Picture Snob

July 30, 2010

Coolaroo Triangle Shade Sail provides shade where you need it.

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If you have a spot in the garden or on the deck or patio that needs some shade and cooler temperatures, this sun shade will do the job. It comes in both green and sand and has stainless steel hardware fasteners. It has a 10 year warranty against UV degradation. You can create your own uniquely designed outdoor living space using multiple sizes and colors of sail shades.

I have friends who have a south facing house with no trees for shade. They put up about five Coolaroos at different angles and planted hops and grapes in planters. The area looks lovely now and provides shade for the house and a cool place to sit and see the sunset. I'm getting a couple of these to put over my double doors which face west. The sun heats up the house in the afternoon and the Coolaroos will keep that from happening until I can get wisteria or grapes growing over a trellis.

At Coolaroo Triangle Shade Sail 16 Feet 5 Inches with Hardware Kit, Brunswick Green

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July 29, 2010

Shiitake Mushroom Kit

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Long a symbol of longevity in Asia because of their health-promoting properties, shiitake mushrooms have been used medicinally by the Chinese for more than 6,000 years. More recently, their rich, smoky flavor has endeared them to American taste buds and these exotic hearty mushrooms can now be found in supermarket shelves across the U.S. throughout the year.

Like other mushrooms, these specialty mushrooms are as unique as they are delicious. While often thought of as a vegetable and prepared like one, mushrooms are actually a fungus, which has no roots, leaves, flowers or seeds.

L-ergothioneine, a powerful antioxidant, has been discovered in mushrooms. In research presented at the 2005 American Chemical Society meeting in Washington, D.C., an American research team revealed that mushrooms contain higher concentrations L-ergothioneine than either of the two dietary sources previously believed to contain the most: chicken liver and wheat germ. Shiitake, oyster, king oyster and maitake mushrooms contain the highest amounts of ergothioneine. This equals forty times as much as is found in wheat germ.

Of the most commonly consumed mushrooms, portabellas and criminis have the most L-ergothioneine, followed by white buttons. White buttons, the most popular of all mushrooms consumed in the U.S., contain up to 5 mg per three ounce serving-12 times as much as wheat germ and 4 times more than chicken liver. And more good news, L-ergothioneine is not destroyed when mushrooms are cooked.

So if you're interested in growing shitakes for your health or your palate, you can grow them at home from a mushroom kit. They grow well in temperatures of 50 to 80 degrees, so if you're roasting in the sun, you can stay indoors and still watch something grow.

At Shiitake Mushroom Kit

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July 28, 2010

Check out your local nursery for good deals this time of year

Now is a great time to wander through nurseries looking for bargains. I have picked up some great deals. Hanging planters that have gone to seed can often be restored by bringing them home, cutting the spent flowers and seed pods off and giving the plant a shot of high nitrogen fertilizer to start new growth. Keep watering and keep feeding and you soon will have a flowering planter looking bright and luscious.

I was wandering around the nursery and found a cucumber plant that was about four inches high and had one small bud on it. I got it free and took it home to water and feed. I dug a hole, put in compost, and planted the little thing, hoping to have more cucumbers than the two plants that survived the striped beetles could provide.

As always when transplanting, it's a good idea to shade the plant during the hottest part of the day. I also picked off the one little flower in hopes of encouraging growth. You can see that the color of the plant is too yellow. The manure tea I gave should help.

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July 27, 2010

A bee house to help out the pollinators

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I have noticed a lot of honeybees around the yard and garden which makes me very happy since only a few months ago, the word was that they were in trouble and dying out. That still may be true, but these wild bees seem to be doing fine. While the locust trees were in bloom the Mason bees just were crazy for the pollen. They were all over the tree, their buzzing making the whole tree him.

If you want to help the bees who keep your vegetables and flowers pollinated, here is a Mason bee house. There are many different designs, but this one looks like a bird house and is inexpensive. Mason bees are prolific pollinators and this can help attract them to your garden. These bees generally nest in holes created by woodpeckers and beetles so this will keep them out of the outside walls of your house and give them their own dwelling.

