December 16, 2012

The Miracle Pill and The Mailbox Surprise

When I'm not busy peeking on or feeding the worms, I have two energetic dogs to entertain- an 11 year old cockapoo and a 1 year old cocker spaniel mix (bloodhound? lab? beagle? no idea).

Last year, the cockapoo started limping like crazy on his back left leg. It seems to start suddenly, so we assumed he pulled a muscle. Except it never really got better- it just kind of changed in degrees of severity, from a slight favoring to an all out limp or completely holding it off the ground.

I took to the internet, and found a lot of dog owners with similar problems had used Cosequin DS to help. I started him on it, and he improved significantly over the next month.

Then a few weeks ago, the same thing happened with his front left leg, but very suddenly and much worse.  He didn't want to walk at all on it, and he hunched his back and seemed like he couldn't lift his head all the way.  In the morning, he could barely raise his head. In addition, the back leg seemed weak again. We could tell he was in pain, and of course we felt terrible. Clearly the Cosequin wasn't doing the trick anymore.

Immediately we had him at the vet. She gave him an exam and said it was arthritis. She gave us some Tramadol to give him twice a day, along with some information on range of motion exercises we could do with him.

But I just couldn't give up that easily. I wanted a miracle pill. I understand that dogs are going to age, and it wasn't unreasonable to think he had arthritis...but this came on so quick and severely that I really felt like it was something...I don't know...maybe fixable?

Back to the internet research!

I quickly found a product called Nzymes. Their website had a lot of  hype and testimonials and blah blah, but at this point I was open to just about anything. To be sure I wouldn't do more harm than good, I asked the vet about the ingredient list. She said that even though the ingredients were more for digestive issues, the treats would not hurt him and might even help. 

The testimonials spoke to the product improving everything from skin issues to coat luster to joint and muscle problems- I was SUPER skeptical, but stayed open minded.

I ordered the Antioxidant Treats for Pets for $21 online at their site. (Interesting point: they also sell them for people.)  Within three days, they arrived.

Here's what came in the package:
nzymes treats
Yes! Two bottles for the price of one! I was pretty pleased already.

But what would my dog think of them? Rather than treats, they looked like giant vitamins. His reaction:
nzymes treats
 After some sniffing, he was a little skeptical, too. Here's his skeptical face:
nzymes treats
The only thing left to do was give it a try. I gave him one pill in the morning and one in the evening. I also continued his Tramadol, as directed by the vet.

Within a week, he was walking stronger. The hunch disappeared. He was lifting his head and raising himself up and down without effort.

It was two weeks since the first pill this weekend, and we took a two mile hike today. He did some running, and had no soreness afterward.  The hunching hasn't returned, and all of his legs look strong and even.

Just for kicks, I also gave some to my friend who has a schipperke mix with super-itchy skin (another of their cure claims). I asked her how it's going- no more itching. Crazy.

Do I think this is a miracle pill? Right now, YES, I do.

I am going to cut his Tramadol down to once a day and see if the improvement continues. I'll keep you updated on him and the schipperke mix just in case you have or know someone with a pet with similar condition.

In other news, last week I got an amazing gift in the mail from an amazing lady!

After corresponding with the original bag holder creator, she sent me one of her very own designs!  I love gifts and getting mail, and this was extra-special since hardly anyone I know shares my love of trash clean ups like she does:
trash bag holder

trash bag holder
As I expected, hers is much more lightweight and ergonomically sized for optimal trash picking up than the imitation one my husband and I created.  Hers even has a separate bag for recyclables!

I drove down the hollow today, and another trash pickup is right around the bend- so thank you a million times over to her!

Related Posts & Links:
Make Your Own Bag Holder on Thrifty Fun
Pre-Thanksgiving Trash Pickup and Handy Bag Holder
Labor Day Local Trash Pickup

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December 2, 2012

Unique and Efficient Holiday Lights

Christmas lights are a debatable topic for us immediately following Thanksgiving.  Every year, we claim we are going to change it up and get a whole new holiday lights plan for outside- and every year we do the same icicle, wreath, garland, white lights thing.

Not this year!

At first I was determined to get a disco ball box with the light and reflector that makes it look like it's snowing on your house constantly...until I read the reviews, which all said the mirrors fall off the disco ball, the light only works for two weeks, bad weather ruined the electric components, and on and on with the terrible things that were going to happen. 

