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Backyard Beekeeping

May 31st, 2011

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We’ve mentioned honeybees before in our blog—“Colony Collapse Disorder and Vanishing of the Bees” and “The Buzz: Don’t Miss the Exclusive Arizona Film Premier of Vanishing of the Bees”—and now we’re introducing you to backyard beekeeping.

Backyard beekeeping is just what the name implies, although in big cities some bees are kept on city rooftops! Beekeeping considerations include: tools, equipment, supplies, and town, city or state regulations. Before setting up a backyard beehive you should check with local authorities to make sure it’s okay to set up colonies on your property.

With the current, disheartening state of the honeybee, due to Colony Collapse Disorder, more and more people are turning to backyard beekeeping 1) to help save the honeybee, 2) as a source for plant pollination, and 3) for their very own sweet, sticky honey! While backyard beekeeping may sound a little intimidating, beekeeping hobbyists truly love their bees and the beneficial rewards that come with caring for a beehive. Picture yourself sitting on your patio, enjoying homemade lemonade, watching your very own honeybees pollinating your vegetables. Backyard beekeeping helps to provide the ever important ecosystem service of pollination.

Did you know that 80% of all insect pollination is carried out by honeybees? Honeybees are vital to agriculture, and without honeybee pollination our produce supply would drastically decrease. That is a very scary and real fact. We humans are indebted to the humble honeybee.

Here are three websites to help you determine if backyard beekeeping is for you:

Back Yard Beekeepers Association

Bee Culture: The Magazine of American Beekeeping

Installing a Bee Hive: A Nervous Beginners’ Experiences

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Is your soil pH way off base?

May 26th, 2011

 

Have you ever dealt with vegetable plant problems that confounded you? When it comes to growing your own herbs and vegetables, soil pH is one element in gardening that you should be aware of in order to grow the most successful plants.

If your tomatoes develop blossom-end rot the soil could be lacking in calcium or if your peppers have too much leaf growth the soil could contain too much nitrogen. Each of these soil conditions can be fixed by testing the soil pH and amending if necessary. Soil pH (potential Hydrogen) is basically the measurement of acidity or alkalinity and runs on a logarithmic scale from 0 to 14, with 0 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline. If the soil pH is too high or too low this can be toxic to plants. Garden soils generally have a pH between 5.5 and 8.0, and vegetable plants generally grow best in soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0.

To test your soil pH, you can purchase a soil pH meter or soil test kit through Amazon or at your local garden center. You can also check with your local Cooperative Extension office to see if they can test your soil for you.

What are culprits for soil becoming too acidic or alkaline? Climate and mineral content are two reasons why soil pH can be affected. When it rains, calcium and magnesium can be leached from the soil. In areas where rainfall is high, like in the Pacific Northwest, you’ll find soil that is more acidic, while in areas that are dry you’ll find soil that is more alkaline. As far as mineral content goes, natural rock in soil will affect soil pH. Acidic rock contains more silica which will create acidic soil, while limestone will create alkaline soil.

If your soil pH is below 6 that means the soil is too acidic, and if your soil pH is higher than 7.5 that means the soil is too alkaline. You can easily fix these soil pH problems by adding ground limestone to acidic soil and soil sulfur to alkaline soil. Both limestone and sulfur can be found at local garden centers.

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5 Myths of Heart Disease

May 24th, 2011

One of the greatest benefits of a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is a healthy heart.  Guest blogger Millie Bruce tackles 5 common myths of heart disease.  We hope our readers find Millie’s post enlightening as well as informative. 

For both males and females of any age, coronary disease may possibly be the main killer. It kills more people than ALL kinds of cancer combined. If you’re African-American or over sixty-five, your risk of a heart attack is much higher.  However, it must be noted that coronary disease is an equal opportunity destroyer.  Any individual, anyplace, anytime could have a hearth attack [1].

Myth #1: Only adults need to worry about their cardiovascular system.

Things that trigger heart disease accumulate with time. To be a couch-potato, over-eating and never training are typically really bad habits that could begin in childhood. Increasingly more doctors are starting to get heart attack patients in their twenty’s and thirty’s compared to the more traditional victims in their fifty’s and sixty’s.

Being in good shape and at the right bodyweight will not make you safe from heart attacks. Although, both exercising regularly and maintaining the right bodyweight helps. You will still need to look at your bad cholesterol and blood pressure level. A good blood cholesterol (or lipid profile) range is under 200. The best blood pressure level is at or below 120/80.

