Small Footprint Family sustainability starts at home Tue, 21 Oct 2014 21:44:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Is Borax Toxic? Tue, 21 Oct 2014 21:21:07 +0000 is-borax-toxicMany people are concerned about whether borax is a safe […]

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Many people are concerned about whether borax is a safe chemical. There are many sites on the internet claiming it is toxic. I disagree with these sites and believe that borax is as safe as table salt or washing soda—in other words, the dose makes the poison. Here’s why…

History of Borax

Borax-150039Humans have mined and used borax since its discovery in Persia more than 4,000 years ago. Borax is a naturally occurring mineral found in concentration in dried salt lake beds, and consists of water, sodium, boron and oxygen. The main areas where it is mined today are in Turkey and California.

Boron is an essential trace mineral nutrient required for many functions in the body, like rebuilding bone and teeth, hormone regulation, absorption and metabolism of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, and maintaining communication between your cells. 

In fact, boron is as essential for the parathyroid gland as iodine is for the thyroid. 

Boron is ubiquitous in soil and water, and is required for plant growth. Diets with a fair amount of fruit and vegetables provide about 2 to 5 mg of boron per day, but this also depends on the region where the food was grown and how it was grown.

The Evidence on Borax

All of the studies that showed evidence of possible hormone disruption in animals used ridiculously high doses of borax (many grams delivered intravenously). People could never possibly ingest anything even close to the amount of borax required to do harm—unless they worked unprotected for years in a borax mine or packaging factory. (However, you will want to keep your small children out of the borax, just as you would keep them away from the vitamins, etc.)

Borax is officially classified as non-carcinogenic and a mild skin irritant. The high alkalinity of borax (pH 9.5) is what causes skin irritation, which is the same reason that washing soda and even baking soda cause skin irritation, too. The alkaline pH of borax, washing soda and baking soda is what softens the water, and makes it possible for them to clean your clothes.

There are also several studies in the ToxNet database that show borax is only a very mild lung irritant and causes no lasting damage. If ingested, it is quickly excreted in the urine. In addition, it does not really penetrate the skin well, and is not bio-accumulative.

Finally, the Material Safety Data Sheet lists borax as a health hazard of 1—the same as baking soda and salt. In other words, borax is toxic in the same sense that salt is toxic: A small amount can do great things; a huge amount will kill you and other living things.

Uses for Borax

Borax is used in laundry detergents, hair potions and skin lotions. Like diatomaceous earth, it also can help kill fleas and dust mites in your carpet by dehydrating them. It is also used as a safer ant and cockroach poison.

Borax is also naturally anti-fungal and anti-viral (but not anti-bacterial), and—here’s the neatest part—through a chemical reaction with water, borax produces hydrogen peroxide (the main ingredient in OxyClean) to brighten and sanitize your clothes.

Many people even ingest small amounts of borax mixed in water to self-treat various health conditions that supplemental boron can really help, like arthritis, fluoride detoxification, osteoporosis, prostate cancer, menopausal symptoms, psoriasis, and candida.

People should use the same precautions (gloves, dust mask or bandana) with borax that they would use around any dusty substance, like washing soda, bentonite clay, diatomaceous earth, or powdered soap. (Heck, you don’t even want to inhale flour or powdered sugar either for that matter!)

In sum, borax is wholly natural. It doesn’t cause cancer, accumulate in the body or in nature, or absorb through the skin. 

Because the dose makes the poison, borax is not harmful to the body or the environment any more than salt or washing soda is. In fact, the largest borax (borate) mine in the world—found in Boron, California—is considered to be one of the most ecologically sound and environmentally sustainable mines in the United States.

I consider borax a safe, effective cleaner, and I will continue to use it in my household green cleaning and safer pest control.

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Easy Roasted Butternut Squash Soup Mon, 06 Oct 2014 19:00:06 +0000 roasted butternut squash soupButternut squash is a type of winter squash. It ha […]

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Butternut squash is a type of winter squash. It has a sweet, nutty taste similar to that of a pumpkin. It has hard, yellow skin and orange fleshy pulp, and is an excellent source of nutrition during the winter months. This soup is one terrific way to enjoy it!

