Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Home Remedies

Posted by Bel

When I feel unwell, the last thing I want to do is make my way to a chemist or health food store to find some magical cure for my ills.  I want to eat, drink, take or do something here at home.  And rest!

I love hearing about other people's home remedies.  I had a cough recently and asked around about what to take to ease it.  I didn't go out for ages, so had to make do with what I had here.  My favourite 'cures' were: homegrown honey (by the teaspoonful and in hot water - with or without lemon and/or fresh ginger), essential oils to breathe more easily, keeping very warm - especially my feet, and lots of rest.  I wanted to make some chicken soup, or a spicy stir fry, but I just didn't have the energy to cook much so went with what the family were having...

And this week I had a headache.  Lavender oil and massage are my favourite headache cures.  And using accupressure on my hands and head always gives relief too!

Accupressure also relieves nausea for me, as does consuming anything containing ginger, and perppermint tea.

These remedies are as easy to have around as a box of pain killers or bottle of cough syrup from the pharmacy, but they are natural, inexpensive and generally without side effects.

When the winter ills and minor ailments strike - what do you reach for, to ease the symptoms?

Thursday, 7 June 2012

In praise of feet

Transport is a source of green guilt for me. My other half is a petrolhead and has loved cars and engines and horsepower and other dark arts that I don't fully care to understand since he first uttered the word 'car'. I do not drive as of yet and I am no fan of being a passenger. Still, I find myself being chauffeured about quite a lot. I also don't cycle. Cycling in cities is stressful; cycling in this city is also dangerous judging from some of the many bike/car mash-ups I have witnessed and I am not particularly confident on two wheels. Buses and trains are my preferred choice for longer journeys and the journey to work, until this week - I have started to walk to and from work.

I leave the house at 5.45am, it is light and cool at this time of year. The birds are awake and actually noticeable without the torrent of cars that will fill the roads just a few hours later. I walk hard for an hour until I reach the bridge that takes me off island; and then take a slow mosey up the hill that leads to my workplace. By 7am I have completed the 4.5 mile journey, with half an hour to spare before my shift begins. The journey to work is more pleasant than the journey back home. The afternoons are becoming hot and sticky, the roads are busy and I am tired. But the journey is still invigorating after a day of constantly reacting to telephones and emails.The journey is a time to slow my brain down and be mindful of my surroundings.

I admit to having every advantage. Firstly, my workplace has showering and changing facilities for its several thousand employees. There are bicycle lock ups and onsite security if cycling is your thing. You can buy a hot cooked breakfast should you need a reward for your strenuous journey. Everything is geared up to be cyclist and walker friendly, which cannot be said for the majority of workplaces. I can afford to take the journey slowly, I live in a fairly safe city and I am healthy, if not physically fit.

Feet should be our primary mode of transport, as the transport of the masses for thousands of years. If you wanted to go somewhere, you walked, however far and however inclement the weather. There are ancient footpaths crisscrossing the whole of Britain, some remain as leisure routes, some are now sadly obscured by dual carriageways or housing estates. Feet are now something to be encased in ridiculously impractical shoes as you pay for them to be carried with the rest of you to you destination. I have been looked at with bemusement by colleagues who pay to drive to work and then pay for gym memberships that they resent using. The cyclists don't understand why I would want to take my time getting to work when I can get there in half an hour on two wheels.

Being a whole 5'10" from my brain, where I seem to do most of my living, I have ignored my feet for the most part. I appreciate them once again and have begun to take better care of them. They are frugal (I save almost an hours wages each day by not paying for public transport) and they are a means to better physical and mental health. They are now itching to go other places, different routes, longer distances; to wear comfy boots and to be soaked and rubbed at the end of the day, and treated with the care they deserve - and to be lived in a little more.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

With Thanks

Saying thank you is more than good manners.  It is good spirituality. 

~Alfred Painter~

Posted by Bel

I hope I can tackle this topic without seeming all Pollyanna-ish...  I was explaining to someone the other day that my main tool for dealing with any challenging situation is gratitude.  The concept of conscious gratitude was first revealed to me in the Simple Abundance books by Sarah Ban Breathnach in the ‘90s.  If I can find at least one positive to every negative, then life’s on even keel.  And it is all about balance, after all!  If I can find lots of positives in my life, then life’s good!

