Category Archives: Home Ec on Acid

DON’T BUY Gilmour Soaker Hose

TWO UPDATES:

Update 1: THANKS again to Kate R for this recommendation for a soaker hose that is NOT TOXIC! It’s also made right here in the USA. Yes, it’s a bit more expensive but read the description – it’s non toxic: lead- phthalate and bpa-free and is made of FDA grade non-leaching polyurethane.

Update 2: Gilmour manufacturer, Fiskar’s, responded immediately to my email to let me know that, “For the few products of ours that still carry this label, the culprit is lead substrate.  This means there are trace amounts of lead embedded in your product.”

While it’s not BPA or phthalate, lead is still not something I want to stream into my garden.

Original Post: It is with my sincere apologies that I share this information:

Gilmour Soaker hoses contain “…one or more chemicals that are known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects.”

I have had my soaker hoses for years and simply had no idea that the products used to create these soaker hoses contain chemicals that are dangerous like lead, BPA and phthalates.

If you want to know what hoses to buy, which ones are safe and which ones are not, please go to Eartheasy, one of my favorite resources, and read their article on healthy hoses.

THANKS again to Kate R for this recommendation for a soaker hose that is NOT TOXIC! It’s also made right here in the USA. Yes, it’s a bit more expensive but read the description – it’s non toxic: lead- phthalate and bpa-free and is made of FDA grade non-leaching polyurethane.

If you are really concerned about your health and you garden, this is the soaker hose to use. I am replacing my Gilmour hoses now so I can be ready for spring.

Please accept my sincere apologies for endorsing a product that is anything but healthy.

SPECIAL THANKS to Kate R for letting me know about the dangers of Gilmour soaker hoses…and all other hoses.

 

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Filed under Home Ec on Acid, Saving Money

Dieting? Watch What You Eat – It Can Kill You

Odd title but there is truth to it.   What you eat, even if you think it’s healthy, can kill you.

The information I am about to share ranges from upsetting to frightening to life-changing.  I put this together for two friends who want to lose weight and eat healthier diets.  Although some of it appears to be “off tangent,” all of this information affects your ability to lose weight and keep it off; all of it is about what to avoid (like commercially produced milk or corn) if you want to get healthy.

If you want to change your diet quickly and start to see weight loss and better health, here’s the first step.

Processed Foods
Ditch the processed foods.  I confess that this was the hardest for me and my husband but it is necessary.  Get rid of all processed foods.  That means removing foods like these:

  1. Chips of any kind (yes even and especially corn chips as they contain GMO corn and are actually almost pure sugar to the body).
  2. Potatoes in any shape or variety – not baked, not mashed and really, really not fried or escalloped.
  3. Pasta – that’s a lot to ask but almost ALL pasta on the market is made with refined grains and eating it is a bit like injecting a syringe of “bad carbs” and sugar directly into your vein.
  4. Store-bought canned soup unless it’s organic and low sodium.
  5. Candy – it is sugar.
  6. Cookies – they are sugar, flour and fat (butter or margarine and of the two, margarine is a bit riskier).
  7. Cake – ditto what I said about cookies.
  8. ANYTHING fried – french fries, fried fish, fried chicken and yes, even fried pickles.

Artificially Sweetened Anything
This step starts for most people with getting rid of diet soda.  But, wait, you’re thinking, artificial sweeteners let me cut calories and still drink something sweet. Why should I cut out all artifical sweeteners?

Early research indicates that artificial sweeteners may “trick” the body and cause an increase in eating because the body expects sugar and doesn’t get it (my summary and certainly not all that scientific but Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine explains in more detail).

Meat
Protein from meat is not all bad but it can be if you don’t know where your meat has been before it came to your store or your dinner plate.

In this move to change what you eat, you need to be aware and wary of where your meat comes from.  The only meat I buy is organic and locally raised.  Cows get to graze, chickens get to free-range (literally) and pigs enjoy field time until the day they are picked up.  I visit the farm. I interview the farmer and I specifically ask about hormones, antibiotics and steroids — all not so secret ingredients in commercially produced meat.

Meat whose origins you are unsure of can be dangerous to you and your loved ones. How can I say this?

