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Archive | Bloomin’ Summer

Eight ways to get the most out of your trip to the farmers market

Young woman at the market(BPT) – This time of year is about warm weather, vacations and relaxing afternoons. It also heralds the return of farmers markets. A trip to the market is a great opportunity to indulge in fresh healthy produce and to expand your horizons by trying new items or preparing them in different ways.

Here are eight tips to make the most of your visit to the local farmers market:

* Note the hours and dates of your local market on your calendar. Set reminders on your smartphone that will alert you when favorite items such as tomatoes, peas, beans and strawberries come into season.

* Prepare your refrigerator and kitchen for the season’s harvest. Clean out your fridge’s produce drawer, and stock up on items that complement fresh produce, such as salad dressings and seasonings that can be used to turn basic veggies into delicious meals.

* While farmers market vendors will almost certainly have plastic bags on hand, take your own reusable bags or baskets to carry your purchase – they’re better for Mother Nature. If you’ll be buying perishable items, consider packing a cooler as well. Remember to place heavier items (like melons) on the bottom of the bag and lighter ones (such as berries) on top.

* You’ll find the freshest produce and best selection early in the day. Setting your alarm to wake you a bit early could ensure you get the pick of the day’s produce.

* Leave the $20 and $50 bills at home. Smaller bills will provide you with greater buying flexibility, and vendors will appreciate the change.

* Scope out the entire market before you begin making purchases. Certain popular items, such as tomatoes, cantaloupe, melons, peas and potatoes will be available from multiple vendors. Strolling through the market first will allow you to compare prices and taste samples to ensure you’re picking the best and most delicious buys for your family.

* Unpack bags as soon as you’re home and store each item appropriately. Create a menu plan for the week that incorporates everything you’ve purchased to help ensure nothing goes to waste. Don’t forget to incorporate snacks into your meal plan.

* Every week, try something new. By all means, enjoy your familiar favorites, but also add in new items like kohlrabi, chard or broccolini. Not sure how to prepare something new? Seasonings are a great way to add flavor without fat. Spice-filled marinades or rubs are a perfect complement to produce. Throw your veggies on the grill to bring out the freshness. On its website, www.simplyorganic.com, Simply Organic offers numerous flavorful fresh produce recipes.

Here’s a tasty recipe to try on your grill today:

Adobo Grilled Asparagus

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 8 to 10 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

 

Use organic ingredients where possible.

2 ounces slivered almonds

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons Simply Organic adobo seasoning

1/2 teaspoon Simply Organic paprika

Directions:

In a dry 8-inch skillet, toast the almonds, stirring often, until fragrant and lightly golden, about five to eight minutes. Remove and pour the almonds into a small bowl and set off to the side. In a shallow dish, toss the asparagus with the olive oil, adobo seasoning and paprika. Preheat your grill. Real wood charcoal tastes best, but gas works fine. Avoid briquettes; they make food taste like lighter fluid. Aim for medium-high heat. If your grill lid has a thermometer built into the lid, it should read about 375 degrees. Once hot, lay the asparagus perpendicular to your grill grates and cook for eight to 10 minutes, turning once until fork tender yet still firm. Serve on a platter topped with toasted almond slivers.

 

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Fresh Market

By Vicky Babcock

Maple’s Sticky Gold

On a hot morning in July 2012, Michel Gauvreau, an accountant with Veragrimar, arrived to inventory a warehouse full of maple syrup owned by the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. The building, located in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford, held around 16,000 barrels of syrup, stacked six high and hundreds deep. Each full barrel weighed 650 pounds—a value of $1,800, nearly 13 times the price of crude oil. This particular warehouse held about 1/10th of Quebec’s annual production, a vast sea of the nation’s “sticky gold.” It was not a setting for drama, yet unbeknownst to the principal players, the scene had already been set.

BLOOM-maple syrup tooMichel was scaling the barrels when he nearly fell as a barrel shifted beneath his weight. Catching his balance, he rocked the barrel. Empty. The first of many.  Gauvreau notified the Federation, who arrived to investigate. Upon opening a barrel, they found not a brown, goopy liquid redolent with the wintry scent of vanilla, caramel and childhood; it was thin, clear, and odorless. It was water.

