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Carpet Rescue    December 30, 2002

The Holidays can be tuff on carpeting.  Parties often invite accidents and there are many homes with new pets in the house.  Stains are easy to get out if you do it right; otherwise the stains remain as a constant reminder that something happened in that spot.

Clean up any loose material first.  With a bucket of soapy water clean the area with a sponge or cloth.  Be careful with the soap; don't add too much soap to the water or you end up with soapy carpeting. Rinse out the cloth or sponge and continue to gently clean the area until all visible stain is gone.  Most of the time laundry or dish soap will work fine.  If you have a particular troublesome stain you can use a special carpet spot remover called Spot Shot in a spray can.  You can find it in many stores.

The problem with stains is that once the area dries any remaining stain that is deep down in the carpet backing or deep in the carpet fibers is wicked up to the surface during the drying process.  An area that looked clean right after you washed it will have a faint stain when dry.  To prevent this liberally sprinkle the clean moist spot with cornstarch, NOT baking soda.  Any remaining stain will be wicked up into the cornstarch and dry on top of the carpet.

Vacuum the cornstarch up once the area is totally dry.  This is an amazing process; you will actually see any remaining stain (e.g. pet urine) pulled right up into the cornstarch.  Sometimes this process will need to be repeated but most stains can be totally removed.

 

Houseplant Protection     December 23, 2002

If you have a kitty at your house you know they sometimes will dig around in the soil of potted plants looking for a new litter box.  I have tried putting foil on top of the soil and it kept the cat out but it didn't do much for the looks of the plant.  Next I put gravel on top of the soil and not only did it deter the cat but it also looked nice.  You can use regular gravel or you can splurge and use decorative stones.  Many garden and craft stores sell decorative stones.

 

Winter Mulching for Strawberries and Garlic    December 16, 2002

If you experience winters that drop below 15 degrees F (even occasionally) or experience much freezing and thawing over the season you should mulch your strawberries and garlic.  It only takes a few minutes and is inexpensive.  Severe cold can damage the crowns of the berries and repeated freezing and thawing is bad news for both berries and garlic.

Lay down several inches of straw over the area after the ground is frozen.  When warmer temperatures return you can use this same straw for mulching the ground around the plants to control weeds and preserve moisture.  Just pull away the straw in the spring and lay it on the soil next to the plants.  Multipurpose mulch!

 

Food Alert    December 9, 2002

The following message was sent to me from the Healthy Traditions Network.  HTN is dedicated to educating consumers in the area of nutrition.  I thought the message was important enough to pass onto you.

ACTION ALERT: COMMENT NOW ON IRRADIATED FOOD IN THE NATIONAL SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM

The USDA has issued a request for comments on their proposal to buy irradiated food for their commodity purchase programs, which includes the National School Lunch Program.  Although they have been encouraged by Congress to include irradiated food, they have asked the public to comment first.  This is your chance to tell them what you think about irradiated food!

In 2001 the USDA attempted to pull this same stunt, and with your help we effectively prevented irradiated food from entering the National School Lunch Program!

WE CAN DO IT AGAIN!  EVERY COMMENT IS IMPORTANT!

Why should you be concerned?

The health effects of children consuming irradiated meat are unknown.
Irradiating food causes the creation of unique chemicals. Research has shown numerous health problems in lab animals that ate irradiated food, including reproductive problems, genetic damage and cancer development.
Irradiated food in schools need not be labeled, which obstructs parents' right-to-know what their children are eating.
Irradiation masks filthy meat.
Irradiating food depletes nutrients. Should we feed our children nutritionally deficient food?

What can you do?  Comment deadline is December 20, 2002

Fax the USDA and enter your additional comments.  http://www.citizen.org/
Write, or e-mail the USDA with your comments.
Write to:
Livestock and Seed Programs
Agriculture Marketing Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Stop 0249, Room 2092-S
Washington, DC 20250-0249
E-mail: foodsafetytechnology@usda.gov
Work at the local level to prevent irradiated food from entering your school district! (contact Monique at 202-546-4996 for an organizing packet to get started.)
Write a letter to the editor of your local paper explaining the situation and asking for parental support! (Include your contact information or share Public Citizen's contact information.)

