Pets v. Pests: Natural Protection

Avoiding Chemical Warfare against Fleas and Ticks

by Dr. Alex Barrientos, DVM

Natural pest products available at Earth Angels Veterinary Hospital

Natural pest products available at Earth Angels Veterinary Hospital

It’s safe to say that every dog and cat owner in the Hudson Valley will come into contact with ticks and fleas at some point. They usually cope by using veterinary-recommended products like insecticides that are applied each month—Frontline, Advantix or other brands of the sort. These products are lipophilic, which means they like fat; they go through the skin and sit in fat and oil glands. Each individual shaft of hair has an oil gland, and lipophilic products work by remaining in each gland and spreading the pesticide along with the oil which is produced by each gland on a daily basis. This creates a toxic environment for whichever insect decides to walk through the pet’s coat.

As pest control goes, it’s an easy and effective method. But this convenient bio-warfare has some unintended casualties.

Every time we touch our pets’ coat, for example, we also touch this pesticide—which in turn penetrates our skin and goes into our fat. So far, safety testing has evidenced that even when given in large quantities, these products will not kill you or your pet immediately. But no one knows the long-term effect they will have on our children and grandchildren. We should remember the footprint left in the past by other fat-loving pesticides like DDT and Agent Orange.

Natural repellents and insect killers that are more biodegradable do exist. There are lawn treatments done with pyrethrins (derived from the chrysanthemum flower), as well as an increasing number of sprays and shampoos containing cedar, geranium, citronella, garlic, eucalyptus and derivatives of other well-known plants and trees. These natural ingredients may be used in addition to or instead of the above-mentioned heavy pesticides.

In my veterinary practice, I have noticed that there is growing concern about the safety of synthetic chemicals. I have also found that escaping Lyme disease, a serious condition carried by ticks, involves more than just applying one of these products. With this in mind, I generally recommend a combination of products, with an emphasis on more natural treatments and fewer synthetic pesticides. I’ve found this strategy works very well for my clientele.

As a veterinarian, I have used and recommended all of the above products—natural and synthetic—depending on the season and on the severity of the insect problem. As a parent of two small children, however, I have also wondered what they and future generations will think about our current practice of using heavy pesticides to control fleas and ticks in our pets. These upcoming generations are destined to be more environmentally aware than we are, with a far greater understanding of the long-term legacy of the chemicals we leave behind.

Whenever I see children hugging their pets, not only do I marvel at the uniqueness and beauty of the human-animal bond, as I have done for decades, but I also now wonder about the chemicals our children’s skin is absorbing, and storing, for us to answer to in the future.

Prevent Pests Naturally

Below are the all-natural flea and tick prevention products recommended by Earth Angels Veterinary Hospital in Wappingers Falls, New York. (Many of the ingredients in these treatments are organic, as well.) Earth Angels Veterinary Hospital carries and can ship all these products. For more info, call 845.227.7297 or visit

  • Pet Escential Flea Flicker (*dogs only)
  • Pet Escential Tick Flicker (*dogs only)
  • Honey Birch Farms Bug Spray (*dogs and owners only)
  • Pop’s Pet Products Insect Away Shampoo (dogs and cats)
  • Pop’s Pet Products Flea & Tick & Insect Repellent Spray (*dogs only)
  • Earth Animal Bug Spray (*dogs and owners only)
  • Earth Animal Internal Powder (dogs and cats)
  • Earth Animal Herbal Internal Powder  (yeast-free for dogs and cats) *Please note that many essential oils, along with too much garlic, are toxic for cats.

Dr. Alex Barrientos practices at Earth Angels Veterinary Hospital, 8 Nancy Court, Wappingers Falls, NY. For more information, call the office at 845.227.7297 or visit

Chef Profile: Colin Dowden of Wholesome Goodness Market in Yonkers in NY

Chef Colin Dowden still has a long culinary career ahead of him, but he can already boast a lifetime of experience.

Chef Colin Dowden

Dowden began cooking at age 14, working for caterers in his Brooklyn neighborhood. After high school, he honed his culinary talents in corporate cafeterias, and then moved on to executive dining rooms, where he was mentored by master chefs. (“That’s where I learned the classic French cooking techniques I use to make savory stocks and sauces at Wholesome Goodness,” he says.) In his late 20s, Dowden attended culinary school, acquiring a broad knowledge of world cuisines. As chef at Wholesome Goodness, he now blends broad knowledge and long experience with a lifetime commitment to health and nutrition. “It’s easy to eat delicious and satisfying food that’s also good for you,” he says.

