• Animals,  Bees,  Gardening adventures,  Grains,  Health,  Heirloom Plants,  Herbs,  Other Insects,  Permaculture and Edible Forest Gardening Adventures,  Planting,  Seeds

    Growing and Eating Seeds

    We eat seeds everyday. Grains, nuts, beans and, well, seeds, are all seeds. A seed is an embryonic plant covered with a seed coat. A grain is a dried fruit. In this blogpost I’m going to concentrate on true seeds.

    Grains are usually seeds from grasses, although there are common exceptions to that rule such as the amaranth below.  Seeds contain the magic that makes a plant out of a speck; a towering oak from an acorn. Seeds are highly nutritious for humans as well, but often are just used as a flavoring (think of an ‘everything’ bagel). Many have been used medically for relieving everything from eczema to mental issues. Some seeds such as grains are difficult to prepare for eating on a small scale, such as rice. Separating seeds from chaff takes a lot of steps that may not be practical for the handful of food at the end of the process. However there are many seeds that we commonly eat that are easily grown among the veggies, or even in a flower bed. Here are some that we grow at Finch Frolic Garden Permaculture:

    Let’s start with one of my favorite flavors, the sesame seed. Sesame  (Sesamum indicum) seeds grow on small upright plants about 2 – 3′ high that have lovely tubular flowers. Bees love to crawl into them. Its a pretty plant and flower, so could easily be incorporated into an ornamental area. There are both black and white sesame seed plants; the white seed is really brownish as it has a seed coat. Sesame is also called benne seed. Once harvested sesame seeds should be stored in a dark cool place or refrigerated. The seeds can be used raw, or better still lightly toasted in a dry pan before sprinkling over your food. So very yum. Tip: sesame pods become tight as they dry and then split with force, throwing the seeds away from the plant. If you want to harvest any then watch the pods as they dry on the plant and then cut and hang in a paper bag to catch the seeds as they fly, or break open with your hands.


    Amaranth (Amaranthus spp.) is a very tasty, easily grown seed that is considered a grain. It was a major food of the Aztecs, and almost completely destroyed by the Spanish after their conquest of that civilization. Amaranth was too sneaky though and survived. It is easily digestible, high in protein and full of other nutrition. It has wild as well as  ornamental varieties, but all are edible (be sure what you are eating!)  Love-lies-bleeding is the dramatic name of the long red tasseled kind. 

    All are great for birds as well as humans.

    Pigweed and lambsquarter are its weedy relatives.  All of them have edible leaves, although some varieties are more tasty than others. Older leaves are better cooked. The tall varieties can grow 8′ tall or so, may need staking, and make good shade plants for others that need sun protection. When you start to see birds on the flowers then the seed should be ready. Another way to check is to gently rub the flowers between your fingers and see if seeds come off as well as the petals. If so, then over a clean, dry bucket rub the cut flowers between your fingers. Winnow the chaff away over a mesh screen or in the wind, or by gently blowing it away from the seed. Now you need to completely dry the seed in the sun, and then store in a dry, dark cool place. Use within six months for best results.

    Poppy seeds:

    No, not the opium kind, the lemon-poppy seed cake kind, although both are varieties of Papaver somniferum. Look for seeds for Breadseed Poppy varieties. This is another beautiful ornamental with striking seed pods that can be dried and used in flower arrangements. Poppies enjoy poor, disturbed soil. The seeds are tiny so need to be exposed to daylight to germinate. The flowers are beautiful; frail and feminine. The seed pods are rounded and have tiny holes at the top where the seeds come out of, so be careful when you are working around the drying pods or you’ll scatter seeds. Or just let some drop and they will come up next year.Allow the pods to dry on the stem and then carefully cut. Shake the seeds out into a jar and store in a cool, dark place. Use raw or lightly toasted. Be sure not to eat them before taking a drug test, or you’ll test positive.

    Basil seeds:

    Basil seeds aren’t well known for their culinary use in the US, but they are nutritious and useful. The seeds of the sweet basil plant (Ocimum basilicum) not Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), when soaked make the water gelatinous, as chia seeds do, so are used to thicken drinks and foods. You don’t have to soak basil seeds to use them though. The flowers are delightfully edible as well. Use them for additional flavor and nutrition by tossing them raw into salads, salad dressing, breads, or just about anything. Letting some of the basil plant go to seed (while pinching other stems to keep it leafing) will attract small native pollinators to your garden. When the flowers dry, the seeds are ready to be shaken off into a clean, dry bucket or bag. 


