Earth Day 2019

Every year we hear something about Earth Day and it becomes apparent that Earth Day is just another day to may people. Why do we need an Earth Day? What started Earth Day?

I started reading Silent Spring about a month ago and was impressed that Rachel Carson published this book before I was born. She saw and documented widespread usage of pesticides and how it affects the environment back in 1962. This book is hailed to be influential to the environmental movement in the US and may have helped create the Environment Protection Agency. As I was reading the first chapter a term came to my mind: bioaccumulation. If I am anything, I am not a scientist. But I am concerned about the affects of chemicals not just on myself but on the human race. We’ve created things that we don’t understand and we need to deal with those consequences afterwards.

Back to Earth Day… When we think of Earth day, do we equate Earth day with Recycling? Do we think about our environmental impact on the earth as a single person? What can a single person do? I’ve always recycled, I’ve always worried about reducing the chemicals in my own home. Until recently, I hadn’t thought much more about plastics until seeing a video of Plastic Ocean ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ju_2NuK5O-E ). These graphics / videos really move me to be more mindful of what we do as a family related to plastics.

I have always felt that bringing my own reusable grocery bags when I shopped was an easy win. But we still had plastic bags that showed up in our home. I found that there are local locations to manage recycling just plastic film. Search for a location near you that offers recycling at:
https://www.plasticfilmrecycling.org/

What about purchases that are always in plastic? I thought about products that I purchase on a regular basis: cleaning products, hygenic products, food purchases. Purchasing in bulk doesn’t always mean that there is a reduction in plastic- sometimes the packaging has even more plastic.

I found a local company that provides cleaning products in which you are able to refill your containers. I went to refill my containers the other day and was told that I was one of the few people using this service. It really made me wonder, where are we going wrong? What about bulk food purchases? Is there one item you purchase weekly, monthly… that could be purchased in bulk? If you have a local farmers market or an Earth Fare near you, you are able to purchase many staples in bulk. Taking advantange of both of these options has helped me bring less packaging into my home.

As Earth Day approaches, I encourage you to find chemical free ways to clean your home and ways to reduce the plastics that you bring into your home. It’s not a once a year thought, but it needs to become a daily thought. How do we honor our Earth? Small changes make big differences. It does start with one person- look at Rachel Carson- her one book has influenced generations. It has been suggested that her book is one book to list, along with Origin of Species that has changed science.

Tomatoes, Tomatoes

My vegetable garden always has three or four varieties of tomatoes:  a beefsteak variety for sandwiches, especially BLTs, a cherry or grape tomato for salads, a roma and this year I went with a yellow tomato.   I absolutely love the flavor of those yellow tomatoes mixed with cucumbers.   A great summer salad.

Yesterday my husband and I picked 3 baskets of vegetables.   The romas were ready and it was sauce time! As I was slicing up the tomatoes, I remembered picking tomoatoes as a kid with my family.   We would have bushels of tomatoes and it became a family operation  to clean, prep and boil the tomatoes into sauce.  Two days of boiling down sauce and then canning.   Last week I made a few quarts of sauce using the crockpot to boil the sauce overnight.

The dehydrator is working overtime, this morning with two kinds of basil, parsley and oregano. My own Italian Seasoning Mix is ready.   Later in the morning, the tomatoes will be boiling on the stove and the sweet smell of boiling tomatoes will permeate the house.   Just one small pot, flavored with onions, green pepper and garlic, all out of my garden!    We tasted the mixture in the evening and the flavor was astounding. We decided it would make great bloody mary’s in the morning!

Bloody Mary Recipe

1/4 cup (2 ounces) vegetable juice.

3 dashes Talulas Hot Sauce.

3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) vodka (Titos).

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce.

1 pinch salt.

1 dash freshly ground black pepper.

1 pinch of celery seed

About 1 cup ice cubes.

We thought to garnish with olives, celery or martini onions later….

 

Vegetable juice

Mixed Romas, yellow, beefsteak tomatoes sliced and boiled down to two quarts

half an onion, 3 green peppers, 1 clove elephant garlic

Boil all ingredients together and put through a food grinder.

 

 

Modified Blooming Onion Recipe

For over 15 years, I’ve been eating gluten and lactose free.  In the last two years, I’ve been eating low FODMAPS (See Stanford’s FODMAP Chart for more information).  

Every once in a while, I just want a taste of something that every one else can eat.  I can’t possibly go out to eat this. This was the time when I just had to try to make a Blooming Onion! So I took a recipe that I saw online and modified it to be gluten free and EDTA free. For a first attempt, I think the recipe turned out well.      Unfortunately, it isn’t low FODMAPS, but I just wanted a taste. This recipe did it!  I was able to taste a Blooming Onion and my husband liked it too.

