Monday, November 29, 2010

Green Gift Monday

Now that Black Friday is over it's time to focus on Cyber Monday. Five years ago Cyber Monday became the biggest on-line shopping day of the year. The Nature Conservatory wants to turn Cyber Monday into Green Gift Monday. The goal here is to give green gifts this holiday season.

The Daily Green has some great green gift ideas for everyone on your shopping list. I especially like their eleven ideas for not giving 'stuff.' I for one would love a volunteer vacation or a year of farm fresh produce. Treehugger also offers up some great ideas ranging from organic baby toys to recycled dog beds. If you really feel that you have to have a gift wrapped and placed under the tree Why Go Ecotourism offers eco friendly polar fleece blankets and reusable grocery shopping bags as gifts that can be given year round.
For those of you that like to send flowers why not send an organic bouquet this year. Or if you'd rather, Fiddler's Green Farm offers organic gift baskets at very reasonable prices. Of course you're going to need Christmas cards so why not buy your cards from Pear Tree. They have a variety of green holiday cards to choose from.

Don't forget that all that wrapping paper is only going to end up in a land fill unless you try out some more creative ideas. You can make the wrapping a part of the gift. Why not use a scarf or towels instead of paper or maybe give a tea pot with a gift card inside to that chef who has everything. If you are a die hard traditionalist the Green Field Paper Company offers 100% recycled wrapping paper. Have a very green Christmas!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

give more; spend less

Today is Advent Sunday. This is a season that we, as Christians, prepare for the coming of Jesus. I want this season to be about more than running around to parties, fighting the traffic and getting the right gift. In preperation our family went and served Thanksgiving lunch downtown at Brownstone's Free Thanksgiving Dinner. It felt good to be take a small amount of our time and help out those who are under resourced.

Last year our church introduced us to The Advent Conspiracy.
The AC encourages congregations to, "think of meaningful acts of kindness as meaningful gift options to replace traditional gifts." This grassroots movement also supports Living Water International. LWI is addressing the world's water crisis in Ethiopia, Brazil, Haiti, and Mexico just to name a few places.

Another organization that has recently entered the scene in the Ian Somerhalder Foundation. They want to, "empower, educate and collaborate with people and projects to positively impact the planet and its creatures." Vampire Support has teamed up with the IS Foundation and is selling t-shirts where, "All profits made will go directly to the IS Foundation. [The foundation] will set aside the money from the shirts for projects with The National Wildlife Federation and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill clean up efforts."

If you are interested in supporting an organization that's goal is to end poverty and hunger, you may want to give to Heifer International. We had the opportunity to tour Heifer International's green office in Little Rock, AR several years ago. HI believes that they can't end world hunger without also saving the earth. Their philosophy is offer a long term solutions by empowering those in poverty and encouraging them to pass along their knowledge and the off spring of their animal to others is their community.

Rice and Bean Ministry is trying to feed 500 families for a month. It takes approximately 100 to feed each family. I know Fred and his team would appreciate your support. They are, of course, trying to feed families all year around in Costa Rica. It only cost $10 dollars to buy a bag a food to feed a family for a week.

If you are ready to give more and spend less (two of the AC founding principles) I encourage you to consider giving some of what you would normal spend on Christmas gift to one of these worthwhile causes.

Friday, November 26, 2010

eating healthy through the holidays

I'm sure I'm not the only one concerned about surviving the holidays intact. I am not so much worried about the gift giving and the running around to see everyone. My issue is with all that scrumptious food.

When I decided that I wanted to take better care of myself by eating right and exercising it was June 3RD, my birthday, and I wasn't thinking about Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. I hadn't considered what it was going to be like to eat healthy through the holidays.

Fortunately, I've been making better choices for the past 4 1/2 months; I survived Halloween without eating a single piece of candy. The fact of the matter is that I don't have any desire for watermelon Jolly Ranchers or plain M&M's. What I do crave are those yummy sauces and gravies! Then there is all of that cornbread dressing and those mash potatoes. I could literally drown myself in a vat of gravy, oh the goodness!

But no, not this year, this is the year that I make healthy lifestyle choices. I have a plan. The first thing is that I am only going to drink water or herbal tea. I am not wasting calories on sweet tea; I don't drink anything but water now anyway, so that shouldn't be too hard. Next, I am going to keep on exercising, maybe even increasing my workout on the days that I am likely to want to eat more. The third thing that I am going to is to map out my eating. In other words, I am not going to put anything on my plate that doesn’t have a purpose. I know that if I eat more protein it will help my body process the carbs more efficiently so I’ll eat more lean meat and beans. I’m also planning on using a smaller plate and avoiding going back for seconds. I figure if I eat slowly and enjoy my food I won’t need to load up my plate.
I put this plan into action yesterday and it didn't go too badly. I only put half of a twice baked potato on my plate, I drank water and I resisted dessert by eating an apple. So far, so good. Do you have a plan for eating healthy through the holidays?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

square foot gardening?