Winter squashes are members of the Cucurbitaceae family and relatives of both the melon and the cucumber. Winter squashes like butternut or pumpkin have hard shells that are difficult to pierce, enabling them to have long storage periods under the right conditions. 


Modern day squash developed from wild squash that originated in an area between Guatemala and Mexico. While squash has been grown and eaten for over 10,000 years, they were first cultivated specifically for their nutritious seeds because early squash did not contain much flesh, and what they did contain was very bitter.

As time progressed, squash cultivation spread throughout the Americas, and varieties with a greater quantity of sweeter-tasting flesh were developed. Christopher Columbus brought squash back to Europe, and like many other native American foods, their cultivation was introduced throughout the world by Portuguese and Spanish conquerers.

Today, there are hundreds of beautiful varieties of squash, and the largest commercial producers include China, Japan, Romania, Turkey, Italy, Egypt, and Argentina.

Culture and Cultivation

Butternut squash need warm soil to germinate so either start your seeds indoors or direct seed outside once the weather warms up. 

If starting indoors, plant your seeds in 3-inch seed pots rather than flats, placing the seeds about an inch under the soil. You can plant 2 or 3 in each pot, to transplant together in hills.

Keep your pots somewhere sunny and warm or they may take a long time to sprout. Get them started about 3 weeks before your last frost date.

Each butternut squash plant will produce several large squash, so you won’t need more than 3 or 4 plants. Transplant your seedlings about 2 weeks after your last frost has passed.

If you are putting seeds straight into the garden, plant them at the same time as you would put out your transplants. They will not germinate or sprout in cold soils. Plant 4 or 5 seeds in a small hill, and thin down to 2 or 3 after they have sprouted.

Winter squash like a fertile, well-drained soil with plenty of compost. Plant them in a location that will have full sun and allow a lot of space for the vines. Each hill should have 3 feet of space around it. Mulch them well with straw to keep the soil from drying out too fast.

Butternut squash can be grown upward on a fence or trellis if you don’t want to have vines all through your garden. If you plan on training them up this way, you can plant your seedlings just 2 feet apart. In this case, don’t plant them in little groups, but rather just one plant every 2 feet. 

Butternut Squash PlantsOn trellises, the plant won’t be able to support heavy, mature squashes up in the air on its own. So get creative and support those fruits with slings or nets fashioned from pantyhose, old t-shirts, or mesh produce bags. Just be sure to tie them to the trellis, not the vines.

Like cucumbers, squash vines will first have a round of male-only flowers come to bloom before the female ones do. So don’t be alarmed if none of the first blossoms set any fruit. They aren’t supposed to.

As the season comes to a close, you can help the plant divert its resources to finishing off the larger squash before winter by pinching off any new flowers and removing very young squash.


No single food provides a greater percentage of certain carotenoids (like alpha- and beta-carotene) in the diet than winter squash. The phytonutrients, complex carbohydrates and polysaccharides in winter squash are anti-inflammatory and help regulate blood sugar, too.

Butternut squash (and all winter squashes) also contain a great amount of vitamin C (about one-third of the Daily Value in every cup) and a very good amount of the antioxidant mineral manganese as well. 

One cup of baked winter squash contains approximately 340 milligrams of omega-3 fats in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and also provides a good amount of vitamins B1, B3, B6, pantothenic acid, and folate.

Selection and Storage

Winter squash is easily prone to decay, so it is important to carefully inspect them before you buy them. Choose squashes that are firm, heavy for their size and have dull, not glossy, rinds. The rind should be hard all around. Avoid those with any signs of decay, which shows up as areas that are soft, water-soaked or moldy.

Depending upon the variety, winter squashes like butternut can be kept for one month to six months. The thicker the rind, the longer they tend to keep.

Keep winter squash away from direct exposure to light and do not subject them to extreme heat or extreme cold. The ideal temperature for storing winter squash is between 50-60°F (about 10-15°C).

Once it is cut, cover the pieces of winter squash in a glass storage container and store them in the refrigerator, where they will keep for a few days. The best way to freeze winter squash is to first cut it into pieces of suitable size for your individual recipes.