Sixty percent—six million pounds—of syrup had vanished, about $18 million dollars, wholesale. The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist was a blow to Canada, which makes approximately 80 percent of the world’s production. It would be months before the Federation would have any answers. To siphon off and transport that amount of syrup alone would have required more than 100 tractor trailers.*

Canada prides itself on its maple syrup and its maples, and the maple leaf is an icon featured on their coins, military uniforms and their country’s flag. Ten species of maple are native to Canada and markets there produce maple sugar, maple butter, maple pork rub, maple vinaigrette, maple coffee, maple tea and yes, maple perfume.

On a smaller scale here in Michigan we have our own maple industry and it’s Pure Michigan! According to the Michigan Maple Syrup Association, our state ranks fifth in maple syrup production in the country with an average production of about 90,000 gallons per year. Maple sap collection usually begins in February and runs about six weeks, although in the U.P. it can run well into April. Temperatures play a part in the production, as the tree needs a combination of warm days and freezing nights for the sap to run. Timing is also important, as the sugar content is highest in late winter to early spring. When the trees come into bud, the sap is unpalatable. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

Native Americans introduced European settlers to the practice of collecting and reducing the sap, although the settlers refined the process. Its discovery is uncertain; however, popular lore speaks of an Indian chief who carelessly embedded his hatchet into the trunk of a maple tree. The tree yielded its sap, which was collected by the chief’s squaw and used to cook their meal. This pleased the chief and so began our love affair with maple syrup, most often used today to enhance the flavor of our pancakes and waffles.

Unlike sugar, maple syrup contains an abundant amount of naturally occurring minerals, including calcium, manganese, potassium and magnesium. It is also a source of antioxidants, which have been shown to aid the immune system, lower blood pressure and slow the effects of aging.

Michigan made maple syrup can be found in farmers markets throughout the State from June through August—or until the last pint is gone. Better hurry though, the Michigan Maple Syrup Association tells us that maple syrup is one of the few Michigan crops where demand exceeds supply!

*For more on this story, Google “The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist,” by Brendan Borrell. Much of the information in this article was gleaned from this source.

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718.  Like us on facebook for updates.

 

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Fresh Market—the Cottage Food Law

BLOOM-Fresh-market-Apple_pie-webBy Vicky Babcock

 

The scent of lavender and sun-kissed strawberries wafts upon the breeze; farm fresh eggs tempt the palate; an array of colors and textures delight the senses. Welcome to your local Farmers Market! Tickle your taste buds with samples of honey, fresh fruit and—wait—is that fresh bread I smell?

If you’ve come to Market lately, you may have noticed a trend—small start-up businesses offering a variety of breads, flavored oils, baked goods, jams and jellies and other delicacies. Prior to 2010, these goods were rarely seen at Markets. Start-up costs were counter-productive. State regulation required licenses, licensed industrial kitchens and inspections, drastically cutting into the bottom line of most hopefuls. A business began in the red—many stayed there until quietly packing up shop and eating the costs—until 2010. That’s when Michigan adopted the Cottage Food Laws. The relaxed regulations make it possible for farmers to expand their line of products and for others to test the waters without getting in over their heads. With a small grocery list of staples, a person can begin operations.

However, rules do apply. Sales must be documented. Individuals cannot earn more than $20,000 a year. This changes on December 31, 2017 to $25,000 per year. You need to maintain sales records and provide them to a Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD) food inspector, upon request. MDARD has regulatory responsibility for the Cottage Food Law.

Products must be labeled with your name and physical address as well as an ingredient list with a note of possible allergens and the following statement, “Made in a home kitchen that has not been inspected by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development”—this last in 11 point font or larger (about 1/8” tall). Products must be produced in your own kitchen with no animals or pets in the room. You cannot cook for yourself and for sale product at the same time.  Hand-printed labels are acceptable if they are printed legibly in durable, permanent ink and equal or greater to the 11-point font size.

Foods that are allowed under the Cottage Food Laws include:

• Breads and similar baked goods

• Vinegars and flavored vinegars

• Cakes

• Sweet breads and muffins that contain fruits or vegetables

• Fruit pies (cooked)

• Jams and Jellies that have been processed to be stored at room temperature

• Dried herbs and herb mixes

• Dry baking mixes, dip mixes and soup mixes

• Dehydrated vegetables or fruits

• Popcorn and Cotton Candy

• Nuts (coated or uncoated)

• Dried egg noodles

• Roasted coffee beans or ground roast

• Vanilla extract or baked goods or that contain alcohol (be aware that these products require licensing by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.)

