Vegan Turmeric Milk: A Yummy Cold Remedy

Gingery turmeric milk is a delicious powerhouse in the war against colds.

Gingery turmeric milk is a delicious powerhouse in the war against colds.

 

Have a cold, or just near someone who has one?  Headache?  Aches and pains?  Digestive problems?  Here is a simple and very delicious East Indian recipe that mothers give their children when it is cold season.  It contains some powerful anti-inflammatories, namely turmeric and ginger.  I’ve written about how taking turmeric daily has kept my arthritic hands mobile and virtually pain-free.  Look up the health uses for turmeric and you will be amazed.  Black pepper helps activate turmeric, and since turmeric is fat-soluble it is best taken with a little fat in your meal.  The following recipe can be made in a few minutes and feels wonderful going down.  It was inspired by a post on Journeykitchen.com.  I used organic vanilla soy milk, because that is what I had.  You may use any dairy substitute that you want, but not non-fat.  If it is non-fat, then add a half teaspoon of oil (such as coconut oil) to the drink, or eat some on the side.

I make a big pot of this in the morning, strain it and then rewarm it during the day as I need it. The longer you simmer the spices, the stronger they become.  The ginger becomes a little hotter, and the others more bitter.   For children or those new to these spices, heat the spices in the milk 3-5 minutes before straining unless they like it stronger.

Turmeric is a bitter yellow root that can be cooked with, or more commonly is found dried and ground  to use in curries and as a colorant.  Where do I even begin to list its benefits?  As I previously mentioned turmeric is used for arthritis, heartburn , stomach pain, diarrhea, intestinal gas and bloating, loss of appetite, jaundice, liver problems and gallbladder disorders.  It is also used for headaches, bronchitis, colds, lung infections, fibromyalgia, leprosy, fever, menstrual problems, and cancer. Other uses include depression, Alzheimer’s disease, water retention, worms, and kidney problems.  Turmeric can be applied to the skin for pain, ringworm, bruising, eyeinfections, inflammatory skin conditions, soreness inside of the mouth, and infected wounds.  It is used as a facial to help skin and give darker skin a glow (I used it on my pale face and came up yellow for a few washings, but with nice skin!).

Ginger helps with the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection, bronchitis, cough, menstrual cramps, arthritis and muscle pain, but is especially known for relieving nausea. I ate a lot of ginger during my pregnancies, and now we have some in the car to treat motion sickness.

Adding organic honey as a sweetener really boosts the healing power of this drink.  Honey – and not the processed mass-produced kind, but unheated organic honey – has anti-fungal, anti-septic, and anti-microbial properties that really help soothe a sore throat and kill germs.  The glucose and  fructose are absorbed by the body at different times so  that the energy  they provide is slow and long-term -not the high and low that granulated sugar provides.

Cloves  are anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiseptic and analgesic. They’re packed with antioxidants and are good sources of minerals (especially manganese), omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and vitamins.

Peppercorns help turmeric work, are anti-inflammatory, carminative, and aid digestion. They are also an excellent source of many B-complex groups of vitamins such as Pyridoxine, riboflavin, thiamin and niacin, and are a good source of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-C and vitamin-A, and in flavonoid polyphenolic anti-oxidants that help the body remove harmful free radicals and help protect from cancers and diseases.

Cinnamon has been used to reduce inflammation, it has antioxidant effects, and fights bacteria, and may lower cholesterol.

Cardamom is rich in nutrients such as iron, calcium and magnesium, potassium, manganese, many vitamins such as C, and is a co-factor for the enzyme, superoxide dismutase, a very powerful free-radical scavenger.

Cayenne is rich in capsaicin. The pepper also contains vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin E, potassium, manganese, and flavonoids (anti-oxidants), and has long been used to ease pain, headaches and to increase circulation. If you don’t use hot peppers regularly, please add just a few grains to the milk and work your way up.

If you are recovering from stomach distress and need some bland, comfort  food, please investigate this recipe for jook, a wonderful cooked rice dish.

My best wishes for a healthy and happy day!

Turmeric Milk
Author: 
Recipe type: Beverage; Vegan
Cuisine: East Indian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 cups
 
This quickly made hot drink will help ward off colds, or bring relief if you have one. The inspiration came from Journeykitchen.com.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups whole or low fat (not non-fat) organic soymilk, rice milk, nut-milk, or other non-dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 3 cardamon pods, cracked
  • 3 whole cloves
  • ½ inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon (or a fingernail-sized piece of cinnamon stick)
  • Pinch of saffron (optional)
  • A couple drops of vanilla (opt.)
  • Cayenne to taste (opt.) (start with a few grains and work up)
  • Organic honey, brown sugar or other sweetener to taste (opt.)
Instructions
  1. Lightly crush the peppercorns, cloves and cardamon pods
  2. In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients except for sweetener.
  3. Gently heat and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add sweetener to taste. If adding organic honey - which is a healing force on its own - stir it in as the milk is off the boil. Boiling will kill the beneficials in the honey.
  5. Strain into cups and serve.

 

Seitan: An Easy Mock Meat

A juicy seitan sandwich is really, really good.

A juicy seitan sandwich is really, really good.

For the past year I’ve been making my own vegan meat out of organic vital wheat gluten.  This meat is called seitan (pronounced, humorously enough, say-tan, just like the fork-tongued guy in red).  If you’ve eaten mock meats, especially in restaurants, you’ve most likely have eaten seitan.

