Keep Weevils at Bay (or Why I Put Dirt in My Cupboard)

It was a beautiful morning. I was crossing things off the to-do list with delightful speed. I pulled out the bucket of oatmeal to make granola. As I set the lid down, I noticed a bug.

It must have been sitting right on the rim of the bucket, I thought.

I looked in the bucket again. There was another bug. Hmmm, that’s odd, I thought. It must have slid inside when I opened it. 

And then I realized what I really didn’t want to believe was true. The bugs weren’t from the outside of the bucket. They were crawling out of it. And it wasn’t just one or two.

Major yuck!

Tiny black bugs infested the bucket of oatmeal. In dismay, I turned to the internet to try to figure out what the disgusting little critters were… and how to get rid of them.

The identification was easy: weevils. Getting rid of them was a much more difficult task.

Opinions on the gravity of the situation varied from “OH MY GOODNESS! I saw a weevil in my crackers and threw EVERYTHING in the pantry in the dumpster, bleached all surfaces in the kitchen and have an exterminator on the way,” to “No big deal! It’s just a bit of protein. Besides, you’ve almost certainly eaten some without knowing it.”

The first position seemed rather extreme, but (as all guests we’ve hosted recently will be relieved to know) I’d much prefer serving my family other sources of protein.

So, what to do if you find a weevil in your oatmeal?

First, don’t panic. As disgusting as it sounds, you’ve probably eaten a fair number of weevils without knowing it and survived. Grain weevils lay their eggs in, you guessed it, grain. Given the right conditions, the eggs hatch and the weevils multiply. Chances are, the weevil larva entered your home in food you bought.

Second, survey the damage. As I feared, it wasn’t just the oatmeal that was infested. I completely cleared out the pantry and found weevils in flour, shelled nuts, chips, crackers and more. Thankfully, I’d already started storing many things in mason jars with lids tightly shut. These little stinkers can chew through cardboard and plastic, but not glass.

Then properly dispose of infested food (unless you hold to the “it’s just protein” camp): I gave bulk grains to a friend with chickens and carefully disposed of other infested food in the dumpster (putting it in the garbage can in the kitchen would just spread the problem!) Anything suspicious got tossed or frozen.

Clean thoroughly. Add tea tree essential oil to dish soap for additional cleaning power. If you need to vacuum out crevices, make sure you through the vacuum bag in the dumpster.

Store food carefully. I love having a well-stocked pantry, but sure don’t want a repeat of that disaster! Rice and other grains go straight to the freezer for a week to kill any larva that might have been present in the store. Things like Saltine crackers that we don’t eat often but keep on hand for times of sickness either get stored in mason jars or in the freezer.

After tossing about $150 worth of food and cleaning like crazy, I thought the pantry was weevil-free. Guess what I found a few days later crawling in the pantry? Yep! Another weevil.

Diatomaceous Earth (Fossil Shell Flour)

Food-grade diatomaceous Earth from the Bulk Herb Store 

Clearly we needed something to kill off the rest of the weevils, but I didn’t want to use anything toxic in the pantry. Diatomaceous earth to the rescue! (Thanks Mom!) Diatomaceous earth, or fossil shell flour, comes from hard-shelled algae. Although it’s safe for mammals and earthworms to take internally, when weevils or other insect pests crawl through it, it dries out their exoskeletons and kills them.

I sprinkled it generously around the edges of each shelf, under any bags of chips that didn’t fit in the freezer, and inside the buckets of un-infested grains. “Dirt” pretty much covered all the crevices of my freshly-cleaned pantry. Then I sprinkled diatomaceous earth in all the cupboards that weren’t affected, just in case.

As added precaution, I taped bay leaves to bucket lids and put them on each shelf because they are traditionally reputed to discourage weevils.

It’s been about three months. I’ve seen a few dead weevils (who appeared to have trekked through the “dirt”) but NO MORE LIVING WEEVILS. Hurray!

Even if you’ve never seen a weevil in your pantry, I highly recommended freezing grains before storing them in your pantry and sprinkling  diatomaceous earth around the edges of your pantry, just in case. Dealing with an infestation is not fun!

Anyone else had a pantry infestation? What did you do? 

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherHealthy 2DayFrugal Days, Sustainable Ways,Works for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityProverbs 31Natural Living, & Simple Lives

 [Full disclosure: links to some products in this post are my referral links.]

photo credit

Pain Free: Works for Me

A few months ago my neck was so stiff I could scarcely move it. I tried not to wince when one of the kids gave me a hug. Holding baby Edmund hurt. Moving hurt, but so did laying down. I woke up in the night in pain and tossed and turned for ages trying to find the least painful position. The pain was so intense that I felt nauseous.

