Archive | Gardening

Toilet Paper Roll Seed Starter DIY

I know empty toilet paper rolls are awesome for crafting and over the weekend we tried a DIY project of making TP seed starters. My family had great success with urban farming last year so we are eager to start germinating seeds indoors.  Thanks to many saved TP rolls, we started our planting today.

If you are new to gardening or growing food, snap peas are your best friend! I think they are pretty hard to mess up, hearty, and kids love to pick them. They also grow skyward, so can be grown in small spaces that gets sun. It’s still chilly in March, so here’s how you start them indoors.

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Collect empty toilet paper rolls. Here’s how you make a seedling starter DIY.

1) Cut a toilet paper roll in half.
2) Make small snips around the edges of the roll approx. 1/2 inch long.
3) Fold the edges so the bottom is closed. *TIP* Pour a little water onto the bottom flaps and they will mold together much easier.
4) If your roll won’t stand flat, put a small round bottle inside, to push down the flaps to dry flat.

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After you rolls have dried a bit, grab your potting soil (can be purchased at any nursery) and spoon the dirt into the roll. We filled it almost to the top.

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Read your pea instructions, but Angelo my 10 year old, dipped his pinkie finger up to his knuckle into the dirt to make a hole. We dropped 1 pea into the hole and covered it with dirt.

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Find a low tray to hold all your seed starters and put them in front of a window that gets lots of light. Mist the dirt daily and make sure they stay moist. That’s it. Super easy and I promise your kids will love it. Up next will be lettuce on our germinating tray and heated mat. Follow Mommy Footprint on Instagram or Facebook to check out the fun we’ll have next with lettuce!

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Planting Peas

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Tips For Avoiding GMO Food

Let me just say my journey to try and avoid GMO food, grow some of my own food, and talking to the experts that are growing clean food is very time consuming. And without a farming, engineering, or bio-tech background, it’s a difficult task for a busy mom of four. But I find so many aspects of our food supply fascinating so although it’s taking up a lot of time with research, I’m really enjoying this new journey. When I can post something new I’ve learned quickly, it’s all going on the Mommy Footprint fan page – so if your not already following there, click here and like the page.

So the husk of corn on the cob is really the poster child for genetically modified food. This is a good thing and bad. With the high, high percentage of soy, corn, and sugar beets grown modified, someone can become pretty paranoid of any of these foods. But if you think that just not eating corn on the cob this summer keeps you free and clear of genetically modified food, this would be a mistake. I spent a bit of time last week talking to a produce manager and their food distributor which was interesting to me since I do so much of my shopping at the opposite spectrum of a traditional grocery store. I was in a traditional, chain grocery store to buy 1 ingredient for a recipe and a stack of corn on the cob caught my eye in the produce section. So I asked the produce Manager if the corn was genetically modified since it was from the US. This question led to many phone calls and discussions about the grocery store’s sourcing of produce. Basically, a chain grocery store will receive certification from the farms that tells them if the seed used to grow corn is GMO. In this case the corn also turned out to be non-GMO corn. Well – blow me down with a feather. I was actually really surprised. And also was surprised to learn that most of the GMO corn that is produced in North America actually goes into corn ingredients in food, rather than the actual fresh corn. I tell you this long story for 2 reasons. Don’t think that all fresh corn is GMO – ask questions and demand store Managers get you answers since items like zucchini and corn don’t come with an ingredient stamp like packaged food. And although I see lots of organic zucchini, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen organic corn. The 2nd reason for the rant/story is don’t be rocked into a sense of security that GMO food only exists in the whole form: an ear of corn, a block of soy, a sugar beet, or whole Papaya. These genetically modified foods are high yield and are probably included in the 80% packaged, processed foods we buy in super markets.

So vowing to not eat or feed your children GMO food is really wishful thinking. Sorry, but it’s true…especially if your family eats packaged food, meat, your kids are schooled outside of your home, they attend birthday parties/play dates, or eat at a restaurant. That is why once people start to understand the wide spread impact of GMOs they join marches, post information on Facebook to friends, and try to bring understanding to people new on the journey. Because it’s too scary a journey to take alone.