I don't think we can ever know everything that there is about any subject; that is especially true of gardening. While I was at my favorite garden center the other day, I picked up a copy of a book by Mel Bartholomew called All New Square Food Gardening. Not that we have a shortage of space, but I was interested in what he had to say about his gardening system.

I will tell you honestly that I did not sit down and read his book cover to cover. It was repetitive enough that I got the idea fairly quickly and just skimmed the remainder of the book. I tried to keep an open mind and I paid careful attention to what he said about building boxes, using his special, Mel's Mix soil, and staggering the plantings.

According to his method of gardening you should build 4 X 4 foot boxes. The plants will only require 6 inches of soil to grow, but he wants you to avoid using filler dirt since it increases the chances of weeds. After filling the boxes with equal parts of peat moss, vermiculite and blended compost, you should lay out a permanent grid. The end result is a very orderly garden.

I am loaning my copy of Mel's book to a friend, who clearly likes order. I, on the other hand, will will probably keep my raised rows and avoid obsessive compulsive gardening, it's just not my style. How do you like to set up your garden?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bullying is an epidemic

Who are the people that have most impacted you life? A teacher? Your parents? An author? Friends? Did those influential people affect your life positively or negatively?

At some point we realize that we don’t make ourselves; we are shaped. We are who we are because of other people. Hopefully, by people who have made sacrifices, people who have been present in our lives and not by those whose impact has had an adverse effect.

Bullying has harmful effects. It is a topic that has been receiving a lot of air time lately, but it is not a new problem. Bullying affects thousands of children every day, bringing some to the point of suicide. I was bullied as a child. It started out as verbal abuse by the popular girls when we moved from the South to culturally different region of the US. I was in 6th grade. The bullying persisted for the three years that we lived there, becoming more aggressive as time passed. I can recall being bombarded by water balloons on the way home my last day of school.

But I was lucky, once home, I was safe inside my house. That is not the case with children today. They are bombarded through cyber bullying. Due to the growing role of technology in our lives it stands to reason that the harassment these children are receiving at school would follow them through texting and onto social networks.

If you or someone you know is being bullied there are a few thing you can do. Most importantly don't get physical with those bullying you. If you let them know that what they are doing is affecting you it will fuel their cause. If possible walk away. It is going to be important that you take charge of you life and who you are. You may need to talk to a counselor, friend or parent about your feelings. Also, you need to find out who your true friends are, and stick together. There is a campaign called Stop Bullying Now that offers information for both parents and children. I urge you to read this information and become aware of how we can overcome this epidemic.

Monday, November 22, 2010

GM Foods

I spoke to a farmer recently that, like many in is business, support genetically modified crops. His argument was that the poor wouldn’t be able to feed their families if crops were grow organically because it is so much more expensive to raise crops using natural methods. He also said that the extra expense would spill over into other products like sugar, milk, and bread. I can’t argue against the cost of growing GMO’s, but I can’t support it just because it’s more cost effective. According to US Department of Agriculture the percentage of GM corn grown in the United States grown from 7 to 70 percent, and 93 percent of the soybeans grown in the US are GM.

I’m sure you’ve read Jonathan Berr's article that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA )is considering whether to approve the production and sale of genetically modified fish, or frankenfish as it’s being called. Apparently, the argument is over labeling. The biotech industry is concerned that consumers won’t buy the fish if the product label spells out that the fish is genetically modified. Most fish in the US are raised on fish farms, but salmon, by in large, is still caught in the wild. The fishermen aren’t able to keep up with the demand and the supply of wild salmon in this country is shrinking. I assure you, the solution is not to make a frankenfish. According to CNN
"The fish's rapid growth will be boosted by the injection of a combination of a growth gene (GH-coding sequences) from the Pacific Chinook salmon and genetic material (the AFP gene) from the ocean pout - a large, eel-like fish - into the fertilized eggs of Atlantic salmon, making the recombined DNA present in cells throughout the body of the fish. The Chinook gene promotes the growth to market size, and the pout gene allows the fish to grow in the winter as well as the summer."
The FDA is only looking at whether this fish is safe compared to other farm raised or wild salmon. Today is the last day for your voice to be heard concerning the labeling of this potentially dangerous fish. Aquabay Technologies plans to breed the salmon in an inland facility in Canada, however, they will raise the fish in Panama.

