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   2020-03-23       107        Business
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Channel Description : Filmmaker-driven independent media
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Title : Frugal Off Grid Homesteading in the High Desert
Description : Living on a homestead off-grid can be achieved with as much, or as little as you have. In fact, it’s much more about your attitude and mindset than having a lot of expensive equipment. After all, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach so it’s about finding the elements that work for you. John went off-grid his own way and has found joy, peace, and satisfaction living on his own in the high desert. Homesteading off-grid is a lifestyle where you don’t have access to public utilities such as gas, electricity, or water. Maybe it’s something he always longed for, but John spent years working in the city, making money, grinding away at the 9-5 before he finally realized it was time to live off-grid. So with only $6,000, a van, a trailer, two water tanks, and a plot of land, he began the process of building his own homestead. His first endeavor was to start digging. With a $4 shovel, John began digging the hole that would become his geothermic greenhouse. This is a greenhouse for growing plants that regulates its temperature using the earth itself. With long stretches of tube buried underground, air can circulate pulling cold air from the ground into the greenhouse to cool it, as well as hotter air to warm it depending on the time of day. Sponge baths were working fine but a proper shower was next on his list. Using collected rainwater and a propane heater, it’s easy to maintain hygiene even in the middle of nowhere. He’s just careful about not wasting too much water. With a chicken coop, compost pile, storage shed, and pens for the livestock, John had himself a lively functional homestead. And while living in a van might be unconventional for some, he finds himself more at home there than in the expensive homes with the fancy cars he’s owned in the past. It’s a way of life that’s calm, and John says he’s much happier living on his own but it’s not for everybody. If you’re interested in homesteading, there are a few things you should consider. When looking for land to homestead, one of the most important factors is how close the land is to civilization. If you’re too far off the beaten path, you may find yourself struggling to get by. Another thing to consider is the climate; if you don’t live in a temperate climate, you may want to look for a property that has access to year-round water. Finally, make sure to take into account the cost of the land and any associated taxes or fees. There are a few things you’ll need on your homestead if you want to live off the grid. The most important things are: land, a water source, shelter, and an energy source. Land is important because you’ll need a place to live and grow your food. A water source is necessary for drinking, bathing, and watering your garden. Shelter is essential for keeping yourself and your belongings safe from the elements. An energy source is necessary for cooking, heating your home, and powering your appliances. Solar is a great option if you’re somewhere that gets a lot of sunshine. While homesteading off-grid is a great way of life for some, it’s not for everybody. Living without public utilities can be difficult, and it takes a lot of hard work to maintain a homestead. It’s important to consider the climate, the cost of land, and your access to civilization before making the decision to homestead. If you’re not prepared for the challenges that come with homesteading, you may find yourself struggling to get by. But it can also be the most rewarding and satisfying way to live your life. It all depends on who you are and who you want to be. Off-grid homesteading can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, but it’s not without its challenges. It takes hard work, dedication, and a willingness to adapt to change. John has found that living off the grid in the high desert suits him well and he’s grateful for the peace and independence it affords him. What about you? Would you like to give homesteading or off-grid living a try?
Post Date : 01/10/2022
Title : Growing Award-Winning Weed in a Garage, a Story of Cultivating Cannabis with Care
Description : As we meet Mike, proudly wearing his Qualifire Farms jacket, we’re immediately struck by the fire in his eyes when he talks about the product. Mike candidly tells us that when he first tried Steven’s cannabis, he was shocked. In his mind, there was no way Steven could be growing this. This was, hands-down, the best weed he had ever smoked in his entire life. Naturally, he asked Steven whether he would teach him. But Steven was hesitant. Yet, a couple of weeks later, they took a leap of faith and jumped headfirst into this new adventure together. They decided to turn Mike’s garage into a grow room. They insulated the walls and installed lights and extractor fans. They also set up exhaust and intake fans. The reason they used his house is that their patients live 25 miles away from a dispensary. And in Arizona, the Health Department authorizes patients to sign their rights over to a caregiver when they live 25 miles or more away from a dispensary. The caregiver can then grow cannabis in their home on their patients’ behalf.  Together, Mike and Steven are allowed to grow 120 plants as caregivers. According to Mike, Steven’s secret weapon is his unconditional love and passion for the plant. He’s dedicated to growing superior quality and achieves this by looking after the plants like no one else would.  His process is as simple as gardening. He cares for the plants and turns them into excellent quality medicine ready for patients to use. The product then goes straight from him to his patients.  The method is straightforward. The buds are chopped off the plant, dried, put into a jar, cured up, and handed over to the patient. It’s similar to a farm-to-table concept but with medicinal cannabis. Steven says that, contrary to popular art, the cannabis plant is grown for the buds and not for its leaves. Therefore, harvesting big, clumpy, and juicy buds is what matters most. Passion and love are important, but Steven’s success also stems from his award-winning methods. Thanks to his high-quality product, he won the Jack Herer Cup. And he won the Errl Cup multiple times. Now, that’s no small feat!   The young caregiver talks us through his routine. He starts the day by coming to his growing rooms to assess how healthy the plants look. It allows him to observe the impact of the changes he made on the previous day. The process also involves checking the pH levels. Steven explains that the pH matters a lot when growing a flowering plant. A low pH will prevent the plant from processing nutrients. But according to the grower, even though there is a science to growing cannabis, cultivating the plant is also an art. In fact, you could have 20 different growers in a room, ask them how they grow a plant, and get 20 different answers. So, the idea is to strike the right balance between science, know-how, experience, and art.  