Sometimes I almost believe my family and friends when they tell me I’m just too busy, overworked, or just plain crazy.  Juggling kids, homeschooling, relationship and friendships, a business, the farm and animals and volunteering in the community as well...  Yes, life is full.  But it’s really just a season.  Already I have one adult child, and within a decade all six will be grown up!  I am currently selling my business, after an enjoyable few years of nurturing it from a hobby to a real source of income.  Sometimes farm life is very demanding with lots of baby animals to nurture, gardens needing overhauling, the cow to milk once or twice a day (which leads to lots of time in the kitchen processing and preserving the abundance).  And sometimes it’s a lot quieter – waiting for babies, no milking, fallow gardens or just enough rain and sunshine to ignore the lot and let it grow!  So many 'seasons'.

image from HP

Remembering the quiet times, and appreciating them for what they are, fuel me through the inevitable hectic times of my life.  Sometimes I am so rushed that, for example, sitting and waiting for the cow troughs to fill with water could easily irritate me.  But instead of feeling frustrated about what else I could be doing, I feel gratitude for the chance to sit (even in the drizzling rain) and look around me - to Be.  I glance at the nut trees, feeling blessed at their maturity and abundant crops; the bee hives full of busy workers who not only create delicious honey for us, but also pollinate our gardens and orchard; the kilometres of fences my darling husband built and repaired so that we could keep large animals like by beloved cows and that crazy horse;  the water flowing from the hose – gravity-fed, clean, fresh spring water which keeps on coming all the year round; my cows and their offspring - the companionship, mowing, milk and even meat our herd provide us with.  I am surrounded by such abundance!  To everyone else it looks like hard work - muddy, smelly, physically challenging, expensive, responsibility-laden hobby farming!  But I know I am blessed and I am grateful for the chance  to live this dream I’ve held for so many years.

To read more about gratitude on the co-op, see:
Gratitude by Aurora
Being Grateful by Eilleen
Bloom When you are Planted –  a Note from the Frugal Trenches
Enough by Bel

Tell me, do you use conscious gratitude as a tool to cope with the pressures of your life?  Perhaps you keep a gratitude journal or have some other ritual?  Please leave a Comment with your experiences, or share something you are grateful for...

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Naturally caring for kids teeth

by Amanda of Amanda Brooke

In recent months our youngest son has had his wee baby teeth cleaned with a clean damp cloth. Last week he took the next step up to a junior size toothbrush and toothpaste. It is an exciting time as he explores the new sensation of flavoured paste and a brush being stuck in his mouth with bristles on it!

You can start cleaning your children's teeth from the time that the first teeth start arriving. You might like to start by using a clean, damp (I dampen with cooled boiled water) cloth and then try a small age appropriate toothbrush or a silicone finger brush.

We are using toothbrushes that have a biodegradable handle. You simply break off the head and throw that in the rubbish and the handle can be thrown in the compost.

I am keeping Ben's toothbrush and pastes separate from the older kids brushes. I air dry the brush and then store it in an airtight container. I wrapped the top of a jar in kitchen string to 'spruce' it up a little and everything is together and neat when we finish brushing.

Our toothpaste is one I grew up with - 'Jack n Jill' - which still comes in the great flavours it used to. It is made from organic ingredients and is safe to use from 6 months of age.

Whilst some may view these items as expensive compared to some of the readily bought supermarket brands I feel good about choosing to buy these organic and recyclable items as they are both good for my children's health and the environment! I am not sure about using homemade oral care products on children....this is something I'd like to look more into!

Starting good oral care habits early is important for your child's health. What products do you use for your family? Have you thought about using organic toothpaste, making your own or using compostable brushes?

Amanda x

Friday, 20 January 2012

Making New Habits Stick

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
Ah - a new year, accompanied by those ubiquitous resolutions. Now, myself, I'm at the age where strength and flexibility are at the use-it-or-lose-it stage. And since there are still a lot of items on my bucket list that require just those qualities, plus endurance, I certainly don't want to "lose it."

