I have written a lot recently about eating locally and the environmental and economic reasons for doing so. Invariably the question would arise from readers
do you eat local?
I wont beat around the bush. The answer is not yet. Well, not 100% local yet. Just the other day I posted about eating whole wheat pasta with a saffron sauce that had artichoke hearts. Well, the artichoke hearts were from a can and in all likelihood the artichokes were grown in the artichoke capitol of the US, California. I do not eat them often but they are one of the things I used to eat a lot of when I grew them in Arizona, so they are a weakness. The saffron was also not local but that is only because I have yet to harvest my own from fall growing crocus bulbs. Eating locally is also a process but it is one that is becoming easier everyday.
One of the first things I decided was to stop eating non local fruit and veggies. It is no surprise that these foods are transported over big distances, accounting for environmental damage. Any foods that travel to us contribute to that but produce is a BIG culprit because it must be refrigerated in transport, therefore adding to the environmental and economic costs. It is the same with meats, cheeses, eggs, etc. So those were next on my list. I decided to be a little slower in eliminating dry goods like spices, coffee, and teas, since they have a long shelf life and they do not need to be refrigerated. But I am now using more of my own dried herbs to season food and I do not buy coffee and tea anymore.
So where do I get my food? I buy quite a bit from a local Amish farm that has milk, eggs, pork, cheese, un-milled and milled grains, fresh baked breads, and produce galore. I also grow a lot of my own produce. All of it is organic.
BUT I do make a couple monthly trips to my local Kroger where some of my purchases are likely not local. Rice is an example of something that I buy that cannot be grown locally (at least to my knowledge). I also buy organic granola and fruit bars for my kids to munch on and I love Hodgeson Mills flaxseed and soy cereals and I am not ready to give them up just yet. AND I do keep canned goods on hand for emergency situations. A couple of things that I try not to buy anymore are exotic or tropical fruits like bananas, pineapple, oranges, mangoes, etc. The economic and environmental costs are just too great for these.
So that is just a peek into what I eat and how far along I am in my eat local journey. I found a great list of reasons to eat local on a web site called The Eating Local Challenge. I encourage everyone to read it and find out a bit more about why eating local is a process that you want to start for yourself.
I thought I would throw in the following pictures for fun here. The first picture is my oldest son, standing amongst the wheat growing in our fields. The second picture is my son and my daughter playing on the tractor.
A popular vaccine often called MMR for measles, mumps and rubella has been found to have a link to autism and bowel disease. Although the initial research was heavily scrutinized by other researchers and pharmaceuticals, new research is making those critics take a second look. Sally Beck of the Daily Mail reports:
The study appears to confirm the findings of British doctor Andrew Wakefield, who caused a storm in 1998 by suggesting a possible link.
Now a team from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina are examining 275 children with regressive autism and bowel disease – and of the 82 tested so far, 70 prove positive for the measles virus.
Last night the teams leader, Dr Stephen Walker, said: Of the handful of results we have in so far, all are vaccine strain and none are wild measles.
This research proves that in the gastrointestinal tract of a number of children who have been diagnosed with regressive autism, there is evidence of measles virus.
What it means is that Dr Wake-fields implication is it may be coming study is correct. That study from the MMR vaccine. If thats didnt draw any conclusions about the case, and this live virus is specifically what it means to find residing in the gastrointestinal measles virus in the gut, but the tract of some children, and then they have GI inflammation and other problems, it may be related to MMR.
Once the weather warms up it is common to find your house has become a spider habitat. Alternatively when the weather starts to get a bit colder they seek refuge and the issue arises. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing because spiders are very useful in eating bugs. So unless the spiders that have taken up residence in your house are of the dangerous variety like the Brown Recluse or the Black Widow it may be wise to just live and let live. By trying to eliminate spiders from your house you may just be making it a more hospitable place for numerous other creepy crawlies.
That being said this is a tough situation for me personally because I am borderline arachnophobic after being bitten eight times by Black Widow spiders when I was a child. I won’t go into the heinous details but it was not a very pleasant experience. I am less then thrilled when I see spiders in the house so I am very sympathetic to those who do not want to share their house with eight legged friends. I like to leave the web spinners alone but I usually will try to get rid of hunter spiders, like the Brown Recluse. If you absolutely cannot live with them or they pose a danger to your small children here are a few natural ways to get rid of spiders.
1. Clean house! Spiders like cardboard and clutter, so clean up all cardboard and make sure closets and underneath beds are clean and without places to hide. And do not leave clothing, towels, and other debris on the floor where spiders can find refuge.
2. Clear out unwanted vegetation from around your house, including Ivy or other vines, which are a haven for them. Seal all cracks that may lead spiders indoors.
3. Keep trash bags and bins away from the house where spiders will lay in wait for bugs that are attracted to the garbage.
