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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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Is There A Sustainable Solution To Cat Litter?

Raisin Keeping Clean


It’s the bane of my sustainable existence.  I’ve written about this before and the problem hasn’t gone away!  Back when we lived in the country, the most environmentally sound way to deal with cat waste is to let our cat go outside to do her duty.  But that proved unsafe for her, so we kept her inside.


My next solution was to bring the outside in – I collected a large container of dirt from our yard, and Raisin used that as a litter box.  But it was impossible to clean between changings (so I had to change it every couple of days), it smelled strongly of dirt in the bathroom, and she kicked it all over the place because she didn’t like it.


Then we tried Yesterday’s News, which is made from recycled newsprint.  We hated it and our cat hated it.  They’re huge pellets that are ok for pee because they sort of absorb it, but the poop just sorta sticks to the pellets and – well, it was icky for cat and human.  She kicked it around everywhere, and it had to be changed every couple of days because it had zero deodorizing qualities and boy it stunk quickly.  Not only bad for humans, but cats hate that.  Changing the litter so frequently was costly and wasteful, but the worst part was:  that’s when she started using our house plants as an alternative.


Out of desperation at that point, I went to the internet and read everything there was to read (which is very, very little by the way – few people seem to talk about sustainability and cats – it’s sort of a hidden problem).  Then Matt and I went to the pet store and stared at all the packages.  There are wheat and corn products.  Matt felt that there was something unethical about growing food for cats to pee in while people starve.  And I had a problem with it because industrial farming has many prices – GMOs, pesticides, replacing ecosystems with monocultures, to name a few – so it felt like everything that was wrong with our food system was encapsulated in that one bag of cat litter.


So on that day, we decided to go with what seemed like the lesser of evils: natural clay, without any of the fragrances, crystals, and whatever else they put in almost all cat litter.  And we really had to search for one that had nothing in it!  After we bought it, I came home and read about clay mining.  It’s not good at all.  But all that research did for me was to make me feel more guilty every time I buy it, and to make us more determined to stretch it out as long as possible.  We had looked at all the alternatives, and none of them was good.  This one still seemed to be the least harmful in our minds.


And then a few months ago, I found a partial answer.  One Earth Cat Litter is made from corn husks and pine shavings, the by-products of the agriculture and forestry industries.  Here’s what the company says:


One Earth products are created with a commitment to preserving nature’s delicate balance. Only premium natural ingredients are used in order to ensure the optimum wellness of your pet. Absolutely no toxins, post-use pollutants or artificial flavors are used. Up to 3% of the retail sales of One Earth pet products goes towards World Wildlife Fund to help support conservation work throughout the world protecting wildlife and their habitats – including fisheries, forests, wetlands, and open lands. “  It’s made by 8-in-1, the makers of Nature’s Miracle, if any of you have used that.


So, it’s from a good company, using industrial byproducts.  Our cat really likes it, we like the smell (fresh pine smell from the shavings).  What’s wrong with it?  It’s not easy to find, and it’s expensive.  Our solution to that is to order it online (which has it’s own problems, I know), order several packages at a time, and then mix it half and half with the clay.


That’s it, unfortunately.  There is no perfect solution that I have found.  This is as close as I can get.  I just encountered a great article here that came to the same conclusion.


Ways To Stretch Your Cat Litter

There are three ways I know about to stretch your cat litter so that it lasts as long as possible:


  1. Use the least amount of litter that your cat will allow (no need to fill it to the top of the box – experiment to see how little you can get away with before your cat gets mad, while still making sure you have enough that if you scoop out the clumps for two weeks, you won’t end up with zero cat litter in the box)
  2. Make sure you scoop the litter carefully every day (get every one of those little clumps out, and be careful not to break them up)
  3. When the litter starts to get smelly, sprinkle baking soda over it and mix it in


Will you please share your experiences? Has anyone found better alternatives?  Or good tricks? I’m sure all the cat owners here would love to know! 


Last week I received an email from Theresa, asking what solution we’ve found to kitty waste.  Thanks, Theresa, for asking the question!