What other food items could possibly contain GMO corn besides the corn husks we see popping onto produce shelves in the summer? On this list of invisible GM ingredients I would assume the easiest way to detect GMO corn ingredients is to look for: corn flour, corn masa, corn meal, corn oil, corn sugar, corn syrup, cornstarch but then I learn that an ingredient for GM corn on a label is lactic acid most commonly found from dairy products. I’ll suppose this is because cow’s eat corn? Oh yeah…not confusing at all.

Another easy way to isolate GMO ingredients with packaged food is Soy (over 95% of soy is now manufactured from GM seed) and listed again in the invisible GM ingredients as: soy flour, soy isolates, soy lecithin, soy milk, soy oil, soy protein, soy protein isolate, soy sauce. But did you also know that soy can be detected in food as hydrolyzed vegetable protein which is a “flavour enhancer” used in processed foods like soups, chili, sauces, gravies, stews and some meat products like hot dogs. Look at the back of any packaged foods in your home right now – chances are you will see one of 3 ingredients that contains the words corn x, soy x, or canola oil. These are three of the largest ingredient triggers that you are eating GMO food.

The last biggie which is very difficult to wrap you mind around and is now pretty much 100% GMO manufactured are sugar beets. This means all refined sugar or mostly anything sweet in your cupboard, unless organic or labeled as using cane sugar, contains GM sugar beets. It’s easy to see why avoiding GMOs is very difficult, even if you purchase a lot of food organic. Other ways I find that help are to shop local and find trusted food sources. You might need to ask a lot of questions in the beginning but once the detective work is done…it’s done. You will know where to pickup local produce which is a better alternative than organic. A hidden food source that can be highly contaminated for several different reasons is meat. It’s probably the toughest food to find a cleaner source because you actually need to contact the farmer in charge of feeding the animals. Good luck if you are shopping at a conventional store. But this is much easier if you shop at a local butcher that can tell you where the meat comes from. You need to ask if the meat is ‘finished’ and what the grain is used to finish the meat. Keep in mind that alfalfa used to feed cattle in the US is now GMO. Canadians are hoping that our alfalfa stays non-GMO but that is currently at risk. Do the animals you eat consume corn in their feed? Are preservatives used to help with your meat’s shelf life? It’s these preservatives that are casting such a black cloud over processed meats like deli and hotdogs.

Another surprise for me is even though we don’t buy papaya, that doesn’t stop GM papaya appearing in our chewing gum, fruit snacks, fruit juices, etc.  It’s another example of us hearing that paypayas have been grown genetically modified, but not stopped to think about the trickle effect into processed food. Can you completely stop GMO food from coming through your door, into your child’s body, into your own? It would be difficult and most everything you eat would need to be home-made. . . tough to do if your kids are in school. But you can become an ingredient reading, savvy consumer, that asks questions and is informed. And when you learn a product or brand only pumps out genetically modified food you can ban it from your home and find alternatives. It might take a year, but at the end of that 12 months, you’ll be healthier and more connected to the food you eat. You’ll probably be inspired to try growing some food yourself from heirloom, hybrid, or organic seed. And the further away you drift from the land of processed and back into the land of prepared or locally sourced, you will feed proud. And hopefully that you’ll be able to teach your family to eat healthier food until our government does something to protect it’s US and Canadian consumers. That is what other countries do. Do you know that Japan and Europe won’t accept Canadian Flax exports? They refuse to eat our modified crops.  Here are some more facts I learned at a meeting in my neighboring community that is trying to ban GE food from being grown:

1) There are three GMOs projects actively in the works in Canada: GE Salmon, Arctic Apple (non browning) & GE Alfalfa
2) GE alfalfa is the most critical problem b/c meat crops (beef, etc.) consume it. GE alfalfa is already happening in the US! They are trying to get it into Canada and many feel it’s an attack on the organics industry.
3) Alfalfa doesn’t need heavy pesticides or genetically altered seeds b/c weeds aren’t an issue since these crops are used for cattle feed.
4) Canadian Flax crops are GE (genetically engineered). Japan and Europe will not longer accept Canadian Flax because of this.
5) 80% of GE crops are herbicide tolerant. BT crops produce a protein that is toxic to insects, butterflies, caterpillars.
6) Antibiotic resistance is essential to gene gun technology which is one of the two methods to cross DNA (therefore making a plant GMO). The concern is this will make humans resistant to antibiotics!
7) 40 weeds in Canada are now resistant to Roundup. Monsanto expected this to happen and has 2,4-D waiting in the wings for farmers to use. This is Agent Orange!!!!! 90% of corn in North America is GE. All sugar in stores is basically GE (unless it’s cane sugar) and over 90% of soy.
9) The Oregon GE wheat crop that popped up a few weeks ago is probably a Monsanto trial field; however that has now backfired as countries are now banning wheat exports from the US.
10) There have been no reduction in pesticide use as Monsanto promised – the opposite has happened. We are now becoming resistant to antibiotics b/c of eating the food, allergies are 400x greater because transgenes spread bacteria through our guts/intestines, and we are loosing our pollinators because of heavy herbicide use. And this fact is probably the scariest. If plants become sterile from all this messing around with mother nature, we are in big trouble.

