Archive for the ‘Alternative Lifestyle’ Category

On the evening of November 1st, 2010, San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood witnessed a procession of activists towing three faux-Chevron executives wearing gigantic, inflatable spheres atop hay bales pulled by their loyal, Hazmat suit-clad employees.  Streaming behind them were angry figures in skeleton suits and a number of passers-by that were encouraged to join in the strange parade.  Upon reaching Market and Castro and framed by a Chevron station in the background, the CEO’s explained that their unusual attire was a defensive measure that would help them to ensure their survival against the future calamitous repercussions of climate change.  Their large, silver “grub suits”, also known as  “Survivaballs”, were intended to help protect our society’s “most valuable citizens” from rising sea levels as well as violent retribution from other suffering, “less fiscally responsible” members of the community.

The November protest was created by the Yes Men, an absurdist performance-based activist group who utilize guerrilla theater tactics to call attention to the socially abhorrent behaviors of certain large corporations.  This particular event was intended to satirize recent political actions made by the CEOs of Chevron and the US Chamber of Commerce in relation to climate change policy.  The Yes Men originally began their social activism through the construction of parody websites.  After receiving substantial media attention over their sites lampooning then Presidential incumbent George W. Bush’s homepage and the World Trade Center’s “official” site in 2000, Yes Men founders Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno began to formulate a series of “identity correction” stunts.

The Yes Men, to their self-admitted surprise, have participated in many high-profile talks and symposiums largely due to a gross lack of fact-checking or close inspection of their satirical websites.  Beginning with the WTO and later moving on to corporations such as DOW Chemical, Union Carbide and McDonald’s, these guerrilla performances were characterized by the creation of figures who were intended to be received as genuine, high-ranking members of each organization.  These spokesmen would espouse outrageous proposals to members of symposiums, business meetings and TV audiences based on the very real and immoral practices of the companies they putatively represented.  Almost all of their stunts were accompanied by long-winded speeches, computer animations, flow charts, food items, and outlandish costumes.

For video of their exploits, watch their first film The Yes Men,  and their most recent feature, The Yes Men Fix the World.  For a hilarious read, pick up their new book.  To become a Yes Man and join the ranks of concerned pranksters worldwide, visit the Yes Lab and say Yes to social reform!

Our daughter Mathilda recently celebrated her second birthday, and since she has a lot more friends now than at the time of her first birthday, we decided to throw her an age-appropriate (i.e. messy) birthday party. It was inspired by her best friend Avi’s party, which consisted in part of 100 pounds of flour in two kiddie pools.

When planning this party, three things were important to me: Make it fun for the kids, keep it healthy, and produce as little trash as possible.

The fun factor I decided a “frost-your-own-cupcake” party was the perfect theme. And doing it at the park would keep the clean-up factor in our house to a minimum. I made the cupcakes and set up one table with frostings and one table with toppings. The tables were at an appropriate height for the kids. Each frosting was in a separate ceramic or glass bowl, and in a cup a bunch of bamboo butter knives were eagerly awaiting little hands. The toppings were also in glass and ceramic bowls, each with a spoon for easy topping. The cupcakes were on the higher tables, so the parents had some control over the process but on the frosting and topping tables the kids could do whatever they wanted. They seemed to enjoy the frosting, some even more than the eating of the cupcakes. The close-by slides and swings made it possible to run off possible sugar-highs and extra calories.

The food Making cupcakes healthier than the bright-colored ones found in your local supermarket (loaded with HFCS, artificial colors and who-knows-what) is actually pretty easy when you make them yourself. If you don’t have time, there are plenty of cupcakeries with tons of flavors and everything from vegan to gluten-free. And I’m sure you can get them unfrosted, too. I searched my favorite food blogs for ways to hide vegetables in cupcakes and came up with three different vegan flavors: spiced carrot cake, chocolate beet and lemon kale. The kale version was supposed to be zucchini but I changed my mind last minute, and there was definitely room for improvement. Stay tuned for an update on that one. The chocolate beet ones were my favorite. Find the recipe here. I made mini cupcakes for the kids and regular-sized ones for the parents.