    You probably know cilantro or Chinese parsley as the love-it-or-hate-it herb found in salsas and many Mexican or East Indian dishes.  Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) seed is called coriander. Coriander seed is usually used ground and used in curry mixtures, soups and meat dishes.  It is an historical herb, being used in ancient India, China and Egypt. It has a kind of lemony taste that is unique. 

    Celery seeds:

    Celery (Apium graveolens) seeds are marvelous savory additions to soups, particulary tomato.  I grind it up in a mortar and throw it in soups and stews to round out the flavor. We grew celery one year -although I have no photos of it – and because of the warm weather the celery stalk flavor was quite strong. However the seeds were delightful. Celery is a cool-season plant and the stalks should be covered to keep pale green and mild flavored. Or just let them grow for the seed. There is a wild variety that grows in marshlands, but please be very careful if you harvest from it because it looks similar to the very poisonous water hemlock (Cicuta). 


    If you’ve sipped ouzo, aguardiente or anisette, you’ve tasted the seeds of the fennel plant. Fennel  (Foeniculum vulgare) is the brother of anise, and both have escaped gardens to be a troublesome weed. Fennel bulbs are absolutely amazing lightly steamed, and then baked in vegan butter and topped with vegan Parmesan. The leaves are fantastic stirred into eggs or salads, and the seeds are incredible flavorings for baked goods, candies and obviously alcohols. Miranda candied fennel seeds for me. They have been used to try and mask cigarette or alcohol breath, but really… who is kidding who? They do make a great breath freshener chewed. The plants are frondy, tall and have pretty umbels of flowers that native insects love.  Grow some for the bulbs (protect them from gophers!) and let others go to seed. Cut and hang upside down to collect the seed in a bag or else you’ll have fennel everywhere. And that may not be a bad thing.


    I don’t know anyone who isn’t familiar with sunflower seeds; certainly the shells were routinely spit out all over campus as a cool snack when I was in college and probably still are. At least they are biodegradable. Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are one of the few edible seeds native to North America, and they are protected in an attractive hull. Some varieties are small, multi stemmed and ornamental, and others are grown for their fabulously large seed heads. Birds love eating the green leaves as part of their healthy diet, so grow extra. The seed heads should be left to dry on the stalk, and then cut and shaken to de-seed. Good pollination is important to produce seeds with good ‘meat’ inside. 

    Eat them raw or toasted; they are full of good things for your body. (Miranda is 5’1″ in the photo, not tiny. I like that one of the heads seems to be checking her out.)


    Dill (Anethum graveolens) is another double happiness plant. The leaves are tremendous used fresh or dried, and the seeds are fantastic as well. We use the whole seed heads in our dill pickle recipe. It goes well with fish, or in our case vegan fish. Grind them or use them whole, but definitely stir them into sauces, soups, dressings, dips, etc. Dill, like fennel, will reseed, but that isn’t a bad thing. They look pretty much like the fennel plant above.


    We’ve grown caraway (Carum carvi) in the past, but I have no picture for you. Just refer to the photo above of the fennel and it will be close, as they are in the carrot family. You’ll find caraway in rye breads, liquors and cheeses, and in some areas the young leaves and roots are also eaten. They are dried and harvested just like the fennel and dill.

    There are other seeds that we haven’t grown. We’ve tried to grow cumin and annatto seeds, but have failed to make them germinate; there is always next year. Some seeds are so small, such as chia, that you’d have to grow a lot of plants to harvest just a little seed. Seeds are such a vital nutritional and flavorful part of our diets, and so fun to grow that everyone should sprinkle edible seed-bearing plant seeds throughout their garden. As seeds dry and keep fresher longer than dried leaves (such as basil or dill), that fresh taste of the garden can last through until next year’s harvest time again.



  • Arts and Crafts,  Breads,  Cake,  Condiments,  Dessert,  Fruit,  Gardening adventures,  Herbs,  Vegan,  Vegetables,  Vegetarian

    2016 Marketplace and Last Tours of the Year

    Our Marketplace is extended to Sunday, Nov. 20th, 9 – 2!

    img_0524At Finch Frolic we’ve come to celebrate the end of our season with a Marketplace. This year our Marketplace will happen one day only, this Sat. Nov. 19th from 8-3.  Finch Frolic is located at 390 Vista del Indio, Fallbrook, CA.  We’ll be selling our abundance. Here’s some of the goodies you’ll find:

    Tiny Cocktail Mouse Melons (cucumbers… so cute!)