All winter squashes need to be peeled and de-seeded before cooking. Save the seeds though; all winter squash seeds (not just pumpkin) are outstandingly nutritious, and can be dried, roasted and salted or seasoned with cayenne, cumin, ginger or other spices for a delicious snack!

You can also roast a winter squash and then peel the cooked, softened skin off or scoop out the flesh, which is often easier than peeling it raw. That is what we will do for this recipe.

This easy to make, roasted butternut squash soup recipe will nourish you well on cold winter days, and make the best of this healthy, long-storing vegetable.

Easy Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 4
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  1. 1 medium butternut squash, halved and seeded
  2. 1/2 sweet onion, peeled and sliced
  3. 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  4. 2 cups chicken broth or stock
  5. 1 tsp sea salt (where to find)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place the halved and seeded squash on an oiled roasting pan. Roast in the oven for an hour or until a knife goes in easily.
  3. Let the squash cool a bit, and remove the skin. Leave any parts of the squash that have browned; it will add extra flavor.
  4. On medium heat, sauté the onion in the olive oil for 3 minutes.
  5. Add the squash and the broth or stock to the pan and simmer together for about 10 minutes.
  6. Place the mixture and sea salt into your blender or Vitamix and secure the lid.
  7. Blend on low or 1 and slowly increase the speed to high or 10. Blend for 20 seconds, until smooth.
  8. Enjoy!!
Small Footprint Family

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GIVEAWAY: 18-Piece GlassLock Storage Set {$40 Value!} Thu, 11 Sep 2014 06:59:43 +0000 glasslockIf you are trying to eat more whole foods and home cook […]

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If you are trying to eat more whole foods and home cooked meals, it makes sense to have a set of storage containers that can hold your leftovers well. So you’ll want to invest in food storage containers that are made of glass instead of toxic plastic, and which can also easily go from fridge to oven to microwave or freezer.

Well, you voted for it on Facebook, and here it is! This month’s giveaway is this very useful 18-piece GlassLock Storage Set!

Storing your food in glass containers not only helps you avoid the endocrine disrupting chemicals found in plastic food storage containers, but glass is also an easily renewable, low-footprint resource that, with care, is much longer-lasting than plastic, too.

I have had a set of these for years, plus several extra pieces, and I ADORE them!

The GlassLock 18-piece set features:

  • All-Natural glass vessels with BPA-free airtight lids
  • Ideal for serving & storing; safe for the oven and microwave cooking
  • Rectangular Containers: 1.6 cups, 3.5 cups, 3.5 cups, and 6.3 cups with 4 matching lids
  • Rectangular Containers: 1.5 cups and 3.3 cups with 2 matching lids
  • Round Containers: 0.73 cups, 1.6 cups, and 3.1 cups with 3 matching lids

I not only use these glass containers to store leftover food in the fridge, but I also use them as serving dishes, to reheat food in the oven, and even to freeze things. They are also great for taking soup or other liquid items to lunch, because of their leakproof BPA-free lids!

They clean up easily in the dishwasher, and the lids are resistant to staining. How does it get better than that?

These GlassLock containers are the crème-de-la-crème, and every kitchen would benefit from having at least one set!

Enter to Win this 18-Piece GlassLock Storage Set

Please use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Official Rules

  • No purchase necessary.
  • Giveaway open to residents of the U.S. Canadian residents will receive an Amazon gift certificate of equivalent value.
  • The giveaway begins September 11, 2014 and will end September 25, 2014 at 12:00am PST.
  • This giveaway is hosted and paid for by Dawn Gifford and Small Footprint Family.
  • The prize was selected by informal Facebook vote, and is one 18-piece GlassLock Storage Set, valued at $40. The odds of winning are approximately 1 in 300, though it depends on how many people enter the giveaway.
  • Prizes will be shipped directly from Amazon to the winner’s home, and any exchanges or returns should be handled by Amazon. Canadian residents will receive an Amazon gift certificate of equivalent value, which will be delivered by email.
  • Winners will be selected via integrated with the Rafflecopter widget. Winners will be announced within 1 week of the last day of the giveaway in a post on this blog.
  • Winners will have 1 week from the last day of the giveaway to claim their prize by contacting Small Footprint Family with your full name and mailing address.