For frostings I chose chocolate pudding, almond butter frosting and avocado-lemon frosting. I thought kids might be into the green avocado color, but the chocolate pudding was the definite winner on the frosting table (no surprise). So much so, that some kids would skip the cupcake altogether. Most adults thought the avocado frosting reminded them too much of guacamole and so nobody touched it. Oh well. All frostings were sweetened with stevia.

The toppings were shredded coconut, mini chocolate chips, chopped walnuts, raisins, green sprinkles (sugar dyed with vegetables) and homemade strawberry syrup.

I saved one regular cupcake, frosted it and topped it with two candles to serve as our birthday cake.

We also had some fruit (watermelon, grapes, blueberries and strawberries), chips and salsa, and other snacks, as well as gummy bears and lolly pops (sugar – yes, artificial colors & HFCS – no!) available.

With beverages we tried to keep it simple. Our local supermarket had a sale going for organic Santa Cruz Lemonade so I bought a bunch of bottles for $0.99 each. I also made a lemon verbena, lavender, mint ice tea, filled in into 1/2 gallon glass jars to take it to the park. There we served it from a (glass) pitcher which we filled up regularly.

Keeping it green I must admit it was quite a challenge and I was tempted again and again to go out and just BUY the stuff everybody is used to seeing at birthday parties for kids: plastic plates and cups, single-serve beverage containers with more or less sugar/HFCS, paper napkins, balloons, etc. But I resisted the consumer temptations.

I made a bunch of napkins from fabric scraps leftover from my sewing projects. They weren’t even sewn, I just cut squares with pinking shears. We needed new napkins anyway and I finally had an excuse to make some.

Replacing the plastic or paper cups was a little trickier. We didn’t really have enough glasses, so we went through our stash of jars and picked out the most suitable ones for drinking (think wide-mouth mason jars). To remove very persistent labels soak the jar in water for a few hours and remove most of the label, then rub oil into the remaining paper and scrub it off. You might have to repeat that a couple of times. It works! For the kids I found 10 glass votive candle holders for $1 at a thrift store. Perfect! That way I wouldn’t be bummed if one breaks. I was thinking baby food jars would also work great. We skipped plates altogether.

We set up a cardboard box for recycling, had a bucket for dirty napkins and rags, and brought our compost bin for food scraps. You can definitely pretty that up by having matching bins or buckets. We decorated the pavillion in the park with some prayer flags that usually hang in our bedroom, and the tables with two table runners we use at home.

Party Favors My original idea was to make aprons for all the kids, but in the end I ran out of time. I ended up using another Montessori idea I had been wanting to make for a while: Placemats with outlines of the plate, glass, cutlery and napkin. Setting the table is the perfect task for two-year-olds to do when you need a few more minutes to get dinner ready. I used wipeable vinyl mats and outlined everything with a sharpie, and personalized each mat with the child’s name. I also included a bamboo plate, folk, spoon and knife, as well as a napkin (made from my fabric stash again). Millie loves her placemat and is getting pretty good at setting the table before dinner. I hope her friends get to enjoy their mats as well.

All in all, I would consider it pretty successful. Depending on your time or helping hands, you can definitely improve on the decorations (think paper or even glass lanterns, paper pom poms, etc.) and in my case on the food (namely the lemon kale cupcakes and the avocado frosting). On the trash side we did really well. The only trash that couldn’t really be composted or recycled were the cupcake liners. And we now have a bunch of jars and napkins for our regular potlucks. As far as the fun factor goes, it seemed like everybody had a good time, although I’m sure we’re now considered “definitely different” and we will see which ones of our party guests will show up to Mathilda’s third birthday party…

Even without a thorough knowledge of white sage’s (Saliva apiana) mystical characteristics, simple observation of the plant will impress upon the onlooker a profound sense of respect and reverence.  Its long, grey-green leaves are covered with hundreds of soft, silvery hairs and emit a powerful, earthy smell.  In the right light, white sage almost shimmers, and when in bloom, white or pale purple flowers erupt from stalks that can reach several feet in height.  White sage tends to grow in full sun, in dusty or rocky soil, and is extremely drought resistant.

