Posted on Leave a comment

Organic Integrity

What do you think about the standards of these organic growers? Would you rather a farmer grow your food or an industrial corporate complex? If you could set your own standards for Organic Growing, what would they be? As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

Posted on Leave a comment

Air Flow

Oregano

As we shared with all of you, we moved some diseased plants and plants that never sprouted outside near our back porch to segregate them from the other healthier plants. So far this coupled with the fresh air we have been allowing to circulate in the garage (aka mini green house) has seemed to help. Not to mention the fresh air the struggling plants get now that they are outside near the back porch. Plants need a flow of fresh air also. This is how some plants pollinate. It is also contributes to plant health and discourages disease. Since we have moved the struggling plants about 4 of the plants have made surprising come backs. 

It is so interesting to continue to watch a plant and to continue to nourish it. Just when you think the plant is done and you are ready to give up on it, it makes a surprising come back. We were recently asked about our Oregano plant by someone, you guessed it, who loves Oregano. Oregano was one of those plants that was really struggling. It sprouted and looked just fine. But, its leaves were very small and the sprouts were no taller than an eighth of an inch. Since we have been clearing the transplants out of the garage. Moving the diseased and struggling plants completely out of the garage and increased the air flow in the garage, plants like Oregano have seen positive results. 

The Three Benefits of Air Flow

  • it is how some plants pollinate
  • promotes plant health
  • discourages disease
Swiss Chard, Cilantro, Dill & Eggplant

We are really focusing on plant health and the health conditions of the environment we put our plants in. For those plants that struggle and experience disease we remove the plants from the healthy plants environment quick and isolate them. We are also trying to create an environment in which the plants can thrive such as discouraging predators that feed off struggling plants. And bringing in all sorts of plants and plant products (such as Neem Oil) that plant predators just do not like. We want to give our plants a fighting chance since in many ways we are also learning. So far, the biggest lesson is to nip any issues or trouble in the bud. When you first see a plant in trouble immediately identify and address the issue. It could take weeks if not months for an Organic Remedy to take effect. You may also have to try some other things that work better for you. In the mean time your plants may struggle or not survive.

What lessons have you learned? What are some of your favorite plants that you would like to know about? Ok, maybe we should have said food instead of plant. What is the difference between Organic Remedies and Chemical Pesticides? What difference does it make to you which one is used on your foods? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

Posted on Leave a comment

How is the Garden?

Transplants

We always get the question: how is the garden doing? Well we are happy to report that while some pest issues still remain: namely the ants and flies, the pests have either disappeared (vole) are been reduced. The ants remain our most persistent and clandestine pest. As with most things worth doing persistence is key when it comes to addressing these pests. Check back in with us to see how things are going.

100% Pure & Organic Neem Oil

Which brings us to Neem Oil, an Organic and Natural pesticide, fungicide and miticide. Because the Neem Oil Solution we found had 1% Neem oil and 99% of unknown ingredients, we decided to make our own solution. One it is cheaper and Two we will know what is in the product. We were able to source 100% pure unrefined organic Neem Oil from a small women business owner and at about the same cost as the (excluding shipping) the Neem Oil Solution we initially purchased. Because we will be mixing it with water (and possible a detergent to enhance application), the bang for our buck will increase even further. So, thus far we are pretty pleased with this find and purchase. It should help us significantly with our pest problem and is inline with our Organic pursuits and sourcing of Organic Remedies.

We are still using the remainder of the initial Neem Oil Solution we purchased and still need to try out our new Neem Oil. Stay tuned for how this works out including the mixing ratio and whether or not we decided to add detergent as well as the comparative benefits of the Neem Oil Solution we purchased and the one we will be making ourselves.

Transplants

Now that our pest problems have begun to come under control, we have started putting our transplants out in the garden. Yesterday we put out 6 – 7 plants and thus far we are happy to report they are all doing just fine. We also hope to be sending some kitchen plants home from our “nursery” from those who have requested plants. Right now these potential kitchen or patio/porch plants are out near MiMi’s flower on the lawn table taking full advantage of the sun which has been sweltering for some of our plants. Our Marketmore Cucumber plantling just did not make it through the transplant process as the sun was just too much for it.

