Paleo & Rheumatoid Arthritis – Gardening

Admittedly, I am a crazy person.  The further I get into this Paleo world (over 5 years as of this post), the more paranoid I become about Big Business trying to poison us all.  I heard the other day that 80% of foods in the US listed as organic are not organic, and that most come from China which is heavily polluted with things like arsenic.  AGH!  We do not eat all organic, but I do buy organic when the price is reasonable and we can afford it.  I’ll be pissed if I’m not getting what I pay for.

If you do reading on the state of the world’s food supply, you’ll hear things like we’ve only got 30 – 60 years of top soil left before we can’t grow crops here anymore.  You also hear about the chemicals, like Monsanto’s Roundup, that are poisoning us all.  I live in a farming community with farmland on the south side of my house.  In the summer, the crop duster comes around 5:00 AM spraying nastiness that makes us all wheeze.

Then, of course, there are some theories that the reason we’re all getting autoimmune diseases is that our soils (and therefore the foods we eat) are depleted of nutrients and/or loaded with chemicals.

Remember when I said I was crazy? Ok, so then I think about how far our food travels (like from Chile or China), and how the way we raise animals to eat is both inhumane and destroying the planet.  That’s starting to keep me up at night.  On top of that, Colorado has a significant lack of water problem (on top of being in the high plains desert, the oil and gas industry takes most of our water for fracking).  We don’t even have the rights to water that falls from the sky in our yards in Colorado. They just passed a law last year that now allows us to keep two 55 gallon drums of water from rain.  That’s not much.  Scary, huh?  That starts creating scares not just about water security, but food security as well.  Colorado has an ever shrinking agricultural economy.

I started thinking about all of this, and thinking it is completely wasteful to be watering a lawn in my yard, when I could grow food and at least recoop that water in food that I eat.  When we moved into our house in 2003, we made a few garden beds in our back yard, which I have used every year.  This year, with my new found craziness, we expanded our endeavors with 5 new 4 foot x 4 foot wood square planters, 4 for food, and 1 for compost.  So, here’s what I’ve got in pictures so far.  Most of these were taken on June 7th, so still very early in the season.

4 foot by 4 foot square box garden with strings every 1 foot.  10 foot pvc pipes criss crossed to allow shade cloth (in this case, burlap) or plastic to make it like a greenhouse and extend the growing period.  This picture, taken June 7th, has lettuce (has already had at least a dozen salads from it), broccoli, carrots, and scallions.

4 foot by 4 foot square box garden with strings every 1 foot. 10 foot pvc pipes criss crossed to allow shade cloth (in this case, burlap) or plastic to make it like a greenhouse and extend the growing period. This picture, taken June 7th, has lettuce (has already had at least a dozen salads from it), broccoli, carrots, and scallions.

 

 

 This box contains lettuces, cauliflower, tomatoes (not ideal, as they get too big), and kale.

This box contains lettuces, cauliflower, tomatoes (not ideal, as they get too big), and kale.

 

 

This box, with the exception of the PVC pipe was a kit from a company called Greene's.  It is not as deep as the others, which we built from scratch.  It contains sweet potatoes, a pepper, strawberries, and some seeds (carrots and scallions) that haven't come up yet.

This box, with the exception of the PVC pipe was a kit from a company called Greene’s. It is not as deep as the others, which we built from scratch. It contains sweet potatoes, a pepper, strawberries, and some seeds (carrots and scallions) that haven’t come up yet.

 

Not ideal for large plants, this box has 1 cucumber and 1 cantaloupe.  We did not break it up into 1 foot sections as these will be long vines and will outgrow the box.

Not ideal for large plants, this box has 1 cucumber and 1 cantaloupe. We did not break it up into 1 foot sections as these will be long vines and will outgrow the box.

 This is one of our old beds from 2003/4.  The white flowers are arugula that came up from last year and is already going to seed.  There is a broccoli plant with yellow flower (close) that was also a surprise from last year.  Planted among all of that mess is kale and collard greens.  Kale is wonderful baked into chips.  We also juice kale and collard greens.