  1. Chickens, raised commercially, have exactly 6 inches of space to live in.  They are de-beaked because they are so over-crowded that they attack each other. They are fed arsenic to make them “healthier.”  Chickens raised commercially are so stressed that the campylobacter which used to reside in their intestinal tract is now showing up in the flesh of the bird making it necessary for us to raise the internal temp of chicken to a minimum of 160 degrees when baking to kill this bacteria. So I don’t eat commercially raised chicken for reasons of health and humanity.
  2. Breeding female pigs “farmed”by companies like Smithfield in CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) are held in severely restrictive gestation crates and are forced to stand, literally, for their entire breeding lives.  They cannot turn or lay down in these crates.  I refuse to support this type of cruelty to any animal let alone a pig, which is smarter than the smartest dog (which was a Border Collie with a documented vocabulary of more than 900 words).
  3. On average, 100,000 head of cattle are held in feedlots and fed….cornflakes….to bulk them up prior to slaughter.  Feedlots sound a whole lot nicer than what they really are.   Over-crowding, thigh high mud, and an unnatural diet for a ruminant cause many of the cattle to get bacterial infections.  Antibiotics are standard operating procedure for “managing” the potential for illness but the downside is that the antibiotics get in the beef, in the water and in our bodies.

Cows and pigs are both raised in CAFOs.  CAFOs are not new.  The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit studying and working for a healthy environment and a safer world. This group published a damning paper in 2008 about CAFOs, which focused not just on the horrendous treatment of the animals held/raised in these operations but in the huge risk due to unsanitary, overcrowded conditions  Also, drone footage of the Smithfield operation , which was recently released, shows just how terrible the conditions are in CAFOs and just how much waste the CAFOs produce.

If that information is not enough to have you looking for a local farmer, you should know that CAFOs have to use significantly larger amounts of antibiotics on their animals to try to overcome the hazardous conditions in which they raise the animals.  Last year, the CDC found a direct link to rising incidents of human infection with so-called super bugs like MRSA but also with the common bacteria like e-coli, salmonella, campylobacter and shigella (which causes shingles)   NOTE:  run off from these CAFOs affect fish, birds, bugs and….our drinking water.

Dairy
Last but not least on the list of foods to eliminate — for both your diet and your health are commercially produced dairy products.

I have been trying to move that way and now, because of a TED talk, I will be trying even harder.  According to the speaker, Robyn O’Brien, in 1994, a hormone was introduced to milk cows to increase milk production.It increased production but also caused mastoiditis and cysts in the cattle which required antibiotics which also ended up in our food.

O’Brien is a former food industry analyst and marketer and now the mother of 4 children. She speaks about what has changed all the foods we still think are healthy for us and why they are not. She’s not advocating an overthrow of the giant food companies; she is advocating that these companies start rethinking their strategies a bit as more people awaken to the fact that their health is on the line.

So, if you want to eat healthy and lose weight you have to put in a bit of work.  Rethink the proposition.  Read labels. Research. Know, for a fact, that many of the grains, milk and meat in our marketplace today are being “manufactured” by industry to get more of the product and more profit while basically sickening the people who use them.

It’s not the foods; it’s what the business has put in them.  But you can stop subsidizing these big comapanies.  And you can fight back by buying organic, buying local and growing some of your own.

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Filed under arm wresting, Cookbooks, Healthcare, Home Ec on Acid, Inspiring People, World Changing Ideas

A Tale of 3 Companies – 2 Understand Customer Service

We are in the midst of renovating our kitchen.

My husband and I are celebrating our 30th anniversary by renovating instead of going to Italy or going on the Power Tour.  So this renovation is a big deal to us.  We are doing a lot of the work but we are also relying on three companies for product and installation.

Two of these companies get customer service, completely.  The 3rd company was and is a huge disappointment to us.  This is the story of these 3 companies.

We shopped around for the granite counter tops and found Troy Granite had the deepest inventory and the best price of any of the 4 companies we considered.  We ordered our granite counter tops from Troy and they threw in a new under mount, double bowl sink, free.

We also found our environmentally friendly floor at Troy Granite which is truly a one-stop shop for renovations of all kinds.  But we picked up the new faucet — VIGO VG02006ST PullDown Kitchen Spray Faucet, Steel  at Amazon.

Countertops and floor taken care of, we moved to the piece de resistance for me (I cook and can and bake, a lot)  — a new Jenn-Air, down draft, stainless steel stove.

We bought our new stove at an appliance store called Hawkins and Sons – the second company of the 3 involved in our kitchen reno saga. Granted our stove wasn’t a Wolf or a Viking but it equaled 25% of the cost of our kitchen renovation — a sizable chunk of our budget and a considerable investment from our perspective.