We moved!

Here’s the scoop:  Matt and I have been ever so slowly saving up a bit of money while living fairly frugally in a small apartment.  Small?  Yes.  A bedroom, a living area, a kitchen, and a bathroom – for a grand total of around 500 square feet.  It is a lovely old building, but overall we were just not quite where we wanted to be.

Our apartment was above an alley that is unfortunately a bit too crazy for our tastes – a bit of drugs, a lot of alcohol, and generally too much mayhem at all hours of the day and night.  And it’s small.  And our building has been through 6 managers during the time we lived there (a little over a year), and not a single soul in the building lived there longer than we did (yep, a little over a year).


So we have been waiting for an opportunity to move somewhere a little nicer, quieter, and more permanent….

Two and a half weeks ago, we encountered the deal of a century.  Matt and I have had our eye on these new condos that were built in a revitalization project at the edge of downtown (South Lake Union, for those of you who know Seattle).  We didn’t want to buy in this economy, but they were beautiful, built green, and in a perfect location.  Basically, we just gawked at them and sighed every time we passed by.


Well, fortunately the economy has worked in our favor for this particular situation, because nobody is moving to condos right now. So, there is a crazy local law that says by the time it opens, a condo must have sold 50% of its spaces, or they have to convert the building to apartments.  Voila!  The condos we had our eye on became apartment buildings!


On top of that, because there was an overbuilding of apartments and condominiums in Seattle over the last couple of years, there are amazing deals on apartments right now (2 free months rent, extremely low deposits, etc).

So in a whirlwind, Matt and I decided to move to a brand new condo-turned-apartment building in a nicer area, that is built green (LEED silver), twice as big as our old apartment, super energy efficient, on the top floor (down the hall is a rooftop garden), and our apartment even has a little balcony (bigger than our fire escape) with a little view!  All for just a bit more than what we were paying before.  Yeehaw!! 


I have been bursting to tell you all about it, but right after we decided I to move I became ill, and then it truly became a whirlwind of packing, moving, and unpacking.  I feel I have betrayed you all by being gone so long without a peep!  Well, know you know where I have been – and I can’t wait to share with you the details of our new place.


Already, I feel my blood pressure dropping, my stress level diminishing, my contentedness increasing.  Raisin and Ellis love the new place – there is a great ledge for Raisin to look out over her domain (the city), and Ellis is happy to have more space where he can be a crazy dog.  Plus nearly every household here seems to have a dog, so there are lots of neighbors to meet and sniff!


My walk to work is almost exactly the same distance (and I like the new route better). The round trip from home to the p-patch, office, and then back home is exactly the same distance it was.  So I just have to make that my new routine. There is a p-patch in our new neighborhood, so I’ll put us on the wait list for that one – but it will likely be a year or two before a spot opens up.


There you have it!  I can’t wait to tell you more!  Oh yes, and our Walkscore?  It’s 100.  : )


Pictures soon….


Take Special Care Of Your Animals On July 4th

Melinda, Matt, & Grace (16 years old) - 2005


For those of us in the US, July 4th can be incredibly festive:  parties, music, and fireworks throughout the neighborhood.  Some animals, no matter how tempered they normally are, can become frightened from the sounds and activity, combined with the loneliness.

Over the years, I have rescued several dogs who were scared out of their minds and running aimlessly through the neighborhoods on July 4th.  Fortunately each time, I was able to connect the pooches with their families within a couple of days.  The stories varied:  from families who were out of town and someone was house sitting (“they just flew by me when I walked into the house”), to families who’d left their dog in the yard only to find they’d dug a hole under the fence (“he’s been left in the yard for years and never dug a hole once”), to families who were just gone for a few moments and the dog jumped out of a window – or in one case, the dog jumped through a closed window.

Another family was afraid to leave their dog at home, so they took it with them to the fireworks display.  It took only seconds for the dog to chew through it’s leash and tear away through the crowd.  They think it had tried to run home (which was 4 miles away).