Steven lets another secret slip. To grow a healthy and clean cannabis plant, you have to be preventative and proactive as opposed to reactive. The early flowering room where Steven is now taking us is lit up by three different light generations. A whooshing sound escapes from the fans as he details the importance of lighting. The latest generation of lights has been designed to produce UV light. Now, this is important because when UVs hit the plant, it reacts by producing orange, purple, and blue pigments, which act as a form of sunscreen. UVs also help the plant produce trichomes and terpenes. The higher the level of terpenes in the plant the more powerful the medicinal effects. Steven adds that even though there are different types of cannabis plants, the terpenes in each of them determine their effects. Steven’s mom has Parkinson’s disease, and he has noticed that different terpene levels affect her differently. Equipped with gloves, he carefully lifts one of the plant pots. He wants to check for plant growth, root development, photosynthesis, and transpiration rate, he says focused on the task. As a grower, you can use different mediums from rockwool, cocoa, and soil to hydroponic clay pellets. Steven uses both cocoa and rockwool, but he explains that he prefers to use cocoa. Based on his experience, it’s the perfect growing medium because it has the advantages of rockwool and soil. Cocoa allows him to benefit from the aggressive growth rockwool provides combined with the tasty benefits from using soil as a growing medium.  All of a sudden, as he mentions the main hurdles he’s encountering as a caregiver growing cannabis, Steven’s face closes. The regulations in Arizona make it difficult for him to operate and have his own facility. There’s only a limited number of licenses available, and the authorities are not issuing anymore, he adds, concerned. Disillusioned, he takes us to the next growing room, which happens to be a master bedroom. Every part of the room has been optimized. A desk has even been set up in the closet area. In fact, every room of the house has been maxed out, and the passionate caregiver is running out of space. The equipment is also basic. For now, they use photography and cloning lights and have set up a homemade cooling system.  To lease a license can cost over one million dollars a year, he explains. And because Steven is a caregiver, he’s not allowed to trade his product for money. After all, the field is still in its infancy. So much so that caregivers are using burner phones, through fear of making their activity public.  Steven is considering leasing a license from somebody else; otherwise, he can never own a license. But he’s not the kind to be easily defeated. Despite all these obstacles, he stays passionate. You can see the spark in his eyes as he explains that thinking outside the box, leveraging the tools he has, and putting all his heart into what he does is all he needs to create an amazing product. Steven spent a lot of time in Child Protection Services custody and didn’t have the chance to have a father around to teach him a craft. So, when he discovered cannabis, it became an important part of his life.  Weed has helped Steven go through hard times and now offers him a new perspective on life. It helps him let go of the past, focus on the present, and on all the possibilities the future holds.  As he smiles while harvesting a plant, it becomes apparent Steven is happiest down here, with his cannabis.
Post Date : 01/04/2022
Title : Backyard Aquaponics Farming Fresh Fish and Vegetables
Description : The use of aquaponics is very beneficial for producing food for human consumption while also enhancing environmental stability. For example, many fish waste products are converted into nutrients by bacteria that are then used to grow plants.
Post Date : 01/03/2022
Title : Herpetology and Going Inside the Largest Reptile Sanctuary in the US
Description : Dressed in a black t-shirt, Daniel Marchand, the executive curator of the Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary, is always proud to provide tours of the property. The animal rescue sanctuary welcomes over 1,200 animals at any time. The animals range from snakes, crocodiles, and lizards to tortoises and turtles. The facility was created to save reptiles and amphibians. It’s illegal to own many of these animals as pets in many states. That’s why, before the sanctuary was created, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) had no other choice than to euthanize them. After all, by wandering in the wild, they represented a danger to the public and to the natural wildlife. So the sanctuary started to work closely with the AZGFD, offering to house the animals or ship them to other zoos throughout the world. Daniel is passionate about Herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians), and he loves his job. You can tell by the way he talks about the animals with a sparkle in his eyes. He grew up in the desert, among reptiles, and has always found them fascinating. But, working at the Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary is not for the faint-hearted!  Daniel works with dangerous species. In fact, he works with some of the most dangerous species in the world. For instance, the sanctuary shelters some Australian saltwater crocodiles. And this species is the most aggressive and dangerous crocodile species in the world. It is also the largest. The record for these maneaters is in the 27-foot range and 3,200 pounds. They can come out of the water at a speed of 40 to 45 miles an hour and easily ambush prey that venture too close to the water. As we continue to follow Daniel through the sanctuary, he introduces us to Grandma, the oldest living False Gharial crocodile in captivity in the world. Grandma is between 87 and 89 years old, and she is a rare occurrence as there are only 38 False Gharials on display in the US. And the sanctuary possesses six of them. Daniel also points out the South American black caimans sunbathing in their enclosure. There are only 13 black caimans in the US, and the curator possesses nine of them. The South American caiman species tend to be large animals. Females are typically ten to twelve feet, while males can measure up to 20 feet. But they are an exception as caimans usually measure between three and five feet. One of them is called Nessie. She is one of the four remaining black adult caimans in the US, and she’s believed to be in her mid-80s.   Daniel is proud of his work to help repopulate zoos across the planet. All crocodilians, caimans, and alligators are considered endangered species and are federally protected. This means that they can’t be captured in the wild. That’s why these particular caimans were produced in a zoo in Denmark and imported into Daniel’s facility. This will enable the Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary to give their offspring to zoos across the US.  The property also features American alligators. One of them is a trained female that has been raised to interact with humans. Yes, alligators have the ability to be tamed, says Daniel! But of course, they are still wild animals, and anything that would make them defensive would be dangerous. Yet, Daniel mentions that they’re not man-eaters and are actually afraid of men. The other alligator sharing the female enclosure is Mr. Stubbs. He lost his tail to another alligator and is the only reptile in the world with a prosthetic tail! Daniel also shows us a dwarf crocodile. It is the smallest crocodile species in the world, and the animals typically reach a maximum of 5 feet in length.  Crocodiles eat mainly during the warmer months of the year. A typical feed includes three to six rats or large chunks of chicken. But some crocodiles like Yeti, an American crocodile, can eat up to 50 pounds of food in one feed! Another fellow Daniel wants to introduce us to is Penny, an African tortoise. Penny weighs an impressive 225 pounds. Tortoises are the size of a fifty cent coin when they are born, he says amused as he looks at the big tortoises sheltering from the sun in their enclosure.  