Sunday, March 17, 2013

Links of the Week

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  What a great day to wear green and take care of yourself - literally from head to toe - in a "green" way, too!

Let's start with some great natural shampoos you can buy and ones you can make yourself.

Next, we'll naturally clean and brighten those pearly whites.

And lastly, we'll tackle those much neglected winter tootsies.

By the end of the day, all that's left to do is pamper yourself with a nice cold glass of Irish ale.  Cheers!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Links of the Week

It's that time of year ... spring cleaning!  And now we have one less hour to get it done (thanks a lot, daylight savings!).

This year, make sure you get all your spring cleaning done in a non-toxic way.  Here are 3 articles detailing eco-friendly cleaning - including inexpensive & easy homemade recipes:

Homemade Cleaners/Natural Cleaning Recipes

More Homemade Cleaners/Natural Cleaning Recipes

Avoiding Toxic Laundry Detergent Ingredients

Happy Spring Cleaning!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Links of the Week

So many great articles, so little time ... 

This week's first article combines two of my favorite things: healthy herbs and gardening!

And speaking of healthy herbs, the second article covers 8 herbs for arthritis relief.

And the last article is an excerpt from the book "Homemade Living: Home Dairy with Ashley English" written by our wonderful local author, Ashley English, which gives a simple recipe for homemade yogurt.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

New Kitty Checklist

It hits you when you least expect it.  Maybe you saw a picture in Critter Magazine.  Maybe you stopped at the pet store to pick up some treats and they were having an adoption event.  Maybe your child is going off to college and is putting the screws to you to take care of Fluffy while she is away.  (Spoiler alert...Fluffy never leaves!)  However it happens, when love pounces you just have to go with it.  So let me be the first to say:

Congratulations on your new kitty!

Here are a few things that you’ll need for the transition to having a well-adjusted family member.

Food – A good quality, high moisture meat-based diet is essential for your new cat’s health and happiness. An ideal feline diet contains a variety of canned or raw food. Kittens need frequent feeding for the first six months of life to support their growth and development. Introduce an assortment of tastes and textures while young so your cat won’t become a finicky eater.

Food Bowls – Cat food bowls should be shallow and wide, like a saucer, to accommodate whiskers, and made of ceramic, glass, or stainless steel. No plastic food bowls– they can harbor bacteria or cause chin acne.

Water bowl or fountain – Water is crucial to feline health and cats are often poor drinkers (they naturally do not have a strong thirst-drive). Make a water station somewhere away from their food (cats instinctually avoid water where they eat) or set up a water fountain such as the Drinkwell where the moving water will encourage drinking. This can head off urinary problems caused by chronic dehydration. But don't be alarmed if your raw-fed cat rarely drinks water – raw food contains approximately 70% moisture so your kitty won’t need to drink much water.

Collar and Tag – A breakaway collar and ID tag will identify your cat if she gets lost.

Litter, Box and Scoop – A high quality litter will help keep your house free of unpleasant odors. See our recent posts on Natural Cat Litter to learn about the variety of litters made from non-toxic, sustainable materials. The litter box should be large and deep to keep the litter inside. A large strong slotted scoop such as the Litter Lifter will make your chores go faster.

Stain/Odor Remover – Bring this home before an accident happens. Anti Icky Poo is a great enzymatic cleaner that dissolves the source of stains and odor from carpets, floors, bedding, and clothing to insure your kitty won’t be drawn back to the same spot. Take it from me, this stuff works!

Grooming Tools – Brushing is a great way to bond with your new kitty. Besides stimulating the skin, it removes loose hair and dander. Use a pin brush or a stainless steel comb for long-haired cats, and a FURminator, slicker brush or Zoom Groom rubber massager for short-haired cats. Use a scissors-style nail trimmer to keep nails short. Always have a jar of styptic powder on hand in case you nick a quick. A flea comb is an essential (and non-toxic!) tool for finding fleas and removing them.

Scratching equipment – Scratching is an essential feline function. It provides exercise, marks territory and removes the outer sheath of their claws. Channel their scratching behavior to a scratching post or cardboard scratcher in your house. More is better! They can be inexpensive and will save your furniture. Posts can be simple or elaborate and provide climbing opportunities for indoor enrichment.