I already try for at least 30 minutes cardio workout, five times a week, usually by simply walking around my hilly neighborhood. I've found the best workout aid to be an eager and insistent dog, with an Ipod full of music a close second. Luckily, I live in an area that, while it can get cold in the winter has mostly clear skies, any snow on the streets is removed in a timely fashion, and any remaining ice melts off the dark pavement quickly. Then again, I lived above 10,000 feet for 10 years. I do believe there is no inclement weather, only inappropriate clothing.

That said, I do have a backup indoor cardio plan, with a few dance exercise CD's for when the wind is really ripping or those infrequent but totally impossible storms blow in for more than a day. And my living room decor now includes a cross-country ski machine, picked up cheap, secondhand, facing the tv.

But life gets in the way too sometimes - more often than not, it seems. Besides time devoted to family and friends, home and garden projects, I also have multiple volunteer commitments plus a part-time job. I can't just say I'll walk every day at this time, make it every week to this exercise class. My schedule is too erratic to plan so absolutely. As with any life-changing resolution, you have to make it a habit. It just gets a bit more difficult when you can't link the new action to a particular circumstance.

So I use my big decorative calendar, hanging there to disguise the ugly well tank, in my kitchen pantry. And stickers, just like back in kindergarten. I've used shiny star stickers for the cardio workouts for years now. It's such a simple little reward, but it works for me. When my life gets a bit too hectic, taking care of myself seems to be the easiest thing to discard. But too many empty days on that calendar nags me that I need to get things back on track. Use it or lose it!

As I said at the beginning, this year I want to add strength and flexibility workouts too. I picked up a little booklet of stickers at the grocery store. There are little smiley face stickers, that I'm using for a flexibility session. I found a $3 yoga class, that meets a few different times a week, or I also count a half-hour of stretches on my living room floor - and am aiming for two times a week. The little round star stickers are my reward for strength workouts - arm exercises with five-pound weights, squats and lunges, you know the drill - also aiming for two times a week. Now I just need to find some little musical stickers. I've picked up my childhood accordion again. I want to start practicing regularly - gotta have some stickers. There's still room on those calendar days. The stickers just remind me to make room in my life.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A Stock Pot in Every Kitchen

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

I've blogged about making bone broth and stock before but it bears repeating. If you're not making stock already with bones from the meat you're cooking, Thanksgiving is just around the corner and lots of turkey carcasses will be gracing our tables and can be put to good use instead of being tossed.

I make stock every week because:

1) Of the health benefits.

2) It makes food taste better.

3) I don't like to waste anything.

This is what's left of one of our home raised chickens by the time I get done with it.

That handful of bone pieces is about the size of the chick when it arrives at the farmstead.

Rather than thinking of just filling the freezer for our needs, we concentrate on intensively pasturing our poultry after the brooding stage. By doing this, we are fertilizing our pasture at the same time we are growing our meat chickens.

Providing fresh pasture daily helps grow a healthy bird, and ensures a healthy nutrition profile for the meat and broth.

To make sure I use the broth in my cooking, I like to have it on hand, either in the refrigerator or in the stockpot that seems to be always simmering on the back of the stove. We consume roughly one chicken per week. We raise them ourselves, but they are still an expensive item for the pantry. To stretch those dollars, I squeeze the most out of each bird.

One chicken per week feeds our family of three plus two dogs in the following ways:

1) One breast butterflied and sauteed for my husbands lunches.

2) One breast cubed for fajitas.

3) Breastless carcass wet roasted in 3 - 4 quarts of water to yield 3 - 4 quarts of semi-gelatinous broth, and cooked chicken. (I roast my chicken in a covered roaster at about 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 4 hours.)

4) Remaining cooked meat makes at least 2 more meals of chicken salad, enchiladas or whatever you wish to use cooked chicken for.

5) After all that I take the carcass and make at least two more quarts of stock, since the bird has been roasted already, this stock needs no skimming and stays clear. I cook this for 12 - 24 hours with a glug of vinegar to help release the minerals and gelatin in the bones and gristle. Note: since the dogs will be getting the spoils I do not add onions to the stock. If you're not feeding dogs, onions are a good addition, as well as any other vegetable odds and ends in your kitchen. Carrot ends, celery trimmings etc.