I am not gluten intolerant, and I know that the current ‘epidemic’ of celiac disease is not what it seems.  People eat far too much wheat in their diets, and that wheat is not only genetically modified, but sprayed with herbicides and pesticides, then processed until it has to have nutrients added back onto it to qualify as food, and then it is shipped and stored.  The consumer has no idea when that poor tortured grain actually came forth into this world.  As my good friend Bill says, “You can’t see the farm in it.” I believe that when people eliminate wheat from their diets they feel so much better because they aren’t eating all those hamburger buns, batters, snacks and other empty-calorie foods.  They are also reducing the amount of pesticides and herbicides they consume.

I know about developing an intolerance to food.  I’ve developed an intolerance to soy milk (organic, mind you), which made me realize how much of it I have been consuming. Now I drink rice milk or water mostly, and manage my soy intake while keeping an eye out for other products I may be indulging in too much.  My grandfather Walter Brower in the 30’s had developed a bad dermatitis. He was in the hospital with it, being treated for all kinds of things with no relief.  He was missing work, and he was the sole supporter of his family.  Finally someone recommended that he visit a chiropractor… a chiropractor?  For a skin condition?  In the 1930’s? This was radical thinking. Thankfully he was desperate enough to go.  He visited the chiropractor’s office, sitting across from him at his desk, and told the doctor about his affliction.  The chiropractor asked what he did for a living.  My grandfather was a delivery man for Bordon’s milk.  The chiropractor said that my grandfather had developed a milk allergy due to all the dairy products he consumed.  My grandfather went off dairy, and the skin problem disappeared within days.  (This was at a time before cows were fed pellets of corn and chicken feces laced with antibiotics as they are today, too.)

All that said, I make my own meat with organic products, as well as my own vegan butter , and am now experimenting with vegan cheese (more on that later).  Do I have a lot of time on my hands?  No.  I spend a couple hours once a month making the seitan and the butter, enough for a month, and freeze both.

Seitan isn’t pretty before it is cooked.  It is grey and spongy.  However compare it to the flesh of a butchered animal and it is beautiful.  You can buy vital wheat gluten just about anywhere now, but different brands have different quality.  I use Bob’s Red Mill which has outstanding flavor and never gets rubbery.  I also use Bragg’s Liquid Aminos instead of soy sauce, tamari and often other salt.  It is organic and nutritious, and a little bit brings out the flavor of soups, main dishes, salad dressings, scrambled eggs, and anything its added to.  Compare prices online for both; Amazon.com has good deals if you want to buy a lot.

When seitan is frozen, the patties are quickly thawed in a lightly oiled pan.  The ‘meat’ is juicy, flavorful and delicious, and can be used in place of chicken strips, ground up instead of meat for stuffing or sausage, used as is in a sandwich or hamburger, or cubed for stew, curry… whatever.  The problem I have is wanting to eat it too often!

Basic Seitan
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Vegan
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
Organic vital wheat gluten makes a yummy, all-purpose meat substitute for very low cost.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups organic vital wheat gluten
  • 1 teaspoon organic crushed dry rosemary (or minced fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon organic dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon organic dried rubbed sage
  • ¼ teaspoon organic cumin seed, lightly crushed
  • ¼ teaspoon organic garlic powder
  • 2 cups water
  • ⅓ cup Bragg's Liquid Amino Acid (or tamari sauce, but it is saltier)
  • 8 cups water
  • ¼ cup tamari sauce
  • ¼ cup Bragg's Liquid Amino Acid
  • ½ teaspoon organic onion powder
  • 1 4-inch piece dried kelp (kombu) (you may omit)
Instructions
  1. In a large non-reactive bowl, mix together the vital wheat gluten, rosemary, thyme, sage, cumin seed and garlic powder. In a measuring cup mix the 2 cups water with the Bragg's. Quickly add the liquid to the dry and working fast mix thoroughly. The gluten will develop quickly; use your hands to work it to make sure there are no patches of dry gluten. There should be extra liquid. The gluten will be rubbery. Shape the gluten into a long loaf, about 3 inches in diameter. Allow to rest while you make the broth.
  2. In a tall stock pot combine 8 cups of water with the Bragg's, tamari, onion powder and kombu and bring to a boil.
  3. Cut gluten log into slices no wider than ¼ inch, or in strips (you can always cut the finished patties into strips later). Individually drop pieces into boiling stock (they'll stick together otherwise). Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Drain and either store seitan in refrigerator in some broth for no more than 5 days, or layer seitan patties flat in a plastic freezer bag laid on a cutting board or plate and freeze. When frozen gently break apart patties in the bag and keep frozen, taking out what you need. Patties can be heated quickly in a pan, sliced and stir-fried, thawed and breaded and baked or fried, or used any way you'd like.

I tried several seitan recipes, most of which were either too bland or too strong and muddy flavored.  This recipe I really like for all-purpose, chickeny seitan.  I freeze the finished slices flat in a plastic bag so I can pull out however many I need whenever I want them.

Snow at Finch Frolic

Pickerel and snowy azola on the little pond.

Pickerel and snowy azola on the little pond.

Finch Frolic Garden is located in Fallbrook,CA, in sunny San Diego’s North County.  Dry and hot conditions are the norm, with temperatures rising above 100 in the summer,and an occasional frost in the winter.

This is a prime Southern California winter scene: palm trees and red tile roofs - and traffic - with snow on the mountains.  The peaks are usually only dusted in snow in Jan. or Feb.

