Dying Easter Eggs the Natural Way

By Claudia Cater, Eau Claire Health Department

Dying Easter eggs is a tradition for many families. Why not try making Easter eggs with your children or grandchildren with natural dyes instead of a commercial egg dying kit? You can avoid the use of chemicals by using food items, such as lemon peels or orange peels, to make a natural dye for Easter eggs. Michigan State University Extension offers the following tips to help you when using natural ingredients to dye hard boiled eggs:
• Listed below are natural dyestuffs you can use to dye eggs. Use your own judgment about quantity and start by placing two or three handfuls of a dyestuff in a saucepan.
• Add tap water to come at least an inch above the dyestuff. Bring the mixture to a boil.
• Reduce the heat and simmer about 15 minutes or up to an hour until the color is the shade you desire. Keep in mind that eggs will dye a lighter shade than what it appears to be.
• Remove the pan from the heat.
• Strain the dye mixture into a small, deep bowl using cheesecloth or a fine sieve.
• Add one tablespoon of white vinegar for each cup of liquid.
• With a spoon or wire egg holder, lower the eggs into the hot liquid and let them stand until they reach the desired color.
• With a slotted spoon or wire egg holder, remove the eggs to a drainer. Allow the eggs to dry thoroughly.
• Naturally dyed eggs tend to have a duller finish than commercially dyed eggs. For a soft shine, after drying, rub with cooking or mineral oil.
• Be sure to refrigerate eggs within two hours of cooking and dying.


Natural Dyestuff                                                                                                      Color
Fresh beets, cranberries, radishes, or frozen raspberries                                   Pinkish red
Yellow onion skins                                                                                                      Orange
Orange or lemon peels, carrot tops, celery seed, or ground cumin                  Delicate yellow
Ground turmeric                                                                                                         Yellow
Spinach leaves                                                                                                             Pale yellow
Yellow Delicious apple peels                                                                                    Green-gold
Canned blueberries or red cabbage leaves                                                            Blue
Strong brewed coffee                                                                                                 Beige to brown
Dill seeds                                                                                                                      Brown-gold
Chili powder                                                                                                                Brown-orange
Purple or red grape juice, or beet juice                                                                  Grey

Claudia Cater is a registered dietitian with the Eau Claire Health Department, mother of three, and grandmother of one. A favorite family event is dying Easter eggs.

Starting Seeds Indoors

By Erin LaFaive, Horticulture Educator, Eau Claire County UW Cooperative Extension
Do you want to get ahead of the growing season? Do you want to plant vegetables that need a longer growing season? Do you want to grow a plant that you can’t find in the stores? A solution to these challenges is to start your own seeds indoors.

Many plants do better if started indoors, because it gives them a jump start on the growing season. This is especially the case in northern Wisconsin where the growing season is shorter and some seeds have a difficult time germinating in the early season. Tomatoes and peppers are a great example of plants that need a longer growing season than northern Wisconsin can provide.

Any type of container can be used to start seeds as long as it is sterilized before planting and has drainage holes at the bottom. To sterilize pots, soak the containers in a 10 percent bleach mixture and thoroughly rinse. Single celled pots are sold in stores and generally only a seed or two are planted in one cell. Mass-sowing seeds are done in flats that do not have dividers, and they require transplanting after the seedling is bigger.

Use a seed starting mix or other soil-less indoor plant mixture. These types of soils have been sterilized and contain smaller particles so the embryos have an easier time pushing through. In addition, they are light weight and drain well. If you want to create your own mixture, use a pasteurized mixture of equal amounts of soil, sand, vermiculite or perlite, and peat moss.

Moisten the soil before you add it to the containers. It shouldn’t be soggy. The general rule for planting depth is four times the thickness of the seed. Also, check the seed packet for recommendations. Some seeds are very small and hard to see. In those cases, mixing the seed in sterile sand can help you see where you are spreading the seed. Very small seeds are simply sprinkled over the top of the soil. To cover seeds, use vermiculite or a layer of screened potting mix you are already using over the seeds. Leave about a ¼ of an inch from the top of the container to allow enough room for the vermiculite.

Cover the planted seeds with plastic leaving an inch to an inch and a half gap. The plastic helps to keep the soil from drying out and traps some heat. A heating source underneath the seeds will speed up germination. Place them in a window with moderate light but not in direct sunlight. The temperatures should be 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night and 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.