Having benefited from professional mentors, Dowden hopes to give back in kind—teaching children entrepreneurial skills, using food as the vehicle. Once the store settles into a reliable routine, he says, he will be doing cooking demos in the store, and he’s planning a series of cooking classes for kids.

Dowden’s giving extends to the readers of Natural Awakenings, with whom he shares one of his most popular warm-weather recipes.  


Kiwi and Beets Summer Salad

3 beets

4 kiwi
½ cup celery, diced small
½ red onion, diced small
½ cup red bell pepper, cut julienne
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
¼ teaspoon smashed garlic
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup agave nectar
¼ cup raspberry wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Cook beets (skin on) until a knife can slide into them with ease. Let cool in refrigerator, use paper towels to rub off the skin, and then cut the beets into wedges. In a mixing bowl, combine beets, celery, onion, bell pepper, lemon zest and ¼ teaspoon thyme. In another bowl, combine agave nectar, vinegar, ¾ teaspoon thyme, lemon juice and garlic. Whip or blend flavors, slowly adding oil until the dressing thickens, and then add it to the beet mixture. Peel kiwi and cut each one into 8 pieces. Add half the kiwi into the beet mixture and mix with a rubber spatula. Serve garnished with the rest of the kiwi and fresh celery leaves.

Wholesome Goodness Market is located at 66 Main St., Yonkers. Contact the market at 914.375.7133; visit the market online at


Bau-Biologie: The Holistic Approach to Natural Building

By Lou Levy

After World War II, Germany was left to rebuild countless structures leveled or ruined by the fighting. Unfortunately, many of the new homes and commercial structures were built out of cement block and other unnatural materials, without proper design, drainage and ventilation. Together, these building techniques created very unhealthy interior environments for the residents of these homes and buildings.

In the late 1960s, German professor Anton Schneider, PhD, began researching how a building’s environment affects the health of its residents. In 1983, Schneider founded the Institute of Building Biology & Ecology Neubeuern (IBN), devoted to extensive study and scientific research on the subject. The IBN formulated the concept of building biology, or Bau-Biologie—the treatment of the ecology of a home or structure.

Bau-Biologie incorporates specific techniques in the building of a house or addition, treating the structure as though it were another skin. These methods aim for a design that is in harmony with nature. They consider how the building site offers beneficial exposure to the sun as well as protection from the elements; they seek to ensure proper drainage and avoid harmful geomagnetic energies under common-use and sleeping areas.

In Bau-Biologie, building methods and materials are environmentally low-impact and sustainable. On the structure’s exterior, this translates to an all-natural wall and roof system that functions as both a filter and a shell. The exterior is air-tight, but it also has the ability to absorb and filter excess moisture and toxins, allowing them to pass through without any condensation points.

The structure’s interior offers a harmonic environment, with plenty of natural lighting, good ventilation, radiant heat for comfortable air and surface temperatures, and mitigation of noise and electromagnetic energies. Materials and finishes are eco-friendly; unlike many commonly used building products, they do not outgas toxins or radioactivity.

The techniques of Bau-Biologie can be applied as individual design elements or as a comprehensive design system. Whether these techniques are adapted to a remodel, a building addition or an entire house, the goal is the same: to create a living environment that will re-energize and sustain you.

Lou Levy Construction is a design/build firm specializing in custom alterations, renovations and architectural additions and building, maintaining a 95 percent dust-free environment during construction. It also specializes in green and nontoxic applications, passive and active solar installations and retrofits, and the techniques of Bau-Biologie. For more information about Bau-Biologie or other natural building techniques, contact Lou Levy Construction at 845.225.7377 or

Hammond Museum Hosts World Tai Chi Day Festival Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lion Dance Hammond Museum

By Sifu David Cunniff

Tai Chi and Chi Kung (also known as Qigong) are ancient systems of exercise so beneficial to the mind and body that they are considered integral parts of Traditional Chinese Medicine. They feature slow, controlled breathing combined with gentle stretching movements that together harmonize the body, mind and spirit, producing a sense of well-being. Tai Chi has been proven to reduce stress and alleviate many ailments and injuries, while promoting balance and healing.