    Amazing, milk-free Passionfruit Curd

    Incredible tropical Guava Jam

    Pickled Garlic


    Whiskey Cranberry Relishimg_0506

    Nectarine Amaretto Jam

    Tangy Plum Jam

    Our very best dill Picklesimg_0517

    Jelly Palm Jelly img_0500

    Spicy Jalapeno Carrotsimg_0519

    Hand-grated, homegrown organic Horseradish Sauceimg_0529

    Guava Halves in Simple Syrup

    Guava Paste squares – eat as is or put them in baked goods, or pair with slices of cheese. Ummm!img_0537


    Frozen Passionfruit Juice cubes

    Our famous Pomegranate Gelato

    Frozen Pomegranate Arils, all ready to sprinkle on your baked goods or mix in a salad or stuffing.

    Clear, amazing Guava Jelly

    Frozen Plum, Guava and Peach slices

    Frozen strained cooked organic home-grown pumpkin, all ready for a pie or bread!

    Our best-selling Cranberry Biscotti

    Gingerbread Houses. Pair them with our Passionfruit Curd for a memorable dessert!

    Lilikoi (Passionfruit) Poundcakes. Small amazing tropical bundles of yum.

    Guava Sauce, like applesauce but guava. Very low sugar!

    Fresh Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke) roots. Cook them or plant them!

    Layered Curry Mix – a sensual trip to the Middle East, either layered in cute little jars for a gift or in bags for use at home. Make a curry with these organic spices!

    Lime Juice Cubes

    Candied Orange Peels. From our organic oranges. A much better stocking stuffer than hard candy. Or top your baked goods with a twist.

    Fresh, fragrant guavas, both white and pinkimg_0541

    Fresh kiwanos, those thorny African fruit that sell for a fortune at the stores.

    And more!

    Plus, we’ll be selling some knick-knacks, and a few garage sale items . A punching bag anyone?

    PLUS, we’ll have a selection of native plants lovingly grown locally.

    And we’ll have amazing succulents from our neighbor Rosa of Roja’s Succulents. You’ll pass by her business on the way in, so please stop by on the way out and see her incredible inventory of plants, all organically hand-grown by Rosa. I never loved succulents until I saw her collection, and her very low prices!

    Except for the gelato, we’re dairy (milk) free this year. We use organic eggs from cage-free hens, and otherwise use vegan butter that I make at home which is coconut-oil and rice milk based.

    Our last two tours of the year (the garden closes from Thanksgiving until March 1.  We will still be available for consultations and appearances) will be this weekend, Nov. 19th and 20th, both at 10. [UPDATE: THE SATURDAY TOUR IS FULL. THERE IS STILL ROOM FOR THE SUNDAY TOUR]. The tours are our usual 2-hour concentrated Intro to Permaculture walks through the garden. The tours cost $15/adult and you will come away with so many ideas and so much information that you’ll spend the next week working in your garden! Please RSVP for the tours to dianeckennedy@prodigy.net.

    Your continued support helps Miranda and I keep our consultation and tour prices low, and enables us to keep teaching and spreading the word on permaculture. So thank you!

  • Fungus and Mushrooms,  Herbs,  Recipes,  Vegan,  Vegetables,  Vegetarian

    Ghostly Spring Rolls

    img_0469Vegetariat began as mostly a food blog. Now I talk more about growing food than cooking but if you go through the archives you’ll find a lot of recipes. This one I thought was so cute that I had to pass it on.
    My daughter and I wanted something savory, vegan and spooky to bring to a Halloween potluck. We saw lots of Pintrest tags for apple slices with teeth, green pepper faces oozing spaghetti and all kinds of cheese or egg eyeballs.
    Miranda had made some Thai spring rolls for my birthday last week, which are a big favorite of mine. I liked how you could see the veggies through the rice paper. Then I thought what if something spooky was peering through the rice paper wrapper? A ghostly figure. Then I thought of these wonderfully large King Oyster mushrooms we bought at 88Ranch Market and I knew what I wanted.img_0465
    I sliced the mushrooms very thinly. img_0461To cut out the eyes and mouth at first I used a knife, then tried a hole punch, and finally used the end of a plastic straw which worked beautifully.img_0458 I simmered the mushrooms until tender in vegetable broth, sesame oil and Bragg’s Amino Acids. img_0464Then they were set on paper towels to dry and to cool. We also prepared the other ingredients: cilantro, Thai basil, strips of chive, soaked rice noodles, lettuce, bean sprouts, grated carrot and crumbled tofu cooked in sesame seed oil and lite Soy Sauce.
    Spring rolls are not cooked. They are a bunch of flavorful and aromatic herbs and veggies wrapped in a clear rice paper wrapper. These wrappers come in hard, brittle sheets. You carefully dip them one at a time into hot water and they quickly become translucent and soft.img_0466 This is the tricky part, getting them on a surface to fill and fold without allowing it to stick onto itself. If one hangs up too much, dip it back into the water and you can gently pull creases out then.
    We put a mushroom ghost 2/3rds of the way up, and the rest of the filling just below that. img_0467Don’t overfill, and keep a margin on either side for folding. Beware of stems that might poke holes into the wrapper. To fold, you fold in either side first. Then fold the bottom up until it covers 2/3s of the rest, then roll up. The filling should be neatly tucked away and the ghost peering out. You can arrange the filling behind the ghost so that there are different backgrounds, such as a lettuce forest, creepy bean sprout tendrils or a haze of red carrot.img_0486
    Serve the rolls with a peanut dipping sauce. We brought these to a potluck Halloween party and they all disappeared in a not-so-spooky manner!img_0471

