Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Top Six Tips for Simple, Healthy Living

Living a healthy life is much easier than most people assume and the rewards greatly outweigh the effort. By taking the necessary steps towards healthy living, you can improve the quality of your life and reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke and other serious diseases.

The top six easy tips for living a healthy lifestyle include:

1. Stay active
Exercise on a daily basis, even if you only have time for 15 or 20 minutes. Your body needs to move and our time consuming jobs often leave us sedentary for most of the day. You don’t need to complete the Iron Man to be healthy! The key to sticking with exercise is making it enjoyable. Find an activity that fits your personality. Join a league, wake up early and go on a brisk walk, or plan an evening workout with friends, family or even your pet. Whatever form of exercise, make sure you raise your heart rate intermittently, which will keep your heart healthy. Regular exercise will also strengthen your muscles and bones and will help protect your body against disease.

2. Focus on a healthy diet
With all of the bad choices available to us in modern society, keeping a healthy diet is probably the most challenging piece of good health. The key is including a variety of fruits and veggies, and focusing on “whole” or unprocessed foods. Limit foods and drinks that are high in calories, sugar, salt and fat. Limit alcohol consumption, which often results in extra calorie intake, as well as harm to the liver. A balanced diet is the key to receiving the vitamins and minerals that your body needs. A healthy diet will strengthen your immune system and will help you control your blood pressure and cholesterol.

3. Embrace probiotics
Probiotics introduce beneficial bacteria and enzymes to your digestive track, improving digestive as well as strengthening the immune system. A probiotic cleanse is a great way to detoxify the body, while also boosting the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and antioxidants.

4. Keep Hydrated
About 60% of our body weight is made up of water. Water plays a vital role in nearly every bodily function. It constantly rejuvenates our cells and it is especially important to drink water in morning to help the cells replace the oxygen they lost the night before. Water is also essential for proper digestion and nutrient absorption. It helps remove toxins from the body and regulates our body’s temperature. A general rule is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day to provide your body with its minimum water replacement requirements. Tap water can carry many impurities so it is best to incorporate some type of purification or water conditioning system. One of the most effective and natural water filtration systems is ion water purification using far infrared ceramics.

5. Protect yourself
Protect yourself, your skin and your body from harm. Wear sunscreen and a hat to protect you from the powerful sun. Insect repellent is a great way to protect you from bugs and avoid contracting an insect spread virus. Wash your hands regularly to stop the spread of germs. Avoid smoking and being around second hand smoke, which can both cause major harm to your body and lungs. Know what to do in an emergency and have an emergency kit nearby.

6. Manage stress
In modern society, being stress-free ironically takes a bit of work, but managing stress can greatly improve your quality of life, and reduce many stubborn health issues. Balance work, home and play by deciding on priorities and making enough time for each aspect of your life. Surround yourself with a strong support system that can help you stay sane when things go awry. Ask for assistance when you need it and stay positive. Try to focus on solutions instead of dwelling on problems. Take time to relax and make sure to get enough sleep, about seven to nine hours, each night. If you still find yourself struggling with stress, consider incorporating yoga, mediation and massage into your life.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Maintaining Your Lawn during a Drought

More than 13 states are currently experiencing severe drought in the southern part of the US. Here in Texas, we are experiencing the third worse drought ever on record. With state-wide burn bans, lakes at record lows, and the Department of Agriculture declaring our state a federal disaster area, it easy to understand why people are a bit nervous about their water usage. It feels wrong to waste water on your lawn when farmers are in dire straits, cattlemen are forced to sell off livestock, and our lakes are bone dry.

Thankfully, there are a number of simple strategies you can employ to keep your lawn healthy (and even green!) this summer, without using copious amount of water or contributing to the drought.

When you water, water deep.

Watering your lawn a little bit everyday might seem like the right thing to do but it’s really just wasteful and ineffective. The water evaporates away too quickly, without really quenching your lawn's thirst. A better strategy is to give your lawn lots of water at once. This tactic allows the water to seep deeper into the ground. Water that lies deep within the soil is less likely to evaporate and also encourages grass to grow deeper roots, making your lawn heartier and more effective at absorbing the water it needs. If you soak your lawn, you can also space out your waterings to be more infrequent. This is a tactic that you should employ with your lawn even when there is no drought. It’s just an all-round good practice.

Avoid fertilizers, but Improve Soil Quality

Avoid lawn fertilizers during droughts as they encourage leaf and shoot growth which will drastically increase the amount of water your lawn will require to remain healthy. It is best to stop fertilizer treatments in mid to late spring and allow your lawn to transition into natural dormancy (i.e. slower growth in summer) in order to maintain its green hue with less water. Rather than fertilizer, add a microbial inoculant like EM·1® to the soil whenever you water. This will support the growth of beneficial organisms in the soil, improve the soil structure, drainage, and root water retention. A healthy micro-environment will also guard the lawn against disease during the extreme heat which can lower your lawn's natural defenses.

