Friday, March 27, 2009

More on Agave

Here is another great article on agave. To me it confirms my speculations. I should have gone with my gut on this one. It makes sense. Back to honey and fruit sweetened things for me. I still use the good old raw sugar, brown sugar and maple in moderation also. I am sure that agave in moderation is fine too. I just don't want to spend a ton of money on a sugar product that isn't any better than the regular stuff. Still open for comments.

Agave Syrup???

Whenever their is something "new" on the market, even if billed as new super healthy etc. , I am skeptical. So goes with the Agave nectar. I had heard about it for quite a while and checked opinions after opinions. They were divided. Only raw, only organic most said but I still wasn't sure. I finally gave in and started using it, sometimes. Still not sure. I have read the bad things about it but also read that it isn't all processed like that. I think for now I am just going to stick with honey. I know, they say bad things about that too but raw honey is just taken straight from Bee to bottle, like God made it. Maybe Raw agave is the same. I would love some feedback. Below is an article a fellow EH sent me. Read for yourself and leave a comment on your opinion. produce agave nectar, juice is expressed from the core of the agave, called the piƱa.[1] The juice is filtered, then heated, to hydrolyze carbohydrates into sugars. The main carbohydrate is a complex form of fructose called inulin or fructosan. The filtered, hydrolyzed juice is concentrated to a syrup-like liquid a little thinner than honey and ranges in color from light to dark depending on the degree of processing. The syrup naturally contains quantities of Iron, Calcium, Potassium & Magnesium which contribute to the resulting color.[citation needed]An alternative method used to process the agave juice without heat is described in a United States patent for a process that uses enzymes to hydrolyze the polyfructose extract into fructose, using an enzyme derived from Aspergillus niger (black mold). [2] A. niger fermentation is "generally regarded as safe" (GRAS) by the FDA.[3]CompositionAgave syrup consists primarily of fructose and glucose. One source[4] gives 92% fructose and 8% glucose; another[5] gives 56% fructose and 20% glucose. These differences presumably reflect variation from one vendor of agave syrup to another. Due to its fructose content and the fact that the glycemic index only measures glucose levels, agave syrup is notable in that its glycemic index and glycemic load are lower than many other natural sweeteners on the market. [6].However, the extremely high percentage of fructose (higher than that of high-fructose corn syrup) can be deleterious and can trigger fructose malabsorption, metabolic syndrome[7], hypertriglyceridemia, decreased glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinemia, and accelerated uric acid formation.[8][9][10] Low-carb diet advocate Dr. Michael Eades M.D. advises to "avoid it [Agave syrup] like death".[11]Some criticism [12] has targeted agave syrup. In the late 90s, the agave syrup on the market contained 90% thermally or chemically hydrolyzed fructose, the salmiana variety syrup on the market today is still primarily fructose, but is enzymatically hydrolyzed using a black mold enzyme.[13]

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Black Beans, nutrition in a small little package

I have two giant pots of these cute little legumes simmering on my stove right now. I will warn anyone who stops by, my house stinks. I love the taste of these black beans but the aroma is nothing like the warm cider candle that I burn. I apologize. However smelly they may be, the nutritional content of these little guys make up for it. They truly are an amazing food and a basic staple in many South American countries. Just a little fun facts for you:
1.The Black Bean is exceptionally high in fiber, protein, calcium, iron, folic acid and potassium.
2.They contain 8 different flavonoids which are an antioxidant.
3.They also contain some Omega 3 Fatty Acids, 3 times as much as other beans.
4. They are inexpensive and go with so many dishes!
I love them and make a bunch in quantity to freeze for later dishes. They will last 3-4 days in the fridge but several months in the freezer. I usually cook them in my pressure cooker which takes less than an hour with no pre soaking time but have a huge quantity to make today for a church function tonight. I may be coming home with a huge pot if the crowd is low, no problem. I am prepared to use them in any number of delicious dishes. You can simmer them with garlic, onions, cilantro, etc. But I prefer to cook them plain, adding salt and pepper after so that they are a clean slate for a meal. I think it is so important that we add different sources of protein into our diet other than meat. Meat is hard to digest and we as a society overdue it. If you don't buy grass fed or organic meat, you are also running the risk of overloading your body with pesticides and hormones. You don't have to worry about hormones with beans. If you are needing a recipe to try out for those black beans you are now planning to cook up, here is a great one I will be putting together with those leftovers.(excuse me if I already posted this)
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas
1 pound potatoes, sweet potatoes or russet, peeled and diced, 1/2 inch cubes
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 T. Ketchup
In a bowl, toss diced potatoes together with above ingredients and put on an oiled baking dish. Cook 25 min or until golden and tender at 400. I usually turn up the heat to crisp them up a bit at the end.
1 can or about the equivalent of black beans, drained
1 4 oz can green chili's
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, or more as desired
Cooked potatoes
12 corn tortillas, heated in oil or sauce to soften
Large can green enchilada sauce
Mexican Cheese, as desired
Spread some sauce on bottom of 9X13 pan. Add about 1/4 cup bean mixture or more in softened tortillas and as much cheese as you want. Roll it up and place seem side down in pan. Repeat until all filled. Top with sauce and sprinkle cheese on top. Bake about 20 min or until hot and bubbly at 350. They are even better the next day!
**Just a quick Happy Birthday shout out to my exceptionally wonderful mother in law! Wish I could be pampering you today. You are amazing and the decorations for the party look beautiful! Thanks for the always!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Yellow Dye, Red Dye, Blue Dye

