions a try.

What advice would you add? Share your tips for using hair or urine in the section below:

Bust Inflation With A Low-Cost, High-Production Garden. Read More Here.

Bugs Eating Your Vegetables? These 7 Beneficial Flowers Will Chase Them Away

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Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

Gone are the days when vegetable gardens were planted in neat, perfectly measured rows that would please the toughest drill sergeant. Flowers, which don’t take well to precision planting, were relegated to their own beds.

These days, organic gardeners understand that vegetables and flowers can be the best of friends. Like true friendships, one complements the other, and life is better for both, which means increased yield for you.

Careful companion planting uses space more efficiently. For example, tall plants provide shade for tender, low-growing plants, while vining or low-growing plants serve as living mulch.

Certain blooming plants possess various qualities that tend to repel pests. Some, known as trap plants, are brave souls that sacrifice their own wellbeing by drawing pests away from susceptible vegetables. Others help organic gardeners by attracting beneficial insects that feast on veggie-destroying marauders.

Need Non-GMO Seeds For Your Garden? The Best Deals Are Right Here!

One of the best things about planting a few flowers in the vegetable garden, apart from their obvious color and beauty, is their ability to attract fleets of bees and other critical pollinators.

Companion Planting Flowers and Vegetables

Companion planting is one part science and two parts pure experimentation. Some flower-veggie partnerships may work for you, and others may not. To find out, rely on combinations that make sense for your gardening plan. Include a few flowers that bring you pleasure, and you can’t go wrong.

1. Nasturtiums.

With their happy-go-lucky nature and bright yellow, orange and gold flowers, nasturtiums are one of the most effective trap plants in the garden. The plants excrete an oil that aphids and other pests adore, which means they quickly lose interest in your beans, corn, cucumbers and tomatoes.

2. Petunias.

Like nasturtiums, petunias are a trap crop that draws aphids, leafhoppers and beetles away from plants like squash, asparagus and cucumbers.

3. Sunflowers.

Sunflowers take up a lot of space, but they’re fantastic if you have a sunny spot where their shade won’t be a problem. Birds love sunflower seeds, and they also like to perch on the tall plants. While they’re in the neighborhood, they’re likely to swoop down and scoop up a few beetles, grasshoppers and cabbageworms. As an added benefit, many gardeners believe sunflowers draw thrips away from veggies, especially peppers.

4. Marigolds.

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

If you plant only one type of companion flower in your garden, make it marigolds. Marigolds are easy to get along with, and the bright spot of color is irresistible to hoverflies and bees. More importantly, the roots excrete a powerful natural chemical that is fatal to nematodes and other underground pests.

Looking For An All-Natural Pesticide For Your Garden?

Marigolds are beneficial for nearly any veggie in the garden, especially onions, garlic, melons, corn, tomatoes, squash and radishes. If rabbits are munching on your veggies, a row of the strong-scented flowers may be enough to keep them at bay.

5. Dianthus. 

Some gardeners swear that dianthus, also known as pinks, help draw slugs from your tender vegetable plants. If slugs are a problem in your garden, dianthus is definitely worth a try.

6. Calendula.

The bright color of calendula attracts ladybugs, lacewings and other aphid-eating insects, and some gardeners say calendula draw earwigs away from corn and other veggies. Calendula is especially beneficial when planted in the vicinity of kale.

7. Zinnias.

Zinnias draw pollinators and predatory insects like ladybugs to the vegetable garden. Additionally, they attract hummingbirds, which aren’t only fun to watch, but reduce the numbers of many flying pests, especially pesky mosquitoes.

What companion flowers would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

hydrogen peroxide report

10 Ways To Kill Ants Organically

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10 Ways To Kill Ants Organically If you want to kill ants the safe way, organically, this is your post! Save lots of money at the same time too. 1. Baking soda is poisonous to ants, sprinkle it around your plants to ensure ants will stay away. 2. Flour & Baby Powder will keep ants …

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The Organic Prepper!

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The Organic Prepper, Daisy Luther
Host: Cat Ellis “Herbal Prepper Live

Organic Prepper Daisy Book Pic1On this episode, I’m joined by my good friend Daisy Luther. Daisy is a blogger, author of multiple preparedness-oriented books, and expert prepper who shares my passions for natural health and finding the enjoyment in prepping.