Foods that are not allowed include:

• Meat and meat products

• Fish and fish products

• Raw seed sprouts

• Canned fruits or vegetables like salsa or canned peaches

• Vegetable or Fruit butters

• Canned pickled products

• Pies or cakes that require refrigeration

• Milk and Dairy products

• Hummus

• Cut tomatoes or chopped/shredded leafy greens

• Foccaccia style breads

• Sauces and condiments, including barbeque sauce, hot sauce, ketchup or mustard

• Salad dressings

• Pet foods or treats

All products must be wrapped or otherwise sealed. For example, you cannot sell slices of pie unless they have been individually wrapped for sale. Cottage Foods must be sold by the person producing it to the person consuming it face to face. You can advertise over the internet but you must do the actual transfer of product in person either at a Farmers Market or something similar or from your home.

For a more complete list of allowed or disallowed products or additional information on the Cottage Food Laws please Google™ Michigan Cottage Food Laws or check out the web page at http://www.michigan.gov/mdard/0,4610,7-125-50772_45851-240577–,00.html

Here is a sample label for home product:  note that sub ingredients are required and any nuts must be identified such as, walnuts, almonds, etc. not simply nuts.

Ready to give it a try?  Try out our recipe below for a starter. See you at Market!

 

CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI  CAKE

1 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

2 cups sugar

2 tsps. Vanilla extract

3 cups  grated zucchini

2 1/3 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

2 tsps . baking soda

1tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. baking powder

½ cup chopped nuts

½ cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°.  Combine oil, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and zucchini in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder.  Add zucchini mixture to dry ingredients.  Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.  Pour into 2 greased 5 x 9-inch loaf pans.

Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack and remove from pans.

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718.  Like us on facebook for updates.

 

 

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How committed is your state to local foods?

Physician-Chef shares four reasons you should care

Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire, respectively, claimed the top three spots in the 2014 Locavore Index, a ranking of each state’s (and the District of Columbia’s) commitment to promoting and providing locally grown foods.

At the bottom of the heap are Arizona, Nevada and Texas, with the Lone Star State dead last despite the fact that it’s the nation’s No. 1 cattle producer and No. 3 for crops receipts, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“There are many good reasons to eat locally produced foods, the first among them that they’re very good for us,” says cardiologist and professional chef Michael S. Fenster, MD, (www.whatscookingwithdoc.com), author of “Eating Well, Living Better” and “The Fallacy of the Calorie,” (Koehler Books; fall 2014).

“There’s a direct relationship between our food, our environment, our genetics and our health. Eating locally grown foods gives us our most nutritious meals, most flavorful meals. Few choices have as many personal ramifications as that which we decide to stuff into our gob.”

He offers four more reasons – “the tip of the iceberg lettuce, so to speak”—to go localvore:

•  Money. Eating organically, eating fresh and finding the seasonal local foodstuffs can be expensive – if you do all your shopping at the supermarket, Dr. Mike says.

“Finding healthful produce at venues like a local farmer’s market can result in prices that are at least comparable, if not substantially less than, those at the megamarket, which has the additional costs of shipping from the nether regions,” he says.

Likewise, visiting a local fishmonger can result in tasty bargains compared to flash-frozen fish flesh. Shopping for what is bountifully in season, and thus locally overstocked, can mean big savings.

“Finally, by purchasing items produced locally, your money strengthens the local economy and helps sustain the people producing the types of food stuffs that you wish to sustain yourself upon,” he says. “That is the smiley face circle of life.”

•  Freshness: In some ways, it’s amazing we’re alive considering all the food we eat that’s dead, Dr. Mike says, noting almost 60 percent of the modern Western diet is prepackaged, preserved and processed.

“Any time we manipulate our comestibles in such a fashion, we add compounds that are not naturally found in them or remove parts that are,” he says. “Those pre-cut vegetables in the supermarket may be convenient, but they started losing nutritional value and flavor as soon as they were sliced and diced.”

Because local growers don’t have to add preservatives or pick produce weeks early to ensure they’ll produce will keep during shipping, local foods can be consumed at the peak of freshness and ripeness – when they taste their very best.

•  Rhythms: Our great hairy ancestors have always been omnivores.

