Green's blog

Unusual Ways to Use Cucumbers

I harvested my first cucumber yesterday and several more are on the way! If you have an overabundance in your garden, be glad. Below are some clever, “green” uses for them.

My cucumber plant

  • Cucumbers are loaded with vitamins and minerals and make a great energy-boosting snack. They contain most of the vitamins you need every day – Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.
  • Rubbing a cucumber slice on a fogged up mirror will eliminate the fog and provide aromatherapy at the same time.
  • Cucumber slices in an aluminum pie tin will repel grubs and slugs from your garden.  The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to give off an undetectable scent to humans but not to garden pests.
  • Cucumber is especially beneficial for the skin.  Rub a slice of cucumber on your cellulite and wrinkles to tighten the skin. Cucumber also reduces eye puffiness.Image by Betsy Wild
  • Eating a few cucumber slices after over imbibing and before going to bed helps to eliminate a hangover.  The sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes in the cucumber replenish essential nutrients.
  • Shine your shoes with cucumber – the chemicals provide a quick shine that also repels water.
  • A cucumber slice pressed on the roof of your mouth for 30 seconds kills bad breath germs. The phytochemicals kill the bacteria.
  • Next time you are out of WD 40, take a cucumber slice and rub it along the problem hinge and the squeak will be gone!
  • No time for a stress-reducing massage or facial?  Cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water.  The chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber with react with the boiling water and be released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma that has been shown to reduce stress.
  • A slice of cucumber is a great, non-toxic way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel. Simply rub it on the surface and it will safely remove tarnish and bring back the shine!

Have fun trying some of these versatile tips with your extra cucumbers.  Email me and let me know which ones you especially like!

Information compiled from: www.cropking.com/cucumberbenefit

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Have You Heard of the Precautionary Principle?

Are you familiar with the Precautionary Principle? Many people aren’t, but it’s an important principle to know. “Be careful”, “Better safe than sorry”, “Look before you leap”, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, “First Do No Harm” are adages that sum up the meaning of the Precautionary Principle.  The official definition is “… the introduction of a new product or process whose ultimate effects are disputed or unknown should be resisted. “ Regarding the Precautionary Principle, Wikipedia states, “When the health of humans and the environment is at stake, it may not be necessary to wait for scientific certainty to take protective action.”

Smoking is a good example of the Precautionary Principle at work. It was strongly suspected that smoking caused lung cancer and emphysema, and as a result many people quit smoking before it was actually proven scientifically.

The Precautionary Principle is widely practiced in the European Union and in fact is a statutory requirement in some areas of law.   The European Union is forming a comprehensive policy, which would require all chemicals to be tested for their effects on health and the environment and puts the burden on chemical manufacturers to demonstrate their products are safe.  There are of course situations where precaution is applied here as well. The Food and Drug Administration requires testing of all drugs before they reach the market for example.   But there are also plenty of situations where precaution is not applied, as with many of the ingredients in personal care products or lawn chemicals.

Naturally there is opposition. Some see the Precautionary Principle as a barrier to technological development and economic growth. But as cancer, obesity, autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, asthma, infertility, diabetes, allergies and other diseases, which might partially be attributed to chemicals in food and in the environment, become so prevalent in our society, we have no choice but to adopt the Precautionary Principle. Perhaps it’s time to follow the European Union’s lead.

For more information, visit the Science and Environmental Health Network.org.

 

Information compiled from: https://www.aei.org/publication/the-problems-with-precaution-a-principle-without-principle/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precautionary_principle, andhttp://www.sehn.org/ppfaqs.html

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com

 

Safe Cosmetics

You might not realize that the make up we put on our faces or the hair and body products, sunscreens, and nail polish we use on a daily basis have a host of dangerous chemicals, endocrine disruptors and allergens like mercury, lead, parabans, pthalates, and others.   According to watchdog organization, Environmental Working Group, “On average, a woman puts 168 chemicals on her body each day.” In addition to the many known hazardous chemicals, there are many other synthetic compounds, like fragrances, without enough information to know whether they are safe or not because federal legislation regarding product safety hasn’t been updated in 75 years. The Environmental Working Group estimates that of the more than 10,000 chemical ingredients in personal care products, 89 percent have not undergone safety testing.

