Buying Local or Buying Organic

When talking about changing the way we eat, or buying and eating local or organic foods, people always ask, well what one do you think we should do or which one is better.  Every time I hear that question, I kinda cringe in side and then I go into the explanation.  It seems that the older I get the more it seems that we have been trained or brainwashed to think one way or another but not both.  When I stop and think about it, I realize is a lack of understanding. Buying Local and Buying Organic are two different things.

Buying Local

Buying local is simply that. You are buying your food from local farmers and not mass conglomerate grocery stores. Whats wrong with going to the bakery to get fresh bread.  Why not visit your local butcher to get good quality meat and poultry, often times organic and from local farmers. Making regular trips to farmers markets is also a great way to get local produce and vegetables. Eat in season.  Re-train your selves.  Buying local goes much further than shopping for your food.  Eating at local restaurants, taking your car to the small repair shop on the corner rather than that big national chain, all of these choices have direct impact on your community. If you don’t eat at McDonalds ever again, do you think they will go out of business?  NO  there are billions of $$ behind corporate america.  Stop eating at your little local diner, and it hurts them.  Every customer effects the little guys.  What we do, is make a list of all the little restaurants around town that you have been to and have not been to.  So when you are deciding where you are going to eat tonight, you pull out your list and go to the first establishment on the list and so on.  Everyone has to do their part in order to turn our poorly damaged system around. Please shop locally.

Buying Organically

When shopping, organic is always the best way to go. Why, because you know there are not chemicals, growth hormones, used to grow or raise that product. You don’t allow you kids to play with the chemicals below your sink do you? You probably actually take special care and add safety locks to prevent them from getting in there.  Did you know that hundreds of field workers who are plucking your fruits and veggies die or become deathly ill each year because of the amount of pesticides that they come in contact with while harvesting your produce.  The chemicals used are the cause of hundreds of birth defects for people working in the fields. The government does not tell you this, because you would stop eating all of these foods.  Money in the United States controls legislature. So until we Americans say enough is enough, this will continue.  The registers at the stores speak wonders. Walmart has listened and is starting to bring more and more organic products in.  They have become the number one retailer for Organic products.  So if your shopping local great, if your shopping local and organic, even better.  If you cant shop local and you have to go to a big box store, be sure to shop organic.  Remember you don’t play with chemicals, why would you eat food that is coated with them.  It’s simple.

Happy Shopping.Enjoy!

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Time to attend to the soil

Spring-cleaning your yard usally takes a little more time than you thought, and you end up with lots of left over fall leaves, etc.  Find out what to do with all your yard debris.

Check out the new post under the category COMPOSTING.

Happy Composting.

Planning The Perfect Summer Garden

As I write to you on this gloomy Monday, the piles of snow around our home are melting fast and the empty garden and flowerbeds are peaking out from beneath the melting snow. The weather forecast for more snow and cold temperatures is not going to keep me from spring preparations.   Many things the work does not start until spring, but for us die-hard gardeners’ the planning process never stops.

Today, I have finished cutting down the list of vegetables that we will plant this year.  The list in the beginning is always large enough to feed a family of 12 but since there are only 2 of us and we don’t want tons of waste, I have a come to Jesus meeting with my self.

Here are a few pointers for making the difficult decisions on what to grow and not to grow.      

  1. Do you even like that Vegetable or Fruit?
  2. I always have a cookbook near by, that way when I am choosing I already have in mind a few uses for the items I am selecting.
  3. Look at the space you are working in.  You can only fit so much into a certain space.  Plants need space to grow and breath and to spread out. For example, if your garden footprint is small you need to be cautious about certain what I call Vine Veggies. Cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkins, etc will take over your garden because they spread out.  Be cautious or have a designated area for these types of veggies.
  4. At peek harvest season, what are you going to do with two five-gallon buckets full of green beans?  I had no idea.  I was giving them away, blanching than freezing them, cooking, etc.  I was not prepared to say the least.
  5. What needs to be planted or started ahead of time from seed to ensure plentiful harvesting from spring to late fall.
  6. This year, I will not have enough space in the veggie garden for everything that I have selected.  I will be integrating several types of veggies and herbs into the flowerbeds thru out the yard.  With that in mind, make sure that if you do something similar that you are not planting poisonous plants that your nosy little pugs would get into because they wont be gated off.