6) Strain the stock for the kitchen and break down the skins and bones for the pups. Most bones will be soft enough for dogs, except the weight bearing bones of the bird. On these I squeeze the bone and marrow until I get to the hard part of the bone. Feeding cooked bones to dogs is not a good idea unless the bones are soft. They are very sharp (unlike uncooked bones) and may potentially puncture your dogs digestive tract. I personally inspect each bone and piece of chicken before my dogs get any of it. This go round yields about two quarts of chicken skin, leftover bits of meat and soft bones for the dogs. They love it!

What hasn't softened in the cooking process goes into our woodstove and is cooked into ash that goes to the garden. I suppose if you were so inclined you could pressure cook the hard bones and make them entirely soft, however for me, it's just one more step that isn't needed. My garden can always use some ash, and it is an amendment that I don't need to buy if I can make my own.

For more reading on the health benefits of bone broths and stock check out the Weston Price organization here:

The interconnectedness of farm and kitchen is an amazing and satisfying feeling. Stock warms your belly and your heart.

Friday, 21 October 2011

some thoughts on the value of food

by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo

Thank you for your comments and thoughts the other week on the cost and wastage of food (here).  I was going to focus on ways to limit the waste of food in our households this time around, but I'd like to share a few thoughts that stem from your comments.

thoughts on food

We all seem to agree that when we pay and/or labor more for our food, we're far less likely to waste it.  I, for one, am guilty of occasionally wasting store-bought bread that's gone stale. It doesn't happen very often, as I normally bake our bread, and only rarely need to buy it.  And I don't actually throw it away, it goes to my neighbors' chickens.  But it does happen: we occasionally waste store-bought bread gone stale.

However, I would never, ever waste the bread I bake, which costs far more than the store-bought kind both in terms of money - as it's made with a variety of organic flours and seeds, and baking increases my electricity bill, and in terms of time - to mix, knead, wait for the dough to rise, and bake.  The money, effort and time I spend baking the bread my family eats is not something I'm willing to compromise on, as I believe they're all an investment in our health, and the health of our planet.  Plus, the result is fragrant and precious bread that is eaten to the very last crumb - fresh or stale (we'll talk about how to use stale bread in a different post).  But the stale store-bought bread?  That I toss.  I toss it because I didn't pay much for it, because it's not very healthy, and because it doesn't taste very good.  I toss it, in other words, because that cheap bread wrapped in plastic that I picked from the shelf in a consumeristic logic is not worth trying to save and make something out of.

I think this is the root of the problem: since when has food been (culturally) devalued so much as to become expendable?   What happened to the concept of food as something precious that nourishes our body and souls?  I say "souls" because food is not just about a bunch of nutrients that we gulp down, it is also a matter of taste, and consuming food is a daily ritual that connects us with the land and the people who produce our subsistance, and the loved ones with whom we share it around the table.  I suspect that the fact that food has become cheap stuff that we pick from the shelf, often unaware of where it comes from, has something to do with the fact that from precious, food has become expendable, and liable to be wasted in colossal amounts.  What do you think?

Friday, 14 October 2011

Let's Be Careful Out There

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
Our first hard freeze was looming last week, so it was time to bring in all the tender crops. Two days prior, I'd cut all the squash and cucumbers; the day before all the chiles, peppers, and eggplants. As I snipped apart tomato plants and hauled tubful after tubful of green tomatoes up to the house, Aries was busy clear-cutting the stripped-clean plants and hauling loads up to the chipper/shredder.

After a break for lunch, he started processing everything for the compost pile. I was down by the garden shed - organizing the cages and trellises for storage, coiling up soaker hoses. Faintly, I heard Aries calling me from up near the house. I poked my head around the shed to see what he wanted. "Get up here! You have to drive me to the emergency room," he yelled down.

I thought he was kidding, and replied, "Yeah, right."

"No!" he said, "I really mean it! I caught my hand in the shredder! Get up here!!"

I ran. He was holding the fingers of his left hand with his right. At least, there was no spurting blood. I grabbed a clean washcloth for his hand, closed up the house (it was threatening rain), and grabbed my purse and keys. The hospital is about five miles away, on the other edge of town. It took me maybe 10 minutes to drive, and they got him into an emergency room right away. I settled in and waited, for hours, as they x-rayed and stitched him up, updated his tetanus immunization plus gave him two massive doses of antibiotics (those two shots, one in each arm, were the only things that brought tears to his eyes) and finally sent us home with prescriptions for pain-killers and more antibiotics.

