mosquito repellent, V2.0

You may remember last year I posted this recipe from Re-Nest for home-made mosquito repellent using rosemary and catnip.
Well, I never was able to thoroughly test that stuff because every time I put some on, I got mobbed by several furry beasties. They also made sure my catnip plants never really produced much of an end product.

However, after reading an article about grapefruit and mosquitos, I decided to try a slightly different approach. So far so good, although it’s still early in the season. I didn’t get bitten once shoveling mulch yesterday, which is quite an improvement.

Here’s the recipe, altho it’s so super simple and adaptable you hardly even need one.

rubbing alcohol or cheap vodka
grapefruit oil (not extract… oil)
lavender oil
rosemary oil
tangerine oil

Put about 4 oz. of the alcohol into a mister bottle, then add about 60 drops of grapefruit oil and about 40 drops of lavender and rosemary. The tangerine was just for added scent, you could swap that out for anything you find pleasing.
Shake it up and spray it on! I like to keep the bottle in the fridge or cooler because you’ll need to re-apply up to every half hour depending on how much you’re sweating and how vicious your mosquitos are. Keeping it cold means it’s just that much more of a treat to re-spray on a hot day.

If you prefer to use an all over oil, use the same proportions in a 4 oz bottle of grapeseed or almond oil. You can either rub or spray this on as well.


die, Wisteria, die!

This is what we did last weekend. The photo doesn’t look that impressive without perspective, but let’s just say that pile is almost as tall as I am. We’re determined to finally clear the lot of our rental of these awful wisteria vines that previous owners let grow unchecked for decades. It’s terrible, terrible stuff and killed off most of the trees in the lot already, but it looks like we’ll be able to save two of the pecan trees. I hope.
So much more to go!!!!

A little reminder about that dozen roses you might be sending next week

This was originally written last year, but I thought it was a good time to link back to it, and I’ve got an update on sustainable sources for you coming tomorrow!

With Valentine’s Day coming up, you might be thinking about buying someone you love a bouquet of flowers. Or, maybe you’re just tired of these cold, dreary days and want to brighten up a corner of your room. Then again, maybe you did the Apartment Therapy Fall Cure and a weekly floral splurge has made it to your permanent shopping list.
Whatever the reason, flowers are one of the fastest ways to bring a smile to someone’s face, especially mine!


Unfortunately, there can be a downside to flower buying, and it’s one that rarely gets discussed, even in circles where local food and organic produce is the norm. Since I don’t want to give up that little vase of happiness, I decided to figure out the most responsible way that I could enjoy this little treat.

Before we get there, however, let’s take a hard look at why there’s a problem in the first place. I have to warn you, this is a real downer, but once you know, you can take steps to change your behavior. In turn, if enough of us change our behavior, we can change the system. But first, buckle up, this is a bumpy ride.

Here’s part ONE of the discussion: I want to buy you Flowers, Pt 1

and here’s part TWO: I want to buy you flowers, Pt 2

stay tuned tomorrow for an update on the most sustainable sources for flower delivery tomorrow!

The cost of Sugar: Not so sweet.

Most people know that my hometown got hit with an ice storm that basically shut the entire city down for the better part of a week. A slippery trip to the closest open grocer revealed the expected empty aisles where perishables once sat. What I didn’t expect was for them to be out of sugar. Even today, when most stores are returning to normal, the sugar aisles were still fairly bare.

(image via arrrtstar tumblr)

Uh oh. I thought I’d have time to stock up before the sugar beet fiasco had things hitting the fan.

Wait. What? “The sugar beet fiasco”?

Ok, I know that sounds like the name of some new hipster band, but it’s actually a serious thing, and highlights just one of the problems with relying on genetically modified crops.

Just to give a quick bit of background, a standard definition of GMO is an organism who’s genetic material has been changed in a way that does not occur under natural conditions through cross-breeding or natural recombination.
Now, on the surface, this doesn’t sound like terribly much to worry about, right? Especially in the face of the massive media campaign funded by Monsanto-the one that promises to feed a hungry world. However, there are many legitimate concerns. If you’ve got a little spare time, check out the movie The Future of Food for a really good overview of the main problems. In short: many of these crops are engineered using bacteria such as e-coli (no, I’m not kidding) to introduce pesticide resistant genes so that farmers can drench their fields in chemicals without killing the crop. Those chemicals have a tendency to do nasty things to the environment and their safety in the food supply is suspect, to say the least.

The other, more relevant problem revolves around the seeds and pollen that come from GMO crops. Non-GMO varieties can easily be infected with the relatively untested gmo genes, creating all sorts of havoc. There has also been a good bit of concerned talk over what might happen as the variety of plant species diminishes, especially in a time when seed saving and cleaning is becoming an endangered business -what if some sort of sickness were to hit our homogenous crops, wiping them out?