    If you don’t have big mushrooms available, then you can also do this with carrots very thinly sliced and handled the same way.

    Here’s a quick recipe for the peanut dipping sauce, but there are many variations out there so try others:

    Peanut Dipping Sauce
    Recipe type: Sauce
    Cuisine: Thai
    Prep time: 
    Total time: 
    Serves: ½ cup
    For use with Thai spring rolls.
    • 2 tbsp water
    • ½ cup chunky peanut butter (you can use smooth, but I like the chunks for more flavor)
    • 1 tbsp sugar
    • 4 tbsp vegetarian hoisin sauce
    • 1 tbsp lite soy sauce (or Bragg's Amino Acid)
    • 2 small garlic cloves (or 1 large), minced
    • 1 birds eye chilli, finely chopped (optional. We left them out)
    • 1 tbsp sesame oil
    • 2 tbsp lime juice
    1. Mix all ingredients until the consistancy is like honey; you want it to stick but not clump.
    2. Garnish with crushed peanuts and sprigs of herbs or a piece of lime.


    Just wanted to share our spooky treats that also were very healthy and so very tasty!

  • Dessert,  Fruit,  Gardening adventures,  Herbs,  Special Events,  Spices,  Vegan,  Vegetables,  Vegetarian,  Water Saving

    Our Annual Marketplace, and Last Tours of 2015

    IMG_5608Our fourth-annual Finch Frolic Marketplace will take place Nov. 21 and 22nd from  9 – 2.  We’ve been working like little permaculture elves, harvesting, preparing fruit and vegetables, canning, baking, and inventing new recipes for your table and for gifts.  We have a curry spice mixture that is amazing.  Our record white guava harvest has allowed us to create sweet guava paste and incredible guava syrup.  We’ve pickled our garlic cloves, as well as zucchino rampicante, and our Yucatan Pickled Onions have a wonderful orange and oregano base that is fabulous.  Of course there is Miranda’s small-batch Pomegranate Gelato, Whiskey-Baked Cranberry Relish, and a selection of curds (passionfruit, lemon-lime, and cranberry).  So much more, too.  We’ll also be selling plants from several sources, and some collectibles and knick-knacks from my home.  Please come support a small business early – a whole week before Small Business Saturday!  Your patronage allows us to continue teaching permaculture.

    Join us for a tour!
    Join us for a tour!

    Our last two Open Tours will also be held that weekend, each at 10 am.  The tours last about two hours and we should be having terrific weather for you to enjoy learning basic permaculture as we stroll through the food forest.  Please RSVP for the tours to dianeckennedy@prodigy.net.  More about the tours can be found under the ‘tours’ page on this blog.

    Finch Frolic Garden will be closing for the winter, from Thanksgiving through March 1.  However, Miranda and I will still be available for consultations, designs, lectures and workshops, and we will be adding posts to Vegetariat and Finch Frolic Facebook (you don’t need to be a member of Facebook to view our page!).

    Have a very safe and very happy holiday season.  Care for your soil as you would your good friends and close family, with swales, sheet mulch and compost, and it will care for you for years.

    Diane and Miranda

  • Arts and Crafts,  Books,  Breads,  Cake,  Dessert,  Fruit,  Giving,  Herbs,  Perennial vegetables,  Permaculture and Edible Forest Gardening Adventures,  Recipes,  Sauces,  Seeds,  Special Events,  Spices,  Vegan,  Vegetables

    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.


    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.


