This, Not That, Thursday – Bat Houses for Organic Pest Control

Did you know that a single little brown bat can catch up to 600 mosquitoes in one hour

One gray bat will munch on 3,000 insects in a night. I don’t know about you, but those statistics make these little nighttime flyers pretty popular with me. Would you like to attract some bats to your homestead for natural, non-toxic organic pest control?

The first way to get the little critters interested in your yard is to leave a dead tree if you happen to have one. Some dead trees can pose a problem if they are close to your house or other structures, but if you have a tree that can be left on your property, chances are the bats will eventually move in. The bark that loosens up and pulls away from the trunk when a tree dies provides a perfect little crevice for bats, who love to squeeze into small spaces.

If you’re like most people and having a dead tree on your property is not an option. The next best choice is to install a bat house. If you are handy and want to try building your own bat house, here is a link on DIY Bat house plans https://homesthetics.net/bat-house-plans/ If you’d rather purchase a ready-made bat house, those are also available online, amazon sells them for $25-$60. You may want to visit the website for Bat Conservation International. You’ll find bat house plans, ready-made houses, and all kinds of fascinating bat information.

Now, onto where to place your Bat house. They are best located near a permanent source of water, especially a marsh, lake or river, which is by far the most likely to attract bats. They should be hung roughly 12–15 feet above the ground, where their approach is unobstructed by vegetation or utility wires and they are sheltered as much as possible from the wind. A bat house can be placed on a tree or pole, although those attached to the side of a building have had the most success because they provide temperature stability.

Since appropriate temperature may determine how (or even if) your bat house is used, you may wish to consider several factors before mounting it. Lower temperatures, due to higher altitude or latitude, require that bat houses intended for use by nursery colonies be oriented to receive maximum sun, especially in the morning (southeast exposure). Another way to gain heat absorption is to add tar paper or dark-colored shingles to the Bat house roof. Even in hot climates, bat houses should be positioned to receive morning sun


No matter if they are summer residents only or hang out all year long, it is well worth your time and effort to attract them to your homestead by installing one or more bat houses on or near your home. Encourage other community members to do the same. You’ll enjoy the natural pest protection that they will happily provide you and your family.

This, Not That, Thursday – DIY Aloe Vera Gel

It is easy to make aloe vera gel at home. All you need is a few healthy leaves of the aloe vera plant. If you have an aloe vera plant at home or in your garden, then you are lucky! Aloe vera gel is an excellent all-natural healer for skin issues such as sunburn, rashes, acne, among others. Aloe vera gel is also known to promote healthy hair growth. You can even preserve the gel for a month by adding natural preservatives.

How to make Aloe Vera Gel

Make your very own natural healer and skin cleanser!

Prep Time 30 mins – Total Time 30 mins

Appliance Needed: Blender, Refrigerator Serving size: 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 2 aloe vera leaves
  • 500 mg vitamin C (optional)
  • 400 IU vitamin E (optional)

Instructions

  1. If you have access to an aloe vera plant, take a sharp knife and cut off a leaf from the outside of the plant, close to its base. They are usually more mature and contain plenty of gel. If your plant is too young, make sure you do not cut off too many leaves at once. Aloe vera leaves are also available in supermarkets in the produce section. You can usually get 1/2 a cup of gel from 1 mature aloe vera leaf.
  2. Wash the leaves under cold running water to remove any dirt on the skin.
  3. Place the leaves upright in a bowl to let any white or yellow resin to drain off. This can cause irritation to the skin.
  4. Using a vegetable peeler, peel off the skin of the aloe vera leaf on one side. You will see the sticky gel underneath.
  5. Use a spoon to carefully scoop out the gel. Collect the gel in a clean glass container and make sure you do not get any pieces of the leaf skin in it.
  6. If you have collected a lot of gel and want to preserve it, you can mix it with natural preservatives. In a blender, add aloe vera gel and vitamin C or vitamin E capsules. For every 1/4 cup of aloe vera gel, you can either add 500 mg of vitamin C or 400 IU vitamin E. The foamy gel should be put in a clean, airtight glass jar. It will keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 months.
  7. You can also use fresh aloe vera gel to make a nourishing aloe vera juice or add it to smoothies.