Are these chemicals necessary?

Given the known and unknown dangers of all these chemical additives, I think not! Who needs cherry-scented rubbing alcohol? Some American cosmetic companies sell the same products in Europe without the chemical additives. That’s because the European Union strictly regulates the extremely hazardous chemicals found in everyday products in the United States and has banned about 1,100 chemicals, while the FDA has banned only ten!

Safe Alternatives? Of course!

The average woman “eats” more than 6 pounds of lipstick over a lifetime, just one of many cosmetics used.  Fortunately now there are many lines of organic personal care products. Whole Foods Markets and independent natural food stores carry several, like Dr. Hauschka, Mychelle, Badger, Burt’s Bees.  Local farmer’s markets often sell homemade and all natural insect repellant, body scrubs and soaps.  CVS also carries Burt’s Bees.

Be sure to read the labels however, some products are “cleaner” than others and be wary of names too long to pronounce.  A knowledgeable sales person will be able to help you find the safest products.

Organic cosmetics and personal care products are not only better for your health, but better for the earth too!  When discarding them, fewer chemicals will go down the drain or in the trash, seeping into our valuable water supply and landfills.

For more information or to rate the toxicity of your personal care products, visit www.safecosmetics.org, which does an online safety assessment of 75,223 products.

 

Information from ewg.org and ecosalon.com.  

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Controlling Mosquitos Naturally

Along with the cookouts, volleyball games, hiking, camping and other glories of summer come mosquitoes and ticks.  But pesticides or products containing DEET, are associated with a variety of health problems ranging from dizziness to seizures with children being particularly susceptible. There are several safer and effective alternatives.

Natural Repellents

A garlic spray in your yard provides excellent control.  Garlic has natural sulfur which repels insects, including mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and even black flies, yet does not harm humans, pets, bees, butterflies or plants. Mosquitoes are soft-bodied insects and garlic juice is toxic to them in increased concentrations. Mosquitoes are also extremely odor sensitive and garlic can repel them for up to a month or more, as long as they can still detect an odor. Farmers have been using garlic for generations. Organic based landscaping or pest control companies often offer a garlic spray or you can buy a product called Garlic Barrier and do it yourself.

For small areas like patios or decks, certain aromatic plants keep mosquitoes away.  Marigolds planted with pungent herbs like catnip (nearly 10 times more effective than DEET) and rosemary are effective and attractive in containers.  I planted a “mosquito plant”, really a wild scented geranium, which grows fast and seems to work.  It was specifically grown to keep pests away. Citronella candles can be helpful, as well as all natural insect repellent incense sticks.

Cultural Practices

Two important and effective cultural practices are: 1) Don’t keep standing or stagnate water around where mosquitoes can breed and 2) consider putting up a bat house.  Mosquitoes are the primary food source for bats and some species eat up to 1000 of them an hour!

Personal Repellents

For personal repellents sprayed directly onto your skin, soybean-oil-based products have been shown to provide protection for a period of time similar to a product with a low concentration of DEET (4.75%).  Other ingredients usually include pure plant extracts like citronella, cedarwood, eucalyptus, geranium, lemongrass and peppermint, which are natural, effective and have a nice aroma.  Buzz Away and Bite Blocker are good brands that are potent and long-lasting.  You can find them at Whole Foods. In areas heavily infested with deer tick, a DEET product may be needed.  Just spray directly onto your clothes, not your skin!  For more information on deer ticks,click here.

Ticks and mosquitos don’t have to ruin your summer!

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Appreciate Your Trees!

