Ever wonder how your food is grown – but are too embarrassed to ask? Trust me, I’ve been there. Sometimes we just take for granted that our food comes from a grocery store, and when you stop to wonder how a product is actually grown, you might not know the answer.
Adult food-growing amnesia isn’t the real problem, though. The real shocker is how many kids don’t know where a potato comes from or that it’s even the main ingredient in French fries!
That’s why I’m so excited to announce the debut of How Does it Grow? My friends Nicole Cotroneo Jolly and Mark Jolly, two veteran journalists and videographers with some serious credits to their names (think The New York Times and Conde Nast Traveler), have made it their mission to bring to life the sometimes surprising wonders of how food is grown. The non-profit initiative, which combines videos, books and educational programs, gives us all a glimpse into what it takes to bring farm fresh ingredients to our table.
Whether you’re striving to educate kids who have never visited a farm, or you’re an adult who suddenly realized you have no idea how a mushroom is grown and harvested, you’ll enjoy these simple, easy-to-understand videos which will shed light on ingredients that you probably have in your kitchen right now. After all, did you know that mushrooms are grown on fake logs and routinely dunked in water baths before they end up at your grocery store?!?
I was happy to support How Does It Grow? through a Kickstarter campaign which funded the video series, and I’m proud to share this very first episode of How Does it Grow?
Tell us – did you know that mushrooms are mass produced this way? Surprised at how mushrooms are grown? We’d love to hear your thoughts!
How can randy squirrels cause devastation to the environment? The more squirrels there are in this world, the more food they need. At Clemson University, over 100 trees have fallen victim to the destructive habits of squirrels. And they’ve had enough.
Check out my latest article (click this link – Squirrel Birth Control) for Blue Ridge Country magazine describing a study by the USDA National Wildlife Research Center, taking place on Clemson University’s grounds, to curb the birth rate of squirrels through two experimental birth control options.
Like it or not, the U.S. government is taking a serious look at protecting nature from wildlife.
What do you think?
GAIA Natural Cleaners is made by a mom of three young children with a passion for health education and her biochemist husband. Those facts pretty much sold me on the natural cleaning products before I ever tried them. When I did put GAIA Natural Cleaners to use in my own home, I was convinced that they were great.
GAIA Natural Cleaners uses basic, non-toxic, all natural ingredients. There are a lot of ingredients used in GAIA’s cleaners that you could find in your own home, things like baking soda, vinegar, castile soap and essential oils. Sure, you could probably make these cleaners yourself, too. But you’re not. Because if you’re reading this post, you’re a lot like me. You desire simplicity in your product ingredients. You want them to be as safe and natural as possible. Yet you don’t have time on your hands to do everything yourself, and you want to support small businesses created by entrepreneurs who are trying to change the world in a positive way.
Maybe you haven’t had a lot of good luck with some natural cleaning products in the past. Trust me, I’ve been there and know. While you want to live healthy and do good in the world, you shouldn’t have to suffer in the process and make more work for yourself. You don’t have to with GAIA Natural Cleaners.
Take for instance, castile hand soap. When I visited GAIA’s website and saw Powder Hand Soap, I am not lying when I say I was overjoyed. I could NOT wait to try it out, and I was not disappointed.
Here’s the problem with most liquid castile soaps. They gunk up and clog liquid soap dispensers. It doesn’t matter the shape or size of the soap dispenser, I’ve tried them all. My hand soaps always seem to clog up if we haven’t used them in a day or so. I’ve learned the hard way to gently depress the hand soap dispenser in case there is a clog in it, but my out-of-town family isn’t familiar with the nuances of using natural hand soaps. I cannot tell you how many times a family member has shouted in surprise when the castile hand soap comes shooting out at maximum force because it was clogged. Then they’ve got streaks of liquid soap on their clothes. Then we need to clean up the soap spatter on the wall frames, the wall behind them, and the floor. We’ve even had to mop up a soap trail on the ceiling.
So a powdered hand soap seems ideal. The small bottle has a plastic rotating dispenser on top, (similar to a grated cheese container) that allows you to choose how much soap will come out. Just sprinkle a little in your hands, add some water and start lathering. I tried the lemon essential oil variety – called “Uplifting and Refreshing” – and there was a great lemon smell that wasn’t too strong.
I also tried the Tea Tree Laundry Detergent – labeled as “Cleansing and Purifying.” It’s a large cardboard cylindrical container full of powdered detergent. I used it several times on loads of sheets and towels. Simply scoop a tablespoon into the water. The one thing you want to keep in mind, though, is that many natural detergents do not suds up. That’s because there are no artificial sudsing agents. So don’t be discouraged if you add the soap to the water and it just disappears.
My laundry came out clean. While I noticed a faint smell of tea tree oil in the product, I did not notice any lingering smell on the laundry.
I had a little difficulty trying to get the top off of the container, since it’s a simple metal top that fits inside the top of the cylinder, much like a mailing tube. However, the package is being redesigned to be easier to open in the future. In the meantime, I would highly suggest putting the product in another container to use and keeping a tablespoon inside the container, too.
There are many other GAIA Natural Cleaners products, too, including: Dishwasher Detergent, All-Purpose Cleaner, Glass Cleaner, Granite Cleaner, Floor Cleaner and Spot Cleaner.
