It’s summer, your garden is blooming, and you are anxious to host weekend outdoor parties and show off your beautiful patio and yard, but… you live in an area where mosquitoes are like vicious sharks, seemingly waiting in the air to attack. Perhaps you have tried those noisy bug zappers that annoyingly let you know every time they annihilate a flying pest (some of which are not bad pests, either). Between the annoyance and guilt, it may be time to try something more natural to keep the unwanted guests from crashing your party. Here are a few great options.
When an envelope of chaos surrounds your life, it is important to know that your garden can be a place of refreshment, renewal, and hope. It can be a safe place where you can be still and become one with the natural world around you. This is a good thing. We often trip on our thoughts, on fear, and on the what if’s. In the garden, you can be still, content, and soak in the beauty that surrounds you. When you become a mindful gardener, you have arrived at a place that allows you to escape the chaos of the world and just be.
It’s no secret that we adore houseplants here at Backyard Vitality. They clean the air, lift your mood, and bring a taste of the garden right into your living room. In fact, we believe that house is not a home without a few plants scattered across every empty surface. Sadly, many people are scared to get houseplants because they have a “brown thumb” or just “aren’t good with plants.” This list of no-fail houseplants will finally put those fears to bed, help increase your confidence, and allow you to decorate every room in your home with vibrant living decor.
Are you ready to be a successful potato gardener? This versatile starchy tuber is easy to grow and can be cultivated by anyone with great success, even the novice gardener. The best thing of all is that there are endless possibilities when it comes to growing potatoes so everyone can get in on the action.
Peat is a fibrous material made up of partially decomposed plant materials and natural forms in the earth in locations that fulfil particular requirements. For instance, the climate has to be mild (not rising above a certain temperature), stagnant water must be present, and it will only form in anaerobic conditions, which essentially just means the the absence of oxygen. Peat is most commonly found in Russia and Canada.
Gardening and health are intrinsically linked. You grow your own fruits and vegetables, so you begin to eat more whole, fresh food. You have to harvest, plant, and tend your garden, so you get more physical activity and daily doses of fresh air and sunshine. However, unless you wear gloves all the time, you probably also experience the dry, cracking hands that come from spending hours digging in the dirt. Thankfully, all the herbs needed to create this soothing hand salve, and make dried out hands a thing of the past, can be grown right in your garden.
And… it has happened again. As of August 16, 2021, there have been nine reports of salmonella-related illnesses related to shrimp products sold by Avanti Frozen Foods India. Three of these people have been hospitalized. This multi-state outbreak is currently being investigated by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Illnesses have been reported in four states, Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, and Rhode Island.
On June 25, 2021, Avanti Foods Pvt. issued a recall on frozen shrimp products distributed nationwide from November 2020 to May 2021. However, it is now thought that the products may have been sold in stores more recently, according to the CDC. After the CDC reopened its investigation, the FDA requested Avanti to expand the prior recall.
The frozen shrimp was sold under multiple brand names including, 365, Ahold, Big River, Censea, Chicken of the Sea, CWNO, First Street, Food Lion, Hannaford, Harbor Banks, Honest Catch, HOS, Meijer, Nature’s Promise, Open Acres, Sandbar, Sea Cove, Waterfront Bistro, Wellsley Farms, and WFNO Brands.
Whole Foods Market lists two products associated with the recall under its 365 store brand, Kroger, Albertsons, Target, and Meijer, and Hannaford are among retailers impacted by this recall. Products included in the recall include various sizes of frozen cooked, peeled, deveined, shrimp (some packaged with cocktail sauce), tempura roles sold at Target stores in California, and rings of frozen shrimp distributed by Chicken of the Sea and sold at Meijer as well as bags of Meijer-branded bags of frozen shrimp.
Avanti is based in Visakhapatnam, India, partially owned by Bangkok-based Thai Union Group, a global seafood company.
Three smaller recalls linked to the nationwide recall
In addition to the nationwide shrimp recall, there are three smaller related recalls.
- Mai Cuisine Inc., of Allentown – Recalling 67 packs of 12 piece Shrimp Tempura Kabuki Roll purchased at selected California Target Stores
- Genji Pacific LLC, of Allentown – Recalling 1 490 packs of sushi containing cocktail shrimp purchased in Whole Foods Market in California stores
- Mai Franchising Inc., of Allentown – Voluntarily recalling 103 packages of sushi containing cocktail shrimp purchased at New Leaf Community Market stores in Northern California
Stores linked to these California recalls can be found on the fda.gov site.
