Tuesday, March 30, 2010

They're Ba-ack!

Yep, it's as if the bugs know Spring has sprung! On the 23rd of March I saw my first palmetto bug in four months! And one flea turned up in the ritual cat-combing! It's a combination of sunlight time and warmth that alerts both the beautiful blooms and the not-so-beautiful bugs that it's time to wake up!

So here are some time-tested eco-friendly tips for bug control in the home.
  1. Diatomaceous Earth kills fleas mechanically
    1. Basically it is microscopic broken glass, that's simplifying it, but that's how it works. We feel nothing but an almost talc-like fineness, but for the flea, it's like walking on shards of glass. It cuts their exoskeleton and they die by dehydration pretty fast. It only works when dry and is dangerous only if inhaled, so use appropriately.
    2. I use it several ways.
      1. I put it on the carpet overnight and then vacuum in the morning.
      2. I put it on the bottom of my ferret's cage where the litter box is and cover it with fluffy bedding. The ferret doesn't spend much time down there, but the eggs drop and it seems to help. 
      3. I also sweep it across my wood floors and let it sit there at least a few days - once I mop or vacuum it is gone.
  2. Boric acid does wonders keeping the Palmetto bug population down
    1. I have cleaned out all my cupboards and put down boric acid around the perimeters. You can blow in a thin stream of it. I push it down into the spaces between the shelves and the sides as well as packing it into any holes.
    2. Sprinkle it around the pipes under your sinks. Boric acid works wet as well as dry. The only precaution is to keep it away from food and pets. So keeping it in the hidden pipe areas is best.
  3. Containers with water and some dish-soap trap and kill both bugs.
    1. Now this is a fun experiment for kids over say 6 or 7: Put down a shallow dish with about an inch of water and a couple squirts of dish washing liquid in it. For palmettos, place it near a place you've seen them in the past for an over night. For fleas, place it in a spot on the floor where pets frequent, but keep the pets out of the room for the night. Add a small desk lamp over it for heat (so use incandescent light bulb, NOT florescent!).  In the morning you'll find some dead bugs...but only if you have bugs. If you use chemicals, this is all moot.
    2. I use a wide-mouth mug with water and dish soap when I comb my pets. That way I can flick the fleas right into the soap-water and they sink immediately.
  4. Try not to kill all your house spiders. Leave a couple in hidden spots and you'll be amazed at how many fleas and baby palmettos they catch!
    1. This has been a great learning tool for kids! I have picked fleas off my cats and dropped them into the tiny webs of the harmless house spider and we've watched the spider run right to the flea!
  5. If you have a bad flea infestation, judicious use of topical flea treatments on your pets might be the only way to get them under control. Use all chemicals strictly according to the label instructions and NEVER use dog products on cats!
    1. One tip, use one brand for two cycles and then switch to another brand for two cycles. These meds kill 99% of the fleas within 24 hours. This means 1% lives to breed "super fleas" that are immune to that chemical. In the decades that these products have been in use, there have evolved some fleas that are immune. By switching up the chemicals you have a better chance of stopping the immunity.
  6. Vacuuming every carpeted area every day.
    1. Vacuum the furniture weekly.
    2. Use cheap throws on the furniture if pets get up there so they can be washed.
    3. Put boric acid and D.E. in the vacuum bag or canister.
    4. Sweep D.E. and Boric acid onto wooden floors so it gets between the slats. If your wood floor is sealed, this isn't necessary.
    5. Empty the vacuum bags/canisters and take the garbage out of the house.
  7. Put stopper in sinks over night when not in use.
    1. I've found this very helpful. Most palmetto activity is at night. Sneak into your kitchen around 2 AM and flip on the light - if you have palmettos, you'll see 'em then! Mostly around the sink. There were many fewer in my traps when I started plugging the drains.
    2. If you get an infestation in your dishwasher, pour about a galleon of water into the bottom when not in use. Most families won't have this issue. But if you're like me and only run the dishwasher once every other week or so, then this is another drain they can enter.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ten Water Saving Tips Beyond the Ordinary

OK, I admit it, I'm a water nut! And I'm not talking about going to the beach or a water park, in fact I rarely swim. I'm talking about the wasting of the most precious element next to air.

In Florida 65% of the available potable water is used for irrigation! Some of that is for agriculture, but way too much is for watering lawns. Mismanaged sprinkler systems that go off in the rain, water concrete and go off in the peak heat of the day are just criminal.