White sage (we’wey) has been used by the Chumash for thousands of years in order to primarily heal the spirit, which they believe in turn aids in the body’s ability to recover.  When smudged, the smoke is used to purify the patient’s central nervous system and calm the psyche.  Smudging is typically used with prayer and formal ritual, but a constant dose of sage and its benevolent properties can be ensured every day by maintaining gardens where the plant holds a prominent position.  During blessings, the smoke from white sage is said to bring prayers to God and invite divine benevolence into the healing process.

Leaves can be collected in conjunction with prayer to create a tea or placed directly in the mouth to soothe sore throats.  Sage contains cineole, which is an anti-inflammatory, as well as active diterpenoids, which are compounds that have been shown to combat bacterial infections, and reduce allergy symptoms.  White sage can also be added to a sweat bath, used to treat fevers, made into a poultice, and ingested to aid in the treatment of ulcers.

Bambu Batu is now fortunate to have bundles of sage available in the store.  Wild-crafted from the hills behind Big Sur, the leaves are ready for smudging or to be made into infusions.  Continue a tradition of healing and blessings with this remarkable plant!

Amanita jacksonii button mushrooms

When it comes time for me to buy the farm, I may be able to become the farm as well.  Instead of choosing to be embalmed with toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) or cremated and releasing particulate matter and greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, I can now tell my loved ones to bury me in the Sustainable Mushroom Death Suit.

Visual artist Jae Rhim Lee created this full body shroud laced with spore infused threads as a part of the Infinity Burial Project which proposes “alternatives for the postmortem body”.  Now, in addition to being flash frozen and shattered by sonic waves, composted, or incorporated into artificial ocean reefs, you can become substrate for mushrooms that not only naturally decompose your body, but help clean the surrounding environment.

Lee, along with mycologist Timothy Myles, has been investigating which strains of mycelium thrive best on human tissue by experimenting with her own hair and fingernail clippings and has developed a “decompiculture” kit that adds spores to embalming chemicals and makeup. Dubbed the “Infinity Mushroom”, this special strain of fungus helps to quickly and efficiently break down dead human tissue as well as neutralize toxins around the burial site.

According to the CDC, human bodies contain over 200 toxic chemicals at the time of death, including pesticides, fungicides, flame retardants, heavy metals, and ingredients found in the production of plastics.  As a final gift to the world, the Mushroom Suit could render these compounds harmless and eliminate the need for dangerous embalming fluids.

In addition to acting as a sustainable way to return one’s body to the earth, the Mushroom Suit is also Lee’s personal exploration into the psychological response to death.  Considering that embalming is a relatively new development in human history and the current state of our planet’s ecological health, leaving our earthly husks as mini clean-up crews might not be such a bad idea.  By donning the mushroom shroud, you could leave the world a little healthier upon your departure.

Would you rejoin the Cycle of Life as a miraculous mushroom?

P. S. If you’re into consuming mushrooms in the here and now, like the edible kind, be sure to check out our article on Hunting Chanterelles in San Luis Obispo. I think you’ll really dig it!

Photo Credit: Amanita jacksonii button mushrooms (Wikipedia)

I am sitting on the bus, quietly studying the magazine in front of me.  Many other of the passengers are doing the same with their smart phones, iPods, novels and newspapers, silently wrapped in their own worlds of text and typed conversation.  Glancing out the window, I watch the houses and small corner markets go by, each beginning to start the day’s activities as the sun breathes some energy into the still dozing city.