Myth #2: I’d feel unwell if I had high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

They call these, “silent killers” for the reason that they show NO signals. One-third of all mature people have hypertension. Of those, one-third don’t know they have it.  High cholesterol is a measure of the fats stocked through your blood stream. Fats may be dropped anywhere in your body, but tend to congregate all-around internal organs, as well as your heart. This predisposition may run in family members. Therefore, even if you’re at a good bodyweight and don’t smoke, it’s important to have your cholesterol and blood pressure examined on a regular basis. Please note, once may not be sufficient [2].

Myth #3: Both women and men DON’T feel the same signals.

Women and men CAN have precisely the same signals, however often times they do not. Females tend to get the subtler symptoms and males often have the kind of strokes seen in the movies. However, both genders can have any of the typical signals.

The subtler warning signs, which include jaw achiness, nausea or vomiting, breathlessness and extreme physical weakness, are likely to get described away. “My jaw hurts mainly because my lunch sandwich was on whole-grain bread and I was forced to chew very, very hard.” Or, while clutching their stomach, “I shouldn’t have had that additional piece of pizza.” “Half of women don’t have chest pain in anyway,” announces Kathy Magliato, a heart specialist at California’s St. John’s Health Center.  Put all the little indicators and symptoms to each other and listen to your system.

Keep in mind, both women and men could experience the “grab-your-chest-and-fall-down-gasping” form of cardiac event, however you already know, that’s not the only way.

Myth #4: So long as my blood glucose level is in check, Type 2 diabetes will not be a risk factor.

Though trying to keep your blood sugar level with a normal range (80ml-120ml) keeps you healthier, just having the additional blood sugar in your system takes its toll on arterial blood vessels. It is necessary to exercise and eat healthier to help take control of your diabetes, bear in mind to test your blood pressure level and blood cholesterol, too.

Myth #5: My medical professional would order medical tests if I were at risk for heart disease.

From time to time, most of us ignore to tell the physician about the little pains we’re feeling. The medical professionals, with no knowledge of the various things we consider as insignificant, could pass over heart exams.  “Mammograms and Colonoscopies are normally recommended by doctors,” says Merdod Ghafouri, a cardiologist at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Va, [3] “and are required, but heart scans usually are not routinely conducted.” A heart scan can find plaque build-up in the arterial blood vessels before you even find out you have a problem.

Do you have the motor oil and transmission fluid examined in your car every 5,000 miles? Have other preventive auto repair done? Doesn’t your only heart deserve as much care as your car?

Links to Complementary Guides About Heart Disease:

- [1] Web MD is a very good source for good and timely medical and health facts and information.

- [2] Mediterranean Book is the National Board for the preservation of the Italian healthy eating traditions. It’s a non-profits website managed by Italians that encourage the Mediterranean Eating Plan. They offer headlines and health related research linked to the many advantages of the Mediterranean diet.

- [3] Life Extension is a world wide authority on nutrition, health and fitness as well as a specialist of clinical facts about heart disease therapies. They cover a different component of heart health by correlating  gingivitis and cardiovascular disease.

About the author:

Millie Bruce was born in Banffshire, Scotland on August 2, 1944. She had an undergraduate college diploma in Traditional medicine at the University of Glasgow in 1962. She have done nutrition guidance and she educated adult nutrition in Adult Day Care Treatment centers. She worked for medical reporters and testers that produced articles for the New England Journal of Medicine. Now she’s retired and from 2005 to the present she has been a guest writer for health-related websites and blogs and forums.

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Summer Beet Salad with Peach Vinegerette

May 18th, 2011

As we approach warmer weather, nothing beats a great salad for a delicious meal.  This recipe pairs beets with arugula creating a salad that is full of flavor as well as healthy benefits.  The benefits of beets have been shown to improve anemia, blood circulation, cancer, and various heart diseases.  In addition, arugula is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, folic acid, calcium, manganese and magnesium. Here’s the recipe, and here’s to healthy eating!