Notes

Consider growing an aloe vera plant in your home as they are low-maintenance plants and grow easily. Aloe is generally safe for most people, but if you have an underlying health condition or take medicines or use herbs, talk to your doctor before using aloe as it could react with other medications and substances.

-Dr. P
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This, Not That, Thursday – Beeswax Wraps

On this week’s installment of “This, Not That, Thursday,” we want to discuss beeswax wraps. Last week we touched on DIY reusable snack bags to move away from disposable plastic, so this week we’re focusing on plastic cling wrap.

If you’re like me, there’s probably no love lost between you and plastic. Most food-related plastics – including cling wrap and so-called “BPA-free” containers – “can release chemicals that act like the sex hormone estrogen”* 

Fortunately, there are so many amazing alternatives available like leakproof glass containers and silicone stretchable lids that stretch to fit a variety of container sizes, and of course beeswax wraps!

When you pack your own lunch every day (maybe your kids’ too), it might feel like you’re always adding cling wrap to your grocery list… enter beeswax wraps. The pliable covers fold up around foods and cover bowls of leftovers. They rinse clean with cold water and mild soap (hot water would melt the wax!) and you can reuse them time and time again.

These bee-autiful storage solutions sell for about $18 for a pack of three on Amazon, but if you’re feeling crafty, they’re super easy to DIY. Either way, you’ll easily recoup the cost by buying fewer sandwich bags and plastic wrap. If you use three plastic bags per day and a box of 150 costs about $10, you’re already spending more than $70 per year on something most people just throw away after one use.

These beeswax food wraps are not hard to make, but they do take a little bit of time, so plan ahead for that. This recipe makes four wraps, but it’s easy to double the recipe if you want to make more.

Cut the muslin cloth to whatever size works best for you, or even different sizes if you wish. You can use pinking shears if you want to make the edges fancy. I personally love the look it gives. The pine resin is probably the hardest ingredient to come by, but I was able to find a good source on Amazon. Beeswax pastilles are probably the easiest form of beeswax to use here, or you can do what I did and grate some off a block of beeswax.

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼  cup beeswax
  • 2 tablespoons pine resin
  • 1 tablespoon jojoba oil
  • 4 squares of 100% cotton muslin fabric (I used 12″ squares)

EQUIPMENT

  • small saucepan
  • glass pyrex measuring cup
  • parchment paper
  • baking sheet
  • 1″ wide paintbrush
  • clothes drying rack
  1. Melt the pine resin in a double boiler (I use a glass pyrex measuring cup in a pot of boiling water) over medium heat. 
  2. It takes a while for the resin to fully melt, but once it does add the beeswax. Stir using a wooden or bamboo stick until the resin and wax are completely melted together. 
  3. Then slowly drizzle in the jojoba oil. Turn the heat to low to keep it all melted. 
  4. Preheat the oven to 225°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place one square of muslin on the parchment and use the paintbrush to brush it all over with the beeswax mixture. 
  5. Place the baking sheet in the oven just long enough to fully melt the beeswax. It should only take a couple of minutes. Take it out of the oven and spread the beeswax around again with the paintbrush, so that the whole muslin cloth is coated evenly. 
  6. Then take another square of muslin and lay it on top of the first square to blot up the extra wax. Flip the two squares over so that the blotting square is now on the bottom. 
  7. Return the baking sheet to the oven briefly, just long enough to liquefy the wax. 
  8. Remove from the oven, and hang the first piece of beeswax coated muslin on a clothes drying rack to dry. 
  9. Use the paintbrush to spread the wax on the blotting square, which is now your working square, and repeat the whole process again.

Once they are all dry, they are ready to use! They work perfectly for covering bowls, just as you would use plastic wrap. The beeswax can be warmed in the hands and will conform to the bowl and stick to the rim. The pine resin gives it some stickiness as well.

