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.
Many of us rely on our morning cup of coffee to get the day started. The delicious aroma of a warm cup of coffee just sets the tone for the day ahead. What you might not know is that coffee itself, as well as the grounds, are good for so much more.
Water is life. Life for humans, animals, and life for plants. Water is also costly, and in many places, scarce. Because of this, collecting and using FREE rainwater is an excellent idea. The practice of rainwater catchment is an ancient practice that has proven effective for thousands of years.
Haven’t we all had enough stress for one year? An out of control virus that just won’t go away, civil and political unrest, and now….. An increasing number of food recalls continue to threaten our health and wellbeing. Do you buy produce at Walmart? If you have shopped over the weekend at Walmart and purchased single head romaine lettuce – don’t eat it!
The most recent fresh produce recall applies to Tanimura & Antle bagged single head lettuce. E.coli was found during a test in Michigan that was traced back to a Walmart in Comstock. The worst part of all is that the strain of E.coli found (0157:H7) is one of the most likely strains of bacteria to cause hemolytic uremic syndrome ( HUS), which is a type of kidney failure that can be fatal.
The Center’s for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us that up to 10 percent of people with this scary strain of E.col develop HUS. Signs of this condition include:
- Decreased urination
- Extreme fatigue
- Loss of color in cheeks and lower eyelids
Young children and the elderly are most likely to develop HUS with long=term effects that can cause severe kidney damage and even death. The FDA urges anyone who is experiencing any of these telltale symptoms to contact a physician immediately.
Walmart has posted a list of all stores that may be infected by this most recent food recall, including 19 states and Puerto Rico. It is believed that the recall impacts 3,396 bags of lettuce that were packaged on October 15 or 16th. If you or someone you know has a suspicious bag of lettuce, throw it out or return it to the store for a full refund.
Food recalls continuing to pile up
There has been a long list of food recalls piling up over the past three months or so, including:
- Trader Joe’s gluten-free battered halibut – recalled because it contained undeclared wheat and milk allergens.
- Spice Hunter spice blends – recalled due to potential Salmonella contamination.
- Sunshine Mills dog food – recalled due to potential Salmonella contamination.
- Thomson International onions – recalled due to potential Salmonella contamination.
- Natural Grocers organic whole elderberries – recalled due to potential Salmonella contamination.
- J&O mixed veggie cup with dip – recalled due to undeclared egg product
- Kader Exports frozen shrimp – recalled due to potential Salmonella contamination.
- Wegman’s store lemons oranges, in-store produced seafood – recalled due to potential Listeria contamination.
- Prima Wawona peaches – recalled due to reported Salmonella infections.
- Progresso chicken soup – recalled due to undeclared allergens.
- Giant Food Stores House brand squash noodle medley – recalled due to found Listeria
What you can do to stay safe
Besides paying attention to any news of food recalls and throwing out any affected products, be sure to wash fresh produce thoroughly before eating. Doing this won’t kill bacteria if the lettuce is contaminated but will help remove any lingering pesticide residue. And though buying organic is a great way to avoid this, organic lettuce is just as susceptible to E. coli as non-organic lettuce.
Consider starting your very own garden to grow fresh food – you can even grow many edible plants successfully in very little space or even indoors if you don’t have outdoor space. This way, you know exactly where your food is coming from and can avoid human transmitted E. coli and other contamination.
Shop locally whenever you can. Support farmers in your area and eat produce that doesn’t have to travel thousands of miles to reach your table. This limits the number of people who come into contact with the product, decreasing the risk of contamination. As long as the farmers practice safe growing, you are better off purchasing locally sourced leafy greens.
Susan Patterson – Master Gardener
A trip to the grocery store is a chore for some, but for fruit and veggie lovers, the produce section is like a candy store. Markets today stock a greater variety of produce than ever before, including out-of-season and exotic items from the other side of the world.
In the early pioneering days of America, most people grew their own food, learning how to cultivate and grow it, not for fun but because a home garden was necessary for survival. In the 17th century, those settlers farmed their own fruits and vegetables, often using small, enclosed gardens that sat just outside their front door. Typically these gardens were focused on essential edibles, culinary and medicinal herbs. While food gardening has waxed and waned since then, it will never stop.
While growing and preserving food is still a widespread activity in many cultures around the world, it isn’t necessarily popular in America. Many people take food for granted, simply going to the grocery store without much thought as to where the food comes from. We just expect it to be there, right?
Living sustainably is no longer limited to the size of the land you own. Although you might not have enough space in your garden to grow large crops like wheat and corn, you can still grow fruits, vegetables, and trees in a city garden — or even containers. There’s a growing number of urban dwellers looking to become self-sufficient while reconnecting with nature. So, if you’re a big city dweller and dream of becoming a modern-day homesteader one day, why wait? Here’s how to be self-sufficient in the city.
Know your limitations
Maybe you were born in the city, came to be educated, or simply arrived looking for work. Whatever your situation, you’re here now and quite enjoy everything the city has to offer. But even with all those modern-day conveniences, you still dream of living off the land and creating a self-sustaining lifestyle. That’s where an urban homestead garden fits in.