Daisy Luther lives in a small village in the Pacific Northwestern area of the United States. She is the author of TheOrganic Canner, The Pantry Primer: How to Build a One Year Food Supply in Three Months, and the soon-to-be-released The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide: Harvest, Treat, and Store Your Most Vital Resource.

The Organic Prepper, Daisy LutherOn her website, TheOrganic Prepper, Daisy uses her background in alternative journalism to provide a unique perspective on health and preparedness, and offers a path of rational anarchy against a system that will leave us broke, unhealthy, and enslaved if we comply. As well, Daisy is the co-founder of the website Nutritional Anarchy, and her articles are widely republished throughout alternative media. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest,  andTwitter.

Organic Prepper Daisy Book Pic3Recently, Daisy and I were chatting about prepping, and how prepping makes us happy. Sure, the subjects we both write about and prepare for are serious as a heart attack, but the act of prepping brings us peace of mind. And let’s face it, a lot of them are just plain fun. Prepping is important, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be miserable. Remember, many people grow a garden and hunt simply because they like to.

Organic Prepper Daisy Book Pic2Constant stress will impact your physiology. The human Nervous System was not designed to remain in a constant state of alert, and eventually, your health will pay the price. Finding satisfaction in our day to day lives is important, and our prepping activities can be a solid source of that.

So join Daisy and I as we dish about how to incorporate natural health into prepping, finding satisfaction in a colorful wall of mason jars of food, the tuberculosis outbreak at a high school in Kansas, natural and herbal remedies, and who knows what else! One thing is for sure, and that is it will be a fun hour.
Herbal Prepper Website: http://www.herbalprepper.com/

Join us for Herbal Prepper Live “LIVE SHOW” every Sunday 7:00/Et 6:00Ct 4:00/Pt Go To Listen and Chat

Listen to this broadcast or download “The Organic Prepper” in player below!

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Archived shows of Herbal Prepper Live at bottom of THIS PAGE!

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Monsanto’s Big Loss In Federal Court

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Quietly across the nation, organic farmers are making progress in their battle to raise organic, GMO-free crops without the threat of cross-contamination from genetically modified fields.

And, perhaps most surprisingly, a federal court has sided with the farmers.

That’s the subject of today’s edition of Off The Grid Radio, as organic farmer Elise Higley tells us the latest news out of Jackson County, Oregon, where voters approved and a federal judge recently upheld a new law that prohibits the growing of GMO crops – handing biotech companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta a big loss.

Elsewhere across the U.S., organic farmers are pushing for “GMO-free” zones within counties, whereby organic farmers can grow their crops without fear of contamination from non-traditional crops.

Higley, who also is executive director of the Our Family Farms Coalition, an advocacy group for family farms and traditional seeds crops, tells us:

  • How cross-contamination could ruin a family’s entire organic crop – and result in it literally being owned by biotech companies.
  • What will happen to GMO crops in Jackson County now that such plants are banned.
  • Why she believes organic farmers could lose millions of dollars in domestic and international markets if a solution isn’t found to prevent cross-contamination.
  • How the livelihoods of even non-organic family farmers are being threatened by Monsanto and GMO crops.

Finally, Higley tells us how supporters of organic and traditional farmers can join the fight to protect the rights of small farms. If you like inspiring stories of modern-day Davids defeating Goliath, then this show is for you!

Mushroom Cultivation & Foraging

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Mushroom cultivationI love to hunt wild mushrooms in the summer and fall in Northwest Indiana. I usually go out in June through October for Pheasantback (Dryads Saddle), Oyster, Sheepshead (Maitake), Puffballs, Chicken of the Woods, and Boletes. I like having fresh ingredients that I can prepare to eat as soon as I get home. I can also sautee them and freeze them for later use.  It also gives me some exercise, sunlight, and a chance to inhale all the wonderful smells of fall leaves deep in the woods. I’ve also seen a great deal of wildlife while I’m out there. It just restores my soul.

NOTE: This article is about my own foraging and cultivating of mushrooms, but expert Dr. Mart “Merriweather” Vorderbruggen of Foraging Texas recommends being very careful foraging for mushrooms until you can take a class on identifying wild mushrooms and are an experienced forager. Even experienced foragers can sometimes mistake a poisonous mushroom for an edible one.

Health benefits of mushrooms

One of the benefits of eating mushrooms is that they have many benefits. Overall, they have antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. They are also a good source of iron, readily absorbed by the body. This is great for anemic people or vegetarians to keep up their iron levels, which plays an important role in forming red blood cells. Mushrooms containing Linoleic Acid can have an anticarcinogenic effect and and have anti-tumor properties.

