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We obtained a huge bunch of fresh Autumn beetroot from the Geeveston District High School farm in colours of red, yellow and gold. So here is a favourite beetroot recipe, which has evolved over years of experimenting. It’s easy, can be frozen in batches, and is great to have as part of a healthy lunch to take to work. Beets are rich in antioxidants, can contribute to liver health, and even have anti-inflammatory properties.

The recipe:

Half a kilo of beetroot, trimmed and cut into chunks (any colour – red beetroot makes bright pink coloured dip)trimmed beets before chopping

About a 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 medium onions or leeks, chopped

1 tablespoon ground cumin

Half a kilo of cooked chickpeas (If I’m organised, I have some pre-cooked. If I’m lazy, they come out of a can, certified organic. I’m often lazy!).

1 tablespoon tahini

2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice if…

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The short answer to the question, “Is there asbestos in my home?” is “Yes, probably.” How much, where, and whether you should worry, depends mostly on when your home was built and what condition it is in.

In the U.S., if your home was built after the mid-1990s there might be asbestos in roof shingles, floor tiles, cement pipes and boards, caulking compounds, and joint cements. However, this is not necessarily something to worry about.

Asbestos is a mineral that breaks into small fibers. The fibers are dangerous to breathe, because if they settle in the lungs they can cause mesothelioma, a deadly lung cancer, and asbestosis, a debilitating disease that interferes with breathing. You should also avoid ingesting asbestos. However, as long as the asbestos fibers are encased in something so that the fibers can’t be breathed, or get into your water — generally the case with newer construction materials — you can safely leave it where it is.

Insulation in Home Built Before the mid-1990s

Homes built between 1920 and 1950 may have asbestos insulation. Also, be aware that homes built after 1950, and possibly as recently as the mid-1990s, may contain an insulation called Zonolite made of vermiculite contaminated with asbestos. The vermiculite came from a mine in Libby, Montana, a community so contaminated with asbestos the EPA recently declared Libby to be a public health disaster.

As long as the insulation is enclosed in a wall where fibers cannot escape, it is not hazardous. However, if walls are damaged, or if your remodeling plans involve cutting into a wall, you must arrange for state-certified asbestos abatement specialists to deal with the insulation. They may either remove it or find some way to contain it. But do not handle the insulation yourself.

Asbestos in Homes Built Before 1980

Here are just some of the other places you might find asbestos in an older home:

Shingles and walls. From the 1920s and until 1978 asbestos cement shingles were a popular choice for housing exteriors. Also until the 1970s, cement sheet, millboard, and paper with a high asbestos content were used around fireplaces and wood burning stoves. Cutting or drilling these materials can release asbestos fibers into the air you breathe.

Soundproofing. Until the 1970s, soundproofing material containing asbestos was sprayed on walls and ceilings. Asbestos also was used in textured paint and patching compounds until 1977.  The asbestos in these applications can become loose and release asbestos into the air, if they haven’t already.

Hot water and steam pipes.  These may be coated with asbestos or wrapped with asbestos tape.

Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets. Replacing an old basement furnace in your home can create an asbestos hazard.

Inspection and Abatement

At this point, you may be worried about the cracks, chips, and flaking in your older home. It cannot be stressed enough that if asbestos really is present, you need professional help to deal with it. Deal only with asbestos inspectors and asbestos abatement contractors that are licensed by your state.

The first step is assessing whether there really is an asbestos danger in your home. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that you hire an inspector who is independent from any abatement contractor you might use to avoid a conflict of interest.

Even if there is asbestos in your home, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have it all removed immediately. If the asbestos is in a place where it won’t get into the air or water, it may be left alone. But be aware that renovations or damage to your home might release the asbestos, and then you must call in an asbestos abatement contractor. Don’t try to deal with it yourself.

Barbara O’ Brien

Further information on asbestos exposure and mesothelioma cancer can be found at maacenter.org.

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Winter in Adelaide can provide perfect lettuce growing weather – plenty of rain, and some sunshine, but not the lettuce-leaves-burnt-to-a-crisp sunshine we get in mid to late Summer. Lettuces need plenty of water, being shallow-rooted, and the leaves themselves have a high water content. If they get too hot or dry, or unhappy for any reason, their flavour turns bitter or they bolt to seed. On the other hand, make sure you grow late Winter/early Spring lettuces somewhere sheltered from frosts so that your lettuce leaves don’t turn to mush! But it’s so easy to grow them at the moment with the regular showers we’ve had, that some seeds I tossed around under our Fig Tree a while ago have been providing me with a daily bowl of salad, and I haven’t bothered watering them at all.