Keep the soil moist, but be careful not to overwater. Using a spray bottle works great for tiny seeds because a strong stream of water may move the seeds around too much. Even a stream being poured from a glass of water can be too strong. Watch for the growth of mold, which generally looks like white fuzz on the soil surface. When the first seedlings appear, take off the plastic. This is also the time they need stronger light, so they require a south facing window or artificial lights.

My plants are lopsided! My plants are spindly! This can be prevented by turning the container as the seedlings grow and by giving enough light. Fluorescent lights are another source of lighting. They need sixteen to eighteen hours of light each day. One warm-white, 40-watt bulb and one cool-white, 40-watt bulb used together are adequate for seed starting and seedling growth. You can also use fluorescent lights or grow lights.

Gradually acquaint the seedlings to outside by first starting with an hour and working up. The seedlings are not use to fluctuating temperatures, wind, and the sun, and this gradual introduction prepares the plant for new conditions.

These are general indoor seed germinating rules. By reading the seed package you will likely find more detailed information on seed depth, germination time, and any other specialized requirements.
Erin LaFaive is the horticulture educator for UW-Extension in Eau Claire County. Erin earned a M.S. in Environmental Studies from the Nelson Institute for environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also earned a B.S. in geography with an emphasis in natural resource management at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Labels 101

By Emily Schwartz

Organic? Conventional? Local? All natural? With all of the different labels used to describe foods these days, it can be difficult to sort through all of them to make the best decision on what to buy at the grocery store.
The majority of today’s fruits and vegetables are conventionally produced. This means that they are grown using traditional or “common-place” methods that are generally accepted as “safe” and “acceptable.” These methods, which may include the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and genetic modification, have been used for years to produce larger amounts of fruits and vegetables to help meet a growing consumer demand for affordable produce with a quality appearance and year-round availability.
Many of the local fruits and vegetables available during our Wisconsin growing season are conventionally produced. Although local produce may certainly be organic, organic is not synonymous with being locally grown. Currently, there is no set definition for a food labeled as local; however, it often refers to a food produced within a certain geographical area. Depending on individual perspectives, a local food may be produced within a set number of miles or grown in a certain county, state, region or country where a person may reside. In general, local fruits and vegetables may travel shorter distances from the field to the store. This yields fresher and more flavorful produce. In addition, this shorter travel time gives fruits and vegetables less opportunity to lose important nutrients. Buying local produce may offer the opportunity to support your local community, as well as introduce you to the farmers growing your food.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) mandates that a food carrying the organic label be produced using sustainable practices without the use of conventional pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or genetically engineered products. However, forms of organic pesticides and fertilizers may still be used in the growing process. To be able to label a product as organic, a producer must become certified by the USDA. This process may take years to complete and may mean that some producers are following organic growing methods even without the organic label on their produce.
With increasing availability of organic products, natural is another label that is increasingly being used to market foods. Unlike organic, there are currently no set regulations qualifying the use of this term. Today, as much of our food undergoes some sort of processing before it reaches our plate, it is hard to define a food as “natural” from a food science point of view. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only loosely defines a “natural” food as one that may be without added colors, artificial flavors, or synthetic additives. As this topic is of much debate, the FDA is currently requesting public comments and information to possibly formulate a set definition in years to come.
Regardless of what types of fruits and vegetables you buy, there are benefits to foods in each category. We at Festival like to encourage that all forms matter, but ultimately, the decision to buy organic, local, natural, conventional, or any combination of the above comes down to personal preferences and beliefs.
Emily Schwartz is a nationally accredited registered dietitian-nutritionist (RDN) serving the Eau Claire and La Crosse communities as Festival Foods’ Western Markets Regional Dietitian.

Curing Your Pet’s Cabin Fever

By Dr. Margaret Meier, DVM, CVSMT
It’s finally spring, and although this winter was mild, we are all excited to get outside and get moving more. If we aren’t conditioned adequately, however, this increased activity can result in an injury that keeps us “cooped up” longer! The same holds true for our furry friends, especially if they have put on a few extra winter pounds. As we all get out and about more to cure our cabin fever, it’s important to work on a proper conditioning schedule to prevent these injuries from occurring. What can we do, though, if our pet gets a muscle strain, ligament sprain, or even a fracture? How can we help them get back into the game of living life to its fullest?

First and foremost we need to manage the pain and inflammation caused by the injury. Signs of pain in dogs include “hyperventilation, increased heart rate, dilated pupils, reduced appetite, and changes in behavior such as reluctance to jump, hesitating to go up stairs, displays of aggression, or changes in their elimination habits.”1 Some of the tools you, along with your veterinarian, might choose include prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), nutraceuticals such as glucosamine/chondroitin, applying ice packs or superficial heat to the area, and passive range of motion exercises for the affected joint(s).