Mushrooms are gluten free,  low calorie, low carbohydrate, high fiber, no cholesterol, and have compounds which may help regulate insulin production. Mushrooms are a source for calcium, which is wonderful if you are lactose intolerant, as well as vitamin D, an essential vitamin which helps the body absorb and metabolize calcium and phosphorous. (Another source for vitamin D is sunshine).

Potassium is also found in Shiitake and Maitake mushrooms. This can relax the blood vessels, leading to lower blood pressure, but beware it can increase potassium in people with poor kidney function, or on dialysis. Copper and selenuim are found in mushrooms. They are trace elements that we need for essential body functions. Do read up on individual mushrooms for specific benefits, because they vary between species.

Cultivating your own mushrooms

IMG_3975

If you don’t have a wooded area near you, have a hard time walking, or don’t want to get burrs and bugs on you, consider cultivating your own mushrooms by making “mushroom logs”. I really love Shiitake mushrooms, but they don’t grow wild here, so I decided to create a hospitable environment for them and grow my own.

I needed to find some fresh cut oak logs, about 4-6 inches in diameter.  My husband and I found somebody cutting down a tree after a storm, and we asked for 4 of the medium sized logs which had been cut from it. They were happy to give them to us, because they were going to pay somebody to remove it anyway.

These logs had to sit for about a month to cure them before I could use them.  One site I researched said that freshly cut logs give off some type of protective enzyme after being cut to prevent other fungi or spores from attacking them. Another site stated the moisture content needed to be reduced by 50% internally, but still moist enough to help the mycelium from the mushroom spore to grow into the wood.

In the meantime, I ordered my mushroom “plugs” with the spore on them. I ordered a bag with 100 plugs and placed them in my refrigerator until I was ready to use them. I invited a few friends over and we did this project together. The supplies we used were:

4 oak logs, about 3 feet long

Package of mushroom plugs

5/16 drill bit and drill

Beeswax

Small paintbrush

Hot plate and an old pot or a tiny crockpot

Hammer or mallet

Pallet, 2’x4′, or cement block to place logs on

I warmed up my beeswax in a small crockpot. I kept it plugged in until I was ready to use it. In each log, I drilled a hole that was just slightly deeper than the plug. Next, I gently tapped it in with a wooden mallet, then each hole was sealed with melted beeswax that was applied with a small paintbrush. This would protect my spores until they became “established”. (The weblike structure or mycelium would now grow into the wood). Eventually the beeswax will break down & the mushroom would emerge from this hole.

I drilled another hole every 6 inches until I got to the end of the log. Then, I rotated it and started drilling holes again. I had 3 rows when I was finished, and repeated this with the other 3 logs. I actually ended up with mIMG_4876ore holes than I needed, but not a big deal. Since I did this in February in my garage, I didn’t put them outside yet, due to danger of frost.

Around late April, I selected a shady spot under my deck and placed 4 cement blocks down as a base for my logs. I placed them parallel to each other, then stacked the other two across them, kind of “Lincoln Log” style, then checked to make sure none of the holes were covered during the stacking. It’s important to keep them moist, so I watered them a few times per week and in the hotter weather, placed a tarp over them.

Then, in September, voila! They began sprouting all over the wood. I was very happy to begin my mushroom harvest. Now, I can’t wait until next year! I’m sure I’ll have a few new additions to my mushroom family.

Want to learn more about foraging?

mushroom cultivation

Survial Mom DIY: Make Pure Beeswax from Honeycomb

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how to make beeswaxThis year I began a beehive, but didn’t get to harvest any honey for myself. The bee population outgrew their home and I lost half my bees. The remaining ones only produced enough honey for themselves, so I will have to wait until next year. I was looking forward to having my own raw organic honey, honeycomb, and wax products from my own hive. What a bitter disappointment! But, a fellow beekeeper offered me his honeycomb after he took the honey from it. Of course, I accepted.

Preparing

photo 1 (2)My husband picked up the big box of honeycomb on his way home from work. Inside the box was a large plastic bag, filled with a gooey, sticky mess. Just pulling it out of the bag was enough to coat me in honey up to my elbows. It was also kind of dirty looking. Then I noticed bugs, like ants, moths, and dead bees in it. I always thought honeycomb was all a pretty yellow or gold color, but its not. This had some yellow comb, but also had brown, orangey, and even some black streaks running through it. I was a bit skeptical at this point, unsure if this was even usable material.

