18 January 2015, by gj
By now most people know that the bee population is declining and we need to act swiftly to stop and hopefully reverse it.
But you might think there is little you can do personally to help. That’s not true, you really can make a difference.
1. Give them a home.
Build a Mason Bee House with a few simple tools. Mason bees will populate the house and help your garden at the same time.
Then build a few extra and give them to your family and friends.
2. Have their back.
Read this article on helping the bees. In it there are a number of things you can do to be a part of the solution.
3. Clean up their environment.
Find out if the plants you are buying at your local garden center contain the deadly pesticide known as neonicotinoid that you saw mentioned in the above article. To do this, simply ask the staff who their plant supplier is, then send them an email.
An equaintance of mine did this. The supplier at her center is Bonnie Plants, so she sent them an email. This was their response:
Bonnie Plants does not utilize any form of systemic neonicotinoid pesticides/insecticides (neonicotinoids class includes; acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, nitenpyram, nithiazine, thiacloprid, dinotefuran and thiamethoxam) in the greenhouse production of transplants. Neonicotinoids are not contained in any seed nor are they utilized in any stage of the growing process. I do hope this information is helpful to you and alleviates your concern.
Thanks for writing in, and have a good day.
(Since this was a personal email, we removed the people’s names.)
And by all means, stop using products such as Round Up in your yard.
4. Feed them well.
Intersperse your veggie garden with the types of plants bees love. You can call your local cooperative extension and see what plants are best for your area.
Here in Northeast Pa. we find they are attracted to sunflowers and creeping thymus in particular. Look for plants that bloom early to get things started, and for others that have a long blooming season.
If you have any friends that are interested in nature, please pass this on and encourage them to help as well.
To win the battle we need the good guys to outnumber the bad guys. It’s important to the bees, and to our food supply.
Categories: preparedness, special posts
19 August 2014, by gj
I am still ticked about what happened yesterday, and there is something I have been holding in that started to seep out in that last post.
Now’s the time to get this off my chest:
Lots of people talk about pesticides, herbicides and genetically engineered foods; this is important information to get out there. Here is a different approach to what might be an overlooked yet significant issue with our food supply.
Did you know that animals can smell death?
Sometimes we can as well, I did once, nurses probably do.
But animals smell it as a matter of survival.
It is not unheard of for a pig, held in a holding pen in line to be slaughtered, to simply faint. Fear?
They are very social animals as well, and when kept in isolation in birthing cages, have been known to bang their heads against the side of the cage until they die.
What kind of emotional suffering causes that behavior?
Chickens often are subject to what would be considered inhumane practices as they are being ‘processed’.
Milk cows have their young taken away soon after birth, so they can be artificially impregnated again and the milk supply continue.
This is not all farms, but this is now the most common.
You read and hear a lot about all the other issues with our food supply, but rarely have I seen anyone talk about this aspect of it.
Just as we excrete chemicals in our body as a result of life circumstances such as happiness, fear, loneliness and love, so do animals.
As a society what we are consuming and feeding to our children is suffering, loneliness, fear, anxiety and an unnatural break from nature.
I would bet that if a scientist were to look at a sample of muscle from a deer taken by a hunter, and compare that to a pig killed in a slaughterhouse, they would find very different levels of these chemicals.
Why are animals being factory farmed this way, when there are alternatives?
Now the farmer would answer that they need to raise the meat using these practices because of the demand for it, and to keep prices low. This is especially the case for farmers who supply most fast food places.
So what is the one variable in this formula that we, as concerned consumers, can change?
We can demand less, and demand better.
Many Americans eat meat three times a day, which is much more than we need.
Technically, we don’t need to eat any meat, but let’s not go there.
If we all cut down to either once or twice per day, we could afford to buy the grass fed beef and the organic eggs.
If we cut out one or two days a week, a Meatless Monday for example, we could afford the better products.
We could eat the meat that comes from happy animals, ones that were allowed to be outdoors and have families and range in their natural way.
The same way we grow our own veggies because they taste better and are healthier, we can make the change that will allow us to have the better quality meat as well.
And if the demand for better quality goes up, more farmers will look to provide quality over quantity.
Then what we will have will be better for us, better for our children, and better for the environment.
In the long run, that may be just what we need to turn around all the violence and need for medications that our children and grandchildren now face as a part of daily life.
Shouldn’t we do that for them?
Isn’t one day without meat worth it?
For more information on our food supply:
The Chipotle’s Scarecrow.
