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Friday, July 11, 2014

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Dandelions: From Domestic Difficulty to Divine Delicacy


dandelion fieldDandelions are the scourge of the modern landscape. In their quest to take over your lush green lawn, those cunning weeds have evolved sunny flowers and delicate puffballs that are irresistible to human children. Before you know it, your landscape is pockmarked with yellow blooms, gangly dandelion clocks and spiky weeds. You’re on your hands and knees in your yard trying to uproot them with dandelion forks, but for each dandelion plant you uproot, three more emerge.

What you may not know about those troublesome dandelions is that their flowers, leaves and roots are great sources of nutrition. For example, both ancient and modern health practitioners have speculated about possible health benefits of dandelion root tea. They’ve used the tea for supporting gastrointestinal health and to eliminate water weight.  In addition to brewing dandelion root tea, people also enjoy dandelion greens and petals in a variety of dishes. Take a look at a few ways to transform this garden pest into a gastronomical delight.

Dandelion Root Tea
dandelion root teaBefore making your own dandelion root tea, consider trying commercially prepared tea from a trusted resource. The tea may have a slight laxative effect, so you should drink it at night to avoid potential problems during the workday. If you like commercially prepared tea and you want to make your own, try this easy method from Laurie Neverman of “Common Sense Homesteading“:

  1. Assemble your ingredients. You’ll need an ounce of fresh dandelion root, or one-half ounce of dried dandelion root, per pint of hot water. Neverman suggests adding an equal part of burdock root to help the body detoxify.
  2. Pour the water into a non-reactive teakettle or saucepan. Avoid aluminum kettles, which may react with the root and affect the flavor.
  3. Add the dandelion root. Make sure not to chop or cut the root until just before you add it to the water. Waiting keeps vital nutrients from being lost before you make your tea.
  4. Bring the water and root to a simmer. Simmer the tea until it’s lost about one-fourth of its original volume.
  5. Strain the tea. Place a mesh strainer or a couple of layers of cheesecloth over the open top of serving teapot. Pour the tea from the kettle into the pot, and discard the spent dandelion roots.
  6. Serve the tea. You can store dandelion root tea for a short time in the refrigerator, but you should discard unused tea after three days.

Delicious Dandelion Eats
dandelion greensDandelion leaves and petals can be transformed into dinnertime delights. For example, Langdon Cook, author of the “Fat of the Land” blog and several books, suggests making dandelion tempura from flower heads:

  1. Heat the oil. Start by heating some vegetable oil until it’s bubbling.
  2. Mix the batter. While the oil heats, mix three-fourths cups of flour and one-fourth cup of corn starch in a small bowl. In a second bowl, combine a lightly beaten egg with one-half cup of ice-cold water. Then, combine the dry and wet ingredients, adding a bit of extra cold water if needed to give the batter a runny texture.
  3. Batter and fry the dandelion flowers. Roll rinsed dandelion flower heads in the runny batter, shake off the excess and drop the flowers into the hot oil. Remove them from the oil when they’re golden brown, and serve them with other lightly battered and fried vegetables such as zucchini and bell pepper.

You can also pick dandelion leaves, rinse them well and wilt them in a sauté pan. Heat the pan and briefly fry some bacon or pancetta until the fat renders out. Scoop out the meat and set it aside. Sauté the greens in the residual fat until they wilt. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper, add the meat back in and serve them in a bowl for a light summertime meal. Alternatively, add the wilted greens to soups or stir-fry dishes.

A Few Tips
Feel free to pick dandelions from your yard or gather them elsewhere, but avoid places where landscapers have sprayed weed killer. For example, never forage for dandelions near train tracks, interstate highways or telephone poles. Also, check the rules before foraging for dandelions in public parks. By following a few simple tips, you can transform dandelions from annoying weeds to fabulous food.

Dandelion field image by Vince Alongi on Flickr.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

living green – 5 summer conservation tips


barefeet in a field

Summer is a time for having fun, puttering around the yard and getting outside, it’s also a great opportunity to save time, money and energy. Here are 5 simple green tips that may help you lead a more cost effective, greener existence this summer.

