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.]

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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.

How to Make Kefir Water

Lime flavored kefir water, garnished with fresh mint. 

When a dear friend offered me a glass of homemade kefir water, all sorts of alarms sounded in my mind.

I’m not quite sure what I was expecting. It sure wasn’t a drink that tasted like an amazing sparkling limeade.

What exactly is kefir water? It’s a slightly sweet carbonated drink that’s simply bursting with probiotics. You make it by letting kefir “grains” (a gel-like combination of yeast and bacteria) sit in sugar water and minerals for a couple of days and ferment into a drink that’s refreshing and incredibly good for you.

We eat homemade yogurt regularly, but I’d been wanting to add more probiotics to our diet. After that first drink, kefir water was an obvious choice!

My friend gave me a kefir starter (thanks so much!) and I’m having a hard time keeping up with demand even with doing a gallon at a time. My 22-month-old’s name for kefir water is simply “nummy!”

We don’t even have pet fish, just pet bacteria. Thankfully, they’re about as low-maintenance as fish, plus you get a yummy drink out of them!

Kefir water recipe

(Makes one gallon—so far the gallon hasn’t lasted more than a few days! You can also half the batch.)

Ingredients

  • Heaping 1/2 cup kefir grains*
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup raw natural sugar, depending on how sweet you want it. 
  • Small handful of organic raisins or other dried fruit 
  • 1 eggshell or trace minerals, optional 
  • 1 gallon water [Spring, well or filtered tap water are the best options. Distilled water has lost so many minerals you'd want to add trace minerals back to the water.] 
  • Flavorings, optional

Instructions

  1. In a glass gallon jar, dissolve the sugar in a little water.
  2. Add the raisins, kefir grains, eggshell/minerals (if using), and finish filling with water.
  3. Cover with cheesecloth or a tea towel and rubberband securely.
  4. Let sit on the counter for 2-4 days. If it tastes good after two days, proceed. If you want more of the sugar “eaten”, let sit for another day. Don’t let it go too long though, especially in the summer, otherwise once the grains run out of sugar to eat, they beging to starve.
  5. Removed the raisins and eggshell and toss. Strain out the grains to start a new batch.
  6. Start a new batch immediately or store the kefir grains. 
  7. You can drink the kefir at this point, but it tastes much yummier if you let it carbonate for a day on the counter. To carbonate, pour into sturdy glass jars, leaving plenty of headspace for the kefir water to expand. I leave a good 2+ inches, to be on the safe side. Add fruit, juice, food-grade essential oils, or vanilla (if desired) for flavoring. Seal tightly and leave on the counter for a day. 
  8. Refrigerate or drink immediately over ice.

Tips and tricks: 

  • If you don’t have a local friend who can give you a starter, you can order dehydrated water kefir grains online from Amazon or a kit (including minerals and a strainer) from Cultures for Health
  • To store the kefir grains, mix 1/4 cup of sugar with filtered water. Add the grains and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. 
  • Kefir grains love the added minerals from eggshells, but the thought of tossing in a raw eggshell groses me out. Instead, save the eggshells when you make hardboiled eggs and store them in the freezer. Just pop one out when it’s time to make another batch of kefir.
  • Different natural sugars contain different minerals. My friend recommends using 3/4 natural cane sugar and 1/4 sucanat. I haven’t bought any sucanat yet, and the kefir is surviving fine on just the natural cane sugar, but I’m sure it would make them even happier to add sucanat.
  • You can get organic raisins in bulk from Country Life Natural Foods for only a few cents more per pound than Aldi’s raisins. Grapes are on the dirty dozen list, so as you can expect, conventionally grown raisins tend to have quite a bit of pesticide residue! 
Have you made kefir water? If so, what’s your favorite flavoring? 
[Full disclosure: links to some products in this post are my referral links.]

Why & How to Soak Almonds (& Other Nuts)

Don’t you just love it when you can very simply make a food healthier and tastier at the same time?

I love raw almonds, pecans, and walnuts so when a dear friend told me she’d been making the “crispy nuts” from Nourishing Traditions, I was a bit skeptical. Why on earth should you soak almonds or walnuts when they’re so tasty raw?

Our first batch of crispy almonds–the kids can’t seem to get enough of them! 

Not only does soaking and drying them increase the natural flavor (they’re very tasty!), the soaking process makes the almonds or other nuts easier to digest.

Soaking mimics the practice of many native cultures who traditionally soaked and dried the nuts they collected before eating. Thankfully we’ve got ovens instead of having to depend on the sun to do our drying for us!

How to Make Soaked Crispy Almonds

Mix a tablespoon of salt with filtered water. Add 4 cups of almonds and let soak for about seven to twelve hours.

Drain the almonds. The skins pop off very easily at this point, so if you want, pop some (or all) of the almonds out of their skins. I prefer the taste with the skins on, but skinless is nice for baking.

Spread on a glass or stainless steel pan. Try not to let the almonds touch. Let dry 12-24 hours in a 150 degree oven and stir occasionally. (Ours doesn’t go quite that low, so I would heat it to 170, leave the light on and turn off the oven.)

After about 20 hours, they still weren’t as crispy as I’d like, so I left the oven on at around 170.

Once they’re thoroughly dried, cool and store in a air-tight container. Much as I love raw almonds, I have to agree that they’re even more flavorful soaked and dried.

My friend said they’re practically addicted to the “crispy walnuts” so that’s what I plan to try next. The only difference is that once dried, walnuts still need to be kept in the fridge because of the high amounts of triple unsaturated linolenic acid.

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.]

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

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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.]