This past summer, according to Micheal J Crumb of the Associated Press, a California judge halted the planting of GM sugar beets until the USDA could complete an impact study on how these organisms affect the traditional crops. Fifty percent of the US’s sugar comes from sugar beets that have been planted with products like Genuity Roundup Ready Sugarbeets. The apparent benefit is that farmers are able to use pesticides on the crops without killing the plant itself. Companies like Monsanto would have you believe that farmers and consumers will suffer if GMO’s aren’t allowed to be planted, but that isn’t the case. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), an office of the USDA, has opened a comment period asking for input from retailers, farmers, university professors, dealers, and agricultural organizations on the Environmental Assessment. All interested parties have until December 6 to make their voices heard.

It is essential that we, as consumers, stay informed. The Non-GMO Project supports the verifying and labeling of products and that believes we have the right to make informed choices about whether we want to consume GM products. The Project’s role is to make certain we have accessible Non-GMO alternatives in our future. Voting Block is a site that allows you to tell your elected representatives where you stand on the issue and what they should to earn your vote. Remember to let your voice be heard!


Sunday, November 21, 2010

precious presents

We are fast approaching the holiday season and with that, for some reason, the Christmas shopping season. This Friday is the dreaded Black Friday, named so because this is the day that retailers go from being in the red to being in the black.

Once again I want to challenge you not to fall into the commercialism of the season. One rebellious group, The Adbusters, are campaigning for us to join Buy Nothing Day where you can pledge to not shop from sunrise to sunset on November 26th. I think this is an interesting proposition, since we Americans have more waste that any other country. So, in addition to not shopping on Black Friday I want you to consider some other ways you can make changes this holiday season.

Did you know that 1.8 million people in under resourced countries die every year from dirty drinking water. The Advent Conspiracy who tells us to worship fully, spend less, give more and love all, is asking for support for Living Water International . There is a wonderful video where Chris Seay explains, from the streets of Haiti, how you can spend your Christmas money to save lives.

Samaritan's Purse offers aid to the worlds poor and sick. They have emergency relief programs that provide assistance to victims of war, famine, disease, and natural disaster. At Christmas time you can pack a shoe box and have it sent to a needy child through their Operation Christmas Child program. Their vision is through the story of the good Samaritan.

Fred Curry, of Rice and Beans Ministry, in Costa Rica is asking for support in reaching out to the poor people in the coastal, central and south pacific. Just ten dollars will feed a family for 4 days.

Of course there are children right here in the US that go to bed hungry every day. Many of these kids rely on the school lunch program to receive nutritious meals. On weekends and holidays there the program, Feeding America, that offers additional food through their Backpack Program. They fill children's backpacks with nonperishable and easily consumed food the day before the weekend or holiday. Our church is partnered with a local school and we provide these backpacks,. We are always in need of more backpacks and money to purchase food due to the increasing numbers of qualified applicants.

So, instead of giving into the commercialism of the season, I am begging you, please consider participating in one of these programs or look into another programs in you region where you can give the most precious gift.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Trip to the Dairy

Just down the road is Country Girls Creamery, a family owned dairy

Twice a day the Smith family has to milk 85 head of cattle.
The cattle primarily eat grass, but are given feed 16-24 ounces of feed at each milking.

By law they must pasteurized the milk. This involves cooking the milk

for 30 minutes at 140 degrees.

The creamery also makes butter, yogurt, and cheese that is sold locally at the Turtle Creek Farmer's Market and at The Little Butcher Shop.

65% of the milk consumed is processed locally, the rest is shipped in from out of state.

Country Girls Creamery has natural, not organic milk. What that means is that they don't use hormones or antibiotics on their cattle, but the grain that they feed them twice daily comes from genetically modified corn. There is, however, an organic dairy in North MS.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

GMO VS Organic; which do you want to eat?

Whether you have a garden in your backyard, buy your produce at the local farmer's market or purchase it at a superstore, organic food is better for the health of your family. Many years ago all of our crops were grown without the assistance of genetic engineers; that is not so now. Conventional farming today consists of any agriculture that demands high yields. This requires the use of genetically modified seeds, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

There are advantages and disadvantages to genetically modified organisms (GMO). Plants that have been modified by genetic engineers are drought resistant, tolerant to herbicides, have a tolerance to the cold, and are resistant to many diseases. There by providing an abundance of food at an affordable price. However,these crops do not contain adequate amounts of all necessary nutrients to prevent malnutrition. In fact these plants are causing allergies and cancers in humans yet we continue to accept and consume them on a daily basis. If you don't believe me read this article about the effects of rats eating genetically modified potatoes.