Venturing into the iguanas’ corner, Daniel points at the Rhinoceros iguanas from the Dominican Republic. Like many animals on the grounds, they are an endangered species. These vegetarian creatures enjoy fruit and vegetables, but what they love the most are flower petals! Daniel is also particularly proud of introducing us to the Grand Cayman blue rock iguanas he acquired some time ago. After all, they’re the rarest in the world and can only be found on Grand Cayman Island. A few years ago, there were only 25 blue rock iguanas left on Grand Cayman Island. Their numbers rapidly dwindled during the construction of the island as they were killed to feed the workers. But nowadays, there are approximately 250 blue rock iguanas on Grand Cayman Island, and Daniel has largely contributed to repopulating the island. The main building’s function is to assess animals as they first come in before being placed where they need to be on the property. When touring the building, Daniel stops in front of a few enclosures, including the anacondas’ enclosure. Anacondas are the heaviest snakes in the world. They can weigh over 300 pounds. Another impressive snake kept in the main building is the reticulated python, the world’s largest snake by length. While this specific python is 18 feet long, the world record is 37 feet. The range of snakes the sanctuary welcomes is wide. It includes many species, including Albino snakes, which he calls a genetic oddity, Rattlesnakes, and Black Mambas. Black Mambas are particularly intelligent and dangerous. What makes them dangerous is that they can learn our patterns and adjust their behavior accordingly. Their bite can cost up to $730,000 in treatment, Daniel says in an assertive voice. That’s why, when training his team to tend to Black Mambas, he always teaches them to switch things up and avoid having the same routine. A snake, pound for pound, is eight times stronger than a man. If someone gets bitten by one of the snakes he looks after and doesn’t go immediately to a hospital, they’ll die, he adds. Despite these facts, Daniel is adamant about fighting a widespread stereotype; snakes aren’t evil. They’re not out to chase humans down and kill us. He blames Hollywood for making snakes villains, and his goal is to educate people and break this kind of stereotype. While the facility mainly houses reptiles and amphibians, there are a few mammals as well. For instance, Mr. Chow is a loving and cuddly Asian small-clawed otter. These animals have thicker hair than any other animal. So when they’re in the water, their fur keeps the water away from their skin, preventing them from being too cold. They love a good fish and shrimp! The facility also houses some kinkajous from South America. Someone purchased them as pets but decided they didn’t want them anymore after a while. That’s why they called the sanctuary, and Daniel agreed to take them in.  Back outside and stepping into the world of lizards, we meet the Tegu lizards from Argentina. They’re unique because they’re omnivores. There are a little less than 6,000 different lizard species in the world, and only two lizard species are venomous. And one of them is the bearded lizard, which Daniel holds firmly in his hand. Their glands are located in their cheeks, where the poison is stored. So it’s important to handle them very carefully. These animals can spend up to 80% of their time living underground. Talking about venomous animals, the sanctuary features the most venomous snake in the world: the inland taipan from Australia. According to Daniel, if an inland taipan bites somebody, they would not survive longer than 20 minutes without treatment.  A few years back, there was only one antivenom bank in Florida, on the East Coast. Daniel and his team created one in Arizona to help people from the West Coast. The sanctuary uses Crofab as an antivenom. Daniel explains that one little vial costs between $7,000 and $11,000. And if someone shows symptoms of a snake bite, they might need up to three vials, which can add up to $33,000. Daniel even says that there have been snake bites requiring up to 27 vials.  When it comes to feeding the animals, the team works hard. Three times a week, they gather approximately 1,200 pounds of food supplies from four different local stores. The stores provide the sanctuary with discarded food produce. After carefully sorting them, the team feeds them to lizards and tortoises. And the funny thing is, these animals can go through this much food in as little as 20 minutes. The reptile enthusiast explains that the facility makes a point not to feed live animals to live animals. Unlike what we might think, reptiles do consume dead animals. The Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary is part of the SSP (species survival program). This means the facility is licensed to reproduce these animals. If a zoo decides to have one of these animals on display, they have to contact Daniel as it is federally illegal to import them. Daniel understands this rule as he agrees we’ve taken too much from the wild. The sanctuary is one of the only licensed places in the US  allowed to practice the captivity breeding of endangered animals.  What makes Daniel happy is knowing that he can save animals, help them and give them a good life. The passionate curator has many unusual stories about how the animals ended up there, from tortoises outliving their owner to snakes biting and killing their master. He also likes to educate people and especially kids. Thanks to this facility, they can see how these animals behave up close. Daniel even becomes emotional, his eyes filled with happy tears, when he talks about one of the impaired kids he helped physically interact with the reptiles. The child was so amazed at this unique experience, he was still talking about it to his mom many days later. This kind of experience is priceless for Daniel, and that’s exactly why he does what he does.
Post Date : 02/01/2021
Title : Bringing Back The World’s Oldest Fermented Beverage and Reintroducing Everyone to Mead
Description : Mead, a delicious beverage, but underappreciated and many don’t even know what it is. It’s also relatively expensive to make. Mead may the most delicious beverage that you’ve never tried before. It’s not beer, it’s not wine it’s not cider. It’s its category of beverage. This is Superstition Meadery. They have a warehouse in Phoenix and Sweden and send mead all over the states, the country, and all over the world. According to Tyler, there’s no better way to drink mead than getting to the source. He’s very excited about tasting. Tyler starts up the honey pump. It does all the heavy lifting. You can see the honey going through the hose over into the three-way valve. That three-way valve is also pushing water through as the honey goes through. Mixing honey and water in line as well as circulating in the tank.  MUST You can see the honey mixing in a Must.  Must is the winemakers’ term for the basic sugar-water. If honey was just added to the tank, it would still ferment. However, the honey would settle to the bottom and reduce fermentation. Therefore, you want to get into that target gravity. Gravity is a fancy term for sugar content.  