Suddenly, a harsh cry pierces the air inside the bus.  It shrieks and moans, ending with an almost laughing chitter.   Everyone inside snaps to attention and is dragged out of their placid cocoons, each searching anxiously for the source of the racket.  The haunting wail repeats, and I notice more and more pairs of eyes begin to focus on the space immediately next to where I am sitting.  Again, the wild screech sounds its alarm, and I realize the source of the distress is coming from inside of my purse.

“Shoot.  Sorry, I forgot to put this on silent.”  I reach into my bag and turn down the volume on my cell phone.  For several years, I have been using the call of the Common Loon as my ring tone, a sound file I downloaded from the Center for Biological Diversity’s Rare Earthtones website.  For some reason, I envisioned the haunting lament of the bird to be a unique and humorous way to signal a call.  Usually I get a few laughs and some bewildered glances, but on full volume the effect is admittedly a bit startling.  Luckily, the site has more mellow alternatives, such as the gentle song of the humpback whale or demure hooting of a burrowing owl.

To download your free ring tone, visit the Rare Earthtones site, click on the “Download” tab, and sign up for their email newsletter.  Then, preview the file of your favorite endangered animal, and once you find one that suits your fancy, submit to have the file texted to your phone.  After that, follow your phone’s instructions for saving and dropping the sound into your ringtone library.  Soon, you can answer to the howl of an endangered wolf, croaks of rare frogs, and growls of exotic tigers instead of the mundane buzzes, bleeps and boring jingles on every other phone in the urban jungle.

Turn your Call of the Mild into a Call of the Wild!

San Luis Obispo has a sense of humor.  Where else can you spend the night in a caveman-themed hotel room or eat a five pound hamburger solely for sport and the respect of your peers?  In addition a visit to the Madonna Inn and a meal at Sylvester’s Burgers, residents of San Luis Obispo enjoy a fledgling circus scene.  From clowns to aerial dancers, the county is home to a surprising number of performance artists.

Suspended Motion: Ever dreamed of flying?  Now you can spin, flip and glide through the air with classes from Suspended Motion, a collective of Central Coast aerial dancers. These  performers offer instruction in aerial silks, hoop, trapeze, net, rope and hammock. Exhilarating and challenging, aerial performance is a creative way to build strength and flexibility through the arts.

Bike Happening: Each first Thursday of the month, after Farmers Market, bicycles, tall cycles and unicycles swarm downtown.  Decked out in costumes in accordance to each month’s theme, riders make a loop beginning at the Mission and extending through Higuera and Marsh streets. For themes, routes, and rules of the ride, visit the Bike Happening Facebook page.

Juggling and Circus Skills Club: Every Friday afternoon, join jugglers, acrobats, unicyclists, hoopers and spinners meet for skill training  and hang-out sessions on the Cal Poly campus near the Architecture building. Practice begins  at 5:30.  Come trade tricks and have a great time learning something new!

Circus Vargas: This month, the circus is coming to town!  Circus Vargas will be pitching a tent at the Madonna Inn from June 30- July 4.  Marvel at the flying trapeze, laugh at clowns, and thrill over the death-defying feats of acrobats, contortionists and motorcyclists.  Tickets are on sale now.

If all of those diversions weren’t exciting enough, keep an eye out in the coming months for Circus Open-Mic nights, tall-bike riding pandas and subversive whoopee cushions — you never know where they’ll strike next!



Whether you are a fan of organic farming, urban redevelopment, social justice, or just plain good writing, you will thoroughly enjoy Novella Carpenter’s Farm City. Detailing her move to the ghetto of Oakland and her adventures as an urban farmer, Novella writes with humor, candor, and lyricism that would impress any critic regardless of topic.

Her chronicles of late night dumpster dives to feed her pigs, rabbits and chickens, reflections over her complex and mixed emotions over killing and preparing animals she has raised and defended, and the character sketches of the people inhabiting her neighborhood are all extremely engaging.  Carpenter’s work inspires conscious and deep reflection on how food is produced and appreciation for the effort and emotion required to put together a meal.

