Beneficial Nematodes for Organic Flea Control


Beneficial nematodes for pest control; photo by Kelly Smith
Beneficial nematodes for pest control; photo by Kelly Smith

Do you have pets? Do you have a yard? Do you try to stay organic? If you answered yes, you need to know about beneficial nematodes because they’ve got your back. They will solve your flea and tick problem without having to resort to toxic pesticides.

Toxic pesticides kill all the beneficial critters like ladybugs and earthworms. Products like Roundup and Weed & Feed do more damage than good. If you lose your earthworms you lose your soil aeration. Lose your ladybugs and praying mantis and you’ll have to buy more toxic chemicals to control pests.

What are Beneficial Nematodes and How do They Work?

In a nutshell, they are non-segmented, microscopic roundworms. You might not have heard of them but they occur naturally all over the world. Well, perhaps not Antarctica.

They are predators of tick and flea larvae in the soil. These may be your primary concerns but they also control sod webworms, cutworms, maggots, various types of ants and many more. They work by first finding a suitable host.

Highly-magnified nematodes
Highly-magnified nematodes

Next they enter through an appropriate body opening or through the body wall. Once they have taken up residence they produce a bacteria and inject it int the host’s blood, which kills the host. Finally the search for the next host begins.

How are they Applied to Your Lawn?

Since the nematodes arrive at your home in a seemingly powder form, they can easily be applied in a variety of ways. Small areas can be applied with a watering can.  Large lawns are candidates for hose-end sprayers like the one I used this morning. It’s a good deal since it comes with  loaded with fertilizer.

You won’t likely find nematodes at your local store but they are easy to find on-line. Every spring I order mine from Arbico Organics. High-quality products and quick delivery. For my front and back yard I order the 10 million size (rated for 3,200 square feet). A bit of overkill perhaps, but after the flood from Hurricane Harvey who knows what’s lurking below the soil?

If you have friends that might be interested in organic pest control using beneficial nematodes, share this article with them. Leave a comment below!

 


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10 Habits of Highly-Successful Runners

by Kelly R. Smith

A healthy runner is a happy runner.
A healthy runner is a happy runner.
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Article edited on 10/28/18

By definition, we runners are creatures of habit. We simply don’t feel right if we miss a workout and sometimes push harder on the next one to make amends. This makes it a healthy habit in our eyes and occasionally just a bit on the kooky side in the eyes of our sedentary counterparts.

We are also goal-setters. This is easy for beginning runners when the opportunities are as open and unlimited as the blue west Texas sky. The first 5K, the first 10K and so it goes until we have marked off our bucket list so many pounds lost, that first marathon or ultramarathon.

But what happens after that? Do we crater? Hopefully not. Although I must admit that I don’t see as many of the old crew at the races as I used to. I don’t do as many as I used to anymore either; I just focus on the Texas Bridge Series.



But I do keep running. My goal now is just to keep running until I eventually lay down for that long, long dirt sleep, as long as the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t claim me. Now that is a worthy goal. With that in mind, lets look at some the 10 habits of successful runners. As I define success, it’s keepin’ on keepin’ on; with 5 ultras under my belt more distance isn’t the answer it once was. For you it might be still climbing that ladder of goals.

Do Your Strength Training. Many runners neglect the weight training and this is a mistake. Building and maintaining lean muscle mass balances us out and reduces the prospect of injury. There is a good reason that those in the know continually stress the importance of maintaining a strong core. Choose exercises that work the upper body, core and lower body. Shoot for 3 times a week. There is really no reason for a gym membership unless you need the swimming pool. Resistance bands are very economical and versatile and will even fit in your suitcase if you spend time on the road.

Chow Down on More Vegetables. You don’t have to adopt Michelle Obama’s school menu, but try to fit more organic veggies into your lunch and dinner meals. The point is that high-quality carbohydrates lend power to your workouts, and their antioxidants help keep the potentially damaging free radicals at bay.  Myself, I’m nuts about salad. Try to select vegetables of different colors since that virtually guarantees that you will get a broad range of nutrients and avoid nutrient deficiency. And don’t forget to add some cheese; calcium and protein are good things. That being said, don’t skimp on high-quality protein; it boosts metabolism and repairs muscle.