Beds – Cats will always seek something soft and warm. Give your kitty her own place and protect your stuff from cat hair with a soft washable throw, mat or bed. Molly Mutt beds come with a removable cover for easy laundering. Kitty Caves are especially popular with kittens and shy cats for a safe and quiet refuge.

Toys – Keep your cat happy, interested and active with a variety of fabulous toys. Anything with fur, feathers or movement will elicit his hunting instinct and contribute to his rich fantasy world. Wand toys let you interact with your cat, alleviating boredom and preventing obesity. Laser toys are very amusing – cats will chase the little red dots until their paws fall off – but always end a laser play session with a toy your cat can actually “capture” so he doesn’t get frustrated. Catnip toys are great too; about 60% of cats respond to catnip, and kittens take time to become sensitive to it. When my cats were kittens, they loved to chase all those little pieces of plastic detritus that collects in our homes--milk carton lids, the tin foil off a yogurt container, a wad of paper. Throw it on the floor and see what works.  Or make your own Whack-a-Mole like this one.

Treats – Cats love treats, and will actually come to the shaking of the treat jar. The best and healthiest treats are dehydrated meat or fish bits. They add high quality protein to your cat’s diet and won’t put on weight like carbohydrate-based treats. There are many to choose from: Pure Bites Shrimp, Grandma Lucy’s Just Treats, Catswell Treats and many others made from beef, chicken, lamb, liver, tuna, mahi mahi and turkey. Just make sure none of the treats say “Made in China” – check the fine print on the back of the box or bag.

Speaking of cats coming to the shaking of a treat jar, train your cat to come inside by rattling something every time you feed your kitty. I put pennies in an empty can with a cover on top. Every time I fed the cats, I very softly shook the can. Like Pavlov’s dogs, they now associate that rattling with food and come running whenever I shake the can.

Carrier – A sturdy carrier is necessary for trips to the vet. Plastic carriers are inexpensive and easy to tote and will make your cat feel and be safer if you have to take her out of your home.

You're all set, then.  Above all, have fun with your kitten, and I wish your drapes "good luck!"

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Links of the Week

It's a fruit theme this week!  After reading an excellent book on permaculture called Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, I've been obsessed with planting more "permaculture" type plants, i.e., perennial plants that provide food, wildlife value and/or soil enrichment.  And the best part about permaculture gardening ... Less Work!  More food plus less work ... what's not to love about that?

So let's plant some excellent small fruit trees which we can easily grow for free:  Apricots, Nectarines and Peaches

Or one of my favorite antioxidant-packed fruits:  Blueberries

And a fruit with multiples uses, such as supplying yummy food for us, feeding wild song birds, and deterring deer when grown in a thick hedge:  Raspberries

My mouth is watering just thinking of all these delicious, healthy, fresh picked fruits I'll be eating this summer!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Links of the Week

It's beautiful outside today which has gotten me in the mood for gardening!

I've found a few links that discuss how to attract beneficial insects.  I've been working on attacting and keeping beneficials around for quite a few years now with some definite "good bugs" sticking around.  Just a couple years ago I found a few tomato hornworms carefully hiding on my tomato plants (they are excellent at camouflage ... the best way to find tomato hornworms is to see their frass (aka little "poops") on the leaves or ground below the tomato plants.  But I didn't worry about killing those hornworms because I knew they would die soon anyway because braconid wasps had laid their little eggs in the hornworms and would soon devour and kill them.  Here's a picture I took:

Braconid Wasp Cocoons on Tomato Hornworm

I have also been "raising" praying mantids for many years which are not exactly the best "good bug" since they will also catch and eat other "good bugs," such as bees and butterflies.  But they are fascinating.  Here they are coming out of their egg case in spring - hundreds of them - and a picture of a full-grown praying mantis hiding in my morning glories:

Baby Praying Mantids


So to attract your own beneficials to your garden, check out this list of plants and their growing seasons: Growing Plants to Attract Beneficials

