In Search of Grandma Mary's Chocolate Mandelbrot

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Chocolate Mandelbrot by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2017

Many of my memories of Grandma Mary are tied to food. Eating a bowl of cantaloupe cubes on the linoleum floor of her one bedroom apartment in Brooklyn while watching Sesame Street on the television in the carpeted living room a few feet away -- a big treat as we did not get PBS at our home in upstate New York. Tugging on the wishbone (a rookie mistake - I always lost to my older brother) after a roast chicken dinner in her tiny kitchen. The spotless produce drawer in her refrigerator, red and green apples carefully arranged on a clean paper towel. Her salad dressing - an unsophisticated yet tasty mixture of white vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and fresh dill that she served over iceberg lettuce.

Grandma Mary with Louis and Eve
Grandma Mary on a long -ago visit to our home upstate with my big brother (who was in a King Tut phase) and me, looking amazingly like my four-and-a-half-year-old son.
But it was her mandelbrot that really captured my heart. She would bake a batch whenever we came to visit, wrapping it carefully in tinfoil to keep it fresh until we arrived from upstate. Grandma Mary had diabetes so she abstained but was happy to watch us tuck in gleefully. The modestly arched, crumbly slices studded with nuts and chocolate always disappeared quickly.

I've always regretted that she died before I got her recipe. But I was only 15 when she died and had not yet discovered my love of baking and cooking, not to mention that she was no longer lucid enough to share much of anything with us by then.

Batter for the Chocolate Mandelbrot by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2017

On a cold, gray day back in February, I was thinking about my Grandma and missing her (and her delicious twice-baked cookies...) So I did a little searching to see if I could find a recipe that sounded like a match.

Shaping the logs of Chocolate Mandelbrot by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2017

This recipe, adapted from King Arthur Flour, turned out pretty darn close although I used butter instead of the oil it calls for and I did not have almonds on hand so I used pecans, instead.

Slicing the log of chocolate mandelbrot before the second baking by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2017

Mandelbrot translates to "almond bread" and it is baked twice - first in a long log, then in individual slices sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. I hope you enjoy this delicious treat - the traditional Jewish version of biscotti.

-- print recipe --
Chocolate Almond Mandelbrot
Makes 56 cookies

Ingredients

* 3 large eggs
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 cup (7 ounces) vegetable oil
* 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
* 1 tsp sea salt
* 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
* 1 1/2 cups almond pieces (or walnuts or pecans)
* Coarse white sugar, optional

Directions

1. Beat together the eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla, and salt at medium-high speed until thickened and light-colored, about 5 minutes. Beat in the flour and baking powder then mix in the chips and nuts. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours, or overnight.

2. When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

3. Divide the dough into four even pieces, about 13 ounces each if you have a scale. Working with one piece at a time, place the dough on the prepared baking sheet, shaping it into an 8" x 2" log. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough, leaving at least 2" between them; you'll put 2 logs on each baking sheet. Sprinkle the logs heavily with coarse white sugar, if desired.

4. Bake the logs for about 28 to 30 minutes, until they're set and beginning to brown and the edges and sides, but not brown all over. Remove them from the oven, and reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.

5. Spritz the logs lightly with water; this will make them easier to cut. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes. Cut each log into 1/2" to 3/4" slices. Cutting them on the diagonal will make the mandelbrot longer; cutting them crosswise will yield shorter cookies.

6. Place the pieces on edge, quite close together, on the baking sheets, and return them to the oven to bake for an additional 35 to 45 minutes, until a cookie feels baked through when you pinch it between your fingers. You'll also notice some browning around the edges, though the cookie shouldn't be browning all over. Remove from the oven and cool right on the baking sheets.

You might also like:


Cut Your Waste - Reusable Zippered Silicone Bags for Earth Day

Monday, April 17, 2017

Stasher bag - snack size

It's almost Earth Day and now is a great time to cut down on planet-destroying waste by investing in a few of these lovely, reusable zippered silicon bags made by Stasher. They are airtight, freezable and washable.

