Posts Tagged ‘Organic Gardening’

Personal FAQ’s

This set of questions comes in frequently enough from blog readers, clients and friends that I’ve decided just to address them all here, even though they’re more personal.

How old are you?

I’ll be 43 in May 2016. Yes, I look young for my age. It’s partly my high raw, extremely fresh (often just harvested) and nutrient dense vegetarian diet, partly genes, partly keeping my skin moisturized (I switch among a variety of natural things depending on season), and largely related to lifestyle. When you live more authentically, you look and feel a lot younger.

Is that your natural hair color?

Yes, mostly. I’ve used henna for about 10 years, but not to alter the color of my hair. I use it to coat the knotty strands and make them far lower maintenance, requiring no conditioner and only minimal hair washes per week. I wrote a popular post on all things henna back in 2009 when people also kept asking about my crazy hair. The day of and day after putting a henna mud pie on my head, my hair’s quite a lot redder than normal, but after that initial color burst, the henna color has very little difference from my natural hair color. I just don’t like to brush or wash my hair much, and without henna, those witchy knots get totally out of control with winter scarves!

What do you use for dental care?

Some of you might remember that I used to have lots of trouble with my teeth due to demineralization, low vitamin D, and a spine injury that compromised my digestive nerves, thereby keeping my body from fully extracting nutrients from my food. It was quite the journey to recover and avoid double digit root canals, but I not only avoided the root canals, I popped out most of my fillings and regrew enamel. A huge part of that process included exorcising someone else’s projected emotional issues that had lodged in my teeth. I won’t go into details here, because they’re private, but beware covert hypnosis by someone with bad teeth!! On the physical level, I found the following things very helpful:

I make my own version of ORAMD, with almond oil, peppermint oil and spearmint oil in whatever concentrations I intuit I need. I’m sure the ORAMD is more standardized, and it does work well. I just got tired of buying little bottles for more money than I would spend if I used bulk items to mix and match. Your mileage may vary. Please don’t ask me to recommend oils companies, as I know people who sell from a variety of lines and don’t wish to show favoritism. I’ve also used NOW oils from health food stores, and my gums and teeth responded well, although I’m pretty sure NOW is not normally considered food or pharmaceutical  grade.

I drink raw goat milk and eat raw goat milk cheese. It’s illegal to sell raw milk in Indiana outside of a herd share, unless you’re selling it for animal use. I have a very hungry pet tooth! Actually, I need to find a new supplier, as mine is selling their goats and packing up the business and the herd share here is full. Raw cow milk did not heal my teeth. It relieved pain and stopped the progression of cavities, but not until I switched to raw goat milk did my fillings pop out and enamel regrow. For a protocol about using diet to heal your teeth, I highly recommend Ramiel Nagel’s book, “Cure Tooth Decay.” You probably won’t want to try everything in there (fish head soup and organ meats anyone?!), but the book also gives a list of the worst tooth offenders, so you can at least avoid those or modify how you prepare them. It includes a lot of recipes for tooth healing, plus information on healing the gut, as well.

I go through periods in which I drink a lot of herbal infusions, especially nettles and oat straw. I find horsetail gaggable, but if i want really shiny hair or super hard teeth, I will occasionally chug down a horsetail infusion. You can find out about infusions here and here.

To fix my underlying back issue, I found several things extremely helpful:

the BioMat (I use this every day, and I prefer the Mini, since you can move it around without much effort)

Dr. John Sarno’s book, “Healing Back Pain”

the DVD, “Yoga for Scoliosis”

and, much more recently, Dr. Eric Goodman’s “The Foundation Exercises”

I’ve also found as a general rule that the more time I spend in the garden and the less time I spend sitting at a computer, the healthier my back feels. I have hauled literally 10’s of thousands of pounds of wood mulch, compost, leaves, trees and more during the past three years. When I send my former chiropractor from Madison (also a dear friend) photos of our yard, she cannot believe — literally cannot believe — my back allowed me to do any of this, as she saw the shocking spinal x-rays from 2011. Even then, she and her chiropractor hubby thought they must have mixed up the x-rays, because by all accounts, I should not have been able to walk, let alone hike up mountains.

