So thrilled to receive the EPA’s Environmental Champion Award on Friday in New York City. The award was presented by EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enke.
Thank you for the recognition, I hope it get’s more people to stop using chemicals on their yards and disposing of drugs down the drain. Such a simple thing to do to make such a vast improvement in our drinking water!
This spring is shaping up to be a heavy tick season in the northeast. Lots of moisture and a relatively warm winter can cause populations to swell. And this past fall was a banner year for acorns, meaning more mice and deer this season.
But broadcast spraying for ticks is not the answer.
Broadcast spraying for ticks and mosquitoes exposes our families to chemicals that can cause long-term harm both directly and by contaminating our drinking water. Moreover, an ongoing study by the Center for Disease Control shows that spraying does not decrease the incidence of Lyme disease. Pesticides also kill the beneficial bugs and birds, some of our biggest allies in combating nuisance bugs, and actually makes the problem worse in the long run. Instead, try these natural methods that work surprisingly well.
• Clean up leaves that collect in piles, especially near stone walls. Mice love to hide under them, and mice bring ticks. Mulch or compost these leaves.
• Mulch the leaves on your lawn into the lawn. Ticks that hide under those leaves are protected from drying out. Mulching the leaves into your lawn also feeds your lawn naturally, for free.
• When possible avoid wandering through tall grasses where ticks can hide.
• If you need to, then cover up. Tuck your pants into your socks and wear long sleeves and a hat. Wear light colored clothing to make it easier to see and remove ticks.
• If you will be in a high tick area use repellants in addition to covering up.
Herbal repellants include geraniol, an alcohol found in citronella, lemongrass, and rose oil. Herbal repellants need to be reapplied frequently, about every two hours.
Deet is more effective, but not recommended for young children. It only needs to be applied every five hours. But put it on clothing rather than skin.
Don’t use any repellants near the eyes, cuts, or mucous membranes.
• When you come inside check yourself and your children and pets thoroughly for ticks. Catching any ticks early and removing them is important.
• When you have been in areas with ticks take your clothes off and throw then right into the washer and dryer. Dry them for at least an hour on high. Washing the ticks doesn’t kill them, but drying them out does.
Lyme disease can cause a rash, but sometimes there are just flu like symptoms following a bite. Early treatment is curative, and preventative therapy is occasionally recommended when a tick is removed, so speak with your doctor if you get a tick bite.
In the meantime researchers are studying whether use of a naturally occurring fungus found in forest soils that kills ticks could be used to protect properties, and homeowners and pets. A strain of Metarhizium anisopliae, Met52, is a bio insecticide manufactured by Novozyme, is being studied to see if it is safe and effective.
An article in the Burlington Free Press says a University of Vermont research scientist has found pharmaceuticals in Burlington’s wastewater discharge. This goes directly into Lake Champlain, the source of drinking water for tens of thousands of people.
We now know that very small amounts of these chemicals can disrupt our hormonal systems. In fact, the article acknowledges that the drugs are having a measurable effect on aquatic life in Lake Champlain.
Drugs from urine will go into the water, but we can all decrease the amount of drugs that go into our drinking water by disposing of our drugs responsibly, not down the drain.
Burlington is not alone. This is a nationwide problem. The USGS found 80% of streams tested have pharmaceuticals in them, and the EPA found drug residue in all of the large wastewater systems they tested.
National Drug Takeback day is April 30th. That is a great time to remind your community not to dispose of pharmaceuticals down the drain, but to bring them to a drug take back site (possibly your local police station!).
A recent article in the journal Nature says that there are more positives than negatives to the ecosystem from eradicating mosquitoes.
The upside to controlling mosquitoes this way is that it doesn’t require any toxic pesticides, and it is even more effective.
But an article in today’s Wall Street Journal describes how in the US the FDA has jurisdiction over the Oxitech mosquito. To approve the use of the mosquito that is engineered to produce non-viable offspring and then die, the FDA needs to show that the genetic engineering is safe for the mosquito – like a flea collar being safe for a dog.
So in the meantime we have toxic pesticides for mosquito control.
The days are getting longer and it is time to start thinking about our gardens.
Strong soil culture is the best way to boost our plants without chemicals. Gardening without chemicals protects our drinking water. It also protects the good soil bacteria and fungi that naturally fend off plant diseases. So this spring:
1. Test your soil, particularly if areas of your lawn or garden are problematic.
2. Replace only the nutrients that are missing with certified organic soil amendments or compost once the soil temperature warms up to 65 degrees. Adjust the pH for the needs of specific plants.
3. For areas of lawn, overseed with grass seed in the spring to outcompete weeds.
4. Consider adding some clover or alfalfa to your lawn. Both are legumes and fix nitrogen from the air and make it available to your grass.
A multistate study published in the October journal of Environmental Health Perspectives shows that children will have significantly decreased levels of some pesticides if they change from a conventional to an organic diet. But this does not get rid of all of the pesticides.
They conclude there are other sources of exposure. One is that children in agricultural communities may be exposed to drifting spray.
Another source is that needs to be considered is that we know these chemicals are in our drinking water, the United States Geological Survey tests confirm this.
Organic food is great, but if we want to keep our children free from toxic chemicals we need to stop using them on our yards and letting them wash into the streams and aquifers that supply our drinking water.
So honored to be receiving the Advocate Award from Environmental Advocates of New York.
They have been working for almost half a century to protect the health of New Yorkers by protecting our environment-our air, land, water, and wildlife. And often these efforts lead the way across the country. Thank you, EANY!
Give your lawn a boost naturally now, and it will pay off all year long!
1. Aerate to relieve compaction.
Do this in the fall when there are fewer active weed seeds to spread. Then the roots can spread out and the beneficial bacteria can grow.
2. Overseed to outcompete weeds. Choose the right seed for your area.
3. Test the soil for nitrogen, phosphorus and pH with a soil testing kit or with the help of a university cooperative extension. Use compost to replete nutrients only if necessary and lyme to adjust the pH if needed.
4. Leave the grass clippings to replace nutrients and help retain moisture.
Let the grass grow to four inches and clip it down to three so the roots can grow long and strong.
5. Add clover, alfalfa, or cowpea to your lawn. They have bacteria and fungi on their roots that can take nitrogen from the air and change it into a form plants can use. They are a natural, ongoing, and healthy way to feed your lawn and garden.
Caring for our lawns and gardens is all about nurturing our soil culture. Well, almost all about soil culture. It is also about changing our mindset so that we are happy with a few weeds because we know it is healthier for our families.
Labor Day weekend is here, and usually that means many homeowners spend time working on their yards and gardens. This year in Bedford, NY, it is still too dry to work on renovating our turf or planting shrubs.
But with the El Nino in the Pacific we are likely to have a wet, mild, winter here in the Northeast. The Southwestern states will likely be a little cooler than usual, and all of the Southern states are expected to get more rain.
So start thinking about adding some native plants to your garden.
Native plants will not need artificial pesticides or fertilizers, so they protect our drinking water from contamination. They will also provide the right type of food for bees, butterflies, and birds. And for many of the birds and butterflies, that food has to power their migration (that is starting now!) down to South America.
In California and other states where drought is a very long-term problem, think of native plants that will tolerate the drought, but realize that you have to keep them well watered for the first year so they can become established.
For the rest of us, start planning what native plants go best where in your backyard. Do they like sun, partial sun, dry, or moist conditions. And get ready to plant when the rains come, because fall is when root growth is the strongest.