“There is ample evidence that the reason we as a species became the smartest kids on the block is that we took advantage of a varied diet. This hardwired drive for diversity in dining is also one reason why restrictive diets that seek to severely limit what we consume almost always, ultimately fail,” Dr. Mike says.

By leveraging the seasonal and cyclic variations that naturally occur, your palate will never become dull and monochromatic, he promises. A pleasant dining experience directly lights up our primal happy-happy joy-joy place, an experience that contributes directly to overall well-being.

•  Sustainability: All the reasons for purchasing high-quality ingredients locally ultimately circle back and rest upon the concept of sustainability. In knowing where your food comes from, in being able to ascertain both what it contains and what it does not contain, you take a proactive step in determining your own health and wellness, Dr. Mike says.

By focusing on procuring the best for you and those who depend upon you, you act to sustain yourself and your family. By affecting such a posture, you deliver local impact.

“With enough people acting locally, the impact becomes regional and if enough people demand control over their foodstuffs then, like a crazy cat video gone viral, it can have a global effect.”

About Michael S. Fenster, MD

Michael Fenster, M.D., F.A.C.C., FSCA&I, PEMBA, is a board-certified interventional cardiologist. Also known as “Dr. Mike,” author of “Eating Well, Living Better: The Grassroots Gourmet Guide to Good Health and Great Food,” (www.whatscookingwithdoc.com), he combines his culinary talents and Asian philosophy with medical expertise, creating winning recipes for healthy eating. A certified wine professional and chef, Dr. Mike worked professionally in kitchens prior to entering medical school and maintained his passion for food and wine throughout his medical career.

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Fresh Market—the Potato

BLOOM-potatoesThe Muscogee (Creek) consider the potato as a gift from the Creator, given to provide sustenance and to define the new breed of mixed bloods born after the advent of the “others” (white men). The clan of the Muscogee is passed through the mother’s family but, because the “others” belonged to no Muscogee clan, the children born of these mixed marriages had no clan. After much prayer and hardship, the Creator was induced to provide the potato, a food that though underground, could see in every direction—the eyes, when planted, would provide them with food forever—and the White Potato Clan came into being.

Yet potatoes, which originated in the Andean mountain region of South America, are believed by experts to have been cultivated by the Indians for 4000 to 7000 years. This durable vegetable was able to be grown at high altitudes and became a staple of these peoples. They were brought to Europe by Spanish explorers in the early 16th century and used on Spanish ships to prevent scurvy. European governments promoted this nutritious inexpensive foodstuff but much of the public was suspicious of a product that was not mentioned in the Bible and considered it poisonous because it was a member of the Nightshade family. Indeed its poor reputation in Europe led to the belief by many that eating them would cause leprosy.

There is little doubt that this lowly crop had a big role in demographics and population of the United States as well as other countries. During the early 1800s Irish farmers depended almost exclusively on the potato as it was inexpensive to produce and the economy was poor. But this strategy failed when a potato blight (1845-1846) wiped out most of the crop—the Irish Potato Famine was responsible for nearly three quarters of a million deaths and hundreds of thousands fled their country in search of sustenance. Many (including my ancestors) landed in the United States.

The potato, in its natural state, has many healthy qualities. It is a good source of vitamin C, copper, potassium, manganese and dietary fiber. The potato is an important source of B6 vitamins, containing over 20% of our daily value in one cup of baked potato. Vitamin B6 is essential to the production of new cells as well as aiding in neurological activity, our body’s messaging system—specifically cell to cell. Some of these neurotransmitters are; serotonin–lack of serotonin is linked to depression, melatonin, which is needed for a good night’s sleep, epinephrine and norepinephrine—hormones that help us respond to stress, and GABA which is needed for normal brain function. It is best to leave the skin on, as much of its nutritional value is concentrated just under the skin.

Considered by many to be a comfort food, potatoes now enjoy the distinction of being one of the most widely used natural food products throughout the world and Americans love their potatoes! Unfortunately, we tend to negate the food value by adding unhealthy choices or cooking in oils.

Some healthy choices for serving potatoes include baked (without all the cheese, butter and sour cream—try vinegar), lightly fried with a touch of olive oil and steamed or boiled in clear soups. For heart health, keep the salt down to a minimum or use light salt, a more healthy alternative.