It mixes all together until it’s homogenized. For the recipe, you use two parts water to one part honey. With the recipe, it’s designed to ferment to about 13.5% alcohol. Mead is the world’s oldest fermented beverage. All of our ancestors, no matter where you’re from; whether it’s Europe, Africa, or Meso-America, were all enjoying mead. Honey was one of the easiest sugars to get because nature is making this beautiful source of honey. HONEY Some of the honey that you buy off the shelf could be flavored rice syrup from China; you can’t really tell the difference by tasting it. It’s a pretty good imitation but fermenting is very different. If you’re a consumer buying honey at the store, you wouldn’t know by tasting it or by looking at it that it was not real honey. For the best honey, you should be shopping locally. The recipe makes the product but the quality of your ingredients and where you source them from are almost as important as the work that goes into it. Different kinds of honey are like different grains, hops, or varietals of wine grapes. When you take Arizona wildflower honey, or Arizona mesquite honey, or honey that was extracted from a hive at the end of the summer that almost cooked and turned dark brown, all of those different kinds of honey are going to wind up tasting different; not just as honey but also after you ferment them in a mead. STABILITY Did you know that when bees put honey into the honeycomb they have to dry out the moisture content to be below about 18%? That makes the honey stable. When we talk about stability and alcohol, it means that it won’t ferment. The bees remove so much moisture from the nectar that the honey is stable and will not ferment inside the hive. If they didn’t do that, the bees would be making mead themselves.  There are cases in nature where a beehive and the cracks of a tree will become swamped from a big rainstorm. Then that’ll start fermentation. With some ambient heat dissolving some of that honey, mead can happen spontaneously in nature. Ancient people knew that there was something magical going on because there was always going to be this resident yeast culture sitting around in those vessels that were creating alcohol. Therefore, people all around the world ended up making mead. YEAST To prepare the yeast, you need a specific water temperature of about 105 degrees. Just like if you’re baking bread, you normally rise the yeast in water that’s about this temperature. Quite simply, the yeast eats sugar, in this case, honey, and creates alcohol. That’s the basis of all fermentation. The yeast rehydrates and gets all nice and hungry. It’s similar techniques to the wine industry and the craft brewing world to create truly unique things, and like you’ve never had before. GRAVITY Gravity is a measurement of density. The gravity of water is 1.000. The density is measured on a scale of water to thick water. The ideal density is about 1.125. The density is indicative of the sugar content. This will become important through fermentation. The gravity will get lower as the yeast consumes the sugar. There’s a lot of science that goes into the process of making mead. You have to look at the Ph, the gravity, the temperatures, and all these different factors that go into having a happy healthy fermentation. BARREL AGING Then there’s the artistic side. That’s what the barrel program at Superstition Meadery represents. The different qualities that they’re going to get from the different woods, the different barrels, the different way that they were all treated, put in flavor to what they’re doing. It’s a little magical in the way that there’s no way to know exactly when the mead is going to be ready to drink. It will be a little different each day as time goes. Also, it will be different in six months than it is today.  When you cook or toast the lignin that makes up wood, you can chemically change lignin to vanillin. Vanillin is the exact flavor that you get from a vanilla bean or that you have in vanilla ice cream. You can get flavors like vanilla, coconut, and nutmeg from Oak. There are so many factors that can be considered when it comes to barrel aging.  Jeff takes a sample of some beautiful raspberry mead from the barrel. First, he evaluates the appearance and the aroma of the mead. It’s this beautiful garnet red color; spot on. For the aroma, it’s everything between honey and raspberry. Jeff says that it’s one of the best things that they’ve ever made. Even though the mead is the oldest fermented beverage, at some point in time people developed ways to make wine and beer and then distilling. Therefore, mead had a lot of competition. Mead was never an inexpensive product because the primary fermentable ingredient that defines the category is honey. Honey is the most expensive commonly used fermentable ingredient in alcohol today. But Superstition Meadery has transformed that great challenge into one of their greatest assets. This way, they have redefined an industry and what mead is to everyone that comes into their tasting room.  They try and source the very best international ingredients from all over the world. Consequently, they pair those with what they feel is the best honey in the world, Arizona honey. Don’t just drink one mead and think that’s what it’s all like. Imagine if you only had a Bud Light and you thought that’s what all beer was. You’d be missing the whole world on barrel-aged stouts and double IPAs and all the crazy cool flavors that are out there. If you have the opportunity, go to a meadery. Do a flight to try different meads because some are going to be just like a white wine while others will taste more like merlot or pinot noir.   While mead might be relatively unknown, it truly is amazing. It’s like caramel-covered raspberries and a hint of alcohol and the honey shines through. The creativity and the potential to make something unique in the mead world rivals anything else out there that you’ve ever had. That’s what makes mead amazing.
Post Date : 01/07/2021
Title : From Farm-to-Table, an Artisan and Ethical Approach to Dairy Goat Farming
Description : The benefits of goat's milk are leading to an increase in goat’s milk consumption around the world. This is the story of a passionate American family that strives to provide high-quality artisanal goat’s milk products to the community and strongly believes in animal welfare.
Post Date : 01/06/2021
Title : Inside a real mushroom kingdom, cultivating gourmet and medicinal mushrooms
Description : Mushrooms don’t just grow in forests, they’re thriving and abundant here on this urban mushroom farm. Southwest Mushrooms specializes in cultivating fresh gourmet and medicinal mushrooms. They cultivate a wide variety of mushrooms in a clean environment using high levels of expertise and passion to produce the best quality mushrooms in the region. The environment inside the indoor farm is fascinating if not mystifying. The facilities are akin to a research lab with sterilization equipment and enclosed incubation and growing spaces. You can’t help but be amazed at the level of attention and care in the whole process from growing to harvesting the mushroom. This is clearly what sets their products apart. Mushroom growing is not a recent interest for Michael Crowe, the founder of Southwest Mushrooms. For “Mushroom Mike” as people fondly call him, mycology — the study of mushrooms — has been his driving passion. He started growing mushrooms when he realized the massive benefits that mushrooms bring to the world and has not stopped ever since. Mushrooms are nutrient-rich and have a lot of medicinal benefits too. Mushrooms are immune system enhancing and they have been shown to help with chronic diseases such as cancer, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. Now, mushrooms are not grown like typical fruits and vegetables. After all, mushrooms aren’t plants, they’re fungi. They grow from tiny, microscopic spores that come together and form the mycelium that then fruits into full-grown mushrooms. This process relies on substrates like sawdust, grain, or wood chips for nourishment. Understanding mushroom farming really is a bit like a science lesson. And as Michael says, it’s a balance between science and art. He starts the process of growing mushrooms by dropping a couple of mycelium slices into a broth-like substance called the culture. This, he says, will feed and help to expand the mycelium in preparation for adding to the substrate. While the mycelium matures in the culture