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Winter is setting in, and that means that life will soon be slowing down. With all that free time coming up, I’ve been searching for different things to do to keep us occupied. While randomly surfing through blogs, I came across this idea of a month of giving. Starting November 25th, then going until December 25th, I will be filling our family’s days with charitable causes.

What does that mean – a month of giving? It can be anything from making cookies for the neighbors to spending time with someone who could use a little company to chase away the lonelies. I’m excited for this. It’s a great way to teach our young boys what the holiday spirit is all about – love, compassion, and thoughtfulness.

I would like to do something different each day. So far, here are a few ideas that I’ve brainstormed:

  • Make holiday cards and send them to Holiday Mail for Heroes.
  • Donate blood.
  • Read to/with the kids at school.
  • Visit the nursing home.
  • Make a blanket to donate to a shelter.
  • Donate canned goods to a food pantry.
  • Join the Foundation Beyond Belief.
  • Sort through old toys and donate ones in good condition to Goodwill.
  • Give clothes we’ve outgrown to the local Elementary donation closet.
  • Make and give away some warm-up buddies to keep our friends toasty.
  • Draw pictures for the grandparents and mail them.
  • Help decorate the school halls or classrooms.
  • Make cookies for the local fire department.
  • Leave something nice for the postman.
  • Spend some quality time getting to know the neighbors better.
  • Make crafty tree decorations for friends.
  • Call up a friend I haven’t talked to in a long time.
  • Find something nice to say to each person we encounter while out somewhere.

Of course, there are many more ideas. I’m just getting started! I need something to look forward to this year around the holidays. Hopefully this is just the thing. Let me know in the comments if you have any other ideas for our family!

Have you ever dumped a box of pasta in a pot of boiling water, then noticed little larvae floating to the top? Or maybe you found a grayish, silky mat in your flour bag? What about the little wiggly, crawlers in your wheat berries?

Insects. They’ll strike anywhere and any time. They can ride into your pantry on the exterior packaging, and can also be found inside air-tight bags. Once infested, your food storage and pantry shelves must undergo a thorough cleaning and treatment to get rid of them. It could be months before you see the last one hatch. How do you know what particular insect is wreaking havoc on your food storage, and then what do you do to get rid of it?

Here are a few of the most prevalent pantry pests, as well as some helpful hints on decimating their population in your cupboards.

Red Flour Beetle, Tribolium castaneum

Flour beetles are found in flours and other cereal grain products. They have also been known to make themselves at home in livestock feed, sunflower seeds, dried fruit, beans, birdseed, chocolate, tea, powdered milk, spices, and dried flowers. Adult beetles live in the material they eat, causing discoloration or odor in the product. Females mature around seven weeks of age, then lay eggs for up to several months.

Once you have found a flour beetle infestation, it’s best to inspect all processed grain products in the immediate vicinity of the infested package. Even unopened ones. Dump the contents in a large bowl and dig around with clean hands. As soon as you find beetles, throw the effected product in the garbage. Clear your cupboard(s) out completely, vacuuming out every crack and crevice. Wipe down with soap and water. Some say white vinegar is better. Either way, if there’s no bits of food left anywhere, the beetles won’t stick around. Install non-stick shelf lining that you can freely wipe down with a damp rag as necessary. Don’t use newspaper or foam. If your infestation is really bad, this is where you might consider spraying the cracks with insecticide. If not, skip the chemicals. Either way, you’ll probably want to set some sticky traps in easy-to-access places in your cupboard.

To prevent re-infestation, put all of your processed grain products into clear, air-tight containers. Being in a clear container means that you’ll be able to inspect them without opening them. Freezing products for at least several hours (more or less depending on density of the product) or heating it in the oven for 30 minutes at 129º is recommended by most county extension offices in order to kill any eggs or larvae already in the product. For long term storage, consider 10# cans or mylar-lined buckets with oxygen absorbers for keeping grain fresh and bug free. You can also oven can grains and flours in glass jars.

Mealworm, Tenebrio molitor

Mealworms are the larval stage of the Mealworm beetle. They are widely recognized for their use in feeding reptiles, fish, and birds. They are also raised and sold as bait for fishermen the world over. These little guys are generally found in oats, rice, and dry cereals. The female beetles begin laying eggs at eighty days old, and have been known to lay up to five hundred eggs in a lifetime.

Controlling mealworms is a lot like the process for flour beetles. Open and inspect all of your grain products, then store them in air-tight plastic containers with sticky traps set in strategic positions. Don’t automatically assume that having clean cupboards means your mealworm problem will go away – these larvae have been found living in house insulation, dry flower/potpourri arrangements, and chicken coop litter.

