Natural Bug Spray Options

Take a Hike Outdoor Joose

 

You want to play outside all summer, but how do you avoid mosquito- and tick-bourne disease? You need to deter those bugs somehow.

Don’t Breed Bugs

Start with the cause: the fact that the bugs breed in numbers. Don’t give them fertile ground—or water.

Do not leave standing water in your yard. After rain, empty plant saucers, shake out pool covers, clean the bird bath, and keep your yard either free from water that can breed mosquitos or keep any water in your yard clean.

Create a Physical Barrier

In order to bite you, the bugs need to get to you. So, create barriers. When you are inside with open windows, make sure the window screens have no holes. When you are outside, wear long sleeves and long pants. Keep your shirt tucked.

Even ankle to wrist coverage outside won’t keep the bugs away completely. You will still need some kind of insect repellent to stay bug free.

That is where the trouble begins.

Health Canada and Natural Bug Sprays

If you look at Health Canada’s recommendations for insect repellents, you will notice that there are none of the familiar brands of natural bug sprays.

And, here is where you find the sad tale of how Health Canada killed DEET-free, natural bug sprays like we have been using and selling for years.

Adria Vasil, author of the Ecoholic books available at bynature.ca, explained what was essentially a ban on natural bug spray last year. It is still possible to get approval for some ingredients, but few manufacturers can afford the testing. The fact that they have no testing doesn’t mean the products are unsafe, but it does mean they can’t sell anything they call “insect repellent” or “bug spray” or “outdoor spray.” For the full story, read her TorontoNow column “Black Bug Down: How Health Canada Buzzed Natural Insect Repellents off the Shelves.”

Amusing in a very discouraging kind of way is the fact that the ingredients that will deter bugs naturally are still fine to include in many other cosmetics. So, you could search in other cosmetics for those ingredients known to deter bugs, if you can get anyone reliable to tell you what the ingredients are.

Doesn’t that seem like an ineffective way to keep your kids bug free? Yeah. I thought so, too.

Sure, there are still plenty of bug sprays in the stores that include synthetic neurotoxins like DEET, but we find that most eco-aware parents avoid these.

Your new options are:

  1. put DEET insect repellents on clothes only;
  2. make your own bug spray or lotion; or
  3. buy one of the few natural bug sprays left, if you can find any.

I don’t think #1 is a good option, since you are still exposing your child to DEET.

I wouldn’t recommend #2 either, since there is too much misinformation surrounding essential oils. It’s confusing to non-professionals to hear self-appointed professionals giving contradictory advice. Don’t make your own unless you start with a trusted source—a professional herbalist with more than just a degree in Google search or a one-day multi-level-marketing sales pitch.

So, we’re left with buying whatever natural insect repellent you can find.

Take a Hike! Outdoor Joose

At bynature.ca, we usually have several options. Our favorite that is still on the market is Take a Hike Outdoor Joose. This is the bug spray Naturemom and her family use when they go back country camping and canoeing. It comes family size (250ml) and travel size (125ml).

  • Handmade by herbalists.
  • Safe for daily use.
  • Safe to re-apply throughout the day.
  • Essential oils recognized by Health Canada as safe alternatives to DEET.
  • Not sticky! 25% aloe vera mix in a witch hazel base.

Ingredients: Witch hazel extract, Distilled water, Aloe vera juice, Essential oils of Cedarwood, Lavender, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Pine, Lemongrass & Lemon Eucalyptus.

All bug sprays have cautions. We like that these cautions are few and easy to follow.

  • Avoid eyes.
  • For babies under 12 months, spray on clothing or carrier.
  • Spray on your dog’s coat, but avoid face and eyes.

Maybe next year we will have more options for you. For now, we are happy to give you the natural bug spray that we love.

Natural Prevention for Cold and Flu

Mother and ill daughter

During a time of stress and disruption of usual, healthy eating habits, we see a lot of colds and flu. We allow our immunity to drop just a bit, and we give bacteria and viruses a way into our system.

The steps you can take to boost immunity in your family are very simple. Maybe not as simple as taking a pill labelled “Prevents colds and flu,” but you know that wouldn’t really work anyway.

Build and maintain health for your whole family through basic habits. You just need to understand what your body needs and provide that. You are more likely to get sick when you are bending your basic rules of healthy living.

Sleep. Your first and most important step to improved health is getting enough sleep. It really is that simple. Read more about sleeping for health.

Nutrition. What you eat matters. Eating whole, unprocessed foods in the right balance gives your body what it needs to function well and fight off seasonal invaders. Which foods? Read more about how to boost your immunity with foods.

Physical Activity. Your physical activity is a factor in your ability to fight off infection. You know you need to be active, but how active for how long? Read more about guidelines for physical activity for adults and children.