room for a couple of days, they prepare the substrate on which to “plant” the mycelium. From culture, the mycelium is further expanded into spawn. Michael primarily uses organic wheat berries and other whole seeds for this process. As the mycelium expands and devours the grains, it grows stronger and stronger. Each little kernel of grain eventually becomes like a seed that can be further expanded in a wood substrate. The spawn itself is so nutritious that there is no need for fertilizers or other additives. The substrate is the final grow medium for the mycelium before fruiting into mushrooms. Michael makes his substrate using a blend of oak hardwood sawdust. The sawdust mimics how these mushrooms grow in nature: on trees, and it’s their final source of nutrition. Once the sawdust is completely blended with water to form the substrate, they fill plastic bags with the substrate. The bags are then taken to the sterilization area where they are sterilized using hot steam at temperatures of over 200 degrees. This part of the process is very critical. Sterilization kills off any microorganisms and other unwanted competitor molds or fungi. If the substrate is not sterilized properly, other fungi and bacteria will thrive in the environment at the expense of the mushrooms. They’ll end up outcompeting the mushrooms and they won’t be able to grow at all or will be contaminated. And because the substrate and the environment are clean and sterilized, there’s no need for pest or disease control. After a couple of days, they take the now fully-colonized spawn and break it down into individual grains. That will be the vehicle for the mycelium. This is called inoculation. A small amount of that mycelium is thoroughly mixed with the sterilized substrate, making sure to do it in a sterile environment. The bags are filled with a bit of air before being sealed again. The inoculated bags are then taken to the incubation room. Here, the mycelium begins to mature and you can see it expand and even change in color. Dark brown sawdust will become lighter shades of white and yellow as the mycelium expands and devours the substrate. Once the mycelium has fully ripened, it is ready to go to the fruiting room Southwest Mushrooms specifically grows wood-loving mushrooms such as lion’s mane, shiitake, and pink oyster. These mushrooms don’t need manure or darkness to grow. In the natural environment, these mushrooms grow out of recently fallen trees at the bottom of thick forests. They try to simulate the same environment by giving the mushrooms a little light stimulation. The next stage is fruiting which is the ultimate goal of the entire process. Michael takes a sterilized scalpel and slices into the incubated bags. This, he explains, simulates when mushrooms pop out of the crack on tree barks and helps the mycelium to get some oxygen. For shiitake, they’ll also slap the incubated blocks that are ready for fruiting to simulate a tree falling in nature. This trick “shocks” the mycelium into growing because it’s thinking that it’s lifecycle has come to an end. Once the mycelium has devoured all the nutrients in the substrate, it signals for the mushrooms to form. And the mushrooms will start popping out the cuts made on the bags within a week or so depending on species. The final step is harvesting the now mature mushrooms. This is an easy but careful process because you don’t want to damage the delicate mushrooms. Harvest is done by cutting as close to the base as possible. The mushrooms are then carefully packed into the desired weights and soon they are on their way to homes, markets restaurants, and grocery stores. In addition to the undeniable health benefits of mushrooms, they are also great for the environment. Mushrooms are super decomposers. They help break things down into organic things that can be reused by the environment. They are environmental waste cleaners and have been found to break down even toxic waste like oil and even plastics. So that’s more reason to want to grow more mushrooms in the world.
Post Date : 01/05/2021
Title : Artisan sourdough bread, one baker’s passion for tradition and the local food economy
Description : This isn’t your typical bakery in the back of a coffee shop or cafe. It’s a residential garage in the middle of suburbia where they bake hundreds of loaves of sourdough every day of the week. This is Proof Bread and it’s one of the most unique bakeries in America. It’s 4 am on a Monday morning and Jonathan Przybyl wakes up because Harriet can’t wait any longer. Harriet is Jon’s starter, a fermented combination of flour and water and microbes that fuels the bakery. The lights in the garage flicker on, Jon fires up the ovens, dusts the table with flour, and it’s time to get to work. Cottage laws allow for these home bakeries to exist legally without issue in Arizona. While this may surprise some, it’s a vital component to the local economy and a small baker’s ability to cover their expenses. What was once a 2 car garage with a single fluorescent light has been significantly upgraded and expanded with industrial ovens, commercial planetary mixers, an automatic dough divider, and two walk-in refrigerators. Yet Jon doesn’t want to give off the wrong impression. None of his gadgetry is pristine or glamorous. In fact, almost everything in the bakery was handbuilt or salvaged from junkyards. The massive Hobart mixer was a broken heap of motionless metal until they rewired the control box and finally got the hook to spin. The divider was a neglected restaurant appliance at auction until Jon raised his hand to buy it. And the fridge is essentially an insulated coset with a rigged thermostat and AC unit to hyper-refrigerate a tiny cramped space. If you expected the latest in high-tech smart ovens and touchscreen digital displays, you might want to look elsewhere. Proof prefers to stick to their artisan roots and keep things pure and simple. In the beginning, Jon and Amanda did everything by hand without a machine in sight. The dream was just about perfecting the dough and perfecting the craft. While Jon misses some of those handmade elements, it’s not practical nor cost-effective when the product you’re selling is bread. Even for higher-priced loaves, you need to be selling hundreds to sustain a business. He took ownership of the bakery a few years ago after the previous owner moved out of state. At the time, Jon was just a loyal customer and knew next to nothing about baking sourdough but he knew he had a passion to keep the local business alive. Recipes failed, sourdough burnt, money was lost, and lessons were learned. But persistence pays off and years later, Proof Bread is a thriving staple at the community farmer’s markets, serving multiple areas across the city. When you watch Jon bake, it’s like watching a delicate ballet of art and science behind a 400F oven. Ferment too long and your starter will turn to soup. Don’t wait long enough though and you’ll bake a flat pancake instead of an artisan loaf. Precision to the exact weight and temperature of ingredients is paramount. Better not get off schedule, because your starter isn’t going to wait around and will continue rising over your bins. It can be only a matter of seconds between ideal perfection and just acceptable. And so every step is written down to the finest detail for consistent replication batch after batch after batch. It’s an artisan process inspired by ancient tradition. Bread has been essential for centuries but it hasn’t always been soft, white, and fluffy. Our ancestors ate gigantic loaves burnt to a black crisp in woodfire ovens. They’d spend days milling and mixing by hand. And if the wheat crop failed, they’d rely on less desirable grains like rye. Baking bread was an arduous task but essential to human life. When you bake bread in this older style, it produces a healthier, more nutritionally complete meal. Instead of white flour with only starchy carbohydrates from the wheat endosperm, you get the whole grain full of fat and protein as well. The longer fermentation time of sourdough starter from wild yeast also helps break down the gluten into a more digestible form. Today, bread is often demonized, but many of those modern criticisms come from the more recent ways in which we bake bread. 