This is a prime Southern California winter scene: palm trees and red tile roofs – and traffic – with snow on the mountains. The peaks are usually only dusted in snow in Jan. or Feb.

A rain around Thanksgiving means lawnmowers are humming around New Years.  This past year, 2014, has experienced strange weather as has the rest of the world.  We had back-to back Santa Anas (hot, dry, high winds from off the desert) in May, which caused many trees and plants to drop flowers.  The lack of food and water induced many animals to not reproduce, which affected the rest of the food chain.  Then we had fire season in May as well.  Unfortunately arson was the cause of some of the fires, but many homes were lost as well as hundreds of acres of our precious endangered chaparral and the baby animals that lived there.

These mountains are northwest of us - they never get snow!

These mountains are northwest of us – they never get snow!

Our heat wave came in June, and our ‘June gloom’ – a marine cloud cover – came in July.  We had several significant rain events in late Fall, and then on New Year’s eve, it snowed.

The pathway down to the Mock Pavilion.

The pathway down to the Mock Pavilion.

So many of you who live in snowy areas are saying, “Who cares?”  The last snowfall in our inland valley area was in the late 60’s when I was probably 8 or 9 years old. I lived with my sister and parents in Carlsbad, a town west of here. All I remember about it is that my dad made a snowball and froze it, and in the summer threw it at the neighbor.IMG_6033

On the 30th we received an inch and a quarter of cold, Canadian rain overnight. The rain came in heavy showers and swales we’d created had filled and prevented flooding. In the morning I looked out on a white garden.

Kitchen garden in snow.

Kitchen garden in snow.

Not everyone in the area received snow this week, but streets were icy, nearby Temecula was covered as were all the mountains even those west of here.

Good-bye 'till next year, apple mint!

Good-bye ’till next year, apple mint!

The landscape looked like a large powdered sugar shaker had been at work overnight.

Perhaps this year we can have bees again.  Last year they all died - someone spraying in the neighborhood is my guess.

Perhaps this year we can have bees again. Last year they all died – someone spraying in the neighborhood is my guess.

Again about 10:30 in the morning snowflakes fell and strangers grinned at each other in delight.

Creeping red fescue, which is an excellent soil holder and groundcover here,  just laughed at the cold.

Creeping red fescue, which is an excellent soil holder and groundcover here, just laughed at the cold.

Not so the growers of frost-intolerant plants such as avocados, citrus, succulents and tropicals.  After the snow we have had clear, frosty nights which have done more damage than the snow had.

These are now ripening in the house.

These are now ripening in the house.

I don’t expect overwintering tomatoes this year, and we’ve been harvesting the last of our zucchino rampicante, eggplant, jalapenos and tomatoes, and marking where the sweet potatoes lie underground.

Poor little frosty zucchinos.

Poor little frosty zucchinos.

Our hens aren’t happy about the weather change. We hung towels and tacked up cardboard in their coop for insulation, although now it looks like a cheap harem.  Today I bought a heat lamp to keep them warmer.

Buddha's Finger citron and snow.  I candied the citron this year and used it in holiday bread.  Wonderful!

Buddha’s Finger citron and snow. I candied the citron this year and used it in holiday bread. Wonderful!

Most of them are done molting except, of course, the Turken or naked-neck.  Besides having a naturally bare neck, poor Malika has dropped over half of her feathers and has no insulation at all.  Its a good thing that days aren’t frozen, too.

Poor Malika!  An unfortunate molt.

Poor Malika! An unfortunate molt.

By Monday daytime temperatures will be in the low 70’s again, and I’ll be worrying about planting spring crops already; despite the snow, there really isn’t a winter here.IMG_5962  However, I thought I’d share some New Year’s eve photos of Finch Frolic Garden in the snow – not something I’d ever thought I’d see.

Lovely.   Liquidambers, trellis and wildflowers.

Lovely. Liquidambers, trellis and wildflowers.

Taming the Rain

Rain compacts bare soil, and in this case making clay soil slick.  No percolation is happening here!

Rain compacts bare soil, and in this case making clay soil slick. No percolation is happening here!

World-wide we have a fresh water shortage, and the seas are rising.  Erosion is cutting into our fields and washing our precious topsoil into waterways, causing them to silt up and die.  In some areas of the US, unprecedented flooding from rain is occurring, while out West drought is drying up wells.  The reasons for these happenings have to do with our farming techniques to begin with.  How to fix the problems all  boils down to some very simple methods that everyone can do – that everyone needs to do.  It all comes down to making level-bottomed swales, and rain-catchment basins, to make the water penetrate the soil rather than roll over it.  Rain compacts soil more than a tractor does – when it falls on bare ground.  We have been trained to rake up leaves and burn them or send them to the dump.  Leaves, dead vines and other organic matter cushions the rain and keeps the soil from being compacted.  That organic matter also feeds the soil microorganisms that make soil hold manage rainwater.  With the lack of organic matter, and the use of herbicides to kill off all vegetation, and the proliferation of huge swaths of lawn that is treated routinely with chemicals and therefore make the ground hard, rain rolls across the landscape taking topsoil with it.

Raised mounds on the downside of swales keep rainwater by plant roots.

Raised mounds on the downside of swales keep rainwater by plant roots.

Many neighborhoods have large culverts through their properties – mine included – where runoff from properties above is purposely channeled through and away from homes.  All that precious water is wasted.  The same happens in areas where rain is abundant.  Rainwater is directed away from properties and into storm drains that fill and overflow, or it puddles in low spots because it has nowhere to go.

