Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Synbiotics; What Does It All Mean?

by Kelly R. Smith

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The health benefits of probiotics
The health benefits of probiotics

Everywhere we turn nowadays we hear about probiotics. But what about prebiotics and synbiotics? Actually, they all work hand in hand. Here’s the rundown.

  • Probiotics. WebMD says, “Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for you, especially your digestive system. We usually think of these as germs that cause diseases. But your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called ‘good’ or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.” When you lose the “good” bacteria that inhabit your gut, after you take antibiotics for example, probiotics can help replace them. The two main types are lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. You can get them through dairy and supplements.
  • Prebiotics. The Mayo Clinic tells us, “Prebiotics are specialized plant fibers. They act like fertilizers that stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.” They are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, mostly those that are rich complex carbohydrates, such as fiber and resistant starch. These carbs aren’t digestible by your body, so they pass through the digestive system to become food for the bacteria and other microbes. When your balance is off it can affect your metabolism.
  • Synbiotics. ScienceDirect says, “Synbiotics are a combination of prebiotics and probiotics that are believed to have a synergistic effect by inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria and enhancing the growth of beneficial organisms.” Evidence suggests that synbiotics influence the microbial ecology in our intestines. This is true in both humans and animals and synbiotics play a role in alleviating various illnesses.

Knowing what we know about prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics it becomes clear that we should maintain our diet with various types of foods in mind, organic whenever possible. This includes milk, cheese, fermented foods like kimchi, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Others are reading:

References



Scrambled Eggs With Miso, Onions, and Spinach Recipe

by Kelly R. Smith

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Scrambled eggs with miso, onions, and spinach
Scrambled eggs with miso, onions, and spinach

This article was updated on 09/10/20.

The miso in these scrambled eggs gives it that very creamy rather than the usual “huge curd” appearance. What is miso? Basically, it’s a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and kōji resulting in an umami-heavy paste.

This recipe serves one; if you are making it for a group, like for a potluck of Labor Day gathering, the ingredients are easy to adjust. This is a recipe that makes it is easy to stay with organic food and that’s what I suggest.

Ingredient List

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons white or red miso paste
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup finely-sliced spinach
  • 1/4 cup finely-sliced basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Amount of shredded cheese to your taste; I threw in 1/2 cup of Swiss (optional)

Update: Today I made this dish for lunch again. I added in 2 large cloves of garlic, minced, and 1 cup of red cabbage, cut up tiny. It came out great. The only drawback was when I cut up the garlic. She-who-must-be obeyed complained that it was burning her nose. But, but. it’s good for my high blood pressure!

Preparation Steps

  1. Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl.
  2. Whisk in the miso until well mixed.
  3. Whisk in the remaining ingredients (except the optional cheese; see step 8).
  4. Add the butter to a sauce pan or skillet.
  5. Heat at medium-low heat just until the butter is melted.
  6. Add the egg mixture.
  7. Use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture until just almost done.
  8. Remove the pan from the heat and add in the cheese.
  9. Continue to stir for a moment until done.
  10. Turn out onto a plate and enjoy!

Health Benefits of Miso

Most of us already know the nutrition benefits of eggs lots of protein, they raise HDL (the good cholesterol), they’re loaded with nutrients, many studies show that they lower the chance of a hemorrhagic stroke, and they offer lutein and zeaxanthin to help to keep you from getting eye diseases like cataracts. But what about miso?

  • Rich in probiotics.
  • Nervous system support.
  • Beneficial for women in early pregnancy (folate).
  • Vitamin K for bone strength.

So you can see that combining scrambled eggs with miso not only makes a great breakfast (breakfast tacos, anyone?) but a quick dinner after a long day. And the dish goes well with additional ingredients that are to your liking.

More Mouth-Watering Recipes

References:



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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.

Teriyaki Beef Jerky Recipe

by Kelly R. Smith

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Beef jerky, ready to eat
Beef jerky, ready to eat

I love beef jerky and I suspect that I am not alone in that respect. But, there are three issues that I have with the commercial variety:

  • It’s too expensive.
  • The texture tends to be to hard.
  • God only knows what kind of chemicals and preservatives are used.