100 years ago things changed. The industrialization of baking added ingredients we don’t need, skipped steps that are essential, and made bread cheaper at the expense of quality and nutrition. When you cut costs above all else, you make a more affordable loaf but you can ruin everything that was good about it. Most people don’t even consider that bread would take longer than a single day to make. We’re all familiar with the common baker’s yeast you buy at the store. With a pre-packaged yeast, you can quickly leaven bread dough in a matter of hours and enjoy fresh bread that same day. This isn’t that. Jon’s sourdough ferments for days before it’s finally baked off. Not a single loaf at Proof is baked in less than 24 hours yet Jon bakes more bread in a day than most people bake in an entire year. It’s a worthwhile effort that’s often overlooked for the sake of speed and convenience. As the dough is stretched and folded throughout the day it continues to rise in a process called proofing. The yeast ferments within the dough creating bubbles that produce the airy texture in bread we all love. You’re also strengthening the dough by developing the gluten so the bread holds its shape during the bake. Every step is intentional, methodical, and precise but it’s all necessary. While the longer baking schedule may not be the most lucrative way to run a business, Jon says it’s the right way. His passion for quality covers everything from the recipe and process to the equipment and ingredients. Whenever possible, he’s sourcing local ingredients from other businesses in the community. The flour, for example, is a custom blend of 6 different kinds of wheat from a local mill Hayden Flour Mills. Jon used to buy flour from a traditional restaurant supply store but the quality and consistency just weren’t there. Instead of low cost and mass production, he’s focused on staying local. As supply chains have been interrupted and food shortages spread across the country, Jon’s been able to bake and sell more bread because of his reliance on the local economy. It’s part of the Proof identity and why farmer’s markets are at the heart of the business. Of course, he loves when people buy his bread but he’s equally passionate about teaching others to bake for themselves. He says something has been lost over the years in the way we source and provide food for one another. We’re less connected with where our food comes from and that’s something we need to find again. Jon encourages everyone to shop local and bake bread at home. Even if it isn’t artisan sourdough, you can still start somewhere. Get the basics: flour, water, salt, and yeast and with a little time and love, you can rediscover a wholesome and delicious food that humanity has cherished for generations. It’s the final batch of loaves for the day and Jon pulls them from the oven. A couple didn’t quite get dark enough so back in they go to fire for a few more minutes. Jon remarks that many customers prefer a lighter bread, afraid that dark means burnt, but he says real bread has a proper crust and more flavor. That’s the bread he likes and says that if they’re willing, everyone can fall in love with real bread again.
Post Date : 05/09/2020
Title : Grow food anywhere without soil and 95% less water
Description : Aeroponics and hydroponics aren’t new but they’re frequently overlooked aside from the hardcore horticulture and agriculture experts. Farming, gardening, and growing food are often viewed through the traditional perspective of dirt, manure, composting, weeding, and watering. Many people don’t even consider the thought of growing their own food and opt instead for the “convenience” of going to the grocery store. As supply chains are interrupted, store shelves are emptied, and we analyze the effects of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides on our food, the notion of food autonomy becomes far more attractive. While we may want the benefits of harvesting from our own gardens, that idea can feel more fantasy than reality especially in areas where traditional methods make gardening unfeasible. But forget everything you think you know about growing food. You don’t need soil. You don’t need a lot of land. You don’t need a lot of water. And it doesn’t require a lot of work. That’s the power of aeroponics and the Tower Garden. Discover all the benefits of a home Tower Garden To truly understand the advantages of vertical farming we filmed with Troy Albright at True Garden, a commercial grow facility in Mesa, AZ. Troy is a licensed pharmacist but saw the potential of providing better food choices for his patients. By growing food vertically in Tower Gardens, he’s able to provide fresh produce to a community in a food desert without using any pesticides or herbicides. Zero Soil When we look at nature, it may seem counterintuitive but plants don’t actually need soil to grow. Soil acts as a suspension medium for the plant roots to absorb essential minerals and nutrients for growth but they don’t actually need the soil itself. If you can distill those minerals and nutrients into a water soluble format, you can grow as much as you want without needing a single speck of dirt. That’s the science of aeroponics and hydroponics. Plants don’t need soil. They need what’s in the soil. Tim Blank – Founder and CTO of the Tower Garden Company Easy assembly The tower is made from food-grade plastic components and sets up in roughly 15-30 minutes. As it’s assembled, a tube forms in the center than leads up from the reservoir at the bottom to the shower cap at the top. The only moving component is a pump that sits in the reservoir and automatically pumps water up to the top of the tower. At that point, gravity takes over and the water rains back down through the tower nourishing the plant roots along the way. 95% less water In traditional agriculture, when you water your plants, some of that water runs off and never hits the plants roots, and a lot of water is lost to evaporation. In a grow tower the water is constantly reused and you avoid all that waste. The water goes up and falls back down, over and over and over again. This significantly reduces the amount of water needed to grow fresh fruits and vegetables. NASA has been testing this stuff for decades. 