A rainwater and silt basin at the end of a series of rain catchment basins, has turned into a permanent pond.

A rainwater and silt basin at the end of a series of rain catchment basins, has turned into a permanent pond.

By creating regular level-bottomed swales perpendicular to the flow of water, beginning as high up the landscape as possible, rain will be caught before its momentum running downhill becomes destructive.  The water in the swales percolate into the landscape, reestablishing water tables and re-energizing wells and streambeds. Swales should be level at the bottom, dug on contour if large, and have a dedicated overflow into another swale, rain catchment basin or dam.  Small property?  Dig a small fishscale-shaped swale with a trowel above each of your small trees and plants, perpendicular to the flow of water.  Filling these small swales with coarse mulch such as woodchips will keep them moist and weed-free.

With 97% of California wetlands gone, animals have no place to drink.  Help them!

With 97% of California wetlands gone, animals have no place to drink. Help them!

If your property is the recipient of water from uphill, then talk to all your neighbors above you and convince them to dig swales as well (neighborhood swale-digging party??).  The amount of water raging down the hill will become insignificant, and everyone’s trees and plants will flourish due to the water being caught in the soil.  The plume of water slowly moving through the landscape encourages tree and plant roots to grow deeper.  The roots break through hardpan, produce sugars and proteins and carbohydrates to attract microbes, and create good soil for you.

A hugelkultur bed is made from layering wood with dirt and organic materials.  It will absorb rainwater and release it slowly as the ground around it dries, while improving the soil.

A hugelkultur bed is made from layering wood with dirt and organic materials. It will absorb rainwater and release it slowly as the ground around it dries, while improving the soil.

So dig swales and rain catchment basins to passify and hold rainwater.  Leave your leaves to prevent compaction and to feed your soil microbes.  Enjoy having healthier plants, soil and waterways while helping to put the brakes on global warming.

Finch Frolic Marketplace, Revisited

Wonderful, tasty winter squash of all kinds!

Wonderful, tasty winter squash of all kinds!

Due to popular demand, we’re having one more short Marketplace this Saturday, 9 – 1.

Join us on Saturday, November 29nd  from 9-1  for the annual Finch Frolic Marketplace, the Extended Version!  We’ll have for sale fresh and prepared foods straight from our permaculture gardens.  All are excellent gifts, or will grace your holiday table. We’ll have the much-desired Pomegranate Gelato again, and new this year, Passionfruit Gelato!   Squash, fruit, veg, preserves, passionfruit curd, baked goods, and much more.

Herbs, veggies, frozen juice, gelatos, curds, jams, preserves... and much more!

Herbs, veggies, frozen juice, gelatos, curds, jams, preserves… and much more!

Finch Frolic Garden is located at 390 Vista del Indio, Fallbrook, CA.

Directions:

Finch Frolic Garden is open by appointment only for tours, lectures and other activities.  The address is 390 Vista del Indio, Fallbrook, CA  92028-2548.  Please call only if you are lost or delayed; we use our house phone only and are often not inside.  Please use the email above for any other communication.

From the North (Temecula and above): take 1-15 South to Exit 51 and turn right.  Make the next right onto E. Mission Rd/County Hwy-S13.  In .8 of a mile turn left onto E. Live Oak Park Rd.  In 1.6 miles turn right onto Alvarado St.  In .7 miles at the top of the hill turn left onto Vista Del Indio, at Roja’s Succulents.  Make the very first right; 390 is at the end to the left.

From the South (Escondido and below): take I-15 North to Exit 51 and turn left over the freeway.  Make the next right onto E. Mission Rd/County Hwy-S13.  In .8 of a mile turn left onto E. Live Oak Park Rd.  In 1.6 miles turn right onto Alvarado St.  In .7 miles at the top of the hill turn left onto Vista Del Indio, at Roja’s Succulents.  Make the very first right; 390 is at the end to the left.

From the West (I-5): take CA-76 East, Exit 54A and drive for 12.6 miles.  Turn left onto S. Mission Road/County Hwy S13 for 4.1 miles.  Turn right onto S. Stagecoach Lane (at the high school).  In 2.8 miles turn right onto Alvarado St.  At the top of the hill turn right onto Vista del Indio, at the Roja’s Succulents sign.  Make the very first right; 390 is at the end on the left.

 

Perennial Vegetables: Jerusalem Artichokes

A knobby root of deliciousness.

A knobby root of deliciousness.

Jerusalem artichokes aren’t artichokes nor are they from Jerusalem.  They are also called sunchokes, which sounds something like an unfortunate cosmic event to me.  We grew them this  year and I have only great things to say about them.

I ordered organic tubers from Peaceful Valley in California.  By the way, all of the strawberries and rhubarb that I had ordered from them were inexpensive and yet of prime quality.  The tubers grew into tall, sunflower-like plants that graced an area of the new kitchen garden that didn’t have the best soil in it.

JAs have beautiful sunflower-like flowers that pollinators love.

JAs have beautiful sunflower-like flowers that pollinators love.

They flowered most of the summer and just this month – October – began to die off.  The plants had some difficulty with lace bugs, but with good soil fertility and some actively aerated compost tea foliar spray they rallied exceptionally.

The Jerusalem  artichokes made a nice living wall.

The Jerusalem artichokes made a nice living wall.