Here are a few things I do to lower my water use, beyond the basic 'turn off the faucet while brushing teeth' advice:
  1. No sprinkler system period! Water by hose only when establishing a new plant or in an extreme drought.
  2. Plant only drought-tolerant or natives that work well in your area with no extra watering, just rain.
  3. Use of "Johnny Boy" on toilets to save water when washing hands.
  4. "If it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down!"
  5. Low flow toilets and shower heads - easy and low cost fix for water use.
  6. Have bricks/water bottles/ galleon jugs in toilet tanks to displace water.
  7. Rain barrels to collect water for use instead of turning on hose.
  8. 5 minute shower timer to remind you to get out of the shower faster! (Free at a eco-festivals and your local water management district!)
  9. Collect water from faucet while waiting for hot water, for showers, pet cleanings, dishes, whatever reason you wait for hot water. Save it to use for plants, cleaning hands, countertops, etc. as just a few ideas.
  10. Use day-old pet water to water plants.
These are just some of my personal ways to lower water use. I realize I can be a bit extreme since I don't have to worry about a lot of people in my household. Here are a couple even more extreme things I hope to have someday. Consider it my water conservation wish list!

Self-Contained Composting Toilet: http://letsgogreen.com/composting-toilet-desc.html

Tankless water heater saves water since there's instant hot water instead of running out the cold water from the lines. http://tanklesswaterheaterguide.com/  It has the added benefit of saving energy costs too!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Mighty Tabbouleh

I love tabbouleh. I make it using quinoa instead of bulgar for nutrient purposes, but the big ingredient, the thing that makes it taste so fresh, is parsley.

I brought home some parsley the other day and it tasted terrible. Really bitter. Here's the cure: snip the stems and put into a mug of water. Just as if this were a bouquet of fresh flowers. Change out the water after you notice the parsley perk up. The fresh water will improve the taste as well as keep the parsley fresh for up to a week! Change out the water every 2 days to keep it clean.

This also works for celery. Is it just me or do these veggies taste bad these days? I may just be getting old. My son says it's my "old taste buds", but I think something is up. Especially when the taste improves after putting the celery or parsley into water. For the celery, just do the same thing, cut the bottom off and put it into a tall jar of water. You can put the whole thing into the fridge if you want.
And don't get me started on the lousy taste of tomatoes and bell peppers!! If I figure out how to make these taste fresher and less bitter or in the case of the tomatoes, less like cardboard!; I'll post it!

Now go make up a batch of tabbouleh! It's so good and so good for you!

Recipe: Tabbouleh
Serves 4-6

1 cup cooked quinoa -
3/4 cup minced parsley*
1/2 cup finely chopped green onion
1 tomato, diced
1 cucumber, seeded and diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste
1 tsp. sea salt, or to taste
Pinch allspice (really, add this! You'll be surprised at how good it is!)

Combine the quinoa and the chopped vegetables and toss to mix. Combine oil, lemon juice, salt, and allspice. Add to quinoa mixture and mix well. Chill. Serve and enjoy.

* Some recipes call for 1/4 c. mint and 1/2 c. parsley. I prefer the all parsley.
I've also made this with millet and it's just as good. Millet is a great grain, but go easy if you are hypothyroid!
Also, I often make the Tabbouleh without the grain. I store the grain separately and mix when ready to eat. This way I can use the Tabbouleh as a topping for a tofu burger or hummus sandwich!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Almond Milk - The Easiest Food I've Ever Made!

Surfing the web as I do, I came across a great blog:  http://sogoodandtasty.blogspot.com/2010/02/homemade-almond-milk.html

Basically it's this:
1 cup almonds
4-6 cups water (I used 4.5 C. since my blender is small)
Soak almonds in water overnight.
Pour it all into a blender and blend until pieces are as tiny as your blender will get them.
Pour it all through a fine mesh strainer, using a spoon to get as much liquid out as possible.

My twist, one teaspoon of vanilla and about 2 tablespoons of honey mixed in.
I also saved the pulp, one small container with cinnamon and honey in it and one container plain.

Place the milk into a clean, well sealed jar and refrigerate. 

The first thing I did was make my usual morning oatmeal. I cooked it in the almond milk instead of water and it was much richer, mellower tasting. Then I added about 4 spoonsful of the pulp and it was really good! I'm sure the extra almond pulp added a nice protein boost!

The plain almond milk was good to drink. I like the extra oomph of the vanilla and honey, but taste it first! You might just prefer it plain! My next batch will be plain and I'll experiment with mashed potatoes. 

As much as I've always loved cow products, they do create mucus and if you have sinus issues or use your voice a lot, you know dairy products are not good for you.  Many people love soy milk, as did I until I had some issues with it.  Rice Milk is also good, but not nearly as many great benefits as almonds! The protein and B vitamins in almonds are much higher than in rice.  Also, with 3 pounds (about 9.5 cups) of almonds costing under $10 at BJs, it's less expensive to make my own almond milk than to buy any other product.  A huge plus is that the ingredients are known and controlled by you! So you know it's pure!

I hope you try it! And stop by the So Good and Tasty blog! Jacqui has  many more interesting recipes shared there!