So the list for this summers garden is…………… (imaginary drum roll please )

Seascape Strawberries

( will be creating a strawberry patch )

Basil Summerlong, Cilantro, Mammoth Dill, Common Sage, Rosemary, Greek Oregano, Common Thyme, Italian Parsley, Black Seeded Simpson, Heirloom Lettuce, Salad Fresh Spinach, ( Will be creating a Herb Garden )

Heavyweight 2 Bush Beans, Short & Sweet Carrots, Chubby Checkers Bi Color Sweet Corn, Purple Rain Egg Plant, Elephant Garlic, Texas Super, Sweet Onions, Green Bell Peppers, Red Bell Peppers, Jalapeno Peppers

Zucchini

Buttercup Squash

Brandywine Heirloom Tomatoes

Fresh Salsa Tomatoes

So there it is, the master list of our vegetable garden for 2010.  Now for those of you who know us both, you are probably chuckling at the fact that we have 2 types of Tomatoes for a total of 6 plants.  No one in our household would actually eat a sliced tomato. Ha ha.  I know it’s crazy.  However I love making homemade salsas, guacamole in which I always add fresh tomatoes, I love cooking with tomatoes and this year I plan on canning tomatoes so we have plenty when it comes time to making chili in the dead of winter.

So, if your just starting out, take it slow the first year.  Last year I did Peppers, Beans, Tomatoes, Egg Plant, Onions ( of which I only have 10 left from last years harvest)  a handful of herbs and 2 blueberry bushes.

I just love it so much and have such a great time in the garden I decided to just expand a little.      

Well next time, we will talk soil preparations and starting of the seed. Order your seeds now.  There are several that will need to be started ASAP to ensure they are ready for planting in the spring.

Until then, Happy Planning!!

Steve

The Daunting List Of Change

The Daunting List of Change

Don’t let the title discourage you, let it inspire you to be apart of the change.  Regardless of your political preferences, I think it is time for the American people to wake up and realize the politics are not going to reverse the negative trends that face our environment.  It will be us, the American people, who live and love to enjoy good health and the beautiful country in which we live.  So don’t sit back, step up and start making the simple changes. Be a leader!  If you recall in the first blog, I supplied a list of changes that we have made around our home and in our lives, all of these changes can be fairly simple and inexpensive.  I broke the list up into 3 categories.  The Home, Life Style Changes and The Trip to the Store.  This will probably be the longest blog I will ever write.  It’s kind of like school, it’s best to complete the basic education parts first and then have a blast with your special interest classes.  So sorry about the length but it will be better to just get it all out there and on the table so if you are interested in making some changes you will have lots of simple solutions in front of you.

Lets start with Life Style Changes.  I suggest starting with Life Style Changes because if you can understand and begin to live in this more responsible manner it will make the other 2 categories much more simple to accomplish.  I found this to be crazy easy for me, but much more difficult to instill in my other half.  I’m simply going to take control of what my family is eating, drinking, ingesting, etc.  Just promise your self that you will think about the effects your actions make on your health and the environment.  They go hand in hand, living a healthier life is often times better for the environment don’t be lazy, think about both aspects. It will take about a month, but if you ask your self what is the effect on my health and the environment when you are out there shopping it will become natural to you and it eventually wont be so daunting. Baby steps to a new better you is how I looked and continue to look at this life time project

Got it ?????  Good, get started.

The HOME

Energy-

Has the light bulb gone off yet? Take just a few minuets and add up the number of incandescent light bulbs that you have in your home. We have 73 in our 1300 sq foot home. Out of those 73 light bulbs, I changed  23 of them to fluorescent bulbs.  I chose these light fixtures or lamps because they are the lights or lamps that we use every day for a period of time. See how simple this is. Now, there are totally crap fluorescents bulbs on the market and then there are the nicer fluorescents.  We prefer the ones that are round or globe shaped bulbs and have more or less a coating over the tubes.  It diffuses that harshness of the fluorescents.  I purchased 4 lights bulbs every pay day to spread out the cost.  They are more expensive but from the looks of our energy bill we are saving about $25 per month with a yearly savings of $300. Not bad, it all adds up and the bulbs have been in for 2 years now and only had to change one of them.