Once the pain is under control, it is important to work to prevent further muscle weakness and atrophy. You should always start slowly with daily walks on the leash of five minutes and gradually increase to twenty to thirty minutes per walking session. Your veterinarian may also recommend strength training exercises such as “sit to stand,” walking on uneven surfaces or slopes, or even asking your pet to sit up and beg. The schedule of activities, and their duration or repetitions, should be discussed with your veterinarian to best meet your pet’s individual rehabilitation needs.
Nutritional support during the recovery process is also essential. Diets high in good quality protein help the body repair injured muscles and increasing essential omega-3 fatty acids can have anti-inflammatory benefits. Nutraceuticals that support joint health can help target repair of injured cartilage as well as ligaments and tendons. I recommend Standard Process supplements (standardprocess.com) based on specific muscle response testing to develop a custom nutritional support plan for your individual pet’s needs.
Finally, the alternative therapies of acupuncture and spinal manipulative therapy (VSMT) help your pet return to normal activity, and decrease the risk of further injury. We all have injured ourselves and found that we’ve had to move differently (i.e., limp) to avoid the pain. This abnormal gait leads to vertebral subluxation complexes (VSCs) that inhibit the normal function
of the body’s nervous system, delaying the healing process.  VSMT specifically treats VSCs thereby allowing the nervous system to orchestrate movement correctly. Acupuncture can be used to treat muscle pain, swelling, stiffness, and weakness both at the localized site of the traumatic injury and at compensatory locations elsewhere in the body. We are honored to offer both of these services at Animal Wellness Center of Buffalo Valley. Give us a call today to see if these alternative therapies will get your pet back to running the course of life at full speed!
Dr. Meier obtained her certification in veterinary spinal manipulative therapy at the Healing Oasis Wellness Center in Sturtevant, WI. In 2007 she was certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association in animal chiropractic, and in 2012, Dr. Meier was also
certified by the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association.
1. Gaynor, J., and W. Muir. Handbook of Veterinary Pain Management, 3rd ed., St. Louis: Elsevier, 2015, p. 82.

Essential Oils for Tick Control

By Meg Wittenmyer, Bifrost Farms Boarding Kennel
You may think it’s too early to be talking about tick prevention, but for Wisconsonites, ticks and tickborne diseases are never far from a dog owner’s mind. It is estimated by the CDC that up to 53 percent of all dogs who live in areas of our state (Northern and Western) where Lyme disease is most prevalent could be infected. Ideally, it is much easier to prevent a tick bite than to have to treat the disease once transmitted. There are a myriad of products sold over the counter to repel ticks and fleas, but those of us who would rather not put a deadly chemical on our beloved pets are always looking for natural alternatives. Essential oils (EO) are an ideal solution.

EO may be applied by spritzing your pet or by directly applying a diluted oil to their fur. First, be sure that you are using therapeutic-grade pure essential oils, and when using on your pet, always dilute at a ratio of 2 to 3 drops per tablespoon of carrier oil (olive, coconut, jojoba, almond).
There are several oils that have been proven to repel ticks (and fleas) and can be used on humans, dogs, and horses. Most, however, cannot be used on cats. These oils are rose or rosewood, geranium, peppermint, grapefruit, myrrh, pennyroyal, and Palo Santo (a Young Living EO blend). Also, peppermint oil (undiluted) can be used to force a tick to release without leaving the head
in your pet.
If your pet is unfortunate enough to contract Lyme disease, your veterinarian will undoubtedly want to oversee the pet’s treatment with antibiotics, which is the only known cure. However, you can facilitate your pet’s recovery with oregano and peppermint oils, both of which contain anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Just place a couple of diluted drops of either or both on your
dog’s ears and inside the pads of their feet.

And remember to learn the symptoms of Lyme disease, so you can notice it early in your pet. These include stiffness, achiness or swelling in one or more joints, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, or a stiff walk with arched back. Consult your veterinarian immediately should you suspect
your dog has been infected.

To Make a Spritzer for Use in a Spray Bottle, Use This Formula:
▪ 1 cup of distilled water
▪ 2 drops geranium EO
▪ 2 drops Palo Santo EO
▪ 2 drops rosewood EO
▪ 1 drop myrrh EO
▪ 4 drops grapefruit EO
▪ 1 drop peppermint EO
▪ 1 drop of Castile soap (emollient)