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10 Natural Ways to Keep Insects Out of Your Home

Insects are beneficial to the environment in a multitude of ways—especially when they're outside where they belong. Ants, flies, moths and other creepy crawly things aren't so welcome when they're in your house. Your first impulse might be to dash out and buy a can of bug spray. But so many of those store-bought insect eradicators contain ingredients that are harmful to people and pets as well as insects. There are better ways to keep the pests outside without turning your home into a chemical-soaked zone.

Aromatic herbs smell sweeter to you than to the insects you don't want in your house.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

One of the best is to become an herb gardener. There are a multitude of herbs that are known insect repellents, and herbs are one of the easiest plants to grow. Most need little maintenance, and many of them don't mind a little shade. And there are other things in your kitchen that act as bug repellents as well.

Ants are one of the most frequent home invaders and one of the easiest to deal with in a sweet-smelling, natural way. Spraying lemon juice or vinegar along the path where they're entering the house works as well as poisons. Mint and tansy are two herbs that are especially effective in keeping ants away. Crumble some leaves around trouble spots, place a few plants on a windowsill or even plant some just outside your door. Both are care-free hardy perennials that will come back year after year, and mint's purple flowers and tansy's yellow buttons will add color to your doorway. Hot pepper flakes are a bit messier and less aromatic but can get the job done as well.

If you're craving a mosquito-free evening on your porch or patio, think lemon. Lemon grass, lemon-scented Pelargoniums (commonly sold as scented geraniums) and lemon balm are some of the ones you can keep in pots or in the garden. Lemon balm is a mint and like all mints, you'll never have to think about it again after planting—except maybe to cut it back to keep it under control. Speaking of mint, rubbing it on your skin is also an effective way to repel biting bugs. Another plant with outstanding mosquito-repellent properties that's effective against (ugh) cockroaches too is catnip. It's also great for keeping your cat entertained, as you probably know.

Mint pretty much repels anything, and that includes flies. A number of the above-mentioned herbs are unappealing to these flying critters as well. Lavender, tansy, basil, rosemary and even cloves will keep them at bay.

So many of these herbs do double, triple and even quadruple duty. Mothballs have that weird smell you might associate with your grandmother's closet. You don't have to have it in yours. You can make your own simple sachets to protect your sweaters from moths with lavender, mint, rosemary, cloves and cinnamon, as well as those cedar chunks you can buy in stores. And you can choose your own favorite aroma to cling to your clothes.

There are other things you can do before your home becomes overrun by tiny invaders. In the kitchen, seal all your food in containers— especially attractive nuisances like sugar and flour. Clean up crumbs from your counter and floor as soon as you drop them, and don't leave dishes in the sink. In both kitchen and bathroom keep the drains clean and free of debris. And make sure your garbage cans and compost bin lids are fit securely not only to keep insects away but four-legged pests as well.

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Kevin Vallely

'Rowing the Northwest Passage' Chronicles An Expedition Through the Changing North

By Kevin Vallely

In 2013 four adventurers set out on an 80-day rowboat mission through the Arctic's rapidly melting Northwest Passage. Their journey brought them face to face with the changing seas in a world of climate change. In this excerpt from adventurer Kevin Vallely's new book about the expedition, Rowing the Northwest Passage (Greystone Books), we also see how climate change has affected some of the people the team met along their journey:

An elderly woman walks toward us from the road. Tuktoyaktuk, in the Northwest Territories, is a sizable town by Arctic standards, with a full-time population of 954, but it's small enough that the bulk of the town likely knows we're here. The woman is smiling when she reaches us.

"I saw you coming in," she says. "Where you guys come from?" "We're from Vancouver," I say, my mouth still half full of food. "We started our trip in Inuvik nine days ago." Her name is Eileen Jacobsen and she's an Elder in town. She and her husband, Billy, run a sightseeing business. "You should come up to the house in the morning and have some coffee," she tells us.

Our night's sleep in the Arctic Joule is fitful; our overindulgence runs through all of us like a thunderstorm. By seven in the morning, even with both hatches open, lighting a match in the cabin would blow us out like dirt from that Siberian crater. The roar of the Jetboil pulls me out. Frank's already up, down jacket on, preparing coffee. "You like a cup?"