Thermostat Heating & Cooling – Go out and spend $40 on a new programmable thermostat. If I can change it on my own, anyone can change one.  For example we keep the house at 72 for the 2 hours we are up in the morning, it drops to 68 when we leave in the morning, heats up to 72 from 6pm – 11pm and then drops back down to 68 while we are sleeping at night.  Huge SAVINGS.  We are on one of those set payments with the gas company and our monthly payments dropped $30 per month with a $360 per year savings. So simple and combined savings for the heating/cooling and electrical gives us about $660 a year savings.  We did not sacrifice anything for this. You can go as far as you want with this.  Not jazzed about fluorescents, then just change out your incandescent to halogens when possible.  I still have 32 low voltage landscape lights making our home a- glow at night and I have no intention of changing them to solar because I don’t want my house to look blue at night.  So I just adjust for that in other ways.  You can always do something to make a change.

Water – Install low flow showerheads.  All I have to say is get over it.  If it is not already a law in your state, it soon will be.  Most showerheads

today on the market already come with this new feature.  Again get over it. Water to drink is more important than a hour-long shower at full blast or wasteful dishwasher, washing machine or making your lawn the greenest on the block.  Be smart.  While brushing your teeth, turn the water off.  Since we are cheap and don’t have the money to purchase duel flushing toilets we have one that we go #2 in and one that we go #1 in.  This allows us to adjust the water capacity on the tank.  No need to flush a full tank if it is not needed.  As you can see this is really just thinking smarter not harder and don’t spend a fortune unless you can afford to.

The Great Outdoors – This, as those of you who know me, is my most favorite place to spend.  It completely relaxes me to spend 12 + hours out in the yard on my days off and then enjoy a great dinner on the patio and a lazy evening in the hammock.  It is my little retreat.

Landscape–  Those of you who know me understand this fine line.  I wont sacrifice a good looking landscape to be more green.  They work hand in hand.  I just use different plant materials.  Im not the trash on the corner who don’t cut the grass and say they are doing it for nature.  Not me at all.   We have plants that are drought tolerant and we plant trees, shrubs and perennials that attract about 6 species of birds, bees, and squirrels. Last year I even added a bat house in hopes to attract some of Indiana’s great bats that our in terrible need of our help.  They do miracles for you.  Just bat proof your home prior to installing.  NO THEY DON’T Attack YOU AND GET IN YOUR HAIR.

Food Garden-

Last year was the first year I had planted a food garden.  I’ll be honest when the bottom of the economy fell out and popped all of our balloons I was worried about money.  Really because my better half and I are both retail managers, both working for high end companies where all our goods or more of a want and not a need.  Slowly but surely, sales for both of our companies, where plummeting and I was thinking and planning for the worst.  What could I do that would help us incase things got bad.  You got it.  Grow what you can in the back yard.  Now I cant have chickens, etc because we are in city limits.  I’m crazy and would if I could, no joke.   So I looked at our very pretty back yard and said what was I going to give up to make room for a veggie garden.  With a plan in my head I headed out one early morning and started digging.  By nightfall I had a veggie garden completed.  Blended into the existing curvy landscape, the only thing that stood out was the little fence to keep out 3 very nosy little pugs.  They would eat all the veggies if I let them. Really they love their veggies.  So this garden is about 6’ x 15’.  Not really big at all but it produced a ton of vegetables.  If I purchased everything that came out of my garden last year I’m sure it would have been $500 – $600.  And most importantly it is here in my back yard.  We were eating the best we had ever eaten.  Huge savings and I know exactly what chemicals I used.  Oh yeah… NO Chemicals where used and I watered the garden a total of 5 times the entire growing season.  Thanks Mother Nature for the help.  We also recycle or compost every thing from cans and bottles to all of the food scraps excluding meat and seafood. We went from 4 bags of trash for 2 people every week down to just 1 bag of trash.

