Kale

How to Make Kale Chips (With Recipes & Flavoring Tips)

We hear about many food crazes and diets all the time. Let’s face it. Every time a new food is introduced to the world, restaurants, food critics, television chefs and celebrities go out of their way to talk about the food as they try to show us the infinite possibilities there are for turning an otherwise boring ingredient into something special.

That’s probably the case with kale.

A few years ago, no one ever talked about this green leafy vegetable. Now you see it everywhere. High-end restaurants are finding ways to elevate it from its former role as a garnish on food trays and salad bars. Grocery stores are selling packaged salads that use kale, bags of washed kale, and bunches of kale. It’s even on the shelves of Walmart Supercenters and other discount stores. It’s also become a critical addition to the growing movement that encourages embracing ingredients that go from the farm to your table.

According to a May 2014 news report from Bloomberg, between 2007 and 2012, the number of farms that grow kale in the United States has more than doubled.

How Did Kale Become So Popular?

It’s long been known that kale is healthy for you. But, the popularity of the cruciferous vegetable has skyrocketed in recent years. The story behind this rise is a curious tale.

Fresh Kale

As the story goes, in the year 2013, a New York PR agent and self-proclaimed “punk-at-heart,” Oberon Sinclair, concocted a scheme to get people to believe that the American Kale Association hired a publicist to help desperate farmers who were growing kale while spreading the word about this dark green cruciferous vegetable throughout New York City.

After all, when you want to turn something into a trend, you go to New York to announce it to the world, right?

It’s hard to know whether people believed this story because let’s face it, no self-respecting foodie would ever admit that they’d been conned into believing that the American Kale Association (AKA) launched a campaign to promote the wonders of kale. Especially considering that the American Kale Association did not exist when Sinclair launched her campaign.

Whether or not the American Kale Association actually existed at that particular time, has become somewhat of a moot point. It exists now, and has carried on with the original “kale-awareness” campaign.

However, it must be noted that prior to the curious PR campaign launched by Sinclair, there was another organization already on this precise mission. Founded one year before the curious PR campaign referenced above, the National Kale Day Organization was created with the same vision: To educate people about the nutritional value of kale and helping people learn about different ways to cook, use and eat it.

Cruciferous vegetables are healthy. They are full of vital nutrients. Variety is also good. So if you’re looking for a way to add variety to your diet, include more healthy leafy greens, and eat more vegetables, you might want to consider trying kale. Raw kale can be bitter. But there are other ways to use it. It’s a delicious addition to soup, and if you’re used to sauteing spinach, Swiss chard, mustard, turnip or collard greens, you can add kale to your gustatory library.


Bunch of Kale

How to Select the Best Kale

Before you start the process of making kale chips, you have to buy the vegetable itself. You have a few options to choose from.

Fresh & Raw

You can find fresh bunches of kale in the produce section, typically stocked alongside other cruciferous vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, lettuce and cauliflower. The key is to get a bunch of kale where all the leaves are dark green and crisp looking.

Starting at the end of summer through winter, you’ll notice the selection and overall price of kale become more competitive, as they are in season.

Organic & Locally-Grown:

If possible, try to buy organic kale that is locally-grown. The Environmental Working Group includes kale on its list of produce items that contain pesticide residue.

Bagged Kale:

If you’re short on time, bagged kale is a good option. Already chopped and washed, the bagged option will save you time. However, this added convenience comes with its own set of pros and cons. Not only do the bags tend to be more expensive, you also sacrifice the ability to hand-pick the bunches you believe would be the best.


How to Prepare Your Kale

Now that you have the kale bought and ready to go, it’s time to prep.

Cleaning:

Before you start, it is strongly recommended that you thoroughly wash all of your produce before cooking with or consuming. This is especially true with kale, as the leaves are often covered with dirt and other loose materials.

Kale

Remove Stems:

Use a herb stripper (if you have one) to remove the stems. Don’t skip this step. Kale stems are tough, and they’ll take much longer to cook. You’ll risk burning your kale leaves if you don’t remove the thick stems.

Tear the Leaves:

Tear each leaf into pieces. The size of your pieces should be comparable to that of a potato chip or tortilla chip. Don’t go to a lot of trouble to make sure that each piece you tear is the same size. That’s not necessary.

Remove Excess Water:

Now that your kale leaves have been torn into smaller chip-size pieces, you’ll want to remove the excess water. A salad spinner is a fantastic tool to help you with this. If you don’t have a salad spinner, give each piece a little shake and the water will roll off.