I love watching the trees take turns blooming this time of year. First the magnolia with its lovely pale pink flowers, followed by the cherries with their brighter pink and fuchsia blooms, then the apples and their tufts of white flowers. Coming along is the golden chain tree with its delicate, dangling yellow flowers. The oaks are also flowering with their tender green leaves slowly emerging. (Did you know that all trees flower, some less conspicuously than others?) The majestic upright horse chestnut flowers are peaking and the fragrant purple lilacs are everywhere. Take a walk in your yard or around your neighborhood and appreciate the gift of trees.

Horse Chestnut Tree

 

Trees Need Care Too

Trees like humans, need preventative care to ward off disease, especially as they suffer from environmental stresses like air pollution, soil contamination and compaction, exotic invasive insect pests, temperature extremes, devastating storms and drought.

There are several organic approaches to prolong the life of a tree and maintain its good health and vigor.

  • Fix the soil with compost and organic supplements. Raking leaves in the fall removes vital organic matter, and toxic chemicals and high nitrogen based fertilizers deplete the soil of important nutrients.  It is imperative to replenish the soil with amendments or compost.  Healthy, nutrient rich soil determines how well your trees grow.
  • Consult a local arborist – a tree needs to be periodically inspected for structural defects, insect pests and disease.
  • Trees should be pruned properly and focus on removing dead, dying, diseased and broken branches.
  • Proper irrigation and mulching, especially in times of drought, are essential to maintain a tree’s good health.

Trees play a critical role in the health of the planet. They are not living statues – they need care and protection just like any other living thing.  Please help preserve these majestic beauties.

Some information compiled from bostontreepreservation.com.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Controlling Weeds in Your Garden Organically

You can live with a few weeds in your lawn, but in a vegetable garden, weeds are a problem. They quickly spread; compete with the plants for moisture and nutrients; and impact productivity.   If you are growing vegetables organically, then obviously your weed control should be non-toxic as well.

Cultural Practices

Try to smother weed seeds in your vegetable garden before they develop using organic mulches such as hardwood mulch or wood chips, newspaper, cardboard, cocoa mats or straw, which degrade in a few months plus add nutrients to the soil. Synthetic mulches like landscaping paper or plastic don’t breakdown and last several seasons, but I prefer not to use them in an organic garden.

When designing your garden, choose large, leafy shade plants that hide the weeds from the sun, which causes them to proliferate. Include plants like squash, pumpkin, melons, tomatoes and potatoes.

Inevitably weeds will sneak in. Even though pulling weeds is like eating peanuts, you can’t stop my mother used to say, you will still need to spot spray them. Listed below are simple recipes using basic kitchen ingredients to help you manage your garden.

Recipes 

VINAIGRETTE “DRESSING” FOR DANDELIONS

A well-placed shot of vinegar right on the plant can thwart dandelions or other broad-leaved weeds.  Be careful not to splash it on the turf or any plants you want to keep, because vinegar will kill grassy plants as well. A section of newspaper or cardboard can act as a shield for desirable plants.

Ingredients

Vinegar (as close to 10% acidity as possible); Dishwashing Liquid (optional); Pump Spray Bottle

Directions

Fill the spray bottle with undiluted vinegar (or mix 3 parts vinegar to 1 part dishwashing liquid).  Spray a narrow stream, dousing the weed’s leaves and crown (the area at the base of the plant).   Rinse the sprayer well with water, especially if it has metal parts because vinegar is corrosive.  This is a spot spray only!

ALCOHOL ATTACK

Rubbing alcohol is a simple way to kill a weed.  Mix it with water and it will dehydrate almost any weed.  This also works against spider mites, aphids, and scale, but may require some experimentation to find the right level of effectiveness.  Test spray on one leaf to check for burning.

Ingredients

1-quart water; 1 (or more) tablespoons rubbing alcohol; Pump spray bottle

Directions

Mix water and alcohol in the spray bottle. (Use 1 tablespoon of alcohol for weed seedlings or thin-leaved weeds and 2 tablespoons or more for tougher weeds.)  Spray weed leaves thoroughly but lightly.  (Avoid surrounding plants.)

