Congratulations Clean Water Portland!

224785_411306975599082_1146576897_aPortland Oregon has voted against fluoridating their water. I didn’t use to think the small amount of fluoride in water mattered until I read information on the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) site, and heard expert testimony by leading scientists and medical professionals. I don’t consider myself a social activist, as the only picket I’ve held is a spot of fence. But what I read on the FAN website concerned me enough to contact my elected representatives here in Minnesota. For example, I didn’t know that a Center for Disease Control study showed that 41% of kids in the US have fluorosis, up from 10% in the 1950s.

I encourage everyone to watch FAN’s “10 Facts” video. I won’t expound on them here, but it does apply to our food supply. I was very surprised to learn that Americans are likely taking in harmful levels of fluoride through diet and medicines. This includes public water, products made with public water, and products made with pesticides that are made with fluoride, not to mention many medicines such as Cipro listed by the Fluoride Toxicity Research Collaborative.

The public water issue made me see my garden differently. In addition to saving the good bugs in my compost from the chloramines, I should be concerned with fluoride from public water accumulating in our garden soil and then potentially being taken up in our edibles. Some plants apparently take up more fluoride than others as noted from a federal source here and the Fluoridealert list here. But, I wonder if the federal list used an average of levels taken up by plants in different types of soil? We know organic vegetables can take up more natural minerals if the soil they are grown in is rich in those minerals, so perhaps it’s the same with fluoride. And, if I am using amendments to the soil, such as bone meal, it could contribute high levels of fluoride if the animal source had digested fluoride through diet and water.

So, just when this started to feel a little overwhelming, I started thinking through solutions for our garden. These are some ideas to curb fluoride in our home-grown produce:

1. Rain barrels. I refuse to use roof water on edibles given a research study I’d seen on contaminants from shingles and animal waste. But avoiding fluoridated water in the garden motivated me to get some barrels -and devices to help funnel water into them.

2. Mulch. I’m determined to mulch a lot more. Less weeds, less water used. Win win.

3. Melting snow for seedlings. Last year I started seeds earlier, and we used tap water all the way until transplanting. This year I collected snow in food grade buckets and melted it for use on transplants indoors. The extra melted snow will go in the barrels or be used for houseplants. And yes, we do still have a little melted snow in pails left!

4. Look for fluoride free soil amendments. If a bone meal product worries me, I’ll dip into the crushed eggshell stash. Also, beware of compost with unknown toxins such as was uncovered here by Fluoride Free Austin:

5. Read labels of organic pesticides to make sure they do not have fluoride based ingredients, as some have been listed as acceptable meeting federal standards for organic produce:

6. Celebrate our grapevine that gets attacked by Japanese Beetles every year, and consider Neem.

This was a late start to blogging- nearly a month late for me. However, because spring started about a month late I didn’t feel I needed to rush. Thank you for visiting.

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2012 in review prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog, so I thought I’d share it with readers. I know I am often amazed to see the number of people from different countries that stop by – 88 countries this year! Read on if you’re curious. But if not, I hope you have a very Happy New Year!

Click here to see the complete report.

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900 lbs and a New Solar Oven!

We reached 900 lbs the first week of November. That’s 100 lbs shy of half a ton! It’s several hundred pounds more than last year, and we’ve still got a few sparse broccoli, carrots, cabbage, onions and beets to pick. There aren’t many of them though, and it’s a good thing as we just got an unexpected overnight snow.

For reaching this milestone, no one showed up on our doorstep awarding us a new car, but we did get a new kitchen appliance, and it’s better than a new dashboard for cooking eggs anyway. It’s a solar oven called “Sport.” Back when I started the blog I had wanted to build my own based on plans I’d received from a guy in Canada that had improved on certain aspects of the ovens currently available. But, after a few years passed, I decided to just get one. This isn’t an advertisement for the Sport oven, as types of solar ovens have different strengths. The Sport doesn’t get quite as hot as the Sun Oven, but it was noted as a “best buy” in a review by America’s Test Kitchen on CBS here. We maybe could have used the extra heat in Minnesota, but I think we’ll be ok. The makers of Sport also send ovens to improve lives of people who currently depend on burning fuel in other countries. So, I feel I’m supporting that effort as a side benefit.