How to Bake Kale in the Oven

You’ll want to lay your kale pieces in a single layer on a flat baking sheet. If you intend to add salt, spices or herbs for flavor, a small amount of oil will catch the seasoning. Fill a half a tablespoon with extra virgin olive oil. Spread it on the baking sheet and rub each torn piece of kale into the oil, making sure to massage the oil into both sides.

Some recipes recommend using coconut oil. For kale chips, since you’ll be baking them in an oven that’s moderately hot, you won’t have to worry about whether the oil is safe for high heat.

If you line your baking sheet with a piece of parchment, clean up will be easier. You also won’t have to worry about whether anything sticks to the pan.

You don’t have to use a dehydrator to make kale chips. The oven is a fantastic alternative because you can turn the baking sheet during the drying and baking process.




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Recipes recommend oven temperatures but expect to adjust the temperature because of variations in different oven brands and heating methods. Turn the baking sheet periodically during the cooking process to make sure that every piece of kale cooks evenly.

Supplies & Ingredients You’ll Need:

  • Parchment Paper
  • An oven thermometer
  • Baking Sheets
  • Herb stripper or sharp knife to remove tough stems
  • Colander and Salad Spinner
  • Large bowl
  • High quality unrefined and unprocessed oil
  • Sea salt

Tips to Baking Kale Chips:

  1. Be sure you get rid of all of the loose dirt on every kale leaf. Consider using a commercial vegetable cleaning spray to help you remove excess chemical residues and grime.
  2. When you tear up your kale leaves into chip size pieces, take time to tear each leaf so that you remove the woody stem that goes through the center of the leaves. Getting rid of every part of the hard stalks will ensure that every piece of kale gets thoroughly cooked.

Be sure you put your oven thermometer in the oven before turning it on to preheat it.

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t make a perfect batch of kale chips the first time. There are often huge variations in cooking times and temperatures depending on the type of oven you’re using, your location and other environmental circumstances. Consequently, you may need to make several batches of chips before you figure out what oven temperature and the length of time it takes to get your chips as crisp as you like them.

Another thing to consider is that you may want to bake your kale pieces at a lower temperature if you’re topping your chips with herbs, seasonings or other flavorings. A lower oven temperature will force you to keep the chips in the oven longer to get them to the desired crispiness. It may also be effective at infusing your chips with more of the flavor you’re adding to them, thereby allowing you to create an unusual, creative, and flavor-packed snack treat.


Kale Chips

A Starter Recipe for Kale Chips

As you’ll soon find out, there is no limit to the flavor combinations that you can come up with to make your own healthy and delicious kale chips. Regardless of the flavors you add, there are two essential ingredients you’ll need to use no matter what else you decide to add.

You’ll need to add some salt to the kale because the salt is critical to drawing excess water out of the kale leaves. You’ll also need to use some type of high-quality extra virgin, first cold-pressed oil. Since you aren’t going to be baking the chips in a hot oven, you can use any kind of oil that tolerates low-to-medium heat. The first cold-pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil is probably the most common type of oil used for making homemade vegetable chips. Grapeseed, unrefined sesame or coconut oils are also options.

How to Make Flavored Kale Chips

There are all sorts of flavors and flavor combinations you can use to create different variations on the traditional kale chip.

How to Make Kale Chips

Regardless of the ingredients with which you intend to flavor your chips, don’t forget that you’ll need to use a small amount of oil as a way of ensuring that each piece of kale gets evenly coated with the herb, spice, condiment or flavor.

Unless you want your kale chips to absorb the flavor of the oil you’re using, you will want to use the purest, mildest, and least flavorful oil you can. Also, remember that temperature isn’t a concern since you’ll be cooking your flavored chips at a lower temperature than you use for the plain chips.

Flavor Combinations to Spice Up Your Kale

If you’re used to snacking on corn or potato chips and have a favorite variety, there’s no reason you can’t try to replicate the taste of that chip on kale. The result will be a healthier version of a snack treat you already like.

1. Salt and Vinegar

This may be a tricky taste combination to try to use with kale. Oil is necessary to get the salt to stick to the kale pieces. If you try to use oil and vinegar, you may wind up with something that tastes more like a wilted salad that’s dressed with oil and vinegar dressing.




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How to Add Flavor:

To make this flavor combination work, try soaking your kale leaves in the vinegar for a few minutes. That short “soak” will give your kale the necessary infusion of vinegar for the taste combination that’s so popular with potato chips. You’ll still need to coat each piece of kale with the salt and oil mixture.