They're offering a 25% discount on all orders placed between now and 4/24. Just enter the enter code EARTHDAY at checkout at stasherbag.com. And shipping is free if you spend $40 or more.

These should go a long way to cutting down on the number of Ziploc-style bags that end up clogging landfills and fouling waterways. The folks at Stasher sent me the two bags above to try out a few months back and I'm happy to report that I like them (or I would not be writing this post...)

They are perfect for snacks, sandwiches and more. On our last vacation, I realized the smaller, snack-sized one was the perfect way to keep my cell phone dry and sand-free. And the larger one held all our sunscreens nicely.

Stasher bag - sandwich size

Now I wish Stasher would make them in a few, bigger sizes so I could kick those Ziplocs to the curb permanently. In the meantime, I will just keep washing and reusing the disposable ones for as long as I can. It's not hard -- just flip the bag inside out, hold one hand inside and soap up the outside, then rinse it clean under the faucet and hang over something to dry. I usually put the gallon-sized Ziploc bags over my blender or sodastream to dry while the smaller ones get plopped over a butter knife in the dish drainer or the like.

FYI, Stasher recently became a Certified B Corporation. If you're not familiar with B Corps, they are a good thing! B Corp Certification is to sustainable business what LEED certification is to green building or Fair Trade certification is to coffee or chocolate. B Corps (short for "Benefit" corporations) are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet their rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. King Arthur Flour, Patagonia and Etsy are a few other B Corps you might know and love.

The point being that this is a company you can feel good about supporting. If you end up buying a few bags, don't forget to enter EARTHDAY when you check out to get 25% off your order.

10 Tips For Avoiding Tick Bites and Lyme Disease

Monday, March 6, 2017

Spring is coming. Once the ground temps reach 45 degrees, deer ticks (they're really called black legged ticks and are actually primarily transmitted by the white footed mouse) will be out and about which means it's officially Lyme disease season.

According to some local experts, 2017 is shaping up to be an epic year for Lyme disease infections. So what can you do to avoid the coming plague?

1. Do a daily tick check on yourself and your family. Remove all clothing and carefully check for tiny black dots. Ticks are programmed to crawl up - towards your head - they love to feed on the thin, blood rich skin there so make sure to check behind your ears, at your hair line, the nape of your neck, etc., very carefully. But ticks can be anywhere - they may decide just to dig in at one of the other warm spots on your body - armpit, crotch, back of knee, etc.

One cheap, effective method of preventing ticks from reaching your skin is to buy an adhesive lint roller and keep it by your door, in your car or in your hiking backpack. Roll it over your clothes as soon as you return from the great outdoors and see what you find. Buy the kind that has adhesive layers as you will want to throw that sheet covered in ticks far, far away... And you may want to get one that you can get refills for to cut down on the waste a tiny bit. This lint roller fits the bill.

Ticks on lint roller, image copyright Guy Thompson, teegate@comast.net
Keep in mind that ticks come in many different sizes depending on where they are in their life cycle. Deer ticks in the nymphal stage are so small that they can be extremely hard to see - even when you're looking right at one, it can be hard to tell for sure if it's really a thing. So far, in my experience, it is usually really a thing, unfortunately.


2. If you find a tick, remove it ASAP! The longer it's biting you, the greater the chance that it will transmit disease. Keep in mind that there's only one right way to remove a tick and a whole lot of wrong ways. Think of the tick as a potentially disease-filled bag. You do not want to squeeze that bag of yucky bacteria into your body through the tick's bite.