Genetically modified foods are not only grown for our consumption, but for the consumption of animals. Once the animal eats the GMO feed it transfers foreign DNA into that animal which is then passed on to any humans consuming that beef, pork, or poultry. Even more disturbing, is that the FDA is considering approving the first genetically modified animal for human consumption. If you don’t want to eat genetically modified salmon, you can let your voice be heard here.

I understand that not everyone can grow a self sustaining garden in their back yard, but we can all make well educated decisions when shopping. We have the greatest influence on what is being offered. Europeans have shunned GMO’s. If we refuse to accept foods that have been genetically altered, the farming industry will stop giving into the genetic engineers and biotech companies. One of the ways to make your voice heard is to join the True Food Network. You can also reading labels, buying only organic meat and produce, and eating foods that are in season.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Distracted Driving

I have a friend that was seriously injured in this car accident recently because, the other driver (that ran a red light and plowed into my friends truck) was texting. Just weeks before that, it could have been me that cause that wreck. Yes, I am guilty of texting while driving, I admit it. I don't even have a good excuse, because the reality is, there is no reason that anyone should text and drive.

I read an article that reported that 81 percent of people in the US admit to texting while driving in their vehicle. Did you know that there are only eight states that prohibit using handheld devices while driving? Only seven are primary enforcement laws, which means that the police can pull you over without there being another traffic offence. Twenty eight states prohibit novice drivers from using cell phones while 30 stats ban texting while operating a mother vehicle.

Until the law catches up with technology, it has to be our responsibility to say no to text messaging while driving. While I'm not a huge Oprah fan, I am aware that she is against distracted driving. In fact, she has a pledge that you can sign that says you won't text and drive. I've agreed not to text and drive, won't you?

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Oil Spill Six Months Later

With the rising demands for oil and the shrinking reserve, the oil industry has move drilling from the shallow rigs to deep water. One of the problems is that clean up methods have not been keeping pace with technology. Since 1969 there have been ten platform spills including Deepwater Horizon. The federal agency, Minerals Management Service, that regulates off shore drilling claimed that there was less that one percent chance of a blowout.

Then, on April 20, 2010 the 9 year old semi-submersible Deepwater Horizon drilling rig leased to BP exploded after fail-safe blowout preventer allowed methane gas to spewed out of the drilling column. Eleven platform workers were killed and 17 others were injured. Many of BP's decisions have been brought into question. Decisions like having one long pipe, or the decision to have only six centralizers instead of 21 when there were indications that the well wasn't stable. They [BP] underestimated the worst-case spill and listed a marine biologist that had been dead for years as an emergency responder. Poor decisions don't start there, if you look at BP's history you will find that after the merger with Amaco and ARCO BP forced experienced workers into early retirement. All of these factors added up to their bumbling the worst oil spill in history.

For three months 4.9 million barrels of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico from the sea floor. Skimmers were brought in along with local shrimp boats that corralled the oil on the surface and ignited it with homemade napalm. It is estimated that BP only cleaned up a quarter of the oil. The oil that has fallen to the bottom in the Louisiana marshes will not be broken down and can debase the environment for decades.

On July 15 the well was capped. Five months after the explosion the federal government declared the well "effectively dead." Since that time this disaster has moved to the back pages. We cannot forget the tremendous devastation that has resulted from this incident. There has been damage to the marine life, to tourism, the fishing industry, and the oil industry. As a resident of South Mississippi, I fear these issues are being swept under the rug. I have heard stories from friends on the coast of cover ups by BP employees, to mask the scope of devastation and present an inaccurate picture of the clean up efforts to government officials.

Even if you haven't been directly affected by the oil spill, it is our responsibility to know what's happening. To keep up to date on the clean up efforts and the effects on our environment check out the following sites.

The Audubon's Oil Spill Videos Huffington Post Sea Turtles of the Gulf Oil Spill from Nov 9, 2010 The Daily Green Sea Turtles Threatened article National Public Radio Oil Spill Investigation Posted Nov 8, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rice & Beans Ministry

Rice and Beans Ministry helps feed hungry families year around in Costa Rica through the United Methodist Church. Over the past several months I have had the pleasure of getting to know the director, Fred Curry. He began working in missions in 1990 and in Costa Rica in 1996. He established Rice and Beans Ministry in June of 2007. Along with the goal of providing families with enough food for a week, Rice and Beans is trying to build churches, provide medical care and assist in providing uniforms for children so that they can attend school.

It is currently the rainy season in Costa Rica and recently a tropical storm dumped even more rain on the already saturated land. We received reports of flooding, land and rock slides that trapped many people cutting them off from any assistance. Simple homes of plastic sheeting and dirt floors were washed into the rivers along with many families. Local stores are out of food and there is no way to get help. Rice and Beans has been working to house, feed, and clothe the survivors, but they need your help.

