ZIKA Virus – Options and Actions for the Zika Zone!

I live in Lake Worth Florida.  I’m very close to a Zika zone and probably by the time you read this, in a Zika zone.  Bummer, but I believe there are ways to keep my loved ones and myself safe from this looming threat.  My yard was consistently heavy with mosquitoes because I grow a lot of plants, have a lot of mulch and support the natural processes that make growing your own food so awesome!

I had broken down in the past when the little critters got unbearable and used a Pyrethrum (crysanthimum derived) spray to take them out.  It was a mistake because it killed off all the pollinators and other positive bugs.  Within a week of spraying a new variety of bugs showed up, no mosquitoes, but a dozen other beasts that leveled my gardens in short order (like under 5 days).  The reason?  I sprayed a pesticide that threw off the balance of nature and invited other bugs to take their place.  It was very sad to see collards get leveled in just hours and the butterflies just stopped visiting for a while.  They knew what I did and I regretted it.

So I committed myself to figuring out how to handle the mosquitoes without the poison even if it was a natural variety.  How to push back against the bugs that are so much in the news right now.

First, let me say I have a lot of water on my property, a few ponds (that are continually aerated), bird baths, a few buckets and large holding tanks for rain water catchment.  So I have plenty of places where the beasts can hide, reproduce and infect me!  But I did one simple thing that changed the game.  One product I used to lower the potential of mosquitoes greatly and their numbers have dropped so significantly that I don’t see them as a threat as I once did.

What did I do?  I went small, really small.  I used microorganisms.  Bacillus thuringiensis to be exact.  They cause the larvae of mosquitoes to not mature to flight stage.  It changed the game for me and it was cheap,  easy to spread and don’t have any measurable negative affects on my fish, frogs, caterpillars, butterflies, bees, or pets.

How did I do it?  Simply, I purchased Mosquito Bits, which did the trick.  bits

I spread it across my entire yard space of 1/4 acre.  One bottle did all my ponds, water holders, buckets, anything that could hold water for a short time during  or after our frequent rains.  I even spread it on my mulch to ensure runoff of the bacteria back into my water catchment during heavy rains.  Within a week the game had changed and I didn’t lose my garden in the process.  Zika might still be lingering, but the volume of bugs carrying this disease was greatly decreased.  I’m outside all the time, so I know my risk, I try not to use bug sprays as I believe they are as bad as any disease in the long term.  But I found my own way back to my yard without the endless smacking and scratching that comes with the Florida outdoors.

To replace the bug spray and to ensure I’m not infected I use mud.  That’s right, MUD.  I find all kinds of clays in my travels and don’t purchase them most often.  Long ago I realized in FL that mud was used as an insect repellent long before the term was coined.  So I use it as the Indians did, get it wet enough to spread and cover up.  It feels great (to me) and keeps the bugs and sun off my skin.   I even keeps me skin exfoliated and adds some minerals to my skin.  We never get enough minerals and this traditional approach is by far the most FUN I’ve had in mosquito bite prevention.

But if you are concerned, you should use everything you can to stay safe.  Cover up with clothes, use mosquito spray and mosquito nets and cheap drop nets, consider buying blower fan and use it when in outside spaces, I have a large fan that I turn on regularly that really does the trick…


There are several products that carry this bacteria and you can find some of the best prices here


Want more information on Zika?  You can buy books and special sprays here.  Visit the CDC here for updates or click here for a google search for Zika News



UPDATE 9-28-2016:  Some of the mosquitoes survived and are still around, so I don’t have a perfect fix, but I definitely improved the situation.

South Florida Soil Building with Mulch

This is a short overview on how to make new soil in south Florida.

This video illustrates the result of two years of fun work.  Replacing the ugly traditional grass and sugar sand with plants of all kinds and tons of mulch repeatedly.  This was a low cost, highly sustainable approach to creating good soil without buying it.

Additionally, the heat and humidity make it an ideal place to create soil quickly and efficiently with almost no expense (but lots of moving mulch into place, so free is relative).