At Esschert Design Bee House

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July 26, 2010

What's the fuss about GMO's?

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You may have wondered why the uproar about genetically engineered foods. What follows is a lengthy article explaining why GMO's should belabeled as such and why the consumer's right to know has been compromised by the marriage of agribusiness and the FDA. This article is from the Truth in Labeling Coalition.

1) How then does genetically engineered food "differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way?"

a) First of all, there could be no more dramatic difference than altering the DNA of a plant. Wide spread and unpredictable changes occur when doing DNA manipulation of plant varieties. We know these changes have a different effect on the body as a result of gene altering procedures. We know altered DNA creates new allergic reactions. We know Bt-toxin is more concentrated.....and that genetically engineered crops have much higher residue of toxic herbicide.

b) Second, genetic engineering is radically different from natural breeding. In contrast to the statements of biotech advocates, Food and Drug Administration scientists and others affirm that genetic modification is not just an extension of the conventional breeding techniques that have been used by farmers for millennia. Genetic engineering transfers genes across natural species barriers, using imprecise laboratory techniques that bear no resemblance to natural breeding. Furthermore, the technology is based on outdated concepts of how genes and cells work. Gene insertion is done by shooting genes from a "gene gun" into a plate of cells or by using bacteria to invade the cell with foreign DNA. The altered cell is then cloned into a plant. These processes create massive collateral damage, causing mutations in hundreds or thousand of locations throughout the plant's DNA. Natural genes can be deleted or permanently turned on or off, and hundreds may change their levels of expression. [This information is from the book Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, by Jeffrey Smith, published in 2007 as a result of a two-year collaboration with more than 30 scientists.]

c) Third, Monsanto holds a patent on their genetically engineered corn, soy, cotton, and canola seed. They must "differ' significantly since they have patented those differences!

"DIFFERENT SAFETY CONCERNS"

1) A "different safety concern" is the concern by farmers that their crops may become contaminated by genetically engineered plants and the consumer's food supply may become contaminated.

a) Many public health and consumer groups are concerned that genetically modified crops have already contaminated native and related species, and that transgenic seeds are spreading nationwide, creating an adventitious presence in the food supply. In California, voters in four (4) counties: Mendocino, Marin, Santa Cruz and Trinity; have gone to the ballot box to ban the growing of genetically engineered crops. The "different safety concern" is obvious - people don't trust growing and eating food which is genetically engineered and has not had long term safety testing.

b) A number of court cases - the most recent involving sugar beets - have highlighted the need for an Environmental Impact Statement before growing genetically engineered crops. A 2007 federal court ruled that the USDA broke the law by approving genetically engineered alfalfa without an Environmental Impact Statement. In 2009, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision, ruling that the planting of GE alfalfa can cause potentially irreversible harm to organic and conventional crops.

c) Ecological effects must be considered as well. Since 99% of genetically engineered crops tolerate and/or produce insecticides, bee colony collapse disorder and a large number of butterfly deaths may be related to genetically engineered crops. This could be the gravest danger - eliminating the earth's pollinators.

THE "GREATER SAFETY CONCERNS"

The greatest safety concern of all, the harm and damage to human health and life itself.

a. Deadly epidemic caused by genetically engineered food supplement. One hundred (100) Americans were killed by L-tryptophan, a contaminated food supplement in the 1980's. It caused sickness in another 4,000 to 8,000 American citizens. It took years to detect, even though the symptoms were unique, acute and speedy. The Food and Drug Administration needs an approval process that does long term testing, prior to any use of genetically engineered products.

b. Consumer concern about genetically engineered food in Europe reached its peak in 1999; in less than a week all major food manufacturers removed genetically engineered ingredients from their products. United States manufacturers currently "label" for export to Europe. Most industrialized nations in the world such as the European Union, Australia and Japan regulate genetically engineered foods to protect human health and the environment, and ensure the free movement of safe products. Food safety (or lack of) in the United States has led to an epidemic of unsafe foods. Illnesses such as cancer have the highest incidence of occurrence in the United States.