The potato is a member of the nightshade family and as such, all green parts of the plant are inedible, including the green parts of the tuber itself. Potatoes should be stored away from sunlight, to prevent the development of toxic compounds such as solanine and chaconine. This toxin affects the nervous system, causing weakness and confusion. These compounds protect the plant from predators and are mostly concentrated in the leaves, stems and fruits.

Potato skins, along with honey have been used as a remedy for burns in India. Burn centers there have experimented with the use of thin outer layers of the skin to protect the burns while healing.

Baked Potato Wedges 

4 baking potatoes, scrubbed and unpeeled

4 T. olive oil

½ to 1 tsp light salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. fresh  chopped rosemary

¼ tsp. pepper (optional)

Cut baking potatoes into wedges (about 6 per potato)  Place in a covered bowl or zippered bag.  Add remaining ingredients and toss to coat.  Bake on cookie sheet in pre-heated 400◦ oven for about 30 minutes, turning half-way through.   Lightly sprinkle with salt if desired.

 

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718.  Like us on facebook for updates.

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Fresh Market—Broccoli

BLOOM-broccoli‘’I do not like broccoli, and I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it.  And I’m President of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!’’ George Bush Sr., defending his edict to ban broccoli from the White House and Air Force One.

Within a week, broccoli growers in California, outraged by the comment, shipped ten tons of the vegetable to Washington D.C. where it was donated to local homeless shelters  to feed the hungry.

Bush may have done broccoli a favor in the long run as the ensuing firestorm brought broccoli into the public eye as never before! This manmade member of the cabbage family has had a love-hate relationship with humankind since its conception as early as the first century BCE.  The Romans were enamored with the crop and served it with herbs and wine as well as in cream sauces. Drusius, the son of Roman Emperor Tiberius, loved broccoli so much that he gorged on it (excluding all other foods) for an entire month.  It was only after his father chided him for “living precariously,” that he was induced to give it up.  It was during the Roman Empire that broccoli became a staple of their warriors who believed that it enabled them to gain strength for battles.

Despite its early success, its introduction into England and France in the early 18th century did not fare well.  And although broccoli received its debut in the United States over 200 years ago, it did not obtain favor with the general public until the D’Arrigo brothers, Stephano and Andrea, immigrants from Italy, established The D’Arrigo Brothers Company and created “the brand name Andy Boy, named after Stephano’s two-year-old son, Andrew. They advertised by sponsoring a radio program and featured ads for broccoli on the station. By the 1930s the country was having a love affair with broccoli. People were convinced that broccoli was a newly developed plant”(Wikipedia).

Broccoli is another powerhouse vegetable, rich in vitamin A and beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant which has been found to help protect against cancer and aging.  Because beta-carotene is a fat-soluble vitamin, pairing foods rich in it with fats such as nuts or olive oil can help the body absorb it more readily. A cup of cooked broccoli provides as much calcium as 4 oz. of milk and as much Vitamin C as an orange while weighing in at only 44 calories. Eaten raw, one cup chopped comes in at only 24 calories! Looking to boost your potassium? Need iron? Adding fiber to your diet? All are reasons to put broccoli on the table.

 

Ham and Broccoli Roll-ups

1 Bunch fresh broccoli or 1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen broccoli spears, cooked and drained

5 thin slices cooked Ham

½ cup Mayonnaise

3 T. Flour

½ tsp. Salt

1/8 tsp. Pepper

1 ½ cups Milk

1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Cheddar Cheese

Fine dry Bread Crumbs

Wrap ham around broccoli spears.  Place rolls in shallow casserole.  In small saucepan, stir together mayonnaise, flour, salt and pepper.  Gradually stir in milk.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened.  Add cheese, stirring until blended.  Pour sauce over rolls.  Sprinkle with bread crumbs.  Broil 4 or 5 inches from source of heat 2 minutes or until bubbly.  Serves  5.

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718.  Like us on facebook for updates.

 

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Prep your home and lawn checklist for fall

BLOOM-Prep-lawn(NewsUSA) – As autumn colors set in this season, make sure your all-important home and garden upkeep checklist is ready.

Although the lawn is often overlooked during the fall, it’s actually the perfect time to make sure everything is organized before the harsher winter elements take hold. Paul James, host of HGTV’s Gardening by the Yard, advises homeowners to start early—approximately six weeks before the first good freeze.