I’m not sure what caused the neck pain. Maybe it was flare-up from a fender bender I was in several years ago. Maybe it was falling forward down the stairs when I was pregnant and landing with a thud on my left hand. Maybe it was simply from carrying a cute chubby baby around for hours each day.

Whatever the cause, the symptoms went from occasional tenseness to sharp pain and stiffness that flared up and then lingered for days. I felt eighty, not twenty-eight.

I went to the chiropractor, took warm baths in epsom salts, and rested with cold packs. The relief was temporary. Pain medicine barely took the edge off.

Then I remembered a book that a good friend had recommended: Pain Free. I’d ordered Pain Free for Women* months ago, but let it sit on the shelf untouched until the pain simply got unbearable.

I turned to the first page and started reading. At first I was skeptical, but as I kept reading, the case Pete Egoscue made grew more and more convincing. Unlike our ancestors, he argued, most of us lead sedentary lives. What little movement we do get is often repetitive. Even many of our sports and exercises only work small groups of muscles.

After spending countless hours pouring over school books or hunched over computers, our posture is compromised and our core musculoskeletal structures are highly taxed. That, Egoscue claims, leads to chronic pain and other problems.

The solution, he says, is simple. Instead of masking the symptoms, we need to correct the underlying problems with our alignment.

It seemed too simple. How could lying on my back with my knees bent over a chair and my arms stretched out help my neck? But like Naaman’s servants urged him, “If he’d asked you to do something hard, wouldn’t you have done it in order to be healed?” Of course.

The results astounded me.

After doing the neck exercises from Pain Free just once, I could move my neck and the pain was almost 100% gone.  That night I slept soundly and woke up feeling incredibly refreshed.

Egoscue recommends doing the exercises daily and not listening to music or audio. Just do the exercises and listen to your body’s signals.

I haven’t always been able to fit 20-30 minutes of quiet exercises into the day, but whenever I can it has been time well spent!

Not only am I pain free, after regular struggles with insomnia, now when I go to bed I fall asleep almost instantly. When I get woken up in the night, I don’t lay there for hours wishing for sleep, I just go back to sleep. After over a decade of not being able to wear mascara or put my hair up without getting a headache, I’ve done both. My poor posture has improved dramatically. Plus, it forces me to “be still” for a few minutes in the midst of a noisy world.

Needless to say, I’m stoked at the amazing results I’ve had. Although Egoscue claims that our spine and hips, which are incredibly designed to bear our weight without pain, are the result of lucky evolution, I think it’s just one more reason to praise and worship our Creator.

Each of our bodies are different, but if you’re in chronic pain, I’d  highly recommended trying out Pain Free.

(Aneysa and Abigail, my very hearty thanks for your recommendations!)

 Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherHealthy 2DayFrugal Days, Sustainable Ways,Works for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityProverbs 31Natural Living, & Simple Lives

[Full disclosure: links to some products in this post are my referral links.]

*Pain Free deals with specific areas of pain, while Pain Free for Women deals more with overall women’s maintenance.

Natural Ways to Combat Insomnia During Pregnancy

It is ironic that insomnia can be such a struggle when pregnancy leaves you feeling exhausted. This pregnancy I struggled falling asleep and woke regularly with nightmares and couldn’t go back to sleep for hours. 

My midwife recommended Unisom (considered one of the safest drugs during pregnancy, plus it fights morning sickness!) and I used it regularly for about two months. Eventually though, it lost its effectiveness, though I felt dependent on it. 

Finding a pregnancy-safe alternative wasn’t as easy as I thought. Melatonin and valerian, two of my favorite insomnia helps, aren’t recommended during pregnancy. The melatonin might disrupt the growing baby’s natural production of melatonin and valerian is so strong that most doctors–and my midwife— feel more studying needs to be done before it’s safe to recommend.

After lots of prayer and research, wonderful advice from friends, and a talk with my midwife, we came up with a plan that has helped me so much.

How to combat insomnia during pregnancy

photo credit

I am not a doctor or a nurse. The only hospital I have ever worked at is a doll hospital. There, a band-aid can cure a heart attack. As always, please do you own research and talk to your health care provider. 

Manage your expectations. When sleepless night follows sleepless night, it’s easy to let discouragement and fear creep in. Instead, put your expectations in Christ’s strength. Don’t dread going to bed. Trust that Jesus will give you the sleep you need and the strength to face the coming day even if you don’t sleep much.

Stop taking naps: when I’m pregnant few things sound better than a nap. However, if you struggle with insomnia, taking  a nap can further compound the problem by throwing off the circadian rhythm that regulates your sleep. The first few days without naps were miserable (especially since I wasn’t sleeping well at night) but after a few days it did get better.