And that is one reason why I invested in a food dehydrator. Now I can make my own marinades and control the texture. I made a batch yesterday so my new appliance is paying for itself already. Next, I’m going to run a batch of apples. But here is the simple jerky recipe.

Beef Jerky Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 pounds of thin round sirloin tip. Any lean cut will do. Organic grass-fed is preferable. If you’ve got deep pockets, substitute bison. I know my sister will. That woman knows her food.
  • 1 12 oz. bottle of Lawry’s Teriyaki with Pineapple juice.
  • Spices to taste. I did not add salt due to my high blood pressure.

Jerky Preparation

Marinating beef for jerky
Marinating beef for jerky
  • Slice the meat thin. I prefer about 1/4″. Remember that the meat will shrink as it cooks. As for length, about 6″ is what I like but take into account the geometry and size of your food dehydrator. You will likely end up with some irregular pieces, but that’s OK; it’s jerky after all.
  • Put the slices in a container. The Pyrex dish you see above worked well.
  • Pour the marinade over the beef and mix it up well to ensure a thorough coating.
  • Put in in the refrigerator overnight. Some recipes only call for a few hours but the way I see it, I’m already in it this far. Do it up good. I know Perry’s smokes their famous pork chops for several days. If you’ve had one you know that patience is a good habit.
  • Stir it all up every few hours. I get up sporadically during the night for a bodacious swallow of ice water so no problemo, friend.
  • Pat the slices on paper towels to remove excess marinade.
  • Arrange slices on your dehydrator trays. Allow space for air circulation.
  • Set the temperature for 160 degrees F.
  • Set the timer for 4 hours.
  • Check it every so often for your desired degree of done-ness. Mine was perfection at 3 1/2 hours. Turn off the unit.
  • Leave it in the dehydrator until it cools.
  • Enjoy!
Beef jerky properly spaced on the dehydrator tray
Beef jerky properly spaced on the dehydrator tray

That’s all there is making your own teriyaki beef jerky. Of course, any other marinade works just as well. Buy your favorite or make your own.

Other Recipes You will Enjoy (I Did)



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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.

Turkey Italian Sausage and Peppers Recipe

by Kelly R. Smith

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Italian sausage and peppers
Italian sausage and peppers

Yes, I am back in the experimental recipe zone again. So comfortable with my culinary thinking hat on; I have an affinity for Frank Zappa’s Muffin Man. This recipe combines good veggies and spices with Italian sausage but with aorta-healthier turkey rather than pork. I don’t need to further push my high blood pressure. This recipe serves 6 and is ready in about an hour.

Ingredient List

  • 3 tpsp. olive oil
  • 1 tpsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 bell peppers, sliced and diced (why not use all the colors)
  • 1/2 large red onion, diced
  • Himalayan or pink salt to taste (it’s chock full of minerals and nutrients, unlike the regular stuff)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 6 Italian sausages sliced thin (hot or sweet, your choice)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced up

Preparation

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine and mix the vinegar, red pepper, oil, and garlic in a mixing bowl.
  3. Mix in the onion and bell peppers.
  4. Put the mixture into a 9″ X 13″ Pyrex dish.
  5. Distribute the sausage on top.
  6. Bake until the sausage is done, about 45 minutes.
  7. Take it out and distribute the basil on top.
  8. Enjoy.

More Recipes

This turkey Italian sausage and peppers recipe is very filling which is good if you have been working out or are on an intermittent fasting routine. It also keeps well in the refrigerator and even makes a tasty sandwich.


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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.

Intermittent Fasting – a Beginner’s Guide to Weight Loss

by Kelly R. Smith

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Empty plate symbolizes intermittent fasting for weight loss
Empty plate symbolizes intermittent fasting for weight loss

Fasting, or abstaining from eating for a period of time, has always had a place in human history. Sometimes it’s for religious reasons. Matthew 6:16-18 does not tell us that we have to fast. However, He expects that we will. He said, “when you fast…” So, just an expectation. But in a broader scope, most people today explore intermittent fasting for weight loss. As a bonus, there are other health benefits that we will go into. There’s inspiration on many levels.

