Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Gardening and Earwig Update

Well it's been a while since I wrote about my garden.  Since the problems with the earwigs have subsided, things have improved tremendously.  I found a product that worked better than the Captain Jack's Deadbug I mentioned in any earlier post Gardening - Getting Rid of Earwigs.  It is a organic insect killer spray for lawns and landscapes made by EcoSmart.  You attack the bottle to your hose and spray AROUND your garden.  The spray is made for lawns and landscapes so I would not spray directly on vegetable plants.  I sprayed on all the lawn around my garden and even sprayed around all my pots.  I noticed a difference immediately.  I did spray again a week later and then another two weeks later for a total of three times.  After the third spraying I did see the occasional earwig (I don't think it's possible to get rid of every last one without chemical insecticide) but nothing like the infestation I had prior to spraying.  Unfortunately, for some of my vegetables it was already too late.  I lost all my beets and most of my turnips and strawberries.  I was so upset, I ripped the strawberries out and replaced them with flowers (bottom photo).  The funny thing is two of the strawberry plants came back up.  Strawberries are perennials so they will come back every year.  I do have many strawberry plants in pots also but they did not produce much this year. 

The plants that are doing awesome are the tomatoes.  The cherry tomatoes taste the best. They are incredibly sweet.  Next year do yourself a favor and buy Botanical Interests Gardener's Delight cherry tomato seeds.  Make sure you use at large pots (15" across and 12" deep).  I used smaller pots last year and my harvest was significantly less.  We have four cherry tomato plants that are producing unbelievably (top photo on trellis to the right and middle photo on the left). Every day I come in with a bowl of cherry tomatoes.  We have so many we pop them in our mouths all day.  Two Roma and three beefsteak tomato plants (middle photo) have also done fairly well.  The beefsteak tomatoes started splitting recently.  Splitting is usually from too much water so we cut back.  So far I am peeling and freezing most of the Roma tomatoes for sauces and soups in the winter.  If you have a huge harvest, canning would probably be better, but we will eat all our tomatoes before winter is over.  

My green beans came back from the earwig feast fine and the parsley, chives, and green onions did well also.  My carrots were small but good.  I think carrots grow better in compact soil.  This year I used a "fluffier" soil.  I also have basil, oregano, and mint in pots which are doing well.  I had a difficult time germinating peppers from seeds so they got a late start.  They are growing fine now but may have to be taken in during cold nights because they have at least one more month before harvest.  Except for one, the pepper plants are in pots.  

As happy as I am gardening, I'm always happy when the season is over so I can have a break.  But I will miss those tomatoes.  :-(

Sunday, September 18, 2011

7 Easy Ways to Save Money

1.  Track Your Spending.  Unless you track the money you spend every month, you really don't know where your money is going.  Everyone should have a budget.  You don't need to buy fancy software.  Just set up an excel spread sheet.  Type in the months of the year at the top of the spread sheet and categories of spending at the left of the spread sheet.  Every time you spend, save the receipts so you can add them to the categories.  Make sure your categories are detailed enough to give you an idea where you could be wasting money.  For instance, instead of a Food category, separate food into Fruits, Vegetables, Meats, Nuts, Cheese, Milk, Bread, Grains, Cold Cereal, Frozen Processed Products (Pizza, dinners, etc.), Junk Food (candy, chips, ice cream, etc.), Condiments, and Restaurants.  You'll be surprised at how much you spend on junk food and restaurants.

2.  Do Not Eat in Restaurants.  Restaurants are very expensive.  Eating in a restaurant should be reserved for a special occasion or at the most a monthly treat instead of several times per week.  In addition, when you do eat at a restaurant, eliminate the appetizers and drinks.  Drinks and appetizers for 2 people can add several hundred unneeded calories and at least $15.  I usually ask for ice water with lemon.  And if you eat desert, share one desert with 2 people.  Deserts in restaurants are usually very high in calories, fat, and sugar.  Anyway, I usually find that after the first couple of bites, I am satisfied.  Another trick I use so I don't overeat in a restaurant is to have a small piece of fruit before I go out to eat.  

3.  Write a List First.  Never, ever go shopping without a list, whether it is for groceries or clothing.  If you don't have the will power to resist temptation, then bring cash only for what you plan to buy.  Studies have shown that people who write lists and carry cash spend less.