Hawkins was paid to do the conversion for the stove – gas to propane – then we would pick it up, take it home and put it in place for the third company — Kauffman Gas – to connect the stove to the gas line which was already in place.

Everything was going well until the morning of January 22nd.

The team from Kauffman Gas arrived on time, worked quickly and efficiently and had the propane gas line to the stove hooked up in less than 30 minutes.  So far so good but not for long.

Steve called me to the kitchen.  First, he told me that the appliance company had not completed the conversion that we had paid extra for it to do.  Steve told me he took care of that but…when he fired up the stove, he ran into a huge problem.  One of the gas lines inside the stove was fractured.

Turning on the grill on the left side of the stove, he demonstrated. Flames shot 6 inches out from under the surface and rose a foot above the grill.

Steve, who works with gas-fired appliances all day long, took the knobs off the front of the stove and told his assistant to turn off the gas valve in the basement and the one on the outside tank.

I called my husband; he called Hawkins, immediately.  The reaction he got was less than stellar.

No concern was expressed.  No responsibility was acknowledged.  Not only did they not offer to replace the stove, they weren’t really interested in sending a repair person to the house.  In fact, they made it my husband’s problem by forcing him to meet their schedule — forcing him to take a day off work to let their repair person in to see what was wrong with the new stove they sold us.

Clearly, the words “customer” and “service” are not in the Hawkins lexicon but we had no choice.  We owned a very expensive and unusable stove.

Hawkins’ repair man confirmed what Kauffman’s technician had told us – a factory defect.  Two more weeks without a stove or oven. Still no offer to replace the stove – parts would be ordered and the repair would be done here even though the stainless steel on the top of the stove was warped, even though I had no confidence in the safety of this gas-fueled stove top.

With my confidence in the product gone and no help from the store where we bought it, my husband wrote an email to the CEO of Whirlpool – the third company in this story and the company that came to the rescue quickly, efficiently and effectively.  

Within 4 hours of sending the email, we received a reply.  Whirlpool would be happy to replace the stove.   The new stove would be shipped from the factory in the mid-West.  Whirlpool’s technicians would do the conversion and installation on site and on our schedule.  And they would remove the damaged stove.  No questions, no arguments just a swift and wonderful response to our dilemma.

How sad that Hawkins refused to take responsibility for a problem with an appliance they sold to us.  How wonderful that Kauffman Gas went the extra mile to help us and to ensure we were safe.

And how remarkable that a major corporation – Whirlpool – listened to our problem and resolved it in less time than it took for Hawkins to try to argue its way out or responsibility for its failure.

Thank you Whirlpool. Thank you Kauffman Gas.  Shame on you Hawkins & Sons Appliances.

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Filed under arm wresting, Budgeting, Home Ec on Acid, Saving Money, World Changing Ideas

Our Elected Officials — Still Doing What They Want

I was not surprised when I received responses to my email about labeling  genetically modified foods in grocery stores (see the email below from Senator Bob Casey).  So, per this Senator, they only voted to allow states to decide about labeling GMO foods.  What he forgot to mention was they defeated Bernie Sanders amendment.

As usual, I was disappointed.  

Our Congressmen and Senators have not, to date, represented the voice of the people who are paying their salaries on much of anything so I don’t know why I actually expect our elected officials to represent us and NOT Monsanto, Archer, Daniels, Midland and all of the other megalithic corporations.

I have to confess that our elected representatives did make some progress on a couple of issues related to big business, but they still managed to hurt the very people that most need their representation with votes like the one on nutrition assistance for hungry families.

So Pennsylvania’s elected officials pretty much joined all the other elected representatives to pass a doozie of a Farm Bill.  So what, you ask?  Here’s the down and dirty on the Farm Bill that our elected representatives and Senators did pass – read it and weep.

http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_27654.cfm

As I mentioned, I emailed my elected officials before the vote.  Below are the text of my email and the response from Bob Casey.  I guess he thinks I flunked logic or maybe English is my second language and I will buy the pig in a poke he so aptly puts forward.

Sorry, Bob.  I read you loud and clear.  You should really be ashamed, not just for lying to me, but for lying to yourself.

Bernie Sanders, where are you?

My Email to PA Senators – Bob Casey & Pat Toomey

I am furious to learn that you voted against Sen. Sanders’ Farm Bill amendment to affirm states’ right to label genetically engineered food.