If you do end up with a bad infestation, call up a pet store to see if they’d like to purchase the larvae or if they know of someone who might want some free food for their pet. If you have chickens, they’ll gobble these down with relish. Or, if you’re truly a brave food pioneer, you can try frying them up with vegetables or eating them raw.

Wheat Weevil, Sitophilus granarius

The wheat weevil actually lives nearly its entire life cycle inside of the kernel. The female matures in just five weeks, then proceeds to lay up to 250 eggs over the course of up to eight months. Weevil infestations are difficult to detect since the larval and pupal stages occur inside of the grain casing.

Disposal is just about the only effective solution when it comes to dealing with weevils. But how can you tell if you have an infestation if you don’t find the adult weevils? One method is taking a sample of the grain in question and tossing it in water. If the grains float, then it’s likely they have been drilled and resealed or eaten through by a busy little weevil mama and her babies. You can also visually inspect the grains for tiny holes.

To prevent a weevil infestation, thoroughly inspect then store all of your whole grains in air-tight plastic containers. It is said that bay leaves will discourage these pests from settling in your grain. Freezing your grain may also kill the eggs. At the least, freezing will put them into stasis so they can’t develop further.

Pantry Moth (aka – Indian Meal Moth), Plodia interpunctella

The pantry moth goes by many names, but no matter what you call it it’s one of the worst offenders in the pantry pest line-up. These little critters are usually the easiest to spot in foodstuffs as they leave a distinct webbing, cocoons during their pupa stage, and will fly toward lights if they are able to escape the cupboards. They take about seventy-six days to reach adulthood, then crawl and fly to any available food source to lay up to four hundred eggs.

Once you’ve seen an adult pantry moth, chances are there are hundreds you haven’t seen. Your first step is to find the affected food source. Search all of your cupboards, bags, boxes, and storage containers for the telltale signs of webbing or other moth activity. Once you’ve pinpointed where the moths are coming from, remove the product immediately to an outdoor garbage bin. Remove all shelf liners, and thoroughly vacuum and wash all cupboards, shelves, walls, trim, baseboards, doors, and storage containers. By all, I mean everything in that room. Maybe even adjoining rooms if you really want to be thorough. If you have home-canned goods, unscrew all of the bands and wipe them with a mild vinegar solution. I’m serious. These critters can fit in some tiny spaces. Don’t forget to vacuum and wash door hinges and the tiny cracks in door jambs, as these are favored spots for larvae to pupate.

When you’ve finished your top-to-bottom cleaning, take your vacuum bag outside (or clean the canister thoroughly if it’s bagless), remove all of your garbage to an outdoor location, and wash your vacuum and garbage bin in a mild vinegar solution. Now that you’ve dealt with the eggs, larvae, and pupae, you should only have a few stray adults to deal with. These can be caught in pheromone-based moth traps. You can prevent them from laying new eggs by taking away their food source – ie: keeping your counters, cupboards, floors, tables, etc clean and free of food debris. Once again, storing your edibles in airtight plastic containers will do wonders for keeping the pest population at bay.


I’ve only ever had one of these pests in my kitchen, and it was a nightmare to say the least. It started with some flour beetles in my CoCo Wheats, then progressed to all of my boxes of pasta, bags of flour, and wherever material spilled into the cupboards. It was a mess. It was made worse by the fact that we lived in an apartment at the time. I ended up tossing everything out and not keeping more than a paltry supply of anything on hand until we moved out of there.

Since then I’ve purchased a few airtight plastic containers, but I know I need to get more. I really like these Oxo containers that we received as wedding presents so long ago:


but they are a bit on the pricey side, and aren’t very large. I’ve been on the lookout for some larger containers that would hold beaucoup wheat berries, beans, pasta, etc. Something like this:

Rubbermaid Ingredient Bins

would be awesome to have in a pantry. They’re even more cost prohibitive than the Oxo containers, though. Maybe someday. Until then, I’ll keep using Oxo’s and crossing my fingers and hoping that the bugs don’t find my unprotected boxes and bags again.

Where did it go?

Where are all the people who, when they want something, go out and do everything they can in order to achieve it?

Of all the people I’ve met in my life, I’ve only met a few who have really impressed me with their work ethic. That wouldn’t seem so bad if I were a hermit, but I get out quite a bit. I’ve made lots of friends, and I really care about them, but I have to admit that most of them would probably just shrug and walk away if I were ever in a bind and needed their help. Why? Because doing anything to benefit themselves or other people is work… and work has a bad reputation.