Manage Stress. All of us have stress, even very young children. Your choice is in how you manage the stress. We wrote about how you can avoid the immune-suppression of stress through the mind-body connection.

Have Fun. Does it seem odd to include fun in prevention of illness? Laughter does help. In part, it helps you manage stress, but your happiness is a bigger part of the fabric of health you are weaving. Read more about how to help your family stay healthy.

Quick List for Cold & Flu Prevention

Beyond the solutions above for general health, you can give your immunity a boost during these months when bacteria and viruses are being passed around so much.

Raw Garlic. Don’t just add garlic to your cooking (though do that for the taste); eat garlic raw. Chop up or crush 1-2 cloves and either drink in warm water or add to food just before you are ready to eat it. An antiviral compound in raw garlic, allicin, blocks infections.

Apple Cider Vinegar. Drink a tablespoon of organic, apple cider vinegar in water to create an alkaline environment in your body, an environment where bacteria and viruses have a more difficult time surviving.

Vitamin D. Canada’s Food Guide has recognized that vitamin D is the only nutrient for which adults over 50 cannot rely on diet alone to receive their recommended daily dose. We sell Ddrops because of their therapeutic benefits.

Ddrops vitamin D supplement

Warm Drinks. In my family, we start with a base of chicken broth, ginger tea, or some other basic tea. We add honey, lemon, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and other spices to create what we call immuni-tea. The warm liquid and the ingredients both help boost immunity. My mother’s version was always hot water with lemon juice and a teaspoon of honey. Create your own version as an easy way to take in some of the basic cold and flu fighting foods.

If you don’t manage to fight off cold or flu, you have natural choices to treat the symptoms. We love elderberry syrup, so we carry Sambucol black elderberry extract.

Sambucol for kids

 

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Fast Food for the Holiday Season

Child drinking a green smoothie

Me suggesting fast food? It’s not what you think.

If you are running around between school activities, shopping, and quick visits with relatives and friends, it gets tough to cook whole foods at the expected meal times.

In 3 minutes you can make a green smoothie. You are out the door again in 5 minutes. Smoothies make an easy, densely nutritious meal for you and your children.

Green Smoothies

Start with the base. Choose bananas, coconut water, yoghurt, milk, juice, or anything that will give your smoothie a mostly liquid texture.

Add leafy greens. Spinach, kale, Swiss chard, or cabbage. Dark foods of any color each pack their own group of micronutrients and phytochemicals that are great for your health. Green plants provide antioxidants.

Add more greens. Celery, cucumber, or avocado. Go through your vegetable drawer and use what you have—except broccoli. Learn from my sad experience and don’t add broccoli. I love it cooked and raw, but it makes a bitter smoothie ingredient.

Add flavorful fruits. You can sweeten the flavor of your mix by adding an apple, mango, orange, or grapes. We keep berries in the freezer for red smoothies.

Add protein. Yoghurt can add protein but nut butter will add more. We like Almond Butter.

Add a punch of flavor. Choose a flavorway that will work with your other ingredients. Cinnamon, nutmeg, or mint add just a hint of flavor; fresh ginger adds a punch. Depending on the mix (and the spice tolerance of your children), you can add cayenne pepper and garlic. I love to add spices to my drinks.

Add superfoods. When we are missing meals, we are careful to add superfoods to our smoothies. We like hemp seeds, cacao nibs, lucuma powder, goji berry powder, and chia seeds.

Don’t add everything at once! Create a simple mix of base, 1-2 greens, 1 fruit, 1 superfood, and a few spices. Let yourself taste these beautiful foods.

4 Simple Green Smooth Recipes

Light and simple. My husband requested that I add his current favorite: coconut water, cucumber, and lime. It’s light on nutrition and substance, but this is what he craves at the moment. When the rest of the foods around you are heavy and dense, this can be very refreshing.

Sweet and spicy. In addition to your base and greens, add mango, grapes (to give it more liquid), cayenne pepper, ginger, and a short squeeze of lime juice. This is me trying to recreate mango chutney in a glass.

Green eggnog spice. Banana, yoghurt, spinach, a splash of vanilla, and nutmeg. Your mind expects the nutmeg in eggnog, and the creaminess of the banana and yoghurt does the rest of the trick.

Mint chocolate. Banana, spinach, mint leaves, splash of vanilla, and cocoa nibs. This is another simple one. I like the flavors to stand out rather than getty muddied together.

Extra Credit

Red & Green. If you aren’t in a big hurry, pour your green mix into glasses, then make a quick red mix (base plus cherries, raspberries, or strawberries) and pour that carefully on top. A thicker mix is less likely to blend at the edges. Surprise your children when they see the beautiful holiday colors in their drink.