Exercise regularly. Exercise is good for your heart. It makes you feel more cheerful. Exercise curbs weight gain, naturally increases iron in your blood, and helps combat “diseases of affluence.” Plus, regular exercise helps get your body tired so you can fall asleep at night. Do a pregnancy work-out, take a good walk, or swim. Getting regular exercise will help fight insomnia. Just make sure to exercise in the morning or early to mid-afternoon so your body has time to cool down before bed. [Here's how I find time to exercise with little ones.]

Establish a good sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each morning. In the evenings, establish a “going to bed” routine that helps you relax and unwind. As bedtime approaches, force yourself to yawn. Soon, it will be natural and seems to help me get sleepy.

Spend time outside in the afternoon. Getting afternoon sun can help regulate your sleep cycle. (Here’s what I do to get Vitamin D while avoiding sunburns.)

Take 1/2 tsp blackstrap molasses before bed. A friend recommended this to me and said it worked wonders for her. Blackstrap molasses is often recommended during pregnancy as a high source of usable iron and calcium.

Drink chamomile tea before going to bed. Many sleep-inducing herbs aren’t considered safe during pregnancy, but chamomile is an exception. Chamomile isn’t as strong as valerian, but it does help sooth the nerves.

Drink warm milk before going to bed. Warm milk has been recommended as a sleep aid for ages. Why it works is still up for debate (it may be mostly psychological) but the calcium in it could also help your body naturally produce melatonin. Whatever the reason, it does seem to work and if you add a dash of nutmeg it tastes quite good.

Get enough calcium and magnesium. Waking up in the middle of the night unable to fall back asleep is miserable. It could be caused by a lack of calcium or magnesium. James F. Balch, M.D. writes that “A lack of the nutrients calcium and magnesium will cause you to wake up after a few hours and not be able to return to sleep.”

Why? These minerals help calm the nerves and encourage sleep [and prevent night terrors in children.] According to William Sears, M.D, “Calcium helps the brain use the amino acid tryptophan to manufacture the sleep-inducing substance melatonin. This explains why dairy products, which contain both tryptophan and calcium, are one of the top sleep-inducing foods.”

Relax and breathe. My friend Kristy reminded me of just how important this was and it sure helped. My favorite relaxation technique is one a dear midwife friend taught me. While laying in bed, start with your head and relax each part of your body all the way down to your toes. (Then, if you want, start at your toes and work up to your head.) It’s amazing how much tension you can unconsciously build up in your forehead or shoulders.

Have a midnight plan (i.e. if you can’t sleep, get up.) Laying in bed for hours desperately wishing you could sleep isn’t very helpful. After several nights, I was almost afraid to fall asleep because I was dreading waking up at 2:30 a.m. If you don’t fall back asleep after 20 or 30 minutes, get up and do something calming (like ironing or folding laundry while listening to the Bible or a book on tape) until you’re sleepy. Having a plan makes falling asleep much easier and waking up less miserable.

(Another optional, though highly helpful strategy, is to get a cold. Lol! I’ve never been quite so grateful to come down with a cold. It made me just sleepy enough at night to be able to fall asleep easily.)

Do simple E-stretches: Sadly, I didn’t read Pain Free until after my baby was born, but after doing a few simple exercises that improved my posture and skeletal structure, my sleeping increased dramatically. I would definitely talk it over with your health care provider before doing the exercises, but the ones I have done are simple not-jerky and made a huge difference for me! (Read my full review here.)

Do you struggle with insomnia? What’s your favorite way to combat it? 

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherHealthy 2DayFrugal Days, Sustainable Ways,Works for MeWalking RedeemedOur Simple Country LifeProverbs 31Natural Living, & Simple Lives

[Full disclosure: Links to products in this post are my referral links.]

How (& Why) to Propagate Houseplants

If you’ve been impatiently waiting for the snow to leave and spring weather to stay so you can get outside and play in the dirt (like I have), propagating your houseplants is a great way to use the time.

photo credit 

Houseplants are amazing. As studies by NASA scientists confirmed, common houseplants make the air in your home healthier. They remove dangerous chemicals and dramatically increase air quality. Plus, they’re beautiful.

In his book, How to Grow Fresh Air–(read my review here), Dr. Wolverton lists the very best purifying indoor plants and recommends you have at least one plant per 100 square feet. That’s a lot of plants.

One of the easiest ways to grow your collection is to propagate the plants you have (or beg cuttings from your mom.)

Not only is it fun to add a new plant to your collection and watching it grow, I consider it plant insurance. My brown thumb is bound to kill at least some of my plants. This way, if the mother plant dies hopefully the daughter will survive.

 Heartleaf Philodendron–one of the easiest houseplants to grow

There are two very easy ways to propagate houseplants that have multiple trailing stems, like ivy.

Water Method: Just cut back long stems right above the leaf node (where a new leaf grows). Trim the bottom few leaves and place the stem in a glass of water.