Salad:
4 medium bulls blood beets (roasted or boiled and peeled)
2 oz of crumbled Queso fresca cheese (may substitute with mild feta)
1/4 red onion sliced super thin
1/4 cup pistachios
4 cups or organic arugula

Dressing:
1 organic medium yellow peach (frozen also works if not in season)
3 Tbsp. grape seed oil (extra virgin olive oil can be used to substitute)
3 Tbsp. champagne vinegar (White vinegar will do, as well as white balsamic)
3-5 drops of Umi plum vinegar (not necessary, however adds a great flavor)
1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:
Roast your beets at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes or until fork tender. Cover the beets with olive or grape seed oil, and sea salt prior to baking and wrap in tinfoil to put into the oven. I’m sure that they can be boiled as well, I however find roasting them to bring out the sweet earthy flavor more.
After the beets have been roasted, peeled and cooled, cut them into 1/4 inch cubes.  Toss them together with the thinly sliced red onions and let them absorb each others flavors while you prepare the dressing.  In a blender combine the peach, oil, salt, champagne vinegar (white vinegar), and Umi plum vinegar (optional). Blend on pulse until everything has come together into a creamy peach color.  In a large bowl toss the beets, half of the dressing and the pistachios together until all of the beets are coated in dressing.  Plate with a handful of arugula and then sprinkle  the crumbled queso fresca (mild feta) and splash a bit more dressing on top. Viola you have a super simple summer salad that has the perfect amounts of creaminess, sweetness, tartness, and crunch!

About Katheryne:


Sustainability is very important to me because I believe that we should take care of the planet that gives us so much. Love the earth and it will love you back. Know where your food comes from; be informed about what you are consuming. By choosing to eat organically grown produce the impact that you are making on the environment and your own health is a positive one.  Living sustainably to me, is not about  what you are giving up, it’s about all that you get! You can check out my website here http://katherynecooks.com/ and please be sure to “like” my Facebook page!

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How-to Dry Herbs for Cooking and Decorating

May 12th, 2011

 

With their intoxicating aromas and ability to transform dishes into palate pleasing wonders, herbs are simply sublime. Throughout history, herbs have been used in many ways and for many reasons. Ancient Greeks used parsley as a cure for stomach ailments; early Dutch settlers planted chives in meadows so that cows would produce chive-flavored milk; and early American settlers burned herbs for their fragrance, stored herbs with linens, and used herbs for illnesses. These are just a few ways that herbs have been used throughout history. In some way, shape or form, herbs have been used by different cultures around the globe.

If you have an abundance of herbs growing in your garden or if you would like to preserve some of your herbs to enjoy year-round, you should dry some of your harvest. It’s easy to do, and it is a great way for you to savor the herb gardening season and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Once dried, you can enjoy your herbs for cooking or decorating. Tie pretty ribbons around bunches of dried herbs then hang in increments from a string for a simple, sweet window swag; add dried herbs to glass bottles filled with olive oil, which you can use to decorate your kitchen counter with and for flavoring salad dressings and sauces; or make an aromatic sachet with dried flowers and herbs to tuck into travel bags or scent a drawer.

When cooking with dried herbs—if you’re substituting dried herbs for fresh herbs—one teaspoon of dried, crumbled herbs is the equivalent to one tablespoon of fresh herbs. Before storing dried herbs in air tight containers, look for any dried herbs that may show signs of mold and toss those out. To retain flavor, store leaves whole then crumble them when you’re ready to use them. Dried herbs will last for about one year and should be kept out of the sunlight.

There are several ways that you can dry fresh herbs, but we’re going to keep it simple and provide you with the steps for air drying low moisture herbs, such as bay, dill, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. Air drying is the easiest process and least expensive:

1. Cut healthy herb branches mid-morning from plant. Cutting herb branches mid-morning allows for any morning dew to dry from the leaves. If you cut too late in the afternoon your herbs may be wilting from the heat of the afternoon sun, and you don’t want that. Note: The best time to cut herbs for drying is just before they flower—this is when they contain the most oil, which is what gives them their aroma and flavor.

2. Check the leaves, and pull off any diseased or dry leaves and make sure there are no insects on leaves.

3. Pull off lower leaves from herb branches, approximately one inch from bottom so that you have space to tie them together.

4. If the leaves are dirty, you can rinse herbs with cool water, but make sure to gently pat them dry with a paper towel as wet herbs will mold and rot.

5. Combine 5-6 herb branches together then tie with string.

6. If you want, label a paper bag with the name of the herb(s) you will be drying inside. Make several holes in the bag then place the herb bundle, leaves down, into the bag so that the stems are at the opening of the bag. Gather the open end of the bag around the stems and tie closed with a long piece of string. Hang the bag in a well ventilated, warm room (70 to 80 degrees F). You can dry herbs without placing them in a paper bag, but the paper bag helps keep dust off of the herbs while they’re drying.