I am really quite uninspired tonight. I cannot think of anything motivating , nothing I really want to research. I just don't feel like thinking much at all and am a bit sad as ER has only two episodes left. I do feel like I owe my blogging community some food for thought ,however so here you go. Just a little something to get you thinking, to help you understand why we have a saying here at the Goodman house, "If the color of your food does not naturally occur in nature, don't eat it." Do you know what those FD&C colors really are or how they are manufactured? Do you really want to know? I will quote it for you from my Food Additives book just so you know I am not making this up.

"FD &C colors are considered safe by the FDA for use in food, drugs and cosmetics; most of the colors are derived from COAL TAR and must be certified by the FDA not to contain more than 10ppm of lead and arsenic; certification does not address any harmful effects these colors may have on the body; most coal tar colors are potential carcinogens, may contain carcinogenic contaminants, and cause allergic reactions."

How did anyone even think of using coal tar in foods? How did anyone think it was OK to use anything that could contain any amounts of lead or arsenic in our food? Now, how are we letting our children eat this? Tell FDA it is not OK. Stay away from it. Boycott.

If you want to read more about food additives, check out this great little book called "Food Additives: A shoppers guide to What's safe and What's Not." Great light reading.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Essential Oils web page and orders...

I have been asked about the new Essential Oil Web page and what oils I use. The new link is at the right under "Be Young essential oils". The web page still says "Forever Green" but that has changed to Be Young. When you are on the main page, go to the left side under categories and click on essential oils for the list of oils. I am ordering this Friday for anyone interested. I am also placing a large order this week so for anyone interested, there will be no tax or shipping charge in state, $5 if you live out of state. The prices you see for the oils are the prices you will pay total. Great Savings. The Spice of Life, now called Touch of Spice will be $29 instead of $34. My personal favorites:

Lemon oil
Orange oil
Tea Tree
Touch of Spice
Breathe (used to be Exchange)

The perfect medicine Chest! There are many more and if you are looking for symptom specific oils, email me and I will let you know!

**I get emails from those with great stories from using the oils. The latest is from Linda who says her husband has issues with periodontal disease and has tried everything. His Dr. told him about a lady who used a product that has helped her immensely. He called this lady to find out that it was the Spice of Life! They are now using it as toothpaste with great results. I have heard this was a perfect toothpaste as it kills almost everything and bacteria is why we get tooth and gum decay. You can mix it with some coconut oil to brush with. The best part is no toxic junk in your mouth!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Eat Naked Segment.....Flavored Waters

I could tell you again how horrible soda is for you and those insane amount of caffeine laden rock star drinks, but... you all know that story. Let's visit the popular craze of flavored waters. They are labeled as "Vitamin Waters", "Powerades" or even just water with "real fruit juices added". They seem innocent enough. They even may lead you to believe that they are better than water. They give us electrolytes to replenish what has been lost in vigorous activity, they give us vitamins to make us healthier, they add some real fruit juice. Well, as we all know, advertisements can be misleading. Labels can be misleading. Companies are misleading....on purpose.
BECAUSE, we fall for it. Lets just talk a bit about Vitamin waters.

