Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Saving Energy in Your Home This Summer

Unplug appliances after uses by plugging all appliances in to a power strip and turning it off at the end of use. This helps stop the use of phantom energy, which is the energy still being used while your appliances are plugged in but turned off.

Seal up leaks and cracks in your house with insulation. This helps with the release of cool air and the intake of warm air in the summer.

Remember to turn off the lights when you leave the room. Also, if it’s a nice day out, just let the natural light come in and light your home.

Change your air conditioning filters every spring and check your AC to make sure that it is working properly. Try to avoid turning on the AC for as long as you can, and open the windows and enjoy the fresh spring air.

When you are away from home, close the blinds and curtains so that your house will naturally stay cool.

Really want to say some dollars this summer? Hang your laundry out to dry outside and reap the savings from not using your dryer. Dryers are often huge energy sappers!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Hisotry of Tea in the U.S.

After a warm weekend in North Carolina spent sipping sweet tea on a front porch and watching the cars stroll by, I decided to do a little research. Where did this custom come from? After a bit of research, I was surprised to find these interesting Tea facts:

  • South Carolina is the only state that grows tea in the U.S.A.
  • In the early 1800’s, it was common to drink tea punches. Tea punch was made from green tea and spiked with heavily with liquor.
  • The oldest sweet tea recipe in print was published in 1879 in a cookbook called Housekeeping in Old Virginia.
  • In 1883 at the World’s Fair in Chicago, a man sold $2000 worth of Lemonade and Iced Tea
  • After 1900, iced tea became commonplace in cookbooks, and black tea began replacing green as the preferred tea for serving cold. The preference for black over green tea in an iced beverage came with an import of inexpensive black tea exports from India, Ceylon, South America, and Africa.
  • At the World’s Fair in 1904 in St. Louis, Richard Blechynden was offering cold iced tea because of the extremely hot weather. It popularized ice tea and changed how people drank tea forever. He is often seen as the "inventor" of iced tea
  • Because of prohibition in the 1920-1933, people began finding alternatives to alcoholic drinks and iced tea began showing up regularly in southern cookbooks and homes.
  • During WWII sources of Green Tea were cut off, and after the war was over 99% of the country was drinking black tea.
  • In 1995, tea was adopted as the Official Hospitality Beverage of South Carolina.
  • Currently in the South, sweet iced tea is offered for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Raised Bed Gardening

Do you want a garden but don't have the space? Or you just don't want to mess up your yard with a plow! Raised beds are a great way to raise a garden if you don't have a lot of space. They are also great if you live where the soil is rocky or full of clay.
The advantages of doing a raised bed garden are an expanded growing season, easy maintenance and high yields. They can easily be incorporated into your current landscape and be placed close to your home. For more information about raised beds, check out this Missouri Extension publication at

Monday, March 29, 2010

How to not kill your indoor plants

If anyone is like me with indoor plants, they know that it can be frustrating to keep them alive. I usually end up giving mine too much water, and they responding by dieing. Not the gracious response we want from giving too much attention, but inevitable. So after days of seeing this beautiful orchid at the local grocery store and not buying it because I knew that it would not live long in my hands, I heard a great trick. Just put ice in it, and only do it once a week. This seemed easy enough. So first I tried it with an aloe plant that I had been unsuccessfully trying to grow for months, and to my great worked! This plant has really taken off and has grown three new sprouts since I started icing. With the success of the aloe plant I decided to try the orchid. I am happy to report so far so good. I have had the orchid for over a month and it still has all of blooms and has a few new ones. I constantly get compliments on how beautiful it is and it's awesome color. So to all of you who are interested in some houseplants but haven't been successful in the past, try icing them. It's easy and quick, and gives many plants just the right amount of water to grow. Good luck with your houseplants!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Natural Indoor Air Cleaners

Indoor plants can be a great and natural way to clean the air that you breathe while inside your home. NASA even says so! This is how it works. Plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen as part of the photosynthesis process. Some plants are great for cleaning formaldehyde from the air, which is found more in prefabricated or modular homes, and others are good at removing benzene.
Soil and roots have also been found to play an important role in removing air-borne pollutants. Micro-organisms in the soil become more adept at using trace amounts of these materials as a food source, as they are exposed to them for longer periods of time. Cut back the lower leaves to expose more soil for better effectiveness.

NASA recommends that you use 15- 18 good sized houseplants to improve air quality in an average 1,800 square foot house. The plants that NASA recommends are:
English Ivy, Spider Plant, Golden Pathos, Peace Lily, Chinese Evergreen, Bamboo or Reed Palm, Snake Plant, Heartleaf Philodendron, Selloum Philodendron, Red-edged Dracaena, Cornstalk Dracaena, Warneck Dracaena, and a Weeping Fig.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Radon and your Home

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is invisible, odorless, and tasteless. It comes from the decay of uranium in the soil, and enters homes and buildings through cracks, crevices, or holes in the structure. It enters directly from the soil, such as in crawlspaces, or from an open sump pump. Radon exposure has been linked to cancer, and is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

Western North Carolina does have high levels of Radon and it is important to test your home. Get a free home test at your local extension office.