SAUCE

2/3 c. EDTA free mayonnaise ( I used Trader Joe’s)
2 TBSP organic ketchup (no High Fructose Corn Syrup)
1 TBSP siracha sauce
1 TSP smoked paprika
1 TSP chili powder
1/2 TSP garlic power
1/2 TSP dried oregano
kosher salt
1 TBSP horseradish sauce (optional to keep this EDTA free- go without)

Mix all of the sauce ingredients together and refrigerate.

FOR THE ONION

1 large onion
1 egg and cold water scrambled
1 c gluten free bread crumbs
2 TSP paprika
1 TSP garlic powder
1 TSP onion powder
Kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Peel the onion.   Slice off onion stem and set onion on flat side. Cut inch from the root down, into 12 to 16 sections or use an apple slicer to cut evenly, being careful not to cut all the way through. Flip over and gently pull out sections of onion to separate petals.
In a small high bowl, scramble the egg and cold water together.   In a second bowl mix the rest of the ingredients.   Dunk the onion in the egg wash and then dredge in the bread crumbs.   Do this twice to get full coverage.  Set the onion on a parchment covered baking dish and place in the oven for 18-20 minutes.

 

 

Gardening Diary 2018- Results

It seems that all winter long, I look over gardening magazines, review the results of last year’s garden and buy seeds to get started.  I use my guest bathroom as my winter green house and hopefully have some plants for the spring.   This year was no exception.   I planned, fretted and dreamed.  Over winter, I planted 3 types of garlic.   I also left some onions in over winter.   In the spring I was checking on the garlic, onions and second spring of asparagus.   Still not quite ready for asparagus.    My strawberries took over any spot where I would let them.

The vegetable garden is 500 square feet, fenced in too keep the deer and dogs out.      I have four raised beds, each 16 square feet, I have one area that has been tilled and setup for my root vegetables.  This year that area has sweet potatoes, I have a strawberry bed, asparagus bed and then the rest is for planning each year.  The blueberries are in their own area and the herbs are all closer to the kitchen.

What did not do well this year?

  • Peas-  Only able to harvest enough to add to small stir fry.
  • Squash-  Squash bugs this year have completely decimated my yellow squash, we harvested three small squashes
  • Zucchini-  Not sure why we’ve just gotten NO zucchini (I have plenty of bees)
  • Carrots-  These became food for bunnies, I’m sure.   The tops were all down and withered one day, the tops of all the carrots were chomped down.   I harvested to save what I could… disappointing…. The second planting is still in the ground.
  • Tomatoes-   I’m putting the tomatoes here, although we still have a ways to go.  The plants are all scraggly and the leaves have rust.    I’ve gotten romas to make some sauce and the yellow tomatoes are EXCELLENT with raw cucumbers.  But it doesn’t look like we’re going to get as many tomatoes as last year, when we canned for a few weekends and had three large batches of sauce and some salsa.

What did well?

  • Purple potatoes-  each plant gave me more than a pound of potatoes.
  • Cucumbers- 3 cucumber plants, way more than we need.  1 plant for next year
    • I’ve been making dill pickle spears and eating cucumbers raw for more than a month.  I believe there are more than 20 cucumbers still waiting for disposition 🙂
  • Gherkin cucumbers-   I love this little plant and am looking forward to the gherkin pickles from these.    Next year I’ll plant them away from the regular cucumbers.
  • Eggplants-  This year we went with a Japanese fingerling? variety.   Loved these in stir fries.
  • Beans-  I really appreciated these bushes this year. I only put two bushes in, next year I’ll put in four bushes.  We harvested beans for quite some time and still are harvesting beans.
  • Kale-   GREAT baked with potatoes and great in smoothies.   Three plants are too much for us
  • Blueberries did well until a hole in our netting let the birds in.   It only took a day or two to have them decimated….
  • Green Peppers-  9 plants seem to be perfect for us, we received just enough peppers to support what we needed this year, but nothing for the freezer.
  • Garlic and Onions-  Although  not as many made it over the winter (I believe chipmunks were the cause) I’m very pleased with the results.

The jury is still out on the sweet potatoes.

 

Update:

15 pounds of sweet potatoes!   They are so beautiful!   I  just pulled up my green pepper plants and picked the last of my green peppers!  Stuffed green pepper soup and fajitas were on the menu this week.  I also sliced up some and froze them.   We’re going to have stuffed peppers later this week and

Composting

Composting food waste was one of the first ways that I started doing in order to reduce waste from my kitchen and to also reduce my spending on purchasing compost to add to my gardens each year.   For all of our food waste, we compost with worms.   A pint of red wrigglers and a some kitchen waste is all that was needed to get started.   After a few months, I was able to start using the compost in my garden!   What a great way to ensure that my trash has less in it each day and that my garden grows well.