Due to an accident in 2011 that re-aggravated the spine injury from my 1998 car accident, when I first went to my chiropractor friends, I was in severe, chronic, crumple-up-and-silently-scream pain. Since implementing the things mentioned above, my back remains pain free most of the time. I’ve not seen a chiropractor since leaving Madison, even though I used to go two or three times per week. Now, on the rare occasion I overdo something, it just takes a few minutes on the BioMat to recalibrate, or else asking myself what I’m feeling pressured to do that’s off path for me. Once I “realign,” the back pain disappears.

Can I have your recipe for ____?

I don’t generally follow recipes — or, rather, I often follow four or more at a time, adjusting them to my own needs, desires and ingredients. I don’t often write things down while in the kitchen, because I’m usually making a horrific mess! That said, here are some recipes and general tips:

Goji Dandelion Red Lentil Curry

A quasi-recipe, plus link, for raw vegan holiday feast fare

Summer squash bundt cake

Seer’s Tea (which also helps balance female hormones)

gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free Yule Log

The Five Flavors Principle:

One secret to delicious soups, curries, sauces, pate’s, and stir fries is what David and I call the “Five Flavors Principle.” We add in whatever ingredients for the base, but then we put in at least a small amount of each of the five flavors — salty, sweet, bitter, pungent, and sour. We don’t use refined sugar or salt, so the sweet might be a base of pumpkin/squash/sweet potato, a little fruit like goji berries, a pinch of birch sweetener, honey, blackstrap molasses or maple syrup. Just a little usually does it for those last ones. For salt, we use Real Salt, Himalayan sea salt, miso, wheat free tamari, kombu (a sea vegetable that makes beans more digestible), or homemade pickle juice. We eat loads and loads of dark leafy greens, which usually take care of the bitter flavor. Many herbs also fit that category and add extra health benefits. For pungent, we use homegrown garlic or onions. For sour, we often use a splash of apple cider vinegar, but depending on the dish, sour could also include lemon or lime juice.

For non-Asian savory soups or dishes, often add some cooking sherry for depth of flavor. We can’t decide what category sherry goes into, as it covers a wide range of tastes. The cooking process removes the alcohol.

There’s a lot of wiggle room with the Five Flavors Principle, and it really gets you thinking about the base flavors of your ingredients. David is “The King of Soups,” so even if I make the entire meal, he usually tinkers with the final flavors during the last few moments of cooking. I honestly don’t know exact proportions even when I do the tinkering, because for me, cooking is a highly intuitive process. When you incorporate the five flavors, your food not only tastes better due to the balance of explosions on your tongue, but you end up getting trace vitamins and minerals that your body needs and therefore responds with a feeling of immense satisfaction.

What’s in your vegan alfredo sauce?

White scallop squash (peeled zucchini or yellow squash might also work, but we love the white scallop squash)

extra virgin organic olive oil

nutritional yeast


a bit of hot water to aid blending of the above in a Vitamix or other highspeed blender

Amounts really do vary, so taste test as you go.

Add to a pot and bring to a slow boil, continue to taste test for creaminess and add more nutritional yeast if needed. I usually soak dried porcini mushrooms and use peas from our garden, adding those towards the end, along with a splash or more of sherry and just one splash of wheat free tamari. We salt and pepper to taste at the table and garnish the sauce with chopped fresh parsley and chives, served over quinoa pasta (elbows or penne). It is super yum, and don’t be shy with the garlic!

How long have you been gardening?

I had a small garden for two years in Madison, plus some indoor herbs both winters in a sun room there. I began working on our current Goshen, Indiana garden in April 2013. It’s now a mini-farm with raised beds to deal with juglone (from former black walnut trees) poisoned soil, and planted in a permaculture design that incorporates many, many fruit and nut trees, bee and butterfly friendly flowers, herbs, and annual and perennial vegetables. Late this summer, I also took over the smaller yard (and house) next door. I planted around 1000 spring bulbs this fall, so the whole place should be rockin’ next spring!

Although I’ve had three summers here, I do my best to garden in some form year round. I always grow some kind of herbs in winter, along with cuttings of tender perennial veggies that need to winter indoors. This year, I’ve got a two foot long window box of lettuce sprouts, which I hope will keep us in fresh lettuce all winter, provided we get enough light in our southern window. I’ve also got various hoop houses and row covers outside with chard, kale, lettuce, and spinach. If we have our typically frigid Northern Indiana winter, we won’t get much production out of those in January, February and March, but one of the new raised beds sits in front of the south facing wall of the house next door. I hope some heat bounces back to the covered bed to keep us in spinach most of the winter. I do have indoor grow lights, but the laundry room of the new house has not yet made its transition into gardening prep room.