Shopping-

This is HUGE.  First off, buy local. Second of all, be sure and take your re-usable shopping bags with you.  Most stores will give you a credit when you come back in with one and even if they don’t, think about how much plastic you wont be throwing away.  And the fewer bags you get at the store, the less bags the store will buy and so on and so on.  Buy everything local, perishable, non-perishable, etc.  If you need it and someone local sells it you should buy it from them. Make it a habit to go to your farmers market every week or weekend.  We have a local produce stand that I go to and pick up things if I don’t happen to grow them.  Look for things that say local when you’re out and about shopping.  If you look you will start to see things popping up everywhere that are local.  It is the new trend.  I have an entire section in my store for products grown or made in Indiana.  Now, that does not mean they are all organic.  Buying local and buying ORGANIC are two very different things.

ORGANICS

If you have to go to the store to purchase produce, dairy or meat, you’re in luck.  Most big grocery stores now have Organics in all of these departments.  Now I hear you crying about price already.  Get over it.  I can assure you that in 20 years when America has a cancer rate 10 times what it is today someone will put the pieces together and realize all the chemicals that are dumped on our food crops is slowly killing us. They don’t care now because we are getting twice the amount of corn out of the same acreage.  There is a price for everything, pay now and keep your health or pay later in medical bills.  It’s simple, its proven the government just does not want you to know about it.   Again get the move FOOD, Inc.  It is such a powerful and very eye opening film.

CHEMICALS

Regardless of what your looking for, counter top cleaner, laundry detergent, body soap, shampoo, etc there is a natural version for all of this.  Check out a Whole Foods store if you have one in the area.  It is amazing, and what’s even more amazing is that you can actually read and say all of the ingredients on the label.   Our thought process is, if you can’t say it, you should not eat it or spread it all over your body.  Would you rub cocamidopropyl betaine or Tetrasodium EDTA or Blue #2 on your skin?  Are you crazy?  Everything you put on your hair or skin is absorbed into your body and many of them can be toxic to people.  That is what happens when you try a new soap or shampoo and your skin breaks out into a rash or burn.  Don’t be crazy.  NATURAL is the way to go.  We use all of the natural products.  For skin products we us a line called Tom’s natural Care of Main and for cleaning, etc we use Seventh Generation products.  Seventh Generation has everything you could possibly need form a chemical perspective. Seventh Generation has a little thing on their labels that says “ If every household un the US replaced just one bottle of their 100 oz 2x concentrate petroleum-based laundry liquid with the same size and concentrate plant-derived product, we would save 466,000 BARRELS of oil a year and that would be enough to heat and cool 26,800 US homes a year. “

To me that is amazing and we paid only $3.00 more for it.  To me, that is a small price to pay for such a huge impact. To me this is just another easy way to make a big change.

Ok, there it is!  Those are the simple changes we have made over the past couple of years.  Some of the simplest changes can make such a big difference.  If every home in America did some of these simple things the impact would be tremendous and would begin to return our planet back to a better place that it once was.

Until we meet again.

Steve

Why now?

My passion for a beautiful yard has turned into a passion to share the importance of knowing where your food is coming from and the importance of growing your own food. It’s simple, smart and does not require as much space you might think.

My name is Steve . I’m 30 years old and have always had a passion for working in the yard.  The goal was to always have the best looking yard on the block.  About a year or two ago, something changed.  My focus and passion has turned into something bigger.  The New Goal……  to have the best looking yard on the block, with out using harsh chemicals, getting my yard certified as a “ Back Yard Habitat “ by the National Wildlife Foundation and growing more produce and vegetables  in my backyard rather than purchasing them at a local market.  My goal was to make a difference.  The book and film “ Food, Inc.”  took any hesitations I had and allowed me to toss a life time of forced ideals into the compost pile and begin the conversion away from the main stream.  The rest you will get from the blogs ahead.  I hope I can help you to think differently about the way you might be living.  A few simple changes towards a new way of thinking and living does not require much.  Join me in helping make a difference if only one yard at a time.