If you would like to support these efforts or participate in a mission trip please visit the Rice and Beans Ministry website here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

our garden

I'd like to say that this year's garden was a sight to behold, because we said that every year we would tweak it, making it more efficient. I think our failures came with excuses like: we moved, and we thought this or that would be a good idea.

I'm not saying our garden was a complete failure. We were drowning in okra and tomatoes, we had corn, squash, watermelons and canalope that were so good I'll never be able to look at another piece of fruit without drooling, but there were a few mistakes made.

The first mistake was choosing not to have raised rows. We've always had raised rows in the past because it is so much easier to pile the prepared soil up 6-8 inches in about 3 foot wide rows. Then all we would have to do is drag our hoe down the row making a ditch for planting our seeds. The ideal thing is to pile mulch up around the sides to help reduce weeds and to hold moisture in the soil. Here in South MS pine straw serves as the best mulch.

The other mistake we made was to put down this black cloth to help with the weeds. It did, but now that we need the change the direction of our rows (because of water flow) we are having to rip up the ground cover.

We were planning on planting lettuces, broccoli and spinach in our Fall garden, but we have entirely too much rearranging to do to get everything done in time.

Next spring I'd like to try companion planting. If you don't know what that is, it's simply means putting plants together in the garden that like each other. An example would be to plant corn with beans, cucumbers, or melons. Keeping in mind that corn does not need to be planted with tomatoes. Planting this way can have an impact on the health and yield of your plants.

So here's to next year!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Making Lifestyle Choices

Now that I'm up and moving, I decided that I really need to set a long term goal for myself. The scary thing is that I'm going to share my goal and ask that you help me stay focused. Drum roll please, I want to complete a 5k. Ideally, I want to run the entire 3.1 miles. But, I'm going to be practical and not try and do this until next year; I haven't decided when just yet, but before it gets too hot.
I loved running, in fact, I was on my junior highs track team, but I haven't exercised in about 15 years. Something about working, being married, and having kids *shrugs* Well, that's in the past.
I decided that instead of going out there and trying to run 2 miles a day, then 1, and then not at all, I needed to completly change my lifestyle. I cut back on certain foods like cake and potatoes, increased others (mainly fruits) and as time has gone on I've slowly made changes, each week, until I started walking back in mid September.

Since I've had a history of getting shin splint easily, I decided to walk in a small field just outside my bedroom door. Initially I was only able to make 4 laps, but as I decreased the time it took me to complete that distance I've increased the number of laps, more that doubling what I was walking. I walk a minimum of 3 days a week, but my goal is 5 days.
The biggest problem I've had is that I don't like wearing tennis shoes. In fact, if you were to look in my closest right now you would only be able to find three pairs of shoes that aren't Birkenstocks. And yes, one of those pair are my brand new Nike Vomero 4. It took some time to find the right shoe, but it has made all the difference.

The training for a 5k is typically done in 8 weeks, but I am not your average couch potato. I'm not going to worry about officially training at this point. I figure by mid-march I will have been walking for 6 months. I think that may be the time to start. There's a great site that has a Couch to 5K training program that I plan on following.

Please keep me honest and offer encouragement when you see me, I'll need it!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ways to make a difference in the environment.

I realize that most of us aren't going to go out and live in a tree like my hero Julia Butterfly Hill . She live in the tree, Luna, from December 10, 1997 to December 18, 1999. But, there are some very simple things that we can do around our homes that can make a real difference.

Let's start with the no cost actions we can all take. The simplest is to just TURN OFF THE LIGHTS! I am the worlds worst, but I figure there are enough people in this house that if we just keep reminding each other, we'll eventually get the hang of it. Other simple step we can take are to unplug our electronics, air dry our dishes, and wash our cloths in cold water. Also, if you will wash your cloths in the cooler part of the day the heat generated by the dryer won't cause your air conditioner to use more energy trying to cool your home. Unless of course, you're willing to forgo to dryer all together and hang you clothes out on the line to dry.

Now get out your shopping list. I promise none of these suggestions will break the bank, in fact you might find some nice savings on your electric bill this year if you'll give them a try. The first thing I want you to do is to buy energy saving light bulbs. Then when it's time to replace your old bulbs they will be in the cabinet ready to use. I know the cost may be slightly more than what you're used to spending, but you will be saving money because they use less power and have a longer rated life. Just keep in mind that they contain small amounts of mercury and need to be recycled so that the mercury doesn't leach out into our water supply. If you will take your unbroken bulbs to any Home Depot we can leave these bulbs on the positive side of your shopping list. (To read more about Home Depots CFL Bulb Recycling Initiative just click here)

While you're making that environmentally friendly shopping list, go ahead and add an air filter. Make sure you write down the correct size so you don't get confused with all of the choices. If you are unsure of how often you need to change your air filter or which one to buy you can find answers here.

