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7/7/2014

Michelle RBefore I talk about vegetable oil, I have to talk a little bit about soy.

I promise this will make sense in a few minutes.

I am sure that you have read, or heard that soy is sooooo good for you.... But what you may not realize is that there are thousands of studies linking soy to malnutrition, digestive distress, immune-system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders, infertility, cancer and heart disease. In fact, the only soy that has any health benefits is organic soy that has been properly fermented. After a long fermentation process (like 3+ years), the phytate (this is what makes soy so scary) levels of soybeans are minimized significantly, and their beneficial properties become available to your digestive system.

When my son was little, he went through a 'I don't want to kill any animals' vegetarian phase. I talked this over with his pediatrician, and he told me to be very, very careful with the products marketed as being vegetarian because most of them were jam packed with soy, and that could be very dangerous for my growing child.

I had no idea how dangerous until today!

oil Raise your hand if you have ever cooked/baked with vegetable oil. I know I have and I also know that there are tons of products that have vegetable oil listed as an ingredient which seems safe right?? Yeah, that’s what I thought too, but what you may not know is that more times than not it's actually soybean oil (labeled as vegetable oil) that is being used in these products that we are buying, eating and feeding our families.

Obviously soybean oil comes from soybeans; unfortunately more than 90 percent of the soy that is produced in the U.S. is genetically modified and, if that wasn't bad enough, the crops are sprayed with a herbicide such as Roundup.

Most of the soy crop in the U.S. is used to produce soybean oil, which is extracted using the chemical solvent hexane. After the oil is extracted it goes through other processes, like bleaching and deodorizing.

For those who don’t know genetically modified organisms, aka GMO, are plants and, in some cases, animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals. One of the main reasons for GMOs is to create plants that can tolerate herbicides without dying. What I find strange is that in more than 60 countries around the world, there are major restrictions or even bans on the production and sale of GMOs. In the USA however, the government has approved GMOs based on studies conducted by the same corporations that created them and profit from their sale. Yeah, like they are gonna tell the truth ....

Roundup is the most commonly used herbicide and has been advertised by its maker, Monsanto, as being safe and environmentally friendly. Monsanto has actually said that Roundup is "as safe as table salt.” The New York state attorney general sued Monsanto for claiming that Roundup is "safe" and "environmentally friendly." The lawsuit ended in a settlement, Monsanto agreed to cease and desist from using these terms in advertising RoundUp in the state of New York. Monsanto never admitted any misconduct, but they did pay the state of New York $250,000 in the settlement of this suit. 

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup. According to Dr. Seneff, author of the bestseller Seeds of Deception, glyphosate is possibly "the most important factor in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that have become prevalent in Westernized societies.”

What diseases/conditions you ask? Well, there is autism, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic diarrhea, colitis, Crohn's disease, obesity, allergies, cardiovascular disease, depression, cancer, infertility, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's disease), and that’s just to name a few.

Hexane is used in the development of glues used for shoes, leather products and roofing. It is used in cleansing and degreasing a variety of items.

Hexane is also used as a solvent in the extraction of oil from seeds (soybean, cottonseed, flaxseed, safflower seed, and others). It is sometimes used as a denaturant for alcohol. (Denaturant means: to render unfit to eat or drink without destroying usefulness in other applications.) Isn't that just lovely?!?

Severe exposure to hexane usually occurs by inhaling, but it can also be absorbed orally and through the skin. Small exposure to hexane may happen when you’re filling your car with gas.

Hexane has been reported to be the most highly toxic member of the alkanes series.

When hexane is ingested, it causes nausea, vertigo, bronchial irritation, intestinal irritation and can have an effect on the central nervous system.

It has been reported that 50 grams (1/2 cup) of hexane may be fatal to humans.

Think of how much of this we have consumed over time ... I'm sure it's way more than 1/2 cup!

The best way to protect yourself and your family is to read the labels; you can also visit www.nongmoshoppingguide.com.



6/24/2014
Michelle R

When I first started researching about raising backyard chickens there was one topic that kept coming up that had me just completely panic stricken slightly concerned ... Snakes! Almost every book, magazine, and website that I read seemed to view snakes as a 'comes with the territory' kind of predator.

nsa Not wanting to give up my dream of raising my own chickens, I decided that I would do my best to make my coop as snake proof as possible.

First thing I needed to do was learn by other people's mistakes, after all I truly believe in being preventative ... especially when snakes are involved! What I basically found was that if you can keep rats/mice out of the coop, then you increase your chances of keeping snakes out! 