Intermittent Fasting Methods

  • The 16/8 method. This is the most popular method primarily because it is the easiest to do. With most of us spending an inordinate amount of time at home and away from fast food distractions because of the COVID-19 pandemic anyway, it’s easy. This method entails eating your first meal of the day at noon (lunch), and the last one around 8 PM (dinner). Do this every day. Water, coffee, and unsweetened tea are fine during your fast.
  • The 5:2 method. Your week looks like this — you eat normally except on Tuesday and Friday where women eat just 500 calories and men just 600 calories. You might have heard it called called the Fast Diet; it was popularized by British journalist Michael Mosley.
  • The eat, stop, eat method. This is just like the 5:2 except that you fast completely on Tuesday and Friday. For example begin fasting after dinner on Monday and go until dinner on Tuesday. You might find this one difficult to stick with this form of diet faithfully but if you resolve to make it a habit it will get easier.
  • The alternate day method. Eat normally one day, fast the next. Repeat. Over and over. In some interpretations, some few calories are allowed on fasting days.
  • The warrior diet. Every day you get to eat a large dinner but only small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables during the day.
  • Spontaneous meal skipping. Here you get to eat normally but skip breakfast one day per week and dinner another day. When you do eat breakfast, try my homemade bread recipe. It’s loaded with good things.

Fasting Affects Your Hormones and Cells

Once you adopt one of these fasting methods and make it a habit, things start happening under the hood. If your main goal is to lose weight and shed pounds, there’s good news — your hormone levels change making stored body fat more available for fuel. Here are some other changes that improve your health.

  • Gene functionality. There are changes in the function of your genes that are related to longevity as well as protection against disease.
  • Human Growth Hormone (HGH) increase. This leads to both fat loss and muscle gain.
  • Cells undergo repairs. As you fast, cells begin cellular repairs including autophagy, which is when your cells digest and eliminate older and dysfunctional proteins that have built up inside cells.
  • Insulin levels change. Your insulin sensitivity gets better and your levels of insulin drop off dramatically. This in turn makes your stored body fat more accessible for weight loss.

The take-away from all this is that if you are looking for a way to lose weight while generally improving your health, intermittent fasting is worth looking into. As with anything else, it is always a good idea to run it past your doctor. And when you do eat try to stick to organic food that has undergone minimal food processing if any at all.

References:



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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.

10 Signs of Nutrient Deficiency

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Foods that fight nutrient deficiency
Foods that fight nutrient deficiency

Many of us eat fast food or whatever is at hand because of the fast-paced lives we live. You might say to yourself, “I take a multivitamin; I’m good.” That is not always true. Supplements, at least high-quality ones, are not bad in themselves despite what some say. Some manufacturers are indeed mountebanks but not all. Additionally, not getting enough fiber can mean a short-circuiting on nutrient absorption. Living in the Coronavirus lock-down surely doesn’t help. If you have any of these signs of nutrient deficiency, it’s prudent to turn things around. Here are some signs.