Green Beans

We are happy to report that the Green Bean plant sported its beautiful purple flowers, which is a sign of pollination, and soon after sprouted 2 green bean pods, thus far! We can not help but lick our lips and wait for the others to sprout. They should be good in a salad or as a side dish.

What are your questions about the garden? What are your questions about gardening? If you could start your own garden, would it be in or outdoors? What would you grow and why? What keeps you from getting started? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

Green Beans
Green Bean Pods
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Posted on Leave a comment

The Organic Consumer

Organic Consumer
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

For one, Organic Consumers are health conscious. The Pew Research Center (Science & Society) reported that “Americans’ appetite for organic foods has grown steadily over the past few decades. According to the Economic Research Service, retail sales of organic foods more than doubled from 1994 to 2014 with a steady uptick of about 10% annual growth in retail sales over the past several years. Almost surely, a driver of this trend is people’s health concerns. Most Americans believe organic produce is better for one’s health than conventionally grown produce. Whether the science lines up behind this belief is less clear. Organic farming typically eliminates the use of conventional pesticides and fertilizers and, as a result, organic fruits, vegetables and grains have substantially lower levels of pesticides. At least one recent meta-analysis, reviewing the results of more than 340 studies, found that on average, organic foods also have higher levels of antioxidants. But having more antioxidants is not sufficient for foods to be more nutritious and there is considerable scientific debate over whether organic foods provide a nutritional boost when compared with eating conventionally grown foods.”

Organic Consumers are also very passionate and purposeful. Just visit the Organic Consumers Association and you will find a host of resources and information about being active, organized and engaged regarding your food production and food offerings. A view of this site will reveal that Organic Consumers are not only organized, the statistics that state Organic Consumers are growing in numbers are substantiated by the existence of organizations such as the Organic Consumers Association.

Why buy organic?

Most Organic Consumers have a list, short or long, of why they buy organic and the benefits of consuming organic. Share your list with us! The Balance compiled a list of their own as well:

  • Organic food is healthy and safe
  • Organic food builds strong future generations
  • Organic food keeps our water clean
  • Organic food help protect animals
  • Organic food results in less soil erosion
  • Organic food conserves fossil fuels
  • Organic food taste good
  • Organic food is becoming more affordable

Go to The Balance to learn more about their list and why these 8 reasons made their list

How to buy Organic?

Read our article “Certified Organic” to learn more about how organic food is labeled and produced. Essentially there are 2 categories of organic. Those who are exempt from being certified and those who must be certified in order to bear the USDA Certified label. The USDA has a strict certification process, which oversees the certification of the products that carry its seal. How you feel about these standards is another thing. We have found them to be fairly sound thus far. The labels that make organic clams can do so, but are also regulated by the USDA and can be fined for not following Organic Regulations. These labels cannot carry the USDA seal but can label their products as organic and must follow the USDA regulations to do so.

Fore more facts about Organic Consumers visit the Provisioner Online. How has this helped you as an Organic Consumer? How will you shop differently now? What did you learn about your food labels? Why do you buy organic? What did you learn about other Organic Consumers? As always you are the best part of what we do. Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. Thank you for taking this journey with us.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

Posted on 1 Comment

Certified Organic

USDA – what does Organic mean

As we continue our organic journey perhaps what is most important is to understand what does organic mean. The USDA National Organic Program – Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Marketing Service 7CPR Part 205 National Organic Program Final Rule defines Organic Production as a system that is managed to respond to site specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological and mechanical process that fosters cycling of resources that promotes ecological balance and conserves biodiversity. The Oxford Dictionary defines Organic as “(of food or farming methods) produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizer, pesticides or other artificial agents.  

Now that we have a better understanding of what Organic really is, how does one become certified organic? First and foremost the USDA is the go to source in the U.S. for organic certifications and perhaps even organic standards. They have a plethora of information and resources for becoming certified and organic resources in general. So we went to the USDA website for more information and clarity about the topic.

There are essentially 2 types of organic producers: the one that must be certified in order to make organic claims and the producer that is exempt from having to be certified in order to make certification claims. Both must follow regulations and standards in order to make claims of being organic and both can be fined for not following the standards and regulations set forth by the USDA. The distinction between the 2 organic producers is that those producers grossing over $5,000 in annual sales from organic products are required to be certified and once certified can use the USDA certification seal. On the other hand, those producers grossing less than $5,000 in annual sales from organic products are exempt from being certified and may not use the USDA certification seal. However, they may elect to become certified if they choose. Exempt companies can make organic claims but should detail in the ingredients which ingredients are organic and which are not.