How seafood gets tainted
According to a study published in the Journal of Food Protection, unlike poultry and other warm-blooded animals, seafood such as shrimp do not naturally carry Salmonella bacteria. Study authors state the following.
“Salmonella is not part of the natural flora of the shrimp culture environment, nor is it inherently present in shrimp grow-out ponds. The occurrence of Salmonella bacteria in shrimp from aquaculture operations is related to the concentration of fecal bacteria in the source and grow-out pond water.”
More than 90% of shrimp consumed in the United States is imported from other countries, including Southeast Asia and Central Asia. There are numerous points from growing to harvest, processing, and shipping where shrimp can become contaminated. Each time seafood and meat are frozen, it becomes a better opportunity for bacteria to thrive. Additionally, if these foods are thawed and frozen again – more bacteria can grow. The shrimp in question were sold frozen, then thawed before being sold.
Know where your seafood comes from
Like all food you put on your table, knowing where it originated and is handled is essential. If you can’t catch your fresh seafood or don’t live close to the sea, pick a reputable company that sources only the best seafood possible. Here are a couple of great options to consider
Vital Choice says this about their products.
“We seek ingredients that are certified organic and Fair Trade Certified™ whenever possible. We seek suppliers who uphold good manufacturing practices and who make a positive impact on their employees, communities, and the environment.”
Wild Alaskan Company says this about their products.
“We proudly ship a wide variety of wild-caught species from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, including sockeye salmon, coho salmon, pacific cod, pacific halibut, and wild Alaska pollock.”
Stay safe and stay informed,
-The Backyard Vitality Team
Like a broken record playing over and over again, food recalls keep on coming. Federal officials have now identified specific stores where recalled frozen, raw, and breaded chicken products were sold. These products, manufactured by Serenade Foods in Indiana, include almost 60,000 pounds of chicken. So far, eight states have reported salmonella sickness, including New York, Illinois, Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Nevada, where 28 people have become sick, and 11 have been hospitalized.
According to a CDC news release, “The outbreak strain of salmonella was found in unopened packages of raw frozen breaded stuffed chicken that were collected from a sick person’s home.” Of course, consumers are being encouraged to return unopened food items to the store purchased for a full refund.
Specific stores involved in the recall include Walmart, Aldi, Save-A-Lot, and Food 4 Less. More retailers may be added as the case unfolds. Check here to see which stores have been added.
Branded products that have been recalled include:
- Dutch Farms Chicken with Broccoli & Cheese (lot code BR 1055; best if used by Feb 24, 2023)
- Milford Valley Chicken with Broccoli & Cheese (lot code BR 1055; best if used by Feb 24, 2023)
- Milford Valley Chicken Cordon Bleu (lot code BR 1055; best if used by Feb 24, 2023)
- Kirkwood Raw Stuffed Chicken, Broccoli & Cheese (lot code BR 1055; best if used by Feb 24, 2023)
- Kirkwood Raw Stuffed Chicken Cordon Bleu (lot code BR 1056; best if used by Feb 25, 2023)
Salmonella sickness can be deadly
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC), there are about 1.35 million cases of salmonellosis each year, resulting in 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths. Contaminated food is the source of the majority of these cases.
Salmonella lives in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals and is one of the top causes of food poisoning worldwide. It is a general term for about 2,000 closely related bacteria that cause illness by multiplying in the digestive tract. Humans are generally infected by consuming foods that are contaminated with animal feces. Person-person transmission occurs when an infected person’s feces, unwashed from their hands, contaminates food during preparation or comes in direct contact with another person.
While foods contaminated by salmonella are generally animal in origin, including beef, poultry, eggs and dairy, fruits and veggies, and other processed, packaged foods, even spices can become cross-contaminated.
For instance, the massive cucumber Salmonella outbreak of 2015 spread like wildfire through the country, leaving over 900 people sick, 204 hospitalized, and six dead. Kellogg’s Honey Smacks recall in 2018 that sickened over 70 people in 31 states, sending 24 to the hospital.
The tricky part is that contaminated foods don’t generally look or smell any different than non-contaminated foods. This means we don’t hear about a contamination outbreak until someone becomes ill and the illness is investigated.
Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include:
- Muscle aches
Symptoms typically start six hours to six days after infection and can last anywhere between four to seven days. Some symptoms may be so severe that hospitalization is required.
Here’s what to do during a recall
- Visit foodsafety.gov for recent recalls.
- Check your freezer, refrigerator, and cupboards for the product.
- If you have the recalled product in your home, read the food label and compare it to the manufacturer’s lot codes on the recall notice. If it’s a match, do not eat it or feed it to your pets.
- Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer or grocery store regarding returning or disposing of the product.