This is one of our old beds from 2003/4. The white flowers are arugula that came up from last year and is already going to seed. There is a broccoli plant with yellow flower (close) that was also a surprise from last year. Planted among all of that mess is kale and collard greens. Kale is wonderful baked into chips. We also juice kale and collard greens.

 

This used to be my son's garden, but he hadn't planted anything the last 2 years, so my husband took it over.  There is a new apple tree planted to the left.  I don't know what all he has planted in that bed.  In the back fence corner, there is a large rose bush.

This used to be my son’s garden, but he hadn’t planted anything the last 2 years, so my husband took it over. There is a new apple tree planted to the left. I don’t know what all he has planted in that bed. In the back fence corner, there is a large rose bush.

 

This is one end of a very long bed.  You can see sage, chives, and oregano.  In the mulch, you can see the shives have spread, as has the arugula from 15 feet away.  There are pumpkins, zucchinis, and yellow squashes planted in here also (behind these plants).

This is one end of a very long bed. You can see sage, chives, and oregano. In the mulch, you can see the chives have spread, as has the arugula from 15 feet away. There are pumpkins, zucchinis, and yellow squashes planted in here also (behind these plants).

 

Pots interspersed with flowers, basil, and rosemary (basil and rosemary are annuals in Colorado, so must be replanted every year).

Pots interspersed with flowers, basil, and rosemary (basil and rosemary are annuals in Colorado, so must be replanted every year).  The bottom pot is my lemon tree, which almost died before it got warm enough to go back outside after a long winter under grow lights.

 

My orange tree is getting buds.  Maybe I'll get some oranges.  I've had the tree for 3 years and have gotten a total of 4 oranges.

My orange tree is getting buds. Maybe I’ll get some oranges. I’ve had the tree for 3 years and have gotten a total of 4 oranges.

There’s a lot more going on in the yard than this.  It looks pretty messy, but I don’t care.  I do eventually want to kill off the grass, so we won’t have to mow.  We are composting everything we can get our hands on, so you’ll see cardboard on the ground in some of the pictures.  Very little is going to waste in our house, but I’ll save that for another post.

 

 

 

 

Going Solar

Ok, yeah, this is supposed to be a blog about rheumatoid arthritis and Paleo. Since I’ve gone Paleo though, I’ve realized how challenging it is to get good healthy food and how our planet is in such a polluted state.  Our house is in a town that is surrounded by north-south running railroad tracks. There is one set of tracks 2 miles east of us, and another set 2 miles west of us.  On the east set of tracks, there are mile+ long trains filled with coal that run south to the coal burning power plant ALL THE TIME.  I see them almost every time I am on that side of town.  It’s depressing to think about all of that air pollution.  Quite honestly, all of the pollution weights heaving on my mind (driving my car, heating my house, buying a new appliance).  There’s only so much I can control though, so I can only bite off so many things at a time.  Here is my latest chomp.

We went solar.  It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for years, but it’s been unaffordable until now.  My local co-op power company does not allow a program for leasing solar panels.  To hook them up to the grid, you have to be the owner of the panels.  Thankfully, after many years, a solar company came up with a plan.  It’s still expensive in a way, but in the long run I think we’ll break even or come out slightly ahead.

6 panels on the front of the house, facing east.

6 panels on the front of the house, facing east.

 

24 panels on the back of the house, facing west.

This is 24 panels on the back of the house, facing west (from our neighbor’s porch).

We bought a 7.65 kWh system. It was very expensive (think about the price of a car).  The solar company financed us by giving us a 30 year loan, similar to a mortgage.  We pay our monthly electric bill (starting at the same rate we normally pay to the electric company) to the solar company, and they use that money to pay off our solar loan.  They increase the electricity rates slightly over time (just like the electric company does) to make sure the loan gets paid off within 30 years.  Now, the federal government is offering tax rebates until the end of 2016, and we hope to get almost 1/3rd of the cost of our panels back in our 2015 taxes (this is dependent on how much tax you pay the feds.  You can’t get back more than you pay into federal taxes).  We will sign that money over to the solar company, and that will drastically drop the amount of our loan.  We hope to be able to stay ahead of the loan and perhaps get it paid off in about 5-6 years.  If we can’t, we’ll stick with the 30 year plan, and pay it just like our normal electric bill.