TALKING POINTS:

Parents have a right-to-know what their children are eating, yet the rules on labeling irradiated food don't apply to schools.
Taxpayer money should not be used to prop up this questionable technology at the expense of the safety of American children.
How much longer is the USDA going to let the meat industry get away with producing food that is contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7, listeria or salmonella without a proper inspection and testing regime?
Irradiation is not an acceptable way to deal with filth on meat. Is this administration willing to put our children's health at risk to let industry off the hook on cleaning up their processes?
The National School Lunch Program is meant to provide children with a healthy well-balanced meal, not nutritionally deficient food treated with a controversial technology.

There is an appalling lack of research into the long-term health effects experienced by children who are exposed to toxic chemicals in foods. Dr. William Au, a toxicologist at the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, has argued that "the scientific community and regulatory agencies have very little knowledge regarding how children respond to insult from toxic chemicals. These concerns also apply to toxicological risk with respect to eating irradiated food."

 

Houseplants    December 2, 2002

Houseplants are popular as ever because they serve many useful purposes in our homes.  They brighten up our homes when things outside look dead and dreary.  They keep us busy as a hobby.  They also help clean the air we breathe through their growing processes.  Houseplants are an important addition to your home.

Just like the plants you pick to grow outdoors, you need to match the light conditions to the plant's requirements.  You can find plants that will tolerate even rooms that receive minimal sunlight.  Don't pick a plant for a specific room without first reading the growing instructions and light requirements.

Most plants will grow slower during winter so you need to stop fertilizing them during their dormant period.  (You may have a particular type of plant that would be an exception to this rule, such as some hobby orchid growers would experience.)  You can pick up a fertilizing schedule again in March.

They will also need less water due to their slow growth.  Don't over water a plant, it is the number one killer of houseplants, next comes under watering.  Know your specific plant's moisture needs and don't be afraid to get your finger dirty.  It is the best way to determine if the soil is in need of watering.  Stick your finger into the soil about 1 inch to feel for moisture.  Don't use softened water for houseplants.  The salts in the water will eventually kill most plants.

Leaching:  If you must use softened water (both your plant and I hope you don't) then you must leach your plants once a month; others will need to leach less frequently.  Leaching is good for all potted plants because is helps remove salt and other mineral build-ups in the pot.  If you see white or crusty formations on the pot or soil you know that you need to leach.  Remove any crusty mineral deposits possible before you leach, no sense running them through the pot.  With your plant in a tub to hold the excess water, run at least two times the amount of water that the pot would hold without a plant in it.  So if you have a gallon pot, run two gallons of water through the soil.  Let all this water drain away, don't let it get absorbed back up into the pot; that water will be full of salt and deposits.  Some people use 1 tablespoon of vinegar (white is cheapest) mixed with a gallon of water to help remove the build-up for a more thorough leaching.

Check the plant's root system to make sure it is not root bound.  Just as you don't like your feet crammed into tight shoes your plants usually don't like crammed roots.  And once again there may be exceptions to this rule. 

Turn your plants occasionally to face their source of light so they grow on all sides.

Watch for insect pests and deal with them as needed.  I once had a plant that had scale and I didn't understand that the sticky stuff all over my carpeting was from this problem.  It spread to other plants and made a BIG mess.  Ignoring problems is not a good idea; those pests don't just go away on their own.  Quarantine an infected plant until you know you have licked the infestation.

Visit your local library for books on houseplants.  Make note of the books you find the most useful and possibly buy one for yourself or buy one as a gift for someone.  Or maybe a loved one has been asking you what you would like for a gift.  Nice easy idea!

 

Conifers, Evergreens and Winter Time     November 25, 2002

Conifers and Evergreens are well suited for the cold winter temperatures and snow that many of us experience every year.  Even though they can handle winter weather you will sometimes see them wrapped up in burlap by well-intentioned people.  Not only is this usually not necessary but unattractive.  There is nothing quite like an evergreen tree or bush covered in snow; they also are a welcome sight of green during the long cold winter.  As long as you have a winter hardy evergreen such as spruce, firs or pines, your tree should make it just fine through the winter without wrapping it up.  When I see spruce trees all wrapped up in burlap for the winter I think to myself, "What a waste of time, money, energy and also the beauty of the tree that is now covered up."

People get into trouble with some evergreens because they don't match their zone with a suitable plant.  Unless your hobby is trying to grow things in your locale that aren't suitable for your weather conditions, don't bother trying to grow something that will struggle to live. There are many choices of trees and shrubs that will grow strong and healthy without much of your assistance. 

