Garbage in, Garden Out, The Kitchen/Garden Connection
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Cottage Cheese in the Soil
Think about it, what do you do in the kitchen but prepare food raised in the garden/ranch/ocean? I am not sure we want to bring in the ocean, or for that matter, the ranch, but more garden inside is a popular concept.
We will leave out the little herb gardens you can buy for the window, but let’s look at how we might better link the kitchen and the garden together for a healthier home and garden.
So the Cottage Cheese wasn't eaten (this is unusual) and it has turned into a sour mess, or worse, it has turned into a science fair project! Not to worry, it I a good source of nutrient for the soil, or potted plant.
Again, an easily broken down milk product, cottage cheese makes for a good nutrient source of plants, especially potted plants where it is a slow nitrogen source. Fungi and bacteria, worms, and other microbes would love a nice serving of cottage cheese and, in return, enrich the soils throughout the pot and even add a little more nitrogen for the plant in the process.
There is a bit of sodium in cottage cheese, so this is best used in a potted plant that receives a reasonable amount of water, not, say, a cactus, rather, a more tropical plant. Water will, of course, leach salts from the soil.
Pumpkins Get No Respect
Have you ever wondered why we can grocery stores “supermarkets?” Try visiting a third world country and visiting the food stores and you will see why. It is those super larger companies that create huge varieties of food that keep our country alive and well and we all owe them a debt of gratitude. Well, actually, we pay them that gratitude every time we shop, but I digress.
I was in the supermarket buying a pumpkin a few days before Halloween a few years ago and the young lady checking me out commented that I must be carving it soon because Halloween was just a day or two away. I told her, no, we were going to cook it. Her response was amazing. She just starred at me blankly as if I had said we were going to eat the tires off our car. Finally the man behind me looked at her and said, “it is, after all, a squash!” She couldn’t believe someone would eat a pumpkin, but it had never occurred to her that it was a squash and could be cooked. I wander what she thought of canned pumpkin?
Pumpkins, like the late Rodney Dangerfield, get no respect. We carve faces on them, an old ritual with two different stories. The first is that people used to carve large turnips into faces and put them on posts on the corners of field freshly harvested so the empty field would not be occupied by demons while vacant thinking the demons coming would see the faces and think the field was already occupied. The other story, and where the name Jack-O-Lantern came from was an old Irish folk story where a boy named Jack tricked the devil into climbing a tree then carved a cross in the bark to trap the devil in the tree. There are actually many versions of this kind of story, but in this one, when Jack died, heaven wouldn’t take him and neither would the devil, so he used a coal from hell, which burns forever, carved out a turnip to use as a lantern, and wanders about looking for a place for his soul to rest. And that’s where the term, Jack-with-lantern, or Jack-O’Lantern came from.
Sometime in the 1800’s the term was linked to Halloween in America and we used pumpkins. So, millions of the best tasting squash are used as fun little folk lanterns every year then thrown into the street, or the trash.
Well, this is all good organic material than can be used to enhance your soil.
A quick check of the USDA Food Nutrient Report claims 100 grams of pumpkin has slightly over 1 gram of protein, so, in the soil this creates nitrogen (as microbes break it down nitrogen is added), some sugars and fats which microbes can use, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, manganese, selenium, vitamin C and other vitamins especially high values of vitamin A and K.
Really good stuff. You just need to decide if you are going to use it in the garden, where all jack-o-lanterns should end up, or, in your kitchen where it makes for delightful soups, pies, breads, and other squash dishes.
There are few pies that taste better than a whole wheat pumpkin pie made with honey. And made from fresh pumpkin it taste very different than from canned. I just can’t make up my mind which I like better.
Lemon Juice for Ants
Sometimes little helpful garden bugs turn into home pests. The most common is the ant.
If you are like us, we do not want poison around our kids and pets, so, a very eco friendly way to build a barrier for ants is with lemon juice.