GAIA was just part of a program through Whole Foods Market’s Eco-Scale rating system where the cleaners were audited through Green Seal. GAIA achieved a Green Tier rating, which is the best that you can get.
Based in Indiana, you can find the products in Indiana natural health stores and soon in the biggies such as Whole Foods, The Fresh Market and Earth Fare. Of course, you can always order online, too, at http://www.gaianaturalcleaners.com.
From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, bird watchers from more than 100 countries are expected to participate in the 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), February 14–17, 2014. Anyone anywhere in the world can count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count and enter their sightings at www.BirdCount.org. The information gathered by tens of thousands of volunteers helps track the health of bird populations at a scale that would not otherwise be possible. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada.
“People who care about birds can change the world,” said Audubon chief scientist Gary Langham. “Technology has made it possible for people everywhere to unite around a shared love of birds and a commitment to protecting them.”
In North America, GBBC participants will add their data to help define the magnitude of a dramatic irruption of magnificent Snowy Owls. Bird watchers will also be on the lookout for the invasive Eurasian Collared-Dove to see if it has expanded its range again. GBBC observations may help show whether or not numbers of American Crows will continue to rebound after being hit hard by the West Nile virus and whether more insect-eating species are showing up in new areas, possibly because of changing climate.
Last year’s Great Backyard Bird Count shattered records after going global for the first time, thanks to integration with the eBird online checklist program launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab and Audubon. Participants reported their bird sightings from all 7 continents, including 111 countries and independent territories. More than 34.5 million birds and 3,610 species were recorded—nearly one-third of the world’s total bird species documented in just four days.
“This is a milestone for citizen science in so many respects—number of species, diversity of countries involved, total participants, and number of individual birds recorded. We hope this is just the start of something far larger, engaging the whole world in creating a detailed annual snapshot of how all our planet’s birds are faring as the years go by,” said Cornell Lab director Dr. John Fitzpatrick.
The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way for people of all ages and backgrounds to connect with nature and make a difference for birds. It’s free and easy. To learn more about how to join the count visit www.birdcount.org and view the winning photos from the 2013 GBBC photo contest.
The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible in part by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.
Yes, you can!!
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, there is plenty of wildlife of all shapes and sizes throughout the theme park.
When you first enter the park, there are bird habitats directly in front of you as part of The Oasis Exhibits. Here you will find birds such as parrots, flamingos and the Roseate Spoonbill. I’ve written about these often-overlooked animal habitats before for the Experience Kissimmee blog and they can be seen in this video:
Where birders will also want to go, though, is the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in the Africa section. Along this self-guided walking trail, you’ll find all kinds of animals, from hippos to gorillas to naked mole rats. It is along this trail that visitors enter the aviary of exotic birds – and a real treat begins.
In the small, netted space, a host of tropical birds fly and swim in a tropical delight. Only one walkway meanders through this small area, so the crowds can be a little tight, sometimes. But just stake a spot, grab a bird chart, look up and enjoy the show.
During our visit, the Taveta Golden Weavers were going crazy. These tiny little birds flit and fly with such great speed that they put on a comical show. You have to be careful not to be in their flight path. They don’t seem afraid of anything. While talking with a Disney cast member stationed inside the bird aviary to answer questions, we learned about the unique nests that Taveta Golden Weavers create. Observing for only just a few minutes, we were able to see many Taveta Golden Weavers flicking to and fro and actively building a nest. Truly unbelievable!
Our Disney guide also pointed out the Hammerkop who had started building a new nest. She said that the Hammerkop had only been working on it a couple weeks and it would be a few more weeks before she was done.
There were ducks in small pools and one or two other beautiful birds that we quickly saw, but there didn’t seem to be too much variety. Especially when we had a huge bird guide of what to look for and we couldn’t find most of them. The Disney cast member said that many of the birds had been taken out in preparation for maintenance to the facility and working on the roofing.
A stop inside the exotic birds aviary is fun for anyone, but even more so for birders and photographers. It is a chance to stop and unwind and enjoy seeing these tiny winged creatures fly overhead. It’s even better when you need to get away from the hustle, bustle and maddening crowds of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and relax and recharge. Nature can do that to you. Doesn’t matter if you’re a birder or not.
Sometimes you just need a mental vacation, even if it’s for only 45 seconds. How about watching seagulls standing in the surf and listening to ocean waves? This video is just a quick escape into nature, something we all need more of, for the mind and soul.
I was at Longboat Key Club on Longboat Key, Florida one evening at sunset. The rhythmic crashing of the waves, the way that the birds just stood on the shoreline and watched the sunset – well, it was all so peaceful and relaxing. And I thought that it would be great to share it with you when you need just a quick break from normality.
Maybe add it to your favorites list, and come back time and time again when you need a fix of nature, even if you are working all day in a cubicle.
During a recent visit to Sarasota, Florida, I was surprised to come across so many eco-friendly design features at Sarasota Bayfront Park. I was there to enjoy the Season of Sculpture art walk, but was more than thrilled to come across tropical rainwater collectors, a Florida-friendly green roof that’s definitely tropical and an electric charging station – waterfront, of course!
Here are some pics of the beautiful park on the water, with plenty of seating and artwork and a fun children’s play area, too.