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June 20, 2010 — Today’s Way: I’ve talked about lawns and their maintenance demands before in this blog, and that’s because the American Quest For The Perfect Lawn represents a huge chunk of the pollution pie.  Inefficient engines on lawn mowers, leaf blowers and weed whackers, extravagant water usage, heavy chemicals in the form of fertilizer and indiscriminate pesticides are just some of the offenders contributing to greenhouse emissions, air pollution, human health problems from chemical exposure and the killing off of beneficial birds and bugs, not to mention global warming.   Aside from not having a lawn at all, there are many clever and more Earth-responsible lawn-care alternatives that are every bit as effective as conventional methods.

One excellent alternative to the use of pesticides is beneficial nematodes.  Nematodes are microscopic, parasitic worms which live in almost any kind of soil and climate, and feed on grubs and other larvae that live underground for at least part of the life cycle of common insect pests, such as Japanese beetles, gnats, weevils and fleas, yet are completely harmless to humans, animals and plants.  There can be thousands of nematodes of many varieties in just one handful of soil, but you can fortify your yard with specific species of nematodes which are known to effectively control specific species of other insects, as well as some types of fungi.

Beneficial nematodes can be purchased in packets which can be stored in a refrigerator until you’re ready to distribute them.  Then, simply moisten the nematodes with water and spread over your lawn (or garden) with a watering can or sprayer.  You can purchase beneficial nematodes at your local big box home improvement store, or order them online, such as this site.

June 4, 2009–Today’s Way: More than 60% of the foods sold in American grocery stores are Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs.  And not one of them has to be labeled as such. The three biggest GMO crops grown in the United States are Soybeans, Wheat and Corn, and just try to find a processed food that doesn’t contain one, all or the other—they’re in your cereal, your tacos, your tortilla chips, your ice cream, your soda (high fructose corn syrup), your sauces, your mac ‘n cheese, your tofu, your bread, your cookies, your crackers and heck, they’re even in your energy shakes. The reasons that this franken-food has been allowed to infiltrate our food culture without sufficient research, public comment or even labeling laws are many, and far too involved for my little blog, but suffice it to say that the GMO corporate machine is big, it’s powerful, and its political influence is awesome.  Likewise, the arguments against GMOs are plentiful, but beyond the scope of this entry.  And though there are some great consumer watchdog groups fighting for labeling and other restrictions on these foods, as of now, we are bereft of meaningful change.

The one thing consumers can do is to buy organic foods.  Organic crops are grown from seeds which have not been genetically modified; in fact, they’re usually heirloom vegetables which have been adored and handed down from generation to generation, and can be saved from harvest for the next year’s crops—unlike GMOs, which have been genetically programmed to “terminate”, requiring them to be purchased each year by farmers.  Organic crops are also grown with fewer or no pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides.  The single biggest threat to organic crops are GMOs, which have already escaped into the world, mingling with natural crops despite all the claims made by the GMO corporations that they could contain them.  In turn, organics are the single biggest threat to GMOs, because the corporations cannot patent, restrict or otherwise control their growth, sale or consumption, and therefore, they cannot make money off of them.  The only way that we can preserve our right to grow and eat our own foods, and protect the biodiversity of our planet, is to vote with our dollars by buying organic foods, or better yet, growing organic gardens from organic seeds.

To learn a great deal more about GMOs, or to add your voice to the millions who want to see proper labeling and disclosure of GMOs in our foods, visit organicconsumers.org or Seeds of Deception.  Also, there’s a very interesting review on a recent paper on “The Failure of Science” from Ethicurian.

May 20, 2009–Today’s Way: Most people are not aware that the eggs we buy at the supermarket (even organic ones) are already a month old by the time they reach the store.  For the freshest of fresh eggs, it’s hard to top raising your own chickens, plus, they’re just so darned cute.  Yes.  Chickens.  Cute.  Really.

Racquella, Our Barred Plymouth Rock

Racquella, Our Barred Plymouth Rock

Unlike the deplorable conditions on industrial egg farms—noisy, polluting operations which house thousands and thousands of birds in shamefully tight quarters feeding them antibiotics and hormones to keep them producing—small backyard chicken flocks make good sense for the health of the planet. Chickens make excellent, gentle family pets with lots of personality, are surprisingly easy and inexpensive to maintain, and require less space than you think.  They’re also quite quiet (as long as you don’t have a rooster).

Chickens come with other environmental benefits as well.  Aside from the obvious fresh eggs, chicken droppings are a fantastic natural fertilizer for your lawn, gardens and houseplants.  Furthermore, chickens make for great chemical-free bug and weed control because they love to scratch around and eat grubs, insects and seeds.  Happy, healthy, free roaming chickens with access to quality organic food, sunshine and the outdoors produce the healthiest, most nutrient-dense form of protein available in the way of their organic eggs.  By the way: you don’t need a rooster in order to have daily fresh eggs; roosters are only necessary if you want fertilized eggs for hatching.

You’ll need to check your local regulations regarding keeping chickens, but you may be surprised to find out that most suburban and even urban areas do allow them.

To learn more about keeping your own chickens, visit these sites from Back Yard Chickens or My Pet Chicken.

May 8, 2009–Today’s Way: I know I just did a post about purchasing from local farms via produce stands and farmer’s markets, but I felt that a discussion of food co-ops, or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), deserved its own post.

In a time when farms and independent farmers are disappearing in increasing numbers every year, Community Supported Agriculture offers a new approach in saving the family farm.  In essence, CSA is a program where you purchase a year or a season of produce from a local farm in advance.  The farmer then provides weekly pickup or dropoff points of your fresh produce for the duration of your pre-agreed period of time.  Each member or subscriber owns a share of the crops produced, and at the same time, ensures that the farmer is able to stay a farmer.  I love this idea, because it creates a direct connection between families and their food, and decreases the dependence of farms upon government subsidies in order to survive.  Also, most CSA farms focus their growing talents upon diversity among crops, with vegetables as well as fruits and some even provide herbs, honey, eggs and dairy—as opposed to the ubiquitous single-crop fields of corn or grain intended for animal feed which have become the primary focus of industrial farming (and subsidies) in our country.  Increasingly, CSAs are offering certified organic produce to their memberships, which is good for the health of our planet as well as its people.

For more information about where to find a local CSA or co-op near you, visit CSAFarms.org, or one of my favorite sites, LocalHarvest.org.

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