He's reasonable lucky, albeit in quite a bit of pain. He was sweeping the shredded pile away from beneath the bottom screen, using a piece of board. There's a rounded guard piece there, with nickle-sized holes for the material to fall through. The holes are also just big enough, that when his grip on the board slipped, to let the tip of his middle finger on his left hand slip through. In an instant, it shredded his fingertip, shattering the bone into pieces. Fortunately, it didn't penetrate deep enough to damage the joint. Right now, he has 20 stitches and his hand in a cast, but it looks like the bones will knit back together.

We're ok financially. He has pretty good insurance coverage through work, and we have enough liquid savings to pay the deductibles and emergency room co-pays. His bosses are looking to see if they have any modified light-duty position he could do, but it's not likely. So we're now in the waiting period before his medical leave of absence gets approved. It's looking like he'll be out of work for 6 - 8 weeks.

I have to tie his shoes for him each morning, but since it was his non-dominant hand he's managing ok for the most part. I've had to take over the firewood hauling, and putting the garden to bed. Aries just finished up with the antibiotics, and is cutting back on the pain-killers. He's not the type to just sit around though, so being so restricted in his actions is really getting to him. Plus, I know he's berating himself for getting into such a fix in the first place.

So, could this accident have been prevented? He's always so careful around machinery - wears safety glasses, heavy boots, tucks in his shirt, but hates wearing gloves. In this case, gloves might have been enough to have been stopped by the size of the holes. As I said, it was threatening to rain that afternoon, so he wanted to get everything finished up before it started - maybe he was rushing the job a bit. He'd sprained a couple of fingers on his right hand at work the week before, so he's been using his non-dominant hand more instead. The lack of coordination in his left might have been a factor. We'll make it through this. It's a shock, but not a disaster.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Slow Food: buy less, spend more, don't waste!

by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo

My family and I recently went to an event organized by Slow Food, the Italian non-profit organization well-known internationally for its commitment to local food traditions and communities, and its mission to promote food that's good (fresh and seasonal), clean (safe for our health and the evironment), and fair (fairly priced for both the consumers and the small-scale producers).  (You can read more about Slow Food philosophy here.)  It was a Cheese festival, and I wrote about it on FuoriBorgo here and here.

Carlo Petrini, the charismatic founder of Slow Food, held a press conference, where he discussed many interesting issues about the economics and ethics of food, including:

-    22,000 tons of edible food are thrown away every day in American households, and 4,000 tons in Italy.

-    Consumers spend 20% less on groceries than they did 30 years ago.

-    By buying cheaper food, consumers give their money to industrial food concerns, rather than to small-scale, sustainable producers of quality food.

We live in a time of colossal over-production and waste.  In fact, according to a study prepared by the FAO in 2011 ("Global Food Losses and Waste"), roughly one third of the food produced for human consumption every year - approximately 1.3 billion tonnes - gets lost or wasted.  According to Carlo Petrini, the results of this runaway waste coupled with the widespread industrialization of the food supply, are far-reaching and severe:  the soil is being impoverished and depleted, water is becoming scarce, bio-diversity is being lost, and small farmers are having a harder and harder time making a living.

Petrini calls for a new paradigm.  He says we need to stop wasting food, buy less food overall, and spend proportionately more on the food we do buy - on high-quality food that's safe, healthy and priced to give the farmer a fair income.

This press conference was a real eye-opener for me in many ways, and a call to action.  I found the level of food waste deeply disturbing.  Yet what Carlo Petrini said about spending more, made perfect sense.  We need better, fairer food in our homes, and less of it.  And we need to stop wasting food.  All these steps go together - I'll be writing more about this.

Friday, 19 August 2011

The 2011 Dirty Dozen

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
I garden, first because I love doing it and then second, because it's the most certain and cost-effective way to know there are no chemicals in the food we eat. But my high-desert climate - short hot dry summers, long freezing cold winters, 10 inches average annual precipitation (as snow only) - means growing my own food is an iffy proposition at best.