Did you know that in one bottle of Vitamin Water there are actually 2.5 servings in the bottle? So, the calories and sugar contents you think you are getting on the back should be timed by 2.5. The total amount of sugar grams is 32.5, compare that to a Coke which has 39 grams. Sure, they throw in some synthetic vitamins to make it sound better and some "natural flavors" to make it seem well, "natural" but that is also a cover up. If it was just a natural product, they would list the product. If it was once natural but has been synthetically processed and changed, it is now a "natural flavor." In other words, you don't want it. I won't even go into all the other synthetic ingredients in these drinks. We will just focus on the sugar alone.

When sugar is ingested, the sugar just goes right through the stomach wall and raises the blood sugar levels in the body. Your body is programmed to keep the blood sugar at a certain level. When it soars, the pancreas secretes insulin to balance it all out. When the insulin is increased, your metabolism is disrupted. Metabolism has a very important role in the bodies. It is the process by which the molecules in your body combine and create new material that that help take in energy and release heat. By changing the natural metabolism in your body by disrupting it in a negative way, the immune system is suppressed.

What does this mean? The very drink you are sipping to help give you some vitamins can actually help make you sick. Not to mention add some love handles. Many of these are even laden with High Fructose Corn syrup, now even linked to mercury content in many foods.

THE MORAL OF THE STORY: DRINK NAKED. Drink water. To add some flavor, essential oils are great, and....even beneficial. I love to put some lemon or orange oil in my water. It has a sort of creamy taste to the oil and is very refreshing. It will help cleanse the water also of any bacteria. It is much cheaper than vitamin waters but just make sure that you get a pure brand of oils. We put some oils in our water jug in the fridge for a little zip. We also love cutting up cucumbers in the water jug. It has such a fresh and light taste. I wouldn't have expected to like this much but sampled it one day at a store and have been hooked. My kids all love it , a true "vitamin water" . This really all should be so obvious. I mean, can anything blue or bright neon colored be healthy? Stick to what God gave us. I want to keep my sugar intake to where it really counts, a good desert or chocolate bar. Don't waste it on a drink. We all need to take our sugar level down and drinking it daily will kick it over the edge. Especially for the little kiddies who consume these drinks like they are , well....water. I know that now and then a good Gatorade will not kill us. All in moderation. But, on a daily basis, lets kick up the water intake. We can't live without it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

March food storage meals.

Before the month ends,I thought I better get the next 3 food storage meals out. Sorry for the delay, I can't believe it is already the 11Th! These are all simple and concocted to use little heat and to use ingredients that don't have to be refrigerated. Hopefully we will be able to add fresh ingredients to these meals, but....just in case... we all need to prepare for the worse. Here are my next three worse case scenario meals.

Bow Tie Pasta with Pesto, Chicken and Sun dried Tomatoes

1 Bag of bow tie pasta
1 Jar of Pesto, small,I like Fresh n Easy brand!
1 Jar of Sun Dried Tomatoes, small
1 Pint of canned chicken, homemade pressure cooked kind. Meatless is also fine.

Cook pasta and toss altogether and heat till warm. Serve with some warm french bread and if we are lucky, a great salad.

Fried Rice with veggies and bacon

4 cups cooked rice
1/2 to 1 lb carrots, fresh or equivalent dried
1 yellow onion, chopped or 1/2 cup dried
6 cloves garlic (minced garlic in jars store for quite a while)
1 lb bacon or bacon bits
3 tsp beef bullion
1 tsp sesame oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup soy sauce
Garlic powder
onion powder
eggs, fresh or whole eggs dried

Cook rice. In pan, heat some oil, add cooked bacon or bacon bits and add 1/2 tsp onion powder/ 1/2 tsp garlic powder/ 1/4 tsp black pepper. Saute to release flavors. Add veggies and cook until soft. If using dehydrated veggies, reconstitute first and cook just until tender. Add same amount of seasonings again. Add cooked rice. Add soy sauce. Scramble eggs in separate pan, as many as wanted and season with 1/4 tsp onion powder, 1/4 tsp garlic powder and 1/4 tsp pepper. Chop eggs in pan and add to rice. You can add peas also if desired.