I photo 2 (2)decided to make a go of it despite my concerns. I really didn’t want to tell the beekeeper I threw his honeycomb out. I’d feel guilty. So, I cleaned my deep kitchen sink really well and filled it with warm water and added the honeycomb, piece by piece.  I washed, rewashed, and rinsed it several times to just get rid of the honey residue. Then I put a pot with an inch or so of water on the stove on low and added the comb. I watched it start melting and kept adding more until the pile in my sink was all in the pot.

It was funny to compare how much space it took up in the box and my sink with the melted wax that fit into an average size pot. Honeycomb has a lot of volume, but it condenses down into a much smaller amount of actual wax.

Getting started

photo 1 (1)As the honeycomb melted, it “released” the dead bugs, impurities, and strange colors I had seen earlier. The debris went to the bottom of the pot and the wax floated to the top.

Next, I cooled it until the wax became solid.  (I put it in my refrigerator to speed up the process) I couldn’t drain the water until I broke the wax block up a bit, but thee was already a crack across the top from the cooling process. I drained the pot, rinsed the pot and the block of wax, and put an inch of clean water back in the pot.  The bottom of the wax had to be scraped off  in a few areas with imbedded debris.  It took several rounds of doing this until I judged it “clean” enough.

photo 1When it was time to pour it into a clean container, I used an old Cool Whip tub. If I melted it or damaged it, who cares? I found a funnel, washed and dried it, then stretched clean knee high panty hose over the funnel. That would keep any floaters that still remained, out of the wax. I made a small indentation, a little “well”, in the middle of the panty hose so the wax wouldn’t run off the sides. I held my funnel in one hand, and poured the wax with the other.  The wax did cool a bit and plugged up the nylon, but I just moved it over a little bit each time it happened. I’m very glad I had the nylon there, especially at the end, because it caught quite a bit of “sediment” from the bottom of the pan.

Finishing

photo 2Because I wanted small cubes of wax, I hunted around for some containers to use as a mold. Fortunately, I had some one ounce containers with lids that I bought from a garage sale. They were leftover from a bridal or baby shower. I thought I could put them to use one day. They were perfect, and only .25 for all 10 containers! Silicone ice cube trays are another great option for this. I don’t know about you, but I have a stack of them in different shapes.

I rewarmed the wax in the microwave, although I probably should have used a double boiler method for safety reasons. I filled all ten containers with beautiful pure yellow beeswax. Now I have to decide if I am going to keep them or give some to friends.

It is tempting to keep them all for myself because I want to learn to use wax for candles, to make homemade deodorant, and as a base for medicinal ointments. Here is one of the recipes I’ve made, but feel free to try different Essential Oils for different conditions.

Tea Tree Oil Antiseptic Cream

1/4 cup Beeswax. Shavings or pieces are easier to melt.

2 TB Coconut Oil

2 TB Almond Oil

10 drops Tea Tree Oil

10 drops Lavender Oil

Melt the beeswax and coconut oil over a low burner, Crockpot(TM), or double boiler. (This particular double boiler is silicone and folds flat for storage.) Once melted, remove from heat. Add all the other ingredients. I like to pour mine into Altoids tins. I ask everyone to save their tins of any type for me. You can also make lip balm in empty tubes you can buy online.

There are recipes for deodorant, too. I made a large batch some time ago, but haven’t finished it up yet. I just don’t want to be putting the aluminum found in most anti-perspirants on my skin. It’s not good for you. I also found a great link for my next project – learning to make your own Beeswax candles.  It’s exciting to learn how to become self-sustaining by using the things around you in your environment!

I am glad I tried rendering down the raw honeycomb into pure beeswax. It wasn’t hard, just time consuming, but the benefits outweighed any inconvenience I went through. I can improve upon it each time I try it again. So, if anyone ever offers you some raw honeycomb, take it, and turn it into a DIY project of your own.

how to make beeswax

Survival Mom DIY: Making Apple Cider Vinegar At Home

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DIY ACVI really love having fresh, raw, organic apple cider vinegar at home for all of its health benefits. If it can help me stay away from doctors offices or hospitals, I”ll take it. I want to avoid the Superbugs that live in those places. (I won’t even pick up those magazines they have sitting around, because sick people have been touching them).