Today, for our Halloween lunch, we thought some creepy-looking tubers would be appropriate.  They share a basket with Black Beauty zucchinis (caught them small!) and our first sweet potato of the year, Spanish Red Improved, which we also steamed and ate – heaven!

Our Halloween harvest.

Our Halloween harvest.

The ‘chokes are supposed to sweeten up after a frost, but here in San Diego county that might take awhile.

The chokes grow tubers all around the base of the plant, and also spread them underground.  They are very easy to harvest; the plant wants the tubers to make new plants so they break off easily.

Cover green tubers back up so that they can continue growing.

Cover green tubers back up so that they can continue growing.

 

Although they are knotty, they wash off easily and the skin is thin and mostly easily removed with a vegetable peeler.  I didn’t scrape all of it off and it wasn’t bitter or unpleasant at all.  I roasted them after just washing them with a vegetable brush and the skins were a little firm and the insides very soft.  There wasn’t any unpleasant taste.

Peeling them is kind of easy, but the skin doesn't taste bad.  Raw they are crisp.

Peeling them is kind of easy, but the skin doesn’t taste bad. Raw they are crisp.

Steamed, the JAs become very soft and – by gosh! – taste very similar to soft, buttery artichoke heart!  Wonderful!  My daughter and I ate them down with a little vegan butter .  So wonderfully good.  They can be easily mashed as well.  We also roasted them along with other vegetables.

Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, beans, mushrooms, potatoes and squash are roasted with garlic, rosemary and olive oil.    Yum.

Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, beans, mushrooms, potatoes and squash are roasted with garlic, rosemary and olive oil. Yum.

I mix all the veggies in olive oil with dried rosemary, minced fresh garlic and pepper, spread out on a tray and roast at 425F for about an hour, depending upon the size and thickness of the veggies.  Roasting keeps them more solid yet tender, and sharpens their flavor a little.  Absolutely fantastic.

I’m saving small tubers to plant ALL OVER THE YARD!  What a great perennial vegetable – perennial in that you leave some tubers in the ground and they keep coming up every year.  They are attractive, give shade to smaller plants, are great for attracting pollinators, create good mulch when the tops have died down, and have wonderful tubers.  The tubers may be eaten raw as well; they are crisp and mild.

The foliage dies off in the Fall.  I'll cut the stalks at the ground level and lay them down on top of the bed to feed the soil.

The foliage dies off in the Fall. I’ll cut the stalks at the ground level and lay them down on top of the bed to feed the soil.

If you have a corner for some tall flowers, definitely try growing some organic Jerusalem artichokes. Yum.

Saving the Bees

The ponds at Finch Frolic Garden are cleaned by fish and plants, with no chemicals, algaecide, artificial aeration or filtration.  Well-balanced water allows wildlife to thrive.

The ponds at Finch Frolic Garden are cleaned by fish and plants, with no chemicals, algaecide, artificial aeration or filtration. Well-balanced water allows wildlife to thrive.

I should have more accurately called this post, Saving All the Insects, or even Saving the Wildlife, because the answer to saving one is the answer to saving them all. We’ve been inundated for years – my whole lifetime, in fact, – with pleas to save our environment, stop whale slaughter, stop polluting, etc.  I remember winning a poster contest in fifth grade on the subject of curtailing littering.  Since Rachel Carson’s books woke people up to the hazards of DDT and how chemicals have many deadly side effects there has been a grassroots effort to stop the pollution.  Since Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth came out the push for environmentally friendly lights, cars, LEED-certified buildings and many more positive anti-climate-change actions have grown furiously.  Too bad no one listened to him decades before.  A drop in the economy and the radical change in weather patterns have people exploring organics, making their own clothes and foods, changing their shopping habits and thinking about what they are bringing into their homes.  However, this week the World Wildlife Fund released the staggering results of a study that states that between the years 1970 and 2010, 52% of the world’s animal populations are  gone.  Over half.  Gone.  On our watch.  In my lifetime. I am stunned with shame.  So what about the next 40 years?  Over 97% of California wetlands are already gone.  There are only 3% left in Los Angeles.  The Colorado River hasn’t met the ocean for decades, except briefly last year due to major earthworks.  We are pumping all that  water overland, open to the sun for evaporation,  to treatment plants that fill it with chlorine and other chemicals, then sell it to us to spray over lawns and flush down the toilet or let run down the drain while the water heats up.  It is madness.  All  the wildlife that depended upon the Colorado River along that stretch are gone.  All the insects, the frogs, lizards, birds, mammals, etc. that need a clean drink of water no longer have  access  to it.  The only water they can drink is usually chlorinated domestic water in ponds and bird baths.  Too often this water is treated with algaecide, which claims it doesn’t hurt frogs but it does kill what the frogs feed upon.  We are killing our animals with poisoned domestic water.dry_colorado_new[1]

One of the largest reasons we have extinctions in North America is mismanagement of rainwater in drylands (other than polluting the waters. Poaching, over-fishing, destruction of habitat and climate change are the main reasons).  We have cleared and flattened the ground, and channel rainwater off into the ocean.  Look around at your streets and houses.  Are they harvesting water or channeling it?  Any property that is slanted is channeling water away.  Any property that is level – like the bottom of swales – is harvesting water.  So many properties are inundated with annual rains because there is no water harvesting above them.  When you harvest water, it runs into rain catchment basins and swales instead of roaring down the hillside taking all the topsoil with it.  Water becomes passive and percolates down deeply into the soil.  That deep saturation draws tree roots down into the ground.  The roots break up hardpan, make oxygen and nutrient channels into the dirt and produce exudates  (sugars, carbohydrates and starches) through their roots to attract and feed the billions of microbes that turn your dirt into rain-holding soil.  That underground plume of rainwater then slowly passes through your soil, re-enervating subterranean waterways, refilling your wells and bringing long-dry streambeds back to life.  We must harvest rainwater to save our animals and plants, and consequently ourselves.  We must reestablish sources of clean, unpolluted chemical-free water for animals to eat and from which to drink.