So I grow when and what I can, preserve or store any extra, and then buy the rest of my produce. Sadly, organic produce here is usually way more expensive - that is, when it's available at all. When grocery money is tight, I'll buy organic for the "Dirty Dozen", and shop for regular produce if it has a thick non-edible skin or peel, or is one of the "Clean 15."

Apples, celery, and strawberries top the list of the most pesticide-laden produce. Earlier this year, I wrote about my trials in growing and preserving cilantro. I now feel my efforts justified. In researching the latest list of contaminated food, I found cilantro has the highest percentage of unapproved pesticides recorded on any item included in the Shopper's Guide since the Environmental Working Group started tracking the data in 1995.

2011 "Dirty Dozen" (buy these organic, or try to grow your own)
1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Strawberries
4. Peaches
5. Spinach
6. Nectarines
7. Grapes
8. Sweet bell peppers
9. Potatoes
10. Blueberries
11. Lettuce
12. Kale/collard greens

Food prices are definitely on the rise. If price is an obstacle, buying these from the regular bins can cut costs without compromising on quality.
2011 "Clean 15" (least contaminated)
1. Onions
2. Sweet corn
3. Pineapples
4. Avocado
5. Asparagus
6. Sweet peas
7. Mangoes
8. Eggplant
9. Cantaloupe
10. Kiwifruit
11. Cabbage
12. Watermelon
13. Sweet potatoes
14. Grapefruit
15. Mushrooms

Still, the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Reduce your exposure as much as possible, but eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all. Download a pdf of the above lists here. Then, do what you can, when you can.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Weekly Rhythms Which Help

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

After a few weeks which left me feeling positively disheveled, I've been taking some time to commit to getting back into a rhythm which helps me lead a simple, green & frugal life even among the chaos of life! And for me, right now, those essential rhythms include...

:: A weekly walk, preferably repeated each day ;)

:: Homemade soup, perfect for a winter's eve - or for tackling summer allergies & sinuses

:: Weekend cooking sessions so meals are healthy & simple during the week - this week roasted trout, brussel sprouts, cooked sweet potato, roasted lemony carrots and broccoli salad

:: A few sessions with the needles - the perfect way to unwind

And when I take the time to incorporate a few little activities which help me lead a simpler life, I find that I'm learning an important lesson. A lesson in understanding no matter how busy, there is always a choice. A choice to rest, a choice to be in that moment, a choice to let go of the distractions and instead take a few minutes to focus, to be, to let go. And in that very moment - even if in the background there is noise and lists of things to do, I see the beautiful! And when I find that beautiful, even just a few minutes each day, it helps me set the tone for a relaxed and simple week.

What activities do you incorporate into your life which help you lead a simple, green or frugal life?

Monday, 24 January 2011

Houseplants for Clean Air

by Chiot's Run

Many of us spend a lot of time indoors, particularly this time of year here in the northern climates. We can't open windows and the air inside can get a little stale. You've probably hear that the air in our homes can often be more polluted than the air outside, due to cleaning products, chemicals released into the air by furniture and building materials. Formaldehyde is found in just about all indoor areas. It is used in just about everything now, especially pressed wood and particle board but also comes from things like: carpet, clothing, fire retardants, etc. Other sources come from our heating systems and cigarette smoke. This formaldehyde can cause eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, as well as headaches, dermatitis and allergy problems. It is also linked to a rare type of lung cancer. The scary thing is that formaldehyde is only one type of indoor pollution we also have to worry about: benzene, xylene and toluene and I'm sure more we don't know about yet.
My Indoor Garden
Of course you could get a pricey air cleaner that uses electric and that's most likely made out of plastic, which ironically will probably offgas chemicals into your home while it cleans the air. Houseplants do a much better job and do it for free (after purchase of course, but you can get them free often if you know someone that has a few, most are quite easy to propagate). One potted plant will clean roughly a 100 square foot space in the average home or office. I live in a 1000 sq foot home and I have a plant in each room, 15 in the living room, 7 in the kitchen/dining and about 15 in the basement to help clean the air down there.
Houseplants and Clean Air
Certain plants work better than other things at cleaning the air in our homes. Different plants help clean different chemicals out of the air, so it's beneficial to have a variety of plants. You can even have plants that are edible so you get food as they clean the air.
Houseplant and Clean Air
Here's a list of a few plants and the chemicals they each clean out of the air.