Who is touching your food?
None of us go to the grocery store seeking out contaminated food. We all want a safe, diverse, affordable, and abundant food supply all year long. Because of the demand, America imports about 15 percent of its overall food supply. Today, more than 200 countries or territories and about 125,000 food facilities and farms provide about 32 percent of fresh veggies, 55 percent of fresh fruit, and 94 percent of seafood that Americans eat each year. This, in and of itself, creates challenges when it comes to food safety.
Congress passed the FDA Food Safety and Modernization Act ( FSMA) in 2011. This act shifted the focus of federal regulators into more of a prevention mode regarding food contamination. There have been new standards applicable to foreign and domestic food growers, manufacturers, processors, packers, and holders, but there is much work still to be done in food safety.
One of the best ways to keep safe is to know where your food is coming from and grow as much as you can on your own. Eliminating the many hands that touch your food is a great first step in reducing your risk of food poisoning. Eat local, eat fresh, and eat in season are excellent rules to follow.
An excellent place to start is your community farmers’ market. You can meet local farmers who often specialize in just a few things, whether meat, poultry, vegetables, or fruit. This allows you to know where your food is grown. Many local farmers will allow you to visit their farms to check out the source of your sustenance. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon!
More ways to prevent food poisoning
Additionally, here are some things you can practice at home to further decrease the risk of contamination:
- Wash your hands before handling any food and in between handling different foods
- Wash hands after using the bathroom, blowing your nose, or touching animals
- Wash counters, knives, and utensils before preparing food – hot water and soap work great!
- Keep your kitchen towels and dishcloths clean – don’t leave them damp – this is the perfect place for germs to spread.
- Use separate cutting boards for raw food and fish.
- Keep meat away from any ready-to-eat foods such as fruit, bread, and salad. Store raw meat on the bottom shelf in the fridge where it is less likely to touch other food.
- Cook all meat thoroughly.
- Keep your refrigerator set to below 41 degrees F and avoid overfilling.
- Cool cooked food that you are not going to eat within 90- minutes and store in the fridge or freezer.
- Use leftovers within two days and never reheat the same food more than two times.
- Don’t ever consume food that is past its use-by date.
Stay safe and eat well,
-The Backyard Vitality Team
Fats, carbohydrates, and protein are the three macronutrients that are essential for human life. Protein is necessary for building and repairing tissue and is also needed to create hormones, enzymes, and other vital ingredients for health and wellbeing.
You may think of meat when you think of protein, but there are plenty of alternatives, including plant protein, that are growing in popularity. But which is better, protein from meat – specifically grass-fed beef – or plants? Let’s take a look.
About 20% of the human body is made up of protein, but we must get it from our diet because the body does not store it. While some suggest that it does not matter where your protein comes from – say, plants vs. animals, others suggest that one trumps the other as far as quality is concerned. But what is the truth?
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein
We use about 20 amino acids to build protein in the body. These amino acids are considered essential and non-essential. We can produce non-essential amino acids but no essential ones, which must come from the diet. It is crucial to have all of the essential amino acids in the proper ratios for excellent health.
Animal sources for protein, such as beef, poultry, eggs, fish, and dairy, are similar to the protein in the human body and are considered complete. They contain all of the essential amino acids that the human body needs to function at its best. Plant sources of protein from sources including, but not limited to, beans, seeds, and nuts, are considered incomplete as they lack one or more of the essential amino acids that meat sources contain.
Note: Some say that soy is a complete protein; however, two essential amino acids exist in only minimal amounts, so it is not comparable to animal protein as far as quality is concerned.
If you eat meat, grass-fed is the ONLY option
Is grass-fed beef a healthy option?
If there is any truth in the saying, “you are what you eat,” then choosing to eat grass-fed meats and milk products is the obvious choice. Most animals commercially raised for meat and dairy products in the United States come from Confined Animal Feeding Operations, also known as CAFOs. Animals raised in CAFOs often have no space to move around. The stress and abuse of these conditions are truly horrifying, and many meat-eating Americans choose not to think about it, which only perpetuates the cycle of mistreatment.
CAFOs contribute significantly to industrial waste and pollution. Studies have shown that people who live near factory farms may suffer nausea, depression, skin infections, respiratory problems, and sometimes death from the toxicity of their environment.
Commercially-raised animals are fed multiple antibiotics and growth hormones, which end up in the meat and milk. The overuse of antibiotics in the meat industry leads to the growth of drug-resistant bacteria strains, which make individuals more susceptible to previously treatable diseases.
According to the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences, the United States spends about 30 billion dollars per year treating antibiotic-resistant infections.