Lemon juice is quite acidic. Remember on the pH scale of 0-14, 7 is neutral. Lemon juice rates a 2.0-2.5 according to the ripeness of the lemon.
Taking lemons, used, or not, and rubbing them along a pathway ants might use to gain entrance to your home will create a barrier that will last for weeks as long as it isn’t washed away.
Sometimes people get the wrong idea about acids in the diet. Acids are a major component of the diet and are the anti-oxidants used to prevent fatty acids from becoming oxidized and harmful to your system. Apple juice, for instance, ranges in pH from 2.8 to 3.5 or so, but using apple juice invites bugs because of the sugar content. Tomato juice is 4.2 or so. Vegetables, thought by many to be alkali when alkali was thought to be better for the body than acids, are actually much more acidic than meat.
I had a friend that became a vegetarian. I have had many people I have known do this for different reasons, Hindu friends of course, but others also. He argued that meat was bad because it was acidic.
I asked him why he thought that.
He said, protein breaks down into amino acids. His idea was that meat consumption caused various illnesses, so they must be bad and acid was bad. He threw in phosphorus also because animals store calcium as calcium phosphate.
Well, said I, the calcium in your bones is calcium phosphate, and your muscles, bones, and everything else is built out of amino acids. Besides that, it is not the protein that is acid, it would be the amino acids. When you make a protein from amino acids you lose the amine group (N-H) and that is basic, not acidic, and you lose the acid group, which is acid (H), but the combines interaction is fairly neutral. So, when you digest meat you need to contribute both the amine group and the acid group to break apart the protein, so it is your body that provides the acid, making that aspect an alkalizing process, but, again, you also contribute the more basic (alkali) amine group, so, again, it is more or less neutral.
Again, I don’t have any problems with my vegetarian friends, as long as they are thinking correctly and making good decisions about what they eat and why.
And all this from lemon juice? Go figure.
Hot Peppers for Insect Control
Hot pepper sprays repel insects in the home and garden, use old cayenne pepper or jalapeño sauce, or if you are ambitious, grow your own Habaneras to make into a spray. You can even make a hot sauce to eat, strain, dilute, and spray the excess on your plants.
Cayenne Pepper for Dog Control
Before we go any farther, let me say that this is not the way to torture dogs, rather a way to save a puppy from being taken to the pound.
The question is, how do you stop a puppy from digging through your favorite flowers and lose favor with the home owner?
Well, it turns out to be pretty simple for most dogs. Simply sprinkle cayenne pepper around your dry yard. Dogs are driven largely by smells. First they sniff to check where they are and what is around them, and, if some smell is interesting enough and the dog is young and curious enough, they use their paws to explore and this is contrary to some human interests such as having a nice garden.
By the way, the highly developed sense of smell is why dogs enjoy hanging their heads out the window of a car, or enjoy being in a truck while traveling. To them, this is like a vacation to Hawaii. They get to smell thousands of things they normally do not any time you drive in a direction other than the direction of the prevailing winds in your area.
Wind spreads smells out like a cone. Dogs smell many things that might surprise you and I from miles away, but only from the direction of the wind. Cars don’t drive like that, so every time you take your dog out for a drive, she thinks you are taking her on vacation. The nose is wet and the animal happy.
Happy? Well, that isn’t on the agenda here. Here we are trying to keep our pet and keep our garden so the next ride the pet takes is not the last ride it takes in our car. We can use that sniffer to our advantage using Cayenne pepper.
Again, you need to have a dry yard; the pepper needs to remain powder. Once wet, that is, once you have watered the yard, allow it to dry then reapply.
There are some bug control benefits to this as well. Ants and other crawling insects do not like the pepper either.
Cinnamon as Bug Spray
Sometimes we don’t understand that some flavors cross over and taste quite differently in different concentrations.
Mint, for instance, is really a hot flavor. So is Cinnamon.
Cinnamon used in natural bug sprays helps to kill and repel very small bugs, a line of cinnamon will keep ants out of the area, just as above, lemon and cayenne pepper does.