Yikes! but what does all this have to do with the price of sugar?
Well, I’m glad you asked.

You see, back in roughly 2007/8, several of the main food producing corporations decided that public outcry over genetically modified foods had subsided enough that they could get away with using genetically modified sugar in their products. It fit nicely in with the fact that many people were finally speaking out against HFCS, and because there are no labeling requirements for GMO’s, these crops could be silently introduced. The prevailing thought was that since sugar is a very processed food, that surely none of the modified genes would be left to do any harm.
But wait, why choose GMO seeds over regular ones? Well, sugar beets grow very slowly, so weeds and grasses have ample opportunity to take over and hog all the sun and water. So, the sugar beet gene was modified like many other plants’ genes have been to resist the popular herbicide RoundUp. This enables sugar beet farmers to drench their fields in Monsanto’s herbicide and not worry about their crop dying. Since sugar beets are a fairly labor intensive crop, it’s not too hard to see why a struggling farmer might choose to go this route. In fact, in the United States, approximately 95% of sugar beet farms are currently planted with this genetically modified variant. ( Incidentally, this means that the vast majority of sweetened products on your store’s shelves contain sweetener made from either genetically modified corn or sugar beets-and you’ll never know from reading the label.)

But back to the story… Earlier this fall, federal courts determined that Monsanto and the USDA had not adequately proven their crop’s safety and that no more of the GMO seeds were to be planted. However, since the USDA issued permits to plant the crops anyway the courts handed down a second ruling, ordering the crops destroyed. Since those crops were supposed to be producing seeds for the next few years of crops, and there aren’t enough conventional seeds left to plant the old crops, experts are predicting as much as a 40% decline in production over the next few years.


Now in reality, the empty shelves in my store probably didn’t have a darn thing to do with all this mess, but a morning of bitter coffee was a sobering reminder of what could possibly be coming without diversification and with too heavy a reliance on corporate produced seed.


These greens are not vegan.

This morning I ran across a very interesting link to a very emotional blog post from a former vegan activist about why she had to give up her vegan lifestyle.


It’s a good read, no matter what your dietary style, and I really empathized with much of her struggle.
I get surprised reactions sometimes when people who have known me for a while see me eating meat, a lot of them thought I was still a vegetarian. Truth is, much like this woman discovered, I figured out several years ago that my body didn’t function well without animal protein on occasion. I spent several years constantly sick and exhausted before I realized that it’s the chemicals in processed foods, and the added hormones and antibiotics that get put into factory farmed eggs and meat and dairy that are the real problem, not the products themselves. Since we bought our house and I started to seriously look into producing as much of our own food as possible, I realized that raising and eating animals didn’t have to be a cruel endeavor. The factory farms have it all wrong, but there is a humane and ethical way to do it.

But I’m rambling… the thing that I really wanted to point out from this article is this quote:
“As a vegan I didn’t like to think about the fact that without animals’ waste products, bones, and blood, farming is literally a zero sum game”

Yes, you can farm with fossil-fuel based fertilizers (for a while, until your soil dies), but the truth is that to responsibly grow all those fields of greens and veggies, you need to utilize animal products. So the reality of it is, nothing is truly vegan, and that’s something that even the most die hard vegan activists seem to be conveniently overlooking.

I guess the thing that bugs me most about any kind of food “lifestyle” is it’s divisiveness, and I hope this woman’s article will open some eyes and maybe help people talk to each other in a more sane voice about how we’re going to face feeding this planet full of people in a truly healthy and sustainable manner.

Pickled Peppers

So this may sound crazy, but here at the end of October, right when I’d pretty much given up hope, my garden has started producing like you wouldn’t believe. Maybe it’s because it finally cooled off below 90 degrees every day, maybe it’s because the trees that were shading it have started shedding their leaves, maybe it’s because all the bugs have finally died – who knows? But I’ll take it!

In the last week, my pepper plants have produced so many little tasty treats that I find myself not able to cook them fast enough. So, obviously it’s pickle time!

Pickled peppers are fantastic with avocado and lime on top of fish tacos, as a bloody mary garnish, in salads, with barbecued anything (especially paneer!) the possibilities are endless.
So here’s the recipe I used. It makes 2 pint sized jars, so just adjust it if you’re making more pickles.
2 cups rice wine vinegar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 sweet onion, sliced
Peppers (any kind work here, you can even mix types in your jars so you have variety when you open them)

Put the vinegar, water, and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a low boil.

Meanwhile, slice your onion and arrange it and your peppers in sterilized canning jars.

Pour your mixture over the peppers, leaving a slight gap at the top. Place lids on jars and either refrigerate and eat within a few months, or process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes and store upside down until they cool.

It’s best to wait at least two weeks before you dig in.