Do you ever teach gardening classes?

I haven’t yet, but I plan to do so starting next spring or summer (2016). If all goes well, I will complete my permaculture design course this winter, and I’m also looking into herbalist certification. I apprenticed with an herbalist back in 2001-2002 and have taken numerous classes, plus private study; however, I’m not certified to teach or consult. I hope to remedy that soon, as people keep expressing interest in herbs, gardening and permaculture. I’d love to share more tips and instruction, as truly, working with plants and trees is one of the most amazing ways to transform your life and our collective world.

Garden Update ~ Sunflowers, Sun Oven Brownies, and Sunny, Oh, My!

OK, let’s get this out of the way first: despite all the lovely photos I’m about to share, the coolest thing to come out of the yard this past week was … Sun Oven brownies! Gluten-free vegan, moist, filled with chia and black bean goodness, melt in your mouth delicious Sun Oven brownies, to be more specific.

sun oven brownies

Even better? I made them for our friend Sunny’s (of Sunny’s Korean Restaurant in Mishawaka) Fourth of July potluck, which was an amazing mix of people Sunny has met over the years, mostly through her restaurant. We love her, and apparently, a ton of other people feel exactly the same way. She has possibly moved more concrete and rocks by herself than I have in order to create a backyard garden sanctuary, but she’s got chickens, so she wins the prize. Or at least some eggs. 🙂 Anyway, we had a great time, and the brownies were a hit. They tasted way better than when I baked them indoors for the Faery Workshop. Note to self: the Sun Oven makes everything better!

Speaking of sun, today, our first sunflower of the year opened:

It's a little guy, only 2.5 feet tall right now.

It’s a little guy, only 2.5 feet tall right now.

Things are blooming like crazy:

coneflowers, liatris, cardoon, and yarrow

coneflowers, liatris, cardoon, and yarrow

Carrots gone wild. The level of “good bug” activity in this bed alone is off the charts. It’s like mini-Manhattan for umbrel lovers.

borage and black eyed Susans next to the elecampane I needed to tie to a trellis because it kept flopping its six foot tall self over the Susan's

borage and black eyed Susans next to the elecampane I needed to tie to a trellis because it kept flopping its six foot tall self over the Susan’s

hollyhocks and lilies still going strong

hollyhocks and lilies still going strong

zinnias started flowering last week, but the red ones just came out -- shown here rhubarb, parsley, tomato, collards and calendula

zinnias started flowering last week, but the red ones just came out — shown here rhubarb, parsley, tomato, collards and calendula

another zinnia getting cozy with kale, nastrutiums, borage, bell peppers, beets and basil

another zinnia getting cozy with kale, nastrutiums, borage, bell peppers, beets and basil

brassicas loving the bed now almost cleared of the earlier pea and fava bean cover crop

brassicas loving the bed now almost cleared of the earlier pea and fava bean cover crop

cukes going up AND down the trellis

cukes going up AND down the trellis

our first cucumber from a few days ago, pictured with lacinato kale, cilantro and peas. peas, peas, peas ... tasty, but tedious!

our first cucumber from a few days ago, pictured with lacinato kale, cilantro and peas. peas, peas, peas … tasty, but tedious!

potatoes still looking good in their bags -- one of this year's experiments

potatoes still looking good in their bags — one of this year’s experiments

south side of that same trellis

south side of that same trellis

basil, peppermint, and soaker hoses, because it finally stopped raining long enough to need to install such things

basil, peppermint, and soaker hoses, because it finally stopped raining long enough to need to install such things

fairy tale pumpkin going gangbusters

fairy tale pumpkin going gangbusters

Nasturtiums, malabar spinach and cushaw squash race to the trellis. Who will win?! Looks like the cushaw's bowing over and out (of the bed)

Nasturtiums, malabar spinach and cushaw squash race to the trellis. Who will win?! Looks like the cushaw’s bowing over and out (of the bed)

The front yard's so lush now. This view's from the driveway.

The front yard’s so lush now. This view’s from the driveway.

Stay tuned for a very exciting announcement regarding the blue house. More to come after my PA trip.

Cheers and happy harvesting!