Cats can get scared, too.  As can horses, chickens, and any other animals.  Whether you live in the US or in another part of the world, large festivities can be hard on all pets. So please be careful and think through ways to calm your pets and make them safe.

I don’t mean to scare anyone, I just want to help protect you and your animals.  Our pets are a part of our family, as I think they are for most of us here – and for us, family safety and well-being are important aspects of living sustainably. 

The Humane Society suggests several ways to help keep your pets safe:

  1. Resist the urge to take your pet to fireworks displays.

  2. Do not leave your pet in the car. With only hot air to breathe inside a car, your pet can suffer serious health effects—even death—in a few short minutes. Partially opened windows do not provide sufficient air, but they do provide an opportunity for your pet to be stolen.

  3. Keep your pets indoors at home in a sheltered, quiet area. Some animals can become destructive when frightened, so be sure that you’ve removed any items that your pet could destroy or that would be harmful to your pet if chewed. Leave a television or radio playing at normal volume to keep him company while you’re attending Fourth of July picnics, parades, and other celebrations.  [Also makes sure to close the windows and lower the blinds.  You may even consider putting your pet in his or her crate, if it's something that makes them feel safe.]

  4. If you know that your pet is seriously distressed by loud noises like thunder, consult with your veterinarian before July 4th for ways to help alleviate the fear and anxiety he or she will experience during fireworks displays.

  5. Never leave pets outside unattended, even in a fenced yard or on a chain. In their fear, pets who normally wouldn’t leave the yard may escape and become lost, or become entangled in their chain, risking injury or death.

  6. Make sure your pets are wearing identification tags so that if they do become lost, they can be returned promptly. Animals found running at-large should be taken to the local animal shelter, where they will have the best chance of being reunited with their owners. [Also consider getting your pet microchipped, in case the tag or collar falls off.]

  7. If you plan to go away for the holiday weekend, please read Caring for Pets When You Travel.

And then, enjoy your holiday!!


The above photo is Matt and I with Grace in 2005 – Grace lived a happy and full life of 16 years.

I Finally Found Local, Organic Dog and Cat Food!

Ellis and Raisin


I know it’s not a huge thing, but sometimes the little things make all the difference, don’t they?

I’ve been searching for a good solution to pet food for years. After the crazy pet food recalls in 2007, we switched to California Natural – it was a local company (when we lived in California) that boasted whole grains and “all natural” (though not organic) ingredients. Since we moved to Seattle, I’ve been eyeing other options….

I’ve thought about the raw diet (also lovingly named the BARF Diet – yes, a terrible marketing strategy). It would be the ultimate in sustainability if I could find local, organic, ethically-raised meat. But truly, it is too expensive for our budget and I’m not sure as a vegetarian I could handle the raw meat factor.

I’ve really wanted to find an organic option, too, because our animals are a part of our family and I really want to feed them quality food. And also because it seems inconsistent with my values to support organic agriculture when it comes to buying my own food, but somehow make an exception for my pet’s food. Unsustainable agriculture is unsustainable agriculture, whether it grows dog food or human food, right?

So, finally, the search is over. Wahoo!

Organix Organic Cat Food Organix Organic Dog Food

Organix dog and cat food is made with organic, free-range chicken. It comes from Castor and Pollux (named after their 2 pets) in Clackamas, Oregon, which is 189 miles from us (I think that’s probably the closest we’ll ever get). It costs more than our previous brand, but it is packed with protein so the servings are smaller (which means it lasts longer), and darn it – it matters enough to me that I’ll pay more. We don’t have a lot of money, so we are reducing our costs in other areas to compensate. Because it does matter: to our pets, to our farms, to our farmers, to our soil, and to the animals on the farms who are raised humanely because of our support.

And Castor and Pollux gives back to the community in several ways, so it matters to our neighborhoods, too!


Raisin With Toy Mouse

We’ve been feeding Raisin and Ellis with Organix for about three weeks now. They both LOVE the food. We’ve also noticed their fur looks healthier and they have a little more energy. It’s an amazing change really. A very worthwhile change. I’m pleased to have found this!

What do you feed your animals? Have you thought about local or organic foods? Has anyone tried the raw diet?