90% less space By going up instead of out you also save on space, Instead of needing acres and acres of land, you can grow the same amount of crops in 10% of the space. This makes sense mathematically but it’s still staggering how much more you grow with vertical farming. One residential tower can easily grow enough to feed two people. A Tower Garden takes up about 2-3 sq. ft. That’s roughly the size of a lamp or end-table. Put it on your balcony, patio, backyard, or the corner of a room. Even if you live in a tiny apartment or condo, you can still grow your own food. 3x faster growth Because the plant roots are suspended in air and directly exposed to oxygen, this hyper-accelerates growth. What would typically take months can instead be grown in weeks. This means plants will grow bigger, faster. Indoors It just so happens that plants love the same temperatures as humans and most of us keep our homes relatively comfortable. This is the perfect conditions for plant growth. Of course sunlight is not as prevalent indoors but with LED grow lights, plants can thrive all-year-long in a controlled environment. Outdoors Of course you can also grow outdoors when the season allows. This makes the Tower Garden an easy addition to conventional gardens or for new growers just starting out. Either way the automated watering system makes gardening simple and fun and relatively easy. Grow year-round With both indoor and outdoor gardening options you really can grow all year long. Freezing winters and scorching summers can easily be avoided by moving the tower from one area to another. Because all the plants are contained on the tower, you can do this anytime you want without the typical hassle of transplanting. Seed to seedling Each port on the tower is meant for a seedling. These can be sprouted from seed or purchased from seedling providers like True Garden. The common grow medium used is rockwool but Troy favors coco coir instead. It’s an organic byproduct from coconut husks that can absorb 10x it’s weight in water. Either way, both rockwool and coco coir offer a soiless grow medium for seeds to flourish. Harvesting These are living plants and you can harvest portions of them while they continue to grow. You don’t remove the whole head of lettuce. Instead you leave the roots in tact and only take what you need. This allows the plant to grow back over and over again. It’s not a single harvest. It’s tower to table every day. One head of lettuce can last months before it should be regrown. Nutritional density If you’re worried some nutritional value might be lost in aeroponics, you shouldn’t be worried. Studies have compared the nutritional differences between aeroponic systems and traditional organic farming and there is very little difference between the two methods. In fact, you’re probably getting more nutritional value by growing it yourself instead of shipping produce across the country and without using pesticides and herbicides. Commercial The 9ft. towers can be used commercially for urban farms in what would otherwise be food deserts. As cities expand and take over farmland, traditionally agriculture continues to struggle to meet demand. Thankfully with an aeroponic system you can grow practically anywhere. This makes growing and buying local produce a lot more accessible and affordable. Residential The residential towers come in at 5ft.-6ft for a smaller-scale grow option. These are really made for any living arrangement and lifestyle. Growing is automated aside from some weekly and monthly maintenance for a very low-impact form of gardening. Imagine sitting down to a dinner of pasta and salad where the salad was picked minutes ago and the sauce was made using fresher than fresh tomatoes and basil. It’s the perfect combination of quality and convenience. The minerals Instead of relying on nutrients from manure and decomposing material, the plants feed on a water-based blend of essential minerals: Mineral Blend A Total Nitrogen (N) – 2.0%• Calcium (Ca) – 1.0%• Chelated Iron (Fe) – 0.05%Derived from: Calcium Nitrate, Iron Sodium EDTA Mineral Blend B• Available Phosphate (P2O5) – 1.0%• Soluble Potash (K2O) – 3.0%• Magnesium (Mg) – 0.5%• Sulfur (S) – 3.0%• Boron (B) – 0.01%• Copper (Cu) – 0.001%• Manganese (Mn) – 0.01%• Molybdenum (Mo) – 0.0005%• Zinc (Zn) – 0.005%Derived from: Potassium Nitrate, Potassium Sulfate, Magnesium Sulfate, Boric Acid, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium  Molybdate, Zinc Sulfate, Phosphoric Acid What can you grow? • Leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, cabbage, and kale • Herbs like basil, thyme, rosemary, dill, chives, oregano, parsley, cilantro, stevia, and mint• Celery• Broccoli• Brussel Sprouts• Cauliflower• Beans• Cucumber• Snap peas• Scallions (Green Onion)• Tomatoes• Peppers• Strawberries• Eggplant• Cantaloupe• Pumpkin• Watermelon• Squash• Zucchini What can’t you grow? • Root vegetables such as carrots, beets, turnips• Tubers like potatoes and yams• Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and other brush plants• Tree plants like apples, oranges, peaches, figs, etc No weeds Maybe best of all, there is zero weeding with a Tower Garden. Without soil there’s nothing for the weeds to grow in. This means super healthy plants and no extra work for you.
Post Date : 05/05/2020
Title : Recycle your food waste into organic fertilizer with worm composting
Description : You probably end up throwing away a lot of food after some meals. It’s okay, most of us wish we were better about food waste but it often seems unavoidable. We live in a society of surplus where many of us have more than enough for over 3 meals a day. Food donations are great but what about those leftover scraps on your plate or the food items that spoil quickly? Apple cores, banana peels, moldy bread, coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells, old pasta, strawberry stems, leftover rice, bad broccoli, spoiled cauliflower… all that food waste ends up in the garbage and eventually the landfill where it rots and serves no purpose other than wasting more food. It’s an unfortunate side effect of all our abundance that so much just goes wasted. 35% of all food grown in the U.S. is eventually wasted. It’s not consumed. Zach Brooks But if we look to nature, we find a simple solution that helps solve our food waste problem AND helps us grow better food, faster. Vermicomposting is the natural process of using worms to aid in the composting process. This happens all the time in nature but you can set up a similar small-scale ecosystem right in your house with a worm bin. Worm Bins Worm bins are great because they don’t smell, they’re completely silent, they don’t take up a lot of space, they’re very low maintenance, and all you need to do is add your garbage food scraps from time to time. You put your food and paper waste in, add a little bit of water, and the worms do the rest. Over time the food and paper decomposes, the worms eat the decomposing material and as a result, the worms produce a powerful organic fertilizer in the form of worm castings, which is basically just a nice way of saying worm poop. It’s the easiest pet animal you could imagine and it’ll help you grow amazing fruits and vegetables in your garden. The Composting Process Traditional compost is a combination of “greens” and “browns.” Greens are anything you eat: fruits, vegetables, and grains. Browns are anything that was a tree: paper, leaves, cardboard, and twigs. Greens provide nitrogen and browns provide carbon. After the composting process, you’re left with a highly active organic soil that you can use for gardening. Vermicompost takes that to the next level by using the exact same foundation of compost: “greens and browns” but also adds the benefit of worms. When those worms are added to the composting process, they help consume the decomposing material and poop out a ton of nutrients that plants love. Those worm castings are a super fertilizer that will help your plants grow bigger, stronger and faster. Types of Worms There are 3,000-4,000 varieties of worms but there are a limited number of worms that operate at the compost level. Genetically worms will live in 3 different layers of soil. You have worms at the top composting level, at the deeper root level, and the deep burrowing worms like earthworms. The most common composting worms that most people are familiar with are Red Wigglers, European Nightcrawlers, and African Nightcrawlers. Red Wigglers tend to be the composting worms of choice because they survive well between 30-90 degrees Fahrenheit. African nightcrawlers do well in the summer but easily die in the winter and European nightcrawlers do great in the winter but get too hot in the summer. Red wigglers find that nice balance that works well in a