Now add weather stripping and caulk to your list since they can save you hundreds of dollars on your electric bill. If you don't know how to install the stripping just check these these simple steps from

And finally, make sure you don't leave off the washers and gaskets because according to the Environmental Protection Agency, your household is losing 10,000 gallons of water each year due to dripping faucets and other water leaks, besides fixing leaky faucets can lower your water bills by 10 percent.

Turn your pencil over and start erasing. I want you to stop buying single use batteries. They contain lead, nickel and mercury. When incinerated toxic substances are released into the air that you breath. There are perfectly good rechargeable batteries available so buy them instead.

You will also need to take off all those cleaning products that contain toxic chemical. Imagine what those chemical are doing to your respiratory health. If you're really brave you can make your own or simply read labels.

Now that you're filling your cabinets up with eco friendly products don't make the mistake of tossing out products that are dangerous. For example, did you know that it isn't safe to throw away or flush your prescription or over the counter medications because they are harmful to wildlife and to our water supply. Just recently DREAM (Drug-free Resources and Education Alternatives in Mississippi ) teamed up with local law enforcement and hosted a drug drop off day where people in our community were able to turn in their medications so that they could be properly disposed of instead of contaminating our enviroment. If you aren't sure how to properly dispose of your medications just read this this article.

When it comes to tossing things in the trash don't dispose of any electronics. They contain lead and it may even be illegal to toss out that old computer monitor or antiquated TV. Think about donating or recycling it first.

Also remember that if you currently have products that are toxic, like paint and pesticides, they need to be disposed of properly. Most cities have a Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) disposal site . If you aren't sure where to take them Earth911 offers easy access to drop-off locations in your area. I have discuss the problems with pesticides in a separate post, but know this: PESTICIDES ARE DANGEROUS!

I also want you to remember what I said about freecycle and cloth bags. If you've forgotten just click here and I'll refresh your memory. If you'll pick up one or two cloth bags every time you go to the store, you'll have enough to cut out using all those horrible plastic bags.

If you have, or are planning to have, children consider using cloth diapers. If not all of the time, you should at least use them when you're home, we did. With the advances in cloth diapering system it's really much easier because they have all-in-one diapers and biodegradable inserts.

I've said it before, stop buying bottled water and get yourself a water purification system and some reusable bottles. It's not only good for Mother Earth it's better for your health.

Stop taking bathes and start showering. A bath takes up almost twice as much water as a bath. You can even improve on that by shortening your shower times or better yet shower with a buddy!

Don't forget to buy locally! Take advantage of that farmers market or farmer on the side of the road, you will not only be helping your local economy you will decrease food miles and intern decrease carbon emissions.

If you live somewhere that you access to public transportation, take advantage of it, but if you must drive keep in mind that a properly maintained car will improve it's performance there by decreasing your cost at the pump.

Another simple step you can take is to go paperless. Do you really need all of the bills sent to you by mail when you have a perfectly good email account just itching to fill up. Not only can you receive your bill electronically, you can pay them that way too. No more running out of stamps, hunting up a pen that actually works to write out a check, or forgetting to get it in the mail in time.

This week is national recycling week so, don't forget to recycle, recycle, recycle!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Serving Others

What does it mean to serve others? My DH works in the hospitality industry. He is there to serve five days a week for twelve or more hours a day. He's out there serving others on Mother's Day and Valentine's Day when I’d like to have him all to myself. Of course he’s great at what he does, no matter how tired or frustrated he’s feeling, he make the customer feel special by serving them.

Our pastor, Eddie, recently preached on what Jesus said about service to others. He said that there will be no glory, no power, no honor or privilege. He uses words like deny yourself and lose your life. I think that’s why so many of us are resistant to going out there and serving. In John Ed Mathison’s book, Treasures of the Transformed Life he says that 20% of the people in the church do 80% of the work. How can we say we’re willing to launch into the life God has for us when we don’t do what He has told us needs to be done?

We make following Jesus about all sorts of things. We hear people say that we have to have certain political views if we are Christians, but Jesus is not about political power. Some people think they’re morally superior or they try and participate in the right activities, but they are completely missing the point.

Eddie told a story about his father repairing a boat motor that had been given to him because he thought of himself as a handyman. He told us how his dad had to lower the motor into an oil drum filled with water to watch it churn the water because they didn’t own a boat. Those people that are telling us how to vote, or where to spend our time, money and energy all in the name of God are doing just what that boat motor did in that oil drum, they are churning the water.