My husband calls my worms— my pets, as I have a tendency to treat them as I treat my pets!   I feed them every day and have to make sure that during the winter- they are warm enough to continue eating.  I now have two bins  that are from the Worm Factory.  My husband created an insulated area in the garage that allows my worms to continue composting throughout the Ohio cold winters.   I’ve been able to keep two bins going for a quite a few years and the fruits of those bins have been helping my gardening each year.

Gardening – and without Chemicals

Each year, my husband I spend our summers on our vegetable and herb gardens.  Last year, we were able to enjoy fresh blueberries for smoothies.   We enjoyed the blueberries so much that we added a bush that would bear fruit earlier in the season (late June).    We have tomatoes, sweet peppers, squash, peas, beans, garlic, onions, kale, zucchini, and lettuce. Oh—   and potatoes and sweet potatoes.  Our herbs include tarragon, parsley, chives, marjoram, oregano, basil, curry, lavender, rosemary, and thyme.   My goal with the herbs was to make herbs de provence and italian seasoning instead of buying them.   We spend so much on spices-   this garden will keep that spending down.

We have a rain barrel system that is used to water our blue berry bushes.   At some point, the herb garden will also be watered by rain barrels.

To keep the weeds at bay, we use a mixture of 1 gallon of white vinegar, 1 cup of epsom salts and 1 tablespoon of dish soap.  This mixture is sprayed on the weeds usually first thing in the morning on a dry sunny day.  By the end of the day those weeds are showing signs of dying and are dead in a few days.

This past year we had issues with squash bugs.  The only thing I could do was watch the squash die.  Neem oil didn’t even work.  My understanding is that we’ll need to burn the areas where the squash bugs were to keep them from coming back.  I’ll let you know how that works this year.

Chemistry in the Shower

Recently, I found out that I’m allergic to the ethylenediamine dihydrochloride, or edetic acid.  What’s interesting is that even after pulling edetic acid out of my diet, my symptoms didn’t subside until I also took EDTA out of my environment. EDTA is in a ton of different things, from detergents and fabric softeners to soap, shampoo and conditioner.   It is also found in a number of allergy medications.  OK, so I thought going gluten free was hard, this is harder.  This isn’t an easy allergy, it’s a lifestyle change.

Now that I know what allergen is bothering me, I now have to get it out of my household, or at least get it out of my immediate vicinity.  My doctor immediately went through my medications and pulled a few medications.   She sent me home with all sorts of reading.  My initial thoughts were that it  could be in detergents and fabric softener.  So I changed from my Shaklee fabric softener and detergent. I’ve sent Shaklee a request for ingredients in those products.  My symptoms didn’t get better, so I started reading more labels around the house.   Sodium EDTA or EDTA is in sensitive skin soap, dermatologist recommended creams and cleansers, shampoos, hair conditioners, and lotions.  I took a shower and thought about the chemicals that are in my shower.   Most of us use soap, shampoo and hair conditioner.   I also use a separate facial cleanser. In my shower, I can only use the facial cleanser.   When I got out of the shower, I read all the labels of the cosmetics that I used.   I could use the facial moisturizer, but couldn’t use my whole body lotion.   Of all of the lotions in my home, I could only use one.  Oh my-   I’m going to throw away a LOT of products.   That’s a lot of money down the drain.

So you might ask, what products am I using?  I tried making my own laundry detergent out of Washing Soda, Borax and Zote soap. I’ve even tried soap nuts.  This past month, I’ve tried using a goats milk soap from the local health food store.    I’ve used an olive oil based soap and have a friend who made me some lye based moisturizing soap.   I love it much better than the goats milk soap that I purchased.  I’ve gone back and forth between soaps and shampoos and detergents  from different companies and home made.

Update (April 2019) Although I love the Shaklee promise and the non-toxic nature of the products-  I’m worried about the plastic containers in which they are packaged.   Are those plastic containers really getting recycled when I place them in the recycle bin?

I found a company that provides products that are good for my skin and good for the environment.   Instead of offering recyclable containers, they offer refillable containers.   What a concept!   The chemicals are reduced in my shower and we have a company that believes in making a difference for the environment.   Learn more about  Plaine Products sustainable products and let me know what you think!

For the first time in two years, my skin has finally cleared up from the eczema rash that I get from EDTA.  I may be able to wear short sleeves this summer!   Now that is something!