On The Path Toward Sustainability, What Is The Most Difficult Thing To Change?

Me - a bit futzed with because I can never seem to take an in-focus picture of myself!!


Don’t be shy! Let’s get it out in the open and help one another surmount these obstacles. Come on, everyone join in! I know there are lots of you out there that never comment (grr), so now is the time to enter the discussion – just one thing is all!

Ok, here are mine. I have three. And they’re difficult to admit. Here goes…


What’s The Most Difficult Thing For Me To Change?

Cooking. Gasp. I know! I’m good at it, and occasionally I enjoy it, but overall? Not my favorite thing. Pretty much all the recipes I post here are quick and easy, because I am so busy doing other things that I have a tough time spending 2 hours cooking dinner. But I’m learning more and more recipes of the quick yet splendid variety. And I’m very much enjoying the fact that my husband does like cooking and is very good at it (counting my lucky stars!). But if you have any more quick and easy recipes that use seasonal food, I’d LOVE to hear them!

Cat Litter. I’m admitting something big here. Some of you may remember our cat litter sagas when we had to make Raisin an indoor cat due to the risk of increased pesticide exposure.

We tried dirt from the yard, and then composting the remains in our non-food garden. But there were bugs in the house, the dirt smelled, and now we live in an apartment so we can’t do it anymore. We tried the recycled newsprint options. But Raisin hated it, it ended up everywhere because she kicked it around, and we had to change it way too often. We’re wary of the corn and wheat products because they would use valuable food (and land and pesticides) for our cat’s poop. Seems wrong somehow.

So we’ve been using… clay. Without any additives or chemicals or anything, and we have found ways to extend its use. But clay that is mined and not so great for the environment in several different ways. Sigh. Any suggestions? I’m all ears!!

Debt. School debt. Lots of it. I fell into the student trap, and accrued more debt than I should have. I am working hard volunteering (in community organizations and this blog!), and I’m starting a new business that will eventually make money. Basically, I spend my time doing good things for the world at the expense of my private debt. Put that way, it doesn’t sound so bad. But the debt does hang over my head, and it makes us more vulnerable in the current economy.

There. I said it. Big Sigh.

Your Turn!!

Time to be honest so that we can help one another. Everyone, please help and respect one other, as we’re all making ourselves vulnerable here.

Ok, One… Two… Three… Lay it on the line!

Where Do You Turn For Chicken-Raising Advice?

"button button" by trillium~mama on Flickr

Shawna wrote me with a couple of questions I can’t answer about raising chickens. She wondered if either I could answer them, or I could ask you all for your wisdom…

Hi Melinda!

I have a question for you… or really, maybe for your readers. It has been your building community posts that has given me the courage to go ahead and ask this here.

In July 2007 we decided to begin raising hens as a way to begin becoming more sustainable, to help educate our children in the land to table concepts, and for the sheer pleasure of doing it and enjoying the eggs.

Here is our question: four of our ten hens died and we would like to add more to our flock. However hens can be quite mean to one another and peck each other to death, especially if you are not one of their “own.” Does anyone know how to go about adding new hens to the flock? Can I add pullets? Or do I need a rooster to fertilize some of the eggs and let them hatch and be raised?

Also, is it common for a hen to simply never lay? Only four of my six lay eggs; could two simply not be ready–they are over a year old?

Any information would be greatly appreciated.

So, for those of you who are raising chickens (and I hope to someday), where do you find chicken advice? I have no idea!

Please help Shawna with your own experiences, or help point her to the resources she needs. Thanks!

Important Reasons Not To Use Pesticides and Herbicides!

This is a post I wrote in the past that is very near and dear to my heart. Many of you may have missed it, and the old blog is not viewable on several browsers now, so I’d like to share it with you again.

Neighbors Spraying Pesticides

For a year we lived on 1/2 acre of land in Northern California wine country. We moved away from that area four months ago, in part due to this incident….