SORRY, CHARLIE

Creeping Charlie is a low-growing, yellow-flowered perennial weed that can be a real nuisance in lawns.  If you have noticed it in yours, borax can be a very effective weed-killer, particularly in late spring or early summer when weeds are growing most actively.

Ingredients

5 Teaspoons borax, like 20 mule Team Borax, for every 25 square feet of lawn; 1-quart water; Pump spray bottle

Directions

Mix borax in water.  Measure exactly: Too little and it won’t kill the weeds, too much and you could kill the grass too.  Spray to cover a 25-square foot area.  Water and fertilize your turf after the treatment so that it rapidly fills in the space left by the dead weeds.

DELUXE BAKING SODA SPRAY

For a very effective disease and insect fighter, go no further than your kitchen.  This concoction works best as a preventative, so spray susceptible plants before disease symptoms start and continue at weekly intervals.

Ingredients

1 ½ tablespoons baking soda; 1- tablespoon insecticidal soap; 1-tablespoon canola oil; 1 cup plus 1 gallon water; 1-tablespoon vinegar; Backpack or pump sprayer

Directions

Mix the baking soda, soap and oil with 1 cup of water.  Add the vinegar.  Don’t mix the  vinegar in until last or the mixture may bubble over.  Pour the mixture into the sprayer and  add 1 gallon of water.  Shake or stir to combine the ingredients.  Spray plants, covering the bottoms and tops of the leaves.

PLAIN AND SIMPLE GARLIC JUICE

If you are a garlic lover, you may want to use this simple recipe to fight diseases and insects on your plants.

Ingredients

3 garlic cloves; A blender; Pump Spray Bottle; Molasses (optional)

Directions

Liquefy 3 garlic cloves in a blender that is half-filled with water.  Strain out the garlic, then mix the remaining liquid with enough water to make 1 gallon of spicy concentrate.  Two tablespoons of molasses will help the mixture adhere to the leaves.

CITRUS KILLER FOR APHIDS

Aphids and other leaf-sucking insects can cause considerable damage if you don’t control them.  This mixture neutralizes aphids and can also act as a deterrent to ants!

Ingredients

1-pint water; Rind from 1 lemon, grated  (or orange or grapefruit rind); Cheesecloth; Pump Spray Bottle

Directions

Bring the water to a boil.  Remove from heat and add the grated lemon rind.  Allow the mixture to steep overnight.  Strain the mixture through cheesecloth, and pour into the spray bottle. Apply the mixture to plant leaves that are under attack.  (This mixture must come in contact with the insects’ bodies to be effective.)

WEEDS IN HOT WATER

Use boiling water to eliminate weeds from sidewalk or driveway cracks.  Be careful not to splash it on to neighboring plants or turf.

Ingredients

Teakettle or pan

Directions

Boil a full kettle of water.  Pour slowly and carefully, dousing both the weeds and the soil immediately surrounding them.

For more recipes, email me at greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Don’t forget – weeds are a messenger of problems in your soil and will grow where nothing else will. Try and analyze them and find out what your soil needs. How do you control your weeds?

 

Recipes for organic weed, insect pests and disease controls compiled from Great Garden Formulas, 1998 Rodale Press, Inc.

 

Information compiled from: lawncare.about.com/od/lawncarebasics/a/historyoflawn.htm

http://www.wikihow.com/Prevent-Vegetable-Garden-Weeds

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com. 

Green Your Bedroom!

If you want to seriously reduce chemical exposure in your home, then switching to an organic bedroom is the most effective place to start.  We spend approximately one-third of our life sleeping – that’s 33. 3 years spent sleeping if you live to be 100 (and leading an organic lifestyle you have a better shot at it), so it clearly makes sense to start there.

The Problem?