It's still too early to drop by Eileen Jacobsen's house, so we walk into town on the dusty main road, our ears assaulted by a cacophony of barking dogs. Dirt is the surface of choice for roads and runways in Arctic communities, as any inflexible surface like concrete would be shredded by the annual freeze–thaw cycle. Most of the town runs the length of a thin finger of land, with the ocean on one side and a protected bay on the other. About halfway down the peninsula, a cluster of wooden crosses rests in a high grass clearing, facing west. We heard about this graveyard in Inuvik. Because of melting permafrost and wave action, it's eroding into the sea, and community members have lined the shore with large rocks to forestall its demise. This entire peninsula will face this threat in the coming years. There's not much land here to hold back a hungry ocean.

We notice an elderly man in a blue winter jacket staring at us a short distance away. He's sitting outside a small wooden house and smiles as we approach. "You guys must be the rowers," he says. "Too windy to be out rowing." His jacket hood is pulled tight over his ball cap and he dons a pair of wraparound shades with yellow lenses that would better suit a racing cyclist than a village Elder. His name is Fred Wolki, and he's lived in Tuk for the last fifty years. "I grew up on my father's boat until they sent me to school in 1944, then I came here."

His father, Jim Wolki, is a well-known fox trapper who transported his pelts from Banks Island to Herschel Island aboard his ship the North Star of Herschel Island. Interestingly, we had the Arctic Joule moored right beside the North Star at the Vancouver Maritime Museum before we left. Built in San Francisco in 1935, the North Star plied the waters of the Beaufort Sea for over thirty years, her presence in Arctic waters playing an important role in bolstering Canadian Arctic sovereignty through the Cold War.

"We're curious if things have changed much here since you were a boy," Frank says.

"Well … it's getting warmer now," Fred says, shaking his head. He gestures out to the water speaking slowly and pausing for long moments between thoughts. "Right up to the 1960s … there was old ice along the coast … The ice barely moved … It was grounded along the coastline." He looks out over the shoreline, moving his arm back and forth. "They started to fade away slowly in the 1960s … icebergs … They were huge, like big islands … They were so high, like the land at the dew Line station … over there." He points to the radar dome of the long decommissioned Distant Early Warning Line station that sits on a rise of land just east of us. "It's been twenty years since we've seen one in Tuk." There's no sentimentality or anger in Fred's voice; he's just telling us his story. "It's getting warmer now … Global warming is starting to take its toll … All the permafrost is starting to melt … Water is starting to eat away our land."

I listen to his words, amazed. There's no agenda here, no vested interest, no job creation or moneymaking—just an elderly man bearing witness to his changing world.

Excerpted from Rowing the Northwest Passage: Adventure, Fear, and Awe in a Rising Sea by Kevin Vallely, published September 2017 by Greystone Books. Condensed and reproduced with permission from the publisher.

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Climate Alliance States Show Us What Real Leadership Looks Like

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In a forceful show of climate leadership, Governors Andrew Cuomo (NY), Jerry Brown (CA), and Jay Inslee (WA) and former Secretary of State John Kerry came together in New York City Wednesday as part of Climate Week to celebrate the progress and growth of the U.S. Climate Alliance, the bipartisan coalition that has grown to 14 states dedicated to meeting the Paris agreement climate goal. The coalition was founded by Cuomo, Brown and Inslee after President Trump announced the U.S. intent to withdraw from Paris.

President Trump may prefer to pretend that climate change isn't real—Gov. Cuomo quipped that the Trump administration is in "the State of Denial"—but these leaders detailed the extraordinary strides they're making, in the absence of White House leadership, to slash greenhouse gas emissions and grow their economies at the same time. For New Yorkers, it's exciting to see Cuomo's leadership on clean energy and climate continue to accelerate, from setting strong renewable energy goals, to a successful push with other Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative states to further slash carbon emissions, to banning fracking.

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He has said that Maria could be the most damaging hurricane to hit the country in more than 100 years.

With maximum recorded wind speeds of 140 mph and rainfall of up to 25 inches or even higher, Mike Brennan, a senior hurricane specialist from the U.S. National Hurricane Center has also warned locals of flash-flooding and "punishing" rainfall. He added that the storm would remain "very dangerous" for the next couple of days.

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Nicaragua to Sign Paris Agreement, Leaving Trump Alone With Syria

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