Before beginning Novella’s account of city crop cultivation, I wondered to myself about what kind of personality would be willing to move from idyllic Portland, Oregon to the concrete jungle.  My preconceptions ranged from the Flighty Hippy and the Idealistic Environmentalist to the Anarchist Off-the-Grid Warrier and Starving Activist.  Surprisingly, I found Carpenter as someone I would be delighted to have a close friend.  Her passion for food and its connection to community and social justice is evident through her generosity.  She shares her harvests with neighbors, inner-city literacy programs, friends, and anyone off the street interested in her garden.

Her sense of humor and clear-eyed observations of her neighborhood cut through any bucolic delusions of saving the world through a backyard vegetable plot.  She acknowledges the hardships and squalor or Oakland’s gang and drug scene, poverty, and urban decay.  Bleak profiles of city life are contrasted with impressions of nature trying to eke out an existence along with the inhabitants of the ghetto, stories of charity and potlucks, and self-effacing evaluations of her own personality.  Carpenter is candid with her joys as well as her anger, frustrations and disappointments (see the story of her possum “murder” or vitriolic description of the woman who butchered her pigs).  A lady who can raise her own food, learn to cure her own meat, dumpster-dive for scraps with a headlamp and brave the inner-city with grace and humor is someone I can respect.

Farm City is a fairly quick read, and a great choice for a summer book.  Who knows, you may be inspired to catch your own swarm of bees, plant a rare breed of watermelon, or order poultry through the mail!  I’m contemplating some raised veggie beds and a compost heap as we speak…

Let us know if you have any further book review suggestions!

“No!  Ooooh no you don’t!” Five minutes before I had to walk out the door to attend a music practice I started yelling at my own brain. “Don’t you even think about it!”  A shining, electric splotch of quicksilver began to form on the left side of my visual field.  Like an oil slick, it began to spread its way towards my right eye, bleeding television static snow all over the entire universe.  Forget whatever else was on the schedule for the day.  It was time to hunker down, and wait for this migraine to pass.

Being chemically sensitive, I have relatively few options to combat the lightning storm in my head.  After a couple post brain-battering hours, I scoured the internet for some natural alternatives to prescription migraine medicines.  Here are a few of the most promising remedies:

1.  Butterbur- This plant, found growing in Northern Asia, Europe and areas of North America, can be taken as a tea, extract or capsule.  Studies have shown that 50-75 mg of butterbur extract twice a day decreased the occurrence of chronic migraines.  Side effects were generally mild digestive complaints.  Since the plant is in the ragweed family, those with grass allergies should avoid the drug.  Anyone with kidney and liver disease should seek an alternative remedy.

2.  Feverfew- This European herb has been used as a healer for headaches, arthritis, and fever for centuries.  In the 980’s, it began to be used as a therapy for migraines.  Feverfew should not be taken with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) because of its blood-thinning properties.  Due to some of its side effects (gas, diarrhea, vomiting, nervousness) and its close relation to chamomile, ragweed and yarrow, sufferers should consult their doctors concerning any allergies or sensitivities before taking the supplement.

3.  Magnesium- This element is found naturally in green vegetables and helps to regulate blood sugar, as well being essential to muscle and nerve function.  Around 300-600mg each day may reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks.  Magnesium citrate may be the most effective form, and it is not recommended taking a magnesium/calcium blend for headaches.

4.  5-HTP- 5 Hydroxytryptophan is a form of amino acid created in the body and used in the production of the neurotransmitter seratonin and the hormone melatonin.  It can be bought as a supplement derived from plant seeds.  At a dose of 600mg a day, 5-HTP may reduce the number of severe headaches.

5.  Niacin-  AKA Vitamin B3, taken right as the headache starts can relieve a good deal of the migraine’s vice-like grip.

6.  Mangosteen-  This fruit has pain-easing and anti-inflammatory properties and can help with dulling sensitivity to stimuli.  Extract or smoothie should do the trick.