Make Running Your First Activity of the Day. After your coffee of course. You afternoon runners know the drill; the later it is in the day, the more things arise to threaten your workout. Plus the fact that it gives you altogether too much time to talk yourself out of it. And isn’t it worth the early wake-up call to already be endorphin-saturated when you are faced with the prospect of a boring meeting at the office? Enjoying another cup o’ joe? When you set your alarm before bed, be sure to allow enough time for your warm-up routine. Be sure to set out all your essentials the night before so you can plug ‘n play. That means shorts, shoes, socks, water bottle, etc.

Get in Some Cross-Training. As good as running is for us, it is very stressful on the body. Some swimming, spinning and time on the rowing machine will maintain your level of fitness while at the same time giving your joints a break. With that in mind, a couple of good times to work cross-training into your schedule is on the day before or the day after a hard run. I’ve found that some slow yet long lap swimming is just the thing to elevate my heart rate while also getting a great all-over stretch in.

Dump the Gadgets Once in a While. We have become obsessed with cell phones, GPS, earbuds blocking out the world and God knows what else. It will do your soul good to leave all that junk behind every now and again when you hit the road or trails; get out of your box. Enjoy the sights. Listen to your breathing. Smell stuff. Do something nice and redeeming that doesn’t reek of “me.” I run early in the morning and stop to pick up earthworms that have slithered up onto the sidewalk and lost their bearings. I toss them back into the deep grass before the ants can attack them like so many Lilliputians on Gulliver. Weird? Hell yeah, but you wouldn’t believe my karma bank account. Besides, all this will remind you of why you run in the first place.



Make Your Weekly Long Run a High-Quality One. If you are not already doing a weekly long run now is the time to start. They are not just to be used as part of a marathon program. The physical benefits are many including beneficial enzyme changes in you legs, new capillary growth, and musculoskeletal strengthening. Remember to follow the 10% rule to avoid injury—don’t bump up the distance more than 10% from one week to the next. If Saturday morning is your long run, Friday is a good candidate for a rest day. You might want to take your music with you; it can be lonely out there.

Be Your Own Cook. Try to say goodbye to restaurants, fast food places, and greasy spoons, at least for dinner and breakfast. Problem is, you can’t control the ingredients or portions when someone else is doing the culinary duty. Case in point: I tend to have high blood pressure and don’t need all the salt that they seem to administer with a front end loader. Can’t cook? Take a cooking class or just practice, practice, practice. Controlling quality an portions is especially important if you are on an intermittent fasting regimen.

Warm-up before Your Run and Stretch Afterwards. Many runners neglect these two steps and that’s just wrong. Warming up will loosen the muscles that you need limber in order to hit your stride. You might not feel like you need to stretch afterwards (you are already loose as a goose) but during cooling down your muscles will begin to contract rapidly. Static stretching, not ballistic, can prolong that action and reduce soreness. A foam roller can work wonders. Focus on your calves, hip flexors and hamstrings.

Slather on that Sunscreen. Running for hours and hours is a blessing and a curse as far as the sun is concerned. On the one hand, you don’t have to worry about a vitamin D deficiency. On the other hand, your chances of developing skin cancer go way, way up. As a general population, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer. Ouch. And that estimate also takes those milky-white goth folks into account. Try to use a sports sunscreen; it will not sweat off as easily.

Finally, Get Plenty of Sleep. Sleep is essential for all of us but it is especially critical for runners because the body undergoes some major repair action when we check into nod-land. In fact people that are taking statin medications to control cholesterol are advised to take it only at bedtime because that is when the blood really gets cleaned up.  Cutting back on sleep can cut the amount of glycogen that your body will store for fuel and may result in weight gain. And besides all those interesting facts, the dreams are just fun, right? If you want to boost the enjoyment level, work on developing your lucid dreaming abilities.

Hopefully, this article provided a bit of inspiration. If you need to work on one or more of these 10 habits of highly-successful runners, now is the time. Start working them in one at a time and chart your results. And have fun.


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Running Recovery for any Distance

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This article was updated on 03/05/20.

Upper thigh muscle pain from running.
Upper thigh muscle pain from running.

Experienced runners have learned how to listen to their bodies and know all too well how to tread the thin line between injury and the optimal health that leads to peak performance. They understand and implement running recovery methods for any distance.

The Physiological Reasons for Recovery

First the good news—running causes your body to produce endorphins. These are the chemicals responsible for the so-called “runner’s high.” There’s no need for recovery there.

Not surprisingly, of all the elements of your physical makeup your muscles sustain the most damage during a run. The longer the run is, how challenging the route is and your present level of conditioning are the main factors that determine the amount of damage.