It’s important to get the unpasteurized, raw, organic form. Pasteurizing apple cider vinegar kills the probiotics and beneficial bacteria found in the gelantinous substance called “The  Mother”. If you make it at home, it can be fun, easy, and practically free. I pick the apples from the apple tree in my back yard. They are small, sour, have some bugs, and not good for much of anything. Since they attract a lot of wasps, I decided to pick some of the apples off the ground and do something practical with them.

First, let’s go over some benefits, some of which are backed up by science and some that aren’t. There are home remedies made from apple cider vinegar that many people claim really work for them, even if science hasn’t documented it yet.

Home Remedies

According to WebMD: Carol Johnston, PhD, directs Arizona State University’s nutrition program. She has been studying apple cider vinegar for more than 10 years and believes its effects on blood sugar are similar to certain medications.

image“Apple cider vinegar’s anti-glycemic effect is very well documented,” Johnston says. The vinegar blocks digestion of some of the starch. “It doesn’t block the starch 100%, but it definitely prevents at least some of that starch from being digested and raising your blood sugar.”  I think that is amazing, but it doesn’t mean to increase unhealthy choices. After all, you don’t want to cancel out those health benefits.

Raw, organic Apple Cider Vinegar, (henceforth referred to as ACV)  can help eliminate Candida (yeast overgrowth) in your system. It is often blamed for fatigue, poor memory, sugar cravings, and yes…yeast infections. It also helps break up mucous, so it may help with allergies, sinus infections and other nasty things that go along with it like sinus headache and sore throat.

ACV may help both prevent constipation and diarrhea. (It must be those beneficial bacteria in there helping the G.I. system.)

Cleaning and Hygiene

I wipe down my counters with a solution of diluted AVC. After all, it is a disinfectant, and the vinegary smell goes away after it dries. I think it acts like a deodorizer as well.

I also clean windows with it, and wipe it with crumbled newspaper so it doesn’t leave a paper-like residue. It works just fine. My Grandma Angela taught me the tip about using newspaper instead of paper towels when I was just a kid.

Some people use a 3:1 ratio of water to ACV as a facial skin toner, and say it eliminates blemishes as well. Others said they put AVC on a cotton ball and applied to a wart and bandaged it overnight. I have not personally tried these things, but go ahead and experiment yourself.

We also use a few tablespoons in a quart mason jar of water for a hair rinse after shampooing. It makes your hair silky soft and glossy.

Eating

I have a AVC based salad dressing that I make that is really a health elixer. Yum!

  • Two to three parts ACV to 1 part Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I like a tangy taste, so I do 3:1) I fill a Mason jar 2/3 with AVC, 1/3 Olive Oil
  • 3-4 Garlic Toes crushed
  • 1/4 cup Raw Organic Honey (I use 1/2 cup)
  • 1-2 TBS Grated fresh Ginger
  • Pinch of Cayenne Pepper

It solidifies a bit in the fridge, so leave warm up enough to be easier to mix just before you put it on a salad. I could actually just drink it straight out of the jar!

One of the health food stores I go to sells a popular well know brand of AVC. Under its shelf space there is a sign listing the following information:

Some of the health benefits of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar include:

  • Helps promote youthful skin
  • Helps remove artery plaque, infections, and toxins
  • Helps fight germs, viruses, bacteria, and mold naturally
  • Helps slow down the aging process
  • Helps keep blood the right consistency
  • Helps regulate menstruation, relieves PMS, and UTI’s
  • Helps normalize urine pH
  • Helps digestion, assimilation and helps balance pH
  • Helps relieve sore throats, laryngitis and throat tickles
  • Helps banish acne, athlete’s foot, soothes sunburns
  • Helps fight arthritis, and helps remove toxins and uric acid crystals from the joints, tissues and organs
  • Helps control and normalize weight

Make your own.

So, I decided it would be great to make my own at home. I began by washing the apples in the sink. Then, I filled my large Coleman cooler just over halfway with cut up apples, cores, and peelings. I mixed in a 4 lb. bag of sugar. I would have done 5 lbs, but now they make the bags smaller.

I covered it with cheesecloth for a few days and kept it in a cool place out of direct sunlight. This gives the natural yeast in the air time to come in contact with the apples and start multiplying in the liquid. Then I close the lid. Every few days, I open it to stir it, smell it, and look for the white mat of gelatin looking like substance: the “Mother”.