4.  Never Go Grocery Shopping Hungry or Stuffed Like a Thanksgiving Turkey.  Everyone knows about the dangers of going shopping while hungry.  I've also found that going shopping right after eating a full meal is not good either.  When I am full, I tend not to buy much fruits and vegetables and healthier alternatives.  I want to buy sweets and coffee.  I think the best time to go grocery shopping is a couple of hours after eating.  
5. Buy Generic Brands.  Generic brands usually not only much less money than the name brands but are still less money than the name brands with a coupon.  For those of you that don't know, generic brands are name brands purchased and packaged by your supermarket. 

6. Buy Your Own Coffee.  You should buy your own coffee for two reasons.  If you buy your own coffee, you can purchase organic, fair trade coffee.  Starbucks (and even local coffee houses) does not have organic, fair trade coffee.  Regular coffee has up to 1000 chemicals and the half and half is not organic either.  That means you are ingesting chemicals, more acid, and hormones and udder pus (if you add half and half).  Not good for your health or pocketbook.  I buy my whole grain, organic, fair trade coffee at Trader Joe's.  I grind a couple of days worth at once and put it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Not only does it taste much better but it is healthier.  For your health, keep coffee drinking down to 12 ounces per day.  Even the best coffee is acidic.  

7.  Don't Buy Warranties.  This is the biggest scam going.  Do not buy warranties.  They are a waste of money.  Most products have a manufacturer's warranty for one year.  Usually if something is going to break down, it will in the first year.  If not, it will break down after the warranty period ends.  I purchased a Dell Computer with a 3 year warranty (the warranty was included).  The hard drive on my Dell crashed one month (I'm not kidding) after the warranty ended.  To test this theory, set up a separate bank account for repairs on items that would have been covered under a warranty.  For instance, when you purchase a product with a warranty of $20 for 2 years, instead of purchasing the warranty, put that money aside in a bank account.  Then on a piece of paper write down the product and the warranty expiration had you purchased it.  If something goes wrong with the product during the warranty time period, take the money out of the bank account to purchase a new one.  Trust me on this one.  Depending on how much cars, appliances, electronics or other products you buy that have warranties, you will have a nice savings within a few years. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Genetically Modified? How to Tell.

How can you tell if the produce you buy at the market is genetically modified (GM)?  Since the FDA does not require genetically modified food to be labeled, it's impossible to tell unless you know how the labels work.  The FDA decided that  they don’t care if the corn you’re eating has been cross bred with fish genes to render the corn more resistant to cold weather.  The problem with GM food is many.  If the food is cross bred with something an allergen of yours then you could become very ill and not know why.  In addition, tests have shown that lab animals consuming GM food became infertile within a couple of generations.  If you are not concerned, then go back to America's Got Talent or whatever it is you watch.  However, for those concerned like myself, it is simple. 

For conventionally grown fruit, (grown with chemical fertilizers and insecticides), the PLU code on the sticker consists of four numbers. Organically grown fruit has a five-numeral PLU prefaced by the number 9. Genetically engineered (GM) fruit and vegetables has a five-numeral PLU prefaced by the number 8.

For example:

A conventionally grown banana would be: 4011

An organic banana would be: 94011

A genetically engineered (GE or GMO) banana would be: 84011
 If the produce doesn't have a PLU number, then buy organic to be safe.  At the very least stay away from foods that are very likely (70% - 80%) to be GM if not organic and that is soy, corn, canola oil, and anything made with these ingredients.  Last I knew about 30% of potatoes are also GM so not worth the risk in my opinion.  I only buy organic potatoes, soy products and corn products for my family.  I stopped buying canola oil altogether for many reasons recently that would require another posting.  I only use olive or sesame oil.  Corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, soy protein, and canola oil is in just about any processed food product you pick up.  Another good reason to stay clear of processed foods.     

Image: paytai / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Homeopathy and Scientific Proof

I am a big fan of homeopathy and use it more than any other remedy for my family and pets.  Some argue that homeopathy is quackery and the only thing working on people is the placebo affect.  Well, I use homeopathy remedies on my pets with great success so they would not be affected by the "placebo" affect.  It is great to see there is some scientific proof that homeopathy works.  Click on the link below to read more about homeopathy and scientific proof. 