Signals From Your Body Regarding Nutrient Uptake

  • You are developing a pale, sallow complexion. The problem may be iron deficiency. This makes for smaller red blood cells. Not only does it mean you produce fewer of them but they are filled with less hemoglobin. Hence, your skin looks less red. The American Society of Hematology says, “Iron is very important in maintaining many body functions, including the production of hemoglobin, the molecule in your blood that carries oxygen. Iron is also necessary to maintain healthy cells, skin, hair, and nails.” The solution? Boost your intake of dark leafy greens, grass-fed beef, lentils, and fortified cereals and breads.
  • You have stubborn acne. In the past this has been blamed on certain foods like chocolate and one of our favorites, commercial or homemade pizza. We now understand it a bit better. The lack of enough omega-3 fatty acids may be the culprit; they have strong anti-inflammatory properties. So if you are lacking, it can present as acne. The solution? Pick up some fish oil capsules and eat more salmon.
  • You Have Brittle Nails. If your fingernails have been breaking easily and often, it might be due to a lack of biotin, also known as vitamin B7, which nourishes your nail’s growth plates. The solution? Supplements are a good way to go. I take what is called on the bottle Super B-Complex, which contains 1,000 mcg which is equal to 3,333% of daily value. This is not an issue because it’s a water-soluble vitamin. Also, eat more eat more eggs, cheese, nuts, seeds, fish, organ meats, and vegetables such as cauliflower and sweet potatoes.
  • Your skin is parched and dry. You can blame this one on an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency. In this case, they help nourish your skin’s lipid barrier. This is the layer of oils that act as a gatekeeper to keep harmful germs and toxins out and essential moisture in. This deficiency can also manifest in more wrinkles and visible aging due to skin dehydration, ladies.
  • Lips that are sore and cracked. This can be the result of an iron deficiency and/or a riboflavin (vitamin B2) deficiency. The National Institutes of Health says, “The signs and symptoms of riboflavin deficiency (also known as ariboflavinosis) include skin disorders, hyperemia (excess blood) and edema of the mouth and throat, angular stomatitis (lesions at the corners of the mouth), cheilosis (swollen, cracked lips), hair loss, reproductive problems, sore throat, itchy and red eyes, and degeneration of the liver and nervous system.” Suffice to say I don’t want this one. The solution? Once again, a B-Complex vitamin should do the trick.
  • You have a wound that resists healing. If you are reading this, you know as an individual how long it takes your body to deal with cuts and scrapes. If it seems to be taking too long, you might have an iron deficiency. As a rule, shoot for 20 to 30 grams of protein at each meal and 10 to 15 grams of protein with each snack. Mind you, this is harder to do if you are a vegan but it’s not impossible. Peanut butter and other legumes are good. Carnivores are less likely to have this issue. Protein drinks are also readily available. I’m partial to favorites like this beef Stroganoff recipe that I make from time to time.
  • Are you experiencing bleeding gums? Usually this signifies that one is a bit derelict in flossing and brushing. But if this is not you, a vitamin K deficiency might be at the root (so to speak; pardon the pun) of your problem. It has a big role in role in helping blood clot, or coagulate. The solution? Look for vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) mainly in leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables. Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) is actually bacteria produced your gut. It is also available in fermented foods, cheese, natto, meat, dairy, and eggs, according to the National Institutes of Health.
  • Your hair is thinning. Your hair can be a mirror of what you eat. Protein and vitamin C deficiencies have been known to cause thinning or brittle hair as well as hair that falls out easily. Vitamin C assists you in making collagen, one of the building blocks of healthy hair and healthy hair follicles. Protein supplies amino acids destined for collagen (and other protein) synthesis.
  • Your nails are misshapen or discolored. If your iron levels are low, this can result in whitened or ridged nails. A vitamin B12 deficiency can make your nails turn brownish. A lack of biotin increases your risk of fungal infections that, in turn, can manifest as ridging and discoloration.
  • Premature graying of the hair. Going gray early can be caused by many things — genetics, some say worry, and the jury is still out on getting a fright. But we are concerned here with nutrition. The mineral copper helps you create melanin which is one pigment, among others, that imparts color to your hair. If you have low copper levels, or an underlying medical issue which stops you from metabolizing copper you ingest properly, this can turn your hair gray. Which I must say, I find downright fetching on most women although they likely disagree.

The bottom line here is that each sign of nutrient deficiency is linked to primary vitamins and minerals, but in reality, they’re all a “soup” in which all have a role. The best course of action is a well-rounded diet accompanied by high-quality nutritional supplements. As a caveat, if you can’t clear something up in short order, consult with your primary care physician.

References:



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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.

Black Rifle Coffee: A Product Review

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Black Rifle Coffee and destruction on auto. Yeah.
Black Rifle Coffee and destruction on auto. Yeah.