7.  Acupuncture-  For those who are not leery of needles, a visit to the acupuncturist could possibly manipulate the body’s electrical signals enough to decrease the number and intensity of headaches.

8.  Aromatherapy- Essential oils are quick and inexpensive ways to combat pain and stress.  Chamomile, rosemary, lavender and peppermint have been noted as some of the most effective for migraines.  The oils can be placed in a diffuser, or applied directly to the temples, head and neck.  Coupled with a cool washcloth, the oils should provide relief from pain and nausea within fifteen minutes.

9.  Biofeedback- Through biofeedback, a person can learn to control and reduce the reactions that are triggered by severe headaches.  By noticing certain bodily fluctuations such as pulse, temperature and tension, a sufferer can bring these under conscious awareness and eventually identify and alter the patterns that appear during a migraine.  Devices that monitor the body’s changes can be used at first in order to make the sensations available to be observed by the brain.  Eventually, biofeedback will aid the patient in preventing the headaches before they start and help lessen the pain through relaxation techniques.  Levels of stress hormones and seratonin have been lowered through biofeedback, affecting the rate and intensity of migraines.



Ladies: being the environmentally conscious fashionistas that you are, you have committed to buying natural, sustainable fibers such as bamboo, hemp and organic cotton, purchasing fair trade accessories, and maybe even doing a little sewing to re-purpose old, worn out clothing.

Yet, as you are in the bathroom getting ready before a big occasion where you want to look your best, you gaze down at ye olde makeup kit and see nothing but brightly colored chemicals that are soon to find themselves applied dangerously close to vital sensory organs.  Luckily, there are more non-toxic, eco-friendly alternatives to keep you stylishly up to date and still remain in Mother Nature’s good graces.

1.  Nail Polish- Anyone who has ever nearly been knocked down by the fumes emanating from a freshly opened bottle of nail polish could be reasonably suspicious as to the ingredients making up the little pots of enamel.  While the names for the various shades sound flirty and attractive, their components, such as formaldehyde (a known carcinogen and industrial disinfectant that can also cause dizziness, headaches, eye and respiratory problems, heart palpitations, and death when ingested) toluene (capable of causing neurological damage due the body’s inability to process the chemical) and phthalates (endocrine disrupters linked to obesity and birth defects in mice) are decidedly less compelling.

For vegan safer alternatives, take a look at The Chic Ecologist’s list of nail colors featuring Sparitual‘s vegan line, No Miss natural and cruelty-free shades, Priti NYC which also offers polish for kids, and Zoya‘s huge collection of colors. Other “3 Free” brands, or lacquers that do not use the hazardous chemicals mentioned above, are Sheswai and Acquarella.

2. Lips-  When offering a smooch, you might not want your lips to be associated with coal tar, sheep fat, petroleum, artificial stabilizers, lake dyes (which can cause cancer), lead, pigment producing insects or chemical preservatives.  Some nasty components of lipstick like methylparaben have been linked to cancer and endocrine disorders.  Others like retinyl palmitate have proven to be toxic to pregnant women, and others such as acetate and propylparaben are moderate irritants.

For a kiss without concern, use products with natural ingredients.  NVEY Eco Lipsticks and Lip Lustres come in a diverse palate and are made from elements that you can actually pronounce.  Honeybee Gardens acts as balm and tint in one, and Vapour Organic Beauty makes a myriad of lip products.

3.  Eyes- Bet you never thought that what you added to your eyes could so drastically affect your lungs, kidneys, reproductive system and liver.  Phthalates, which keep mascara from running can keep your bodily processes from running as well.  Depending on the brand,  dangerous color additives, preservatives, emulsifiers and even small amounts of mercury can be found in the composition of the cosmetic.

Alima sells relatively inexpensive minerals-based shadows in addition to loose powder eyeliners.  For cream shadows, RMS has several colors that also double as nourishing eye creams.  For mascara, direct your eyes towards  NVEY’s formula in either black or brown.  For a liquid liner, take a peep at Suncoat’s smudge resistant mixture in several varieties.

