Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Non-Toxic Ant Poison

We have Ants!
About 5 years ago, we discovered an ant infestation in our home. I tried lots of remedies, to no avail. I found the spot where they were entering our home, and I doused it with red pepper, vinegar, cinnamon, baking powder, you name it. The only thing accomplished was a spiced house, the ants trudged right through.
We eventually called an exterminator, but I wasn't happy. We had children and pets to worry about, so the thought of insecticides in and around our home made me very uneasy.
We have another infestation. I am determined not to use the dreaded exterminator. I can't find their entrance point, but I have determined what is luring them inside our home. I first discovered them enjoying a donut that I left on the counter for my son. Next, I found them feasting on pancakes.
They are foraging for fat, sugar, and carbohydrates. They didn't touch the store bought ant traps, so I had to think smart.
I made my own concoction. After thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting the kitchen and other areas they have been spotted, such as near the dogs' food bowls, I set out my traps. Here is the recipe:
1/2 cup lard (or other hard vegetable oil)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup borax
Mix the ingredients together until well incorporated. Place chunks of this paste on jar lids or other small flat surfaces that are OK to be discarded. I used a flat pint jar liner that is damaged and can't be used for canning. Place in areas where ants have been noticed.
Store any extra in airtight containers properly labeled in the fridge, or if you have little ones (or husbands that don't read) that might nibble it... throw the extra away. Make more if you need to, it's not very expensive. It might take a day or two for the ants to discover the poison treats, but once they do.... Bwah, ha, ha!
Borax is toxic to ants, but not to humans or dogs. I wouldn't leave the poison where it can be easily consumed by small critters, it will make them sick, just like any soap product would. The ants eat the borax and take it back to the nest to share with their fellow ants. The borax makes a gas in their entrails, they have no way to relieve this gas. We do, and so do our dogs. Sit next to one of our dogs after dinner... you'll know it's true. But the ants can't, so they explode. If they bring enough borax back to their home, no more ants.
You can see in the picture how much the ants love this recipe. I'll post again soon to update the ant project.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

How Does My Garden Grow... cont'd

This is how my garden has been growing.

I can't wait to harvest from my veggie garden. I had to put up a fence because Little Doggie Zen thought it was a good idea to fertilize my tomato plants herself. I decided she was wrong.

My new rain garden is working beautifully. I installed a french drain along the back fence, built up a little berm, added some water loving plantings and let Mother Nature have at it. Big Doggie Zen likes to explore the rain garden because he knows the birds love it back there.

The pool is open, and I have a beautiful relaxing place to sit while Zen Sons splash.

Ahhh... I love summer.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

How Does My Garden Grow

So, my little babies that I started in my homemade grow stand have found their way into my garden. This year, I expanded my veggie garden. Mr. Zen helped me rototill a section of our suburban paradise, and I created 6 raised beds, surrounded them with gravel, and added soil and compost. My little babies have a new home.

I happened to have some old vinyl fencing stacked in a corner of my yard, waiting for a new life.... or the landfill. I hate to add to the landfill, so I was procrastinating about stacking the white rods out on garbage day... so they sat.

I realized I needed tomato cages. I needed quite a few tomato cages, and I really didn't want to spend too much money, or no money, if I didn't have to. And I spyed the vinyl fencing...

I did end up purchasing a few nuts and bolts (and washers), but now I have tomato cages that will last my lifetime (at least that's what the vinyl fence salesman said).

My tomato cages are a little tall, but I have tall expectations for my tomato plants. Oh, and I made a bean teepee for my string beans too!

OK babies.... grow, grow, grow..... I'm hungry!!!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

My Repurposed Cabinet

About 10 years ago, we purchased this beautiful mission style television cabinet. Last year we outgrew our cabinet when we acquired the BIG TV. For some reason, I just couldn't part with my beautiful cabinet. So, it sat in the corner of another room, gathering dust, rarely being admired... until tonight.

I repurposed our cabinet. I removed the back panel, installed a piece a sturdy plywood, glued on a mirror, installed shelves, added some lighting, and did a little painting with chalk-board paint... and we now have a beautiful liquor cabinet.

It turned out really nice. When our son gets a little older, I'll install a lock. I think in the bottom shelves I will install some wine bottle holders.

I'm so excited I was able to re-use my beautiful piece of furniture.

Now I have to have a party!!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Starting My Seeds

It's just about time for me to start my seeds. (Actually, I should have started my mom's impatiens seeds last week, but the Zen boys have been keeping me otherwise occupied) Until last year, I started my seeds in the basement. Since we've re-purposed the basement into a television, gaming, general recreation area for the Zen boys, a sewing crafting area for Zen mom, and a billiards table for Zen dad, I've lost my seeds starting area. I had these very large tables that my dad made when I was a kid - I think it was for my brother's 8th grade graduation party... and spread my seed starting trays in the vast expanse of our basement.