The larger muscle groups such as the buttocks and the thighs shoulder most of the load and consequently sustain the most damage. Generally the damage is temporary and nothing to worry about. This is often referred  to as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). This is usually experienced after adding mileage to your weekly long run or tackling a marathon.

Running Recovery Guidelines for Different Distances

As you might imagine, the longer the distance is, the more involved and important recovery techniques become. Here are some to consider:

  • Typical training runs. Most of your mileage is of the familiar day-in, day-out variety. These workouts may not cause any soreness but it is important to follow these 7 basic running recovery tips. Cooling down properly, stretching and re-hydrating will go far in ensuring that you can lace up tomorrow injury-free!

  • 5K, 10K and half-marathon races. Any of these will impose more stress on your body than a training run. You still need to follow the basic tips but you might find it beneficial to take a very slow cool-down run after re-hydrating. Also, do some light stretching before climbing in the car for the ride home.

  • Full-marathon and ultramarathon recovery. Now you are entering into a more complex recovery situation; your muscles are almost certainly experiencing some micro-tearing and need some serious TLC. This calls for a multi-day recovery. Of course you will be building from all the recovery actions listed for shorter distances but you should add more rest to begin with.

Be generous with the ice packs for the next week or so, whenever you note soreness or a twinge of pain. Feel free to be a lazy bum (no activity) the first day following the event but eat copiously and nutritionally. Begin light stretching on the second day. Beginning on the third day short, easy recovery runs are in order but only if you feel like it.

As soon as you feel up to it, get back to your normal base. To insure staying injury-free, don’t neglect to incorporate your warm-up routine prior to every run. It may be tempting to skip but it is one of the best investments you can make.


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Do Transgender Athletes Have an Unfair Advantage?

by Kelly R. Smith

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Some effects of testosterone

This article was updated on 09/30/20.

Regardless of what we might think of transgender bathroom policies or how gender-shifters should be affected by many other social issues, sport is a particularly sticky area. Sports performance is indeed affected by hormones, muscular structure, heat tolerance, and even height.

It’s no secret that this gender issue is huge in the Olympics. In particular, testosterone levels in women, transgender or natural, affects performance. Take the 25-year-old South African woman Caster Semenya for example. She is a natural woman but has an intersex condition. This means she possesses the anatomical sex characteristics of both males and females.

By definition she is hyperandrogenous. Her body provides much higher levels of testosterone than the majority of other female athletes. It follows that this builds greater muscle mass and bone mass which permits her to run faster and train harder with fewer sports injuries.

Should She Compete against Men or Women?

This introduces a moral dilemma. Semenya dominates the 800 meters. Certainly many factors allow her to do this but it is irrefutable that her higher testosterone level gives her a clear advantage. In fact she is built like a man—broad shoulders, narrow hips, very muscular, and even a masculine jawline.

This brings us to the moral question; if her competitors took testosterone supplements in order to even the field it would be considered doping. Semenya isn’t doping but does she have an unfair advantage because of her condition? Since her testosterone is abnormally high for a woman, more like a man, should she compete against them instead?

To address that question, at one point track’s governing body, the IAAF, placed a ceiling on testosterone levels in female athletes. When that happened her running performance came somewhat down to competitive levels and the common speculation was that she began medically suppressing her testosterone production with supplements in order to meet the requirement.

Since the IAAF removed the ceiling she has become virtually unbeatable once again. Depending on one’s personal outlook, it’s easy to draw a conclusion about what is “fair” and what regulations should be in place.

High School Sports are Affected Also

Recently, a transgender wrestler named Mack Beggs from Euless Trinity High School has been easily dominating the girl’s field at a competition at the Berry Center in the Cypress-Fairbanks school district.

Beggs was a girl but is now a transgender boy taking testosterone. Ironically, he/she wanted to compete against other boys but the University Interscholastic League rules force Beggs to compete as a girl instead. If that’s not a case against illogical wrongheadedness, what is? Once again testosterone is a huge factor. The really sad thing is that some of those testosterone-lacking girls were probably hoping for, and training hard for, a sports scholarship.

So, what’s right and what’s wrong? Where should the lines be drawn? Each of us has to decide for ourselves.

Update 02/28/20: A Missouri state legislator has introduced a bill that would ban transgender high-school students from competing on teams that do not match up their original biological sex. Speaking at a state education hearing on Tuesday, GOP State Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin said, “It is a known biological fact that males are born with categorically superior strength, speed and endurance. It has nothing to do with any other issue than trying to create a fair playing field.”


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.