Boston fern, golden pothos, philodendron, and spider plants reduce levels of formaldehyde.

Areca palm, moth orchid, and the dwarf date palm can remove xylene and toluene.

Gerbera daisy, chrysanthemum, spider plants and peace lily can remove benzene.

Other beneficial houseplants include: bamboo palm, Chinese evergreen, English ivy, indoor dracaena species and the snake plant (also known as mother-in-law's tongue).
Houseplants and Clean Air
I have always had houseplants (probably because I grew up in a jungle of houseplants). The pothos in the first photo was on the stage at our wedding, and it's been cleaning the air in our various homes for the past 13 years. I also have a dwarf citrus, a few other pothos that I've propagated from this mother plant, baby tears, mother-in-law's tongue, dumb cane, a few ivy plants, aloe, a few succulents, and a collection of herbs including: lemon thyme, seasoning celery, parsley, rosemary, lemongrass, lemon geranium, lemon verbena, and a few more. We have houseplants not just to clean the air, they also provide some much needed green in the our home during the dark snowy winters in Ohio which is good for the soul!

Do you have houseplants? Are they for cleaning the air or for enjoyment?

I can also be found at Chiot's Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Not Dabbling in Normal, and you can follow me on Twitter.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

What Does Your Body Tell You?

By Notes From The Frugal Trenches

I'll be honest, I never used to listen to my body, in fact if you'd of told me my body was trying to tell me something I probably would have looked at you like you had 100 heads, or maybe 101 ;-) Slowly but surely as I started to work less and live more, stop running and instead being I learned that my body has a natural rhythm that I need to, when possible (or perhaps more correctly, as much as possible) respect.

I never really felt, or understood when my body had too much sugar, or needed more water, more rest, or perhaps more correctly a more restful life. As I began to make different, more homemade food choices, I noticed when I reverted to unhealthier food choices, I was thirsty or would get a headache. I found when I went to bed late and woke later, I had less energy than going to bed early and rising earlier. Gradually, I began to see my body as a story teller, of a tale which was beautiful, complicated, intricate and delicate. I began to see the link between how I was feeling with what was happening internally rather than externally. Before it was so easy to blame a busy day or a disgruntled co-worker or even the weather, now I know for the most part it is much more about me.

Health is defined not merely as the absence of disease, but according to the World Health Organization is about a complete physical, mental and social well-being. So what exactly does this wonderful story telling entity tell me now:

- When I need more water
- When I need more rest
- When I need time to myself
- When I need time with friends
- When I need to pull in
- When I need to branch out
- When I need to eat veggies or fruit or have more fiber
- When I need to pray, reflect, meditate
- When I need to exercise
- When I need to make amends
- When I need to be outside
- When I need the sun
- When I need to dance in the rain
- When I need to feed my brain
- When I need to nurture my soul
- When I need to nurture other's souls, give and serve

And last but by no means least, it also tells me when I need to knit. Yes, knitting is most certainly a need! ;-)

What does your body need? Do you listen to it's rhythm? Do you nurture your soul?

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Dirt Therapy

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin.

Over the last few days, due to a major kitchen renovation, I have been unable to get outside into my garden.  For someone who loves to spend time with their hands in the dirt all weekend, the absence of doing so has a strange effect on me.

Call me weird (or not), but because I have not been able to garden, I began to feel a wave of the blues coming on.  Symptoms were irritability, snappy at family members, grumpy and just a feeling of being down.  Some would have been the so called 'seasonal depression' due to our winter here in the Southern Hemisphere, or the stress of the kitchen renovation, but I certainly was not myself until today and now I know why.

Because the builders were jack hammering up all of the old floor tiles, my wife, me, plus our two dogs had the pleasure of spending the entire day in the carport in 10C temps with the occational rain shower.  Some may think that this would be a miserable way to spend their day, with the thumping sound of a jack hammer in the background all day, but not I.  I spent the entire day in the garden, weeding, fertilising and just performing a bit of general maintenance like composting and talking to the chickens.  It was such a good feeling to plunge my hands into the dirt, and with it all my worries and melancholy faded away.  Such relief from such a simple act. 