Monday, September 12, 2011

U.S. Budget on Drugs

Just an interesting tidbit I wanted to share regarding the U.S. budget and deficit.  The U.S. Congress sets a federal budget every year in the trillions of dollars. Few people know how much money that is so here is a  breakdown of federal spending in simple terms. Let's put the 2011 federal budget into perspective:

U.S. income: $2,170,000,000,000 (approximately $2.2 trillion)

Federal budget: $3,820,000,000,000 (approximately $3.8 trillion)

New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000 ($1.65 trillion)

National debt: $14,271,000,000,000 (approximately $14.3 trillion and rising)

Recent budget cut: $ 38,500,000,000 ($38.5 billion or about 1 percent of the budget)

It helps to think about these numbers in terms that we can relate to. Therefore, let's remove eight zeros from these numbers and pretend this is the household budget for the fictitious Jones family.

Total annual income for the Jones family: $21,700s

Amount of money the Jones family spent: $38,200

Amount of new debt added to the credit card: $16,500

Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710

Amount cut from the budget: $385

Thought this was an interesting way to explain how the U.S. budget cuts.  By comparing it to a family budget, you can see how ridiculous the budget cuts really are.  If you had $143,000 on your credit card, do you think the bank would increase your credit limit another $16,500 especially if you are spending more than you make and you only promise to reduce spending by $385 a year?  If you ran your household like the U.S. government, you would be filing for bankruptcy.  Oops! I said it.  The U.S. government is bankrupt.  How does the government do it then?  By printing money and devaluing the dollar.  Basically, it is coming out of your pocket in the way of purchasing power.  And in the future it will come out of your pocket and your children's pockets and your grandchildren's pockets in the way of taxes.    :(

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Banana Bread with Icing

The best tasting banana bread I ever ate because it is not extremely sweet and it has no walnuts.  You may add walnuts for more protein and omega-3's. 

Preparation Time:  20 minutes
Cook Time:  50 - 60 minutes
Number of servings: approximately 12


1 cup of whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 teaspoons of baking powder (non-aluminum)
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
6 small ripe mashed bananas
3 tablespoons of organic butter or Earth Balance (vegan substitute)
1/4 cup of honey
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 4 inch loaf pan.  Beat the honey, butter, and vanilla together.  Stir in the mashed bananas.  Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together.  Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients and mix together.  Spoon into loaf pan and bake for approximately 50 - 60 minutes.  It make take longer depending on the size of bananas used.  Check after 45 minutes.  When done, let cool on rack while you make the icing.

Icing (optional)
1 tablespoon of cream, half & half, or soy creamer (organic for all) and add powdered sugar to desired consistancy.  Drizzle over cake.

Nutritional information per serving: 
Calories:  160.  Add another 10 calories for icing.
Fat - 3 grams 
Fiber - 3 grams
Sugar - 10.5 grams (7.0 grams from the honey and 3.5 grams from the bananas.  Add  2.5 grams for the icing)
Protein - 3 grams

To reduce the sugar, reduce the honey to 1/4 cup and omit the icing for 8.75 grams per serving.
To increase fiber, use 100% whole wheat flour for 4 grams per serving
To increase protein and omega 3's, stir in one cup of walnuts after mixing the dry and wet ingredients.  This will add 65 calories, 6.5 grams of fat, and 1.5 grams of protein per serving.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dangers of Lead in Garden Hoses

I didn't realize until recently that there was a danger with lead in garden hoses.  For the last couple of years I used a garden hose to water my lawn and garden that was probably not lead-free and therefore adding lead to my soil.  There is likely lead in your garden hose unless your garden hose specifically stated when you bought it that it is lead-free and or drinking water safe.  It's probably not a problem if you don't have a garden or small children who are going to drink from the hose.  But if you do have small children or a garden it is best that you buy a safe garden hose.  Hoses with lead are particularly dangerous if they have been sitting in the sun for hours before use.  So make sure you let the water run out of the hose (you should do this even if your hose is safe) until it is cool before watering your garden until you buy a safe hose. 

Since the hose I have been using on my garden was not lead-free I stopped using it immediately and went on a mission to buy a new hose.  Since I didn't want to order online and wait for a new one I searched everywhere locally.  I did find a white 25 ft. marine hose for $20 at Lowe's.  The marine hoses are safe but white is not a color I prefer so I kept looking.  I don't remember the name of the company that made the marine hose but I do know it was made in America.  After searching everywhere, I did find a 25 ft. lead-free and drinking water safe blue garden hose made by Apex for $14 at Walmart.  I bought two hoses so I could connect them when I need to reach further.  The hose was also kink-free and made in America.  I've been using the hoses for over a month now and they work fine. 

Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net