FYI: Beeswax wraps aren’t air-tight and won’t keep highly perishable items (like raw meat) fresh. We recommend using them to cover foods you’ll eat within a couple of hours or the next day, like a sandwich, bowl of pasta, or piece of fruit. For longer-lasting leftovers or smellier items like cheese, you’re probably better off sealing them up in reusable glass containers. With that in mind, here’s how you can make your own beeswax wraps <3 

*Concluded a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives(source 1, source 2)

This, Not That, Thursday – Natural oven cleaner

When cleaning your oven, you think of a giant chore & super harsh chemicals. 

Well, we’re here with this week’s installment of “This, Not That, Thursday” to offer you a better way. You don’t even have to clean your oven in a day. By getting started the night before, you’ll save yourself time and aggravation. Thanks to white vinegar and baking soda, you won’t need to use harsh chemicals. They are environmentally friendly, remove hardened stains and eliminate germs and odors.

Natural Oven cleaner

Tools:

  • Dish gloves
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • A spray bottle
  • A sponge or cleaning cloth
  • A scraper or spatula
  • Paper towels
  • Bucket or bowl

Steps

1. Remove the racks from your oven and wash them in warm, soapy water. Some oven racks are dishwasher-safe, but check your oven manual first to make sure they won’t be damaged in the dishwasher. Dry the racks and set them aside.

2. Remove any loose food particles from your oven. Use a scraper to get all the burnt bits out.

3. Make a paste using three parts baking soda and one part water. 

4. Spread the paste around the inside of your oven. If there are really tough, burnt-on spots, put a little extra baking soda paste on them. Avoid putting the paste on heating elements inside the oven.

5. Close your oven, and let the paste sit overnight.

6. When you’re ready, moisten your sponge or cleaning cloth with warm water and wipe away the baking soda paste. Use a bucket or bowl full of warm water to rinse the sponge or cleaning cloth as you’re removing the baking soda paste. For any stubborn messes, use a scraper or spatula.

7. Fill a spray bottle with one part vinegar and one part water. Spray down the oven and wipe away leftover baking soda paste with paper towels or another cleaning cloth. 

8. Replace the oven racks.

Your oven is going to be so spotless, the next time your mother-in-law stops by, you’ll make up excuses for her to open it up.

-Dr. P
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This, Not That, Thursday – Sugary Drink Alternatives

Hi everyone! 
For this week’s “This, Not That, Thursday” we are looking at healthy alternatives to sugary drinks. Numerous studies have shown the negative health effects of drinking sugary drinks on your waistline and your teeth. It may have far more health risks than many of us may realize. Drinking sugary drinks can cause a decline in kidney function, an increase in your risk of diabetes, and can cause vascular issues. Sugary drinks also deplete your mineral levels and leave you dehydrated. Sugary drinks are also linked to dementia and cancer.

These are just a few of the negative health effects of sugary drinks. Help to cut the cola with these healthy and delicious sugary drink alternatives.

Tea – iced or hot-
With all the different ways to enjoy it hot or cold, tea is likely one of the best sugary drink substitutes on this list. Tea has an extensive variety of flavor profiles and caffeine levels. There’s a tea out there for everyone! Perfect for any season or time of day, tea is a versatile sugary drink substitute and easy way to enjoy flavored beverages with little to no calories. Herbal tea can be used to help you unwind, boost your immune system, or reduce pain or soreness.

Freshly-squeezed lemonade-
A classic summertime pick-me-up, fresh lemonade—maybe with a dash of cane sugar or agave nectar for a hint of sweetness—has enough citrusy flavor to help wash away those memories of your sugary drink guzzling days.

Sparkling water-
After decades of public health initiatives, consumers are leaving sugary drinks behind for its sleeker, healthier counterpart: flavored sparkling water. Nowadays, sparkling water makers are everywhere, from homes to offices, hotels to restaurants. Rather than buying bottles and cans, avid sparkling water drinkers often invest in carbonated water dispensers to mitigate the environmental impact of buying cases of fizzy water. Now that’s some savvy sipping!