Baking Instructions:
  1. Lay the coated pieces of kale on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Don’t let any of the pieces touch or overlap.
  2. Cook the chips at a low temperature of around 250-275 degrees.
  3. Bake the chips for 25 minutes and check them to see if they are drying out and getting crisp.
  4. You may need to rotate your baking sheets every 25 minutes or so to make sure that every chip cooks evenly.

Keep checking on the baking sheets to make sure that nothing is burning. Once you’re sure that the chips are fully cooked, remove them from the oven. You can leave them on the baking sheet to cool. As they cool, you’ll see that they become even crispier.

Dehydrated Onion Flakes:

Dehydrated onion flakes are easy to find in the spice section of your favorite grocery store. If you love the taste of onion, and would like to add that flavor to your kale chips, dehydrated onion flakes are going to be a great option for you. Plus, give your kale chips an extra crunch.

Follow the instructions listed above for removing the thick stems on each leaf. Then tear all of the leaves into chip-size pieces.

How to Add Flavor:

Add a couple of tablespoons of high-quality extra-virgin “First Cold” pressed olive oil to a large bowl. Add enough onion flakes to cover all of the kale pieces evenly. Use your hands to massage the oil and onion flake mixture into the bowl full of torn kale leaves.

Baking Instructions:
  1. Line your baking sheets with pieces of parchment paper.
  2. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.
  3. Carefully lay all of the kale pieces out on the baking sheets, making sure that there is space between each piece.
Plate of Kale

Because you’re baking your kale chips at a lower oven temperature to allow the oil and onion flake flavors penetrate each of the kale pieces, you will need to cook your chips for twice as long as it takes to make kale chips with no added flavoring.

Garlic or Onion-Powder:

If you ever make popcorn at home, you may have learned about the delicious taste of garlic and onion-flavored popcorn. Garlic and onion powder are also excellent flavor enhancers to add to kale chips. This is especially true for anyone looking to introduce finicky family members to a healthier alternative to calorie and salt-laden junk food.

Adding Flavor & Baking Instructions:
  1. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to a large bowl.
  2. Add your kale pieces and use your hands to make sure that every kale piece is evenly coated with the olive oil.
  3. Arrange the kale pieces so that every piece lays flat on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
  4. Sprinkle your garlic or onion powder, or a little of each over the entire baking sheet, making sure that an even coat of powder covers every piece of kale.
  5. Place your baking sheets into a preheated 250-degree oven.
  6. Set an oven timer for 25 minutes.
  7. Rotate the baking sheets to ensure that all of your chips get as crisp as you like them.

Other Spices, Additives & Flavor-Enhancers

Here are a few more options for adding flavor and spices to your homemade kale chips.

  • Sriracha — If you like to add heat to your food, you might want to brush your kale chips with Sriracha sauce before you bake them.
  • Red Pepper Flakes — These add zesty heat and will stick to kale leaves that are coated with oil.
  • Chili & Taco Seasoning — This will give your kale chips a bit of spicy Mexican flavor.
  • Smokey — For an added smokey taste, consider sprinkling ground chipotle peppers or smoked paprika over your oil-coated kale pieces.
  • BBQ — If you like the taste of barbecue-flavored chips, sprinkle your oil-rubbed kale pieces with a barbecue spice mixture or dry rub.
  • Parmesan Cheese — For a cheesy taste, sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over oil-covered kale pieces.
  • Brewer’s Yeast — This tastes great on popcorn. Capture that distinctive taste by sprinkling an even coating of brewer’s yeast over oil-saturated kale leaves.
  • Chocolate — If you’re the total chocoholic and go to every extreme to get your chocolate fix, consider sprinkling grated chocolate on oil-covered kale leaves. Use a mild or flavorless oil like coconut oil, so the oil doesn’t overpower the additive. You can use bittersweet chocolate to give your kale chips a savory chocolatey taste.

Final Thoughts To Keep In Mind

Here’s a few parting thoughts to keep in mind as you try your hand at homemade kale chips.

  • Be sure you have fresh, crisp kale leaves. If you’re buying kale by the bunch, be certain you remove the thick, hard stems and massage all of the leaves as you wash them. Use your hands to remove embedded sand, dirt and debris. This may seem like a time-consuming process, but your kale chips will be inedible unless you remove all of the ground in dirt.
  • Use a cooking timer to remind you to check on the progress of your chips. An oven thermometer allows you to monitor your oven temperature to ensure that it is consistent. Some electric ovens have less than consistent thermostats.
  • Don’t try to bake all of your chips at once. Use one oven rack. If your rack only holds one or two baking sheets at once, plan to cook your chips in batches.
  • Don’t prepare your kale leaves until you’re going to cook them. Kale is full of water, and it wilts and gets soggy very quickly.