Red Oak Leaf lettuce, with some rocket and other mixed salad greens

Red Oak Leaf lettuce, with some rocket and other mixed salad greens

They’re Red Oak Leaf lettuces, one of my favourite varieties because they are so easy to grow, you can pick and eat them one leaf at a time instead of having to harvest the whole plant at once, and the snails and slugs don’t seem to like them much. Those slimy pests prefer the sweeter, milder green lettuces, so being a lazy grower I follow the path of least resistance and grow the stronger flavoured red varieties. These varieties also seem to be hardier when the weather warms up a bit, or if I forget to make sure they have enough water. 

Red Oak Leaf is often the only lettuce I’ll even attempt to grow in Summer when I’m rationing out water like liquid gold. In Winter when there’s plenty of water about I also like to grow Green Mignonette, a small variety which doesn’t take up much space, so will grow happily when squashed in amongst other vegies or in a tub. It has a lovely sweet flavour so I have to be a bit vigilant about the snails. I’ve also had good success with a Brown Romaine lettuce, which looks beautiful in a salad, has a great sweet-nutty sort of flavour, and is slow to bolt in warmer weather.

Growing lettuces from seed

I get my organic lettuce seeds from Green Harvest:  http://www.greenharvest.com.au    They also sell packets of mixed variety lettuce seeds so you can try several varieties from one packet – an economical way of finding out what grows best at your place. Hearting varieties are usually meant to be harvested all at once when mature, while loose-leaf varieties can be eaten gradually over a longer periods of time by just eating the outer leaves. Another good source for seeds is Select Organic: http://www.selectorganic.com.au  

Lettuces are easy to grow from seed. As long as you use a good seed-raising mix and make sure they stay moist, they’ll germinate quickly. Don’t sow them too deep, only about half a centimetre. I tend to just thinly scatter them onto compost, then scatter some seeds rasing mix over the top and water them in. Sometimes I’ll put a scrap of shadecloth over them to stop them drying out, to be removed once they germinate. I let them grow and compete with eachother for a little while until they’re about half a finger tall and then I thin out the small ones (and eat them in a salad) until I have some nice healthy looking lettuces about 20 to 30 cm apart. Sometimes with loose-leaf lettuces I get really lazy and forget to thin them out, and I just keep eating the outer leaves. They don’t grow very big that way, but they seem to last a long time. Whether you grow them in the ground or in a tub, the soil around their roots needs to be moist at all times, so that they grow quickly to full size without turning bitter. A thick layer of mulch around them helps a lot.

Harvesting lettuce seeds

If you want to harvest your own lettuce seeds for another round of planting, choose your best, healthiest looking lettuce and nurture it, making sure it has plenty of water and nutrients (if in doubt, add more compost!). Let it flower, keep molly-coddling it, and let the flowers turn into seeds.

It’ll take about two months for that yummiest-looking lettuce to produce yellow flowers that turn white and fluffy. You can then either:

1) cut off all the flowers near the bottom of the plant and put them somewhere to dry and then store the seeds, or …

2) my favourite method – leave them until they start spilling all over the garden and flying away with the breeze, then break off the big branch of flowers near the base and joyfully thrash it around the garden anywhere you think you might like lettuces! For more accurate and sensible ways of saving and storing seeds, see “The Seed Savers’ Handbook” by Michel & Jude Fanton. You can get it at: http://www.seedsavers.net

Eating lettuce and salads in Winter

You can give a Winter salad some really warm flavours. Try squeezing a clove of garlic into some olive oil and adding black pepper as a salad dressing. Or ginger, tamari and peanut oil with a little chilli….or how about a warm tahini, sunflower oil and sweet potato dressing.  My daily Winter salads are the result of garden foraging and usually include torn lettuce and rocket leaves, shredded cabbage, nasturtium, beetroot, radish and baby kale leaves, florets of raw broccoli side shoots, a handful of parsley and winter basil, and maybe some grated daikon and beetroot. Sweetened with some organic carrot from the market and tossed with apple cider vinegar and a good olive oil and sprinkled with sunflower seeds, it’s always an easy, fresh-tasting treat and makes me feel great. Toss through some chick peas or cooked beans and you have a complete meal. The incredible variety of ingredients is just one of the great pleasures of growing your own food.

Making the most of a small space: a red curly leaf lettuce growing in Spring under the protection of a dwarf nectarine tree. It will soon be ready for harvesting, and then the interplantings of kale and silverbeet will grow to full size.

Making the most of a small space: a red curly leaf lettuce growing in Spring under the protection of a dwarf nectarine tree. It is about to be harvested, giving the interplantings of kale and silverbeet space to grow to full size.

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