Here is a list of some of the tasks and items you should add to your fall checklist this year:

*Maintain the landscape. Tidy up the lawn, flowerbeds, bushes, gardens, etc. Remove unsightly foliage, dead stems, piles of leaves and other debris. Fluff your mulch with a rake so water can seep into the subsoil.

*Plant fall vegetables. Cool-season vegetable gardens can flourish with the right plants—lettuce, greens, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, potatoes and loads more. Imagine all the hearty stews and delicious soups you could make from scratch.

*Keep muscles relaxed, and stay hydrated. Don’t underestimate the fall sun. Summer may be over, but hours of gardening in the sun can still leave you exhausted, strained and parched. Remember to drink plenty of fluids, take breaks and stretch your muscles. If you suffer from backaches and muscle strains, keep some relief like Absorbine Jr. (www.absorbinejr.com) on hand. The natural menthol in Absorbine Jr. helps relieve muscle and back pain to make it a must-have for yardwork. Its herbal ingredients also help provide relief from sunburn and gnat and other insect bites.

*Make room for indoor plants. Your potted or container plants won’t survive the winter outside, so it’s time to make room indoors for tropical plants, herbs and succulents. Potted perennials can be transplanted into a garden after trimming the roots and some top growth.

*Clean garage, shed or outbuildings. Once you organize your storage space, you can neatly put away all of your summer tools or patio furniture. Plus, your newly emptied planters will have a home next to all the other stuff families accumulate.

 

 

 

 

 

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Top tips for avoiding injury and strain while gardening

BLOOM-Tips-to-avoid-injury-while-gardening

(BPT) – There are so many reasons it’s rewarding to tend a garden throughout an entire season. Every month offers new plant growth and well into autumn you get to enjoy nature’s bounty as well as mental and physical health benefits. And enthusiasm for gardening is high: Nearly half (49 percent) of American homeowners have gardened in the last 12 months, or 164 million people, as stated in a 2012 report on GreenhouseManagement.com. But one unwelcome part of taking up gardening as a hobby is the potential for strain and injury.

To get the most out of your time gardening, consider these tips for avoiding physical discomfort:

1. Start with a few stretches

You wouldn’t go for a jog or attend a workout class without warming up, so why would you garden without taking a few moments to stretch first? Before grabbing your tools and heading to your yard, spend five or 10 minutes doing stretches focusing on your arms, legs, back and neck. You’ll be moving and turning a lot, so be sure to stretch and loosen muscles to avoid strain when you’re out tending your garden.

2. Avoid bending and lifting the wrong way

Chronic back pain is an issue for many Americans both young and old. Just because you have back issues doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy gardening. Consider installing raised garden beds, which allow you to garden without having to bend over. Additionally, container gardens can be placed on tables or deck railings for easy access. If you don’t suffer from back pain, avoid back injury by bending and lifting the right way. Remember to maintain good posture, minimize quick twisting motions, bend at the hips and knees only, lift items in a slow and controlled manner, and enlist help if necessary.

3. Protect hands and wrists

Gardening can be physically demanding, and the repetitive motions of weeding, hoeing, raking or shoveling can be problematic for the hands and wrists, particularly if you suffer from arthritis. Minimize irritation by wearing a supportive glove, like Imak arthritis gloves, commended by the Arthritis Foundation for Ease-of-Use. These specially designed gloves provide mild compression that helps increase circulation, which ultimately reduces pain and promotes healing. Washable and made from breathable cotton, the gloves are great for the garden enthusiast. Plus the extra protection helps gardeners avoid painful blisters.

4. Protect the skin from the sun

One of the best parts of gardening is you get to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors, but that can mean extended time in the sun so it’s important to protect your skin. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and light cotton clothing that covers exposed skin are good first steps. Always apply a water-resistant, broad-spectrum lotion that is SPF 30 or higher at least 15 minutes prior to going outside, as recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology.

These simple tips will help position you for a full season of gardening delights. Without injury or other physical irritations, you’ll be able to savor the fruits of your labor in the beauty of Mother Nature.

 

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How to save money on lawn care

With a few eco-friendly tweaks to the way you care for your lawn, you can save some green from your wallet and some time.

With a few eco-friendly tweaks to the way you care for your lawn, you can save some green from your wallet and some time.

(StatePoint) There’s no doubt that Americans spend a fortune on lawn care annually. But you can trim your costs without sacrificing your beautiful yard.