March 8, 2008

So I had to take a few days before writing this to calm down and write rationally. I’m rational now (as rational as I’ll ever be), and I’m going to to three things here: tell you a personal story about pesticides, tell you some of the other problems with herbicides and pesticides, and give you some alternatives for your garden. So please bear with me – don’t go away – this is important!

A Little Backstory…

We moved here back in May, to a beautiful little area next to a vineyard. As we settled in, we found that there was a cat living beneath our porch. Chatting with the neighbors one day, I learned that she’d been abandoned four years earlier by some bad tenants (they also left a dog that the neighbors took in).

First we gave her a name: Raisin, as she came out of the vines in the heat of the summer. Then we started feeding her, and spending time with her, slowing gaining her trust. After a few months of fairly hard work at it, she was happily snuggling next to us in our bed every night, right beside our dog Ellis.

We made a little opening in one of the windows, so Raisin could go in and out to do all her business. In other words, no litter box necessary. Raisin has been a happy indoor/outdoor cat ever since.

She was a dream cat, very low maintenance but full of love.

Raisin after gaining her trust

What Happened Wednesday Afternoon.

Normally Matt and I carpool on Wednesdays: I drive him to work and then go read until my Master Gardener class, then I pick up Matt and we drive home together. On a whim, I decided I just wanted to go home in between – basically I was sick, and I wanted to be home for a while. So I suppressed my guilt for spending extra CO2, gas, and money, and went home for a few hours of down time.

After an hour at home, I heard Raisin scratching at the door. Usually she pushes it open, so it was a bit strange. I went to open the door and she fell into my office convulsing, with little control over her muscles. Her face was ticking and twitching wildly, she was licking her mouth very strangely… it was scary, to say the least. I ran through a list in my head of all the things it could be: scared by a hawk or truck, bit by a snake or scorpion, or she ate something bad. But I didn’t ponder for long – I wrapped her in a blanket and dashed to the vet.

On the way to the vet, Raisin became worse. I brought her and the blanket into my lap, and she crawled into the smallest possible ball. Her body was hot hot hot. She was terrified. When I pet her, lots of fur fell out. She was becoming increasingly limp. I stepped on the gas a little harder.

I pulled up to the Humane Society and rushed her in, then I waited in the waiting area for about 10 minutes, my heart pounding as I spoke sweet words to our kitty. Finally the technician came in and took her vitals. She was running a high fever, breathing rapidly, and her whole body was now shaking out of control.

Not two minutes later the vet dashed in, did a quick check over, and scooped her up. She quickly said, “I’m taking her in the back. She has all the signs of being exposed to pesticides.” “Ah,” I said with a quivering voice, remembering I’d taken the above photo when I first got home, “they were spraying in the fields today.” With that confirmation, off she went with Raisin, saying behind her, “I’ll call you in 45 minutes. We’re going to give her an iv, medicine to calm her down, and a thorough bath. I’ll let you know if it doesn’t work.” And she was gone.

I left the office in a panic, called my husband who left work a little early, and we waited. And waited. An hour later the vet called, saying she’d been able to lower Raisin’s temperature, slow the convulsions, and she was no longer worried. She’d give her a break for a while, then try a very thorough bath to remove the pesticides. We could come get her between 4 and 5pm. Sigh of relief times ten.

Here’s what the veterinarian told me: The pesticide was working on Raisin exactly the way it is designed to work on insects. It makes the muscles twitch so that the body continues to heat up to the point of death. It happens to dogs and cats. And, I assume, it happens to the birds, frogs, toads, jack rabbits, coyotes, wild turkeys, and beneficial insects – all found outside our home and in the vineyard. I feel anger creeping into my soul now.

Raisin is doing well. She came home wet and mad as hell, she can’t go outside anymore, and we have to keep drugging her with muscle relaxants (to stave off the pesticide mechanisms)… But she is alive!

Boy am I glad I went home Wednesday. It saved this cat’s life, most definitely. Below, is one drugged-out kitty.

Drugged Out Raisin

Other Reasons Not To Use Pesticides.