c. Study proves three Monsanto corn varieties pose health hazard. The International Journal of Biological Sciences has just completed a study which demonstrates the toxicity of three (3) genetically engineered corn varieties (MON810, MON863, and NK603) which are in considerable use in the United States. To cite Gilles-Eric Seralini, a member of the Commission for Biotechnology Reevaluation, and a molecular biologist at the University of Caen: "For the first time in the world, we have proven that genetically engineered foods are neither sufficiently healthy or proper to be commercialized. Each time, for all three genetically modified organisms, the kidneys and liver which are the main organs that react to a chemical food poisoning, had problems." By problems, the study pointed to a build up of abnormal structural changes in various organs, which included the liver, spleen, and pancreas, as well as different levels of damage to heart, adrenal glands, and the haematopoietic system.

CITIZENS' RIGHT TO KNOW

Montana's United States Senator, Jon Tester states..... "Unlabeled GMO's in our food works against what I have learned in my 30 years as a family farmer. Agriculture should be sustainable, food should be healthy and safe, and people deserve to know what they're eating." ....... (From the forward to Genetic Roulette, the Documented Health Risks of Eating Genetically Engineered Foods by Jeffrey M. Smith. There is nothing more important in modern society than "the right to know," for without that information, citizens cannot exercise their "freedom of choice," and isn't that what it is all about: "FREEDOM!" It has been alleged that the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture intentionally withheld "labeling" for fear the public would be "concerned." Labeling will occur, not "if," but when. Already the Department of Agriculture is debating the labeling of "cloned" meat and poultry. Cloning, which simply replicates the DNA, is much less risky than the genetically engineered plant varieties, which transfer genes across natural species barriers, and injects bacteria and virus into the cells. Section 5...Federal Trade Commission...Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices.....By withholding information and not properly labeling genetically engineered foods, the government has practiced "unfair and deceptive acts" against the American people and the Federal Trade Commission should act to correct these practices.

At GMO Labeling

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July 23, 2010

Midsummer Southern Exposure provides a delicious summer dish

The Southern Exposure Newsletter just arrived via email. It has a great idea for a surplus of cucumbers. I had hoped to plant too many but am down to two plants because of the striped cucumber beetle, and the new seedlings are too young to produce. This recipe for white gazpacho sounds wonderful!

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Ingredients:
2 large or 6 small cucumbers, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks (pickling cucumbers work just fine)
1 medium garlic clove
1 cup stock
1 cup sour cream (or substitute plain yogurt or soy yogurt for a vegan dish)
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
cayenne pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
For Garnish
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
1/4 cup minced chives
1. Combine cucumbers and garlic in the food processor and blend until smooth.
2. Add stock, vinegar, sour cream, salt, pepper and cayenne. Pulse briefly to blend. Move the soup to a bowl and cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
3. Pour into individual serving bowls and garnish with tomatoes and chives. Serves 4-6.

Sounds fantastic for a hot summer's day!


At Southern Exposure

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July 22, 2010

Hot, hot, hot, and more mulch, please!

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So now the temperatures are soaring to 106 today and I've got all the drippers and soaker hoses going and some plants are still wilting in the heat. Tonight in the evening, I'll put more mulch on the strawberries and around corn after first feeding them again. All the hot weather vegies are growing fast and keeping them moist is a chore.

The hot weather has made it impossible to plant broccoli out in the garden. I"m getting two flats ready and will keep them indoors until the plants have some roots developed. Then they should transplant into the garden for late fall and winter eating. Broccoli is one of my staple crops. Once the main head is picked, it puts out spouts all winter and again in the spring. This is what is now sold in stores as broccolini ever since the broccoli growers figured out they could market it.

My plan is to do short double rows of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower near the garden gate where I won't have to wade into muck and mud in the winter to harvest a vegie for supper. I have to order seeds and I'm going to try the Fall Broccoli blend.