While you may enjoy it in a tea, or muffin (actually, so might the bugs) the concentrated spice is simply over powering for a bug.
Combine cinnamon with talcum powder and you have an insecticide that ants carry it back to the nest and eat it and then die. Be sure you want to kill the nest.
Talc (talcum powder) is hydrated (water) Magnesium (good for plants) Silicate (sand) Ants can’t digest it and neither can anything else, so, this is a case where a mineral simply doesn’t do much good in the garden without mulch.
With mulch the humates can break down the magnesium very slowly. Once inside of an organism, the digestive process breaks talc down into a mildly toxic metal.
Ingesting or breathing talc can cause illness, but it does so for bugs also.
Don’t use this method if you have dogs, or rabbits as pets, they sniff too much to have talc around, cats are OK with it as they smell, not sniff. The difference is in the volume of air the animal needs to smell, and the specific design of the noses, nerves, and brain.
Unless you are Italian, Garlic Repels Everything
I was raised close to Little Italy in San Diego and so grew up around Italians, Sicilians, and garlic. I love garlic, I cook a lot, and my sister-in-law has made several comments about my food having too much garlic. “You can’t taste it because you are used to it!” she complains.
OK, while I am not Italian, but have been named as an honorary Italian several time because I also learned to gesture a lots with my hands while I talk, and hey, my niece married an Italian, I can talk about garlic.
If you came to my house, you would find garlic cloves in a bowl in the kitchen, without fail, every day. A month’s supply of garlic and a year’s supply of tea.
There are many varieties of garlic and they have been used as food and medicine for millennia. If you are in a temperate climate you will have noted a distinctly garlic smell coming off what looks like an ornamental grass growing in a clump about eighteen inches tall with a small purple flower.
It is in the landscape because it is ornamental, but not to the nose, and, it controls insects. Yes, it is a true garlic.
It seems almost everything smaller than humans hate garlic.
OK, I confess, I have used it to flavor dog food and the dogs liked it. So maybe I need to qualify that statement a bit and say very small things, smaller than a Chihuahua, don’t enjoy the nice repast garlic provides to us.
Well, it seems there are some folklore around this, isn’t there?
Let’s take a side bar for a minute and consider than humans have this penchant for crediting things we don’t understand to gods, magic, or spirits. Psychologists tell us this is hard wired into our brains in several ways. First, we assume anything that has a cause we aren’t used to, say, a noise outside at night, it caused by some agent. A person, a dog, a cat, and so on. So, when there is a noise at night, we alert and try to figure out if there is a danger to us, failing that, is there a danger to our pets, animals, yard, possessions, and so forth.
Next, if there is something we don’t understand, such as the bubonic plague during the middle ages, people tend to think some spiritual agent is out to get them. Conversely, and her is the kicker, when something like garlic repelled the fleas that carried the organism (Yersinia pestis) that caused the disease, they credited garlic with magic powers which fended off these spiritual agents that were making other people sick.
Garlic may well have helped protect the body once infected also. Garlic does seem to have antibiotic (anti bacterial) and antiviral properties which are poorly defined right now.
So much for the magic history of garlic.
Yes, fleas hate garlic, yeast, and some other things we eat, but the subject here is garlic.
Bugs, large and small hate garlic. Now the good news is that it doesn’t kill many bugs, it drives them off. So a spray made with garlic applied to your plants doesn’t kill the bad bugs, birds can still find them and eat them, and it doesn’t kill the friendly bugs, so, it does no harm.
This is good.
Take a head of garlic and clean the cloves, crush them just a bit and let them sit on the counter for three minutes or so, then drop them in the blender. Clean a white onion, chop it up and add it then fill the blender with water and blend thoroughly. Pour through a cloth to remove the particles left over then put this into a garden sprayer and apply the plants infected with bugs.
Most will not leave immediately, but most will be gone the next day and you will drive your neighbors nuts.