No Need to Panic Over Fido Flu

The Gilmer Free Press

CHARLESTON, WV – Fears of the flu for Fido are running high among many dog owners.

It’s the result of a rare strain of canine influenza that has struck thousands of dogs in the Midwest.

Dr. Thomas Mullaney, acting director of the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health at the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, says most dogs that catch this strain of the flu will have mild symptoms – a cough, loss of appetite, sneezing, or a runny nose – that only require supportive care. But he says it can take a more serious turn.

“The dogs tend to typically get higher fevers, tend to eventually develop difficulty breathing because they have signs of pneumonia, and in those situations, the possibility of secondary bacterial infections occurs,“ he explains.

Mullaney says any dog that develops a cough or other respiratory symptoms should be seen by a vet. He stresses that while many dogs have fallen ill, the fatality rate for this strain of canine flu is quite low. There have been few if any cases in West Virginia so far.

Mullaney stresses it isn’t a health threat to humans, but this flu is highly contagious and can pass from dog to dog, and even dog to cat, very quickly.

For that reason, he says when there’s an outbreak, it’s best to reduce the amount of contact animals have with each other.

“Doggie daycares, and where you have kennel situations, and where you even have dogs congregating together in parks, where people walk their dogs,“ he says.

As with the flu in humans, Mullaney says common-sense prevention measures will go a long way with canine influenza.

“When you’ve handled dogs and worked with dogs, washing hands with soap and water, limiting contact between dogs, will probably reduce incidence and likelihood of occurrence,“ he says.

~~  Dan Heyman, Scott Herron ~~

Six Natural Ingredients for Cleaning Your House Without Making It Toxic

The Gilmer Free Press
Non-toxic, inexpensive and eco-friendly: This is the sensible, healthy and easy way to clean your home.

Most store-bought cleaners contain chemicals that can cause not just eye and skin irritations but even cancer, asthma and birth defects. They can be accidentally ingested by children and pets.

According to the EPA, household cleaners can contain an array of hazardous chemicals, “including carcinogens, persistent bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals, endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that may pose risks to human health and the environment.“

But these products aren’t just dangerous inside the home. “Cleaning products are released to the environment during normal use through evaporation of volatile components and rinsing down the drain of residual product from cleaned surfaces,“ the agency says. The nitrogen in window cleaner, for example, forms dangerous nitrates that pollute groundwater.

And it’s not just the chemicals in the cleaners that are a problem: The plastic containers require oil to produce and when the product runs out, that container ends up in a landfill, where it can take 1,000 years to degrade, all the while leaching out more harmful chemicals. When you look at their entire lifecycle, it’s clear there’s nothing clean about these toxic “cleaners.“

Thankfully, nature has provided us with all the necessary ingredients to keep our homes spic and span without killing ourselves, wildlife or the environment. Just use these six natural non-toxic ingredients—most of which you probably already have in the kitchen—for a spring cleaning that’s better for your health and for the air, soil, water, plants, and animals around you. 

1. Lemon

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade—or a perfect nontoxic household cleaner. A natural bleaching agent and deodorizer that will give your home a fantastic fresh scent, natural lemon juice also cuts through grease, removes stains, gives hard surfaces a beautiful shine and even eliminates mold and mildew. Dilute some lemon juice with water to clean stains on cutting boards and kill germs. Dip an old toothbrush in lemon juice to remove grout. Add some salt and you’ve got an effective cleaner for metal grills and a polisher for chrome. Soak plastic food containers in lemon juice overnight to remove smells. Put diluted lemon juice in a spray bottle to keep your kitchen countertops clean and smelling great. Who needs toxic chlorine bleach for the laundry when you can just add a cup of lemon juice to your load for bright colors, white whites and a lemony fresh scent? The list of things that can be cleaned by lemons is impressive.