BBQ Pizza Chicken

Pizza dough recipe

4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tsp yeast in 1/4 cup warm water
1 T. olive oil

Mix yeast in measuring cup with 1/4 cups warm water. Let yeast get foamy. Put 3 cups of flour in bowl with salt. Mix and stir in 1 1/2 cups water, oil and yeast mixture. Mix with spoon until sticky. Add more flour until the dough is only slightly sticky. Let rest for 8 minutes. Knead again until dough is smooth and elastic. Let rise for 4 hours.
Can also be made with half the flour whole grain.

BBQ sauce
Canned Chicken
Dried Bell Peppers/red peppers

Roll out dough, spread BBQ sauce on top, chopped chicken, veggies that have been reconstituted. If you have fresh veggies and cheese, layer it on top. If not, this is a cheesless pizza but still tasty. Bake on 400 until golden brown and done on the bottom.

*** I had an email wanting the hamburger bun recipe to go with the BBQ beef sandwiches. Here you go:

Hamburger Buns

preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place in Bosch with dough hook , or whatever you have:

4 cups warm water
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup gluten
8 cups whole wheat flour or grain mixture (add more later)
3 T. yeast

Mix until moistened. Let rise until it reaches to the top of the bowl.

Add: 1 T. Salt

Add enough flour until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. Add back in 2-3 T. water. Knead for 5 minutes. Form large balls, 6 per cookie sheet on parchment paper if you have it. Let rise for 45 minutes. Bake for 25 minutes at 400 until golden brown. Brush with butter while still hot.

(form Healthy Recipes Cookbook)

I also had a request for a recipe for a healthy cream of mushroom soup. I personally do not ever use it so I don't have one but they are all over the web. I prefer recipes that make their own sauces, not ones you make before hand. But, there are some decent versions out there, I just have never tried one to recommend one. If someone has one out there, post a comment for our readers please.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a coconut oil junkie. My very favorite brand is the Tropical Traditions. It is very high quality, the best I have found. It is great for cooking with and the best feeling oil for skin. It is all I use for skincare. I usually pay $35 for a pint but my new friend, Melissa is ordering it in bulk and getting a 1 gallon for $60. If you are interested, she needs the money by March 16th. Email me if you want in on this deal and I will give you her info.

When Life Gives You Lemons.....

Make........Lemonade Syrup for delicious instant homemade lemonade, without the high fructose corn syrup.

Ooey, Gooey lemon bars for Family Night.
Fresh Squeezed lemonade, nothing better.

Lemon cubes for later uses in recipes when you don't get the free lemons from neighbors trees.

Scrumptious Lemon Chicken Pasta from "My Kitchen Cafe" Blog. A must try.

All this brought to you by the hands of one cute little 6 year old lemon squeezer who squeezed till the hands were pruney! Thanks Tallin. You Rock!

A special thanks goes out to our friends the Greenwalds for all the lemons and citrus this season. We are deeply saddened that the free and delicious oranges giving us fresh squeezed juice daily are no longer and that we will have to buy lemons for our daily liver cleanse. Till next year! Also, thanks to my photographer, Randi, my sweet daughter who makes my blog look a little better.
If you too have lemons at your doorstep or on your trees, please don't waste them. They are so good for you and freeze beautifully. Also, check out Kara's blog under "Hey good looking" link... for yummy lemon curd.
Lemonade Syrup
(Chef Brad Recipe)
2 C. sugar
1 C. water
rind of 2 lemons, cut into strips
1/8 tsp salt
6 lemons, juiced
Boil sugar, water and lemon rind for 5 minutes. Cool and add juice of lemons. Strain the syrup and store in covered container in fridge. Last several weeks. Add a few tablespoons to a cold glass of water to desired taste.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Grow boxes

Arlon Smith, friend and owner of a landscape business is offering grow boxes built, delivered with soil included and distributed on premises. He has various sizes but for an idea, the 4X4 is $75. That is for delivery in the Gilbert, Queen Creek area. If it is much farther, there may be a slightly higher cost. You may call Paula at 480-323-8480 for more details. So worth it! It takes the hard work out of it. All you have to do is buy the plants and plug them in. sinchy.

Gardening Q & A

To try to answer the emails I received about organic gardening, I will tell you all I know. Maybe it isn't much but my food does grow and I get great crops. I am a simple Gardner. I feel that more is not always better. There are a million things you can add to a garden but the basics are really the only things needed.