The public is invited to experience the powerful benefits of both ancient exercises on April 30, when the Hammond Museum and Japanese Stroll Garden in North Salem, New York hosts the 11th annual World Tai Chi and Qigong Day (WTCQD) from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

WTCQD, officially recognized by the World Health Organization and The United Nations, is celebrated in 65 nations, educating millions worldwide about the medical, wellness and mental health benefits of practicing Tai Chi and Chi Kung. The event begins at 10 a.m. in the earliest time zones and continues around the world as Tai Chi is performed at 10 a.m. in each time zone throughout the day.

In North Salem, Master Phil Sant and his students from the Hall of the Gathering Dragons will start the WTCQD festival at 9:15 a.m. with a Chi Kung exercise workshop. There will be a performance of the Tai Chi form at 10 a.m., followed by a display of internal and external martial arts forms and weapons demonstrations.

Also appearing at the festival will be the abbot of the Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel, New York, discussing the health benefits of meditation. There will also be a number of other special guests and artists, a traditional lion dance and Chinese ribbon dance, a Chinese musical presentation, and a performance featuring a collection of Tibetan singing bowls. For children, there will be a craft area where visitors can make dragon puppets and learn origami, Kirigami, paper folding, and paper cutting.

Top Five Reasons for Practicing Tai Chi & Chi Kung:

Reason 5: It increases flexibility. By performing the repetitive movements each day, you keep your muscles limber and stretched. One of the keys to staying young is keeping the cells from constricting, and the daily regimen of a Tai Chi workout guards against this.

Reason 4: It boosts lung capacity. The slow, controlled breathing exercises ensure that the lungs get the exercise and stretching they need to continue to work properly.

Reason 3: It enhances circulation of blood and chi. Slow, controlled breathing also produces chi, your energy force, which is essential to increasing oxygen in the blood. The cleaner your blood is, the healthier your entire body will be. Chi Kung is like Roto-Rooter for your bloodstream—it clears the toxins out.

Reason 2: It improves balance. The graceful, flowing movements, combined with the focus of training, promotes a more conscious and attentive mindset, which creates better awareness and improved balance.

Reason 1: It is fun! Tai Chi form is like dancing. It’s fun to do, it can be done anywhere and any time, and it requires only you.

The Hammond Museum and Japanese Stroll Garden is located at 28 Deveau Rd., North Salem. Contact the museum at 914.669.5033, or visit it online at For more information about this event, contact Master Phil Sant of the Hall of the Gathering Dragons, Brewster, NY, at 845.278.6449; contact Sifu David Cunniff of In Balance Tai Chi Studio, Katonah, NY, at or 914.262.1478; or visit

Cultivating Good Grades – School Gardening Blooms in Westchester County

by Anna Snider

St. Matthew’s Head Start gardening at the Ossining Organic Community Garden

In the past few years, school gardens have sprouted all over the country, and Westchester County is no exception. Educators are using school gardens to promote healthy eating, get students excited about learning, and teach subjects like science, math, language arts and social studies. At Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), we promote school gardening because we believe that experiential learning is the key to engaging students and developing critical thinking skills.

Researchers and teachers have documented the positive impact of school gardening on standardized test scores and GPAs, but perhaps the most fascinating finding in these studies is that students involved in school gardening are more enthusiastic about learning.

With urbanization, children have come to associate food with grocery stores instead of the plants and animals from which their food comes. Both urban and suburban kids have become disconnected from their food sources, as illustrated by an inquisitive fourth grader who recently pointed to a yellow bean plant and asked me, “Is that a French fry plant?” Children who grow vegetables themselves are more likely to eat those vegetables, which is why school gardens play an increasingly important role in nutrition and obesity prevention programs.

School Gardening in Westchester
It is estimated that there are nearly one hundred school gardens in Westchester County, used in a variety of ways. Here are a few examples:

In 2010, the New York School for the Deaf in Valhalla started gardening with students thanks to the help of a Master Gardener Mentor from CCE.  Harvesting vegetables grown in raised beds, students baked a zucchini birthday cake and served salads to students and staff every Friday. They also created cement stepping stones for the garden and sold baked goods made from the vegetables in the school café. The income generated from these sales was used to teach the students about eating healthy on a budget.