Conventional mattresses, blankets, sheets and pillowcases contain a lot of chemicals.  Cotton accounts for up to 25% of the insecticides used worldwide and many are classified as possible human carcinogens.  Cotton is also usually bleached and treated with chemical dyes and color fixers.  Synthetic fabrics such as polyurethane foam and polyester are made from petroleum and can cause allergic reactions and even initiate cancer.  Mattresses and pads must be treated with fire retardants, which emit formaldehyde and pose additional health risks.  Less expensive bed frames use plywood and particle board containing formaldehyde that is off gassed into our bedrooms, also contributing to allergies and potentially other illnesses.

The solution?

Buy untreated or natural bedding such as organic cotton, linen, hemp or bamboo.   Often more expensive, but definitely healthier, you can transition slowly.  First buy a chemical free pillow, ideal for allergy sufferers.  Next try organic cotton sheets and mattress pads.  Finally make the switch to an organic mattress made from natural rubber and covered in organic cotton and wool. Wool has superior insulating qualities and believe it or not is comfortable all year-long.  It is also naturally dust mite and fire resistant. Latex mattresses are:

  • resistant to moisture buildup
  • naturally antibacterial and hypoallergenic
  • mold and dust free
  • with little or no toxic substances or ozone-depleting agents used in the manufacture of the mattress

 

You will find many choices in organic mattresses and bedding online, designed for all preferences and all budgets. Retail outlets are also beginning to carry organic bedding.  Target has an attractive line of organic sheets, and with the demand for organic everything increasing, many local mattress stores now carry natural latex mattresses.  Make the switch and have a safe night’s sleep!

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Friday Is Arbor Day!

This Friday is Arbor Day – always the last Friday in April – a tradition that began nationwide in 1872 and continues today with individuals and groups celebrating trees and nature.

 

 

Planting new trees and caring for existing ones is more important than ever as we battle exoticinvasive insect pests, air pollution, soil compaction and contamination, limited water and nutrient availability and the overall effects of extreme weather conditions and climate change.  Trees are much more than just a beautiful big plant; their social, communal, and environmental benefits are numerous.

  • They manufacture oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide.
  • They provide shade in summer and windbreak in winter.
  • The beauty and serenity of trees have been shown to help hospital patients recover more quickly.
  • Trees reduce crime in low-income urban areas and increase home property values.
  • Trees save energy, improve air quality, conserve water and provide homes to wildlife.
  • Trees offset our carbon footprints.
  • Large and majestic trees are a major asset to any community.

 

 

This Arbor Day, plant a tree seedling, learn how to care for the trees in your yard or neighborhood, read a tree identification book, or simply take a walk and appreciate not only their beauty but what they do for our health and for the health of the planet.

For group activity ideas, go to arborday.org.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Preventing Lyme Disease

Mark your calendars for an engaging evening with Captain Richard Phillips presented by Lyme Awareness of Cape Cod on April 18 @ 6:00pm.  He’ll be speaking at the Barnstable High School Performing Arts Center on Cape Cod about his life experiences and the dangers he faced on the high seas with Somali pirates.  Following the talk is a dinner at the Yarmouth House along with a meet and greet and book signing by Capt. Phillips of his book “A Captains Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS,and Dangerous Days at Sea”.  Tickets for talk only are $25.00 and available on-line at www.lymeticks.org or at the Brewster Book Store, $30.00 at the door.  

 

Watch out -deer ticks are here!  My cousins and I were enjoying a beautiful Easter walk in the woods and near the marshes on Cape Cod when we discovered several deer ticks.  Already? Yes!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease is one of the fastest spreading infectious diseases in the United States.

English: National Lyme disease risk map with 4...