How to Become Certified Organic

Certifiers are responsible for making sure that USDA organic products meet all organic standards. There are five basic steps to organic certification:

  1. The farm or business adopts organic practices, selects a USDA-accredited certifying agent, and submits an application and fees to the certifying agent.
  2. The certifying agent reviews the application to verify that practices comply with USDA organic regulations.
  3. An inspector conducts an on-site inspection of the applicant’s operation.
  4. The certifying agent reviews the application and the inspector’s report to determine if the applicant complies with the USDA organic regulations.
  5. The certifying agent issues organic certificate.

To maintain organic certification, your certified organic farm or business will go through an annual review and inspection process.

Is There a Transition Period?

Yes. Any land used to produce raw organic commodities must not have had prohibited substances applied to it for the past three years. Until the full 36-month transition period is met, you may not:

  • Sell, label, or represent the product as “organic”
  • Use the USDA organic or certifying agent’s seal

USDA provides technical and financial assistance during the transition period through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Or, access a variety of funding options, conservation programs, and other programs and services for the organic sector on the USDA Organic Portal.

Again the USDA website is rich with resources and information about Organic Production. Here are a few resources that stood out to us if you are interested in becoming certified organic or interested in how your food is certified and labeled Organic:

  1. The Road to Organic Certification
  2. What is Organic Certification
  3. Organic System Plan
  4. Organic System Plan Template

What did you learn about your food labels? How does this change what you know about Organic products? How does this change how you consume products? What does this information mean to your health and the health of your family? What are 3 things you can begin to do this week to change your diet and consequently improve your health? How will this change your relationship with your doctors and the medicine you consume? How are we connected to nature at large? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Stay healthy!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

Posted on Leave a comment

Let it Rain

It has been about a week since we were frantically in the garden center enlisting the help of staff to help us resolve some of the clandestine pest issue we were facing. We saw the flies concentrated in one area and we just could not figure out what was attracting them. Come to find out they were eating all of the Cabbage & Brussels Sprouts up before we had a chance and doing a pretty good job at it. We were able to identify Neem Oil as an Organic Source for preventing the flies from eating our plants. If you would like to learn more about Neem Oild read our article “Neem Oil” dated May 18,2020. The flies were our unknown pests. We found Neem Oil in a spray bottle solution initially. Since then we have sourced 100% pure Neem Oil and will make our own water solution. It is also recommended to use liquid soap to make the Neem Oil easier to apply to plant leaves. We will start with water and warm it slightly if needed. Stay tuned to find out if we decided to add soap to our own solution.  Neem Oil is also a pesticide, fungicide and miticide so we have found it useful for several things.

The Vole was our unseen culprit. We have been looking a long time for this pest, but it never reared its head. This left us scratching our heads until perfectly healthy plants were being uprooted and our transplants were taking so long to catch root as well as develop root systems. The Mole Max addresses the problem of mole like animals solely with sound so it is very Organic, Natural and overall Environmentally Friendly. So, far these two remedies seem to be working well and we could not be more thrilled. We find them to be very unobtrusive to our food chain and the environment as a whole. Spinach is even trying to make a comeback although it may be too late for Kale, which was just beginning to thrive.

The rain has brought some challenges to our pest regimen. We are still applying the Neem Oil solution and waiting on the Pure Neem Oil to arrive. We applied the Neem Oil solution in the hopes that it will not wash away fast. The Mole Max is unaffected by the rain while the Ground Black Pepper solution is still unknown. We stopped applying the Ground Black Pepper solution in fear that it would get washed away as soon as we applied it, but we have not seen any signs of ants outside with all this rain. So, we will focus our Organic Ant Remedy inside while we wait for the rain to let up. Stay tuned to find out how this remedy works and if we try another one.

Thank you for taking this journey with us. Have you already introduced Organic foods and products into your diet? If not, what is stopping you? How has this publication helped you with your Organic Journey? What have you learned on your Organic Journey that you can share with the community? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Stay Healthy!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

Posted on Leave a comment

Corona: The Environment

As we wrote to you about rethinking organic, it has come to us to rethink many things about this organic journey and the significance of our health. Environmentalists have a lot to think about as well. As the onset of COVDI 19 has caused many to self quarantine, be quarantined and rethink spacing in many facets, environmentalists have been watching from above. And what they can see is a significant reduction in pollution. Like many who have seen some positive changes in the midst of COVID 19, they want to hold on to the positive changes that have come out of all of this.