Over time (a few weeks), it turns into an alcohol, then into vinegar. I take the apples out around the one month mark, after they have settled to the bottom of the cooler. The remaining liquid remains. My vinegar usually takes four to six months before I think its ready. I like the nice deep amber color that develops. If I opt for jarring it up sooner, it is paler and not as strong because the flavor intensifies over time. It’s just your own personal preference.

Once, it’s ready, I set my cooler up on a chair and stick a bucket under the valve at the bottom. I open it and strain the liquid through a wire strainer lined with a coffee filter, layers of cheesecloth, or non-bleached natural Muslin. Low tech, but it works. After straining, I pour it into pint and quart Mason Jars. I add a little of the “Mother” back into each one. Sometimes even a few Apple Seeds!

I have heard some people who “can” their ACV, but I personally never have.  I have never had a batch go bad on me….yet.

If you do the following step, you may lose some of the probiotic benefits you’re aiming for. But, if you would like try it anyway, just warm it in an enamel lined pan at 150 degrees for 30 minutes and pour into your sterilized Mason Jars. You won’t be able to use this as a “starter” for more vinegar, so save some if you wish to keep any on hand. Give it a try, experiment with different methods, and you can soon enjoy your raw, organic, healthy, and cheap apple cider vinegar.

5 Easy to Grow Fall Vegetables for Newbie Gardeners

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5 Easy to Grow Fall Vegetables for Newbie GardenersMy summer squash, tomatoes and cucumbers are on their way out which means it’s time to get thinking about the fall garden.

Have you thought about what you’re going to grow in yours?

While I like to experiment and grow new things, five vegetables are the foundation of my fall garden. They’re super easy to grow and require little maintenance. And, since they all are started from seeds directly sown into the soil, they’re super easy on the budget. 

If you’re just starting to grow your own food, I recommend you start with these 5 easy to grow fall vegetables:

1. Lettuce  

5 Easy to Grow Fall Vegetables for Newbie GardenersLettuce is ridiculously easy to grow. Full sun, partial shade, in ground or in containers. It all works. Sow the seeds according to package directions and in no time, you’ll have an abundance of leafy greens in the garden. My favorite variety to grow is a mesclun mix. I cut leaves as the lettuce grows and make delicious baby greens salads!

2. Kale

5 Easy to Grow Fall Vegetables for Newbie GardenersHave you had kale chips?

I love ‘em!! If you do too, then you’ll be happy to learn that kale is a cinch to grow.

It’s a hardy veggie—tolerant of warm temps yet thrives in cool weather. In fact, it’s taste and texture gets better after a few frosts. Kale comes in several different varieties. You’ll see green and purple kale with leaves that are curly, plain, ragged or fringed. I’m particularly fond of the Siberian variety. 

3. Spinach

5 Easy to Grow Fall Vegetables for Newbie GardenersSpinach loves cool weather! In fact, in the warmer areas of the country, spinach can be grown all winter. Spinach also tolerates partial shade and because of it’s short root system, it can grow successfully in containers.

Last fall, I grew the Winter Giant variety and the only problem I had was a neighbor snacking on the leaves whenever she came over to check out my garden. :)

4. Radish

5 Easy to Grow Fall Vegetables for Newbie GardenersAs Mike the Gardener told us in Get Ready for a Second Radish Harvest, radishes are great for fall gardens.

A radish grows quick. You can plant seeds on day 1 and by day 30 to 40 start harvesting. Because they grow so quickly, there really is no need to start them indoors, or plant them too soon.

5. Carrot

5 Easy to Grow Fall Vegetables for Newbie GardenersWhat’s a backyard garden without carrots, right?!

Carrots are fans of the cool weather so they’re perfect for your fall garden. Sow seeds close to the surface and keep them moist until they germinate. Most carrot varieties will be ready to harvest in 60 days.

Here’s another tip: For really nice long carrots, your soil needs to be loose. Like crumble-in-your- fingers loose. Short and stubby carrots are the result of soil that is too compacted. If you have compact soil, grow a short and round variety, like Parisienne, while you work on loosening and amending your soil.

One more thing….

Before you plant any seeds, determine when your first fall frost date will occur. The Farmer’s Almanac can help you figure out the date for your area or use this cool calculator from Seeds for Generation. 

Once you know the date, read the back of the seed packets to find out the days to maturity for each veggie. Then count backwards from your first fall frost date to figure out when you should sow the seeds.

Now, I’d love to hear from you!

Do you have a favorite fall vegetable that’s easy to grow? What would you recommend newbie gardeners grow in their fall gardens?

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