At Fall Broccoli

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July 21, 2010

Fiskars Softouch Garden Tool Set makes weeding a pleasure

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One of my favorite times in the garden is in the evening. It's so peaceful and relaxing. I wear long sleeves and pants to keep off the mosquitos and sit down by a vegetable row and start pulling the weeds. These tools are a godsend. The are light aluminum and have a soft padded handle that's easy to hold. I work my way down the row, scooting along. Obviously this is not for clean new pants, but some of the old comfort lightweight cotton, frayed and damaged and unruinable.

If I'm very ambitious and the plants need it, I put a trowel full of compost or fertilizer around the root and dig it in. I have to say, it's a great feeling to finish a row. Maybe the Evening Grosbeak is singing and the air is soft and cool. I stand up and look at the row with pleasure. All right, so I know that in a few days, the next cycle of weeds will start and in a couple of weeks I'll have it all to do over--that is, unless I put a heavy mulch around the plants. But it's hard to beat for beauty, a nicely weeded cultivated row of lettuce or beans. Maybe it's all those micro organisms in the soil that are supposed to make you happy. Maybe it's a job that's well done. It makes me feel great!

Everyone knows Fiskars makes great tools and these are no exception and there is a lifetime warranty so how can you go wrong.

At Fiskars 7067 3-Piece Softouch Garden Tool Set

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July 20, 2010

Harvesting Basil multiple times is possible with the right cuttings

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The basil is ready to harvest in my garden! I'm looking forward to some fresh pesto on pasta with vegetables, one of the great summer treats. I used to pull up the plants and pick off the leaves to make pesto. It's easy to freeze and it's wonderful to bring it out on a cold winter day for a taste of summer. And I don't use a recipe. I just add olive oil, parmasan and pine nuts to taste. Too sharp, use more pine nuts; too oily, use more basil and add more parmasan. Very easy. Salt to taste.

But recently someone told me that I can harvest the bottom leaves that grow along the stem before they get too large when they loose their potency. The best time to harvest is when the plant is four or five inches tall and you leave the top small leaves so that the plant continues to grow and more harvesting can be done. You have to take care not to damage the stem when you do this so you don't kill the plant. With this method you can harvest basil for seasonings and salads all summer long. I pick off the flowers when they start blooming and add nitrogen to produce more leafy growth.

There are at least 60 varieties of Basil. The most common are the Sweet basils:


  • Sweet, Genovese, Large-leaf, Mammoth

  • Purple foliage basils: Dark Opal, Purple Ruffles

  • Lemon basils: Lemon-Scented, Lemon, Sweet Dani

  • Others: Cinnamon basil, Spicy Bush, Camphor, Anise, Licorice

They vary in color and have amazing nuances of scent. What you buy in the store can't compare to picking basil fresh. It takes only 60 days to havest so you have time to get a planting in before a September frost or buy some seedlings!

At Sweet Large Leaf Italian Basil - 8 Plants - Herb

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July 19, 2010

Organic produce is proven healthier!

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This article from Prevention Online magazine makes the point that the nutritional value of produce farmed commercially has been declining for years and continues to do so. The reason for this is that commercially farmed produce is not stressed. It is given food and water to encourage fast growth and large fruit. In the process, the nutritional value drops. Organic grown vegetables grow at a more natural rate and because they are stressed, they produce phytochemicals,

Using USDA data, a study found that broccoli, for example, had 130 mg of calcium in 1950. Today, that number is only 48 mg. What's going on? The researcher believes it's due to the farming industry's desire to grow bigger vegetables faster. The very things that speed growth -- selective breeding and synthetic fertilizers -- decrease produce's ability to synthesize nutrients or absorb them from the soil.

"By avoiding synthetic fertilizers, organic farmers put more stress on plants, and when plants experience stress, they protect themselves by producing phytochemicals," explains Alyson Mitchell, PhD, a professor of nutrition science at the University of California, Davis. Her 10-year study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that organic tomatoes can have as much as 30 percent more phytochemicals than conventional ones.