We have all gone through a lot after the COVID-19 lockdown. Not a lot of us are hitting up Starbucks on the way to the daily grind. Hey, we’re working at home in our PJ’s. But we still need out caffeine fix. Starbucks for me? No. I have Black Rifle Coffee Beans delivered twice a month.

Once a month used to do me right but since the Corona virus lockdown, my wife is working from home and coffee consumption has doubled. So… I went from once a month delivery to two. Is it expensive? Hmm. Not cheap but when you commit to being in the delivery “club” shipping is free.

How Good is Black Rifle Coffee?

I would say, “exceptional” but you want more details, yes? OK, they start with the best beans. Then, they don’t roast until they are getting your stuff together. That stuff on the shelf at the grocery store? How long was it sitting? How long before it was roasted and ground? Belay that; this discerning coffee-fiend only uses whole beans. I am not adverse to adding some mint from my garden.

Now that you have the beans you have to use your coffee bean grinder. Most people buy already-ground coffee but I do not for two reasons:

  1. As soon as coffee beans are roasted they start releasing carbon dioxide and begin to slowly decay. The chemicals begin to transform and the cell structure of the bean starts to fall apart, and the best flavors of the beans start to become bitter and dull, rather like life during the pandemic. Grinding the beans accelerates the process.
  2. There are ground-up bugs in that can of pre-ground coffee you bought the other day. The FDA only gets concerned if more than 10 percent or more of green coffee beans are affected. Regarding “Insect filth and insects” the FDA Handbook says, “Average 10% or more by count are insect-infested or insect-damaged.” When I pour those whole beans into the grinder I can verify non-buginess.

Types of Coffee

They offer whole-bean, ground, instant, rounds (pods), canned, and bags (Just Black Cold Brew Packs). Something for everybody. The coffee brews are:

  • Light roast: Silencer Smooth, Gunship
  • Medium roast: Just Black Cold Brew Packs, Liberty Roast, Caf Coffee Roast, BRCC Instant, Thin Blue Line, AK-47 Espresso Blend, Five Alarm, Just Black
  • Dark Roast: Freedom Fuel, Blackbeard’s Delight, Beyond Black
  • Extra dark: Murdered Out (this is the one I brew up for myself and She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed every morning and afternoon). It’s a good habit.

You might notice a theme in both the name of the company and the names of the products. That’s because this is a veteran-owned and operated company. I have to give Black Rifle Coffee high marks — 10 out of 10. Their brew is as good as I’ve ever swilled and their delivery is always on time. The beans are always roasted in small batches unlike the big industrial operations. The video below explains how they are handling the CoronaVirus situation.

References



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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.

Indoor Gardening: Basic Hydroponic Tools and Equipment

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Indoor hydroponic gardening
Indoor hydroponic gardening

It is no secret that commercial growers have been using hydroponic tools and equipment for indoor gardening for years. Like other businesses, these farmers need to generate revenue and provide a product to customers year-round. What if you want to become more self-sufficient during the COVID-19 lock-down? What about the average person that wants to do it on a smaller scale? The good news is that you can. Let’s look at what you need to get started.

Light for Photosynthesis

Dictionary.com defines photosynthesis thus, “the complex process by which carbon dioxide, water, and certain inorganic salts are converted into carbohydrates by green plants, algae, and certain bacteria, using energy from the sun and chlorophyll.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah; what you really need to know is that your plants need light to grow. Of course, sunlight is optimal; it provides the full spectrum of visible and non-visible light. It’s offered to us for free and is the best way to provide light for hydroponics. Many vegetable plants and herbs like mint and basil do best on at least six hours of direct light each day. Southern-facing windows and greenhouses have the potential to provide this amount of sunlight.

But what if that’s not in the cards? You’ll be best investing in grow lights. Look for ones from 4,000 to 6,000 kelvin to insure that they deliver both cool (blue) and warm (red) light.