But then I took a look at the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" section on the page and found a super unique and efficient type of lights: Lawn Lights!

I got two giant sets (2827 sq ft each) to cover both sides of the yard.

Pricey? Yes, but after so many years of having the norm, I was ready to pay for originality. 

In the environmentally friendly department, these LEDs are rated for 50,000 hours of use, and each one only uses one outlet and 3-5 watts of power (equivalent to an incandescent nightlight, they say in their FAQs). Plus, I thought they'd have a big enough impact that I didn't need any other outside lights.

The box arrived:
Lawn Lights
And inside were the components to make my yard look like sparkle-land:
Lawn Lights
Pretty simple so far.

Don't these look familiar? (Pay no attention to random dog wandering around!)
Lawn Lights stakes
Just like my garden stakes from this spring! There were extras after setup, so they will get put to use next growing season.

My husband did the install and said it took about an hour for both sets to be spaced and staked. They are connected kind of like a giant net, with about 6-8 feet between lights, and you prop the lights off the ground with the stakes that hold them into place. (Of course I came home and then re-staked them a little more evenly.)

During the day they are pretty much camouflaged in the grass, but at night they look amazing! Cars have been slowing down to take a look, and the effect is really unusual- no one else has anything similar that I've seen, so mission accomplished.

The company says that they can be buried in up to 8 inches of snow and that makes them look even sweeter, so I'm on the lookout for a winter storm...

I'm going to try to take a pic tonight to add to this post of the lights actually in action, but you can also view the gallery from the company to get an idea of the effect they produce- so cool!

In worm news, I turned a ton of Halloween/Thanksgiving pumpkins that were ready to be thrown away from friends & relatives into a never-ending wigwam buffet. Hubby de-seeded and chopped up four more this week, so I'm expecting an big increase in vermicompost output this month (and fat worms!).

Related Posts & Links:
Growing Fast, Straight, and Tall 
Snappy Stake Update 

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November 25, 2012

What to Buy, What to Buy- The Green Gift List

Thanksgiving is over, and its time to talk gift-giving!

If you have a worm lover, an organic gardener, or just an earth-friendly tree hugger on your list, this one's for you. I've poked around Amazon to find some of the most interesting, eco-positive purchases you can make for your loved ones this holiday season.

Besides being interesting and eco-friendly, my only other requirements were that the product be rated four stars or higher and be under $50.

Let's get started!

Fun in the Sun

Frostfire 16 Bright LED Wireless Solar Powered Motion Sensor Light (Weatherproof, no batteries required)
Everyone has that one side of the house that could use some extra lighting. This waterproof and heatproof solar motion light is perfect, and is guaranteed to last five years. Super simple and sleek design, too!

Taking a Ride

Eco Touch GPK110 Interior Car Care Kit Mini Pack
Guys can be difficult to buy for, but this handy dandy little kit for cleaning the car interior the green way is a great pick. It fits right in the glove compartment, and comes with mini-versions of Eco-Touch's window, leather, upholstery, dashboard, and all-purpose cleaners.

Veggies and Herbs Contained

EarthBox 1010002 Garden Kit, Terra Cotta
If you are buying for someone that used to be a gardener but now has limited space, the EarthBox will let them enjoy their old hobby in a fool-proof, space-saving way. They can pick their seeds and cultivate away in the reusable container.

Protect those Plants

Flower House FHSD100 SeedHouse Seed Starter
For people needing to protect plants from less than perfect weather, the Flower House will provide year after year of portable pop-up protection! Great air circulation, a light diffusing fabric, and the ability to extend the growing season make this a favorite of reviewers.

Worm Game!

Bamboo Collection Rapelli
Kids 4+ can roll the dice and try to pull their worms out of the bamboo stand first. Not only will the game help kids learn to strategize, it's also made from super earth-friendly bamboo.

Pick Up Day

Green Toys Recycling Truck
A recycling truck made from recycled materials to teach recycling to kids 1+. What else could be better?!

Oldie But Goodie!

Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System

If you have anyone on your gift list thinking of starting a worm bin, this will be their vermicomposting Bible! Start them off on the right foot by getting them the newly revised version of this super-scientific, instruction-packed reference book for new wormers.

You can find lots more ideas at Amazon Green.

Have a great earth-friendly gift idea or suggestion? Please share, and happy holiday shopping!