Here's what you do:
  • Using pointy tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. 
  • Gently pull the tick in a steady, upward motion. If the tick's mouthparts do not come out with the rest of the tick, don't panic. The mouthparts, alone, can't transmit disease. You can either pick them out like you would a splinter or just leave them there and they'll eventually fall out on their own. 
  • Wash the area thoroughly with disinfectant and then apply antibacterial ointment. 
  • Save the tick to identify and to potentially send away for testing. I usually stick them to a piece of tape, pop them in a Ziploc and label it with the date in case I decide to send it for testing. 
  • If you do want to get the tick tested, you can mail it to Igenex Lab in California or to the LMZ at UMASS Amherst ($50 per tick).  
  • Watch the area closely for up to a month for signs of a rash that is at least 2 inches in diameter and probably will spread considerably (the tick bite may be red and irritated but a tiny red spot does not mean you have Lyme disease.) If you develop a rash or flu-like symptoms, go see a doctor right away and get on a two week course of antibiotics. Keep in mind that testing for Lyme disease is notoriously unreliable so if you get the rash and/or other symptoms with a tick bite, just get treated. 
  • You should also insist on being tested for the co-infections that are often transmitted along with Lyme -- babesiosis, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis are the most common co-infections and will require different treatment from the antibiotics that are used to treat Lyme!
Here's what you DON'T do:
  • Touch the tick with your bare hands. 
  • Squeeze the body of the tick. 
  • Put alcohol, nail polish remover or Vaseline on the tick. 
  • Put a hot match or cigarette on the tick in an effort to make it "back out." 
Not only do these things not help but they also increase the likelihood that the tick will end up transmitting Lyme disease to you.

3. Avoid contact with grasses, leaf litter, branches - basically, the entire frikkin' outdoors.

4. If you do dare to venture out of doors, wear light-colored, long pants and shirts, and tuck the pants into your socks. I will warn you that this is not a super sexy look (see below) but safety first... If you spend a lot of time mucking about outdoors, you may want to get a pair of high-cut Mucks or Bogs but still tuck your socks into your pants inside them.


5. Consider using insect repellent. I have mixed feelings about this but will sometimes spray my outdoor work clothes and boots with this Permethrin spray when I'm specifically going out to pull up barberry bushes or rake leaves. You spray it once and it lasts quite a long time - even through the wash - which is a little scary.


And we have a bottle of this 20% Picaridin spray that we occasionally use. Again, I have mixed feelings about it all but you should make up your own mind about whether you want to use it or not. You can read more about it on Consumer Reports and on the Connecticut (the original home of Lyme disease) government fact sheet.

6. Reduce tick-friendly (a.k.a mouse-friendly) habitats near your home and widen the borders between the areas you use and any woodlands or meadows. That means keeping things dry, letting lots of light in, and limiting vegetation and stone walls or piles of brush where mice like to hide.
  • Keep your grass mowed. 
  • Remove any leaf litter, brush and weeds at the edge of the lawn. 
  • Restrict the use of groundcovers like pachysandra in areas frequented by family and roaming pets. 
  • Remove brush and leaves around stonewalls and wood piles. 
  • Discourage rodent activity. Clean up and seal stonewalls and small openings around the home and move firewood piles and bird feeders away from the house. 
  • Keep dogs and cats out of the woods to reduce ticks brought into the home. 
  • Put up a deer fence. 
  • Move kid's swing sets and sand boxes away from the woodland edge and place them on a wood chip or mulch type foundation. 
  • Trim tree branches and shrubs around the lawn edge to let in more sunlight. 
  • Create a 3-foot or wider wood chip, mulch, or gravel border between lawn and woods or stonewalls. Most tree companies will deliver wood chips for free as will many municipalities so they can be a very affordable option. We get a couple loads a year. 
  • Widen woodland trails to avoid brushing against branches and leaves.
7. Get rid of Japanese barberry plants! These thorny plants are deer mouse magnets that tend to serve as nurseries for black legged tickets. But you have to dig them out, roots and all or they will just sprout up again with renewed vigor. We use a digging bar, a pair of long-handled Fiskar loppers as well as a flame weeder to try to control the rampant barberry on our nine-acre property. I also wear a pair of long gloves meant for pruning roses since the thorns are pretty vicious - I learned that the hard way :) Read my post on this for more information.