We are NOT off-grid.  We do not have batteries.  We are staying grid-tied.  We still must pay a monthly fee, a fee we’ve always had to pay of $13, to stay connected to the grid.  We feed into the grid, and the electric company has to pay us for any excess we produce that we don’t use.  They pay us at wholesale electric rate (I think 4.9 cents per kWh), not at the price we pay for electricity (10.9 cents per kWh).  The solar company guarantees a certain solar output each year for 30 years.  If we fall below, they pay us the difference at the 10.9 cents/kWh rate.  They also insure the panels against damage for 30 years. Not a bad deal.

Where we live is one of the sunniest places in the country.  Well, it was until we got our panels hooked up.  We haven’t had a full-sun day in over a week since.  I won’t complain though, as April is too early to have wildfires, and we’ve already had several.

So, keeping in mind that it’s been pretty cloudy and rainy since we got this up and going, you can check out our solar production online, if you’d like.  We’re getting rather addicted to watching how much energy we’re producing.  Has anybody else taken the solar plunge?

Food Security – Least Harm Principle

I’m up to Episode 64 of The Paleo Solution podcast (downloads free from iTunes, and if you can tolerate all the Crossfit talk, the nutrition and autoimmune information is spectacular).  At about 37.5 minutes in, a woman wrote in with a question of Paleo and sustainability, something I think about a lot.  Anyway, the answer was long and complicated, but went into comparing the environmental damage from Veganism (ok, they  think Vegans are all going to die sick and young).  They talked about Least Harm Principle, basically meaning that grain/crop farming kills just as many animals as meat-eating in terms of lost animal habitat, death of mice, gophers, rabbits, worms, etc… that live in fields.  When eating meat, you have the death of the animal, but if done well (like grass-fed beef), habitat is minimally impacted.  If you haven’t checked out Polyface Farms, the habitat is so well cared for, it’s amazing.

The answer on the podcast was long and complex.  It really involved that yes, people need to eat meat to be healthy, and yes, we need a lot fewer people in the world to be sustainable, and yes, to eat healthy we need to stop feeding every critter grain. 

I wondered if I’m the only one hung up on sustainability or if others worry about it.  Anybody ever see where your food comes from?  Join a CSA?  Visit a farm?

Being Natural – Setback?

I went to the dentist today.  My tooth history is a relative good one.  Up until age 28 or so, I saw the dentist routinely.  I got my first cavity at age 27.  It was small, in a wisdom tooth and not a big deal.  I suppose keeping up with my rheumatoid disease got the better of me, and I stopped going to the dentist around 27 or 28 years old.  I also lost dental coverage at age 24, with my first poor-pay “grown up” job, making the expense more of a hassle.  How sucky is that?

Given I was diagnosed with RA at age 23, I don’t think my oral care is to blame.  Still, there’s some good research coming out about rheumatoid and gum disease, so I thought it best to get myself back into a dentist…. now at age 40.  Yes, I’m a procrastinator. I’d been reading the gum research for a few years.

http://www.everydayhealth.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/the-link-between-gum-disease-and-rheumatoid-arthritis.aspx

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22576262

http://rawarrior.com/rheumatoid-arthritis-and-periodontal-disease/

So, I went about 3 months ago.  I had 3 small-medium cavities, plus the recommendation of having my wisdom teeth pulled.  I had the recommended “below the gumline” cleaning, but have so far skipped out on the wisdom tooth thing (where one of my cavities are).  I have a feeling this will come to a head soon.  For 13 or so years, I didn’t think this was too bad of a dental visit!

Anyway, they recommended I come back for a cleaning in 3 months, given how l hadn’t been to the dentist in so long.  I did that this morning.  It was simply a routine cleaning, but guess what!  They found 1-2 new cavities!  I can’t believe it!  Now, in my “going more natural” thing this summer, I scrapped the toothpaste I had been using my whole life (you know, the major brand most of us probably use) in favor of a less toxic one.  Perhaps that was a mistake. Perhaps.

So, now what?  I went right out and bought my good old toothpaste.  I’ll have one of the cavities filled next week, with a “watch and wait” on the other one.  I think I’ll increase my vitamin D and calcium for good measure.  Ugh!  I’m shocked how fast that happened… and pissed.  Anyway….