For more cosmetic reviews and safety ratings, visit EWG’s Cosmetic Database to evaluate your favorite brands.  What do you have in your cosmetic bag?

Pest control for nature lovers

As a science nerd and ecologically-minded individual, I recognize the inherent worth of all creatures and their roles in the environment.  As a human being with an allergy to insect bites and a kitchen I’d like to keep free of invading hoards, I want to know how to keep the little buggers away from my living space.  Being an aforementioned tree-hugger, I have been searching for non-toxic, alternative methods of maintaining a pest-free home.

1.  Ants- To block ant chemical trails, lay down cinnamon, chalk, cayenne pepper or petroleum jelly.  By obstructing the signals ants use to communicate with one another, you can prevent them from making a highway to your pantry.  Pet food can should be placed in a small moat of soapy water, ensuring no scouts identify your animal’s kibble as a food source.  Stationing attractants near a nest outdoors may persuade the ants to stay outside and keep from venturing further.

For an all-out assault, you may opt to sprinkle cornmeal near their colony.  This makes the ants thirsty, seek water, and explode from over-drinking.  Desiccating dusts such as diatomaceous earth or pure amorphous silica aerogel applied directly to the insect will kill them by causing them to lose too much moisture.  Boric acid mixed with jelly as bait will also exterminate foragers.

2.  Rats and mice- As in may areas of life, sometimes the best offense is a good defense.  Be sure to seal all gaps and openings to your home with caulking, duct tape, and weatherstripping.  Hardware cloth is a good material for screening ducts and floor vents.  Raising wood piles, cutting tall weeds and cleaning up after pets can help reduce rodent habitat and food materials.

Instead of buying poison bait that can cause other animals (including humans) to fall ill, live Have-a-Heart traps, glue traps, and fatal snap-traps catch the animals and leave the disposal up to the Pied Piper.  The food used to tempt the rodents should be sticky to allow for a loaded spring enough time to work, and traps should be positioned near burrows and along pathways.

If cleaning up after a rat-trap leaves you a bit squeamish, there are always electronic repellent sound devices that disrupt rat rapport and mice musings.  The sound is not heard by humans, and can be plugged into a three-pronged outlet.  When all else fails, it might be time to adopt a cat or take up falconry.

3.  Cockroaches- Not surprisingly, these little guys are not only resistant to a possible nuclear winter, but to most chemical pesticides as well.  Your best bets are the  boric acid solutions and desiccating dusts mentioned above.  The dust should be inserted into drilled holes in infested walls and the boric acid applied directly to the cracks and crevices where the roaches live.

4.  Mosquitoes- To prevent mosquito breeding, eliminate as much standing water as possible.  To keep water from collecting, regularly clean gutters and properly drain potted plants.  Adding natural predators to the mosquito’s environment will reduce the number of larvae who make it to maturity.  Fish should be added to shallow ponds and plants that encourage beetles, dragonflies and damselflies can be added as attractive repellents.  Installing bat boxes provides homes for the flying rodents during the day and give them a place to return to after a midnight skeeter feast.  Certain strains of bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis) added to water containing mosquito larvae will kill them once ingested.

When bats and dragonflies are not enough, there are natural oils and plants to ward off the little blood-suckers.  Burning citronella candles on a night without wind controls the pests within the immediate vicinity.  Planting lemongrass, floss flower, basil, catnip and eucalyptus will have the bugs shirking your garden and also provide a pretty good stock of herbs for cooking.  Orange and cedar oils have been touted as effective repellents for a number of insects, and can be sprayed around the home without fear of poisoning pets or family members.

What kinds of critters do you wrestle with, and what kind of green alternatives have you tried?

* Word of the day: Katsaridaphobia (an enhanced fear of cockroaches)

** Book of the week: “Wicked Bugs” by Ann Stewart

PHOTO CREDIT: Salmen Bejaoui (Unsplash)