Back to Eden Multilingual DVD Indiegogo Campaign

The good folks at Back to Eden (the film that inspired my wood mulch gardening technique that has now spread to many yards in Goshen) contacted me to let me know of a new Indiegogo campaign to raise money for a multilingual DVD teaching organic farming methods to people around the world.

Selections from their email and website:

The Back to Eden Multilingual DVD will be a tool to teach organic gardening, help feed the hungry worldwide, and dramatically reduce the global impact of drought and famine! Back to Eden gardening method can reduce irrigation by 90%! HELP FUND Back to Eden Multilingual DVD TODAY!

Film Synopsis

After years of back-breaking toil in ground ravaged by the effects of man-made growing systems, Paul Gautschi has discovered a taste of what God intended for mankind in the garden of Eden. Some of the vital issues facing agriculture today include soil preparation, fertilization, irrigation, weed control, pest control, crop rotation, and PH issues. None of these issues exist in the unaltered state of nature or in Paul’s gardens and orchards. “Back to Eden” invites you to take a walk with Paul as he teaches you sustainable organic growing methods that are capable of being implemented in diverse climates around the world.
Featuring 18 languages, the Back to Eden Multilingual DVD will teach you how growing your own food can change your life. HELP FUND Back to Eden Multilingual DVD TODAY!

If you feel led, please send some love and/or funding their way. If you’ve not seen the film, Back to Eden, I highly recommend it, whatever your faith or gardening ability. Paul Gautschi’s enthusiasm is contagious, and he really has a way of connecting his spirituality with the abundance of the land. I’ve hauled something like 27,000 pounds of wood mulch around our little yard since April 2013, and even I cannot believe the transformation of this once neglected, weedy, unhealthy, broken land. Vitality, beauty and productivity have returned. My heart fills with joy to walk outside now, whereas when we first moved to Goshen, I called it “soul crushing” to leave our house. Miracles do happen, and sometimes they begin with one man sharing an inspired idea. That, and a whole messa wood mulch. 😉

How to Eat Sea Kale

I’ve got lots of photos for a Garden Update, but I’ve been too busy working in the garden to blog about it! Our friend Jerry was helping install some things for us today, and looking at the backyard and sweeping his arm out, he commented, “This is the terrestrial equivalent of beach front property.” Minutes later the train went by and deafened us with its supposedly no longer allowed horn. “And that would be our fog horn,” I laughed. 😉 Until that quiet zone takes effect, it always reminds me of Admiral Boom in Mary Poppins.

Anyway, while I get caught up on cardboard boxes, wood mulch, and the still arriving bulbs and perennials, David and I have been loving our sea kale. We very much enjoy the leaves sauteed in a cast iron skillet with Egyptian walking onions and then served over quinoa — so much so that we’ve not even tried the broccoli like flowers. This plant is almost too pretty to eat, except if I don’t harvest it, then it shades out my lilies, squash and Veronica. So eat it we do! For those unfamiliar with sea kale, here’s a great article detailing all the many ways you can eat it from raw to cooked, any and all parts. If you grow nothing else, this perennial veggie will reward you with lots of food before late spring and summer greens really get rolling. Enjoy the article!

Chives, sea kale, elecampane, grape vine and the beginnings of good bug mix flowers.

Chives, sea kale, elecampane, grape vine and the beginnings of good bug mix flowers.

The Organic Effect

Thanks to Kieron for reminding me to post this short, simple and demonstrative video:

“Want to know what happens in your body when you switch from eating conventional food to organic? Watch this! The study was conducted by the Swedish Environmental Research Institute IVL, and the full report is available here:”

Trillium and Other Garden Updates

It’s snowing in Goshen, so what better day for a Spring Garden Update?! I’m most excited to report that the trillium some friends and I rescued from a woodland turned GMO corn/soy farm are doing well in their new home. They returned, along with the beginnings of some rescued trout lily, Jack in the pulpit and what looks to be Dutchmen’s breeches. The trillium came up first:

Rescued trillium

Rescued trillium

I need to apologize for the blurriness of some of these photos. It has been insanely windy here for days! My poor peach tree needs to find a more sheltered home, because these Indiana winds are just crazy. They seriously seem to be coming from any and all directions, and like me, my little peach sapling does not like wind!