Japanese Barberry by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

8. Scatter "Tick Tubes" around your property. Again, you have to be comfortable using an insecticide (Permethrin, in this case which is particularly bad for felines) but if you are, these can be a good way to go, especially for rock walls and other mouse-friendly areas. Tick tubes are cardboard tubes filled with cotton that's been treated with permethrin. the idea is that the mice use the cotton to line their nests and the permethrin kills the ticks on them, decreasing your chances of getting bitten. Supposedly, it does not harm the mice but who really knows what effect is has on the food chain. We have used them in rock walls at our home. You can buy a six-pack of the tubes on Amazon for $25 or you could buy a bottle of the Permethrin spray (about $15), get some cotton balls, save some toilet paper or paper towel rolls and make your own for less. If you go that route, be sure to wear gloves and wash your skin thoroughly afterwards.

Image courtesy of Damminix Tick Tubes

9. Put up an owl box. A barn owl eats roughly six mice each night and a family of barn owls can eat an astounding 3,000 mice per breeding season. That would be a big help with the mouse problem... Plus, so cool to have owls near your house that you can watch. You can buy a ready-made owl box or build your own. Click here for more information about where to situate your owl box. And remember, you can not use poison of any kind (rat, mouse, etc.) at your property since it will end up poisoning your birds of prey.


My husband built a barn owl box with the kids this fall but so far, no one has taken us up on our offer of hospitality. Here's hoping!


10. Get outdoor cats. By keeping them outside, you eliminate the risk of the animals bringing ticks into your home. Many shelters have way more feral cats on their hands then they know what to do with (and they've been vaccinated and neutered). If you can offer these not-so-socially inclined kitties a warm, covered place to sleep and food and water, the shelter will probably be happy to give you as many as you like. Be mindful that you may have trouble getting feral cats to stay at your house. And you should take into consideration the sad reality that outdoor cats tend to wreak havoc on the local bird population. But still, it could help!

If you've made it this far, you deserve a reward. Take a listen to Ticks by Brad Paisley. And good luck!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

In Search of Grandma Mary's Chocolate Mandelbrot

Chocolate Mandelbrot by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2017

Many of my memories of Grandma Mary are tied to food. Eating a bowl of cantaloupe cubes on the linoleum floor of her one bedroom apartment in Brooklyn while watching Sesame Street on the television in the carpeted living room a few feet away -- a big treat as we did not get PBS at our home in upstate New York. Tugging on the wishbone (a rookie mistake - I always lost to my older brother) after a roast chicken dinner in her tiny kitchen. The spotless produce drawer in her refrigerator, red and green apples carefully arranged on a clean paper towel. Her salad dressing - an unsophisticated yet tasty mixture of white vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and fresh dill that she served over iceberg lettuce.

Grandma Mary with Louis and Eve
Grandma Mary on a long -ago visit to our home upstate with my big brother (who was in a King Tut phase) and me, looking amazingly like my four-and-a-half-year-old son.
But it was her mandelbrot that really captured my heart. She would bake a batch whenever we came to visit, wrapping it carefully in tinfoil to keep it fresh until we arrived from upstate. Grandma Mary had diabetes so she abstained but was happy to watch us tuck in gleefully. The modestly arched, crumbly slices studded with nuts and chocolate always disappeared quickly.

I've always regretted that she died before I got her recipe. But I was only 15 when she died and had not yet discovered my love of baking and cooking, not to mention that she was no longer lucid enough to share much of anything with us by then.

Batter for the Chocolate Mandelbrot by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2017

On a cold, gray day back in February, I was thinking about my Grandma and missing her (and her delicious twice-baked cookies...) So I did a little searching to see if I could find a recipe that sounded like a match.

Shaping the logs of Chocolate Mandelbrot by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2017

This recipe, adapted from King Arthur Flour, turned out pretty darn close although I used butter instead of the oil it calls for and I did not have almonds on hand so I used pecans, instead.