7. Check herbs in approximately two weeks then periodically until dried. The drying process should take approximately 2 to 4 weeks.

Enjoy!

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Edible Landscaping: Where Beautiful Botanicals and Flavorful Foods Meet

May 4th, 2011

 

Beans, herbs, leafy greens, and strawberries are great choices if you’re considering an edible landscape for your front yard. Edible landscaping combines the beauty of botanicals with edible plants that provide many textures, unique shapes, and vibrant colors to your landscaping. And edible landscaping maximizes your return by way of putting healthy, homegrown food on the table.

One of the biggest reasons why individuals are choosing edible landscaping today is the economy. With food prices continuing to rise—not to mention our carbon footprint and food safety—discerning individuals are going back to basics when it comes to living better and living a more joyful life.

There are several ways that herbs and vegetables can be incorporated into landscaping:

1. Instead of planting flowers in window boxes try lettuces that vary in color, from purples to reds.

2. Plant vegetables with contrasting colors next to each other for striking beauty, such as purple cabbage and snow white cauliflower.

3. Thyme pairs well with colorful strawberries, and they’re both perfect for containers.

4. Add a touch of French gardening into your edible landscape by incorporating raised beds with gravel-lined paths in between the beds.

5. Grow beans on trellises behind flower beds.

6. Include edible flowers into your landscape, such as peppery-flavored nasturtium, scented geranium, and violet.

These are just a few ideas for edible landscaping that can turn your front yard into a work of delicious art!

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Jerry’s Garden: “Good luck happens when preparedness meets opportunity”

May 3rd, 2011

Hi Everyone!  Hope you all are enjoying the beginnings of Springtime!  Spring is such a nice time of year—everything seems to be renewed and refreshed, trees and plants turning green, bees buzzing past you, baby animals opening their eyes for the first time—you get the point!

However, Springtime can also be a dangerous time when it comes to weather.  Flash flooding and tornadoes are pretty common during this time of year.  Because the ground is typically already soaked with the winter’s snow, and because it tends to rain a lot during Spring, oftentimes the rain has nowhere to go—except into your home!

Tornadoes typically rear their nasty heads whenever there are massive weather changes—such as severe cold fronts meeting severe warm fronts.  Springtime is an ideal time for tornadoes to form.  Many of us in the greater Raleigh, NC area experienced this phenomenon a couple weekends ago.  Tornadoes are by no means a common occurrence in our area, but they do show up from time to time.

This time, when they showed up, they really wanted to make sure everyone noticed them!  We had over 60 separate tornadoes touch down in our area, causing millions of dollars in damage, killing 2 dozen people, and hurting hundreds more.  My wife and I managed to escape unscathed—slight property damage but nothing more.

The reason I bring all of this up is to ask the question of you, “Are you prepared for natural disasters?”  I know many of us prepare for disasters such as drastic climate change, government collapse, biohazard situations, etc., but do we prepare for every day disasters Mother Nature may decide to throw our way?  Disasters that can last only minutes, but can drastically alter our lives none-the-less?

I think it’s important, if you call yourself a “prepper“, to be prepared for any disaster that may come your way—not just the more exciting, conspiracy theory type of disasters.  My wife and I, for example, have a hurricane/tornado survival kit prepared.  We have a plan and a contingency plan.  We knew what to do, where to go in our home, and how to keep ourselves safe when we heard a tornado had been spotted touching down in our area.

Natural disasters can happen anywhere and some can happen with absolutely no warning.  The best thing you and your family can do is be prepared for all scenarios.  Go over the plan with your family, rehearse it, and come up with an alternate plan in case the first one is not viable.  The goal is to survive.  Material things can be replaced, but lives cannot.  Be prepared and your chances are better that you will survive any kind of disaster thrown your way!

About the Author

Jerry Greenfield

My number one focus is growing my own food. I don’t think that really counts as a hobby.  For some people it is, but for me, growing my own fruits and vegetables and saving my own seed is the key to survival. The only person you can count on is yourself, if you ask me. The government is trying to help us all with GMOs and welfare, but it’s all a crock. I also like to build things and read Transcendentalist authors from the 1860s.

Connect with Jerry via his blog and Facebook page: Grow Like Crazy

 

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