Category Archives: Sustainable Resources

Saving Money and the Environment By Washing Dishes

Washing dishes is a chore, sometimes they pile up.  But eventually they get done. As with any modern family, washing the dishes at our house means getting the scraps into the compost bowl and placing them into the dishwasher. Not that hard.  I tell myself that for every load of dishes we wash we’re saving about $20. It’s not a precise calculation, but here’s the rationale:

I typically think in terms of opportunity code.  We spend around $40 every time we go out to eat as a family. I guesstimate that we spend about $10 to $15 on groceries when we cook a meal at home. Add to that another $3 to $5 for water, electricity and dishwasher detergent. If you’re an accountant, you can factor in depreciation of the plates, silverware and dishwasher itself, but I prefer to keep things simple. So basically, we spend $20 for a meal at home instead of $40 at a restaurant. Voila – $20 savings.

Consider how this example can play out over a year’s time. We run the dishwasher four to five times per week.  Extrapolating out, that means we’re saving $80 a week by washing dishes at home. Multiply that by 52 weeks in a year. That’s a savings of $4,160 over the course of year.

Economics of running the dishwasher:

$20 savings per load versus not dining out
$80 saved per week at 4 loads per week
x 52 weeks
$4,160 potential savings per year

The takeaway: If your family hates doing dishes as much as ours, calculate the opportunity cost of the alternative – dining out. Once you have convinced yourself that washing dishes at home more often is better than dining out, it will give you the will to step up and wash dishes a little more frequently. That goes a long way in boosting your credibility when you assign the task to others in the household.

FDA steps up testing for fungicide in orange juice

Things that make you throw up just a bit in your mouth…

FDA officials said they aren’t concerned about the safety of the juice but will increase testing to make sure the contamination isn’t a problem. In a letter to the juice industry Monday, the agency said that an unnamed juice company contacted FDA in late December and said it had detected low levels of the fungicide carbendazim in the company’s own orange juice and also in its competitors’ juice. Fungicides are used to control fungi or fungal spores in agriculture.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45940897/ns/health-food_safety/

 

Many Uses of J-B Weld, But is DevCon is better?

I have used J-B Weld for quite a few years.  It is to super glue what super glue is to Elmers glue.  Just awesome.  There area number of other two-part epoxy products available, but quite frankly I’d never found any to be the equal of J-B Weld.  It is the duct tape of the epoxy world, but then I found DevCon’s line of products.

For comparison, here’s what JB-Weld says about their product:

  • Tensile Strength: 3960
  • Adhesion: 1800
  • Flex Strength: 7320
  • Tensile Lap Shear: 1040
  • Shrinkage: 0.00%
  • Resistant to: 500° F

 

Seriously, just look at some of these ridiculous numbers from DevCon’s products:

 

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I can’t wait for something to break around the house, because I’m dying to put some of this stuff to the test…

Composting and Other Ways to Reducing Food Waste

How much food do you think your family throws away each year?

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans threw away more than 34 million tons of food in 2010. That is absolutely appalling. Food waste is the largest component of municipal solid waste. FOOD! Not paper (that was second) or plastic (disposable water bottles drive me crazy!), but food. You know, the stuff we pay to eat and then complain about how expensive it is.  At the very least we can put it into the compost barrels.

Want to know how you can reduce the amount of food you toss? Here are some helpful suggestions:

  1. Buy less. This is hard for me, especially at the farmer’s market, but I’m getting a lot better. I’ve found that I really didn’t understand how many carrots or tomatoes or heads of lettuce we REALLY needed in a week. Putting our family on a budget along with buying more organic produce makes me very conscious of how much we really eat. Also supporting a local CSA helps because you get a set share every week and it helps introduce you to new and interesting vegetables.  And of course, never
  2. Compost your kitchen scraps. We have two compost systems in our back yard and we probably need another rotating bin. If you have just a bit of space, you can turn your produce scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, corn husks and even some paper into rich garden compost. We have been amazed at how empty our garbage bin is when we take it to the curb each week.
  3. Eat your leftovers. I know, I know. Leftovers can be boring. But, with a little planning what’s made tonight can become tomorrow’s take to work lunch (Which saves more!).  And sometimes the leftovers from one meal can be rolled into the next.  Think spaghetti one night with a little extra pasta and fried spaghetti the next night, or beans one night and bean soup the next.
  4. Freeze extra produce. Did you know you can freeze most produce whole? If you freeze tomatoes and peaches whole, they are easy to peel once they thaw. Beats blanching any day in my book. 
  5. Donate. Have a bunch of extra tomatoes or squash or cucumbers? Share with your neighbors! Not only will you make them extremely happy, but you’ll reduce the amount of food you’re wasting.  When tomato season comes around there’s always bags of the stuff to give away!