Nine out of ten voters agree that genetically engineered food should be labeled, but you had to side with Monsanto, no doubt because of money the company has contributed to your campaigns and spent lobbying for you.

According to OpenSecrets.org, in 2012 alone, Monsanto doled out $1,034,064 in campaign cash and spent $5,970,000 on lobbying.

If you want my vote, you should consider standing with the people, not the corporations.

From: Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. [mailto:senator@casey.senate.gov] 

Sent: Thursday, August 01, 2013 7:16 PM
To: XXXXXX
Subject: Response from Senator Casey

Dear Ms.XXXX:Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding the Farm Bill. I appreciate hearing
from you about this legislation and the provisions that matter most to you.Roughly every five years, Congress reauthorizes the Farm Bill, which governs federal
farm and food policy. The 2008 Farm Bill expired on September 30, 2012. Although the
Senate had passed the 2012 Farm Bill on June 21, 2012, the House of Representatives
did not pass its version of the 2012 Farm Bill during the 112th Congress. For this reason,
on January 1, 2013, as part of the fiscal cliff package, Congress passed a one-year
extension of federal farm programs based largely on the 2008 Farm Bill.

On June 10, 2013, the Senate passed its version of the 2013 Farm Bill. I voted for the bill,
which passed with a vote of 66-27. On July 11, 2013, the House of Representatives passed
on its version of the 2013 Farm Bill. As the Senate and House confer on these bills in order
to reconcile differences between the two versions, please be assured that I will continue to
keep your views in mind. I will also keep your views in mind should the Senate and House
consider an extension of the current Farm Bill.

I have made it a priority to keep Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry and our rural economies
strong to support Pennsylvanian families. I am working to improve the Farm Bill so that it is
more fair and equitable for Pennsylvanian agriculture. I will continue to represent the interests
of Pennsylvanians and urge the passage of comprehensive, forward-thinking legislation.

A number of Senators introduced amendments to the 2013 Farm Bill related to genetically
engineered ingredients or crops. The Senate voted on only one such amendment. Senator Bernie Sanders
of Vermont introduced an amendment that would have permitted states to require that any food
or beverage offered for sale have a label indicating that the item contains a genetically engineered
ingredient. Proponents of genetically modified crops argue that such advances help, among other
things, to combat disease, increase annual yields, keep food prices in check and improve freshness
and taste. At the same time, the significance of making genetic alterations to our food supply is a
serious matter. Foods produced from this process should undergo rigorous safety inspections and
other relevant scientific testing. I understand that some Pennsylvanians are concerned about
consuming foods which have been genetically altered. It is imperative that consumers have accurate
information about the foods they buy for themselves and their families. However, I voted against
Senator Sanders’ amendment because it would have preempted existing Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
labeling regulations, which I believe is the appropriate authority, and also would have hindered
interstate commerce by creating a patchwork of state labeling requirements. The amendment failed
to receive the votes necessary to pass.

Please be assured that I will continue to keep your views in mind as the Senate continues to consider
the Farm Bill during the
113th Congress. As always, I appreciate your views, thoughts and concerns
as they assist me in understanding what is important to the people of Pennsylvania. Please do not
hesitate to contact me in the future about this or any other matter of importance to you.

Bob Casey

United States Senator

 

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Filed under Healthcare, Home Ec on Acid, Life & Death, Politics

Oprah’s Maui Farm – One Organic Gardener’s Take

As a gardener, an organic gardener at that, I was interested in the news that Oprah was, “…growing her own food.”

It’s the feature article in the latest issue of her magazine.  And it is a true disappointment.

If she’s gardening, I’d like to know how she keeps her manicure perfect, her make up from streaming down her face and her bright yellow (and very expensive) togs clean.

I garden.  When I garden, I get dirty.  My face ends up streaked with dirt.  My fingernails look like I’ve spent the morning digging for coal instead of digging dirt.  And my clothes have to come off before I come into the house.

And unless one has an absolute army of people to help keep the rows and plants weed free, the organic gardeners I know, including me, use lots of organic mulch — grass clippings, straw, chopped leaves — to keep the veggies happy and health.

Is her concept laudable?  Yes.  Hawaiians import far too much food and eat far too many foods that are not good for them.

Could Oprah be an organic gardener and grow her own food?  Sure, but should she  advertise that she is when about all she does is show up and hold a big butt radish now and again?