There are a few pieces of equipment needed:

  1.  A wheelbarrow or something to move the mulch in.
  2. A strong pitchfork.IMG_20160608_151537
  3. Get a dust mask if you are sensitive to mushroom spores (if moving the mulch within the first month it’s on location).
  4. Cardboard (I get mine from behind Pier 1, they have huge boxes and I can usually get what I need in one stop.  I ask the manager once for permission and go whenever I need it.)
The overview on how to create soil for almost free:
1.  IMG_20160504_120250Acquire Mulch.  Tree trimmers are always ready to drop off a batch, so call around, find a local trimmer and give them clear instructions where to drop the mulch.  Always get much more mulch than you think you need.  You don’t need yards of if, you need truckloads of it to grow soil.  (One truck load at a time!)
2.  Put cardboard  over any weedy areas and mulch over the cardboard heavily.
 3. Put mountains of it in the walkways (within reason for safety) and anytime it gets flat, add a bit more.  Add it to plant beds to keep the weeds down, as thick as you can (use cardboard in trouble areas).  Give a little space to plants that may rot if they come into contact with the mulch, but I usually just pile it on and most of the plants seem to work well with it.
4.  Twice a year, you sweep aside the mulch in the walkways and find that dark young mucky soil hiding underneath.  Use a flat shovel and shear off the top soil and put it in the beds (sometimes you may need to break it up).  Don’t go too deep,  just the top dark layer.  Put the half cooked mulch back in the walkway and then what?  Add more fresh mulch.  This is essentially replacing the need for peat, which was something I was unwilling to buy because it is a non-renewable resource.
This is me in my mulching outfit. Glasses were because I was chipping too, but you get the idea. :)

This is me in my mulching outfit. Glasses were because I was chipping too, but you get the idea. 🙂

One of the things I’ve found is that timing is important.  If you can move a freshly chipped tree onto its cooking location (where it will remain for months) it will cook that much faster because it is moist and quickly form the mycelium that creates the heat and soil we are after.

I’m adding 3-6 inches of rich topsoil every year with this process for my whole yard.

One more optional step:

You can take it a step further….  I added a wood deck over my mulch so that it is out of the sun and will cook faster.  (It also makes my wife happy since she doesn’t have to wobble through as much mulch when working in the garden.)

It is a bit more work, but the wood was free and sitting around.  The process is the same, except you build your mulch up and then put a floating deck over the top.  Once a year I lift one set of boards, grab the soil and replace the deck on some heaping fresh mulch, then I repeat for the next set of boards.  I will usually spray the underside of the wood with Neem Oil to help keep it from rotting away with the mulch.

 The REAL magic is sooo tiny!

The rock-star in all this is the bacteria and mushrooms that go to work on the mulch so quickly.  They may be small, but they are mighty and with a little bit of help they can do the work so much faster than you would expect.

IMG_20160529_153115And there is another exciting thing you can do with mulch.  You can create hot water!  Low/no cost options for hot water or priming your hot water heater with warm water to save on the electric bill.  If you want to learn more about this subscribe to my newsletter, it’s free and you can unsubscribe if I irritate you.  Sign up below:


Thanks for reading and I hope this helps you think and be more sustainable everyday!

We are eating too much!

The basic premise is that we eat too much, too regularly.

Science is showing that we should eat less. Throughout history, back to Egyptian times fasting was valued as a health inducing practice.

Here are some options:

1. Eat ONLY during an 8 hour period each day (stresses the body, strengthens the mind with keytones)
2. Twice a week limit your intake to 500 calories as a fast.

Watch this slow moving, but informative TEDtalk.

In Florida a white roof can save 20% on your electric bill, my personal experience

Step 1:  You find white paint (preferably old, unwanted)

Step 2:  Paint your roof.  That’s it, save 20% on your bill if you started with a darker colored roof.

You will feel the difference on your feel almost immediately after drying and the attic temperature may drop as much as 20 degrees that very day!  When you consider that my AC comes on much less often, the savings only compound over time.

My story:    I painted the roof on my shed to test this idea and the temperature change was immediate (before the paint even dried). I had a 15 degree drop in the space the same day (image 95 degrees drops to 80 degrees with just a roof color change, that is what I experienced). It took two hours and about ten gallons of outdated used white primer paint. Worth it every time I walk in the shed! The house is next! 🙂