  • Getting around: Drive less and use your muscles more. Whenever you ponder climbing into your car to run a local errand, consider hopping on your bike or walking to your destination instead. You’ll be saving on gasoline and emissions, while burning calories can benefit your waistline, the atmosphere and your wallet.
  • Staying cool: Control your air conditioning expense by turning up your thermostat during the day or when you’re not around, and lowering it at night, or only when you need additional cooling. A programmable thermostat can make this an even easier task by automating the whole endeavor. They even make thermostats that you can program from your smartphone or the internet. If you live in an older home that has only one thermostat, you should definitely consider switching to a zone heating and cooling system with multiple thermostats so you can set appropriate heating and cooling temps for specific rooms and sections of your home – maximizing your long-term cost and energy savings.
  • Keeping it clean: Clothes tend to get dirty in the summer when mud, mountains and outdoor activities can tend to soil any family’s duds. If you have the outdoor space, you may want to line dry your threads and avoid using your electric clothes dryer and all that costly electricity.
  • Feeding the masses: When you inevitably undertake a summer soiree, cookout or picnic, breakout the reusable tableware, utensils and drink containers. You’d be shocked at how much paper and plastic waste is created in the feeding of 8 or 10 people. Keep all that stuff disposable out of the landfill.
  • Break out your green thumb: Like spring, summer is a great time to get out in the yard and into your garden. If you’re into flower gardens, buy from local growers and feature perennials and drought-resistant native plants. Perennial native plants generally require less maintenance, water and fertilizer. Native perennials will also save you the time and money needed to replant annuals every year – not to mention that many plants marketed by big box stores are sprayed with, or contain harmful pesticides – including neonicotinoids – which may be a primary cause of the decline of honey bee populations. You may also want to invest in a rainwater collection system to water your plants and lawn, conserving precious H2O, while also reducing rainwater runoff .

related: more green tips from The Alternative Consumer

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Have a Happy, Green Fourth of July!


reclaimed wood american flag

Cheers to a nice, long Fourth of July weekend! Here are a few tips for keeping it green:

  • If you’re hosting a cookout, avoid disposable serving items – use those reusable plates and utensils.
  • If you’re contemplating blowing up some fireworks for the kids and framily – remember that dogs, cats and wildlife may not enjoy your propensity to blow up stuff.
  • Heading for the beach? Bring a trash bag and pick up some of the junk you’ll undoubtedly run into.
  • Keep car driving to a minimum. Walk, jog, bike, hike, skate – get some exercise and enjoy the fresh air.
  • Stay safe and party responsibly as you celebrate our Nation’s birth!

photo: reclaimed wooden U.S. flag by Chris Knight Creations

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Gardening Tips for the Environmentally-Conscious


country garden

Gardening is a great way to connect with nature and rejuvenate your senses. Communicating with nature becomes so easy. Now that you have you’ve decided to create a green space of your own in your home or yard, you can rest assured of some peaceful and rewarding moments in your busy life.

Even if you’re too busy to look after it but want to have your very own beautiful garden, you can contact a fake grass company and have them lay it out for you. That should make this convenient for people living a fast-paced life.

While gardening can be a lot of fun, it also demands your time, energy, and resources. Most gardeners feel that having a beautiful garden is well worth the effort.

flower garden

But did you know that certain gardening practices are actually harmful to the environment? And by employing such methods in your garden, you could be doing more harm than good to your environment?

Sure, you water your plants, but what about the water wastage that results from doing so? Did you give a thought to those fuel-powered lawn mowers that you use in your garden? And don’t even get me started on the chemical fertilizers!

The good news is that more and more gardeners have become environmentally conscious and want to use eco-friendly methods in their gardens.

Here are 7 green-gardening tips that you can consider for your garden:

 1. Be Natural
Trust Mother Nature and follow in her footsteps. Bringing artificial fertilizers into your garden immediately defeats the purpose of going green. Be au naturel with compost instead.

I’m sure when you work in your kitchen you end up with a lot of fruit and vegetable waste. Well, now it can find use in your garden. Instead of throwing it in the trash, make all-natural compost.

It can serve as a great fertilizer and boost the quality of your soil by infusing it with some much-needed nutrients. It also promotes healthy root development, and improves soil texture, aeration, and water retention.

Helpful and pocket-friendly, no wonder it is also known as “gardener’s gold!”

plant in top soil

2. Plant It, Eat It
We’ve all seen acclaimed chefs talk about and cook with freshly grown organic produce and rave about its health benefits. It’s time for you to take all that talk seriously and eat fresh fruits and vegetables as well.

Buying organic produce can turn out to be an expensive affair, so the best option you have is to grow it in your garden. And why not? When you’ve got all that green space available, might as well use it to your benefit. Plus, it is also enjoyable to eat your own home-grown fare.