And the best flowers to grow in borders for attracting the good guys: Flowers for Borders

And how to attract a specific beneficial - hoverflies - which are excellent for eating those nasty little aphids: Attracting Hoverflies for Aphid Control

Time to start planning your garden to include all these wonderful flowers, ground covers and other plants to attract wonderful "good bugs" to your yard!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Links of the Week

So the theme for this week's articles turns out to be food and cooking.  I'm pretty sure it was brought on by the cold weather we've been having recently here in the Western North Carolina mountains.  Nothing says "keep warm and cozy" like a freshly baked apple crisp or pot of homemade soup - yum!

This first article discusses 6 simple ways of old-fashioned cooking, such as making meals from scratch ... a lost "art" that has been making a comeback ... especially if you're pinching pennies (and who isn't nowadays?):  Old Fashioned Cooking Tips 

Look at those buns!

The second article discusses how to care for cast iron cookware (definitely a basic for any "old fashioned" cooking)!  I currently only have one large cast iron frying pan, and will soon start scouring thrift shops to find more.  I've been working on "seasoning" my cast iron pan for a year now, and used it just the other day to make pancakes for the first time and those pancakes did not stick once!  I made them with thinned yogurt to replace the buttermilk I did not have, and then smothered them with real organic maple syrup = heaven for my taste buds!  Cast Iron TLC

Classic Cast Iron

And the last article is sort of a "call to arms" to promote and continue eating organic food.  It's amazing to me that anyone can say organic is not better food ... for the health of us, our pets, and our planet!  What Healthy Really Means

Beautiful Bounty of Organic Food

Happy Reading!  :)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Natural Cat Litter, Part 2. The Scoop.

In out first installment, I talked about the environmental and health costs of clay and clumping litters.  Bad stuff.  Now let’s talk about some alternatives.  They’ll turn just about anything into cat litter these days and most of them are biodegradable.  When you shop for natural cat litter, you will find litters made of corn, wheat, walnuts, recycled newspaper, pine nuggets, cedar.  Here are some pros and cons of some that we've tried here at Green Earth Pet Food.  Prices are averaged out over several sources.

1.  Feline Pine.  $0.65/pound.

PROS:  Made of highly absorbent, non-clumping pine fibers in pellet or sawdust form.  
Light pine scent and good odor control.
Low dust.  

CONS:  Packaged in plastic.
Cats can track the fine particles throughout the house.

My cats didn't "do" Feline Pine personally, but I think that's because I didn't give them enough transition time.  The pellets are unusual and not at all like other litters, so give your cat plenty of time to make the switch, mixing in a little at a time with their usual litter.

2.  Swheat Scoop.  $0.96/pound

PROS:  Made of renewable, naturally clumping wheat.
Fairly good odor control--the natural enzymes in the wheat work fairly well to control odors.
Minimal tracking.
Fairly low in dust.
Easy to transition.
Recyclable packaging.
Mild, pleasant bready scent.

CONS:  Mild, pleasant bready scent may be attractive to dogs.  Kristi's dogs thought the litter was an extra treat in the box and had to go on a low carb diet.
Not appropriate for a gluten free household.

3.  World's Best Cat Litter.  $1.18/pound.

PROS:  Made of renewable, naturally clumping whole kernel corn.
Good odor control.
Low dust.
Low tracking.
Mild "farmy" scent.
Long lasting.

CONS:  Plastic package.

In spite of the price, this litter lives up to its name.  AVOID the scented multi-cat formula, though.  In fact, AVOID all scented cat litters.  In general, scents are added chemicals (VOCs) that will just irritate your cat and possibly make her want to avoid her litter box.

4.  Yesterday's News.  $ 0.67/pound.

PROS:  Made from 100% recycled newspaper, including the packaging.
99.7% dust free (lowest of all the litters)
Excellent absorption of moisture.
Low tracking.

CONS:  Does not clump.
I think it smells a little funky (but that's just me).

5.  Cedarific Cat Litter.  $0.87/pound

PROS:  Made of hardwood and cedar chips.
Pleasant odor (doesn't smell like hamsters, I swear!)
Low in dust.
Recyclable package.