Some arborvitaes won't do well in an open wind swept area.  Once again I need to stress match your plant with the conditions.

If your area hasn't had sufficient rainfall this fall you should water your evergreens and shrubs.  The tree's structures need to be full of water when the freezing temps set in.  This will help the tree get through the long cold winter.

Anti-transpirants:

In a seemingly contradiction to the above advice, Holly bushes can suffer from cold winter winds.  (Sometimes a bush or tree is just too special not to go the extra mile for it.)  In the spring a damaged bush will have brown leaves and dead branches and will need severe pruning.  To minimize this problem spray them with an anti-transpirant (like Wilt Pruf) when temperatures are at least 40 degrees or higher.  Most garden centers sell this product.  It is well worth the cost.  You can even spray a Christmas tree or greens with it to prevent them from drying out too early.  Don't use on cedars, junipers, cypress or arborvitae; they usually survive winters just fine, it isn't good for them, and it would be a waste of time and money.  But your Holly bush will reward you with lush growth come spring if you spray them.

The bottle of anti-transpirant has a list of other bushes (rhododendron, azalea, laurel, boxwood) that may need this treatment.  If you have a bush that doesn't fair well during the winter but it is properly matched with your zone you should give an anti-transpirant a try.  Boxwoods perform just fine in our zone 5 without the need of an anti-transpirant but boxwoods in colder zones may need to be sprayed.  Personal experience will tell you when this treatment is warranted.

 

For the Birds       November 18, 2002

Today I filled up the bird feeders; haven't done this in months. I used to feed the birds all year long, even summer, during the summer months unusual birds would visit the feeders such as a Rose Breasted Grosbeak.  It was exciting to have such an uncommon bird visit our feeder.  But I stopped feeding during the warmer months because of the black birds; black birds of all sorts, redwing black birds, cowbirds, starlings, to name just a few.  They would come in huge flocks and scare away all the other birds.  It didn't make much sense to feed just them while the other birds could only look on.  So I threw in the towel and gave up.

But this morning I saw a nuthatch come to the empty feeder and leave disappointed.  That did it!  I just had to break out the seed.  It feels like winter out there and they use a lot of energy (calories) to stay alive.  Maybe that nuthatch will give me another chance and come back.

Black-oil sunflower seeds are a good choice if you are looking for a good all around seed.  Suet will attract woodpeckers and other tree clinging birds.  Thistle in a thistle feeder will keep larger birds from taking over and attract smaller songbirds such as the American Gold Finch.  There are countless feeder designs to keep squirrels and larger birds from eating all the food.  Hulless sunflowers are nice for areas where you don't want a mess left behind from the broken hulls.

Be sure to offer water, even during the cold months.  I use a water heater purchased for this purpose to keep the water from being frozen.  Birds need water and your feeders will become more popular when there is also water available.  Not only do they need water to eat but also they need to bathe.  Clean feathers offer better insulation against the cold than dirty feathers.  We find it very amusing to watch birds taking a bath, often times waiting in line and taking turns for their chance in the 'tub'.  An inexpensive solution for providing a birdbath is a large plastic dish for catching water under a plant pot.  Make sure the water is clean.  Birds don't like a bath that is deep so make sure whatever you offer in shallow.

For those interested in getting more involved in bird watching from inside your nice warm home may I suggest you check out Project Feeder Watch?  During the PFW period you watch, identify, and report the birds coming to your feeder(s).  It is very entertaining and a great learning experience.  During the winter months it can become a great family project.  Kids can learn to identify different birds and also learn about following directions, keeping a schedule and reporting statistics.  Reports can be filled over the Internet or through the mail.  Go to www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw for more information about PFW and also about feeding wild birds.

 

Tender Bulbs, Tubers, Rhizomes, Corms and Roots     November 11, 2002

Since winter is approaching many areas, preparation for the freezing temperatures is necessary if you want to save tender bulbs, tubers, rhizomes and roots.  Some examples of the more common ones are:

Gladiolus

Canna Lily

Calla Lily

Caladium

Anemone

Tuberous Begonia

Oxalis

Freesia

Dahlia

Steps to take:

Carefully dig them up with a fork or spade.  Start digging far enough away from the plant to prevent accidentally injuring the root system.  Gently lift entire area.