No more vast expanse. So what to do?

I wanted to include my grow lights, still be able to start lots of trays, and not spend a lot of money. What to do...

Browsing through my basement storage, I re-discovered a few tables that weren't being used for anything important. The little wheels in my head starting squeaking... and I came up with my new system!

As of now, I have not spent one dime on this new system as I had the tables, the grow lights, hooks and power strip. I used cup hooks on the bottom of the tables, stacked the tables as shown, and hooked on the grow lights. I figure I can have 8 flats if I leave it as it is... but if I purchase 1 new grow light (the hardware store has the lights for 8 dollars and the lights for 5 dollars), I can hang another light from the ceiling and have 12 flats!!

I checked out the prices for these manufactured growing light stands on-line, and they run anywhere from 200 to 300 dollars!! Mr. Zen was so glad to hear I have saved us two hundred and eighty seven dollars!! (300 minus 13 dollars for a new light)

Gotta get those impatiens started!!!

Monday, February 23, 2009


Lately, I've been hanging our laundry in the basement. It's too cold to hang anything outside, and we don't have a proper outdoor clothesline... yet. I used to just hand a few things, mittens and hats, dresses, delicates, and a few other things that didn't like the dryer.

Years ago, when Mr. Zen and I first married, I hung EVERYTHING to dry. We lived in an apartment and the dryer cost 25 cents for 10 minutes and things never really dried completely in those old dryers. Out of neccessity, I hung our damp clothes around the apartment. After a while, I stopped feeding that old dryer my quarters and just hung everything right out of the washer.

It saved us tons of money, and being a poor nursing student, I really had a need for those quarters for other things. Our clothes seemed to last longer and looked nicer longer, so it made lots of sense.

When our first baby Zen was born, I learned to LOVE my dryer. That's when I started only hanging certain clothes instead of everything. It was so much easier to throw all those baby clothes in the dryer instead of hanging those little teeny, tiny baby socks on the line in the basement. Besides, I had a beautiful new baby who needed me more than the laundry did.

Now, both baby Zens are much bigger. Sad to say, but they don't need me like they used to... They still need me, but it's a much different type of need. Right now, they need me to show them how to hang laundry in the basement.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Fried Rice

Fried Rice

One of the cheapest meals I can make that my family LOVES is fried rice. This recipe can be altered and varied to suit your family's tastes and whatever you happen to have in your refrigerator. I use a leftovers often when I make fried rice, so it usually makes a second meal of last nights dinner.

I've shared this recipe (which I got from my Thai mother-in-law) with friends and usually they are surprised how easy it is to make!

Fried Rice

1 cup meat cooked and cut into small pieces -or
1 cup meat uncooked cut into small pieces
(I have used chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, crab, lobster, sausage, spam, and even hot dogs. My kids LOVE hot dog fried rice!!)
1/2 to 1 cup chopped veggies (I have used carrots, broccoli, sprouts, zucchini, tomatoes, green beans, celery, or cabbage)
2-3 cups cooked rice - leftover rice is best, but just cooked will do just fine
2 tbsp oil - I use olive oil, but you can use whatever oil you usually cook with
1/2 onion chopped small
2 garlic cloves chopped small
2-3 tbsp soy sauce
3-4 tbsp oyster sauce

In a large wok, heat oil over medium high to high heat. Add meat. If raw, cook thoroughly, if cooked heat through well. Stir well while cooking meat. Add onions, garlic and other vegetables (you don't have to add other vegetables if you don't have them- and don't add soft vegetables such as sprouts or tomato at this point).

Saute contents of wok until onions have become clear. When veggies are soft and onions are clear, add rice all at one time. Quickly add soy and oyster sauce and stir until sauces are incorporated into rice. (The rice will be a uniform brown color) Sometimes I add more soy or oyster sauce at this point.

Turn off heat when rice is brown and add soft veggies - tomatoes or sprouts. The heat of the fried rice will heat them through without disintegrating them. Sometimes, at this point, I might add some chopped basil if I have any... it adds a really nice flavor.

In the above picture, I made beef fried rice with broccoli and carrots. The beef was a leftover steak from last night and the veggies were leftover from a party we attended last night. The hostess sent most of us home with some sort of leftover bag. Gotta love hostesses like that!!

So, clean out your veggie drawer, use your leftovers, make some fried rice!!