Being Natural – Laundry Soap

I guess it’s the summer for trying new things.  Right now, my new things are natural cleaning and hygiene products.  So, in the name of trying to get bad chemicals out of our house, here’s what I did.  I made laundry detergent!  I figure if you’re trying to get chemicals out of your house, this is probably a big one, since you’re putting it on all of your clothes, bedding, etc…  Here’s how I made it:

1 cup borax

1 cup washing soda

I bar of natural soap, shredded (I used Dr. Bonner’s tea tree scented castille soap).

I used the food processor to shred the soap (good grief, you have RA, don’t do it by hand!) Stir together.  I recommend doing this outside.  The websites I read did not saying anything about this, but it made me cough, and I don’t think it’s good to inhale borax, natural or not!

What is borax? (Note the info at the bottom about toxicity) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borax

What is washing soda?  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washing_soda

I haven’t used it yet, but I will update in the comments section when I do.  It was cheap to make (about $12), and you supposedly need only 1 tbsp per load.  I have an he washer, and everything I read said it should be safe for that.  Although the things I read said to store it in an airtight container, I went for a shoebox.  Maybe I’ll learn a lesson for that, but we’ll see.  Here’s what it looks like:

Laundry Soap in a Shoe Box

Being Natural – Aquaponics (Fish and Plants)

I’m going to the bad side… or maybe the good side… or maybe the “I’m crazy side.”  So, you know I grow worms and harvest their poo.  You know I have 20+ houseplants to clean my home’s air.  But, did you know I now have fish as slaves to grow my plants?  Well, sorta.

Aquaponics is basically using fish poo (I know, I’m all about the poo!) to grow plants in a closed loop system.  Basically, you have 2 tanks, one with plants and the other with fish.  The plants grow by anchoring themselves to rock, NO SOIL, and being bathed in dirty fish poo water.  The plants in turn, clean the water for the fish.  They only thing you need to do is feed the fish and top off water that has evaporated.  You can grow edible fish, like tilapia, or use a pet fish, as I’m doing now… a Betta.

Interesting aquaponics links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquaponics

http://www.thegrowhaus.com/grow/

http://www.growingpower.org/aquaponics.htm

Why am I doing this?  Well, in reality, I want to go much bigger, convert the basement to a space that can grow most of our veggie and fish needs (yes, I plan to EAT the tilapia).  I want to know where my food comes from, know that it’s not sprayed with chemicals, grow locally (less gas wasted getting it from farm to store to me).  In some ways, I’m in it for the environment (believe it or not, this uses LESS water than conventional farming and water is at a premium where we live).  In other ways, I’m in it for the control (would my RA be better without pesticides on my food?)

Either way, I started reading about this last summer, and found this Aquafarm on a Kickstarter program.  The farm arrived yesterday, I bought my fish today, and set the whole thing up, planting 4 cups of lettuce and 1 of basil.  Hopefully I’ll start seeing plants in a few days.

What do you think?  Am I crazy?

 

 

 

Being Natural – Plants

So, in my attempts to be as natural, environmentally friendly, and healthy as possible, 3 years or so ago I decided to aim for cleaner air in our house.  I had been reading some things about the chemicals in your home’s air from carpet, walls, paint, stain, cleaners, etc…  Apparently this stuff is rather toxic to be breathing (ever hear of Sick Building Syndrome?)  NASA has been doing studies on how to keep air clean in space.  They’ve found that certain plants absorb certain toxic chemicals from the air.  So, I set off to buy a multitude pf plants, a few just because I like them, and most because they’re supposed to clean the air.  I have 20 plants, 15 in 1 house-central spot, and 5 scattered around the house.  It makes it easier to water with them all in one place.

I’m not sure it helped or not.  My son’s allergies and asthma seem to be much better in recent years, but I think the plants might only be a small piece of that equation.  On that note, I’ve killed 2 of my plants, and need to get some replacements.  Palms clean the air, but unfortunately don’t thrive well in our dry climate.

Anyway, in case you want to try it… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_air-filtering_plants

Later gators!