Organic growers are much attuned to their environment and the effects it has on what they grow. As we look at what and the ways we consume, essentially our diet, so too our avenues of thought about cause and effect are broadened. We can see how pollution has decreased when we see the need to reclaim space for public health safety has caused bike sales to rise and consequently having a positive effect on the environment by reducing smog. As we struggled with understanding the pests in our own garden and paying homage to our Organic Journey, we were perplexed how a seemingly healthy plant could get into trouble so fast. One day the plant looked lush and green and the next day it was withering and dying.

Most Organic growers will tell you that the signs of pest are the signs of an unhealthy plant and the best way to address pests is to promote plant health. While I think they are right to some degree, I believe there is another component we must flesh out more. What about its environment? If I put a healthy plant in an environment that is unhealthy how long will it stay healthy? Not long. So while our plants were healthy, underneath the ground where we could not see, we currently suspect, was a vole tunneling holes through root systems and munching on our plants from underneath the ground. This put our perfectly healthy plants in serious danger, which we could not see from above ground. The plants would then become unhealthy and susceptible to pests.

This observation gives us pause to think about our health from many directions as we consider the environments of our foods as well as ourselves. How do pests or culprits unknown, unseen and clandestine impact the health of the plants we grow to eat and our environment at large? What are some ways we can identify pests in the environment of our plants as well as the environments we live in? What are 3 things we can do today to start to have a positive impact on the environment around us and the environments in which our foods are grown? Leave your comments and questions so the whole community can benefit. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing! Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

Posted on Leave a comment

Rethink: Organic

burdock seeds shidonna raven garden and cook

When I picked up “The New Organic Grower” by Eliot Coleman within the first couple of pages and throughout the book, it was purposefully stated that the writer wanted to change the way you think about food growing and consumption. As you would imagine many organic growers have similar ways of thinking and philosophies. And when I read it, it changed the way I thought about growing food, consuming food and the balance of nature all around me. I came to value birds and bees even more now that I could so how important they are to the growth of my own foods through pollination. It is a simple concept we learn as children. But, how much do we value the work they do? How much do we value the role they play in food growth?

For some it is easy to choose organic. For others it takes looking at things in a whole new light. So, maybe on this journey you may come to see some things in a new light. Probably since its inception, science has been imitating nature. In fact Oxford Dictionary defines science as “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” 

How much science borrows from nature really stood out to me when I learned how Velcro was invented. George de Mestral observed the burdock seeds in nature and how they stuck to his clothes during walks. From there he invented Velcro. It begs the question whenever I see an invention or namely a chemical: where in nature did they get this one from? Perhaps next time we reach for a food or a medical remedy, we will ask where in nature did this come from? And why not go to the source of nature for my remedy rather than a chemical or invented imitation of the original? Why not take Echinacea from my garden to boost my immune system rather than waiting for the onset of a cold to take cough medicine, whose ingredients I can hardly pronounce and would need a degree in medicine to even identify. What inventions or common remedies do you know the sources of in nature? How has this journey changed the way you think about the foods you eat? How could changing your diet change your health?   As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing! Share your comments with the community by positing them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

Posted on 1 Comment

Neem Oil

When our Cabbage & Brussel Sprouts leaves were being eaten up, we went in search for an Organic Remedy. Most organic gardeners and farmers will tell you the best remedy is plant health. Those plants that come under attack are typically not in good health. Although the vole might be putting them under stress. We found that the plants coming under attack were perfectly healthy plants but young and tender. Some of them were going through the transplant process and experiencing some stress and shock. All things we think the plants could bounce back from without problem. So, we have decided to give our plantings a little Organic help to promote growth and health while we get our garden off the ground.