First thing we did was bury hardware cloth about 12 inches all around the base of the coop. This will help with predators that want to dig under as well.

bwire

After reading through several forums, I found that snakes can fit through anything larger then 1/4 inch, and as much as I would have loved to use the hardware cloth everywhere, economically that was not an option! I did find though that bird netting is a much thriftier option. Now there are some who will be against the bird netting, because it traps the snake and causes the snake a painful death unless released. I am not one of those people! I have never felt sorry for a snake, and I am pretty sure that I never will! As far as I am concerned it is my biblical right as a woman to hate all snakes! We put bird netting from the middle down all the way around, and also bunched up more at the base.

bird

Another thing that I found among those who had a snake problem was that the rat/mice were attracted to the chickens' food and water ... and as we all know if you attract rats/mice you are most definitely going to attract snakes. So to prevent that we installed a rodent-proof feeder and watering system.

feeder

fountain

This last step I have to be honest isn't so much to keep snakes out, as it is to keep my feather babies safe in the event that I can't be home when it's time to put them in at night. This door automatically opens when the sun rises, and then automatically closes as the sun is setting.  You can’t really put a price on peace of mind.

door

I really hope that all of these preventative measures do the trick! I promise to update this one year from now ... or until the first sign of snakes.... Please, for my sake pray it's the first one!



6/16/2014

Michelle RSo after googling until I thought I'd go cross-eyed, I found that other than growing their own veggies, a lot of people were also choosing to raise their own hens because apparently the process that the eggs we buy go through isn't exactly the greatest. ... Shocker!

What I found was disturbing to say the very least ... if you don't want to know, then you might want to skip to the end of this where I'll be sharing why backyard eggs are healthier. 

In the United States, an estimated 95 percent of egg-laying hens (that's about 445 million) are intensively confined in battery cages. (These are illegal in Europe by the way.) Industry guidelines specify a minimum of 67 square inches per hen (this is an area smaller than a standard sheet of paper), allowing each of these cages to confine five or six birds on average, but sometimes up to 10 birds. 

Like any animal, chickens are highly motivated to perform natural behaviors. These behaviors include nesting, perching, scratching, foraging, dust-bathing, exploring and stretching. Caged chickens are denied all of these natural behaviors, causing them severe frustration.

Battery hens suffer from serious health problems, such as respiratory disease from constant exposure to ammonia fumes and fecal dust; osteoporosis, bone fractures and prolapsed uteruses from being bred to lay eggs at an unnaturally high rate; and foot disorders, sores and injuries from contact with the cage wire in outdated cage systems.

As a response to the lack of foraging opportunities in the barren cage environment, chickens sometimes engage in feather-pecking of their cagemates. So, before they are 10 days old, the ends of their beaks are seared off with hot blades and, as I am sure you could have guessed, beak mutilation causes acute and sometimes chronic pain. 

Because of the filthy conditions these hens are exposed to, toxic ammonia that rises from the decomposing uric acid in the manure pits beneath the cages causes ammonia-burned eyes and chronic respiratory disease in millions of hens. Studies of the effect of ammonia on eggs suggest that even at low concentrations, significant quantities of ammonia can be absorbed into the egg.

Hens that need to be used for another laying period are forced to molt to reduce the accumulated fat in the reproductive systems and regulate prices by forcing the hens to stop laying for a couple of months. In the force molt, producers starve the hens for four to 14 days causing them to lose 25 to 30 percent of their body weight along with their feathers. Water deprivation, drugs such as chlormadinone, and harsh light and blackout schedules can be part of this brutal treatment. 

Thanks to the crowded confinement, hens are given antibiotics to control the rampant viral and bacterial diseases. But that's not a problem because the antibiotics can also be used to manipulate egg production. For example, virginiamycin is said to increase feed conversion per egg laid, bacitracin to stimulate egg production, and oxytetracycline to improve eggshell quality. 

Chickens are confined for about a year and a half before their ability to lay eggs declines.

After their egg production declines they are killed.

Now for some good news .... 

Backyard chickens do not ever have to deal with any of that!! 

And in return they give us eggs that have

– 1/3 less cholesterol
– 1/4 less saturated fat
– 2/3 more vitamin A
– 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
– 3 times more vitamin E
– 7 times more beta carotene

Be honest, which one would you rather eat?

Eggs

After making the most obvious decision about our next step to eating more organically and after about a year of researching how to raise backyard chickens, our journey is just weeks away from getting our first egg! We can not wait!



6/11/2014

Michelle RAfter deciding that my resolution for 2013 was for us to eat less processed foods, I went straight to Pinterest and started searching for meals that would qualify as organic. Along with the recipes I found, I also come across many pins pointing out the many faults of the processed foods that I was trying to get away from. After reading, “If you can’t say it, you shouldn’t eat it,” I was compelled to go to my kitchen cabinet and see if I could read some labels … pretty much everything had at least three items that I could not pronounce … so I did what most do when they don’t know something … I googled. What I found was disturbing to say the least. Here are just a few of the items that I found:

Titanium Dioxide is a component of the metallic element titanium commonly used in paints and sunscreens. The food industry adds it to hundreds of products to make overly processed items appear whiter. We found it in our salad dressing.

BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene) is a common additive used to prevent oxidation in a wide variety of foods and cosmetics and was listed by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) in 2005 as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” on the basis of experimental findings in animals. It is also used in jet fuels, rubber petroleum products, transformer oil and embalming fluid. As if this were not enough, the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) warns that BHT should not be allowed to enter the environment, as it can cause liver damage and is harmful to aquatic organisms. We found it in our cereal.

This last one that I’m gonna share,  I stumbled upon while looking up the others.

Dimethylpolysiloxane is used to create Silly Putty, cosmetics, shampoos, heat-resistant tiles, caulking, industrial oil, and it can be used in the treatment of head lice. It’s also used in McDonald's and Wendy’s french fries!! (Yeah, like we really need another reason not to eat at these places!)

SignThere were so many more, but rather then list them all, I’ll let you play detective in your own kitchen.

If all that wasn't enough, seeing this on Facebook really brought it full circle!

After letting all that I learned sink in, I knew no matter how bad I wanted to, there would be no way I could produce everything we ate from home. But I also knew I couldn't be the only one who felt like this so I decided to once again turn to Google and research different ways to live organically. Stay tuned!



6/4/2014

Michelle RJanuary 1, 2013: I decided my family would start making our own butter, baking our own bread, and growing our own vegetables. The butter and bread were the easiest part...the garden...not so much! The first day that even remotely felt like spring, I went out in the backyard and started digging up the grass in the area that I (having done no research what-so-ever) thought was best.

garden1

After two days of digging, I planted the seeds that my handy dandy app told me I could plant for my area...and felt very, very proud of myself. After a few weeks I started seeing little sprouts and ran in to grab my phone so that I could take pictures and of course post on FB! Week after week my plants grew taller making me feel very proud that I had not done something to kill them.... until the first rain storm that is..... and boy did it rain.....the way I was acting you would have thought I left my child out in the storm.....as soon as the rain lightened to a drizzle I went outside to inspect my garden.....and at that moment I felt the exact opposite of proud....It was obvious that I had placed my garden too close to my home forcing the rain water that came off of my roof, to fall right onto my plants....cause of death: accidental drowning. I was beyond devastated!! Realizing at that point that I just wasn't the farm girl type, I threw in the towel and accepted my defeat. I told my dad to go ahead and plow right over everything the next time he came over to mow the yard. I felt so dejected!! And although I am an annual resolution breaker, I really wanted to see this one through, plus it didn't hurt that almost all of my FB friends kept posting about not eating processed foods, and eating more organic. So after sulking about it all summer, I decided to give it one more shot. I went to our local library and checked out as many vegetable garden books as they would let me, and found that a raised garden would probably be best for what I had in mind. Thanks to Pinterest I found the layout that I wanted, wrote down the dimensions and headed to Lowe's. Next stop Wal-Mart to pick up enough bags of manure and soil to fill the box, raked and watered as one of the books suggested and let the mixture rest for a couple of days before planting the seeds. This garden was way more successful than my previous attempt. Best thing I can say about having a raised garden, not having to deal with all the weeds!! Don't get me wrong there are still weeds, but I will take 4 or 5 over 25 or 30 any day!!!

box

progress

BrocccarrotsLettuce

Finally....Fresh Veggies from MY garden!!!



5/29/2014

Michelle RAs a ninth-generation Floridian, it is safe to say that I am no stranger to insects. Growing up I often heard people joke that the mosquito should actually be listed as our state bird. As amusing as that may seem, these little bugs are more than just annoying, they can also be very hazardous to people and animals.

StateBird Mosquitoes can carry West Nile Virus, which can cause inflammation of the brain, and has been known to be fatal in some cases. There is no vaccine for the West Nile Virus, and although mosquito control does what they can, it is up to the individual to take protective measures to avoid being bitten. Mosquitoes have also been known to carry malaria, which kills an estimated 1 million people each year worldwide. If that wasn’t enough to be concerned about, we also need to worry about our animal friends. Heartworm larvae is transmitted by mosquitoes, and as most animal lovers know, if left untreated, heartworms can clog up the heart, causing cardiovascular problems and death. For years I (along with the rest of my family) have used repellents containing DEET thinking there was no alternative. After doing some research, I learned that DEET, aka N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide, damaged DNA in both laboratory animals and human cells. This study even shows that baby chicks exposed to DEET developed birth defects. Needless to say, I decided there had to be a more environmentally friendly way to protect ourselves and our pets.

