November 28, 2009

Go Natural with Organic Gardening!

Have you noticed that the "organic" section of your grocery store has grown exponentially in the last few years? This type of food, as it clearly seems, has ceased to be a fad of hippies and environmental nuts. Organic foods are everywhere and you can find them alongside other vegetables and fruits in your local stores and markets. So how about the vegetables and fruits you grow at home? Have you made the leap to this source of healthy food yet or do you still have a lot of pesticides on your garden shelf? Let’s take a look at how you can transform your regular garden into a delight of organic vegetables. It doesn’t take much and you won’t have as many problems with insects or poor soil as you thought. Organic gardens are different from regular gardens in the way that the plants are fertilized and in the way that pests are controlled in the garden. True professionals use only natural products and materials and shy away from any synthetic materials that could be harmful to the environment or to those who consume the produce. Just like conventional gardens, and perhaps a bit more so, organic gardens take a great deal of work. You may need to plan for a few healthy meals when the vegetable or fruit is in season and leave it at that. On the other hand, an organic farmer may decide to can their vegetables or otherwise store them for when they are longer in season. Clearly, a bigger garden is in store in that situation. Make sure your garden has a steady water supply and that the soil drains well into the ground. Remember that organic fertilizers and conditioners work more slowly than the synthetic variety so mix up the soil with your fertilizer at least three weeks before you actually plant. Make sure you remove any organic materials that haven’t rotted yet and any weeds or unwanted plants. Fertilizers usually mean using animal manures, plant manures, compost or a mixture of different types of organic fertilizers. Some parts of the world rely on human waste but, generally, that’s not recommended. Your organic fertilizer will remove the hardness of the soil and improve its overall condition. The soil will be able to hold both water and nutrients much better after fertilizing it. In addition, organic fertilizer buffers the soil so it is more stable to extremes of acidity or alkalinity. In many cases, the microbiology of the soil improves and the added nutrients will gradually release themselves as the plants grow. Organic plant fertilizer will add healthy nitrogen to the soil in a process called “nitrification”. Nitrogen is a necessary nutrient for the growth of most gardens—even conventional ones. Compost piles help organic gardens by improving the usable nitrogen component of the soil. Animal manures make for the best type of fertilizer for the average organic garden. It needs to have been aged for at least 30 days to make the nitrogen more usable. The manure varies depending on the type of the animal, the way the animal was fed and even the condition of the animal. After letting the soil rest with the animal manure, you’re ready to plant and grow the healthiest garden possible.

November 03, 2009

Obama: tap oil reserve to help gas prices

LANSING, Mich. - In a reversal, Barack Obama is proposing the government sell 70 million barrels of oil from its strategic petroleum stockpiles. The Illinois Democrat says releases from the reserve in the past have lowered gas prices within two weeks. THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP‘s earlier story is below. Obama supports releasing light oil from the emergency oil stockpile now and replacing it later with heavier crude more suited to the country‘s long-term needs, according to a campaign fact sheet. Light crude oil is easier to refine into gasoline than heavier oil. "After one president in the pocket of big oil we can‘t afford another," says the ad, referring to President Bush‘s previous work in the oil industry. In the past, Obama has not advocated tapping the oil reserve, but campaign spokeswoman Heather Zichal said he has reconsidered. "He recognizes that Americans are suffering," she said. Obama‘s call for using the government reserve mirrors a proposal that has been pushed by congressional Democrats, but opposed by Republican leaders and the White House. Both candidates have energy proposals to reduce U.S. dependence on oil. Obama‘s was first, and its centerpiece is a 10-year, $150 billion spending plan focusing on clean coal technology, further development of plug-in hybrid cars, commercialization of wind and solar power and other measures. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is capable of releasing about 4 million barrels a day. It‘s unclear what impact such release might have on global oil prices, or costs of gasoline at the pump. But a clear signal by the United States to use its emergency reserve to a significant extent could put downward pressure on oil markets at least for a time, energy experts say. The new Obama ad trumpets his proposal to revive a windfall profits tax on energy companies and asserts that McCain favors tax breaks for the oil industry. "A windfall profits tax on big oil to give families a thousand-dollar rebate," an announcer in the ad says. Obama has pushed for such a tax to fund $1,000 emergency rebate checks for consumers besieged by high energy costs. Congress enacted a windfall profits tax in 1980, during an earlier era of high oil prices, but repealed it in 1988 amid concerns the tax was discouraging domestic oil development. Last year, the House approved $18 billion in new taxes on the largest oil companies, but they were blocked by Republicans in the Senate. The new ad opens with a driver pumping gas. The announcer says, "Every time you fill your tank, the oil companies fill their pockets." Republicans were quick to pounce. "Barack Obama‘s latest attack ads shows his celebrity is matched only by his hypocrisy," said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds. "After all it was Senator Obama, not John McCain, who voted for the Bush-Cheney energy bill that was a sweetheart deal for oil companies. Also not mentioned is the $400,000 from big oil contributors that Barack Obama has already pocketed in this election." Obama said Friday that he would reluctantly consider accepting some new offshore oil drilling. Obama previously opposed any offshore drilling. He praised a plan unveiled by a group of Republican and Democratic senators to permit limited drilling off Southern states while supporting an effort to convert most vehicles to alternative fuels in 20 years. McCain‘s campaign accused the Democrat of flip-flopping. However, the Arizona Democrat only recently reversed his own former opposition to drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf. Separately, about 20 House Republicans cut short their August vacations Monday, gathering on the House floor to protest Democratic energy policy and demand that Pelosi call the House back into session so they can vote on an energy package, including GOP demands for more domestic drilling. It was a repeat of last Friday‘s protest when Republicans refused to leave the floor after the House officially adjourned for the summer break. ___ Associated Press Writer Jim Abrams in Washington contributed to this report.