  • Herbs,  Recipes,  Vegan,  Vegetables,  Vegetarian

    Sauteed Fennel


    Sautéed fennel alongside squash bread pudding.  The bread pudding recipe I have to work on, but not the fennel!  It was so easy and so fantastic!
    Sautéed fennel alongside squash bread pudding. The bread pudding recipe I have to work on, but not the fennel! It was so easy and so fantastic!

    Fennel is a sweet-tasting bulb with a satisfying crunch. This recipe is quick and easy, and absolutely delicious. I don’t have a good photo of it because, frankly, we ate it before I could make the light better.

    Fennel apparently doesn’t have any companion plants according to every source I’ve checked.  I grew a couple of bulbs in a polyculture bed without any problem, but to be on the safe side give it a spot by itself.  Allow some to go to flower and you’ll attract lots of pollinators, and also have a host plant for swallowtail and other butterflies.

    This recipe serves two as a side dish; feel free to up the number of bulbs.  Enjoy!


    Sauteed Fennel
    Recipe type: Side dish
    Cuisine: American
    Prep time: 
    Cook time: 
    Total time: 
    Serves: 2
    A simple, quick and utterly delicious vegetable side dish.
    • One fennel bulb
    • ⅛th cup olive oil
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Squeeze of lemon or lime
    1. Cut the top and bottom from the fennel bulb, then slice the fennel into small strips, about ¼ inch thick or so.
    2. Heat oil in a large frying pan and adjust heat to medium.
    3. Add fennel and cook, stirring occasionally to evenly brown, about ten minutes or until fennel is tender. Fennel should be slightly carmelized.
    4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    5. Serve with a squeeze of lemon or lime, if desired.

  • Animals,  Bees,  Birding,  Compost,  Fruit,  Fungus and Mushrooms,  Gardening adventures,  Herbs,  Hugelkultur,  Natives,  Other Insects,  Permaculture and Edible Forest Gardening Adventures,  Ponds,  Predators,  Rain Catching,  Reptiles and Amphibians,  Seeds,  Soil,  Vegetables,  Water Saving,  Worms

    The Mulberry Guild

    The renovated and planted mulberry guild.
    The renovated and planted mulberry guild.

    One of our larger guilds has a Pakistani mulberry tree that I’d planted last spring, and around it had grown tomatoes, melons, eggplant, herbs, Swiss chard, artichokes and garlic chives.

    Mulberry guild with last year's plant matter and unreachable beds.
    Mulberry guild with last year’s plant matter and unreachable beds.

    This guild was too large; any vegetable bed should be able to be reached from a pathway without having to step into the bed.  Stepping on your garden soil crushes fungus and microbes, and compacts (deoxygenates) the soil.  So of course when I told my daughter last week  that we had to plant that guild that day, what I ended up meaning was, we were going to do a lot of digging in the heat and maybe plant the next day. Most of my projects are like this.

    Lavender, valerian, lemon balm, horehound, comfrey and clumping garlic chives were still thriving in the bed.  Marsh fleabane, a native, had seeded itself all around the bed and had not only protected veggies from last summer’s extreme heat, but provided trellises for the current tomatoes.

    Fleabane stalks from last year, with new growth coming from the roots.
    Fleabane stalks from last year, with new growth coming from the roots.

    Marsh fleabane is an incredible lure for hundreds of our tiny native pollinators and other beneficial insects.  Lots of lacewing eggs were on it, too.  The plants were coming up from the base, so we cut and dropped these dead plants  to mulch the guild.

    The stalks of fleabane are hollow... perfect homes for small bees!
    The stalks of fleabane are hollow… perfect homes for small bees!

    The stems were hollow and just the right size to house beneficial bees such as mason bees.   This plant is certainly a boon for our first line of defense, our native insects.

    We also chopped and dropped the tomato vines.  Tomatoes like growing in the same place every year.  With excellent soil biology – something we are still working on achieving with compost and compost teas – you don’t have to rotate any crops.

    Slashed and dropped tomato and fleabane.
    Slashed and dropped tomato and fleabane.

    We had also discovered in the last flood that extra water through this heavy clay area would flow down the pathway to the pond, often channeled there via gopher tunnels.

    The pathway is a water channel during heavy rains.  It needs fixing.
    The pathway is a water channel during heavy rains. It needs fixing.

    We decided to harvest that water and add water harvesting pathways to the garden at the same time.  We dug a swale across the pathway, perpendicular to  the flow of water, and continued the swale into the garden to a small hugel bed.

    Swale dug on contour through the pathway and across the guild.
    Swale dug on contour through the pathway and across the guild.