CONS:  Non clumping.
A little on the light side, so cats track it out of the box more easily.

These are just a few of the brands that we have first-hand experience with.  There doesn't seem to be a "perfect" natural cat litter, but hopefully this non-scientific review will help you choose what works for you according to your priorities.  

REGARDING FLUSHING AND COMPOSTING:  Almost all of the litters advertise that they are "flushable," but in my research I found that the most environmentally friendly thing to do is to NOT flush cat waste down the toilet, where it will enter the waterways and even the ocean.  Cats have a parasite--toxoplasma gondii, if you were wondering.  It has been found in dolphins, humpback whales, sea otters, monk seals.  It doesn't belong there, so bag your cat poop and throw it away.  As for composting, your compost pile will not heat up enough to kill this parasite, so don't put your litter in compost intended for food plants.

BONUS FOR THE FRUGAL:  I loves me some World's Best Cat Litter.  It's my top pick, but it's expensive.  What else is made of corn, absorbs moisture, controls odor and is otherwise identical in every way but costs a quarter the price?   Chicken Feed.  That's right.  You can get a 50 pound bag of chicken "crumbles" for about $15.  It doesn't clump as tightly as WBCL, but it really is super economical.  Buy a small bag first to see if this is a good option for you and keep extra in the freezer to minimize bugs.  Get only unmedicated feed and, again, make sure it is in crumble form.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Links of the Week

So you get to do a little “green” reading this weekend (my favorite kind)!

We’ll start with a great article discussing the new and improved (and becoming less expensive) LED lights.  They do not contain mercury (like CFLs), have a better lighting quality and can be dimmed.  As each of my CFLs die out, I’ve decided to replace it with an LED light.

Next, check out this wonderful website that has oodles of suggestions on how to rid your life of plastic!  I already do the first two on the list, and I’ve set a goal to incorporate into my life one item from the list each week.  I’ll keep you posted on how it goes …

And lastly, Mark Bittman’s article illustrates the audacity of big corporations, like Coca-Cola, to make consumers believe these big companies are trying to make our lives better and healthier.  Oh please, please don’t let consumers fall prey to their marketing ploys!

Happy reading!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Links of the Week

Here is some information worth sharing I stumbled upon this week.

1.  The Yellow Dog Project

The Yellow Dog Project was created to bring awareness to dogs who need space while training, recovering from surgery, or being rehabilitated.  If you see a dog with a yellow harness, leash, ribbon, whatever, this is a dog that needs space.  Do not approach this dog and give the dog and his owner time to move away.  CLick on the link to find out 
more and be sure to share this information with your friends.

2.  Should You Walk Your Dog On or Off Leash?

Dr. Laurel Davis of Sunvet Wellness continues her series, Top 10 ways to connect with your dog and makes a good point about your dog's need to just be a dog sometimes (hint:  it involves the nose).

3.  Free Puppy Social Saturday, January 19 at Asheville Humane Society.

Go to Carolina Mountain Dog for details.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Natural Cat Litter, Part 1

I read a heartbreaking story recently from Marina Michaels at Catmom.  She raises Japanese Bobtails and lost almost every kitten from three litters just when they reached litter box age.  She put two and two together and realized that the clumping cat litter that is so convenient and so popular was likely the cause of what must have been painful, yet preventable, deaths.  So I looked into it myself, and I’d like to share what I learned in my two part post--the bad, the good and, for Kristi, the frugal!


The most popular and readily available and cheapest litters are made of clay, which is naughty for two main reasons.


Clay litters contain silica, which is a known carcinogen and can cause silicosis, a respiratory disease characterized by lesions in the lungs and throat and caused by breathing the silica-laden dust found in clay litter.  No thank you!

Clumping litters contain sodium bentonite, which is basically expandable cement.  They tell you not to flush the clumps because they can clog your pipes.  Sodium bentonite expands 15-18 times its original size.  If it’s hard on your home’s plumbing, imagine what it did to those little Japanese Bobtails’ plumbing when they licked it off their paws after using the litter box, as cats do.  Clumping cat litter plus cats who groom themselves is a recipe for disaster.  Please get rid of this stuff immediately.