At Bedford Hills Elementary, the school nurse decided to start an after-school gardening program after becoming concerned about childhood obesity and poor nutrition. Her idea became a reality with the help of funds from the school district, donations from parents and local businesses, a Master Gardener, and a high school shop class that built a compost bin. An enthusiastic group of third, fourth and fifth graders now meets weekly during the growing season to select, plant, maintain and harvest their vegetables. The entire school visits the garden and participates in special events like salad days, pumpkin harvesting and science projects, making the garden experience an important and delightful part of the school.

If you are a teacher, or parent who’d like to start a garden in your child’s school, here are some guidelines to help you start:

• Make sure that everyone is on board. A school garden will not succeed without the support of the administration, so you will need to form a school garden committee that includes school administrators, teachers and interested parents. Determine what funding is available and apply for grants, if needed. Remember to include students in some of the decisions; studies show that students involved in planning and planting become lifelong gardeners.

• Determine how the garden will be used—whether in the curriculum to teach a variety of lessons, from math to social studies, or in after-school programs or 4-H clubs. If you need some ideas, consider attending a School Garden Workshop at CCE, where we can guide you through the many options available for different grade levels.

• Start small. You may want to garden in containers the first year or add a new raised bed to your garden each year.

• Decide on a site for your school garden. If you are planting vegetables, make sure that the site receives at least six hours of sunlight every day. A Master Gardener School Garden Mentor can help you decide on the best site for your garden.

• Decide who will be responsible for which tasks. Care of the garden over the summer can be divided among students and parents, or it can fall to the custodial staff.

• Get gardening!

Anna Snider is a Horticulture Resource Educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester County, NY.  Call CCE at 914.285.4617 for info on school gardening workshops.

How to Start a Community Garden in Your Neighborhood

by Rev. Peggy Clarke

Onatru Community Garden in Lewisboro

Community gardens are springing up all over the county with more being planned, or at least dreamed of. While many people wish that they could start a community garden, they may fear the cost or feel overwhelmed by the idea of organizing one. But founding these gardens needn’t be an expensive or complicated endeavor.

The first and largest challenge is to locate the land, and the easiest way to do this is to use land that’s already available. Prime examples include houses of worship or public properties like a town park or the lawn outside city hall. Schools are usually very open to starting community gardens (see article on next page), and some people are even approaching country clubs with the idea. Those who aren’t concerned about longevity might also look into unused commercial space that can be temporarily repurposed. Of primary concern is finding a space with access to water that gets a lot of sun during the day.

Once the land is secured, it must be prepared (land often needs to be plowed), fenced in and connected to a water source. Professionals may suggest testing the soil and adding nutrients, but these steps are not necessary for non-professional gardens, since the yield is lower and the toll on the land is minimal, especially in organic or natural gardens.

Deer fencing is necessary in much of the county, and this often constitutes the greatest expense. I suggest fencing that drops 18-24 inches below the surface to discourage diggers.  When creating our InterGenerate Community Garden at Marsh Sanctuary, we made fence posts from the trees were taken down to make room for the garden. This was not only cost effective, but it also added to the aesthetics of the garden.

The much needed water can come from a variety of sources. If the garden isn’t near a house of worship, school or city building, a solar or human powered pump can be connected to a nearby pond, or a rain capturing system can be devised. Visit Lasdon Arboretum in Somers or Hilltop Hanover Farm in Yorktown for some wonderful examples.

Once the land is prepared and the water secured, garden organizers need to adopt a usage model. Some gardens simply offer individual plots for members. Others feature individual plots and Giving Gardens, in which each member helps to provide food for those in the community who lack access to fresh produce. Still others create one large garden that members tend together, and some offer workshops, camps or harvest suppers.

Most community gardens are inexpensive to run, and all have rules and expectations for behavior. Checking out some of the most successful gardens and talking with the organizers is a great way to get started. Onatru in Lewisboro is one of the oldest in the county, and it’s run by the Lewisboro Garden Club. InterGenerate, with both community and communal gardens, is committed to helping new gardens succeed. There’s no need to fear, since the joy of building a new garden lies in the community that forms around it, making every endeavor a success.