    Hugelkultur means soil on wood, and is an excellent way to store water in the ground, add nutrients, be rid of extra woody material and sequester carbon in the soil.  We wanted the bottom of the swale to be level so  that water caught on the pathway would slowly travel into the bed and passively be absorbed into the surrounding soil.  We used our wonderful bunyip (water level).

    Using a bunyip to make the bottom of the swale level.  Water running into the path will now be channeled through the guild.
    Using a bunyip to make the bottom of the swale level. Water running into the path will now be channeled through the guild.

    Because of the heavy clay involved we decided to fill the swale with woody material, making it a long hugel bed.  Water will enter the swale in the pathway, and will still channel water but will also percolate down to prevent overflow.  We needed to capture a lot of water, but didn’t want a deep swale across our pathway.  By making it a hugel bed with a slight concave surface it will capture water and percolate down quickly, running along the even bottom of the swale into the garden bed, without there being a trippable hole for visitors to have to navigate.  So we filled the swale with stuff.  Large wood is best for hugels because they hold more water and take more time to decompose, but we have little of that here. We had some very old firewood that had been sitting on soil.  The life underneath wood is wonderful; isn’t this proof of how compost works?

    The activity under an old log shows so many visible decomposers, and there are thousands that we don't see.
    The activity under an old log shows so many visible decomposers, and there are thousands that we don’t see.

    We laid the wood into the trench.

    Placing old logs in the swale.
    Placing old logs in the swale.

    If you don’t have old logs, what do you use?  Everything else!

    This giant palm has been a home to raccoons and orioles, and a perch for countless other birds.  The last big wind storm distributed the fronds everywhere.
    This giant palm has been a home to raccoons and orioles, and a perch for countless other birds. The last big wind storm distributed the fronds everywhere.

    We are wealthy in palm fronds.

    Three quick cuts (to fit the bed) made these thorny fronds perfect hugelbed components
    Three quick cuts (to fit the bed) made these thorny fronds perfect hugelbed components.

    We layered all sorts of cuttings with the clay soil, and watered it in, making sure the water flowed across the level swale.

    We filled the swale with fronds, rose and sage trimmings, some old firewood and sticks, and
    We filled the swale with fronds, rose and sage trimmings, some old firewood and sticks, and clay.

    As we worked, we felt as if we were being watched.

    Can you spot the duck in this photo?
    Can you spot the duck in this photo?

    Mr. and Mrs. Mallard were out for a graze, boldly checking out our progress.  He is guarding her as she hikes around the property, leading him on a merry chase every afternoon.  You can see Mr. Mallard to the left of the little bridge.

    This male mallard and his mate, who is 'ducked' down in front of him, enjoyed grazing on weeds and watching we silly humans work so hard.
    This male mallard and his mate, who is ‘ducked’ down in front of him, enjoyed grazing on weeds and watching we silly humans work so hard.

    After filling the swale, we covered the new trail that now transects the guild with cardboard to repress weeds.

    Cardboard laid over the hugelswale.
    Cardboard laid over the hugelswale.


    Then we covered that with wood chips and delineated the pathway with sticks; visitors never seem to see the pathways and are always stepping into the guilds.  Grrr!

    The cardboard was covered with wood chips and the pathway delineated with sticks.
    The cardboard was covered with wood chips and the pathway delineated with sticks.  Where the trail curves to the left is a small raised hugelbed to help hold back water.

    At this point the day – and we – were done, but a couple of days later we planted.  Polyculture is the best answer to pest problems and more nutritional food.  We chose different mixes of seeds for each of the quadrants, based on situation, neighbor plants, companion planting and shade.  We kept in mind the ‘recipe’ for plant guilds, choosing a nitrogen-fixer, a deep tap-rooted plant, a shade plant, an insect attractor, and a trellis plant.  So, for one quarter we mixed together seeds of carrot, radish, corn, a bush squash, leaf parsley and a wildflower.  Another had eggplant, a short-vined melon (we’ll be building trellises for most of our larger vining plants), basil, Swiss chard, garlic, poppies, and fava beans.  In the raised hugelbed I planted peas, carrots, and flower seeds.

    In the back quadrant next to the mulberry I wanted to trellis tomatoes.

    This quadrant by the mulberry needed a trellis for tomatoes.
    This quadrant by the mulberry needed a trellis for tomatoes.