Animals raised in CAFOs are fed diets mainly consisting of GMO grain and soy, far from their natural diets. What’s worse is that the feed often contains ‘byproduct feedstuff,’ which can include chicken feathers, candy, and even municipal garbage.
All of this eventually ends up in consumers’ bodies. The bodies of you and your family every time you enjoy a commercially-raised steak, burger, or glass of milk.
Conversely, grass-fed animals are fed nothing but natural, pesticide-free grasses and are given room to roam and graze. No antibiotics, growth hormones, or garbage are added to their diets. As a result, these animals are not confined and subjected to stress, grow at a natural pace, and are naturally healthy and free of food-borne diseases.
Choosing to eat grass-fed meats and dairy products means significantly more nutrition and eliminates the risks associated with antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, GMOs, and random feed additives. This choice also benefits the environment and community farmers and ranchers who are working hard to create sustainable and humane agricultural conditions.
The resulting meat from grass-fed animals is significantly higher in nutrients. Grass-fed beef has been shown to contain more vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene than its commercially-raised counterpart. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is a potent anti-carcinogen. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant essential for the proper function of many organs in the body and helps cells live longer. Vitamin A is necessary for both eye and skin health.
A couple of key nutrients are found in meat but not in plants, including:
- Vitamin B12: Many people who avoid meat/seafood products are deficient in vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 has a number of vital roles in the human body, including supporting normal nerve function, the formation of red blood cells, and DNA synthesis. Getting plenty of B12 helps boost energy, keep your mind clear, and helps to keep heart disease at bay.
- Zinc: Zinc is found mainly in animal protein sources like beef and pork. It is easily absorbed and used when consumed from animal sources. Zinc is essential for a robust immune system and metabolism. It is also essential for wound healing and a sense of taste and smell.
Grass-fed beef is loaded with glutathione
Glutathione (GT) is a powerhouse protein in foods that can eliminate free radicals within the cell. Grass-fed beef is supremely high in GT and can protect cells from oxidized lipids or proteins, thus preventing DNA damage. Additionally, grass-fed beef is high in superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT), which work together as superpower antioxidants.
Healthy fat is healthy, and grass-fed beef has plenty of it
Studies done over the last several decades clearly show that neither saturated fat, including fat in meat, nor dietary cholesterol causes harm in humans. The old theory that told us to avoid meat, eggs, coconuts, and dairy stated that saturated fats raise bad cholesterol in the blood, and “bad” cholesterol gets stuck in our arteries which causes hardening and eventually heart disease.
In reality, saturated fats help to elevate good cholesterol and improve the ratio of triglycerides to HDL. They also help change small and dense LDL cholesterol particles that can clog arteries to large, harmless particles.
A study done at Harvard University concluded that “greater saturated fat intake is associated with less progression of atherosclerosis.” In countries where the highest amount of saturated fat is consumed, there is the least heart disease. Saturated fat does not contribute to heart disease.
The documentary Statin Nation: The Great Cholesterol Cover-Up, presented by Rethink Productions, provides strong evidence disproving the widely believed ideology that high cholesterol leads to heart disease.
It details how the scientific groundwork that this belief is based upon was heavily manipulated from the start and presents large-scale studies that clearly show the lack of connection between cholesterol levels and heart disease.
In short, mounting evidence shows that our focus on lowering cholesterol, and our growing reliance on statins, a class of cholesterol-lowering pharmaceuticals, is both drawing research focus away from investigating the actual causes of heart disease and killing us.
Statin Nation interviews medical experts from various fields, who each present a wide array of large-scale studies showing that there is no evidence-based relationship between high cholesterol and heart disease.
Studies have found that LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol is LOWER in heart disease patients than in the general population and that low cholesterol levels are associated with earlier death.
Here is a quick snapshot summary of the top reasons why everyone should include at least some meat in their diet. Yes, plants are important too because they contain nutrients not found in beef but consuming BOTH provides a fantastic basis for amazing health.
- The protein found in beef is complete – it doesn’t get any better than this!
- Beef contains heme iron which the body readily absorbs and helps to prevent anemia.
- High-quality beef may help to prevent muscle loss which accompanies aging.
- Consuming a high protein diet including beef may help to balance blood sugar.
- Beef is the #1 dietary source of zinc which is necessary for optimal immune system function and wound healing.
- Just one serving of beef provides half of the daily recommended value of selenium which helps to prevent cell damage, promotes proper thyroid production, and may even help prevent cancer.
- Eating a diet that includes protein found in beef has been found to promote long-term weight loss better than other diets.