Jesus is not talking about some church sanctioned project either. Not that there’s anything wrong with serving through the Rice and Beans Ministry, or leading Vacation Bible School with the Navajo Nation Ministry Mission, but servant-hood is not a project, it’s a lifestyle. Servant-hood is not about where you think you should be tomorrow, it starts right where you are today, and it’s defiantly not about you. Ask yourself, what can I do today to be of service to those I love and to those I don’t love and stop churning the water.

Friday, November 5, 2010

What type of parent are you?

I love to people watch; I especially like to watch parents interact with their children. There are times that I've thought to myself, I hope I don't do that. I don't want to be "that" parent. I doubt I'm the only mother who's said something to their child and immediately regretted saying it, but I'd like to keep those moments to a minimum.

While watching parent-child interaction, I've noticed three basic types of parents. There is the absolute parent, the agreeable parent and the authentic parent.

The first type is harsh and unyielding. They seem to want to control their child's behavior through the use of authority. They want obedience and use physical punishment to obtain their goal. For example, you're standing in line waiting to check out and you see a small child reach for a candy bar. The absolute parent will slap the child's hand and say, "I told you, you can’t have any candy!" and put the screaming child in the shopping cart.

A second parent is indulgent. They use a minimal amount of control. The agreeable parent is indulgent of their child's every whelm. Take that same child waiting in line. When they reach out to pick up the candy bar, the parent says no, but when the child starts to whine, the parent give the child the candy even thought they had originally said “no.”

A confident parent tends to focus on the important issues of keeping their children safe without having to resort to physical punishment. However, they also appear to believe that the child has rights and needs that are important too. This parent is going to explain the rules and their importance to the child. Put yourself back in that same line. This time when the child reaches for the candy bar the parent says, "It's almost dinner time and you know we don't need candy before we eat." The child may fuss, but the parent is loving a firm and never resorts to physical force to make their point nor do they give in.

I want to be that authentic parent every time and never regret what I've said or done. But I know I've been a bit of each. Which parent are you?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A cup of tea for your garden

I have heard from every organic gardener I know that I should use compost tea in my garden. Up until three years ago, I had no idea what compost tea was or why I should use it. Well, there are a number of benefits to using it. First, it will improve your soil structure. Second, it enhances the taste of your fruits and vegetables. Third, it is safer for you, for animals and the environment because it is natural/organic. And finally, it helps to fight off disease in your plants by increasing the number of organisms on and around the plant that will compete with disease-causing organisms.

So now that you know the benefits, here is how to make a batch of simple compost tea.

You will need:
5-gallon bucket
mature compost
Water (not tap water)
Spray bottle

1) Fill the bucket about 1/3 of the way with mature compost. Then fill the bucket with water, leaving room to stir the mixture without spilling.
2) Leave the bucket out of direct sunlight, stirring at least once per day for 5 to 7 days. Stirring the mixture at least once a day will provide adequate oxygen for the tea making process. Without enough oxygen, anaerobic bacteria can start to grow and make your compost tea useless.
3) Strain the compost tea by pouring the tea through cheesecloth into a separate 5-gallon bucket.

The finished compost tea is concentrated and will need to be diluted before you apply it to your plants. Add approximately 10 parts water (not tap water) to every 1 part of compost tea.

To apply, simply fill a spray bottle with compost tea and use it to spray plant foliage. It's best if you spray the plant's leaves early in the morning or in the evening near dusk. Apply once or twice per month to control garden pests and to attract beneficial insects.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Do you have the right diagnosis?

Five years ago, while living in Monroe, LA, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. At that point we had two children. We hadn't had any problems getting pregnant the first time, but we did the second time around. In fact, I took Clomid for six months after trying unsuccessfully for almost a year. We moved shortly after I was diagnosed and the doctors that I used after that ignored the diagnosis since we were no longer trying to get pregnant.

Infertility is not the only symptom; it's a syndrome. If you are not familiar with PCOS, keep in mind I'm not just talking about cyst on your ovaries. This is a metabolic disorder that effects ovulation. Other features include excessive facial hair, obesity, acne, high blood pressure, impaired liver function, sleep apnea, thinning of scalp hair, and excessive amounts of androgenic (masculinizing) hormones. The symptoms and severity of this syndrome vary a great deal from woman to woman.

Most physicians treat the symptoms that their female patients complain about without looking deeper into what is causing the problems. Like I said, I was put on Clomid. Many women are put on birth control pills. Neither of these options will treat the real issue. Hopefully you and your doctor will able to piece together what's really going on, so that you can to receive the appropriate treatment.