    I’d coppiced some young volunteer oaks, using the trunks for mushroom inoculation, and kept the tops because they branched out and I thought maybe they’d come in handy.  Sure enough, we decided to try one for a tomato trellis.  Tomatoes love to vine up other plants.  Some of ours made it about ten feet in the air, which made them hard to pick but gave us a lesson in vines and were amusing to regard.  So we dug a hole and stuck in one of these cuttings, then hammered in stakes on either side and tied the whole thing up.

    Tying the trunk to two stakes with twine taken from straw bales.  Love the blue color!
    Tying the trunk to two stakes with twine taken from straw bales. Love the blue color!

    The result looks like a dead tree.  However, the leaves will drop, providing good mulch, the tiny current tomatoes which we seeded around the trunk will enjoy the support of all the small twigs and branches, and will cascade down from the arched side.

    The 'dead tree' look won't last long as the tomatoes climb over it and dangle close to the path for easy harvesting.
    The ‘dead tree’ look won’t last long as the tomatoes climb over it and dangle close to the path for easy harvesting.

    We seeded the area with another kind of carrots (carrots love tomatoes!) and basil, and planted Tall Telephone beans around the mulberry trunk to use and protect it with vines.  We watered it all in with well water, and can’t wait to see what pops up!  We have so many new varieties from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and other sources that we’re planting this year!  Today we move onto the next bed.

  • Animals,  Chickens,  Cob,  Compost,  Composting toilet,  Fruit,  Gardening adventures,  Giving,  Grains,  Health,  Herbs,  Houses,  Hugelkultur,  Humor,  Living structures,  Natives,  Natural cleaners,  Permaculture and Edible Forest Gardening Adventures,  Ponds,  Rain Catching,  Recipes,  Seeds,  Soil,  Vegan,  Vegetables,  Vegetarian,  Worms

    San Diego Permaculture Convergence, Nov. 9 – 10, 2013

    There is a fantastic, information-packed permaculture convergence coming up at the beautiful Sky Mountain Institute in Escondido. Converge_Flyer_1_It will be two days packed with great information for a very reasonable price; in fact, scholarships are available.  Check out the website at convergence@sdpermies.com. On that Sunday I’ll be teaching a workshop about why its so important to plant native plants, how to plant them in guilds using fishscale swales and mini-hugelkulturs.  Come to the convergence and be inspired!

  • Dessert,  Fruit,  Health,  Herbs,  Recipes,  Vegan,  Vegetarian

    Black Plum and Basil Granita

    Basil plum granita 008This is an interesting and delicious way to use some of those plums that ripen overnight.  Basil is also in season, and combining it with the heavenly, winey flavor of ripe black plums is amazing.  If you grow other types of basil such as lime basil or cinnamon basil, use those instead, reducing the lime juice to 1 tablespoon.

    Granita is juice that is partially frozen, forked around a little, then refrozen.  You don’t need an ice cream maker.  Easy, quick and nutritious, too!

    Black Plum and Basil Granita
    Recipe type: Desert
    Cuisine: American
    Prep time: 
    Cook time: 
    Total time: 
    Serves: 8½ cup servings
    Basil and allspice give a wonderful depth of flavor to winey black plums in this frozen treat.
    • 1 cup water
    • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
    • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
    • ⅛ teaspoon salt
    • 6 whole allspice (if you don't have allspice berries, use a small piece of cinnamon stick)
    • 1½ pounds black plums, pitted and quartered
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    • ¾ cup basil leaves (not packed)
    1. In a large saucepan combine water, sugar, vanilla, salt, allspice and prepared plums and bring to a boil.
    2. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the plums begin to fall apart.
    3. Pour into a small bowl set in ice water in a larger bowl and cool completely.
    4. Fish out and discard the six allspice.
    5. In a blender or VitaMix process plum mixture, basil and lime juice until well blended.
    6. Press the plum mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl and discard solids. If you have a VitaMix you may not have any residual solids; the granita will be cloudier but will be more nutritious. Don't worry about it.
    7. Pour the mixture into an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish.
    8. Cover and freeze until partially frozen, about 2 hours.
    9. Scrape with a fork, crushing any lumps, and smooth down again.
    10. Freeze for 3 more hours, scraping with a fork every hour so that it doesn't freeze as a cube, until completely frozen.
    11. Serve in small scoops; really nice paired with little vanilla cookies.