2. Olive oil

Not just for cooking, olive oil is a great natural cleaner and polisher. Add some salt and you can scrub pots and pans. Rub it into leather to get scratches out. Add some lemon juice or vinegar and you’ve got a great natural wood polisher. The citric acid in lemon juice makes it perfect for dissolving tarnish. Use a cotton cloth to buff stainless steel and brass to prevent streaks and corrosion and get a brilliant shine. Use a halved lemon dipped in salt to brighten copper cookware. Plus, you can use it to lubricate all your kitchen appliances, from blenders and grinders to any cookware with movable parts—or even fix a squeaky door. And before you start your springtime gardening, spray some olive oil on your garden tools to reduce dirt buildup. With all this value (not to mention its culinary, health and beauty applications), it’s no wonder that for the ancient Minoans, olive oil represented wealth.

3. White vinegar

The natural acidity in white vinegar makes it a great natural antifungal and antibacterial. In addition to being a fantastic non-toxic degreaser, it eliminates soap scum. Put on a white cotton glove and dip your fingers in a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and hot water and suddenly cleaning Venetian blinds and piano keys is a breeze. Dip a cotton cloth in a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and olive oil to remove water rings from wood tabletops. To clean and brighten rugs and carpets, dip a push broom in a solution of 1 cup white vinegar and 1 gallon of water. Use the same solution to clean brickwork. To get rid of tough odors like cigarette smoke, leave a bowl of vinegar in the room overnight. There are over a hundred different ways you can use white vinegar around the house.

4. Baking soda

You probably know that an open box of baking soda in the fridge absorbs odors. But in addition to being an effective deodorizer wherever you want to get rid of stinky smells, it’s also an effective antiviral agent and surfactant that eliminates grease and grime. Use it as a scouring powder to clean countertops, sinks, tubs, bathroom floors and your outdoor grill. To unclog drains, pour some baking soda down the drain, and then slowly pour in some white vinegar until it foams. Flush with hot water and repeat until the drain is clear. To keep carpets and rugs fresh, sprinkle on some baking soda and vacuum after 15 minutes. Keep your combs and hairbrushes clean by soaking them in some water with a teaspoon of baking soda. And make your tile floors sparkle with a mop and a half cup baking soda in a bucket of warm water. There are so many uses for baking soda around the house you’ll want to have some handy at all times.

5. Club soda

For a safe and effective window cleaner, fill up a small spray bottle with club soda and use a soft cotton cloth (a clean T-shirt will do the trick). If you need to cut through grease, add a little lemon juice. As an added bonus, club soda is a handy stain remover and polisher. You can also water your indoor and outdoor plants with club soda once a week: they love the minerals in the soda, which helps them grow. To keep your precious gems sparkly, soak them overnight in a glass of club soda. Plus, the carbonation in club soda makes it an ideal rust remover. For cleaning cast-iron cookware, pour in some club soda while the pan’s still warm so the food particles don’t stick. With these and more surprising household uses, it’s clear that club soda isn’t just for drinking.

6. Salt

You wouldn’t pour salt in a wound, but pour it in white vinegar and you’ve got a powerful cleaner with a deodorizing effect. A solution of salt and club soda will clean and deodorize the inside of your fridge. For wine spills on cotton or linen, blot out what you can and pour salt on the stain to suck out the rest. Then soak the fabric in cold water before throwing it in the wash. Mix some salt into lemon juice to remove mildew and rust stains. To brighten colored curtains or washable fiber rugs, wash them in a saltwater solution. Use a cloth dipped in the same solution to brighten rugs and carpets. Use it by itself for a soft but effective scouring agent. With over 14,000 uses, salt is probably the world’s most versatile mineral.

There are other excellent natural cleaners out there, like the vegetable-based castile soap, but these six will do just fine. Not only are they non-toxic and environmentally friendly, they are probably in your kitchen right now. If you want to get really fancy, add some essential oils like lavender or tea tree oil into any natural cleaning solution for an antimicrobial effect that smells great.