Kale is a fantastically healthy and inexpensive fall and winter vegetable. It’s also fun to create new chip recipes by adding herbs, seasonings, and other flavor enhancers so you can enjoy different versions of your newfound healthy snack treat. Pack a bag full of kale chips to take to work or to add to your children’s school lunches.

Beaucarnea recurvata

How to Grow a Ponytail Palm

As one of the most popular houseplants found in homes all around the world, the Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) is one of the easiest to grow and require very little maintenance by their owners. If you’re looking to add a splash of charm into your home, but don’t want to put much time or thought into it, then this tropical houseplant may just be the perfect choice for you.

Originating from the arid landscapes of Mexico, the name Ponytail “palm” is a bit of a misnomer. While the bulbous trunk indeed had some similarities to the trunks of other palm trees, the Beaucarnea recurvata is actually a drought-resistant succulent. And that bulbous trunk is where the plant stores its water.

Ponytail Palm

How to Care for Ponytail Palm

Ponytail palms are one of the easiest houseplants to care for.

They require little water, love lots of light, you don’t have to fertilize often, and they have the ability to adapt to the comfortable temperatures often found in homes. The downside of growing a ponytail palm inside your home is the incredible slow pace in which they grow.

As long as you don’t over-water it, you probably won’t kill it. It’s pretty much that simple.

However, if you want your plant to grow tall, thrive and be healthy, there are some easy guidelines you can follow to help you provide the best care for your ponytail palm.

Botanical Info

Latin Name Beaucarnea recurvata
Plant Family Asparagaceae
Genus Beaucarnea
Common Names Ponytail Palm, Elephant Foot Palm, Bottle Palm, Nolina Palm
Origin Mexico, South America
USDA Zone 10 – 11

Growing Conditions

Water Once every ~10 days.
Light Bright & full exposure to sun.
Soil Cactus potting soil.
Fertilize Once a month. Diluted liquid fertilizer.
Temperature Warm. Keep above 55°F.  
Humidity Adaptable. Not too low.  
Maintenance Easy to care for.  
Grow Inside? Yes
Grow Outside? Yes. Best in USDA Zone 10 – 11
Safe for Pets? Yes. But, care should be taken.
Container Size Depends on how large you want it to grow.  

7 Common Questions About Ponytail Palms

To help ensure that you’re providing to proper care for your ponytail palm, we have listed out the most frequently asked questions down below. If you have a question that you don’t see listed or would like to add additional feedback for others to learn from, please leave it down in the comment section below.

1. How often do you water a ponytail palm?

Not often, but the frequency depends largely on the environment you’re growing it in. Below, we have some general guidelines to watering a ponytail palm, but the best advice is to give it a drink of water when you see the soil start to dry.

  • During Hotter Months — You’ll want to water your ponytail palm plant once every 7-10 days.
  • During Cooler Months — You’ll want to slow down the watering schedule to once every 20-30 days.

If you don’t abide to that precise schedule, don’t fret. This plant is great at surviving long periods without water. But, if you want a healthy plant that grows to its fullest, you should try to follow the watering guidelines listed above.

Remember: The easiest way to kill a ponytail palm is by over-watering. Less is more.




2. How much light does it need?

Ponytail palms love lots of light. Remember, this plant is native to arid deserts, so full exposure to the sun will be appreciated by this plant. However, while full exposure is recommended, ponytail palms are adaptable to little or moderate amounts of light.

The downside of less light exposure is that you’ll see a noticeable slow down in its growth. And for an already slow-growing houseplant, this may just completely stunt it.

So, if you want your ponytail palm to grow tall, give it lots of light.

3. How often should I fertilize a ponytail palm?

Depends on the season and environment you’re growing your ponytail plant in. A general guideline is to fertilize your plant once every 3 or 4 weeks. If you see the tips of the leaves start to turn brown, then you’re using too much fertilizer.

  • Spring & Summer — Add fertilizer once every 2 or 3 weeks.
  • Fall & Winter — Add fertilizer once every 4 to 6 weeks.

Adding fertilizer is essential to the overall health of houseplants, and Beaucarnea recurvata is no different. Liquid fertilizers are recommended for ponytail palms, but granular fertilizers will also suffice. An all-purpose fertilizer will work fine here, but you can also consider using one formulated for cactus and other succulents.

4. What kind of soil should I use?

The best type of soil for this plant is one that drains quickly. Unlike many popular tropical houseplants, the last thing the ponytail palm wants is to sit around in moist soil for an extended period of time.

When you repot or transplant, it is recommended that you use a soil designed for cactus or succulents. If you want to make your own soil mixture, keep it light on the amount of peat you use within.