Gently remove soil away from the root system and rinse with water.  Some corms such as Gladiolus shouldn't be washed.

Examine structures for damage and disease.  Throw away any parts that appear diseased.  Trim damaged roots back to healthy tissue.

Cure the structures in a dry location for a few days.  Don't allow to freeze and keep out of direct sunlight.

Paper bags can be used for storage for plants such as gladiolus or freesia.  Another storage method is to place the root structure in sphagnum peat.  This is a preferred medium for some plants such as dahlias or tuberous begonia.  If you have a prized plant, sphagnum peat would be in order.  Plastic storage boxes make good containers for this purpose.  Store in a cool dry location.

When spring arrives remove and plant.  They should be healthy and ready for another year of show.

 

Storing Your Harvest     November 4, 2002

Fall is harvest time and time to prepare for the winter.  Storing your produce at the correct temperature and humidity is important, especially when you have abundance.  Here are some suggestions:

Tomatoes begin to deteriorate at temperatures below 50 degrees.  Don't refrigerate tomatoes because this will adversely affect the taste.  I have heard of many ways to handle green tomatoes; such as wrap each individual tomato in newspaper, store in various materials, etc., but my favorite way is to just lay them out indoors (not in the sunshine) on a table or counter and watch them ripen; some ripen just fine, others start to rot.  You don't know which ones are going to spoil until it happens so I don't like to hide them in paper or other materials.  They ripen just fine this way and I always know which ones need to be used right away or thrown out.  Hiding them away in paper just seems to be asking for trouble.  Maybe it isn't the fanciest way to handle green tomatoes but it works for us and is easy.

Sun-Dried Tomatoes are great for recipes, (soups, casseroles, salads, etc), because their flavor is so intense.  They also make great snacks, no-fat and low in calories but full flavored.

You can make your own; which is great news because in the stores they sell from $5.00 to $13.00 a pound.  Plus the store bought dried tomatoes often have sulfur added to them, which tastes awful.  You need a tomato, such as a 'Roma', that is on the dry side and meaty.  We grow 'Juliets' here at 'Rocky Gardens', which are perfect for drying.

Directions for drying your tomatoes:

You need a warm, sunny and dry atmosphere for drying outside.

Depending on the weather it might take four days for them to dry.

For locations that don't have warm sunny dry days you can use a dehydrator or an oven.  Consult dehydrator for directions.  For oven drying follow directions below. 

'Steam blanch' for 3 minutes- leave them whole.  (Use a steamer; don't put them directly into boiling water.)

Slice in half and lay out on baking sheet, cut side up.

Bake in oven at 200 to 220 degrees. 

The baking process will take many hours.

Check on them after several hours; if you haven't seen them in the store, you want them to be dried like a dried apricot.  They all don't dry at the same time so remove any that are starting to dry up.

Store in zip-lock bags in refrigerator for a few weeks and in the freezer for longer periods.

Potatoes can be suppressed from rotting and sprouting by storing with sprigs of sage, lavender and rosemary.  They will do best around 40 degrees, in the dark with high humidity.  If any are damaged during harvesting cook those soon or they will rot.

Winter squash needs to be picked before a frost.  Dry them in sunshine if possible for a few days.  Wash them with a diluted solution of water and bleach.  Storage at 50 degrees is best with dry conditions.  Keep squash from touching each other during long storage.

Apples need refrigeration as soon after picking as possible.  They need high humidity with long storage temperatures between 30 to 32 degrees.

Cauliflower needs refrigeration as soon after picking as possible.

Onions and Garlic need dry conditions and hung in mesh bags for best air circulation.  Ideal temperature for long storage is 35 to 49 degrees.

Don't store apples or pears with onions or potatoes.  The fruit gives off ethylene gas, which will accelerate deterioration. 

Sweet Potatoes store best by curing unwashed perfect tubers at warm temps (75-85 degrees) for 6 to 10 days.  Handle carefully to avoid bruising.  As potatoes cure the skins will toughen and sugar content will double.  Store at 45-60 degrees.  As with potatoes if you happen to damage one during harvesting cook soon or it will rot.

Root Crops prefer humid conditions at 35 to 40 degrees.