Here is a picture of our new “Sport” oven, busy cooking up some mini omelettes in mid November. We had a bright sunny day to try it out, but there was a light chilly wind. I think if I need to use this in the cooler months I’d rig up an easy wind break. By noon ours was pre-heated to a steady 200 degrees, but opening it up to put the food in made it drop to below 150. It took a little while to build back up to 200, but it did cook the eggs well. For our location they recommend using the reflectors for cooking in cooler months. I’m hoping to try it again in December or January on sunny days, to see how it does. If we need it during a future emergency it would be good to know its limits.

solar cooking eggs in November in Minnesota

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Be Sun Savvy Contest – September 2012

Be Sun Savvy Contest – September 2012.

I just saw information on this tonight and thought I’d share that there is a contest going on this month each week to win a ready made sun oven, or other interesting prizes. I wish I’d known earlier or I’d have entered sooner, but better late than never. As some of you may know I have the intention (and supplies) to put together solar cooker, but winning one of these would be fantastic!  It also reminds me that I wanted to get a wapi and solar cooking recipe book, so regardless of the outcome of this last week of the contest, I’ll plan on getting these items anyway. I’ve never cooked with the sun, but I do have a daily UV forecast link on the blog here at the right in order to better plan for it.

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Reached 700 lbs, and still picking!

Since the last post, we’ve zoomed past the 509 lbs reached last year, by almost 200 lbs. We’re now at 703 lbs and are still picking items from 30 categories on our updated figure on the Suburban Ton page. How high could it go? A lot depends on the weather and the stamina of the plants. We had a frost watch one colder night this past week, and I spent much of the evening clothes-pinning sheets up and around everything I could. I expect I’ll have to do it again this Saturday evening. At this time of year I am kind of happy to see the garden wind down, as I’m also ready for a rest.

At the beginning of the season I said I’d be trying a few new things, and I’ll get back to how those worked in another post soon (e.g., chicken wire stapled to pallet trellis for cukes, potatoes in coffee bean sacks, trying strong-smelling plants to ward off Japanese beetles, etc.) But this weekend it looks like we may be busy canning some more! Here is a picture of canned basil sauce and zesty salsa we’ve processed most recently. The red camel shaker in the picture is not really something I own but I lifted it from a friend’s picture of her weekend canning project on Facebook. She has been fighting a battle with cancer, and Carlisle the canning camel gets into her shots often. She appreciated it turning up in my own posted canning pic, and I post it here partly out of whimsy, because we’ve adopted him as the official mascot of the yet unorganized, but no less visionary, Minnesota Canning Crew. And, it’s here partly to me as a reminder to pray for my friend when I see it. But, back to the camel, it appears that Carlisle may be drooling over a little hot pepper on top of Old Smokey.

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409, 409, Giddy up Garden…

We’re exactly 100 pounds away from the 509 pounds we grew last year (see Suburban Ton page). I hope the garden has a little more oomph to rev us up over that mark. Weight isn’t everything, but after a harder start to the season it would be nice to at least have a tie. Last year we were picking into the early part of November. I don’t think that’s going to happen this time around.

This evening I finally applied the Milky Spore. I wanted to do a full length sci-fi themed post for that culminating with an enlarged spore pictured as a kind of Death Star exploding little Jabba the Grubs under the soil, but the special effects budget just wasn’t there. The timing was really good to do the application this evening though. I came home from work in a light rain, had dinner, suited up to distribute the spore and as I was starting to hose over the teaspoon sized piles it started to drizzle lightly. So, I got to go in early and let nature take its course.

And, in the unharmonious progression of a Beach Boys header reference and my ongoing saga in Grub Wars, I’ll leave you with this from our sandy suburban soil with unparalleled drainage… Episode III, the Revenge of the Spore. See, told you I was low-budget.

The Death Spore

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42 Pounds Picked Today!

Garden produce from August 26, 2012 on the stepIt’s been a very good year for peppers and melons. Below is a picture of the pickings from just today – all 42 pounds worth. After picking over 70 pounds of cantaloupe so far, I can safely say they are winding down now. I thought they did well last year when we had 35 pounds or so for the season. I picked 9 “slide of the vine” ripened ones of various sizes just today that totaled a little over 17 pounds, and I think we’ve finally hit the peak. I will update our goal page soon – but our updated chart as of today is below – at 276 pounds!

On an unrelated note, I plan to do an application of Milky Spore this coming week. I don’t know how much effect it may have for next year, or if it works as well on all types of soil. Our soil drains very well – and so the ground dries out readily even in normal years. I’ve read mixed information on the effectiveness of Milky Spore in the past, but I thought it was worth giving a try. Last year I described our application of beneficial nematodes in the post “Episode II: The Attack of the Nematodes.”  But, I couldn’t really tell if it helped, and so the saga continues…

figure of 276 pounds grown


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