lot of regions. Some like to say Red Wigglers are the “Cadillac” of worms. Given the right conditions, worms will stay in your worm bin indefinitely. They won’t escape or wander off and you never have to add worms. Worms in a worm bin will continue to repopulate themselves and they won’t overpopulate. Once they fill up their space, they’ll sit at a population threshold until they’re given more room to expand. Benefits of Worm Castings Worm castings are nature’s super fertilizer. They’ll give your fruit and vegetable plants a healthy dose of nutrients that foster growth. As opposed to chemical fertilizers that sink into the ground pass plant roots, worm castings stay at that root level. They’re completely organic and you only need about a 5% mix of worm castings in your compost and soil. Worm castings also send signals to your plants that bugs are present. The plants respond by growing bigger and stronger with their natural insect defenses. This natural response will help repel all those nasty critters you don’t want munching on your leafy greens. While it won’t fight off a full-blown infestation, it will help keep your plants safe and healthy from minor bug attacks. If you’ve seen worm castings sold in stores, you might be tempted to purchase a bag. Things like “Worm Gold” look cool with their deep black color but that color actually means those castings have gone anaerobic. Active compost and castings are aerobic and should be purchased locally or even better yet, made yourself in a worm bin. Urban Recycling While we want our waste recycled, we know many cities are inadequate at meeting the demand required by modern living. Just because items go in the blue bin, doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t end up in a landfill. All too often junk mail, cardboard, and food scraps don’t get properly recycled back into the supply chain. There’s no good way of knowing what happens to that waste after it leaves your plate or doorstep. If you want to ensure that the byproducts of your day-to-day living are being recycled appropriately, take on the responsibility yourself to do something about it. Amazon boxes, paper bills, leftover dinner, and half-eaten snacks can be easily recycled in a worm bin. Instead of rotting in the landfill producing large amounts of methane, vermicomposting produces zero greenhouse emissions. It’s a practical and sustainable solution to a common problem that we all face. With a worm bin, food waste can be handled by individuals right at home. You can take what would normally end up in the trash and feed it to your worms instead. They’ll eat up all that decomposing garbage and in return, you’ll get an active compost full of nutrient-rich worm castings. Put that compost in your garden, on your trees, and on your plants and the cycle begins all over again. It takes you one step closer to zero waste and gets you thinking about what you’re buying, consuming, and throwing away. If nothing else, it’s good to be mindful of those things as much as possible. Everything out here is based on rotting garbage. Everything is decomposing, but if you do it right in your home bin, your bin won’t smell. Zach Brooks How to Build a Worm Bin Building a bin is incredibly simple. Get a large plastic bucket, box or bin. These are affordably purchased at any home improvement store. Cover the bottom with damp shredded cardboard. This acts as a bedding for the worms and creates a nice habitat for them. Add a 1″ layer of compost. This can be storebought or homemade. Use whatever is easiest for you to get your hands on. Optional: Add some manure if you want to increase the active bacteria and nutrients in your mix. Add a 1″ layer of damp mulch. This can be dry leaves, shredded cardboard, shredded newspaper, wood chips, or any other easily accessible “brown.” Add the worms! Buy some Red Wigglers or other composting worm and add them to the bin. They’ll find their way to the bottom of the bin on their own. Before you add any food, let the bin sit for a week or two as the worms adjust to their new habitat. It’s good to shine a bright light on the bin for the first 24-48 hours so the worms know to stay under the soil. They’re photosensitive and they’ll hide from the bright light just like they hide from the sun. After a week or two, go ahead and add your first layer of “greens.” Cover a third of the bin with 1″ of your extra food scraps: apple cores, banana peels, coffee grounds, tea bags, etc Cover that layer with another 1″ layer of “browns.” Shredded junk mail, shredded cardboard, dried leaves, all work great. You want to make sure the bin stays moist so add water as needed. The mix shouldn’t be soupy or dripping but it should feel damp to the touch. Expect to be adding 2-3 cups of water per week depending on your climate. Each week you can cover another third of the bin with more greens and browns. After 6-8 weeks you’ll be ready to harvest your first batch of worm castings. At this point, it’ll just look like dirt and you can remove a third of the bin and add it to your garden. Don’t worry if you get some worms during harvest, they can survive in most gardens and the worms in the bin will repopulate themselves. That’s it. Continue feeding your worms weekly and harvesting their castings for your garden. Vegetables, fruits, flowers, bushes, and trees – all plants love the benefits of worm castings! Worms in a worm bin can be managed as actively or as passively as you want… At the heart of it they’re bugs, and bugs are hard to kill. Zach Brooks Warnings Here are a few things to keep in mind for your worm bin at home. • Citrus and tomatoes can be very acidic and if you add too many, it can throw off the pH of your bin. Only add these scraps in moderation and this is a good reason to only “feed” your bin in thirds. If an area becomes too acidic, the worms can retreat to a safer part of the bin until those orange peels and tomato bits decompose to a more tolerable level. • Avoid meats and dairy. While worms can eat beef, poultry, cheese, and fish, these food items take a long time to decompose and they will likely smell up your bin, attracting other creatures like rats. You want to make sure none of those foods end up in your worm bin or you’ll be dealing with more problems than you want. • Onions are fine in a worm bin but they smell like onions so if you don’t like the smell of onions, keep them out of the bin. Coffee grounds, tea bags, and other fragrant items are a good way to keep your bin smelling fresh. • Too dry: for the first few weeks of having my bin I was using a spray bottle to add moisture for the worms. I would spray daily and thought this was enough to keep the bin hydrated. I quickly realized my mistake when the soil became dusty and dry and I wasn’t seeing any worm activity. A spray bottle is great for frequent touch-ups but that light mist doesn’t actually get the bin saturated with water. • Too wet: After my mistake of letting the worms dry out, I proceeded to pour cups of water into the bin at any sign of dryness. This turned out to be a mistake as well. The topsoil of the bin looked good but when I dug down into the mess it was worm soup! The worms were practically drowning in all that water and the smell was awful. The bin doesn’t drain so the only way for the water to escape is through evaporation and while I live in a dry climate, I was adding far too much water. • Airflow. Worms breathe and need oxygen just like people so don’t clamp a lid on your bin or suffocate your worms with packed layers of food and paper. Keep things in your bin loose and breathable so you have good airflow from top to bottom. If your bin starts to smell, it’s probably because it’s not getting...
Post Date : 03/01/2020


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