Getting rid of clay litter or clumping litter is easier said than done.  You can’t compost them.  They NEVER biodegrade, so they just sit in the landfills.  Forever.  And just as disposing of clay litter is hard on the environment, producing it is equally destructive. Clay litter is strip mined without regard to the land, the water or the miners.


Fortunately, there are lots of alternatives to traditional clay litter.  Some of the environmentally friendly litters even offer clumping ability, if you must.  You can find natural litters made from a variety of renewable resources including wheat, pine, walnuts, corn cobs, and recycled newspapers.  Next week I am going to review some of the brands and materials, plus the pros and cons according to my relatively unscientific research.

See you then.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Links of the Week

Here are some good reads I encountered this week.

1.  Happy Together:  How to Train Successfully in a Multi-Dog Household 

Because January is National Train Your Dog Month and I, for one, am CELEBRATING!  WOOT!  And Karen Pryor is the doyenne of clicker training, my personal hero.  I also recommend her book, Reaching the Animal Mind.  It is a fantastic look at using positive reinforcement to shape the behavior of ALL the animals in your life.  The website has fascinating videos of clicker trained fish, ferrets, a cat that does an entire agility course, a dog that blows bubbles in his water bowl.  Start HERE, then click through each chapter number at the top to see all the fun videos.

2.  What's Behind the Campaign to Condemn Raw Diets for Pets.

Dr. Karen Becker does it again, pointing out all the flawed "logic" the AVMA and AAHA use to try to get you to feed  your pet the unhealthiest of foods--kibble.  

3.  Top 10 Ways to Connect with Your Dog #1:  Take a Hike

Dr. Laurel Davis, holistic vet for Sunvet Animal Wellness in Asheville starts a series on bonding with your pet.  After she counts down for dogs, she promises to count down for cats.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

House Training 101

Awwwwwww....what a cute puppy!  But this is not just a gratuitous puppy picture.  According to Dr. Karen Becker, "looking at cute animals at work can fine-tune your focus and improve your attention to detail." You're welcome!


Our last post before Christmas was a New Puppy Checklist, in case someone may have been planning for a little ball of fur under the tree this year.  Hopefully, you are well-prepared and  ready to teach him the rules of your home.  In particular, where to go to relieve himself.

Let’s start with some important facts.

During the third week of life, puppies start moving away from the nest to eliminate, and by 5 weeks old they begin taking care of their business in a regular place.  From this point, up until 8 and a half weeks old, they will start developing surface preferences for elimination.  You know...grass, carpet, pine needles, piddle pads.  During this period, puppies start to get control of their bladders and bowels.  Your efforts to potty-train will be most rewarding from 7 weeks on!  And remember patience, because your puppy does not physically have complete control over his bladder until at least 4 months old so little “accidents” may happen.

Here are some steps for you to follow:

1.  Take the puppy outdoors to the same spot to eliminate.  Most important times are upon awakening, 15 minutes after meals, and after play sessions; take him out 6-8 times a day.  Be vigilant and soon you will recognize the signs that he is ready to go--sniffing, circling, looking for a remote area.  You may have to pick him up and carry him out to keep him from letting ‘er rip before you get him outside.  It is best to have your puppy on a leash and take him to the same location so that he can sniff previous odors.  It may take 15-20 minutes of sniffing; avoid playing so the puppy concentrates.  This can be excruciating.
2.  Choose a simple phrase, like “go potty,” or “be a good boy,” and repeat it to exhaustion, before and especially while he is going.  Don’t be too enthusiastic or you will distract him.  Just praise quietly until he’s done, then HAVE A PARTY.
3.  Reward your puppy immediately after getting the job done (within 15 seconds).  You can offer praise, food treats or playtime.  (This means you must be with your puppy while she eliminates, so you can praise before she engages in another activity.)
4.  Supervise your puppy indoors (like a hawk!), or use a leash or bells on the collar.  Whenever you can’t watch the puppy, he should be placed in a puppy-proof area, like a crate, a large box, a small bathroom (without rugs).  See below.
5.  Provide appropriate indoor elimination areas if you’ll be away for a long time.  An 8-12 week old puppy usually can go 2-4 hours without needing to eliminate.  For longer periods, use paper or housetraining pads, place them inside a crate or a confinement area.  Make sure the puppy has space for a rest/dining area away from the wastes.  Upon getting home, immediately take the puppy outdoors.  You may wish to take a sheet of soiled paper to the outdoor bathroom to reinforce the message.  By 7-9 months old, usually puppies can go 8-10 hours without soiling.