Our search produced a recommendation to use Neem Oil. We found a product that left us with a little more questions than answers because it did not fully disclose all of its ingredients. We discovered that Neem Oil is often mixed with dish detergent and water. The emulsifier in the dish detergent helps break down the oil and give it a little structure. Naturally the oil will loosen up if heated but that is not a good application method for your plants. Once the detergent, water and neem oil mixture is made it must be used otherwise it will break down and become unusable. Well we want to know what we are putting on our food so, we found 100% cold pressed neem oil. We will add our own water. If you decided to use detergent, we recommend Castile soap, which is a natural (and can be organic) soap with no chemicals. You can find this soap at your local store or order it online. We found our Neem Oil online for about $5 per 8 ounces plus shipping. We decided to buy in bulk so we got 32 ounces for that price (per 8 ounces).

Although we think it is still to early to tell, the results thus far have been very positive. We have seen a noticeable difference in the amount of flies. They have decreased in number and have become more clandestine. Just because they get clandestine does not mean they are gone. Remember to keep up your Organic Remedy Regimen for at least 2 – 4 weeks. It is recommended to keep treating plants 2 weeks after desired results are achieved. Click here to learn more about Neem Oil from the Smiling Gardener. We did not buy our Neem Oil from this supplier, but found them to have a great deal of knowledge regarding Neem Oil as it relates to gardening and farming.

This Organic Remedy should allow our plants time to get over any shock or stress. We also dug new ground and are always learning what works best. So, there are a lot of factors to consider. We wanted a product whose ingredients we knew. Also, we are always looking for a good deal. We don’t mind mixing up our own Neem Oil solution in order to get these things. We believe you should know what is on and in your food. So, we decided to go with a small business owner supplier who provided unfiltered and cold pressed Neem Oil.

We have high hopes for our garden once these seedlings have an opportunity to flourish. They are on average very healthy and strong. The introduction of Soil Blocks and other methods that discourage disease have significantly improved our sowing success, it is on track to be 100% of seeds sown sprout into healthy plants. The transplanting process has been improved. And we are in the process of helping them catch root quicker. Discouraging voles and other mole like animals should also keep the plants from being uprooted once successfully transplanted. What we believe is a vole could have also been preventing our plantings from developing healthy root systems as well as taking root sooner and completing the transplant process. We will be observing if these pest remedies shorten the transplant process.

We believe the Neem Oil will help keep pests at bay and give these plants a chance to recover from any stress or shock. When reading packages they often make EPA, USDA and other certifications. Do you know what these standards are and are these standards acceptable to you? Do you think manufacturers should release all ingredients despite their desire to protect trade secrets? How can you help influence EPA & USDA standards that are more transparent and acceptable to your own personal standards? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

Posted on Leave a comment

Flower of Hope

With all that has been going on in the garden with pests, we have felt a little behind schedule with the sowing season. Not to mention, we have been feeling very frustrated. Nonetheless, we have remained calm and we know the best thing overall when growing anything is to work with rather than against nature. Least the very thing you are trying to grow is also adversity effected. This morning we just were not sure what we would find. It seems to be one day after another that a plant is attacked and eaten by either ants, vole or flies. The plants are not even big enough to harvest yet and the flies are snacking away. We got the Mole Max and some other Organic Remedies that we are trying. The Mole Max should have charged one more day. We could not wait for results so we went a day early and it seems to be operating fine.

Although it is still very early, we saw fewer flies today due to the Neem Oil. We also saw fewer attacks on plants. But what we believe is a vole, seems to be attacking less. We can not see it so we have not been able to identify it. We had our eye out for the culprit and then eventually went to our local gardening center for help. We were at our wits end and coming up on the close of the sowing season for our Zone. Like my father stated “its some type of mole or golfer”. He is a hunter and very attuned to animals and their signs. Hunters are great at spooring. A vole is mole or golfer like and remains pretty unseen. So far, things seem to be moving in the right direction. Although the ants are still out in high numbers. We will be persisting with our Organic Remedy Regimen, knowing that pests are pretty persistent. It was good to see that Green Bean thus far has survived and is blossoming rather than seeing another plant fatality after watching it grow for weeks. Once the plants bare their flowers pollination should take place and the fruit of the plant should not be far behind.

Stay tuned for updates on how the other plants are progressing and how things are going with our Organic Remedies to pests. In order for this garden to get off the ground. We must get our pests problem under control soon. The season is going on and it is time for these plantings to grow up into full fledge plants. Which flowers are your favorite flowers? Do they come from a fruit or vegetable plant? What did you learn today? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.