Remember: Keep the soil dry, and water sparingly.

5. Is repotting possible with a ponytail palm?

Yes, repotting a ponytail palm is possible and easy to do, but precautions should be made before you undertake this effort.

  • Size Matters — First, consider how large the tree is, and where you’re going to be moving it to. Larger plants will likely require more help from others, as well as a few other tools or equipment to assist in the transplant. On the flip side, if you’re repotting a small bonsai ponytail palm, then you likely won’t need any help or special tools.
  • Do In Spring — It is recommended that repot your ponytail palm early in the growing season, as this gives it plenty of time to adjust to the larger pot and form strong roots.
  • Examine the Roots — Once you have it out of the original container, take a close look at the roots of your plant. Look for any signs of bugs, rotted areas, or anything that looks injured or contaminated. Cut these off before you repot in new container.

Keep in mind: Transplanting it to a larger pot will encourage the plant to grow larger. This may be a deal-breaker for anyone growing a bonsai palm.

6. Is this plant safe for pets?

According to the ASPCA, the ponytail palm does not pose any toxicity threats to dogs or cats.

However, every homeowner with pets should know, and possibly take precautions if deemed necessary, that the leaves of the Beaucarnea recurvata contain saponin which may cause discomfort in some animals if ingested. So, while it’s unlikely that any harm will come to your dog or cat, it may be wise to keep an eye on them and ensure that they are not eating or chewing on the leaves.

It’s also worth noting that saponins are found in many popular houseplants, not just the ponytail palm. They also pose no danger to humans. In fact, saponin is found in many dietary supplements and are suggested to have some nutritional benefits.

7. Can you grow a ponytail palm outside?

Yes, but it’s recommended that you live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 10 or 11 if you want your plant to thrive. The sandy soil and hotter temperatures create an ideal environment for growing the ponytail palm outside.


Wasp

How to Get Rid of Wasps & Hornets Around Your Home

Wasps. The winged menace that take over patios and gardens all around the world. The evil cousin of the honey bee that fears no human.

Well, that’s their reputation, but an obvious exaggeration.

For the most part, wasps, hornets and yellow jackets generally try to avoid human interactions. Regardless, very few homeowners welcome the spring invasion of nests. It’s always preferable to ensure that these insects are kept away, especially if their nest is near a doorway or other area that increases your chances of crossing paths.

With this in mind, let’s discuss some methods that every homeowner should know to get rid of wasps, create an unwelcome environment, and, most importantly, help you avoid getting stung.

How to Keep Wasps Away From Your House

Like many other insects in your garden, wasps are going to go where they believe food is. So, if you want to limit the amount of wasps living near your home, then you need to attempt to limit their food source. This means ensuring that no food is left out in the open. Especially, sugar sweets and fruit.

During the summer, you may enjoy having a meal in your backyard. All that food can be rather enticing for wasps, yellow jackets and other insects. That is especially true if you have anything sweet in the vicinity such as an open can of soda or juice box. Always cover your drinks if you are outside.

Citronella Plant

Grow Plants That Wasps Don’t Like

A great way to prevent wasps from living around your home is to grow plants that will deter them. This is an ideal solution for homeowners that want to keep wasps at bay, while also adding beauty to their yard.

Generally, wasps do not go near the following plants:

  • Citronella
  • Mint
  • Eucalyptus
  • Wormwood

Incorporating these plants into your landscaping will help create an environment that wasps and hornets do not like. Therefore, they will likely look for another location to build their nest.

Bonus: A few of these plants also repel other pesky insects, such as mosquitoes.

Maintain Your Fruit Trees

Additionally, you want to be mindful if you have any fruit trees in your yard. Throughout the year, a piece of fruit may fall off and smash to the ground. With all the sweet juices now in the open, it can attract certain pests, including wasps.

Try not to make the area more appealing than it needs to be. Regularly inspect underneath your fruit trees and remove any pieces of fruit as soon as they hit the ground.

Create & Hang a Fake Nest

Wasp colonies are incredibly territorial. If wasps believe there is another colony already living in the area, then they are likely going to look elsewhere to make a home.

Hornet Nest

There are a couple of ways to accomplish this. The easiest method would be to buy a fake nest online. Or, you can make a fake nest with a brown paper bag.

How to make a fake wasp nest:

  1. Fill your brown paper bag with crumpled newspaper or debris.
  2. Close off the opening with sting or tape.
  3. Crumple the bag a little bit, to give it the appearance of a hornets nest.
  4. Hang it in the area where you don’t want wasps buzzing around.