So for a healthy, easy, inexpensive and eco-friendly spring cleaning, gather these six ingredients, a few spray bottles, a mop, a bucket, some sponges and cotton rags—and a little bit of elbow grease.

Do you have any tips for a natural and healthy spring cleaning? Leave them in the comments!



~~  Reynard Loki ~~

Bon Appétit: Greens and Cheese Lasagna

The Gilmer Free Press


Servings: 12


  3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  3 cups whole milk, warmed
  2½ cups grated Parmesan
  Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

Lasagna and Assembly

  12 ounces lasagna noodles
  Kosher salt
  ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for pans
  4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  2 bunches collard greens, thick stems removed, coarsely chopped
  2 bunches Tuscan kale, thick stems removed, coarsely chopped
  Freshly ground black pepper
  2 pounds ricotta
  2 large eggs
  1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  8 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-size pieces



Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium until foaming. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, about 1 minute. Add milk 1 cup at a time, whisking to incorporate after each addition. Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking occasionally, until slightly thickened, 6–8 minutes. Remove from heat and add Parmesan, whisking until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth; season béchamel with salt and pepper.

Lasagna and Assembly

Preheat oven to 350°. Cook lasagna noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes less than package directions; you want them to be very al dente so they won’t become mushy when baked. Drain noodles and transfer to a lightly oiled baking sheet; turn noodles to coat (this will prevent them from sticking to one another and make them easier to handle).

Meanwhile, heat ¼ cup oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add a few handfuls of greens and cook, tossing and adding more greens as they wilt, until all greens are tender, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

Combine ricotta, eggs, thyme, and lemon zest in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Lightly oil a 13x9” pan. Arrange noodles to cover bottom of pan, cutting to fit as needed. Spread one-third of ricotta mixture evenly over noodles, then top evenly with one-third of cooked greens. Spoon one-quarter of béchamel over greens, spreading evenly to cover. Add another layer of noodles. Repeat layers 2 more times, starting with noodles and ending with béchamel. Top with a final layer of noodles, then spread with remaining béchamel. Scatter mozzarella over top.

Bake lasagna until bubbling and beginning to brown on top, 45–50 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes before serving.

Dos and Don’ts of Kitchen Remodels

The Gilmer Free Press

According to Remodeling magazine’s “2014 Cost vs. Value Report,” a major kitchen remodeling project should enable homeowners to recoup 74.2% of their initial investments. Kitchen renovations have long been a safe way to improve the functionality and value of a home. But not every kitchen project is a guaranteed winner. Homeowners may inadvertently make changes that end up sticking out like a sore thumb rather than improving the space. Take a look at these kitchen remodeling dos and don’ts to guide your next undertaking.

DO consider the way your kitchen will look with the rest of the home. Keep architectural integrity in mind when designing the space. A farmhouse sink and country cabinets can look out of place in an ultra-modern home.

DON’T overlook the importance of a seasoned designer or architect. These pros will know the tricks to maximizing space and achieving the ideal layout of appliances and may be able to recommend local contractors and vendors.

DO look beyond surface details to the structural integrity of the design. The kitchen should be functional, long-lasting and beautiful.

DON’T design just for today, but look to the future as well. Unless you are willing to spend $50,000 every five years, look for styles and materials that will last for the long haul. Older homeowners may want to make adjustments now that address potential mobility issues down the road.

DO work with what you have. A complete demolition and renovation is not always necessary to achieve the desired results. Only invest in major changes if something is not working (such as having to walk across the entire kitchen to access the stove) or is unsafe. Otherwise, minor upgrades may do the trick.

DON’T over-improve the space. A fully equipped commercial kitchen may be handy for a professional chef, but the average person may not need an industrial hood and indoor pizza oven. When you make excessive improvements, you may not be able to recoup as much of the money spent because your home will not be on par with the values of homes in the neighborhood.

DO make sure you can afford the project. Plan for some unexpected purchases and plan out the renovation according to your budget. Skimping on materials or design because of lack of money may leave you feeling dissatisfied afterward.

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