The term pesticide includes insecticides, herbicides, and “any substance intended to control, destroy, repel or attract a pest.” (CDC)

1. YOU DON’T NEED TO! See my alternatives below, but in a backyard garden there is no reason to use them. None. It’s not worth the consequences to you and your family, your pets and your neighbors’, your soil, and your food.

2. You’re killing your soil. There is a saying “feed the soil, not the plant.” The soil is the essence of your crop: it’s where matter is eaten by macrobes and microbes (there are 1 billion microbes per gram in good soil), and pooped out in a form that your plants can consume. When you spray a pesticide, you’re killing all those macrobes and microbes you’ve worked hard to nurture.

3. You’re risking your own health. What I didn’t tell you earlier is that I have a terrible rash on my neck and face from holding Raisin, who had pesticide on her fur. It’s terribly itchy and it hurts, too. That’s the minor, short-term issue. Long-term problems include neurological problems like tremors, depression and fatigue, respiratory problems, cancers, degeneration of the retina, longer-than-average menstrual cycles, and reproductive issues. (Journal of Pesticide Reform, Summer 2006) The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 10,000-20,000 physician-diagnosed pesticide poisonings occur each year among U.S. agricultural workers. The agency also believes that these are serious underestimates. (CDC)

The CDC has found pesticides in the blood and urine of 100% of the people it studied. The average person carried 13 of the 23 pesticides analyzed. (Organic Consumers Association)

4. You’re risking your family’s health. In 2004, an estimated 71,000 children were involved in common household pesticide-related poisonings or exposures in the United States. (EPA) Children are especially sensitive to pesticides, as they have a small body weight and their organs are still developing. And don’t forget that often these incidents happen inside your home: A Dallas study of children poisoned by pesticides at home found that 15 percent had absorbed pesticides through their skin from contaminated carpets and linens. (Texas Center For Policy Studies & Environmental Defense)

5. You’re risking your pet’s health. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, over 30,000 pet poisonings related to pesticides are reported to their poison control center each year. Dogs who live in homes with pesticide-treated lawns are more likely than others to develop bladder cancer, according to a Perdue University study.

6. It harms wildlife. Herbicides can kill and contaminate the food and shelter for many wild animals. Additionally, it has been found to cause reproductive harm in frogs. (Science News here and here.) And genetic harm in fish (Journal of Pesticide Reform).

7. It contaminates your food. One study showed that 70% of non-organic fruits and vegetables were be contaminated with at least one pesticide (Journal of Pesticide Reform, Summer 2006). It showed contamination in 95% of certain fruits and vegetables like peppers and apples, and 100% in milk samples. Once it’s in your food supply, you’re again risking your health (#3).

8. It contaminates our water. According to the US Geological Survey, 30-60% of wells were contaminated with at least one pesticide. By that same study, 14.1 million people routinely drink water contaminated with five major agricultural herbicides. None of these are removed by treatment plants. Additionally, runoff from farms and lawns can contaminate rivers, streams, and watersheds.

9. It contaminates our air. By walking through your lawn and into your house, you are carrying particles that then adhere to the dust in your home. Furthermore, pesticides can remain in the air and on surfaces in the home for 21 days up to several years. Pesticide particles can also be sucked into homes, offices, and schools via ventilation systems (Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides).

10. It doesn’t work. More than 500 species of insects and mites and more than 150 types of fungi (a 50 percent increase over the past decade) are now resistant to some pesticides. By spraying pesticides, you are treating the symptoms rather than the root cause of the problem. If your plant has aphids, for example, it may be vulnerable because it isn’t getting enough nutrients or sunlight. And without addressing the problem, you will have to continue to apply pesticides during each life cycle of the pest (sometimes several times per year).

Alternatives to Pesticides.

1. Let it Be. Society tells us bugs are bad. But you know what? You can create your own ecosystem right in your backyard if you let your creatures come into balance. Last summer I had aphids badly. I wanted to spray, but I decided to wait and see what happened. Lo and behold, one day I saw a ladybug. A few days later I saw another. Over the next several weeks, I saw many more, and one day the aphids were gone. Now I have soldier bugs and all sorts of beneficial creatures in the yard. (At least until the vineyard guys sprayed pesticides. Sigh.)