 

Putting Your Vegetable Garden to Bed    October 28, 2002

If you live in an area that has cold winters you will need to prepare your gardens and yard for it.  If you live in a warmer climate, good for you!  Enjoy the nice weather.  For all us who don't have that luxury spending some time getting ready for the freezing temperatures will save time and money next spring and create better gardens for you.  (Personally, I have come to enjoy winter because it allows us a breather!)

We have always performed the standard vegetable garden cleanup prescribed by many garden experts; that would be chopping or composting all dead vegetable plants (not diseased plants, dispose of them) and tilling in extra organic matter into the soil.  Tilling in organic matter feeds the soil for next year's crops.  We have found the lawn mower useful for chopping most dead plants; just use it right in the garden where the mulched vegetation will decompose.  A chipper/shredder works well for tall plants such as corn stalks.  Chop or compost vines, they tend to wrap around a tiller and cause more work.

We have some areas that need plenty of organic matter tilled in along with green sand and rock phosphate so those areas will get the old tried and true described above.  But we also some have some nicely fertile areas that we will be trying something new on, at least new for us.  It is called the 'no till method'.  Ruth Stout, from many years past, found this method to be superior.  Not only did it feed the soil but also she claims in her books that it saved her "aching back."  She could never understand why people would go to all the trouble with tilling or turning over soil with a shovel.  Ruth claims in her books that gardening never was easier than when using the 'no-till method', no matter what season.

If you are asking yourself, "why and what is rock phosphate and green sand?" let me explain.  They are both soil amendments applied every three to four years that supply nutrients to help provide the optimum nutrition for vegetables.  The rock phosphate is finely ground natural rock powder high in phosphorous.  The green sand is an ancient seabed deposit containing some potassium but more importantly a broad-spectrum of micronutrients.  When combined with plenty of organic matter the soil will be brimming with nutrients to feed your veggies.  Individual soil tests will determine if other amendments are needed.  Check local suppliers for these amendments or call your local extension office for ideas where to locate amendments nearest you.  We had to drive 1 hour away to get ours but it will be worth it next year.

It is imperative that organic matter be applied heavily when using the 'no-till method'.  I have heard of at least a foot of mulch or even more being applied in the fall. You can use chopped leaves, straw, hay, grass clippings, compost or some organic matter common to your locale.  As the winter wears on the many inches of mulch will compact to a few inches.  Worms will also pull down nutrients deeper into the soil while at the same time 'fixing' poor soils.  If you feed worms they will stay and multiply, if they don't have enough food they will leave.  The soil is being fed, microorganisms growing, beneficial bacteria thriving and the soil is improving.

When planting time came, Ruth would just pull away the mulch necessary and plants her seeds or seedlings.  All that mulch fed the soil, controlled weeds and conserved moisture for the plants.

I read about Ruth's method many years ago but was always concerned that the harmful insects would live and multiply under all that mulch.  I asked Jeff Ball (author of Rodale's Garden Problem Solver and others books) about this when he visited our farm and gave his presentation to local Master Gardeners.  He said that the heavy mulch harbors so many predatory critters (spiders, ants and ground beetles to name a few) that the "bad guys" just become their dinner and that it shouldn't be a problem.  Needless to say you can't spray insecticide in your garden if you are depending on the predators to control the destructive insects.

Both methods, no-till and tilling in organic matter, will improve soils, whether sandy or clay.  And the nutrients supplied will replenish your soil for next year's crops.  Remember, healthy soil=healthy produce.

 

Spring Blooming Bulbs    October 21, 2002

It still isn't too late to plant spring blooming bulbs (unless you live REALLY far north) but get them in as soon as possible.  They need time to establish a root system before the ground freezes.

The general rule is to plant the bulb three times the depth of the height of the bulb, from the top of the bulb to the surface.  In my first gardening class I was taught to plant tulip bulbs at least 8 inches deep. I have followed that advice with good results. Sometimes the directions the tulips come with say to plant them only 6 inches but the problem with those instructions are that early spring thaws can 'wake up' the bulb, they start to grow and then freezing weather returns and kills the new growth. Play it safe and plant deeper. If they are right up near the foundation of your house sometimes 10 inches is better. The soil temperature near the house is warmer and the bulbs come out of dormancy earlier than they should. The new top growth can suffer from freezing when rough weather returns; which most of the time happens. 

Full sun is best for bulbs but most can perform with part sun. Don't forget that deciduous trees don't leaf out until later in the spring so often a spot that is normally shady in the summer can be sunnier in early spring. 