Ok, so with this knowledge I am re-committing our family to reduce our food waste. What about you? Do you have suggestions? Share!

Organic Snail and Slug Pest Control

There are many ways of dealing effectively with garden pest snail and slug problems.

Encourage Natural Predators

Natural predators of snails and slugs are rats, frogs, birds, lizards (especially blue tongue lizards) and, perhaps most importantly – centipedes. Centipedes and Leopard Slugs (those enormous spotty ones) are the most important slug predators so don’t kill them!

Encourage them to stay in your garden by providing suitable habitat, such as rock lined ponds, prickly shrubs, logs, and nesting boxes.

Incorporate Farm Predators

Ducks, notably the Khaki Campbell, can clear a badly infested garden in a few months. However, they should be kept away from young plants that could be trampled by their webbed feet.

Capture

As a garden pest, snails are easier to capture than slugs. But timing is crucial. Snails are prolific breeders. So for best success you’ve got to nip snails in the bud before their breeding season gains too much momentum as the weather progresses from dry to moist.

One way is to get the jump on them by sussing out where they are likely to be spending the dry season (e.g. leafy, cool, shaded areas with lots of hiding places such as creeper covered walls and brick stacks) and giving it a massive soaking in late summer – enough to break dormancy by dissolving the seal snail’s form over their shell opening. Then mount an active trapping campaign.

Pop captured snails straight into a bucket of fresh slaked lime (hydralime).

Hand Picking

Any garden pest snail or slug (except for the big spotted Leopard Slugs which actually hunt down other slugs!) that I come across is marked for destruction. However, my favorite time for hunting is on wet dewy mornings.

As an early riser, I have noticed that snails come out in droves after a heavy downpour of rain. They are sitting ducks (it’s not hard to be faster than a snail!) and you can literally collect hundreds each time you do it. My chooks got thoroughly sick of them.

Anyone have any good recipes for escargot? This French delicacy is, after all, based on the common garden snail! I believe the snails need to be purged first by feeding on bran for a short time. Any ideas?

Lures

After rain, when conditions are snail friendly, place small mounds of fresh bran sweetened with a little castor sugar around the garden. Venture out a few hours after dark with a flashlight and harvest up the snails. Continue every night for a fortnight.

You could also put a little pile of this lure beside your new seedlings – with a bit of luck the snails will prefer it and leave your poor babies alone!

The little black slugs that are hard to catch by other methods, will find hollowed out grapefruit shells an irresistible lure. You could also give cabbage leaves and carrot skins a go to lure out both slugs and snails.

Barriers

For easy movement, snails and slugs need a firm stable surface to glide over. Unstable surfaces such as fresh ash, soot, bark chips, gritty sand, fine sawdust, or dry crumbled egg shells tend to stick to their underside and hamper their progress considerably. garden pest snail

Sprinkle a band of fresh ash around your plot of young plants… Though you can’t keep snails and slugs away with these barriers, you can at least slow them down!

A mulch of oak leaves is also reported to be a good deterrent.

If the situation is desperate (and you have an acid soil anyway), you could also try fresh slaked lime. It is caustic and keeps them at bay for several days.

In some areas garden pest snail attacks are so bad that it’s hard to get young fruit trees established. In these cases placing a tire that has been painted inside with a strong copper sulfate solution around the tree is a long lasting deterrent.

Protect Vulnerable Plants

You can also protect vulnerable plants by covering them with clear plastic bottle halves.

Snail and Slug Traps

There are a variety of clever strategies you can use to trap pesky snails and slugs:

Habitat Traps

Snails like small hollows in cool places to hide in when the sun comes out. You can make habitats that attract snails, making it easier to hunt them down. For a short-lasting but irresistible snail palace, I have found a handful of cardboard toilet roll cylinders tied together with a rubber band effective. Put it in a shady, moist, cool place that’s easy to reach. You might also like to try a few bricks placed side by side 3 cm apart under an upturned cardboard box, or short lengths of PVC pipe off-cuts.

Beer Traps

Isn’t it annoying when you find a half finished stubby of beer that has long gone flat? Never fear! You can now put it to great use as slugs and snails love beer and they don’t care if it’s flat either. Just sink a wide jam jar into the ground so its rim is level with the soil surface, and fill it up with stale beer. Adding a little sugar (2 tablespoons to a liter of beer) makes the trap even more effective.

To stop it overflowing with water from rain or the sprinkler make a canopy out of the bottom of a plastic bottle (make sure you cut out some doors for the critters to get in). Garden pest snail and slug hordes will dive in and drown – what a way to go! You can use the trap over and over – just scoop out the dead and top it up now and then.garden pest snail

Biological Control

A microscopic nematode worm that preys on slugs is available commercially as sachets from organic gardening suppliers. They are simply watered into the soil and are effective for 6 weeks. garden