4. Cover pet food.
5. Use natural deterrents wherever you see spiders (spiders HATE them!):
- Orange Oil
- Peppermint Oil
- Eucalyptus leaves
- Hedge Apples or pieces of Hedge Apples, also called Osage orange
- Pennyroyal on a scrap of cloth
- Baking soda
All of these remedies are cheap, easy, and effective. You may even be able to find Hedge Apples for free if you happen to live where they grow in the public areas. Mix up the essential oils with some vinegar or soapy water and put inside a spray bottle. Spray liberally in the areas where you see spiders (ie around their webs and along walls and corners). You can also mix the EOs with the baking soda and then sprinkle it where you see spiders. Good luck!
Natural deterrents for other pests:
Ants: Bay leaves, cucumber peels sprinkled with salt, Cayenne pepper, chili pepper, dried peppermint, paprika, cinnamon, dried sage.
Flies: Whole or ground cloves in a small muslin teabag, flypaper made with honey.
It is only natural that at this time of year many homeowners are concerned with their lawns. A lot of them are lining up at home improvement stores to buy lawn fertilizers and chemicals to spray on their lawns to keep them looking pristine. Don Williamson, author of “Lawns Natural and Organic” thinks maybe we need to change our attitudes though. He suggests making this the year to break your lawn of its addiction to chemical fertilizers and pesticides, restore life to the soil and help your grass become healthy, resilient and resistant to drought. Here is what Williamson suggests:
Hold on: Don’t work on the lawn at all as long as spring rains keep it wet. Walking on wet soil packs it down, closing up the air spaces that are needed by the grass and the other organisms it depends on. Meanwhile, get your equipment ready. Sharpen your lawnmower blade and set it at least 2 ½ to 3 inches high. The lawn will be ready to work when a Popsicle stick thrust 3 inches deep comes out clean, not muddy.
Clean up: Pick up trash. Then use a bow rake with spikes perpendicular to the handle (not a fan-shaped rake) to remove leaves, evergreen needles or other organic debris. While you’re at it, inspect the lawn for bare or patchy spots. If there are a lot of them, you might plan to reseed.
Spread compost: Buy compost (composted manure is good, but not mushroom compost) in bags or in bulk from a landscape company. With a push broom, spread it ¼ to ½ inch deep over the lawn, gently massaging it between the blades of grass. Watered in, the compost will return to the soil the many microorganisms — beneficial bacteria, fungi, nematodes and other critters — that are killed off by a regime of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. They gradually will restore a light, airy, rich structure to the soil and make nutrients available to the grass’ roots.
Reseed: Soak the lawn to a depth of 6 inches. The next day, after the lawn has had a chance to drain, sprinkle a seed mix that is appropriate for your light conditions where you need it and gently rake it in. Keep it moist until the seed has germinated, usually 10 days to two weeks. If you’re not reseeding, consider spreading corn gluten meal (sold at many garden centers), an organic herbicide that will stop weed seeds (or grass seeds) from germinating. But plan to minimize weeds with: healthy, thick grass, a little hand-weeding and a bit of tolerance — rather than chemicals.
Mow: Wait until the grass is a good 4 inches high before you mow, and then time your mowing so you never take off more than a third of a grass blade’s length. Water it deeply and infrequently — about 1 inch of rain or applied water a week — rather than lightly and often. Proper watering will encourage grass roots to grow deep and strong as they reach down for moisture.
I had time this weekend to curl up in a hammock this weekend re-read one of my favorite books. While my kids were splashing around in a small pool I dived into the world of Joan Dye Gussow once again by reading the book This Organic Life Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader.
The book opens with a quote by Wendell Berry, who wrote The Gift of Good Land. Might it not be that eating and farming are inseparable concepts that belong together on the farm, not two distinct economic activities as we have now made them in the United States?
This quote tells you right away that you will be learning a lot about how eating and farming should go together and why eating locally is important. This thought is driven home by Gussow’s opening line, “I arrived at adulthood without a hint that vegetable production might become central to my life.” The book stays true to this theme and I can understand why Barbara Kingsolver, the author of Prodigal Summer and The Poisonwood Bible has said that This Organic Life is “The most important book I have read in a long while.” Gussow makes a wonderfully compelling argument for why we should grow our own food or at the very least eat the food grown by others within our local communities for reasons both moral and economic. The book is very educational. But yet it also reads like a novel or a memoir and you end up marking certain pages for later reference or jotting down quick notes with little tidbits of knowledge or recipes.
Basically the book follows the life of Mrs. Gussow as she buys two suburban properties throughout the span of her life and gardening takes a central role in her lifestyle. She gardens organically from the beginning because as she so simply states, she intended to eat the food she grew so of course she wasn’t going to use chemicals. The book outlines her gardening successes and failures, her struggle with pests and other vermin, and her dedication to making meals that utilized the foods she was growing. The cover of the book shows her squatting in her garden, smiling and tanned, with a large selection of veggies from her garden including beets, carrots, tomatoes, and kale.
This book is a wonderful read. Not only is it interesting and enjoyable to read as a story, it is also a very insightful book as well that teaches a lot about sustainability and ecologically responsible living. I can see why Kingsolver said that it was a very important book.