Dig a large hole to the depth needed and mix compost or very fertile soil into the bottom of the hole. Sprinkle a bulb fertilizer in the hole. Position the bulbs in the bottom of the hole in a pleasing pattern with the tip of the bulb up. How far apart will depend on the bulb but the individual directions will tell you. Don't line them up in row, which is an unnatural look. Fill in the hole half way, water, and fill in remainder of the hole. Placing mulch over the area is best to insulate the soil, conserve moisture and control weeds. 

If your soil is hard clay you will need to amend the soil with loose fertile soil. Be sure to locate the bulbs in an area with good drainage. 

You can layer different types of bulbs in the hole if space is limited. Start with the types that are planted deepest, fill in the hole with soil to the next depth and plant some other type such as crocus or grape hyacinths next. 

If you don't like the look of dying foliage in the late spring (you need to allow the bulb foliage to die naturally because it 'feeds' the bulb for the following year) you can plant a shallow rooted perennial over the top or right next to the area. Choose something that doesn't reach full growth early in the spring. This way you will have some green camouflage as the leaves are dieing. 

Select top quality bulbs, bigger is better when it comes to bulbs.  Be wary of 'super deals' through mail order companies.  Sometimes they sell poor quality or small bulbs that may not produce blooms the first spring.  Bulbs should be disease free and firm.

Be sure to read the descriptions of the bulbs before you purchase. They bloom in early, mid and late spring. Have a plan as to the look you want to accomplish. If you want different colors to bloom together then pick them accordingly. If you want to lengthen the bloom time then pick some from each category. 

Pick out a color scheme; don't just buy everything that appeals to you.  I did that when I first started gardening and was disappointed with the results.  Mixing colors is O.K. but have a plan.  Usually bright clear colors (reds, oranges, bright yellow) don't blend well with pastels.  I did see a lovely mix last spring that went together fabulous but the bulbs were all the same variety and the various colors blended well.

 

Second Crop of Cabbage   October 14, 2002

Last year I had read of a procedure to get another crop of cabbage from the plants that were harvested early in the season.  Before I could recommend it I needed to try it myself; which I did this season and can report it was a success.

How to get another crop of cabbage:

Cut the stump from the first harvest down to about one inch from the soil.  Make an X with a knife into the cut end of the stem; this will cause four little cabbages to form from the stump.  Feed well.  If you want four small cabbages allow all four to grow, otherwise select two across from each other and cut off the other two.  Extra leaves and heads will try to form, keep any growth other than the selected heads from growing. 

Lesson learned this year about cabbage:

I thought it would be a great idea to get a mix of different cabbages offered by one of the seed catalogs.  They offered a packet of every kind of cabbage they had, early, mid, late, red, savoyed, etc.   Sounded great to me!  Mistake!

Not only did I not get any red cabbage but the seeds come all mixed together.  I didn't know which ones I should pick early or late, they don't grow up with little tags on them!  I had to take the catalog outside and try to match the appearance in real life with the pictures in the catalog, and not all had pictures.  It was not easy.

The lesson learned is to buy a known cabbage and if I want an assortment to order them separately not as a mix.  It might cost a little more but it is worth knowing when to harvest them and to get some red cabbage.

 

Organic and Naturally grown food, it is worth it?      October 7, 2002

I am on my soapbox today, are you ready?

Organic grown food is becoming a popular phrase, with many people going out of their way to obtain this specialty food for their families.  I have heard people ask if organic food is really worth the extra money and time to hunt it down.  Also, "Can you trust that it really doesn't have harmful chemicals?"  Many of our readers are familiar with healthy foods raised with sustainable growing practices some others are just starting to become more informed so let's examine some of the issues.

Can you grow organic vegetables yourself?

Yes, you can!  You don't need to spray your produce with products from the local hardware store to keep them from being eaten by critters.  We have been growing with sustainable and organic practices for many years and every year we learn more.  If you aren't all ready growing organically, learn by reading, reading and doing; then read some more.  I got started with a subscription to Organic Gardening Magazine over 13 years ago and it has been a great adventure.  OG magazine is a good place to start (after spending plenty time at our Web site) and find books that encourage organic practices.

Can you trust it? 