I love it when celebrities finally jump into a cause — healthy eating, green living, eco-whatever.  But I really wish celebrities would realize that the rest of us — people around the world who are and have been, “…growing their own food” are not going to be fooled by pictures of them mincing along a row with a wheelbarrow of food that someone else planted, tended and quite probably, harvested.

My organic gardening book is about to be released.  My organic gardening blog of the same name – Grow So Easy; Organic Gardening for the Rest of Us – is, literally, all about down and dirty gardening.

The blog and book are funny.  They’re a” how to” with a whole lot of stories tossed in about how I learned about organic gardening — mostly the hard way.  And I go out of my way to demystify organic gardening, making it easy, making it enjoyable and making it something that anyone can do without a lot of money, without a lot of hands on deck.

Grow So Easy author's back yard.

Anyone can grow their own food and have fun doing it.

In other words, you don’t have to be Oprah to grow your own food.  In fact, you’ll probably enjoy organic gardening more if you’re not!  Maybe Oprah should visit my back yard and see what a real organic gardener can do with two hands, seeds and dirt.

Oprah’s Maui Farm – Oprah on Growing Her Own Food – Oprah.com.

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99 Life Hacks to make your life easier! « Pepperbox Couture

I rarely re post anything from any writer as I don’t want to abuse the writer or my readers….but

This is an unbelievable list of tips that really do make life easier, get use and re-use out of what could be considered junk and really, really work!

99 Life Hacks to make your life easier! « Pepperbox Couture.

ps – don’t try to print it.  It’s 73 pages long.  Just pass it along!!

and Happy Holidays to everyone.

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Filed under Budgeting, Education, Home Ec on Acid, Saving Money

My Backyard Chickens & The Last Chicken Standing

I am grateful for many things, as I wrote in this post 6 months ago.  But what I am most thankful for was somewhat of a surprise for some people.  It was a chicken.

My chicken.  Lucia or Lucy  as she is known affectionately.

It’s Lucy of the flashing red feathers and bright golden eyes who brings a smile to my face this holiday season. She has brought great joy to our lives for almost 4 years. She is a New Hampshire Red chicken. And she is or was the last chicken standing.

Lucia died in the wee hours of Sunday morning, July 8th, 2012, age and heat catching up with her.  But she is still here, in my heart.

She and her sisters arrived in May of 2008, just one day old.  The packing box they where shipped in weighed more than the 4 of them, combined.  Tiny, soft, fluffy and so vulnerable, they quickly grew into big, beautiful birds, each with her own personality.

My chickens moved out into the real world at just a week old.

Lucia was the smallest, the quietest and always the last one to get to the food.  Even as a chick, her nature was gentle. Today, she sweeps out of her Eglu Go – Green – Chicken House each morning to feast on a mixture of barley, wild rice and brown rice with a nice topping of shredded cheddar cheese.

Then she patrols her pen, always on the lookout for some wayward bug or hapless spider who entered her house while she was sleeping.

Born with a set number of eggs to lay in her life time, Lucy delivered the last of her 230 or so about 6 months ago.  She is now fully retired.  And she is alone.  Her sisters, Heathcliff, Gertrude and Squeaky Ethel left her behind.

Squeaky Ethel, the most intense of all of them and the one who tried to escape every time the door opened, died first, simply laying down one afternoon and not getting up.  Tall, elegant Heathcliff was the next to go.  She laid the biggest eggs, popped out of the Eglu like she was being shot out of a cannon and generally enjoyed just being a chicken.  She, too, just went to sleep one night.

Gertrude had a stroke.  That’s the only way I can describe it.  I found her lying in front of the Eglu one spring afternoon.  Thinking she was dead, I bent down and picked her up gently and she looked at me.  Her body was rigid; she couldn’t move but she was warm and she was alive.

I took her to the patio, sat on the glider and held her in my lap under the afternoon sun, stroking her and telling her how beautiful she was.  An hour later, she died in my arms.

All three lie in small graves in my garden, giving back to my soil and to me.  Lucy will lie there one day but I hope not too soon.

Yes, I know Lucy’s days are numbered.  And I want to make them the best that I can.  So I put fresh straw in the Eglu, feed her blueberries and yogurt for an afternoon snack and give her all the love this small, beautiful red-headed chicken deserves until she draws her last breath.

She will be buried with great dignity in the garden she loved to scratch in and I will know my girls are out there gardening with me.

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Filed under Death & Dying, Gardening, Home Ec on Acid, Life & Death