Even if there is a space constraint, you can get imaginative and come up with ingenious ideas for growing your food. Alternatively, you could grow herbs such as basil, mint, celery, and so on.  Not only will they look cute, but will also attract butterflies and bees, thereby multiplying the eco-friendly quotient of your garden.

3. Harvest Rainwater
When nature gives you fresh water, you store it and make good use of it. Simple things like a barrel can prove to be very helpful in harvesting water that is rich in minerals and free of chemicals like chlorine. This water can be collected and used for watering your garden, and even for washing your car.

While harvesting rainwater is a great thing for your garden and the environment, you need to ensure that you store it properly by protecting it from insects, debris, birds, and dirt. Use it frequently to keep it stirred and aerated.

waterdrop on a green leaf

4. Plant Native Flowers
Plant flowers that are native to the region you live in. Reason being that indigenous flowers require less upkeep than others as they are already habituated to the environmental conditions, climate, and soil. This implies minimum maintenance from your end.

Native foliage also has a higher chance of flourishing in your garden, without the use of too many chemical fertilizers and other artificial additives.

5. Bring in the Birdies
Isn’t it mentally soothing to watch butterflies and birds flutter about in your garden? The sound of chirping birds can instantly relax your mind and make you feel that much closer to nature. Did you know inviting birds into your garden is also eco-friendly? They enliven your garden, add to its beauty, as well as act as natural pest control agents by preying on the harmful bugs and insects that you would otherwise spend a great deal of money on to get rid of.

Attracting birds is easy. Simply buy birdhouses, birdbaths, and bird feeders and install them in your garden and watch your feathered friends fly right in.

bird in bird bath

6. Use Eco-friendly Equipment
If you’ve been using one of those petrol-driven land mowers, it’s time to bid adieu to it and use an eco-friendly variant of it. These lawn mowers pollute the atmosphere by releasing harmful fumes into it, which you definitely want to avoid. Reduce your carbon footprint by using an electric mower or a manual push mower instead.

Another way of making your garden pro-environment is by recycling waste matter. You can also start using solar powered garden lights for decoration purpose.

7. Ban Chemicals
It is indeed heartbreaking to see your precious blossoms being ruthlessly eaten up by garden pests. But before you spray them with chemical insecticides and pesticides, stop and think – do you really want to use poisonous chemicals on your flora?

Although they may destroy those pesky bugs, they will also affect helpful fauna like lizards, earthworms, birds, etc. that are good for your garden.

Use natural repellents such as pungent-smelling herbs, garlic, peppermint, basil, and so on to keep pests at bay.  Mulch your garden to keep the weeds out and prevent soil erosion. Mulching also keeps the moisture in the soil intact.

marigold flowers

Conclusion
Being eco-friendly is the way to go by giving our ecology all the TLC it needs in every way possible. Whether it is the way you water your garden, feed it, or generally look after it, being considerate of the environment will only result in further benefits. I hope you will put the above mentioned tips into practice and support eco-friendly gardening.

Author Bio:
Millie Rainer is a content strategist for Forestgrass.com. She wants to keep building her authority as a blogger by exploring and writing on new topics. Follow her on Twitter @MillieRainer.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

honey bees aren’t the only ones stung by neonicotinoids


honey beeIt’s estimated that a full quarter of the food Americans consumes relies on pollination. Honey bees add more than 15 billion dollars in value to US agricultural crops, according to the White House and the EPA. Yet, here in the US, we continue to spray and insert harmful pesticides, primarily neonicotinoids, on and into, many of our crops and plants. Europe – which is usually ahead of the US on most green issues, including: plastic bags, recycling and food protections, has banned the pesticide.

The EU’s ban has drawn the usual scaremongering by the big agricultural establishment, who have taken the position that restrictions on the use of some pesticides and herbicides will make European farmers non-competitive with foreign competitors, just when they need to be increasing production to feed a growing world population. Nice try guys, but the oil industry model – economics always trumps the environment – is not going to work this time. Destroying the honey bee and pollinator population will have a far greater negative impact (we could lose 50% to 75% of our fruit and veggie production) than losses to pests and insect damage.

Additionally, if something has a negative impact on bees and little critters (birds may also be impacted), what is the potential for negative impact on humans, given long term high dosage exposure to chemicals like neonicotinoids? The chemical penetrates the leaves and is taken up by the plant’s vascular system, turning the plant poisonous to insects eating the leaves, pollen and nectar and if the plant’s seeds are soaked, or the soil is treated with the chemical, with the same result. (more…)

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