6.  Teach your puppy to signal when she has to go.  You can hang a bell onto the doorknob and teach the puppy to nudge it, then you open the door.  You can also cue the dog with a key phrase, like “need to go out?”  The puppy’s reaction will indicate whether he needs to eliminate.  Many will learn to bark as a signal.  Rico still rings the bell and the jingling never stops since he taught the cats to ring, too.
7.  Properly feed and water your puppy.  A full stomach stimulates the colon to contract within 10-30 minutes--a good time to take your puppy out!  Not to mention another good reason not to free feed and leave food out constantly.  But pets need access to water at all times.  If you’re concerned that thirst and/or urination is excessive, please bring that up with your veterinarian.
8.  Punishment for mistakes.  Like the name says, mistakes are mistakes and are best prevented by constant vigilance.  If you see your puppy is sniffing and assuming position, quickly grab the puppy and run outside!  If you find a puddle or a pile in the house, clean it up really well with a product specific for that use, which will degrade the odor (don’t use bleach).  Scolding your puppy after the fact will only confuse and intimidate her, and possibly damage your relationship.
9.  Develop versatility.  Once the puppy reaches 4-6 months of age (most are house trained by this age), you can introduce him to different surfaces and locations.  For example, dogs who usually eliminate in the yard should now learn to do it during a walk; or off leash; or on soil rather than grass.  Use your key phrase and then praise to tell the puppy it’s okay.
10.  Discuss problems with your veterinarian.  If you’re having problems that are not responding to these techniques, there may be physical or emotional causes that together you can identify.
There is really no one answer to the question, “How long will it take?”  All dogs are different and some catch on more quickly than others.  As with so many things related to teaching your new puppy how to live harmoniously in your household, it all boils down to the trainer--your consistency and patience are directly proportional to how successfully and quickly you and your puppy get through this stage. 

Did I mIss anything?   Please post a comment if you have any other tips that readers might find useful.  Or share a puppy picture so that we all can get more done at work!

Best of luck and have fun with your new puppy!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year’s Resolution: The 4 Healthy Ps!

It’s that time of year again … time to decide on our resolutions for the New Year.  For this year’s resolution, I’m thinking of a simple guideline - the 4 Healthy Ps:





I have decided that 2013 is the year I make all my decisions based on the question: Will it help benefit any of the 4 Healthy Ps?  If I answer yes to any one of them, then it’s a good decision.  If I can answer yes to all of them, then it’s an outstanding decision!

For example, if I decide to only buy organic or pastured eggs for me and my pets, then I am answering yes to 3 out of 4:  (1) healthy for people (pastured eggs have twice the omega-3s as conventional eggs), (2) healthy for my pets (more omega-3s for my pets, too), and (3) healthy for the planet (these chickens are not fed arsenic-laden feed nor given massive antibiotics).  It may not be healthy for my pocketbook, but I can live with that.

And who knows, perhaps my next decision in 2013 will be healthy for my pocketbook.  For instance, I may decide to learn how to make my own pizza instead of buying a premade pizza.  That also passes 3 of the 4 "tests":  (1) healthy for me (I can use lots of organic veggie ingredients), (2) healthy for my pocketbook (making it myself is cheaper than store-bought or restaurant pizza), and (3) healthy for the planet (no packaging to throw away).

So this year I will base my decisions on the 4 Healthy Ps test, aiming for 4 out of 4 on every decision.  How many Ps will your decisions impact in 2013?