From everything I know about growers who raise their products to be organic I am very confident that if a food is claimed to be organically grown or raised you rest assured that it is.  (As in all walks of life there will always be a 'bad apple in the barrel' and we can't do much about that.)  Most organic growers or farmers of organic livestock have personal convictions that have led them to go out of their way to produce healthy food and they aren't going to go against their convictions.  Many organic farmers study often and attend organic conferences for support and knowledge.  Most are producing healthy food because of a belief system not the money.

To become 'Certified' is a laborious and expensive procedure and most farmers will not jeopardize their certification.  This is especially important to farmers that sell to the general public, stores and restaurants.  There are strict government guidelines now in place governing the 'Organic' title.  A study of Community Supported Agriculture programs shows that approximately 50% are certified with the remaining CSAs are either in transition (transition means that the farm is in the process of becoming certified) or following organic principles.  In a CSA where members get to know the farm and farmer having certification is not as critical; a farmer or gardener can grow organically without being certified.  To stay 'Certified' a farm needs to be continually examined by an outside organization in their growing methods, purchases and undergo soil analyses.  It is highly unlikely they will do something to loose their certification.

Is it worth it?

With cancer on the rise how can we not be questioning our food sources?  Heart disease, strokes, depression, attention deficit disorder, Alzheimer's and diabetes are also staggering.  I just saw on the news the other day that adolescent depression is multiplying dramatically.  We should be questioning why.  Studies have shown that the food we consume has effect on our mental well-being; in this reference I am particularly referring to refined, modified and processed foods.

"Super Bugs" are becoming resistant to antibiotics and it isn't just because we are asking the doctors for too many prescriptions.  The big agriculture companies are often feeding antibiotics to their animals on a regular basis.  We consume the meat or eggs and then when we need an antibiotic, BOOM!  An infection can run rampant!!

As I become more aware of the huge arsenal of chemicals non-organic growers use on produce I become more concerned.  We have been hearing for years about all the chemicals on our food but I don't think we really have any clue how MANY chemicals are sprayed on our food.  It is staggering when you read the list of recommended chemicals for the non-organic grower to use; things you have never even heard of.

For an eye opening investigation go to www.foodnews.org and take an 'EWG Supermarket' tour.  You can type in a food product and the site will come back with interesting facts.  Also go to www.eatwild.com.  These are great Web sites to visit for information about your food.

Studies are showing that the nutritional value of our food supply is seriously falling.  Healthy soil will produce healthy veggies, starved soil will produce veggies lacking in nutrients.  If the soil your food is grown in is pumped full of chemicals and fertilizers then the food will reflect it when tested nutritionally; not to even mention the taste is inferior.  They can make a pepper or head of cauliflower grow into a beautiful sight to behold but they can't fill it with vitamins just by applying synthetic fertilizers.  Organic growers pay close attention to the health of their soil making sure that they are always rotating crops and replenishing the soil with natural earth friendly organic matter.  These methods 'feed' the produce the following year.

Support for the responsible farmer:

We are constantly hearing complaints that small farms are disappearing, food is becoming nutritionally unsound and we are loosing touch with our roots.  What is the average person to do?  There is a movement grabbing hold across our land with dedicated small growers and farmers determined to bring healthy food to the local community.  Track these farmers down and support them.  At the risk of sounding self-serving, support them with good prices.  Don't expect a farmer to work hard and long hours for peanuts.  You wouldn't work for peanuts and don't ask them to.

I recently called a farmer who I will be buying chickens from next month and when I asked her for the price per pound she told me, "Well, we have been asking $2.00 a pound but my husband recently went over the numbers and that is just covering our cost."  I offered to pay her $2.50 a pound and told her that they had a right to make a profit.  If I like their chickens and want them to be there next year I had better help support their farm.  I will have to drive 3 hours round -trip to get these chickens but our health is worth it.

Genetically Engineered Food (GE) or Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)

I won't take the time here to write about this subject because there is a web site you can visit that will give you far more than I care to here.  But let me say that GE food is drastically changing our environment and it isn't something we can afford to ignore and just trust the powers in charge.  Go to www.pbs.org and type in a search for "gmo".

You can locate local farmers (U.S.A.) who care about good healthy food in your area by going to www.eatwild.com.  Also do some Internet searching. (We have many subscribers from other countries; there are a few CSAs listed from other countries or perhaps a search will turn up more in your area.)

Take the time to investigate what you and your loved ones are eating.  Lives depend on it.

 

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