Substitute Substrate for Soil

This is where the hydro part comes in. The water and nutrients circulate through the substrate which is a material such as pea gravel, sand, coconut fiber, peat moss, expanded clay pellets, etc.

Water

Clean water is critical. The water of choice is treated by reverse osmosis (RO). This purification process results in water that is 98% to 99% pure and your plants will thank you for it. You will also have to keep an eye on the water pH (a measure of alkalinity or acidity. For example, if you are growing tomatoes, they prefer a pH of 6.0 to 6.8 on a scale where 7.0 is considered neutral. Mint plants prefer 6.5 to 7.5. Growing beets? Shoot for 6.0 to 6.8. Knowing these numbers is important as you consider companion plants for your garden.

As far as fertilizer goes, you’ll want to buy a hydroponic premix because it will contain all the nutrients needed. I suppose you could cobble together your own but the expense/work ratio doesn’t make sense to me. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to add foliar feeding every couple of weeks.

Types of Hydroponic Systems

As you might suspect, there is a range of systems to choose from.

  • Water culture. Uses a non-submersible air pump, air hose, floating platform, rope wicks, and grow tray.
  • Nutrient film. Uses non-submersible air pump, air hose, submersible pump, air stone, overflow tube, and grow tray.
  • Wick system. Uses non-submersible pump, air stone, air hose, rope wicks, and grow tray.
  • Ebb and flow. Submersible air pump, air hose, timer, overflow tube, and grow tray.
  • Aeroponic. Subersible pump, mist nozzles, air hose, and short-cycle timer.
  • Drip system. Non-submersible air pump, submersible pump, air hose, timer, drip lines, overflow tube, drip manifold, grow tray.

There are your basic hydroponic tools and equipment for indoor gardening. Whether you approach it as a hobby, as a serious farmer who is going off the grid, there are numerous benefits. The produce will be fresh, as organic as you make it, and available year-round.



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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.

Foliar Feeding with Medina Hasta Gro Plant Food

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Medina Hasta Gro Plant Food Plus and a pump-up sprayer.
Medina Hasta Gro Plant Food Plus and a pump-up sprayer

If you have any kind of garden — vegetables with their recommended companion plants, ornamental, or fruit trees, you know that fertilizing is key to healthy plants and a good yield. But did you know that in addition to ground fertilizer (not those little stakes), foliar feeding is important. Dictionary.com defines foliar as, “of, relating to, or having the nature of a leaf or leaves.” I do my foliar feeding with Medina Hasta Gro Liquid Plant Food.

Make-Up of Medina Hasta Gro

Fertilizers may use any number of ingredients but what you want to look for is the N-P-K ratio. For this product I use 6-12-6.

  • N = nitrogen. This is responsible for leaf growth and development. Its role relates to the plant’s coloring and chlorophyll. Nitrogen depletion may present as leaf yellowing in typically green plants often indicates a lack of nitrogen. In the case of Medina it is is derived from clean urea sources and has humic acid added into the mix.
  • P = phosphorus. This component targets root growth and flower and fruit development.
  • K = potassium. Potassium also plays a part in root growth as well as in stem development.

Foliar Fertilizer Application

This fertilizer is remarkably inexpensive. The jug in the photo at the top of the page contains one gallon of concentrate. It’s mixed at the ratio of 1/2 liquid ounce (about one tablespoon) per gallon of water. That is enough to do my small vegetable garden, my herbs (mint, rosemary, parsley, basil, etc.), two fig trees, one orange tree, and a sapling Don Juan Avocado tree.

To apply, just mix the concentrate and water in the sprayer, pump it up, and spray the leaves. Try to apply it on both the tops and bottoms of the leaves. How much? Enough so that you can see it dripping off. The best time of day for application is early morning or evening when it’s not too hot. Don’t wash the spray off the foliage. If you have any left over in your sprayer, don’t hesitate to spray your lawn or mulch. Waste not; want not.

I’ve had great results with Foliar Feeding with Medina Hasta Gro Plant Food on my garden this year. Applying it every couple of weeks works very well. I’ve seen better results at a better price than when I’ve used compost tea. Give it a try and happy gardening!