November 19, 2012

Pre-Thanksgiving Trash Pickup & Handy Bag Holder

Trash pickup time! I couldn't stand the garbage accumulating on my favorite country road, so I headed out to remedy the situation this weekend.

First, I finally got around to constructing (read: having my husband construct) the handy bag holder I mentioned in an earlier post.

For comparison purposes, here's the one featured on Thrifty Fun:
Make Your Own Bag Holder

And here's the version I/we created at home:

do it yourself garbage bag holder
Some notable differences between the two:

     -Rather than purchasing an aluminum rod (which the Home Depot associate seemed to deny existed, but then wanted an in-depth summary of the project), we just ended up using some copper pipe we had in the garage left over from the plumbing when our house was built.
     -Instead of rubber tubing to soften the grip of the handle, we used some flexible PVC we had remaining from the garden fencing we constructed in the spring.

I have to reiterate to everyone traveling this route and any other that tosses their stuff out the window- WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?! Wherever you have been, there is a garbage can. Wherever you are going, there is a garbage can. THROW YOUR GARBAGE IN IT. Ugh!

I covered less than a mile and gathered 8 bags of garbage:trash pickup map

Just so local residents are aware, the Vodka Bandit is still on the loose, throwing half gallon empty bottles stuffed into plastic bags at regular intervals along the road.  I picked up a minimum of 25 this time!

Other interesting items:

-Beyonce CD, but I've learned my lesson on this one.. once upon a time I stuck a CD I found on a walk into my old car and it got stuck, volume up, and the radio would not turn off even when I turned off the car. I had to drive to Best Buy and have them disconnect the battery to get the dang thing to stop and eject. Never again!  Goodbye, Beyonce!

-Endless amounts of Halloween candy wrappers. Parents or kids? Who knows, but favorites are Snickers and Reese's.

-More Turner's Iced Tea cartons than one person could comfortably drink in two and a half months. Clearly there are multiple culprits.

Hopefully, this pick up lasts until after the holidays!

Just one more gory, post-Halloween update from the bin....whoa...
worm wigwam spooky pumpkins
And, of course, the pumpkin seeds I couldn't remove have sprouted in full force:
worm wigwam sprouting seeds

Closer, closer, closer:
worm wigwam sprouting seeds
Coming soon: gift recommendations for beginner worm farmers and new organic gardeners- 'tis the season!

Related Posts & Links:
Labor Day Local Trash Pickup
Thrifty Fun "Make Your Own Bag Holder"
Post-Halloween in the Worm Wigwam
How Do The Pumpkins Grow?

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November 11, 2012

Pictures to Make You Squirm

As promised, I snapped a few super-freaky update photos from the jack-o-lantern drop-off in the Worm Wigwam.

The pumpkin that was left peeping out after I buried them all last weekend had some snow accumulation...
moldy pumpkin
Or was it....ewwwwww....mold?!?

You probably want a closer look.
moldy pumpkin
I've never seen this type of mold before in my bin, but a quick Google search told me it's probably sclerotinia sclerotiorum, "the most nonspecific, omnivorous, and successful of plant pathogens"- according to a reference compiled from the University of Hawaii

There is plenty of time for the worms to gobble that up and push it out before planting season next year, which is good because I don't need any omnivorous pathogens making my organic gardening life any more difficult.

That's the great thing about worms- they are able to take all sorts of disgusting, moldy, rotting things and turn them into fantastic organic plant food. In Australia, there are even giant industrial worm farms designed to process sewage and water waste. You can read a great set of FAQs about these systems at A&A Wormfarm Waste Systems.

Back to the bin! The pumpkins got unusually soft and mushy this time around, so I don't think I'll have any skins/shells to pick out fortunately.

I say fortunately because when I dug around through the bin, it was exceptionally squirmy this year!

pumpkins in the worm wigwam

Double ewww! Even for a seasoned worm farmer like me, that is a LOT of worms!

You probably want a closer look.
pumpkins in the worm wigwam
One peek was enough- I am not anxious to go scooping through there again to pull out any shells. Every single pumpkin had giant masses of worms similar to that one.

At this rate, I expect the pumpkins to last another 1-2 weeks before they are completely gone.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and guess who's hosting dinner this year? THIS GIRL. With my novice cooking skills, the worms will probably be the most thankful about that.

Related Posts & Links:
Post Halloween in the Wigwam
Pumpkin Shell Discovery
NPR:Fermentation: When Food Goes Bad But Stays Good
A&A Worm Farm Waste Systems

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