English: National Lyme disease risk map with 4 categories of risk. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Deer ticks in the Northeast carry the illness, where 90% of all US cases are reported.  Lyme disease has become more prevalent partly because suburban neighborhoods have expanded into wooded areas where ticks thrive.  Deer, mice and pets carry deer ticks, about the size of a poppy seed. If a tick bites you, remove it right away, identify it and have it tested if you suspect a deer tick. One in four nymphal deer ticks can infect you with some kind of disease if they feed for more than 24 hours.  (Some sources say ticks attached for as little as two hours can transmit the disease.)

Ticks

Ticks (Photo credit: Kriatyrr)

 

I had Lyme disease a few year ago and was the sickest I had ever been with a severe headache, joint pain, high fever and flu-like symptoms.  I was one of the lucky ones however, with a defining bull’s eye rash and was able to get on antibiotics right away, which cured it.  But many people don’t get the rash and it’s easy to confuse body aches and fevers with other diseases. The blood tests are often inaccurate too; you can still have Lyme disease even with a negative blood test.

English: Erythematous rash in the pattern of a...

English: Erythematous rash in the pattern of a “bull’s-eye” from Lyme disease (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

As with anything else, prevention is your best medicine.

What you can do to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease:

  • Avoid being bitten by a tick, which is most plentiful where woodlands transition into fields, meadows or yards.
  • Avoid tall grasses.
  • Avoid deer paths in the woods, which are usually loaded with ticks.
  • Avoid places where mice are abundant like leaf litter, woodpiles, mulch beds, gardens, rock walls.
  • When you are in high tick area, wear light-colored clothing to spot them easier.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants with your pants tucked into your socks when working outside or hiking in tick-infested areas.
  • Use insect repellant; clothes can be sprayed directly.
  • Walk in the center of trails.
  • Always do tick checks after being outside in a high deer tick area.  Magnifying glasses help with spotting deer ticks.
  • Shower after being in a tick-infested area.
  • Putting your clothes in a dryer at high heat for 35 minutes will kill ticks.  Most ticks are very sensitive to heat.
  • Take garlic supplements daily to help repel insects and ticks.
  • Treat pets to minimize risk. Pets can get Lyme disease too and bring ticks into the house.

 

Cultural Practices you can do in your yard to help eliminate ticks:

  • Mow along boundary lines of your yard.
  • Treat your yard with a professional spray or do it yourself.
  • Keep grass mowed regularly.
  • Install a low brick wall where your yard ends and woods begin.
  • In high tick areas, get guinea hens – they eat deer tick.

Visit Lyme Awareness of Cape Cod for more detailed information.  The University of Rhode Island has a comprehensive website as well.   tickencounter.org

Lyme disease is a dreadful disease which left untreated can cause chronic major problems seriously affecting your health.  Early diagnosis and proper treatment can help cure you.

Be vigilant and don’t let ticks ruin your summer!

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Straws and Waste....

One doesn’t think of straws as particularly wasteful. After all, they don’t take up much space in the trash. In fact, they actually are because of the sheer volume used every day. According to ecocycle.org, the average person sips through 38,000 or more straws in their lifetime. We use 500 million straws every day, or enough disposable straws to fill over 46,400 large school buses per year. Rarely do they get recycled or reused, so all these straws, plus their plastic or paper wrap, end up in the landfill.

One also doesn’t think of straws as unhealthy either, but as I always say, food (or drink) and plastic don’t go together, and the majority of straws are plastic.

Some people prefer using a straw in restaurants to insure cleanliness. And some states require restaurants to serve straws with open beverages. But when you don’t want a straw, simply asking a server not to give you one will help reduce waste as well as send a message to the restaurant.

As with most products, there are several eco-friendly alternatives you might not know about. Reusable glass straws that come with a cleaning brush, biodegradeable and compostable ones made from plant-based plastic, and paper straws are much healthier choices for you and the environment.

Simple steps that make a difference……..


Straw manufacturers provided the estimates above. Some environmental groups think these statistics are low since they don’t include straws attached to juice boxes and milk cartons.


For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.


Information compiled from: http://www.ecocycle.org/bestrawfree and http://www.simplystraws.com.

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