Suggested reading: Eating Animals
Categories: special posts, you are what you eat
18 August 2014, by gj
The facility I work at has on site a pre-school program, government offices, a senior center, a playground and a little league ball field. It is a place where many local residents can find something to do.
Today, a 16 year old boy shot a younger boy playing nearby with an air BB gun, multiple times. The physical wounds were not severe, about a dozen welts to the arm and back.
The emotional wounds, for both boys, will last much longer.
When questioned by police the older boy reported that he had not taken his medication that morning, he has anger issues and sometimes does bad things without his medication.
Both boys are victims here, and I’ll explain why I say that.
We are spiritual beings in a chemical body. If you don’t have a religious faith, we are still chemical beings.
‘Carbon based life forms’ is what they called it on Star Trek, but that is exactly what we are.
When we hurt, when we are sad or happy, and when we are fearful or feel any other emotions, our brains and bodies secrete chemicals that flow throughout us.
Did you ever see a video of a child playing with puppies?
If you smiled and felt good, that was at least partially the result of your brain releasing a chemical called Serotonin into your body. Yeah, advertisers know this.
My background is not in horticulture but actually in psychology, and we’ve learned from studies and information gathered long ago that our minds react chemically, and also in other ways that is more difficult to understand. Many call that part the ‘soul’.
In the recent example of Robin Williams, I believe he was a soul tortured by what the chemical processes were doing inside his body. Depression causes a known chemical reaction in the body. The same is true for anger issues and many other deviations from what we might consider the average.
Note I don’t use the term ‘normal’.
So what has happened to our children that we now see a young person go out and harm someone defenseless?
Sandy Hook, Columbine… plus there are many other incidences, like the one here, that you never hear of.
I grew up in the town where I work, and I don’t remember ever hearing of anything other than normal growing pains amongst kids.
What has changed in the past 40-some years? Well, a lot; but one of the main things is our diet.
“You are what you eat” or more literally, “Man is as he eats” was quoted almost 200 years ago by Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.
Most of what we eat today is meat filled with the chemicals secreted by fear, suffering, maltreatment and pain. With few exceptions, our burgers and eggs are heavily dosed with antibiotics and the feed these animals are given is laden with pesticides. Man made chemicals are also found on a lot of the produce we consume.
We’re feeding this to our children, our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews and step-children.
I understand it is easier to get and afford these ‘foods’ than the better alternative, but all of us can make a few choices, easy choices really, to change this.
I’ll post that tomorrow, right now I need to take a walk in the garden to help put it all in perspective.
Tomorrow I’ll post what I think we can all do to help change this, from the easy to the more involved.
I hope you will share that post as much as you can… this has got to stop.
For now, thanks for listening. <3
Categories: gardening people, places & things, special posts, you are what you eat
22 April 2014, by gj
Make the Earth smile.
What an interesting concept, Earth Day.
And a wonderful opportunity to make a change.
Being that you are here reading, you are most likely already a gardener.
Good for you!
If you are growing without the use of any pesticides, even better. Bugs don’t know the difference between organic and non, and pesticides don’t discriminate against bugs. Avoiding them all together is best.
Do you plant what will attract those flying bugs that help move pollen from one plant to another? Woohoo! Now you are working with the Earth.
The bees are in there. Somewhere.
We recently purchased this Heath (like Heather) and the bees are having a field day. It was going to go by the front porch, but now we’re thinking we’ll put it in the veggie garden in a pot instead.
Reduse, reuse, recycle. We bet you have that down pat as well.
So how can you make Earth Day even better?
Treat it like New Year’s Day for the Planet, and make one resolution to do something better this next year. That way, it isn’t just a one day thing.
Here are some ideas you may not have heard:
- Repurpose newspapers and cardboard as weed suppressors in your garden.
- Teach how to or help one new person garden.
- Collect fallen tree branches or trimmed brambles into a pile as a safe haven for wildlife.
- Eat less meat. This cuts down on the ‘greenhouse gasses’ considered to be a major part of global warming. Plus it is healthier for you and especially for the animals.
We’re sharing our mostly meatless recipes here.
- If you can, reclaim some ‘gray water’ for your garden or houseplants. This is the water often wasted when you wash your hands, clothes and/or dishes.
- Make your own detergents. Not only is this better for the environment by cutting out a lot of the unnecessary chemicals, it will save you money.
- Mend something rather than toss it. Iron on a patch, sew it, glue it back together or put a screw in it- but fix it don’t pitch it.