Slicing the log of chocolate mandelbrot before the second baking by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2017

Mandelbrot translates to "almond bread" and it is baked twice - first in a long log, then in individual slices sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. I hope you enjoy this delicious treat - the traditional Jewish version of biscotti.

-- print recipe --
Chocolate Almond Mandelbrot
Makes 56 cookies

Ingredients

* 3 large eggs
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 cup (7 ounces) vegetable oil
* 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
* 1 tsp sea salt
* 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
* 1 1/2 cups almond pieces (or walnuts or pecans)
* Coarse white sugar, optional

Directions

1. Beat together the eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla, and salt at medium-high speed until thickened and light-colored, about 5 minutes. Beat in the flour and baking powder then mix in the chips and nuts. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours, or overnight.

2. When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

3. Divide the dough into four even pieces, about 13 ounces each if you have a scale. Working with one piece at a time, place the dough on the prepared baking sheet, shaping it into an 8" x 2" log. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough, leaving at least 2" between them; you'll put 2 logs on each baking sheet. Sprinkle the logs heavily with coarse white sugar, if desired.

4. Bake the logs for about 28 to 30 minutes, until they're set and beginning to brown and the edges and sides, but not brown all over. Remove them from the oven, and reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.

5. Spritz the logs lightly with water; this will make them easier to cut. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes. Cut each log into 1/2" to 3/4" slices. Cutting them on the diagonal will make the mandelbrot longer; cutting them crosswise will yield shorter cookies.

6. Place the pieces on edge, quite close together, on the baking sheets, and return them to the oven to bake for an additional 35 to 45 minutes, until a cookie feels baked through when you pinch it between your fingers. You'll also notice some browning around the edges, though the cookie shouldn't be browning all over. Remove from the oven and cool right on the baking sheets.

You might also like:


Monday, April 17, 2017

Cut Your Waste - Reusable Zippered Silicone Bags for Earth Day

Stasher bag - snack size

It's almost Earth Day and now is a great time to cut down on planet-destroying waste by investing in a few of these lovely, reusable zippered silicon bags made by Stasher. They are airtight, freezable and washable.

They're offering a 25% discount on all orders placed between now and 4/24. Just enter the enter code EARTHDAY at checkout at stasherbag.com. And shipping is free if you spend $40 or more.

These should go a long way to cutting down on the number of Ziploc-style bags that end up clogging landfills and fouling waterways. The folks at Stasher sent me the two bags above to try out a few months back and I'm happy to report that I like them (or I would not be writing this post...)

They are perfect for snacks, sandwiches and more. On our last vacation, I realized the smaller, snack-sized one was the perfect way to keep my cell phone dry and sand-free. And the larger one held all our sunscreens nicely.

Stasher bag - sandwich size

Now I wish Stasher would make them in a few, bigger sizes so I could kick those Ziplocs to the curb permanently. In the meantime, I will just keep washing and reusing the disposable ones for as long as I can. It's not hard -- just flip the bag inside out, hold one hand inside and soap up the outside, then rinse it clean under the faucet and hang over something to dry. I usually put the gallon-sized Ziploc bags over my blender or sodastream to dry while the smaller ones get plopped over a butter knife in the dish drainer or the like.

FYI, Stasher recently became a Certified B Corporation. If you're not familiar with B Corps, they are a good thing! B Corp Certification is to sustainable business what LEED certification is to green building or Fair Trade certification is to coffee or chocolate. B Corps (short for "Benefit" corporations) are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet their rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. King Arthur Flour, Patagonia and Etsy are a few other B Corps you might know and love.

The point being that this is a company you can feel good about supporting. If you end up buying a few bags, don't forget to enter EARTHDAY when you check out to get 25% off your order.

Monday, March 6, 2017

10 Tips For Avoiding Tick Bites and Lyme Disease

Spring is coming. Once the ground temps reach 45 degrees, deer ticks (they're really called black legged ticks and are actually primarily transmitted by the white footed mouse) will be out and about which means it's officially Lyme disease season.