This is a great way to deter wasps, as they will not want a confrontation with other colonies already living in the area.

Other Ways to Prevent Wasps From Living Near Your Home

While the food source is going to be the best method, there are a few other ways you can deter wasps and yellow jackets from living around your home.

  • Seal Cracks, Window Frames & Entry Points:

    Before summer comes around, you should thoroughly inspect your house to see if there are any cracks or other entry points in the siding. You should also inspect door and window frames to make sure there are no areas for wasps to get into.

  • Sweet Perfume:

    You also want to avoid wearing any sweet perfume during the summer. The scent you are emitting can attract the pests.

  • Bright Clothes:

    Finally, avoid wearing clothing that contains flower imagery or is generally bright. That can catch wasps’ attention, and they may curiously come to you to see if you are actually a flower.

TL;DR — If you do not give wasps a reason to buzz around your property, then they are probably going to go elsewhere and leave you alone.


General Tips to Removing a Nest

If you decide you want to get rid of a wasp nest on your own, then it would be wise to understand and follow these general tips.

Wasp Nest
  • Wear Protective Equipment:

    Keep yourself safe by wearing long sleeves, protective eyewear, and gloves. If you have a bee hat, that would be ideal. But, most homeowners will not have these.

  • Neutralize at Night:

    To ensure you kill the entire colony, as well as the queen, it is recommended that you exterminate the nest at dusk or night. Not only are wasps and hornets less aggressive at this time, but the entire colony will be back in the nest for the night.

  • Locate & Target the Opening:

    If possible, try to locate the opening of the nest. This will usually be located near the bottom. Spray your soapy water or pesticide in this area first, and then target the rest.

  • Do Not Stand Below the Nest:

    Most wasps and hornets will fall the moment they get sprayed. Because of this, you should not stand directly below the nest, unless you want to be exposed to chemicals or get stung by falling wasps.


4 Methods to Kill & Remove Wasps

In the event that you notice wasps, hornets or yellow jackets buzzing around your home, then your already beyond prevention. You’ll need to find a way to remove them.

The easy way would be to simply spray them with pesticide. But, do you really want to spend money to spray a poisonous substance around your home? Instead, try using a few of these tips to help you get rid of wasps naturally.

1) Spray With Soapy Water

An easy, DIY alternative to spraying pesticide is to create a solution of dish soap and hot water. Spray this onto the nest. This is the recommended first step that every homeowner should try. This will kill the wasps naturally and, most of the time, instantaneously.

How to Make:

  1. Mix solution in a spray bottle.
  2. For every cup of hot water, you’ll want to add 2-3 oz of dish soap.
  3. Shake vigorously.
  4. Spray directly onto nest while the water is still hot.
  5. Run.

Stay mindful of your escape route. Once you apply the soapy water, it is likely that you will agitate the hornet nest and they may try to attack. You could also try mixing in other detergents that are around your home.

Benefits:

  • Safe for all occupants and pets.
  • Cheap and easy to make.
  • Likely, you already have all supplies.
How to Get Rid of Hornets Nest

2) Suck Them Up With A Vacuum

Another easy way to remove wasps are to suck them into your vacuum cleaner. Most homeowners have a vacuum in their home, making this a zero cost way to remove adult insects.

Simply use the attachment hose, get close to the nest and turn it on. This will suck the adult wasps into the vacuum, containing them in an area where they pose no risk to you. Of course, this means you have to be brave enough to get close to the nest.

Benefits:

  • Costs nothing.

Disadvantages:

  • Need to get close to the nest, and are more likely to get stung.
  • You still need to destroy the nest.

3) Set Up Traps

If you don’t want to go near a nest and risk getting stung, you should consider setting up a few traps. There are a variety of different traps that will work.

You will want to hang these traps in areas where you, your family and your guests are not going near.

These traps consist of sweet-smelling solutions so wasps and other pests go to it and end up getting stuck. You can purchase wasp nests or make your own if you want to make it a DIY project.

  • Glue Trap — Widely available online and at many retailers, this type of trap is covered in sticky adhesive that makes it difficult, if not entirely impossible, for wasps to fly away after they’ve landed on it. While an effective method, this type of trap is often criticized due to its ability to trap other insects and the slow nature in which they die.
  • Bait & Lure Trap — Another trap you can use is a bait and lure trap. There are many versions available, including a few you can make yourself, but they all essentially accomplish the same task: Use bait to lure a wasp into the trap, where they are unable to escape.