Healthy pond water is off-color due to tannins, and is filled with tiny creatures.  Some such as daphnia are visible, but just like soil microbes, many aquatic creatures are microscopic.  Fish and frogs feast from this level of the food chain, and these creatures make the water balanced.  They eat mosquito eggs.  They clean up algae.  They are as vitally important as soil microbes.  Oh, and 83% of the frogs are gone.

I spoke with Quentin Alexander from  HiveSavers today; he performs humane bee rescue around the San Diego area and has been trying to re-queen Africanized hives with calmer European queens which will breed nicer behavior back into the bees rather  than having to kill the entire hive.  He has had no luck in the past two  years with European queens, even those bred in California.  With very little wetlands left, and those often sprayed with DEET by Vector Control, or polluted with chemical fertilizers and oils washed out of front yards, streets and driveways, these insects must resort to drinking from swimming pools and bird baths.  Again, these contain highly chlorinated water.  Animals are being forced to drink poison, or not drink at all.

We MUST stop using chemicals on our properties, and we MUST harvest rainwater.  We MUST stop spraying well water into the air but irrigate with it in dripper form under mulch so that it is cycled back into the ground rather than evaporated.  One inch of rain on one acre in one hour is 27,154 gallons of water!  It is so easy to harvest rainwater – dig level-bottomed swales!  Dig small ones with a trowel.  Fire up the tractor and turn road ways into swales, or cross-cut vertical paths with swales that have dedicated overflows.  Dig rain catchment basins to catch a flow of water.  Catch water as high up on your property as you can.  If you have level soil, fantastic!  You have it so easy!  Make gentle swales, rain gardens, rain catchment areas and sunken gardens to catch and percolate the water.  Bury old wood perpendicular to water flow – its called hugelkultur

Please watch this six-minute video by Geoff Lawton of the Permaculture Design Institute of Australia.  You need to type in your name and email, but they don’t sell your information nor do they bug you with lots of emails.  Here  is the link.  The title is Finding An Oasis in the American Desert, and it is about the Roosevelt swales dug during the dust bowl in the desert.  If nothing that I say, nor anyone else says can convince you, then please watch this and see the effectiveness of rain harvesting.  We MUST do this, and now before the rains come is the time.  Catch all the water that falls on your property in the soil, and try to catch the water that runs into it.  If there are flood waters channeled through your property, see if you can talk to the people who own land above you about harvesting water up there.  It will reduce the flooding, save topsoil and benefit everyone’s property.  Work towards keeping rainwater in your soil, reducing your domestic water, and making what streambeds are left come back to life.  Keep our old trees from dying by watering deeply through rain catchment.  If you have a pond or swimming pool and treat it with harsh chemicals and algaecides, seek out a natural pond professional.  In the San Diego – Los Angeles region there is Bob Lloyd of PuraVida Aquatics, or Jacob Hatch of Hatch Aquatics.  Jacob builds natural ponds and maintains large natural waterways.  Bob maintains chemical-free backyard and display ponds that are full of wildlife.  He can convert your pool into a clean swimming pond where the water is filtered by plants and thus is lovely year-round, provides abundant habitat and doesn’t need chemical treatments.  No chlorine to burn your skin and eyes.  How great is that? He can also create a constructed wetland that cleans your greywater with plants.

There are so many simple and inexpensive ways to harvest rainwater rather than allow it to flow into the salty ocean without penetrating the soil.  Please, please, please do them, and if you already have THANK YOU and gently encourage your neighbors to do the same.  We must stop the habitat destruction and start to rebuild what is gone.

Microbiology For The Layman

IMG_7354A Permaculturalist’s Explanation of How Life Works

Want to understand the microbial life in compost, in ponds and in our bodies? This lecture by microbiologist Dr. Robert Lloyd will provide you with a basic understanding of how microbes work and what they do. Fascinating and comprehensible for the layman, this talk is essential for those who want to understand more about how life works, in or out of the garden and pond.

This lecture will take place on Saturday, October 11,

4 PM – 6 PM, at beautiful Finch Frolic Garden in Fallbrook.  Light homemade refreshments will be served.  The fee for the lecture is $20.  Please RSVP to dianeckennedy@prodigy.net.  The fee can be sent to Finch Frolic Garden, 390 Vista del Indio, Fallbrook, CA  92028 (also the location of the talk).  

Dr. Robert Lloyd is owner of PuraVida Aquatic.He has maintained chemical-free ponds and aquariums for 20 years.  He also can convert chlorinated swimming pools  to chemical-free, naturally balanced, swimmable  and healthy ecosystems. (www.puravidaaquatic.com)

Please bring soil, water, or any sample you would like to examine under a microscope!

Vertical Space

Pipian From Tuxpan squash, from Baker Creek    Heirloom Organic Seeds.

Pipian From Tuxpan squash, from Baker Creek Heirloom Organic Seeds.