First, you need good soil. If this is your first time gardening, it may take a few years to get a really great garden since the soil gets richer each year. You can still have a successful first year but it does get better. If you are doing a small grow box type garden, it is wise to just purchase a garden mixture from the store. If you want to go bigger, you can order some premixed garden dirt , if in AZ, I recommend Pioneer rock. If you are going to use the ground that came with the house, you need some muscle, a rototiller, manure, gypsum, Ammonium phosphate and sand. I can't give you exact measurements as it depends on the area but email me if you have questions on that.

Second, and very important, WORMS! Worms break down the soil and leave the soil rich in organic material. You need the red wiggler variety. I purchased mine on line from Ray's Worm Ranch. How does one get to be a worm rancher? Anyways, it doesn't take much as these little guys reproduce quickly. They need moist soil and they get to work.

Third, water. This is where you will kill the garden. It needs to be regular and deep. There are many systems. You can bury a water drip system in the ground but I just do the old standby of a hose on slow flow until my rows are swimming. In warmer weather, I water every other day. Just watch the ground. I don't wait for it to be dry, I water when is just beginning to look a little dry on top of the rows, the middle still wet. The plants will also tell you. If they are turning yellow, too much water. Some leaves at first will loose some leaves as they turn yellow but this is usually just root shock from planting them. The plants that have been in for a little while should not turn yellow unless it is a water issue.

Fourth, Structure; rows or flat. I like the rows mostly because it keeps the water in the sides and it just looks pretty. It raises the plants up a bit so that the fruits of the vine don't rest in the water also. But, I have done the flat bed gardening and that works too. That also is a good option if you have a smaller area and need to cram in as much as possible. Just make sure that you follow the guides on the plants or seeds for spacing. You don't want to choke out the plants.

Fifth, feeding the garden. Sometimes I put in some miracle grow which is wonderful. It really makes the plants take off and produce in higher quantities. I have regularly turned in cow manure every time I planted until I had my mulch bin. It is cheap and organic although stinky at first. When the garden was still in the early years, I would also turn in gypsum and sand before planting since I was gardening in the ground and my ground was still hard. After that, just cow manure and miracle grow. Now, just compost. The compost bin was free from the city. I don't know if they still do that but they just delivered it to my door step. You can get them anywhere, cheap and simple or complex and expensive. Stay with cheap. It works. Keep in next to your garden so you can easily dump garden scraps into it. It doesn't smell. You want to remember a few things to keep the mulch pile successful. Turn in up regularly with a shovel so that it gets mixed up and allows air in their. You want a good balance between leaves and grass type mulch and kitchen scraps. Layering is good. So, if you pile a heap of orange peels and apples you then want to add some grass or leaves next time. It helps keep the flies down and helps with the gas mixture of nitrogen to some other gas I can't remember. Google it. I keep a plastic container under my sink with a lid. I just throw in the scraps and dump it when it is full. Do not put anything with oils, dairy or meat in their. Just fruits, veggies, egg shells and plain noodles. If there are bigger things like watermelon rinds, just chop them up a bit. Don't put in sticks and wood chips. It takes too long to break down. Add a little soil to your mulch bin at first that has some worms in it. It will help the process. I also put a little water in their now and then if it looks dry. You don't want it dripping but it needs to be moist. It will take quite a few months for it to be good and dark. You will be amazed at how much you can add to this. It does break down quickly. When it is ready, turn it into the soil. It will get your soil dark and fertilized like it should be. You may be surprised as some of my bloggies commented when you get a mystery plant pop up from scraps that were in the mulch pile. It just adds more fun to the game!

Sixth, pests. Since my garden is organic and that is the goal of having a garden, no pesticides, I don't want to then add them just to kill pests. There are ways to avoid it. If you have white flies, you can go out before the sun is on the plants and spray down the plants. It will shoe off the white flies. They will return daily but doing this in the morning will help tremendously. Some years they come, some they don't. They will eat the leaves so watch out. They hide under leaves so you can wash under the leaves too if you want. Also watch for bugs and worms that hang on the leaves. Just pick them off. You can make a spray bottle of rosemary water that bugs don't like. Just take some fresh rosemary, put it in some water and boil it a bit. It will release the flavor. Spray on the plants after the water is cool of course. Other than that, I just inspect the plants regularly. Most years I don't get pests. Some years I do. You can also a little mixture of a good green natural dish soap with water on the leaves, not the food part of the plant. Some pests are friends. Lady bugs and bees. You want these. Bees are needed for pollination. If you plant allysum flowers next to your squash and tomato plants, the bees will come. The flowers also smell great, like honey. Likewise, marigolds help bugs stay away. I plant flowers along the borders sometimes to help with this. You may occasionally have a vine borer problem. This is a worm that gets into the vine for plants like tomatoes and squash. Not much you can do here, just clip that vine off that has been eaten from the inside and hopefully that will keep the worm from eating other vines. Sometimes they come from the store infected. Sometimes you will get a diseased tomato plant from the store or it will catch root rot where the bottoms of the tomatoes turn black. I have had that happen a few times. Not much to do here either. Mostly, I have been successful. Just look at the plants regularly to see if there is a problem. It really is not too time consuming once you get started.