How to Make Your Own Wasp Trap

  1. Cut the top off of a plastic 2-liter bottle.
  2. Fill the bottom part with sugary water.
  3. Turn the top part upside down, with the bottle top pointing downward.
  4. This configuration makes it difficult for a wasp to fly out.

4) Spray Nest With Insecticide

If the above methods fail or you just prefer to start with a commercial insecticide, here are some general tips you should know before you buy.

  • Active Ingredient:

    It’s important that you get an pyrethrin or pyrethroid insecticide. The EPA has tested and determined that these “do not pose risk concerns for children or adults.”

  • Look Closely at the Label:

    The words on the label are important. If you’re trying to kill wasps or hornets, make sure to buy an insecticide that is specially formulated for these pests. These will typically have “WASP” prominently displayed.

  • Caution vs. Warning:

    Another important factor are the “signal words” on the label. Insecticides labeled with “Caution” are going to pose less of a risk to humans than those labeled with “Warning.” Either way, they’re both toxic. With this in mind, you should always exercise caution and take measures to protect yourself while using any insecticide.


Final Thoughts

Keep in mind: Simply knocking down a nest is not a complete solution. The remaining wasps will build a new one.

These are a few of the tips to get rid of wasps around your home. However, despite your best efforts, the day may come when you get stung. Clean the site immediately when this occurs. You may need to apply some antihistamine if it begins to hurt. In the event you have an allergic reaction to a wasp sting, you need to seek medical attention immediately.

Water Quality

How to Test the Quality of Your Drinking Water

The majority of homeowners in the United States get their drinking water from public water treatment facilities, and we tend to accept without question that the water that flows from our taps is clean and safe to drink.

But is it?

Americans use thousands of different chemicals every day. Unbeknownst to us, many of these substances ends up in our lakes, rivers and aquifers. These may include pesticides, pharmaceuticals, solvents, weed killers, cleaning agents, you name it — all of these contaminants eventually finds its way into our water supply.

How Does Our Water Become Contaminated?

The contaminants that degrade the water quality come from a number of sources. Some of it gets there from people dumping it down their toilets, while other chemicals show up thanks to runoff from farms or mining, leaching from landfills, or improper storage and disposal at manufacturing plants. In addition to the chemicals, many of our waterways are filled with harmful bacteria, such as E. coli.

Some of these contaminants get removed during sewage treatment procedures, but others find their way into the waterways around our homes. It’s up to our water treatment facilities to properly process the water, removing all toxins to make it safe for us to drink before piping it to our homes.

Water Contamination

Is Your Drinking Water Safe?

The Environmental Protection Agency regulates a number of harmful substances, such as uranium, lead, and arsenic. For each of these, the EPA sets a Maximum Contaminant Level indicating at what concentration these chemicals and minerals can exist in our drinking water before it is considered unsafe to drink.

Each summer, the EPA issues a report for most municipal water systems in the country. These Consumer Confidence Reports (CCR) can be searched on the EPA’s website.

In the CCR, at minimum you can expect to find the following information:

  • The source of your drinking water.
  • A discussion of the general risks of contamination.
  • A list of regulated contaminants and their levels in the water at the time of testing.
  • Possible health risks from these contaminants found in excess of EPA standards.
  • What your local water treatment facility is doing to correct any problems.

The Downside of the EPA’s Annual Water Quality Report

While these reports are a great resource that provide a high-level overview of what’s in the pipes in your home, they cannot reliably provide a complete picture of your water quality.

EPA Water

For the reports, water is tested only once or twice a year and contaminant levels are averaged out across 12 months. Contamination can occur outside of testing periods, or there can be occasional spikes in certain contaminants that exceed EPA regulations, and these issues may not be captured in the report. Furthermore, it’s possible for your water to become contaminated after it leaves the treatment facility.

Contaminants Not Measured by the EPA

As another point of concern, just a few of the chemicals that can be found in our drinking water are measured or regulated by the EPA. Independent water testing laboratories confirm a wide variety of contaminants that may be found in our water supplies. In water samples taken from across the country, these labs have discovered measurable quantities of contaminants as varied as antidepressant medications, artificial hormones and gasoline additives.

The EPA doesn’t regulate most of these chemicals in our drinking water. Although most will only occur in trace amounts, there’s no way to know what the chemical cocktail might be doing to our health. Most of these unmeasured contaminants have no taste or color and pass through our water and into our bodies undetected. While many of these substances may be harmless in and of themselves, there are few studies to suggest what these different chemicals might do in combination with others.


When Should You Get Your Water Tested?