Honestly, if genetically modified food isn’t freaking you out a little, it’s time to plug back into our food system and realize things are not okay. If you can’t look around and see a huge number of bee populations decreased in your community, there are big time stats that bees are suffering from colony collapses because of the amount of pesticides and insecticides that are released in communities with farming. The words from that now famous farmer from the Food Inc documentary ring true in my head. What ever the consumers demand – farmers will grow. If the government won’t protect us, let’s give our trust to the farmer’s themselves. Get to know them and trust them. Tell them that clean food is a priority and the ones growing it should be treated like well paid celebrities in our cities and towns. And yes, it’s just an endless journey but it’s something that small communities and consumers will need to win in North America. And no I don’t have all the answers – I honestly find something new in my pantry every week that contains GMO ingredients. Last week it was my baking powder – the word corn starch caught my eye. See what I mean about the corn husk being the poster child for GMO? It makes us not think powdered forms of food will contain it but wherever there are ingredients – you need to scan through at least for canola oil, vegetable oil, anything soy, corn, and sugar.

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Planting Peas

If there is one thing I’ve learned is to never doubt you can inspire someone. When I feel like there is no possible way other people don’t already know the information I’m writing about, I’m always proven wrong by a lovely email or comment thanking me for the article. So while I feel like many of you probably already know how to plant peas – I’m very proud of this gardening project we’ve just completed with my sweet nine year old son and thought I’d share it. I find gardening tutorials a lot like cooking – sometimes pictures are a lot more helpful than words. So I’ve been snapping pictures through the process and the final image ending with pea shoots that are starting to come through the soil. I didn’t know that growing food was going to be this fun. At every new corner with our garden, the excitement builds and I’ve never loved my yard or house more! Here is our project with the peas and since the seeds go right into the ground (don’t have to be grown indoors first), you still have time to start your own with these easy steps!

Since peas or beans like to climb, we decided to grow our peas along the walkway of our house because it gets the most sun. We also replaced the dirt. We haven’t planted anything new since moving in and I knew the quality of the soil wasn’t great. We used potting soil with a little sea soil and refilled this area:

After the new soil was laid, we decided to soak the peas overnight to give them a little head start with germinating. We put the heirloom seeds we purchased from West Coast Seeds between paper towels and watered them. This process softened the peas before we put them into the ground.

We purchased bamboo and plastic rods and made teepees. You just tie the top with hemp string and then separate the bottom of the sticks to accommodate the space you have. We used four sticks per bundle because our walkway is narrow.

Around each of the poles we dug little holes (up to my knuckle) and placed a pea or two in each hole.

We planted these peas last week and they are already shooting up giving our walkway a beautiful contrast of green against the new, rich soil. Who knew that soil could be so beautiful? I love to see the fresh soil with only the tops of something WE grew coming through. People always told me that peas and beans are easy to grow. It’s really one of those things that until you try you just don’t know. And yes, it’s very easy to do. But more than easy it’s been really relaxing, fun, and the excitement I’ve been sharing with my younger children has been awesome!

We just planted the carrots tonight and there is more planting coming. We don’t know what we are doing – but asking questions and trying new things is always a good thing. And if there is food at the end of this rainbow – mission accomplished. And if there isn’t? Mission accomplished too because I have tried something I’ve wanted to do with my kids for years. And if I didn’t have to replace all my soil – this would have been a very budget friendly Spring project! Super excited to figure out how to plant the tomatoes we’ve been germinating inside for months! My front room is starting to look like a grow-op! Stay tuned, I hear tomato planting for this region is supposed to be this weekend.  I’ve got some grass to remove and then some of these plants can go in . . I mean really, who needs a lawn when you can grow food?

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