All I can add is the simple fact that working in my food garden is worth more than all the shrinks in the world.  Free therapy, with the side effect of free food thrown in!  Who could ask for more than that?  I feel calm and looking forward to another day of jack hammering so that I can spend the day in my front garden doing some weeding.

Wacko or not?  What do you think?  Do you feel the need to get out there in your garden after an absence, just to take away the blues?

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Thinking About Winter Already

by: Chiot's Run
The gardens here at Chiot's Run are full of all kinds of herbs for use in cooking. At the moment, I'm really enjoying using fresh chives, lemon balm, mint, bergamot, oregano and other herbs in my food and beverages.

I'm also thinking about this winter when the garden will be sleeping under a blanket of snow and I'm stocking my pantry with dried herbs from the garden for both cooking and tea. Timing is important when you want to dry herbs for your pantry. If you pick herbs at the wrong time they're not as flavorful. You want to harvest herbs before they start blooming for optimum flavor. You also want to harvest them in the morning right after the dew has evaporated. If you want to harvest herb flowers, like chamomile, you want to pick them when they first open, don't wait until they're fading. I usually dry my herbs in our warm attic or I hang them in the kitchen. I find that they dry fairly quickly without having to use a dehydrator. This saves me on my electric bill.

Growing herbs for your kitchen is a great way to add extra nutrition to your food. Herbs often contain more antioxidants than fruits and vegetables. Adding lots of herbs and spices to your foods layers in even more healthfulness. So add some herbs to your gardens and make sure you harvest them to stock you pantry.

Do you grow any herbs in your gardens? Do you dry them for the pantry?

I can also be found at Chiot's Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Not Dabbling in Normal and you can follow me on Twitter.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

By Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Recently I posted about my morning routine, which led me to reflect on the changes in my sleep pattern since I swapped a very busy life for a simpler, greener and more frugal one.

When I had a busy London career, I often left my home by 6am, in hopes I could actually catch a bus and not be left with a two hour commute, for a journey which should take thirty minutes when not in traffic. My line of work was grueling and I was often only leaving the office around 9pm, if not later. When I got home there were chores to do (albeit a lot was pushed aside) and I would simply crash for another 2-3 hours before rolling into bed. Days off were spent either trying to madly do those things which must be done or ignoring it all and vegetating. I "managed" on six hours sleep a night, often not falling asleep until midnight. Needless to say I was constantly exhausted although I didn't really realize how bad it was until I stopped.

When I gave up that busy career, opting for part time work, it was as if years of exhaustion caught up with me. I was tired, constantly, which was not what I expected. Slowly my energy levels returned and I settled into a new norm. Only, I found a few things out about sleep that I didn't know.

- I needed a lot more sleep than I thought. I may have functioned on 6 hours a night, but when I began listening to my body and stopped setting an alarm, I found that my body told me it needed 7.5-8 hours a night.

- My body wanted more sleep before midnight and less after. I began noticing my body showing signs of winding down around 9pm and becoming alert and ready to act around 5:30am. I can't always go to bed by 9:30 or 10, but I notice if I listen to those signs I can usually make sure I'm starting to think about sleep earlier, which inevitably means I stop busying myself and begin feeling and listening to what my body needs.

- My body thanks me for getting enough sleep and following it's sleep cycle. I am less tired, more level headed, less emotional, able to get a lot more done; my skin is better, I choose healthier options for food and exercises. I now have the energy to tackle knitting challenges or try new recipes for freezing in the evening and don't need to rely on media technology to relax; and yes enough sleep even helps me stay on top of that laundry. Listening to my body when it comes to sleep trains me to listen to my body in other ways.

- My body can cope with the exceptional. Last night I couldn't get to bed until well after midnight and my body naturally woke up around 5:30. Yet I feel fine, I will make sure tonight I get an earlier night, but all in all my body can now cope with a short period of less sleep because it is more well rested.

I now honestly feel that sleep is a really important aspect of enjoying a simple life. Enough sleep means my body doesn't need the adrenaline of rushing around, caffeine, TV etc to keep going and it has the energy to rise to the challenge of new green endeavors like my allotment. My body now tells me what it needs and makes me feel able to enjoy my peaceful, simple, frugal and green existence.

How much sleep do you need? How did you determine this? Does it help you lead a simple, green and frugal life?