Make Sure Your Mower is Drought Ready

Sharpen your lawn mower blade, as a dull blade will shred the grass and shredded grass requires up to 60% more water to remain healthy. Likewise, raise the cutting height of your lawn mower. By allowing the grass to grow slightly higher, you are encouraging deeper root growth. As mentioned earlier, this will make your lawn resilient and more efficient at absorbing and retaining water and moisture. Finally, cut your lawn less frequently. Space out your trims to once a month or more.

Gather Water Naturally

Here in Texas rain barrels have always been popular, but with the recent green movement, they can also be attractive additions to your yard. Simply stand an empty barrel (or two or three) in your yard and let the rain clouds do the rest. Be sure to choose a spot that allows for maximum collection. For example, under a rooftop drainage system is ideal. Take advantage of rain from the roof and set barrels underneath gutter spouts to collect the rain water. This water can be used to water plants instead of using tap water.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Controlling Compost Odors

Many people understand the general process and benefits of composting, yet many choose not to pursue composting due to the associated odors. To the surprise of compost naysayers, healthy compost actually has no foul odor whatsoever. The rotting or ammonia smell people often associate with compost actually comes from incorrect composting techniques. To ensure your spouse, landlord, or HOA doesn’t give you the boot for being too stinky, you should follow the simple composting practices outlined below.

Why Does My Compost Smell?

Unhealthy compost odor can easily be resolved. The most important thing is identifying the underlying source of the smell. Once this is determined, there is generally a simple fix.

Possible Sources of the Smell…

Imbalanced Nitrogen/Carbon Ratio
Most odor issues are due to an unhealthy ratio of nitrogen to carbon – both essential elements to the composting process. Carbon, also referred to as brown material, is the dead and dry parts of your compost including paper, peat moss, sawdust, or dead leaves. Nitrogen is often referred to as the green material in your compost and includes things like food scraps and grass clippings. The ideal ratio is 25-30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Major shifts in this ratio will lead to unpleasant smells. When there is an over-abundance of nitrogen or green parts in the mix, the compost will have an ammonia or sewage-like smell. The remedy is adding brown materials like leaves, newspaper and straw to re-establish the ratio. Unfortunately, this can take time, patience and perhaps more space than is available as the compost pile grows in size with more green material. In many cases a simpler solution is adding healthy microbes and enzymes to help in the decomposition process. EM•1® compost accelerant, for example, not only prevents anaerobic, odor-causing decay by producing stable organic matter particles (humus), but it also speeds up the whole compost process.

The microbes that break down your compost require a healthy level of oxygen. Without this oxygen, your compost may become over-compacted leading to excess hydrogen sulfide and a smell of rotten eggs.
The remedy for over-compacted, un-oxygenated compost is aerating the heap. This requires the simple but messy task of churning the compost on a regular basis. It’s also a good idea to add ‘fluffy’ material, like dry leaves or grass in order to achieve the right density.

Too Much Moisture
While healthy compost requires a great deal of moisture, too much can definitely turn into a smelly problem. If your compost is in a closed container, make holes in the container so some of the moisture can be released and your compost can function properly.

Proper Compost Materials

One important thing to remember is that not everything belongs in the compost bin. These things can invite unwanted creatures and smells.
We recommend that you don’t add:
  • Meat
  • Bones
  • Fish
  • Dairy products
  • Grease or oil
But please DO add:
  • Comfrey
  • Garden waste
  • Lawn clippings
  • Kitchen waste (including tea bags, coffee grounds, cooked pasta, fruit and vegetable trimmings.)
  • Manure
  • Seaweed
  • Woody prunings
  • Weeds
  • Bracken
  • Straw
  • Newspaper and cardboard
  • A high quality Microbial Inoculant
While all of these tips are useful and work, some people still find the compost process to be time consuming and, despite best efforts, still smelly. Not to worry! There is another alternative…

The Most Effective Compost Alternative: The Bokashi Method

If you’re searching for a simpler solution, the Bokashi Compost Method is the best alternative to traditional composting currently available. The Bokashi Method is not only easier than composting, but because it relies on the fermentation process rather than decomposition, it is also quicker, requires less churning, and is virtually odorless, making it ideal for urban dwellers.

The Bokashi Method requires 3 simple steps:
  1. Allow 1-2 weeks to fill compost bin
  2. Leave compost in bin to ferment for 2 weeks adding EM•1® Bokashi every few days
  3. Bury the material underground for 2 weeks or simply add it to your traditional compost pile
This method eliminates all odors and takes place in less than a month!

Controlling the smell of your compost is easier than you think. And with the right knowledge, composting is one of the easiest and most beneficial things you can do.