More green smooth recipes.
http://www.ecobabysteps.com/2009/08/24/monday-morning-smoothie-easy-green/

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Local Food: Time to Order Your Holiday Turkey

Farmer with tablet computer

Do you eat local? Now is the time to plan ahead and order your holiday turkey from a local farmer. That juicy turkey is an essential ingredient in your 100-mile holiday dinner.

We talk with you a lot about how important it is to shop local. When you shop in your community, it keeps money flowing and multiplying in your local economy.

Behind just the money, though, it keeps you building local relationships. Whether you are buying a baby carrier, a pumpkin, or a turkey, if you have a relationship with the person who is selling a product to you, you are more confident and trusting in what you get. It’s easier to understand what is going on with your food when you shake the farmer’s hand and ask a few questions when you drop by to pick it up.

100-mile Diet

Since reading a few years ago about the adventures of a Canadian couple eating locally for a year, a story told in their book Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-mile Diet, my family has made great efforts to replace far-away foods with great local foods. We are fortunate to have a lot of choices.

The very small town (now a ghost town) where my grandfather was born, is a now a collection of turkey farms. When my family eats turkey, we always have a variety of local options, even from the grocery store.

It’s especially important to us to use foods from the Americas, LOCAL foods in more ways than one, for our harvest and holiday celebrations. Acknowledging the food and where each ingredient came from is a big part of our family meal.

It isn’t always easy to get the foods you are used to locally, but you can almost always get local poultry. Whether you go all the way with a 100-mile meal or whether you just find that beautiful, big turkey locally, talk about it with your children. Your efforts and your reasons for buying local will make an impression on them.

Where to Buy Your Local Turkey

If you don’t already have a turkey farmer on speed dial, there are websites to help you find exactly what you are looking for.

In Canada, the turkey Farmers of Canada have links to local turkey producers throughout Canada. The local sites are all different, but most of them list local farmers. For example, when you click through to the Turkey Farmers of Ontario, you end up at Ontario Meat & Poultry, where you can search for exactly what you want—including your location, distance you are willing to go, type of meat, ethnic focus, and so on.

If you are in the U.S. and still looking for a turkey for Thanksgiving, It’s not too late. Local Harvest has a big selection of local farms with turkeys ready for local pick-up. While you are there, check out the fresh cranberries section. There are fewer options, but just think how tangy and fresh those cranberries will taste with your local turkey. To find a local farmer, just focus on your area on the map on Local Harvest, and you will find a listing of local food resources.

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Wild Gardens for Busy Parents: Turning Colors

Wild garden colour in November

We gave our garden just enough attention to keep it growing, and the garden gave to us abundantly throughout the season. Now, our garden is turning fall colors.

Despite our September and October snow, we haven’t had a hard frost yet, and we’re in the middle of one last 70-degree day, so we’ve left the remnants of our garden—mostly for the snails. I estimate we got 75% of the harvest, and the snails got the rest. I left the damaged tomatoes on the vine for them.

Next month will be my final garden post. By next month, I will have cut everything back before the snow stays on the ground. I love seeing the progress in the photos below. I feel so attached to my wild garden. I am so happy to see the purple, orange, and green leaf colors all pop against my grey house.

November Harvest

When we were afraid that we would have a hard frost a few weeks ago, we picked all of our green tomatoes. We made fried green tomatoes, green tomato salsa, green tomato pickle, and green tomato anything at all. (See our post on green tomatoes recipes.) Even after all of that cooking, we still had a lot of green tomatoes. Rather than freezing, we decided to let them ripen.

We lined boxes with newspaper then set out all of the green tomatoes so they had plenty of air circulation around them. It worked. Now, we shop for our post-season harvest in the basement.

Ripening tomatoes

Total Cost So Far

Total for November – $0
Total for October – $0
Total for September – $3.00 (stakes)
Total for August – $0 (nada!)
Total for July – $3.00 (supports)
Total for June – $16.50 (plants)
Total for May – $34.00 (manure, top soil, peat moss)
Total for April – $18.00 (hops)
Total cost for the year – $74.50

Total Time So Far

I spent no time on the garden this month other than to stand the pumpkin up from where it grew at the edge of our sidewalk so it was visible to neighbors. That’s my fall decorating done. It took all of two seconds.

Total time so far = 11 hours 30 minutes

Our goal has been to spend less than 30 minutes in the garden most months.Depending on your climate and your weather, you might want to spend your 30 minutes this month cutting back vines and sending all of that green into the compost so it can feed your garden next year. Since we are still having mild days, we will wait until later this month to cut back completely.

Our Wall of Green

Our blackberry leaves have turned purple and red. This is the only way to see the blackberries stand out against the raspberries and the grapes that have created our wall of green this season. Tomatoes are greying, though you can see the red of the tomatoes we left for the creatures. Only the kale still carries on growing green.

Our wild garden in November

Progress in the Cultivated Raised Bed

Progress of our raised bed in November