Not only healthier, but organic produce tastes so much better.

So keep up the mulching, composting, and organic fertilizing! And if you can't produce all your vegies, visit the local farmer's market where you can probably get organic produce more cheaply that in the store.

At Prevention Online

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July 16, 2010

Now Cucumbers can solve all our problems!!!

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The Amazing Cucumber

This information was in The New York Times several weeks ago as part of their "Spotlight on the Home" series that highlighted creative and fanciful ways to solve common problems.

1. Cucumbers contain most of the vitamins you need every day, just one cucumber contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.

2. Feeling tired in the afternoon, put down the caffeinated soda and pick up a cucumber. Cucumbers are a good source of B Vitamins and Carbohydrates that can provide that quick pick-me-up that can last for hours.

3. Tired of your bathroom mirror fogging up after a shower? Try rubbing a cucumber slice along the mirror, it will eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance.

4. Are grubs and slugs ruining your planting beds? Place a few slices in a small pie tin and your garden will be free of pests all season long. The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to give off a scent undetectable to humans but drive garden pests crazy and make them flee the area. (WOW)

5. Looking for a fast and easy way to remove cellulite before going out or to the pool? Try rubbing a slice or two of cucumbers along your problem area for a few minutes, the phytochemicals in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility of cellulite. Works great on wrinkles too!!! (DOUBLE WOW)

6. Want to avoid a hangover or terrible headache? Eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed and wake up refreshed and headache free. Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients the body lost, keeping everything in equilibrium, avoiding both a hangover and headache!!

7. Looking to fight off that afternoon or evening snacking binge? Cucumbers have been used for centuries and often used by European trappers, traders and explores for quick meals to thwart off starvation.

8. Have an important meeting or job interview and you realize that you don't have enough time to polish your shoes? Rub a freshly cut cucumber over the shoe, its chemicals will provide a quick and durable shine that not only looks great but also repels water.

9. Out of WD 40 and need to fix a squeaky hinge? Take a cucumber sliced rub it along the problematic hinge, and voila, the squeak is gone!

10. Stressed out and don't have time for massage, facial or visit to the spa? Cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water, the chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber with react with the boiling water and be released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma that has been shown the reduce stress in new mothers and college students during final exams.

11. Just finish a business lunch and realize you don't have gum or mints? Take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds to eliminate bad breath, the phytochemcials will kill the bacteria in your mouth responsible for causing bad breath.

12. Looking for a 'green' way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel? Take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the surface you want to clean, not only will it remove years of tarnish and bring back the shine, but is won't leave streaks and won't harm you fingers or fingernails while you clean.

13. Using a pen and made a mistake? Take the outside of the cucumber and slowly use it to erase the pen writing, also works great on crayons and markers that the kids have used to decorate the walls!!

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July 15, 2010

Shade where you want it and when you need it

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I have a space on the house we are finishing that will get tons of hot sun in the afternoon. The coolaroo triangular shape will fit perfectly in the space and provide the much needed shade. Eventually I will build a trellis there and have some grapes or wisteria for shade, but until I have time to grow and train the plants, this will do a great job.

If you have a spot in the garden or on the deck or patio that needs some shade and cooler temperatures, this sun shade will do the job. It comes in both green and sand and has stainless steel hardware fasteners. It has a 10 year warranty against UV degradation. You can create your own uniquely designed outdoor living space using multiple sizes and colors of sail shades.

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At Coolaroo Triangle Shade Sail 16 Feet 5 Inches with Hardware Kit, Brunswick Green

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July 14, 2010

Midsummer extravagance!

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When I walked around the garden today, I was so happy to see the tomatoes ripening, to pick some lettuce and the last of the peas. The summer squash is pouring out abundance, the beets are big and delicious, the corn knee high and cucumbers flowering inspite of being eaten down a couple of times by the striped beetles. It makes me feel so rich to be in the midst of growing, thriving life.