In other news, preparation for an intentional “Battle of the Invasives” has begun in the easement area, front street-side. With all the trucks that drive by and a brown field not too far away catty corner from us, across the street, I don’t really want to eat anything from this front area, nor do I want to continue weed whacking it once or twice per week. The faeries hate that weedwhacker, and I’d much rather create beauty than become Laura the Destroyer. Actually, I suspect all the deep wood mulch with its mycelium layers will remediate any toxins, but I’m still dedicating this area to beauty, butterflies, birds, bees and a “Battle of the Invasives.”

In addition to a tough as nails and gorgeous Robinhood Rose hedge set to arrive soon, I’ve got groundcover juniper on order, serviceberry trees from the city, and three Rose of Sharon bushes from my friend Patricia’s yard. The vast expanse of mulch will (hopefully) fill quickly with various floral groundcovers, including an Asian day lily promisingly named, “Little Invader.” I’ve got perennial (and spreading) daisies, yarrow from unwanted locations around the yard and other beds, creeping Elfin thyme, poppy seeds scattered, a hummingbird and butterfly seed mixture for naturalization, hyacinths, and some non-invasive perennials like Gerber daisies, dianthus, and soon to be planted hardy gladiolas.



The serviceberry trees are in bloom but difficult to capture with my camera, so I’ll show you this little guy, an experiment literally just stuck in the ground six feet from a dwarf apple tree. I bought two serviceberry bushes that never took last year, so we’ll see if this “impossible” (according to the city arborist) attempt will do better. I cut off a hard wood sucker from one of the front trees and stuck it in a strawberry hole. We’ll see what it does. If you can imagine this on a much larger scale, you’ll get a sense for how pretty the two trees look out front. You can see it here with hyssop, the ever present dandelions, strawberries and numerous other parts of a large backyard polyculture:



Also out back, we’ve got Quince and Elder with a bright floral crop of milk jug planted medicinal herbs holding down cardboard that desperately needs more wood mulch:

Quince and Elder

The front yard looks more presentable, with both the cherry and 3-way Asian pear tree in bloom, along with a few remaining daffodils and some chives that should take off this year:

April 2015 cherry tree

Tulips are just starting to bulge — a little crossover bloom with the later daffodils:

Tulips and Daffodils

Out back, a crate full of stinging nettles finally found a new home in an enormous tree-sized pot filled with compost, potting soil, rotting leaves and –on the bottom for drainage– broken chards of the terra cotta pots I lazily left outside for the winter. Yep, they really do crack as they freeze and thaw! At least they’re serving a new purpose. I love nettles, but I felt bad planting them into a yard we don’t own. I also didn’t want them to escape to neighbors who might treat them with toxic RoundUp. Meanwhile, they were busting out of the landscape cloth lined crate from two years ago. If I didn’t act soon, we’d have nettles regardless of whether or not I planted them. Enter: the tree pot, a generous, deep, sturdy container to let them grow lush and tall. I’ll just need to make sure they don’t go to seed.

stinging nettles

stinging nettles

Inside, I’ve started lots of annual seeds, which needed to go back to the warmer basement under fluorescent lights today since the porch is now too cold again for peppers, tomatoes, and other tender seedlings. Outside, though, the perennial veggies and cover crops are starting to show:

sea kale, Egyptian walking onions, garlic and an edible legume cool weather cover crop to fix nitrogen into the soil.

sea kale, Egyptian walking onions, garlic and an edible legume cool weather cover crop to fix nitrogen into the soil.

happy chives leading the beneficial bugs bed

happy chives leading the beneficial bugs bed

So there you have it! Potato seeds arrived yesterday, which means tomorrow will involve learning another new task. I’ve never grown taters before. In fact, I almost missed the deadline to order the little seed potatoes. On Saturday, something reminded me that a Master Gardener in this area always plants his on Good Friday, and I thought, “Doh! I guess I better order the seeds.” I have potato grow bags and various amendments. We’ll see how it goes. Clearly, the Mad Scientist Gardening continues, and the crazed plant lady here just ordered even more fruit trees, fruit bushes and mushrooms on a Spring Sale from Raintree Nursery. If all goes well, I should finally have the medlar tree that has obsessively haunted me for years. LOL, sometimes you just need to plant a weird tree to stop it from whispering in your ear all year!

And now I need to put on another layer. Despite all that garden talk, it’s still windy and cold in Goshen.

New McDonald

As Whitney Houston said, “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” In addition to these children’s adorable performance, I very much enjoyed watching the adults in the audience. Methinks some dinner table discussion may have changed after watching this rendition of the classic children’s song. Well done! (Thanks, Sophia!)