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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.

Checklist of Must-Have Tools for Living Off the Grid

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An urban homestead with vegetable garden.
An urban homestead with vegetable garden

Homesteading has become a buzzword du juor and an increasingly-popular lifestyle. But what is it exactly? Dictionary.com gives this somewhat legal definition, “a dwelling with its land and buildings, occupied by the owner as a home and exempted by a homestead law from seizure or sale for debt.”

More popular usage means living in a self-sufficient manner as much as possible. This means growing your own food, keeping livestock and fowl, and living off-the-grid in as many ways as you can. This includes generating your own electricity with wind turbines or solar panels, etc. This also means acquiring some must-have tools and supplies for living off the grid. Here are some essentials.

General Repair Tools

  • Duct tape. You already know — a million different uses. My Grandpappy swore by Scotch tape but I prefer to go industrial-grade.
  • Heavy-duty scissor car jack. Not just for changing flats anymore. This all-around tool will be a willing helper that won’t talk back or complain.
  • Belt sander. When building or repairing/refinishing furniture this is an invaluable tool.
  • An assortment of rope and tie-down straps. These will find a use on a day-to-day basis on your homestead.
  • Cordless drill, sawzall, circular saw, etc. Cordless is the way to go because you won’t always be working where an outlet is available. Just be sure to buy all your cordless tools from the same family (manufacturer) of tools so the batteries are interchangeable and you only have to keep up with one charger. I use and recommend Ryobi but Milwaukee and Makita are good as well.
  • Chainsaw. Useful for clearing brush, cutting up firewood, and heck, your artistic endeavors, if you are into that kind of thing.

Gardening/Farming Tools

  • A set of gardening tools. This comprehensive set should ideally be kept in a container that can be transported to to the garden/field as one unit so you won’t be making multiple trips. It should contain at least a kneeling mat if you use one, a shovel, gloves, limb trimmer, a basket to carry your daily harvest, and pruning shears.
  • Rotary tiller. If you have a good sized plot of land to work, this tool is essential for good root growth. You can rent one but it will be more cost-effective to buy your own in the long run.
  • A bucket or two. This is a multiple use tool, as simple as it is. I usually use one for mixing soil and amendments when planting.
  • Rain barrels. While a rain harvesting system might not technically thought of as a “tool,” it is essential for irrigating your crops close to the house. In general, plants prefer the pH (a figure expressing the acidity or alkalinity) of rainwater to tap water. And what would happen if your public water supply is cut off or contaminated?

Health-Related Tools and Supplies

  • Tweezers. Handy for close work and removing splinters. Keep one in your medicine cabinet and another in the glove box of your truck.
  • Antiseptics. You will need to apply this lickety-split, quick, and in a hurry when you get any cut or abrasion.
  • Bandaids. Keep an assortment of sizes and shapes on hand.
  • Moleskin. Take care of those inevitable blisters on your feet.
  • Safety glasses. This is one that many people ignore but do yourself a favor. The good Lord only gave you two eyes; replacements not currently available.
  • Soap. Yes, we’ve all got some but do we use it often enough? It should be a habit with the onset of COVID-19 pandemic or the Coronavirus as it is also called, but you can also pick up undesirable things in your soil and mulch in your vegetable garden.
  • Hearing protection. Save your hearing! The ones I use are headphones with a built-in AM/FM radio.
  • Fire extinguishers. Keep one in the kitchen, one in your pantry, one in your wood shop (next to your wood shop dust collector is a good spot), and one in your truck. They are cheap; there’s no excuse.

This is not an exhaustive list of must-have tools for living off the grid in the homesteading mode but it’s a good start. When the SHTF you will be glad that you prepared in advance. And you don’t have to live out in the country; we have a modest 1,200 square foot home but over the years I’ve surrounded us with fruit trees and my vegetable garden and my herbs for cooking and medicinal purposes. My latest addition is a Don Juan Avocado tree.

References:

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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.