That brings me to an important feature of this syndrome; most women find that they are insulin resistance. My blood sugar is within normal limits, I am not and hope to never become a diabetic, but when I was treated with the diabetic medication called Glucophage, I began to lose weight and my menstrual cycle returned. Of course that didn't last for long since I couldn't find a doctor that would agree to prescribe me a medication that isn't approved for the treatment of PCOS. Trust me I've found one now and feel confident that I can lose weight and get off of blood pressure medication through diet, exercise, and taking the right medication.

I have a friend out there that has had the same struggle except that she had thyroid problems. My point is this: if you feel like you aren't receiving the treatment you need, keep looking. There is someone out there that will listen.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A New Take on Lasagna

In the most recent issue of Mother Earth News magazine there is a story by Roger Doiron titled Cozy and Comfy Fall Recipes. Being that I am trying to eat seasonally, I thought that I'd like to try out at least one of the recipes in the article. I spotted an appealing picture of Butternut Squash Lasagna that I was calling my name. Normally I wouldn't post a recipe I've never made before, but I felt like I could pull it off. So, here goes.

1TBSP olive oil
1 1/2- 2 lbs peeled seeded and cubed butternut squash
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Of course I've already made alterations in the original recipe. I wanted to keep the ingredients as fresh and environmentally friendly as possible so I used organic whole grain flour and organic brown rice lasagna noodles. In addition, I purchased the milk from a local dairy and the squash from a local farmer.

I peeled and cubed the squash, placed it in a large skillet with the olive oil and added salt, pepper, and water. I then covered it and let it simmer on medium for about 20-25 minutes.

While the squash was simmering I put the pasta on to boil.

I have made my share of white sauces and never once have I measured the butter, flour or milk, but for the sake of this recipe I did.

Don't be afraid of making a white sauce, it's really not that hard. Simply melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour, making a paste and then slowly add in the milk. I like for my milk to be at room temperature.

You will need to stir it continuously over medium heat until it thickens up. Then add nutmeg, salt and pepper.

After the squash was tender, I transferred it into my food processor and pureed it and added more salt and pepper.

Then I began the layer process; starting out with a buttered 13x9x2 inch baking dish.

I added enough of the white sauce to coat the bottom of the dish. I then layered noodles, squash puree, mozzarella, and more sauce. I repeated it once more. I finished with a layer of noodles that I coated with the white sauce. I covered the pan with foil and baked it for 40 minutes at 375 degrees. I removed the foil adding the Parmesan and remaining mozzarella and baked an additional 15 minutes.

When I took it out of the oven the entire house filled with the most incredible aroma. I can't say that I will make this very often, but it was very tasty. From start to finish it took me about 1 1/2 hours to make. Enjoy!

Monday, November 1, 2010

What You're Really Eating

I've talked about how important it is to buy locally and eat seasonally. Neither of which are very easy things to do when we are so used to getting what we want when we want it. So yes, I buy produce at the grocery store, all of the time.

Now if I'm eating my own fruits and veggies I know I can just rinse them off and they're safe. If I buy from my local farmers market I can just ask the guys I'm buying from if they use any pesticides. Of course I won't buy from them if they're using anything stronger than compost tea. But what about the lettuce I get at the Corner Market?

Did you know that there are pesticides that are actually absorbed by the plant? Systemic pesticides circulate through the plants tissues. The idea is to increase food production by killing the insects that feed on the plant, but unlike traditional pesticides, you can't wash off the residue because it's in the plant's tissues. These chemical are absorbed by the plant and poison all of the plant including the pollen and nectar of the flowers. The butterflies and bees that pollinate these plants are in turn poisoned. Imagine how this affects our entire ecosystem. After a good soaking with these pesticides, this poison is not only eking its way into the tomatoes you’re planning on putting in your salad, it’s in the soil. Now imagine that it rains, those poisons are being washed into our public water supplies and our streams where they are contaminating the fish and other sea food that we eat. Pesticides are poisonous! The most notable case would have been the Bhopal, India disaster in 1984. I realize that may be an extreme example, but people are poisoned by pesticides every year.

There are alternatives to buying contaminated produce. You can purchase organic produce and you don’t even have to search out a speciality health food store anymore. Organic fruits and vegetables are offered at most grocery stores, in fact, I’ve seen them at that big superstore that we invariability run to every week for some necessity. However, you may need to ask for organic fruits and vegetables if they are not currently being offered in you local grocery store.

Another option for avoiding contaminated produce is to support organizations that are trying to protect the health of people and the environment. One such group is the Northwest Coalition of Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP). Supporting organizations like the NCAP is a great way that we can help make pesticide use nothing but a bad memory.

If you want to read more about systemic pesticides you can find an article in the October/November 2010 issue of Mother Earth News .

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” mahatma gandhi