- Animal products including beef contain the only natural source of B-12 which is important for healthy brain and nervous system function.
- People who don’t eat meat such as beef have lower levels of calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B-23, and omega-3 fatty acids which are vital for bone health.
Who’s ready for some delicious and nutritious grass-fed beef?
-The Backyard Vitality Team
- Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2000.
- Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 1998.
- Effect of an energy-restricted, high-protein, low-fat diet relative to a conventional high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet on weight loss, body composition, nutritional status, and markers of cardiovascular health in obese women, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005
- Vegetarian diets and bone status, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2014
Are you tired of your outdoor living space? Are you ready for something new but don’t have a massive budget to blow? No worries, there are many easy and inexpensive ways that you can breathe new life into your landscape. Transformation is just a few dollars away. With these ideas, you can create a brand new, inviting outdoor oasis!
Lay down a rug
Rugs are not just for indoor living; they add immediate color, warmth, and personality to any outdoor space. Cover up your cracking patio or your sun-worn deck with an outdoor rug that will create a whole new vibe. Add complimenting pillows to your furniture to tie it all together.
Add some water
Nothing says, “come and relax” better than a water feature. Contrary to what you might think, you don’t have to spend a fortune on a store-bought water feature when you can create your very own fountain in a matter of hours. You can even get adventurous and add a water garden made from half of a whiskey barrel. These water features allow you to incorporate beautiful water plants and moving water all in one!
Mulch is your friend
Adding a fresh new layer of mulch to garden beds is an easy and effective way to breathe new life into your landscape. Choose a new and exciting type or color of mulch to change it up.
Utilizing vertical space, whether it be on your patio, fence, wall, or another surface, helps create interesting focal points in your outdoor living space. Hanging pots, patio rail boxes, and wall gardens are just a few ways that you can vertically display your favorite plants.
Light it up
A little outdoor lighting helps soften your outdoor space and brings romance and coziness to any space. Hang lights, light up pathways, or use outdoor battery-operated candles to set the mood!
If spicing up your garden borders is something you have always wanted to do, here are a few great suggestions that don’t cost a fortune.
- Large stone or rocks – Rock edging is fantastic for those with easy access to rocks. They add interest to any landscape.
- Bricks – Brick edging adds inviting formality to garden beds. For a shabby chic look, paint bricks white.
- Bottles – Do you love wine? Do your friends love wine? Using wine bottles for edging is a fantastic way to repurpose bottles. Clean bottles, strip off the labels and insert them into the ground around garden beds or use as pathway edging.
- Logs – For a perfect complement to a rustic landscape, use cut log pieces as edging. Cut all pieces the same size or mix them up for additional visual interest.
- Dinner plates – If you are after an eclectic vintage look, a dinner plate border is a perfect option. Use plates from your own collection or visit your local thrift store for some great finds. Dig a shallow trench, place plates in the soil, and backfill to hold them in place.
Door dining table
A trip to your local thrift store or a community yard sale may give you exactly what you need to create an uplifting dining table without spending a fortune. Look for a solid wood door that you can transform. Remove the hardware, sand the door down and paint a bright white or your favorite color. Cut a hole in the middle for an umbrella, set the door on two painted workhorses, and add benches or chairs for a fun and practical dining space.
Washing machine drum fire pit
Creating a fire pit from a washing machine drum is a fantastic upcycling project that will wow your friends. Stainless steel holds up well against heat, and the slotted design allows oxygen to freely flow, keeping the fire burning bright. Head out to your local used appliance store, where you can usually snag a washing machine drum for under $10. You will need an angle grinder and grinder attachments along with a cup wire brush, cut-off wheel, and flap wheel sanding disc to transform the washing machine drum to a fire pit. Don’t forget your protective gear. The first step is to remove the plastic ring and base. Use a grinder to cut off the wheel and take out the center spindle – making room for firewood. Grind down the metal pipe and smooth rough edges. Use a wire brush to clean away all soap scum. Finish the drum with a coat of black high-heat spray paint and weld some legs at the base.
Add some outdoor games
Nothing transforms an outdoor space from boring to fun faster than the addition of a few outdoor games. If you have room, set up cornhole boards, croquet, horseshoes, badminton, or even lawn bowling. If turf is an issue, consider installing a small section of fake grass for a game area.
Of course, these are just some of the many ways that you can make your outdoor living space pop without breaking the bank. Think outside of the box about upcycling and repurposing things you already have or can find for cheap at thrift stores, flea markets, or garage sales. Put your own creative spin on your space, and you will be amazed at how great it can look!
–Susan Patterson, CBHC and Master Gardener