We could go on, and you have heard a lot of these and are hopefully doing a lot already. So go ahead and do one more, from this list or one you have already thought of.
In general, it is a matter of living on less. We’re there, we understand.Unfortunately, many people have been forced to learn how to do that lately. That is part of why we offer this blog for free, as a way to help.
Do you have a tip that helped you use less or give to the planet better?
We would love to hear it!
Categories: saving money & time, special posts
28 March 2014, by gj
If you have been reading here a while, and certainly if you have been growing an edible garden for a few years, you know there are numerous good reasons for people to grow their own food:
1. It tastes better. All of it. Every last veggie tastes better than store bought.
2. You save money. Okay, maybe not at first, but in the long run. Not to mention less Doctor bills, because-
3. It is healthier for you. Fresh produce is higher in nutrients than even organic produce that is older.
4. You are less dependent on others for your food.
5. It is great exercise both physically and mentally.
6. Economic uncertainty.
Now you might be thinking, ‘But GJ, you said ONE reason!’
Of course you are right, and here it is:
Unless you are totally self-sufficient, you are buying something that was grown in California. Maybe it’s nuts, or produce, or an ingredient in something else; but the truth is the vast majority of the food we eat in the US is associated with California farms.
And they are having a horrible year. The extreme drought continues, and here in the northeast we are already seeing the effects.
The price of almonds has skyrocketed, for example; and that is just the beginning.
It gets worse. Even if the drought suddenly lifted, much of this season’s crops are already affected. Not just this season’s either; because so many items end up as ingredients, the prices of other food items will continue to go up even if the drought subsides.
Think about it.
What would you do if suddenly the cost of food tripled?
What if some items you normally enjoy were no longer available?
Now we’re not trying to predict what will happen nor frighten anyone.
For the cost of a few packets of seeds and either some containers or a little part of your yard, you could begin to lay the groundwork, so to speak, for a more secure future food-wise.
Isn’t that one reason alone way more than enough?
Categories: gardening, saving money & time, special posts
14 February 2014, by gj
Gardening is an act of love.
Sure, you get fresh air, exercise, and food; but most gardeners grow plants because they love to.
So here’s a Happy Valentine’s Day to all you gardeners, and a few examples of growing we would love to share:
Love these beans.
1. Black Valentine Bean
This is one of our personal favorite bush beans to grow. As you can see from our notations on the packet, this bean can either be harvested as a green bean, or allowed to mature on the plant and dry. The seeds that you get as a dry bean are a beautiful purplish black and are wonderful tasting. Although we grow a variety of dry beans, we plant more of these than any other.
2. Love In A Mist
What a beautiful name for a gorgeous flower. And free seeds? Yep, you have got to love that! According to the packet description, this plant dates back to 1570′s English gardens, and has “wispy, feathery foliage surrounding the blooms”. Although we primarily plant edibles, we also grow some flowers to attract bees. These look to be a good choice for this year’s garden.
A mix of love.
3. Love Lies Bleeding
Not the most romantic name, but the red variety of amaranth grows vibrant seed pods that are an outstanding, and edible, addition to the garden. We grew these for years before we were taking pictures of the garden, and unfortunately before we knew they were edible. More to come on growing amaranth this summer.
Tall and tasty love.
Okay, we admit this one is pushing it a bit, but what isn’t to love about a perennial herb that grows 3 feet wide by 6 feet high and can be used in place of celery? We have yet to grow this but have tasted it, and the resemblance in flavor to celery was enough to convince us; another gorgeous edible for your garden.
A sweet honeymoon.
5. Honeymoon Melon
The picture above is of the accidental experiment; but the real Honeymoon Melon is a yellow skinned green fleshed delight. It is also an earlier maturing variety of honeydew, so you get to enjoy that sweetness sooner.
There are two additional ways you can grow love in your garden:
Mom loved blue.
6. Grow a Remembrance Plant:
This is the Sea Holly that was planted after my mom passed away last spring. In spite of the weather and only being a young plant, it bloomed the following fall, and after two frosts no less. It will always be a reminder of her, in the place we love to be.
Ready for little hands.
7. Spread the Love
The garden really is a good example of the circle of life. Plants sprout, they grow and reproduce; some die and some continue to return for many years.
Sharing the knowledge and the love of gardening is a wonderful way to keep that information alive through the generations.
Pass it on, whether it is your neighbor, your kids or grandkids, or a school or church garden.
The love of gardening really is the best thing you grow.