citCitronella is the most common natural ingredient used in making mosquito repellents. The unique citronella aroma is a strong smell, which masks other things that would normally attract mosquitoes, making it harder for them to find what they are wanting to sting. Even though citronella is used in many forms, the living plant is more successful in keeping them away because it has a stronger smell. When purchasing citronella, look for the true varieties, Cybopogon nardus or Citronella winterianus. Other plants may be sold as ‘citronella scented,’ but these do not have the mosquito repelling qualities of true citronella. 

 meriMarigolds are hardy annual plants with a distinctive smell that mosquitoes (and some people, myself included), find very aggressive. Marigolds contain Pyrethrum, a compound that is used in many insect repellents as an alternative to DEET. Besides repelling mosquitoes, marigolds also repel insects that target tomato plants.

 

 

 catIn August 2010, entomologists at Iowa State University reported to the American Chemical Society that catnip is 10 times more effective than DEET, the chemical found in most commercial insect repellents. According to Iowa State researcher Chris Peterson, the reason for its effectiveness is still unknown. “It might simply be acting as an irritant or they don’t like the smell. But nobody really knows why insect repellents work.” Beware though, by using this to repel mosquitoes, you may also be inviting every stray cat in the neighborhood into your yard.

  HorseHorsemint, also known as Beebalm, is an easy-going perennial plant that repels mosquitoes somewhat like citronella. It gives off a strong incense-like odor that confuses mosquitoes by masking the smell of its usual victims. As a bonus, Horsemint leaves can be dried and used to make herbal tea, and its flowers also attract bees and butterflies to your garden.

 

 agerAgeratum, also known as Flossflowers, releases a smell that mosquitos find extremely offensive. The flower and leaves produce coumarin, which is widely used in commercial mosquito repellents.

Now, of course, there are times where you cannot control your environment and you need to use a spray. Never fear I have a homemade natural bug spray recipe that you will wonder how you ever lived without!

What you will need:

Essential oils: choose from Citronella, Clove, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Cedar, Catnip, Lavender, Mint

– Natural witch hazel

– Distilled or boiled water

Fill 8-ounce spray bottle half full with distilled or boiled water, add witch hazel and fill almost to the top. Add 30 to 50 drops of essential oils to desired scent. The more oils you use, the stronger the spray will be. Play around with the scents to make one that works for your nose.



5/23/2014

Michelle RThis past year and a half, I have become an avid food label reader, but there are certain products for which it never occurred to me to read the label. A perfect example of one of these products just happens to be one of my sons’ favorite treats: applesauce. Call me naive, but I just figured it would have apples and maybe a tad bit of some sort of sweetener.

I am sure you can imagine the look of surprise on my face when I read that there were 22 grams of sugar in this little 1/2-cup of applesauce … and the sweetener used? High-fructose corn syrup. A study was conducted in 2010 by Princeton University, and they found that rats fed HFCS gained fat 300 percent faster than those fed an equal (or slightly larger) serving of fruit-derived sugar. Also, consuming high-fructose corn syrup increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and hypertension. It also elevates triglyceride and LDL, a.k.a. bad cholesterol, levels. It has also been found to be especially destructive to your liver. But the most alarming statistic I found was that high-fructose corn syrup is often loaded with alarmingly high levels of mercury. 

One study found mercury in more than 50 percent of samples tested. And if you did not know, mercury exposure can result in irreversible brain and nervous system damage.

The American Heart Association recommends that women ingest no more than 100 calories a day from added sugar from any source, and for most men, it's no more than 150 calories a day from added sugar. That's about six teaspoons of added sugar for women and nine teaspoons for men. 

Now with that little tidbit fresh in your mind see if you can wrap your head around this: 22 grams = 5 teaspoons. That’s in a little 1/2 cup of prepackaged applesauce, y’all, and we are feeding this to our children! 

If you must use a sweetener, honey, agave nectar or brown sugar are much more healthful alternatives to white sugar, sugar substitutes, and most certainly to using high-fructose corn syrup. 

Here is the recipe I used to replace my sons' store-bought applesauce.

What you’ll need:
6 pounds apples (cored, peeled, and cut into at least 8 slices)
1 cup apple juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup honey or agave nectar, or 1/2 cup brown sugar

Place all ingredients in large pot and cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes, making sure to stir often. Depending on the consistency you like, you can use a potato masher like I did, or you can use a food processor/blender for a smoother texture. This recipe made enough to fill eight 8-ounce mason jars, and will last inside the fridge for a while.

applesauce jars
The completed applesauce.





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