2. No Really, Let it Be. I had a zucchini plant with powdery mildew last summer. For months. Did you see how many zucchini I harvested? I’m sure it made the plant less productive. But do I care? What the heck would I have done with more zucchini?!

Ask yourself if it really matters. Do some of your apples in your apple tree have worms? Well, do you end up with too many apples at the end of the year that you don’t know what to do with them? Then why not share a few with nature? The birds that eat the worms will love you for it.

3. Treat the Soil. A healthy soil makes for a healthy plant. Make sure you give your plants some yummy black gold compost every year. Making a compost tea can bring back beneficial root microbes, increasing a plants resistance to disease (see more here, here, and here). And if you haven’t done so, do get a soil test to see just what is deficient in your soil – and then replace that nutrient.

4. Plant the correct distances apart. When plants compete with one another for light, water and nutrients, they become stressed. Believe me, I have a lot of aphid-covered brussels sprouts out there right now because I planted them too close together and I didn’t thin them well enough.

5. Weed. Ok, I’m not an avid weeder. I think sometimes weeds can be beneficial. For instance, my epazote weeds kept my tomatoes warm through a couple of mild frosts last year. But weeds will compete with your crops if they’re too close, and they may bring pests with them too.

6. Rotate Your Crops. Don’t plant tomatoes in the same place every year, as you will end up breeding a hefty population of pests that can rely on a steady supply of tomato year after year. Mix it up a bit. You can find a crop rotation diagram in most good gardening books, but essentially you want to rotate like-crops together (ie, don’t plant cucumbers where you planted zucchini last year). Make sure to do a three-year rotation at the least.

7. Interplant Different Crops Together. Similar to #6, you don’t want to have a big feast waiting for a pest, by planting a bunch of one crop all in one place. Confuse them by interplanting. For instance, I’ve planted scallions and carrots together, beans and radishes, herbs and flowers… the list is endless. Try planting herbs and native flowers with your veggies to draw beneficial insects, too.

There are some companion planting books out there like Carrots Love Tomatoes. Truthfully, I like the idea of these books more than I’ve liked the books. So my best suggestion is to try different things and see what works for you.

8. Research Your Pests and Alter Your Planting Schedule Accordingly. Carrot rust flies, for example, lay eggs in the spring. If you can delay your planting until after that time, you will have rust fly free carrots. Also, by germinating seedlings indoors, you will be planting hardier plants that can withstand a few bites from pests (whereas a seed planted in situ will be very vulnerable with just one or two leaves).

9. Pick, Spray (with water), Prune, Shake. Do the easy things first. Find a cucumber beetle? If you can’t stand that it’s going to cut a little hole into your leaves, hand pick it off the branch and squish it. Got spider mites or aphids? Spray em with a forceful spray on your hose nozzle (be careful not to damage your plants with too hard of spray). Tree have a pathogen concentrated on a few spots, like powdery mildew? Prune away the bad, make room for the new. And make sure to prune so that your tree’s branches aren’t competing with themselves or holding in too much moisture. Cucumber beetles too high to squish? Shake em down and squish em.

10. Other Organic Controls: Trap, Use Row Covers, Mulch, Bag Fruit…. There are lots. I particularly love The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control. It walks you through different crops, what pests they have, and what you can do to combat them. It also has a great insect identification guide, which I’ve found incredibly useful.

Raisin Adjusting To A Life Indoors

If You Or You Pet Is Exposed To Pesticides.

Time is of the essence. Don’t delay, go to an emergency room or veterinary hospital right away. When in doubt, just go!!!

Other Resources:

*Those of you in other parts of the world, please let me know what resources you use and I will add them here!*

Update: Raisin is doing well as an indoor cat. This is one loved and lucky kitty! She plays with toy mice, watches bugs and people outside from her window perch, and loves her brother, Ellis (our dog). After confronting our neighbors, we learned the pesticide they sprayed was Roundup.

Raisin Napping This Morning

As always, I welcome any ideas or resources you can offer!