I tilled the weeds that have cropped up, disturbing a robin nest in the grapevines. Two or more speckled babies flew out and both momma and papa circled me aggressively while a speckled baby sat very still in the oregano, blinking shiny black eyes. It was one of those moments where there is stillness in the midst of life and I just stared lovingly at this tiny feathered bit of life before I finished tilling and left mom and dad to figure out how best to protect their family. Today all is quiet. Babies have been rescued and now I begin to plant the next stage of the garden.

It is easy to forget in the middle of all this abundance, that there are crops that need to be planted. I'm going to put in a second planting of beans and lettuce and fertilize the corn again. Corn is a heavy feeder and I like to see the leaves a deep green instead of lime green. So onward with the work to keep me fed all summer and into the fall.

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July 9, 2010

A great hammock is the perfect summer pleasure

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I bought this hammock four years ago and it has held up very well. It has no tears, no fraying, no problems whatsoever, although I sometimes have the sprinkler going and it gets wet. The colors have stayed bright! I have it up all summer and only take it down when the rains start in the fall.

I've had a lot of hammocks. I used to swear by the Mayan string hammocks, but they did not hold up well with the abuse they get from visiting children. The spreading hammocks are fine for adults. I have a rope one on a stand which is great for me, but kids like a hammock what cradles them. My difficult to put to sleep grandaughter fell asleep easily in the Jobek hammock. Older kids put the strength of this hammock to a real test. They love to swing each other high and fast enough for the adults to occasionally to intervene to calm things down. After my guests had left, I lay down to relax in the hammock and although the rope that held it to the trees had stretched with the vigor of child play, the hammock itself was still unsullied and I relaxed with some lemonade and a short doze before continuing on with my day.

At Jobek 24107 Light Blue, Vanilla Stripe Rumba Spreadless Hammock

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July 2, 2010

Organic Gardening Magazine--a new face on an old standby


200_rasp.jpgA featured article this month on raspberries in Organic Gardening Magazine

I haven't looked at Organic Gardening Magazine for years until a friend recently turned me onto one. Wow! What a transformation! It was one of the few magazines I ordered when I first got my place in the country and I poured over each edition taking to heart all the hints and ideas I could use.

This magazine and it's online edition is filled with great gardening techniques and ideas. Although eatable flowers may not be of interest to you, how to keep a peach tree free of disease is a great aid to a garderner. They have articles on landscaping, compost and soil, organic living and organic solutions. One very interesting article I found was a soil test you can do on you garden soil with includes 10 easy steps. This is something you can do in your own garden to determine how healthy your soil is. The online composting section has about twenty articles to peruse with plenty of tips and problem solving.

I was amazed with the Organic living section. Here you will find delicious recipes to use with your garden produce. What a great addition to any gardening magazine. The landscaping section has a good ariticle on how to keep grass from creeping into your ornamental beds.

Both the online and the magazine itself are a great buy for any organic gardener. It will keep you inspired and filled with new ideas and energy.

At Organic Gardening Magazine

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July 1, 2010

There's a mystery scavanger in the garden!

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I was hoeing a row of corn yesterday in the garden when I discovered some red tinted feces filled with strawberry seeds. Definitely a small mammal. I check over the whole fence looking for possible entries and found nothing that looked like it had been breached. The is always very unsettling. It makes the whole garden vulnerable. It wasn't a bird so some animal has found a way inside.

After some speculation and a look in the Sierra Nevada Natural History, I settled on a the idea that is is a ringtail cat. The can climb a little, can squeeze through small apertures and eat fruit as well as other small animals and bugs. Other possibilities are a fox who eats mostly small animals but does eat berries on occassion or a raccoon.

So I have a plan. I 'm going to put the Have A Heart trap out in the garden. I"ll put in s rotten strawberry or two and some fish and a piece of meat and set it in the garden near the corn where it seems to have established it's bathroom. Hopefully I'll get the little critter and take it for a long long ride and let it loose.

At Havahart 1089 Collapsible One-Door 32-by-10-by-12-inch Cage Trap for Raccoons, Stray Cats, and Woodchucks

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