Categories: special posts
31 January 2014, by gj
Even the Guardians of the Garden could not keep the polar vortex away.
So maybe the temperatures you are suffering through are the ones we would be happy to see, that’s not the point.
We’re pretty much all having a nasty winter; but as North-easterners, there are a few things we’ve learned that might help you:
1. Expect it to happen again. This winter isn’t over, and the weather tends to be cyclical. That being said-
2. Have at least 3 weeks of food on hand if you have room, including water. Even stock a few items you can eat right out of the can in case of power loss. Don’t forget a manual can opener.
3. Similarly, have a way to heat your house. If you already do, try to have a back-up. Be prepared to block off unused rooms in case of emergency. Hang a few quilts, er… maybe some beach towels (just kidding) in doorways to prevent heat loss and stay close to whatever heat source you have.
4. Protect the pipes. Did you know your water pipes can freeze and literally break if they get too cold? Heat wrapping them is a good back-up plan. Also, let them drip just a bit to keep the water flowing. In an emergency, it is better to turn them off and drain them; a bother that could save you a major headache in the long run.
5. Prepare adult and kid Blizzard Boxes. That’s what we call them anyway. For the kids, age appropriate games, toys and puzzles to keep them busy. Be sure at least some of them don’t require electricity. Add a few snacks they don’t otherwise get, those kind of things. These will keep your kids entertained on unexpected days off from school.
For the grown-ups maybe a few movies, a good book, and also snacks. Chocolate goes a long way during stressful times for both young and older.
If the winter ends and you didn’t need them, hooray! Have a little party!
6. Don’t forget the pets. Be sure to have enough food on hand for them. Also, since they sense stress in their loved ones, a little Blizzard Box for them would be wonderful too.
7. Preparedness doesn’t need to take up a lot of space. Thermal underwear and blankets go a long way to keep you warm, yet are quite thin. Bubble wrap on your windows will help keep the warm air in. A small camping stove will let you heat water if the power is out.
We in the north really do feel for you, our winter has been nasty as well.
But for us it is just a matter of colder, or more snow…
No pun intended, but its a matter of degree.
Stay warm and safe out there, and if ever our temps are going to go above 100F, we’ll call on you for help!
Categories: preparedness, special posts
7 January 2014, by gj
The original, and now the best.
Good news was out last week that General Mills has decided to change their sources for sugar and corn starch to non-GMO products, thus allowing them to take a little step and make their Cheerio’s original non-GMO. Just that one variety so far, as they say it had so little GMO in it the switch was easy.
While the company is still maintaining that GMO’s are not bad for us to ingest, and does admit they make some of their other products without GMO’s so they can be sold in Europe, they do not express any intention of changing what they use in their products in this country.
Recently Chipotle restaurants announced that they were moving toward all non-GMO foods, including grass fed meats.
Their stocks soared, even though customers were informed they may need to slightly increase their prices.
These big companies are smart, and they keep a close eye on trends.
We have already seen an organic version of Heinz catsup hit the store shelves. Since they are not using the heavily pesticided corn syrup and sugar beets, then they are probably non-GMO as well.
But they will keep that quiet for now. Why?
Because its a double standard to manufacture one way for the European market, and another for the US.
And it is hypocritical to say GMO’s are safe, and we don’t want to have to label foods that contain them, then turn around and start using the non-GMO ingredients to their advantage.
This, my friends, is where the conundrum comes into play:
Do you not buy any General Mills products because they financially support efforts against labeling GMO’s containing foods, and they in fact use much of the product so heavily doused in Monsanto’s chemicals-
Or, do you purchase that yellow box of non-GMO Cheerio’s and show General Mills your support for removing GMO products from at least that one box?
Normally I would go with the first choice, but not this time.
Because here’s the thing- if the sales of the non-GMO containing Cheerio’s soar, then other General Mills cereals will follow.
From there, other companies will be quick to jump on the wagon and so maintain their share of the market.
And perhaps the tide will turn.
Amy’s food started it a year or so ago and saw their stock jump up, and now Chipotle’s has thrown some major heat on the fire.
I’m thinking… let’s get out our fans and feed that flame.
Because voting with your dollar? It works.
Don’t just take my opinion on it.
Read what the GM reps say about GMO’s and their other products.
Categories: GMO's, special posts, you are what you eat
5 January 2014, by gj
Plotting and planning.
Having a goal is great; whether it is to lose weight in the new year, start a new career as an entrepreneur, or grow a garden.