According to some local experts, 2017 is shaping up to be an epic year for Lyme disease infections. So what can you do to avoid the coming plague?

1. Do a daily tick check on yourself and your family. Remove all clothing and carefully check for tiny black dots. Ticks are programmed to crawl up - towards your head - they love to feed on the thin, blood rich skin there so make sure to check behind your ears, at your hair line, the nape of your neck, etc., very carefully. But ticks can be anywhere - they may decide just to dig in at one of the other warm spots on your body - armpit, crotch, back of knee, etc.

One cheap, effective method of preventing ticks from reaching your skin is to buy an adhesive lint roller and keep it by your door, in your car or in your hiking backpack. Roll it over your clothes as soon as you return from the great outdoors and see what you find. Buy the kind that has adhesive layers as you will want to throw that sheet covered in ticks far, far away... And you may want to get one that you can get refills for to cut down on the waste a tiny bit. This lint roller fits the bill.

Ticks on lint roller, image copyright Guy Thompson, teegate@comast.net
Keep in mind that ticks come in many different sizes depending on where they are in their life cycle. Deer ticks in the nymphal stage are so small that they can be extremely hard to see - even when you're looking right at one, it can be hard to tell for sure if it's really a thing. So far, in my experience, it is usually really a thing, unfortunately.


2. If you find a tick, remove it ASAP! The longer it's biting you, the greater the chance that it will transmit disease. Keep in mind that there's only one right way to remove a tick and a whole lot of wrong ways. Think of the tick as a potentially disease-filled bag. You do not want to squeeze that bag of yucky bacteria into your body through the tick's bite.

Here's what you do:
  • Using pointy tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. 
  • Gently pull the tick in a steady, upward motion. If the tick's mouthparts do not come out with the rest of the tick, don't panic. The mouthparts, alone, can't transmit disease. You can either pick them out like you would a splinter or just leave them there and they'll eventually fall out on their own. 
  • Wash the area thoroughly with disinfectant and then apply antibacterial ointment. 
  • Save the tick to identify and to potentially send away for testing. I usually stick them to a piece of tape, pop them in a Ziploc and label it with the date in case I decide to send it for testing. 
  • If you do want to get the tick tested, you can mail it to Igenex Lab in California or to the LMZ at UMASS Amherst ($50 per tick).  
  • Watch the area closely for up to a month for signs of a rash that is at least 2 inches in diameter and probably will spread considerably (the tick bite may be red and irritated but a tiny red spot does not mean you have Lyme disease.) If you develop a rash or flu-like symptoms, go see a doctor right away and get on a two week course of antibiotics. Keep in mind that testing for Lyme disease is notoriously unreliable so if you get the rash and/or other symptoms with a tick bite, just get treated. 
  • You should also insist on being tested for the co-infections that are often transmitted along with Lyme -- babesiosis, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis are the most common co-infections and will require different treatment from the antibiotics that are used to treat Lyme!
Here's what you DON'T do:
  • Touch the tick with your bare hands. 
  • Squeeze the body of the tick. 
  • Put alcohol, nail polish remover or Vaseline on the tick. 
  • Put a hot match or cigarette on the tick in an effort to make it "back out." 
Not only do these things not help but they also increase the likelihood that the tick will end up transmitting Lyme disease to you.

3. Avoid contact with grasses, leaf litter, branches - basically, the entire frikkin' outdoors.

4. If you do dare to venture out of doors, wear light-colored, long pants and shirts, and tuck the pants into your socks. I will warn you that this is not a super sexy look (see below) but safety first... If you spend a lot of time mucking about outdoors, you may want to get a pair of high-cut Mucks or Bogs but still tuck your socks into your pants inside them.


5. Consider using insect repellent. I have mixed feelings about this but will sometimes spray my outdoor work clothes and boots with this Permethrin spray when I'm specifically going out to pull up barberry bushes or rake leaves. You spray it once and it lasts quite a long time - even through the wash - which is a little scary.