The EPA recommends you test your water annually to get a sense for what you may be drinking and if there are changes over time. In addition to yearly water tests, some of the things that should prompt you to test your tap water immediately include:

Water Quality Testing
  • Recurring stomach or digestive issues: This may be a sign of bacterial contamination.
  • Cloudy, frothy, discolored or smelly water: This can be caused by a number of contaminants.
  • Living in an older home: Aging plumbing may leach copper and lead into the drinking water.
  • Red or rust-colored stains on your sink or clothing: This is a sign that your water has high levels of iron or other minerals.
  • Nearby coal, gas or agricultural activities, especially fracking: These industrial areas may lead to pesticides, herbicides or solvents leaching into your water.
  • Living close to landfills, gas stations, industrial plants, dry cleaners: Many substances can leach into the ground and, possibly, contaminate local water supplies.

For a more comprehensive list, the EPA offers this handy chart (PDF) that can help you determine when you might want to test your water, with symptoms that can occur with certain contaminants.


How to Find Out What’s in Your Water

If you’re experiencing any signs that indicate something could be in your water, or if you want to test your water for your own peace of mind, you have a few options to choose from. The cost and accuracy will vary, so it’s important to do some research on your options prior to investing.

Sending Samples to a Testing Lab

There are many professional water testing labs that can provide extensive testing on water samples you provide. They send you a kit and instructions on how to collect water samples, and then you send the samples to the lab for evaluation.

How to Test Water Quality

Generally you can choose which kinds of tests these labs will perform, from testing for common contaminants to specialized tests for radon, uranium or other substances depending on your location and personal concerns.

These labs provide tests for tap water from both water from city treatment plants and well water, so they’re a good option for the majority of homeowners. The least expensive tests run about $50 and the most extensive ones can cost over $400, so it’s a good idea to know what you’re looking for before purchasing a test kit.

Is a DIY Water Testing Kit Worth the Cost?

Those costs may seem exorbitant, and you do have other options. There are inexpensive home testing kits you can purchase from home improvement stores and online merchants. These kits purport to test for bacteria, lead, pesticides, chlorine, nitrates and nitrites, and can also tell you the hardness and pH of your water.

These kits may seem like a great way to check your water quality and identify potential problems, but they cannot test for all contaminants, including fluoride and glyphosate. They are also far less reliable than laboratory tests, so the results should be taken with a grain of salt.

Do These Types of Kits Even Work?

Good Housekeeping performed a review of different do-it-yourself home water testing kits. Their results showed that most of the common tests inaccurately measured levels of certain contaminants, while entirely missing others. Even worse, many of these tests have given false positives that may cause you to take expensive preventative action when no such need exists.

So, what should you do?

If you’re just curious about your water but have no serious concerns, trying out a DIY kit may be a good place to start. However, if you have any concerns about your water quality, or you have anyone with health issues, small children, or elderly family members, you should probably consider a professional testing lab.

Just be careful: There are some labs out there that offer “free” water testing, but those usually are fronts for companies that want to try to sell you expensive filtration solutions you don’t need. You can find some of these “free” options available near many Home Depot locations.

If you have evidence of contaminants in your water, you can report it to the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline, 1-800-426-4791.


How Can You Remove Contaminants?

For some contaminants, it’s easy to remove them with a filter that attaches directly to your faucet or by using a water pitcher filter.

These filters are inexpensive and easy to maintain, using activated charcoal as their primary filtration medium. They are perfect for removing chlorine (commonly added to disinfect municipal water). Depending on the manufacturer and freshness of the filter, they can also remove trace amounts of minerals such as zinc, lead, copper, and asbestos, as well as some bacteria or other biological contaminants.

Removing Lead from Drinking Water

Because of the significant health problems associated with consuming any levels of lead, if you’re concerned about the lead content in your water, be sure to do your homework. Most pitchers and faucet filters are not certified to remove lead from drinking water.

Reverse Osmosis System

Furthermore, a number of other contaminants cannot be removed with inexpensive filtration solutions. For safe removal of lead, pesticides, glyphosate, fluoride, and many other contaminants, a reverse osmosis filter might be the best solution. For many homeowners, the best choice will be a reverse osmosis filtration system that is installed directly under the kitchen sink, but you can also install a “whole-house” unit that works for the water in the entire home.

What is Reverse Osmosis?

Reverse osmosis is the process many bottlers use to produce ‘purified’ water, and this type of filtration will remove the majority of contaminants from your water. The downsides of these units include a high initial setup cost and a higher consumption of water as part of the filtration, which will increase utility bills.

Hopefully now that you’re armed with all of this information about water quality and filtration, you will be able to make an informed decision about when and why to get your water tested, as well as have some solutions if you find out you do have unwanted substances in your drinking water.