Kombucha-
Kombucha is a recent health trend that shows no signs of fizzling out. While its poignant flavor is not for everyone, Kombucha typically contains little to no sugar and is a potential source of probiotics, which are known to promote gut health. It contains antioxidants and may protect against cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Sparkling water with a splash of juice-
Perfect for brunch, sparkling water with a splash of pineapple, orange, cranberry, or mango juice is a great non-alcoholic, low-calorie alternative to sugary drinks or mimosas at brunch.

Fruit and herb infusions-
Infusions are a great way to use up any extra fruit and herbs in your fridge before they spoil. Simply chop whatever fruit and herbs you have, throw them in a pitcher or reusable water bottle, and you’ll be sipping on some fruity goodness in just a few hours. If you enjoy fruit flavors but don’t want the sugar rush of juice, infusions are the way to go!

Coconut water-
Like Kombucha, Coconut water is a health fad and popular healthy substitute for sugary drinks that’s been on the scene for a few years now. Not to be confused with coconut milk, coconut water is a natural source of potassium and electrolytes, making it the perfect tropical alternative to plain water.

Mineral water-
Mineral water contains zero calories and has the added nutritional benefit of minerals such as calcium, magnesium sulfate, and sodium sulfate. Mineral water is an everyday sugary drink substitute that’s sold at most grocery stores and online. It can help to lower blood pressure, regulate blood circulation, strengthen bones, and promote digestive health.

-Dr. P
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This, Not That, Thursday – Natural Gardening Tips

In this week’s installment of “This, Not That, Thursday” we bring you some Natural Gardening tips. Gardening is tough enough, but to do it without chemicals is well worth the effort for you & the family.

Fertilizer
Although you can use ready-made organic fertilizers, it is best to learn how to create your own organic fertilizers. Not only will it be better for the soil and the environment in the long-term, but it also helps you gain valuable insight into the world of gardening.

Homemade Fertilizer
Adding compost to your garden is an excellent way to improve the quality of your soil with natural fertilization. However, not everyone has the space or time for composting.
We’ve got you covered! There are some other easy ways to fertilize your garden naturally. For one thing, instead of a huge compost pile, you can simply save some of the stuff from your kitchen you’d normally throw away.
Three things that can benefit your garden:
Coffee Grounds – adds nitrogen to the soil and is ideal for acid-loving plants like tomatoes
Banana Peels – decompose quickly, replenishing potassium and other minerals to the soil
Egg Shells – can add calcium carbonate and help avoid blossom rot in peppers and tomatoes
Another common kitchen ingredient to help fertilize your garden is molasses. Just mix a few tablespoons of molasses with a gallon of water and then water your plants with it. The molasses acts sort of like a probiotic. It helps increase beneficial microbes.

Garden Pest Control
Every vegetable gardener faces pest issues from time to time, and learning how to manage the little leaf-munching menaces without using synthetic chemical pesticides is an essential step in growing a healthy, productive garden. To help you with this task, we’ve put together tips for keeping those pesky critters out of your garden.

Orange Peels
Orange peels can be placed around plants or attached directly to the stem to ward off and eliminate some pests. That’s because orange peels contain a natural chemical known as d-Limonene, which can kill off ants and aphids. The chemical destroys the waxy substance around the bugs, causing them to suffocate.
Even the scent of orange peels, as well as other citrus peels, can keep those plant-destroying aphids and ants away.

Plant Marigolds Around the Perimeter of the Garden
Many gardeners put marigolds in their vegetable gardens. It’s believed the pungent smell potentially repels pests while attracting beneficial insects. Some say that the aroma of marigolds might even help keep rabbits and other rodents away from your vegetables too.
However, not everyone is a believer in the marigold theory. In fact, there are some gardeners who say marigolds may actually attract harmful spider mites. Regardless of whether it works or not – marigolds will at least add a splash of color to your vegetable garden.

Cayenne pepper
Sprinkling cayenne pepper, pepper flakes, and/or garlic pepper on and around your plants when they are ready to bloom is an excellent deterrent. Squirrels won’t eat anything with cayenne—which you can often buy in bulk.

-Dr. P
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