And we have a bottle of this 20% Picaridin spray that we occasionally use. Again, I have mixed feelings about it all but you should make up your own mind about whether you want to use it or not. You can read more about it on Consumer Reports and on the Connecticut (the original home of Lyme disease) government fact sheet.

6. Reduce tick-friendly (a.k.a mouse-friendly) habitats near your home and widen the borders between the areas you use and any woodlands or meadows. That means keeping things dry, letting lots of light in, and limiting vegetation and stone walls or piles of brush where mice like to hide.
  • Keep your grass mowed. 
  • Remove any leaf litter, brush and weeds at the edge of the lawn. 
  • Restrict the use of groundcovers like pachysandra in areas frequented by family and roaming pets. 
  • Remove brush and leaves around stonewalls and wood piles. 
  • Discourage rodent activity. Clean up and seal stonewalls and small openings around the home and move firewood piles and bird feeders away from the house. 
  • Keep dogs and cats out of the woods to reduce ticks brought into the home. 
  • Put up a deer fence. 
  • Move kid's swing sets and sand boxes away from the woodland edge and place them on a wood chip or mulch type foundation. 
  • Trim tree branches and shrubs around the lawn edge to let in more sunlight. 
  • Create a 3-foot or wider wood chip, mulch, or gravel border between lawn and woods or stonewalls. Most tree companies will deliver wood chips for free as will many municipalities so they can be a very affordable option. We get a couple loads a year. 
  • Widen woodland trails to avoid brushing against branches and leaves.
7. Get rid of Japanese barberry plants! These thorny plants are deer mouse magnets that tend to serve as nurseries for black legged tickets. But you have to dig them out, roots and all or they will just sprout up again with renewed vigor. We use a digging bar, a pair of long-handled Fiskar loppers as well as a flame weeder to try to control the rampant barberry on our nine-acre property. I also wear a pair of long gloves meant for pruning roses since the thorns are pretty vicious - I learned that the hard way :) Read my post on this for more information.

Japanese Barberry by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

8. Scatter "Tick Tubes" around your property. Again, you have to be comfortable using an insecticide (Permethrin, in this case which is particularly bad for felines) but if you are, these can be a good way to go, especially for rock walls and other mouse-friendly areas. Tick tubes are cardboard tubes filled with cotton that's been treated with permethrin. the idea is that the mice use the cotton to line their nests and the permethrin kills the ticks on them, decreasing your chances of getting bitten. Supposedly, it does not harm the mice but who really knows what effect is has on the food chain. We have used them in rock walls at our home. You can buy a six-pack of the tubes on Amazon for $25 or you could buy a bottle of the Permethrin spray (about $15), get some cotton balls, save some toilet paper or paper towel rolls and make your own for less. If you go that route, be sure to wear gloves and wash your skin thoroughly afterwards.

Image courtesy of Damminix Tick Tubes

9. Put up an owl box. A barn owl eats roughly six mice each night and a family of barn owls can eat an astounding 3,000 mice per breeding season. That would be a big help with the mouse problem... Plus, so cool to have owls near your house that you can watch. You can buy a ready-made owl box or build your own. Click here for more information about where to situate your owl box. And remember, you can not use poison of any kind (rat, mouse, etc.) at your property since it will end up poisoning your birds of prey.


My husband built a barn owl box with the kids this fall but so far, no one has taken us up on our offer of hospitality. Here's hoping!


10. Get outdoor cats. By keeping them outside, you eliminate the risk of the animals bringing ticks into your home. Many shelters have way more feral cats on their hands then they know what to do with (and they've been vaccinated and neutered). If you can offer these not-so-socially inclined kitties a warm, covered place to sleep and food and water, the shelter will probably be happy to give you as many as you like. Be mindful that you may have trouble getting feral cats to stay at your house. And you should take into consideration the sad reality that outdoor cats tend to wreak havoc on the local bird population. But still, it could help!

If you've made it this far, you deserve a reward. Take a listen to Ticks by Brad Paisley. And good luck!