And if you need more motivation than saving money, remember that many of the lawn care practices that are good for your pocketbook are great for the planet.

Why Green Matters

Sure, green lawns are a pleasure to look at…but there’s much more to it than that! Consider this:

• Environmental Benefits: Trees, shrubs and grass remove smoke, dust and other pollutants from the air.

• Lifestyle Benefits: Well-placed plantings offer privacy and tranquility by screening out busy street noises.  Do you have children or pets? Turf is necessary for play space.

• Economic Benefits: A green lawn can improve property value.

Efficient Irrigation

When you’re standing out there with a hose, it can be hard to gauge when to stop. Without efficient water distribution, you’re liable to waste water and harm your lawn and plants. However, an irrigation system can help remove that guesswork.

And opt for a licensed contractor with an established reputation for your installation. They can help avoid common do-it-yourself pitfalls, such as uneven sprinkler coverage and poor water pressure.

Smart Technology

Consider investing in a smart system that uses sensors to measure moisture levels in soil. Professionally installed, properly maintained sensors can potentially save a household more than 11,000 gallons of irrigation water annually, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates.

A good soil sensor will also have extra capabilities, such as the ability to detect soil type and adjust calculations accordingly. For example the Toro Precision Soil Sensor, which is installed without digging, is the only such sensor to offer freeze detection that prevents irrigation when temperatures approach freezing.

Don’t let the initial installation costs of an irrigation system dissuade you. Not only will you recoup the cost over time, but many municipalities and water districts nationwide offer homeowner rebates for installing water conserving irrigation products. Check with your local water district or municipality for rebates in your area.

Optimize

Don’t be afraid to upgrade your motorized lawn care equipment or parts when necessary. From lawn mowers and electric hedge trimmers to the controller, valves and sprinklers of your irrigation system, efficient alternatives may entail upfront costs, but will optimize savings over time.

For example, leaking valves are a major source of water loss, so check them annually for issues. Also, a simple immediate upgrade you may want to consider is replacing your spray nozzles with more efficient ones designed to eliminate runoff and reduce water bills. To calculate how much money you can save with a model like the Toro Precision Series Spray Nozzle, visit www.toro.com/irrigation/psn_calculator.htm.

 

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Top tasks for your fall home maintenance checklist

Gutter cleaning should be part of your fall home maintenance checklist. Courtesy: HomeAdvisor

Gutter cleaning should be part of your fall home maintenance checklist. Courtesy: HomeAdvisor

(StatePoint)  Keeping your home in shape may not top your daily to-do list, but completing certain small seasonal tasks can save you money, time and the need to complete larger, more expensive projects in the future.

“Investing a small amount for preventative fall home maintenance can save thousands in the long run,” Leah Ingram, personal finance expert, says.

Don’t know where to start? The following checklist from HomeAdvisor can help homeowners prepare their homes for the cooler months:

• Clean gutters: During the year, debris such as leaves and twigs can pile in your gutter. Cleaning them once a year prevents problems such as water damage, roof damage and flooding.

•Service your furnace: A well-maintained furnace can help save on heating costs and prevent the need for repairs. Before temperatures drop, schedule your furnace to be serviced.

• Install weather stripping: As fuel and electricity costs continue to rise, keeping your home warm without wasting money and energy is important. Weather stripping your doors and windows can make a big impact.

• Winterize sprinklers: Removing all the water that’s in the lines, pipes, fittings, valves, sprinklers and pumps will prevent your equipment from freezing, expanding and potentially breaking. Hire a professional to attach an air compressor to the system to blow out the water from the lines, pipes and other parts. The service is inexpensive and a professional will know the proper amount of volume and pressure to use to ensure no water is left in the system.

• Clean your chimney: Chimney maintenance is not optional. Deadly fires, carbon monoxide poisoning and expensive chimney repairs are serious consequences associated with neglected chimney maintenance. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends all fireplaces, chimneys, flues and venting systems be inspected at least once a year by a pro.

• Flush your water heater: Generally speaking, water heaters are fairly reliable, so they usually aren’t top of mind. But flushing your water heater periodically can prevent leaks and promote efficiency.

“Hiring a professional for fall maintenance tasks like these is a great idea,” Ingram says. “Use a resource such as Cost Guide to research the average price of a project in your zip code before hiring a pro.”

To use Cost Guide and find a professional, visit www.HomeAdvisor.com.

 

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