When planning a garden for lots of any size, be especially aware of vertical spaces.  Have an unsightly fence?  A wall that needs protection from the sun?  A hot, bright patio?  All of these areas are perfect for growing vertically.

A Canada Crookneck climbs over a plum tree.

A Canada Crookneck climbs over a plum tree.

For an existing wooden fence, string wires vertically or in a crossed pattern, depending upon what you will be growing.  For a chain link fence… just plant!  You can certainly grow annuals such as beans, squash and peas, but for perimeter fences I’d advise long-term plants that fill other functions as well.  Heirloom climbing roses can cover a fence, create a barrier for trespassers, provide habitat, be ascetically pleasing, and provide edible flowers and vitamin C-rich hips.  Remember that in permaculture everything should serve at least three purposes.

Passionfruit vines work beautifully on overhead trellises.  Wire is strung the length of the trellis, with shade cloth over the top.  The vines don't need any help to fill up the gaps.

Passionfruit vines work beautifully on overhead trellises. Wire is strung the length of the trellis, with shade cloth over the top. The vines don’t need any help to fill up the gaps.

Passionvines are evergreen perennials with rampant growth and provide good crops of heavenly-smelling nutritious fruit, as well as being the host plant to the Gulf Fritillary caterpillar. Even the perennial scarlet or golden runner bean  would provide you with food and flowers for about six years.

This curly willow trellis we put up in late spring and planted squash along both sides.  The squash love the trellis, and the trellis adds a nice touch to the pathway.

This curly willow trellis we put up in late spring and planted squash along both sides. The squash love the trellis, and the trellis adds a nice touch to the pathway.

Do you have a cement porch or patio where the sun reflects heat and brightness into your house  in the summer?  Cover it with a simple trellis, sturdy enough to hold vines.  There are many ornamentals that would work (wisteria, trumpet vine, virgin’s bower, morning glory, etc.), but think about passionfruit, kiwi or grapes.  Outside a west-facing wall is a perfect place for a planted trellis, that will help cool that side of the house during the  summer.  The sides of sheds can be used vertically, either with simple wire that can be removed later or with wooden lath (preferably recycled).

Strange fruit in this lime tree?

Strange fruit in this lime tree?

Yes! Its a zuchino rampicante vine.  This heirloom zucchini can be eaten green, or if allowed to age will harden into a uniquely-shaped winter squash.

Yes! Its a zuchino rampicante vine. This heirloom zucchini can be eaten green, or if allowed to age will harden into a uniquely-shaped winter squash.

If you have existing trees, use them as vertical space.  One faction of a plant guild is a vine.  Vines act as groundcover, shading the soil and retaining moisture while producing mulch.  Vines also can grow up trees and help shade their trunks from weather extremes.

A Canada Crookneck climbs over a plum tree.

A Canada Crookneck climbs over a plum tree.

Meanwhile the fruit and vegetables are off the ground and won’t suffer the predation by animals or ground insects that it may normally receive.  Plus, it is fun to see squash up in a tree.

Um... that is definately a pepper tree.  But what is hanging in it?

Um… that is definately a pepper tree. But what is hanging in it?

Strange fruit, indeed!

Strange fruit, indeed!

A small fence around your kitchen garden is inexpensive, recyclable, keeps nibbling critters out, and can double the size of your growing space.

T-posts and hardware cloth around the kitchen garden adds so much more growing space, and keeps critters out.  Delicata squash is enjoying the late summer sun.

T-posts and hardware cloth around the kitchen garden adds so much more growing space, and keeps critters out. Delicata squash is enjoying the late summer sun.

One project that I’d like to do this winter (just one?  Ha!) is to nail up old rain guttering on the outside of my little shed and make a small natural pond at the base.  I’d plant the gutters heavily with strawberries, and maybe greens, and then install a pump that circulated water from the pond up to and through the gutters.  The water would then empty back into the pond.  The fish and plants in the pond would be fed and happy, the plants in the gutters would be watered and fertilized, and I’d have unnibbled strawberries that were easy to pick, as well as repurposing the old gutters.

Please choose only organic, and if possible, heirloom seeds.  It is so important to not poison the wildlife and ourselves with chemicals and plants whose DNAs have been tampered with to withstand more chemicals.  I buy from Baker Creek (the catalog is to die for.), Seeds of Change, organics from Botanical Interests , from organic seed savers and from Peaceful Valley Organics (which have terrific prices on high-quality bare root plants such as strawberries!).

More squash helping shade the trunks and the soil around a nectarine.

More squash helping shade the trunks and the soil around a nectarine.

So when planning your next season’s garden, don’t just think outside of the box, but think of growing up the sides as well!

Using Smuck, or Using Food Waste

 

One afternoon's haul of smuck.

One afternoon’s haul of smuck.

Just when I was mourning the fact that our household didn’t create enough food waste to generate lots of compost, I received an email from a former visitor to Finch Frolic Garden.  She volunteers at the Fallbrook Food Pantry, where they distribute balanced food supplements to over 800 families a week who earn less than the US poverty limit.  They receive raw, outdated fruit and vegetables from grocery stores and other sources, sort through it and have to discard what isn’t safe to hand out.  The volunteer knew that I composted and wondered if I’d like to pick up the residue so that they wouldn’t have to throw it out.  She and the director had been taking it home, but it was too much for them.  Four times a week I’ve been picking up buckets of smuck, or what I call the rotting fruit and vegetables, and often its too much for me as well.