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How To Stop Blossom End Rot Tue, 22 Jul 2014 02:28:51 +0000 blossom-end-rotYour tomato plants are tall and green; you’ve tak […]

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Your tomato plants are tall and green; you’ve taken the time to carefully stake or cage them to support their growth. Right now they are loaded with tons of green tomatoes, and some of them are just starting to blush red. And then three days later, it all goes horribly wrong. 

There is nothing more disheartening than to see that all of your ripening tomato beauties (or peppers or squash) are now rotting from the bottom—right on the vine!

What is Blossom-End Rot?

Blossom-end rot looks like a discolored, watery, sunken spot at the blossom end of the fruit, most commonly tomatoes. The spot will start out small, and grow larger and darker as the fruit continues to grow.

Blossom-end rot can quickly cover half the fruit, making it totally inedible. Secondary diseases or mold can also form on the affected areas, overtaking the entire fruit.

Blossom-end rot is more common if you planted in cold soil or when your garden experiences extremes in soil moisture levels—either too dry or too wet.

How to Stop Blossom End Rot

Blossom-end rot is caused by calcium deficiency.

While this may be a result of low calcium levels in the soil, more often than not, it is the result of erratic watering. When the plant is allowed to get too dry, or is given too much water over a period of time, its ability to absorb calcium from the soil is greatly diminished.

If your soil is low in calcium (determined by a soil test) the easiest solution is to add garden lime several times per year, according to the directions on your soil test results.

Over fertilization, especially with high nitrogen fertilizer, can also cause blossom-end rot. Over fertilization can cause such rapid growth that nutrients such as calcium won’t be able to keep up with the growth. Always soil test before fertilization and fertilize according to the results. 

You can also choose varieties of tomato that are resistant to blossom-end rot. Varieties of tomatoes that produce large fruit tend to be more susceptible to blossom-end rot, while varieties with smaller fruit are less likely to suffer it.

Blossom-end rot is much easier to prevent than it is to cure. Once it has set in, it can be really hard to reverse, but there are a few things you can do that have a good chance of turning things around.

Ensure Consistent Water Supply

If the issue is erratic moisture, here are some tips:

1. Make sure your soil isn’t allowed to dry out. The best defense against blossom end rot is a nice, consistent soil moisture level.

2. As the summer rolls on, it is easy to forget to water the garden regularly. If it is hard for you to be consistent, or if you plan to take a vacation, consider installing a drip irrigation system and a timer. Drip irrigation is a major time-saver, affordable, water-wise and an outstanding disease prevention method because it both keeps soil moisture regular and keeps water (and therefore fungus spores) from getting onto the leaves of your crops. (This is the system I use)

3. Mulch. By adding a three-inch layer of organic mulch, you can help maintain adequate soil moisture levels, even during dry spells. It is best to add the mulch after your soil has warmed in the spring.

4. Plant susceptible crops (such as tomatoes, melons, squash, peppers, and eggplants) in well-drained soil that has been amended with compost or well-rotted manure. Soil amended with plenty of organic matter will retain moisture better and supply plenty of nutrition (including calcium) to your plants.

Fortify Your Crops at Planting

In addition to making sure you have consistent moisture levels in your soil, you can fortify your plants when you put them in the ground to make sure they get plenty of calcium throughout the season. 

Many people use garden lime to adjust their garden pH and add calcium at the time of planting. This will treat the entire garden soil. You can also add 2-3 Tums or other calcium carbonate antacid to each planting hole to add extra calcium.

I personally like to use a teaspoon or two of eggshell calcium to each hole as I plant my tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc. This is a great way to use up a common food waste product. Here’s how to make it.

If you already have signs of blossom-end rot, you can add a couple antacid tablets to a glass of milk and water your plants with it daily to help prevent blossom-end rot from destroying more of your crops than it has to. You can also buy calcium sprays at the garden store. These might help turn things around, but aren’t foolproof.