Other than that, those are my tricks. I check for weeds regularly and clean it up a bit now and then. You can do so much more if you want. Shading tomato plants when it gets too hot with a screen type fabric. Set up trellises for vine plants , etc. I just keep it simple. It seems to work. You need sun so make sure you set up the garden in an area where it will get at least 6 hours of sun a day if not more. Watch for shading by the house.

Anymore questions, let me know. If I don't know it, I have a great contact who is a pro and I can ask him. Good luck! It really is easy once you start. I have a friend who is has a landscape business and is going to sell premade grow boxes and soil, delivered to your home. I will get prices soon so watch for that. How could it be an simpler that that. If you are just planting now, start with plants, not seeds if possible. Summer in AZ shortens our growing time so you need to get a head start.

Have fun!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

If only there were 30 hours a day....

When one of my children was a little bity, he would ask me at the table , "Can I please be full now?" I always thought that was funny. Although irrational, it made perfect sense. After this week, I want to ask, "Can I be full now?" I was sure it was Tuesday all day today. I even took my son to the wrong therapist. I concluded that it was I who needed the therapist....or, just 6 more hours in the day. Where does the time all go? Oh yea, hours upon hours looking for a car, another few hours having the new car serviced for a squeaky belt, Art masterpiece, driving 80 miles alone today, volunteering at the school, ball games, track meets, carpool, etc. You all know how it goes. I am constantly amazed at the demands of life. I just want to stay home and make bread. That was the plan today, and yesterday....and....the day before. Another day my children will go to school with rolled up ham, no bread for a sandwich. I really should have just scrapped the whole idea and bought a darn loaf of not as good bread, oh, one time for the store. There's my pity party. So much on the list to do, so little crossed off. But, one big thing that did get done, my garden. I feel relieved. The more I read and learn about what is in these genetically modified grocery store produce and how the world is not producing enough since farmers are wanting to all switch to corn and soy for bio fuel, the more I know that we all need to do this. However small or grand, we all need to start. It is all part of that "self sufficient" thing. We can't rely on others to provide for us. If you haven't started one yet, there is still time. Grab a grow box, planter, whatever. Plant at least one tomato plant. One of something. It will hook you. You will feel like you made something amazing. Here is how we spent our Saturday.

The Hired Help, aka, my husband. He works for favors. He was the mulch guy, digging out the organic mulch we have been brewing for the last 10 months. Yummy.

The Harvest. All hand made, beautiful, delicious.

The kids in action, a few of mine, one recruited neighbor. Their job: Pea Pickers.The vines were pulled out and they had to find the peas and harvest. Thanks boys!

The new garden is in. This was the first year I used my own hand made mulch from my mulch bin. I have filled that thing up 20 plus times. It is amazing that it just keeps shrinking down and made some great soil. We emptied it into the garden and were able to fill it up with the old garden vines and scraps. I felt so "GREEN' that I didn't have to use any garbage bags and loved that I didn't have to put cow poop in the garden for organic matter. It smelled much better. I expect a great crop this year! I can't wait for the fresh tomatoes. I have planted tomatillos, romas, early girls, red bells, chilis, onions, several herbs, green beans, cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, lettuce and potatoes. Hurray for me. Now, for all of you who are waiting on return emails, I apologize. I will get to you, except for the few of you who I accidentally erased the letter. Try again if it has been a while. I am sure that I am loosing it a bit. If only it really was still Tuesday. I could use a couple extra days this week. And, this Saturday will be a perfect day to put in a garden. Just keep that in mind.