Boxes of mixed smuck were difficult to pick up and very, very juicy.  Buckets are better.

Boxes of mixed smuck were difficult to pick up and very, very juicy. Buckets are better.

There has been a grace period where my daughter and I nearly broke our backs picking up cardboard boxes sodden with fruit juice that stained our clothes and our car, and spent lots of time cutting produce out of plastic bags and containers, but the Food Pantry staff  have been wonderful about usually opening the packages  and using only old pool buckets.

One drawback is that very little of the smuck is organic.  We are constantly amazed at how fruit and vegetables remain hard on the outside while rot on the inside.  These peppers were hybridized to be solid enough to ship without bruising, at the expense of flavor and nutrition.

One drawback is that very little of the smuck is organic. We are constantly amazed at how fruit and vegetables remain hard on the outside while rot on the inside. These peppers were hybridized to be solid enough to ship without bruising, at the expense of flavor and nutrition.

My back, my clothes and my car thank them.  Fortunately others have been picking some smuck up.  The man in my life happily takes lots of it to feed to his compost worms.  We’re a great match.

My daughter and I empty the buckets into the chicken coop.

Bodicea and Esther/Myrtle with a new batch of smuck, heavy on the bananas.

Charlotte, Bodicea and Esther/Myrtle with a new batch of smuck, heavy on the bananas.

The girls love it. I make  sure they eat lay crumble and calcium as well to keep laying, but with the smuck they’ve reduced their intake of crumble and hence have lowered my expense.

The girls going after the smuck.

The girls going after the smuck.

I pitchfork straw and weeds over the top and within a few days most of it except some citrus and a coconut or two is pretty much gone.  There is a fly problem, but with the flies there have come more flycatchers and lizards, and  the hens eat the insect larvae that emerges in the compost.

This is Agatha, named after a favorite mystery writer.  She's here just because she's so lovely.

This is Agatha, named after a favorite mystery writer. She’s here just because she’s so lovely.

The picking up of smuck, hauling it down the hill and into the coop, de-packaging, cleaning buckets and fighting flies and ants, three – to -four times a week has been a time-consuming and very, very icky job, but the thought of all that free waste going into the dumpster keeps me at it.  This is bacteria-heavy compost material, which is excellent for growing non-woody herbaceous plants such as our own vegetables and herbs.

I’ve also layered the smuck with cardboard, paper waste from the house (tissues, paper towels, cotton balls, Q-tips, junk mail, shredded paper, etc.) under the bananas.

A pile of fruit, veggies and cardboard, partially covered with clippings, at the food of our big banana.  A citrus to the side likes it, too.

A pile of fruit, veggies and cardboard, partially covered with clippings, at the food of our big banana. A citrus to the side likes it, too.

Bananas love lots of food in the  form of moist  compost around their roots; in fact, they are commonly planted in banana circles with understory plants and the center of the circle is a place for waste products to  deteriorate.  In our dry San Diego climate we don’t have that kind of tropical moisture to help it rot, but the  compost does become a  sheet mulch  and really helps create soil.

Miranda adds a melon to the banana circle smuck.

Miranda adds a melon to the banana circle smuck.

One inch of compost reduces watering needs by ten percent, so a pile of wet smuck layered with carbon items such as dry cuttings and cardboard is excellent.  I throw cuttings and pine needles over the top to keep down the rotty fruit smell,  which doesn’t last long anyway.

Sugar cane and passionfruit enjoy the smuck layers under the banana - kind of a banana semi-circle.

Sugar cane and passionfruit enjoy the smuck layers under the banana – kind of a banana semi-circle.

When creating new impromptu trellises for melons and squash in unimproved soil, Miranda and I dug trenches, threw  in wet wood and dumped buckets of smuck right on top then covered the trench with dirt.  We  planted seeds in handfuls of good compost and away they went.  We also used some of the mostly composted soil from the Fowl Fortress directly into the kitchen garden .

We augmented the kitchen garden soil with nearly-composted smuck dirt.

We augmented the kitchen garden soil with nearly-composted smuck dirt.

Due to the wide variety of fruit and vegetables in the smuck buckets we’ve had some interesting volunteer plants.  Tiny tear-shaped tomatoes that had been sold in plastic containers for natural snacks, a sweet potato, other tomatoes, and melons. At least we  thought they were melons.

Melon vines taking over the kitchen garden... but not the melons we expected!

Melon vines taking over the kitchen garden… but not the melons we expected!

Miranda was wondering about pulling them out of the kitchen garden because they were taking over without apparently producing a flower.  A couple of days ago she investigated further and  found a real surprise. We have about thirty kiwanos growing under the foliage!

Kiwanos with lots of blooms lurking beneath the foliage.

Kiwanos with lots of blooms lurking beneath the foliage.

I’ve never eaten a  kiwano.  Wikipedia says: Cucumis metuliferus, horned melon or kiwano, also African horned cucumber or melon, jelly melon, hedged gourd, melano, in the southeastern United States, blowfish fruit, is an annual vine in the cucumber and melon family, Cucurbitaceae.  I’ve seen them in the smuck buckets, and it just figures that of all the green melons and orange melons  that we’ve thrown in there, something like these would grow!  None have ripened to the light orange color as yet, which is good because it gives us  time to figure out what to do with them.

When they turn orange they'll really look like blowfish fruit!

When they turn orange they’ll really look like blowfish fruit!