Prevention is really the cure here.

Preventing Blossom End Rot is the Best Cure

Good, fertile soil and consistent watering can make all the difference in stopping this heartbreaking disease before it starts and ruins your crops. Get your soil tested each spring, and amend it accordingly. 

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28 Vegetables That Grow in Partial Shade Thu, 26 Jun 2014 17:37:37 +0000 partial_shade_vegetablesMost food gardening requires a full day of sun to […]

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Most food gardening requires a full day of sun to help your fruits and vegetables to grow and ripen properly. But what if your yard has shady spots? Can you still grow some of your own food?

The answer is YES! There are plenty of vegetables and herbs that can be grown in full shade, dappled shade, or as little as three to six hours of sun a day. Here is a list of 28 vegetables that grow in partial shade.

Partial Sun and Partial Shade Vegetables

On the seed packages in the garden stores and catalogs, you will often see the words “partial sun” or “partial shade.” But what does this mean, exactly?

“Partial Sun” are vegetables that require at least four hours of sunlight per day, but often thrive with less than six hours of direct sunlight. 

“Partial sun” usually means that the plant could still do well with more sun, and “partial shade” often means that the plant would do better with four to six hours as a maximum.

28 Vegetables That Grow in Partial Shade or Partial Sun

Salad Greens – Salad greens like loose leaf lettuce, sorrel, endive, cress and arugula will actually scorch and bolt to seed if they get too much sun all day. If you plant them in partial shade, you might be able to harvest these veggies for a few weeks longer than those with full-sun gardens.

Herbs – Herbs like as mint, chervil, coriander/cilantro and parsley prefer partial shade. In fact, mint is a such a strong plant, even your best attempts to kill it will probably fail. Be sure to grow it in a container so it doesn’t smother everything around it.

Peas and Beans – If your garden area gets at least five hours of sun each day, you might be able to grow some peas and beans. Just be sure to choose bush and dwarf varieties rather than pole varieties. 

Broccoli and Cauliflower – Full sun on broccoli can cause rapid flowering (which ruins the taste), while partial sun encourages tighter heads and slower flowering. Remember that after you cut off the large central head, leave the plant in the ground so smaller heads can form along the stem in the leaf axils. With cauliflower, limiting sunlight to under 6 hours daily means tighter heads of cauliflower.

Cabbage and Brussels sprouts — Brussels sprouts are a cold-tolerant plant, and like most cool-weather plants, they do well with limited sunlight. Although cabbage is broad-leafed, too much sun will dry it out and encourage smaller heads and bigger open leaves.

Radishes – Radishes are fast-growing, easy veggies that fit nicely between your larger plants. They prefer a bit of shade during the heat of summer, when too much heat can cause them to turn woody and bolt to seed.

Leafy Greens – Super nutritious greens like spinach, Swiss chard, collards, mustard greens and kale only need about three or four hours of sun each day to thrive.

Root Vegetables – Beets, carrots, potatoes, rutabaga and turnips will do OK in partial shade, but you’ll have to wait longer for a full crop. But the good news is that less light encourages more root growth than leaf growth. And, don’t forget that with beets and turnips, you can harvest the delicious greens, even if the root stays small.

Leeks and Onions — Leeks and onions thrive in cooler, more moist environments, and need less sun in order to encourage below-ground growth. 

Take Advantage of Shade in the Garden

Knowing more about the sunny and shady places in your yard can help you plant the right crops in the right place.

Pay attention to the way the sun moves through your yard throughout the year. Does your shade come from trees or from buildings and other structures on your property? How does the shade change throughout the day during the spring? How about during the summer, when the days are longer and the sun is higher in the sky? 

You’ll find that even the most sunny garden areas provide some shade, and this is a good thing! Be creative with plant placement and you’ll find that you can create shady areas to improve the conditions your plants prefer.

Tall stalks of corn, for example, can provide partial shade for smaller radishes and peas, while heavy-leafed squash and zucchini plants might provide shade for smaller carrots or turnips.

Be creative, and take advantage of the many yummy crops that will thrive in your shady spots!

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