In a few weeks new roots will emerge and you can plant the stems in a fresh pot with good drainage. Water well after transplanting.  

How to Propagate Wandering Jew

Wandering Jew— I killed the “mother plant”. The one on the left is a four-month-old “daughter plant”. On the right is a three-week-old “granddaughter plant”

Moist Dirt Method: 

Cut off stems above the node. Strip off the bottom few leaves. Place the stem in a pot and keep the soil moist. In about 3 to 6 weeks, new roots will grow and the plant will send out new shoots.

How’s that for easy?

Want to make it a really frugal project? Look for beautiful pots at garage sales (often they’re practically free!) I’ve even found some lovely healthy plants at yard sales for a dollar or two.

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherHealthy 2DayFrugal Days, Sustainable Ways,Works for MeWild Crafting WednesdayWalking RedeemedProverbs 31Natural Living, & Simple Lives

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

8 Ways to Deal with Morning Sickness

Does anyone else think that morning sickness is ill-named? I usually feel my best in the morning and get worse as the day wears on.

Before I share things that have helped with my evening sickness, I want to be up front and say that mine ranges from mild to moderate. I have never been unable to eat for days on end or had to get an IV to keep fluids down. For those of you who deal with this kind of morning sickness, my heart goes out to you and I am so proud of you. (If I got that sick, it’d take a whole lot of grace for us to not be a one child family.)

I’m not sure if these “remedies” would help in serious cases, but they have staved of an impending trip to throw up for me. Though I’ve not heard of any problems with these remedies, you should always check with your own health care professional before trying something new, of course!

“The fruit of the womb is his reward!” (Photo credit)

  1. Ginger: When I feel like throwing up, the last thing I’m really hungry for is a piece of ginger. Ick. But, if I can just force myself to take it, it’s amazing how quickly the ginger helps calm my stomach! Ginger gum, “candied” ginger (homemade or from the health food store), or a sniff of ginger essential oil have all helped settle my stomach and keep food down. Ginger ale or ginger cookies would make nice milder alternatives (though I’m not sure they’d work quite as well!) 
  2. Sea Bands: My sister-in-law recommended sea bands to me, saying they’d really helped her during her morning sickness. It sounds odd, doesn’t it? Can bands around your wrist really help with morning sickness? Yep, they can. The bands “put pressure on the P-6 point between the two central tendons near the wrist.” Somehow that pressure relieves the morning sickness, without any side effects (except for slight indents on the wrists!)
  3. Protein in the evening: “It’s easier to keep a fire going, than to start a new fire from scratch,” my midwife told me. “Your metabolism is similar. It’s much easier to keep it going with a protein-rich snack in the evening that to start fresh in the morning.” It’s true! Eating a snack rich in protein before I go to bed helps me feel much better in the morning.
  4. Figure out your blood sugar: With my first pregnancy, I was determined to be a good, healthy Mama. But every time I woke up and fixed myself a nice plate of eggs, I lost them. On the mornings I sneaked a bite or two of a healthy-ish dessert (like these Mrs. Thompson Bars) first, I was able to keep the eggs down. I finally learned that when my blood sugar gets too low, I simply can’t eat protein first, but a bit of carbs will help build up the blood sugar so I can handle the protein. Try to figure out what keeps your blood sugar happy.
  5. Exercise: Exercise releases toxins and builds new blood cells. It increases energy and stamina. Something about it also seems to helps with morning sickness. I entered this pregnancy exercising regularly (though I’ve dropped the jumping jacks) and have continued mostly regularly. Not only was my iron count good at my first check-up, I think it’s helped the morning sickness not be as bad this time.
  6. Take vitamins strategically: the calcium and/or iron in many pre-natals can be real tummy upsetters. Taking prenatal vitamins right before going to bed at night helps me be able to keep them down. Or, you could ask your heath care provider if you could take a child’s multivitamin and supplement with extra folic acid.
  7. Add ice: Staying hydrated is so important. Sometimes regular water just won’t go down, when sips of ice water will. (If you carry around a super cute glass water bottle, it’s easier to remember to drink!)
  8. Smile: “A cheerful heart does good like medicine,” Proverbs says. When I’m feeling icky, it’s easy to focus on just making it to bedtime. Smiling helps. It’s almost impossible to force your face into a smile without remembering the many ways you’ve been blessed… and the incredible privilege it is to carry a new little life into the world.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or nurse. The only hospital I’ve ever worked in is a doll hospital. There a band-aid heals a heart attack. Please talk to your health care professional and do your own research before treating serious health problems!

Did you struggle with morning sickness? What helped you most?

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherHealthy 2DayFrugal Days, Sustainable Ways,Works for MeWild Crafting WednesdayWalking Redeemed, My Joy-Filled DaysOur Simple Country LifeProverbs 31Natural Living, & Simple Lives