Having a good plan however, can make all the difference.
The basics of writing a business plan can help you achieve your goal, whatever it is. So let’s leave the new business planning to the experts, and look at the wonderful goals of Getting Healthy and Growing Food:
1. State the goal specifically.
I want to get healthy is not as specific as I want to lose 2 pounds per month this year or I want to drop my overall cholesterol by 10 points.
Similarly, I want to grow food would be better stated I want to grow enough food to eat fresh and preserve for my family of 4.
2. Detail the steps you will take and make them achievable.
Do the research on what it takes to lower your cholesterol, as an example. Talk to your Doctor and Pharmacist. Find out what specific steps you need to take, and see which ones will work for you
Likewise, do you have the room to grow enough to sustain 4 people? That would be in the neighborhood of 2000 pounds of produce. If space is limited, rethink your goal. Otherwise, look at what techniques you can use, such as intercropping and succession planting, to optimize your harvest.
Yoga on the wii.
3. Plan for challenges.
Everybody is gathering for dinner at that new rib joint, what do you do?
Two weeks without rain, what now?
Life happens, plan on it. What is the old army adage, “Forewarned is forearmed”?
You know there will be stumbling blocks, but do what you can to be prepared. Maybe that will entail a rain barrel, perhaps a husband who is willing to share a dinner entrée. Decide ahead of time.
4. Know your own personality.
Are you the type of person who would rather set a goal of an Elephant, and be happy with a Mouse?
Or would you rather go for a Mouse, and be thrilled with an Elephant?
Do what works best for you.
If you are the type of person that does better with the support of others, use that to your advantage; just be careful, as supporters can also become enablers.
Set a goal that can be achieved alone, just in case.
5. Enjoy the journey.
Sure, the gardening goal sounds like a lot more fun than lowering cholesterol, but it doesn’t have to be. If you enjoy trying new foods and cooking, then you can have a blast experimenting with dishes and ingredients that are better for you.
Plan the steps you will take with your own enjoyment in mind, that will not only make the journey more enjoyable, but increase your chances of success at the same time.
Oh, and by the way, wouldn’t these two goals work well together?
Hmmm… I may have to go update my plan a bit.
Learn more about the Gardening Techniques mentioned in this post.
Categories: preparedness, special posts, you are what you eat
31 December 2013, by gj
We started out with about 8 resolutions for the upcoming garden season, and pared them down to three.
‘Be more organized’ and ‘keep better records’ have had enough time on the list already, either that will happen or it won’t.
‘Buy less seeds’- forgetaboutit.
Some other ridiculous expectations got scratched as well.
Let’s be serious.
After all, this is gardening- if it ain’t going to be fun, then it is a chore.
More of this.
So instead, and without further eloquence, we will:
1. Try not to expand, again.
They say when you are changing a behavior, you should never use the word ‘try’, it is weak and you should be more assertive.
Like we will not expand the garden.
But seriously, that is just dooming oneself to certain failure.
This year, though, we are looking at simplifying in certain ways; so rather than expand out like we have been, we are going to give in a bit and grow more vertically.
That will be a little easier physically, and involve less time as well.
More of these.
2. Garden with more perennials.
With some additional fruit trees, canes and brambles, we can assure ourselves and our family of a year’s supply of fruit; that is if we use more of the space in the roadside garden previously taken by annual edibles.
Last year we doubled our horseradish barrels, increased our rhubarb plants, and added an expanded area for walking onions.
We also added an additional sunchokes bed, somewhat by accident.
Hey, perhaps it was meant to be.
This year we want to incorporate some additional items, including Lovage, French Sorrel, Good King Henry- a plant related to spinach but eaten more like asparagus, Sea Kale and Ramps.
We are also looking into more pots of herbs.
The more the garden can grow itself, the better.
Yeah, let’s bring these back this year.
3. Add more flowers.
It was just a few years ago that most of our flower beds were lost during construction.
Now we have a wonderful front porch instead, but its time to take another look at building areas to feed the soul.
Years ago my Dad made a chart of what to plant, here in Zone 5/6, for a continual bloom spring to fall.
Surely that would work in many nearby zones as well.
That’s the kind of thing we post on the website, and we’ll get that up asap.
So that’s not too bad as far as resolutions go.
What are yours?
To all of you, here’s to a
Healthy- in both mind and body,
Wealthy- in love, happiness and a bountiful harvest,
and Wise- in mind and spirit, 2014!
~ the Jones
Categories: gardening, special posts