First, make sure you realize your limitations on your homesteading journey. Chicken coops, livestock, and making your own cheese may be out of the question — for now. But, even if you don’t have a large garden at your disposal, you can certainly create a sustainable garden in your small city space. If you have the desire to create a sustainable lifestyle and reconnect with the environment and the food you eat, then you can apply homesteading principles to your urban garden.
Utilize your space
The traditional homesteads tend to have a lot of land ready to grow on and harvest food year-round. In urban settings, you likely don’t have that kind of space. So, you’ll need to create as much garden or growing space as you can. Balconies, patios, and even concrete walkways are ideal for containers and raised beds. In fact, you can even remove sod from a small backyard to create your vegetable and herb garden. And if you are space-challenged horizontally, then there’s only one way to go…up.
Discover vegetables and fruits that climb vertically or can be guided to climb with a little persuasion. Climbing vegetables include Vine tomatoes, Malabar spinach, cucumbers, zucchini, Indian and runner beans, peas, pumpkins, gourds, and more. Raspberries and blackberries also naturally climb. Don’t forget to utilize the borders of your property with trained fruit trees, bushes, and climbing vegetables.
Create a living wall
Living walls or green walls are vertical gardens that attach to exterior or interior structures. Unlike ivy walls that root to the side of fences or buildings, living walls root in structural supports that are fastened to the wall. They can be as large or small as you like. So they can be tailored to suit the size of your space. You can invest in stackable planters fastened to a fence or structure from the ground up. You can even create your own with painted, recycled containers and holes punched in the bottom for drainage. Additionally, you can use window boxes secured one above the other.
A great garden relies heavily on its water source. Rainwater collection is an inexpensive way to feed your crops. By installing a water collection system, you can utilize the earth’s hydrological cycle. This reduces the demand from water facilities, which in turn improves conservation efforts. Keep in mind, while it is not entirely illegal to collect rainwater in any of the 50 states, some states currently have restrictions on the amount of rainwater that can be collected and the method by which it is collected.
Create your own compost
Compost is great for the environment because it reduces food wastage. Scrap food and plants decompose over several months before turning into nutrient-rich soil (or hummus.) If space permits, why not create your own compost for your garden?
- Select a container for your compost and set it in a grassy, reasonably shady part of your garden. Make sure that the container doesn’t have a bottom. Compost should be directly touching the ground.
- To help aerate the compost, lay a few inches of branches and twigs at the bottom.
- Balance your compost with nitrogen, carbon, water, and air. Nitrogen comes from the green materials you scrap, and carbons comes from the brown material.
- Include: Dried leaves, grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, peelings, coffee grounds, and tea leaves, dust from sweeping and vacuuming, shredded newspaper, human and pet hair.
- Don’t include: Meat, dairy, and bread, which rot and attract pests. You should also omit processed foods, since they take a long time to decompose.
- With a spade or shovel, aerate once a week, and water when the compost gets too dry.
- After a few months, your compost is ready to use.
Preserving your harvest
The more skills you acquire, the more self-reliant you’ll become. And that means relying less on grocery stores and more on your ability to grow and create. As you become more familiar with the homesteading lifestyle, you can certainly up your skill level and begin to make, sell, and even barter your hand-made goods. The purpose of homesteading, after all, is to create a frugal lifestyle that allows you to grow your own food while reducing your carbon footprint. But to get there, you’ll need a certain skill set.
Learning to preserve your harvest is a must. When practiced properly, canning is a safe and important method of food preservation. It will keep you well-fed during the cold, winter months. There are three safe methods of canning according to the Clemson Cooperative Extension, Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC):
The boiling water bath method — Food is preserved in jars completely covered by boiling water. Safe for jarring tomatoes, pickles, and fruits, as well as jams, jellies, and other preserves.
The atmospheric steam canner method — In steam canners, jars are set in a rack above a reservoir of water. Steam created from boiling the water provides the thermal treatment to the jars. The advantages of using a steam canner include using less water than a boiling water bath. It also reaches processing temperatures faster and requires less energy. However, this method is not suited for low-acid foods like vegetables. The steam canner is useful for naturally acidic foods that have a pH less than 4.6 like pickled veggies, fruits, and preserves.
The pressure canner method — Filled jars are placed in two to three inches of water and then heated in the pressure canner to 240° F. The pressure canner method is only safe for canning low-acid foods or those with a pH over 4.6 such as vegetables.
If you’re a big city dweller, you might have thought homesteading wasn’t for you. But thanks to space-saving items like containers, vertical planters, and living walls, you can have an urban garden that provides sustenance throughout the year. Enjoy!
Over one hundred million American adults have high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. This is nearly half of all American adults and a staggering statistic for sure. The most common cause of cardiovascular disease-related deaths is high blood pressure, a condition that can be reversed. Two ways that you can lower blood pressure are by reducing stress and engaging in some sort of physical activity daily. If you aren’t much for jogging, why not try gardening your way to lower blood pressure?
Do you dream of being self-sufficient and lessening your impact on the environment? If so, then homesteading might be for you. Homesteading is sustainable living at its best. Simply put, it’s a lifestyle where you grow your own food while minimizing your carbon footprint. In turn, you’ll be more self-reliant and less dependent on outside sources. Here’s a beginner’s guide to homestead gardens.