Rev. Peggy Clarke, is Co-Founder of InterGenerate, in Westchester, NY. For more information, visit

How to Prepare for a Juice Cleanse to Achieve Optimal Results

by Rosemary Devlin

Chef Tom juicing at O2 Living’s Live Raw Food Café in Cross River

Juice cleansing has gained notoriety among the celebrity community as a quick-fix diet and an excellent tool for achieving weight loss. In reality, although oftentimes weight loss does occur, it is not the primary objective of a juice cleanse. Juice cleansing is designed to remove dangerous toxins that may be left behind by processed foods.

The Origins of Cleansing
The origins of cleansing date back to 1747, when Dr. James Lind, who studied medicine at the College of Surgeons in Scotland, conducted a study on the disease scurvy. Through his research, Lind proved that the use of citrus fruit blends in directed dosages and a controlled environment could treat and eventually eradicate the disease. Building upon Lind’s principles, clinical researchers went on to study the effects of administering fruit-based fluids to cancer patients. They determined that fruit juices are a valuable tool for removing toxins from the body.

The Modern-day Cleanse
One modern-day adaptation of Lind’s principles is the juice cleanse, which is designed to detoxify the body using all-natural fruit- and vegetable-based juices with no artificial ingredients.  Juice cleanses focus on the digestive system, which regulates which nutrients get into the body and which toxins are removed. Before embarking on a juice cleanse, you may follow a pre-cleanse protocol that eases the body into the cleansing process. Components of the protocol include reducing intake of certain foods prior to cleansing, planning for your daily schedule, and developing a nourishment plan to supplement your cleanse.

Your Pre-cleanse Diet
It is important to remove certain foods from your diet at least 24 hours prior to starting a cleanse.  This helps the body adjust to receiving its nourishment from only juices and raw foods. Foods to remove include dairy, flour, sugar, meat, alcohol and caffeine. During your cleanse, you will be consuming multiple juice drinks throughout the day, which will remove toxins from the body while providing necessary nourishment. Since cleansing juices are crafted from raw foods, it is also recommended that you integrate raw foods into your diet before starting the cleanse.

Your Cleansing Schedule
To receive optimal benefits from a cleanse, it is important to follow a strict schedule. To help adhere to the schedule, it is recommended that you cleanse at a time when you can lighten your schedule and minimize stressors. Plan to consume cleansing juices at regular intervals, typically two to three hours apart, and to supplement your diet with a limited number of whole, live, nutrient-rich foods only if necessary.

Your Cleanse Diet
During the cleanse, you should consume non-caffeinated herbal teas and/or water between cleansing drinks to prevent dehydration. For optimal results, it is best to consume only the cleansing juices during the process. However, one or two whole, live, nutrient-rich foods can be consumed during the course of the day, if necessary. These should be eaten before early evening and chewed thoroughly to increase the volume of enzymes in your mouth and aid in the digestion and absorption of the meal into your body.

Begin your cleanse with the intent to consume only juices. If you find that your body needs additional nourishment, start by integrating one whole, live, nutrient-rich food into your daily plan. Increase to two of these meals only if absolutely necessary. If you are unsure how to prepare the foods or what foods qualify as whole, live and nutrient-rich, consult a nutritionist or ask if your cleanse provider offers prepared meals that meet the cleansing requirements.

After the Cleanse
Once you have removed the toxins from your body, it is important to develop a plan for sustaining the effects of the cleanse. For optimal results, it is recommended that you continue consuming raw foods post-cleanse, as these foods do not contain harmful toxins. Additional ways to sustain the benefits of the cleanse include managing/reducing stress levels and working towards achieving a more balanced lifestyle that makes wellness a priority.

A cleanse can provide a significant jumpstart to your wellness-centered lifestyle. When considering a juice cleanse, first determine whether or not you can commit to the dietary changes and scheduling requirements that are needed for an optimal cleanse. If you decide that a juice cleanse is right for you, remember to follow a pre-cleanse protocol and develop a post-cleanse wellness plan for optimal success.

Rosemary Devlin is a two-time entrepreneur, working mother of five boys and founder of O2Living (, a natural lifestyle and wellness community in Cross River, NY. She can be reached at 914.763.6320 or

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