How does one tell if someone is lacking in the work ethic department? My number one way of telling is simple: how much does the person do for themselves? I’ll admit, I fall short in a few categories – auto repair comes to mind. But everything that means a lot to me I have worked to become good at. Cooking? I taught myself, and I take pride in it. I’m still learning, and I’m driven to learn more than just scratching the surface. I want to make bread, so I grind my own grain. Someday soon I hope to grow and thresh my own grain, too. It looked hard, but I felt it was important. Instead of whining that it looked hard and revering anyone who could make bread… I did it.

The next way I tell is by the way they parent. I have kids. I know how hard it is to be criticized for having poorly behaved kids – it hurts. Too bad. I’ve already lost friends because they ask me for advice and I gave it. I don’t sugar coat. If you need to grow a pair and start telling your kid no, I’ll be straight with you. If your child is a little monster and you ask me for an honest opinion, I won’t sweeten it up with false compliments like you want to hear and are used to hearing from everyone else. I get compliments from complete strangers (mostly elderly) on how well behaved my children are. A lot. I don’t fish for them. Ever. I’m proud of how well-mannered my boys are, and I’m not afraid to tell people I have trained them to be the way they are. It wasn’t luck. It was consistency and tears and yelling and time outs and following through and planting myself right by their sides until I was sure that they would make responsible, caring young men. How do I tell a bad work ethic? Simple. A parent who is too absorbed in keeping their child happy instead of raising them right. A parent who doesn’t want to hurt their child’s feelings more than they want to give their child a better future. A parent who acts like, pouts, throws tantrums, and otherwise engages like their child. A parent who looks at me when I describe all the hard work I’ve put into raising two little gentlemen and says, “That’s too hard.”

Seriously. I get it a lot. Too hard. Like it’s a math problem that can be set aside instead of the life of a child who will someday grow into adulthood and reflect every good and bad thing you ever taught it. And these people go on having more kids, as if it doesn’t matter that they can’t even raise one right.

How do I tell a poor work ethic? When someone tells me they really want to learn something, like canning, and after multiple offers on my side I see nothing. If you want to learn so badly, why would you give it up so quickly? I didn’t have anyone to teach me a lot of the skills I now possess, nor the ones that I’m still learning. I wish I did. I’m going all on what I read or hear. It’s difficult, and it takes longer, but I’m still doing it. I get comments on our pantry, on how well stocked we seem. I offer to share my experience so others can do the same. It’s not that hard, really. But after a few vague questions, it’s all forgotten.

I just don’t understand. Where did DRIVE go? Where did ASPIRATION go? What ever happened to doing a thing well if you’re going to do it at all?

I think that’s why I get so many compliments from the elderly. I’m betting they’re just as frustrated with the younger generations of hand-me-everything-on-a-silver-platter idiots as I am. It’s refreshing to see parents putting their children in a time out right in the middle of the damned store. It’s refreshing to see small children saying please and thank you when the teenagers next to them can’t even make proper eye contact. It’s refreshing to see a mother pick up her screaming child in a restaurant and whisk it out to the parking lot for a swat or words or whatever method of lesson the child needs. It’s refreshing to see someone engaged and asking for TRUE advice, not the meaningless drivel we’ve all been coached to offer because it’s more PC. It’s refreshing to hear of people who put some effort into making their lives and those around them happier by using a bit of grey matter and elbow grease.

I’ve been raised to look at someone I admire and learn something from them. I don’t admire slackwits who feign interest and waste everyone’s time. I don’t admire parents of horrible, sassy children who disrespect everyone they look at. I don’t admire anyone who says one thing, then does the complete opposite because it’s easier. In debt and struggling? Do something about it! Kids watch too much tv? Get rid of it! Unhappy in your relationship? Move on!

Yes, this is kind of a rant. It was brought on because I belong to a forum of supposedly like-minded people who have similar goals. I love going there sometimes because a few of the people are so helpful and chock full of answers. But I absolutely hate going there at other times because the majority of people on there are a total waste of time. It’s so easy to do quick searches and find answers to specific questions. If the answer is nowhere to be found, then a quick post will certainly net you some high quality responses.

It’s too easy.

The silver-platter idiots come to places like this in droves. They mindlessly wander about, seeming genuinely interested and full of vague questions until all of the smart folks with (drum roll please) good work ethic have completely spent themselves answering every possible interpretation of the roundabout inquiries. When these simpletons are called out on their inability to think for themselves or do a little research on their own, drama ensues. It’s just like my real life. Like the rest of the things I’m getting fed up with, being all nicey nice and PC is drawing to a close. You either want something or you don’t. If you don’t, don’t waste my time and that of others.

If you do… find your work ethic. It’s probably hiding in there somewhere, buried under your delicate feelings and sense of hopelessness.


October 2012

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