  • Health,  Herbs

    Arthritis and Turmeric… What Helped For Me

    I’ve had osteoarthritis in my hands for almost fifteen years.  I blame all that weed-whipping, pick-axing clay soil, and carrying all the plastic grocery bags in all at once because, by God, I’m not going to make two trips!  It has migrated to my back, feet, ankles, and by the way I’m feeling these days my hip.  I’m 51  years old.  I’m also going through those lovely years of change that women get to experience, which makes my memory more dicey than I’m comfortable with, and some of that is due to my bad back (which I’ve had since a fall on a tennis court when I was 10 snaked my back) and the way I hold all my tension in my shoulders and neck.  I’m sure that the tension and slowing of blood circulation that happens between trips to the chiropractor makes me a little ditzier than usual, too.

    I’ve been taking glucosamine and chondroiten since my hands first gave me trouble.  It worked wonderfully for years, and I’m sure it still does.  When I moved to this house – I did all the packing and moving for me and my children – I found that my hands hurt so badly from carrying boxes that I didn’t know how I was going to use unpack or go back to work after my week’s vacation was up.  By taking glucosa mine and chondroiten my hands felt better within a couple of days and I was able to continue.

    Move through time with me to 2011 when my permaculture garden was installed.  I had to drag multiple lengths of water-filled hoses around, haul heavy pots of plants and trees, dig through heavy soil and pull weeds.  After it was installed, the next year, I had to dig out the huge rootballs of invasive bamboo that had been planted and replant trees, all of which had been planted deeply in clay inside gopher cages.  Oh, and pull weeds.  Lots of weeds. Glucosamine and chondroiten weren’t helping with the inflammation, just the lubrication of the joints. My hands hurt so badly that I was in crisis mode, wondering how I was ever going to keep the garden going when I couldn’t even use my hands for a day after pulling weeds.  I’d wake up and my hands would be locked partially closed.  I’d have to force them open, the fingers clicking as they ratcheted up, and then work them until the joints lubricated.  My back hurt a lot.  My mind was often in a fog and taking ginko biloba helped only a little.  I became very depressed, wondering how life was going to be for me when at fifty I was in that bad a shape, and longevity (but not mental clarity!) was on my mother’s side.

    I’d been taking a healing yoga class, and added that when I could two fitness classes a week at the marvelous Wade Into Fitness classes at the local community center.  The gentle yoga practice kept me limber and steady, and helped me keep working, yet the artritis pain was still there.

    As usual, I already knew the answer but didn’t realize it.  I learned from MindZymes.com that the curcumin in turmeric, a spice used in curries, was an anti-inflammatory, so I’d been sprinkling it on my food.  Using a lot tastes very bitter and the spice doesn’t go with everything. I’d read that black pepper  helps to increase the absorption so I paired them together.  No breakfast egg went eaten without being turned yellow and black.  Then one day I researched turmeric thoroughly.  Turmeric is prescribed by doctors in India like a drug, yet it is completely natural.  The warnings for using it include that it may thin blood, may interfere with gall bladder (I had mine out a few years ago), and it hasn’t been tested (in the US) enough to be sure that it is safe for pregnant and lactating women.   I read that all illness involves inflammation.  Taking an anti-inflammatory can help with all illnesses.  Wow.  Sprinkling turmeric on my food was fine, but it wasn’t a large enough dosage to help with the inflammation I already had; I’d have to take capsules.

    I was skeptical but I was ready to try anything rather than get shots from the doctor, or give up my activities.  I’d just invested in this wonderful garden and I could hardly work in it.  I bought turmeric capsules at a local herb store.  It included phosphatidylcholine, which is a vital component of the human cell membrane and has been proven to play a vital role in our health,  including maintaining cell structure, fat metabolism, memory, nerve signalling and liver health. the curcumin in turmeric is difficult for the body to absorb on its own, so the  phosphatidylcholine helps increase the absorption by 70%.  No, I didn’t know any of this before, I looked it up.

    Last September I included the capsules with my daily vitamins and didn’t really think about them anymore.  Within a few weeks I realized that when I awoke my hands weren’t stiff and stuck into position anymore.  In fact, they didn’t even ache much after a day of weeding.  The arthritis would cause shots of pain radiating from a knuckle down a finger like a lightening bolt, coming on without warning and making me gasp, something not fun when out in public.  I realized I hadn’t had any of those surprise episodes for awhile.  I also realized that when I went to my memory banks to search for a name, often I’d come up with it right away.  My memory has never been perfect, but it was functioning better than it had and I felt less stupid and old.  The reason for these miracles had to be the turmeric, because nothing else in my diet had changed.  I continued taking it, and tested myself.  I’d pull weeds, carry groceries and wake up the next morning with only the usual middle-aged aches and pains.

    It has been nine months that I’ve been taking turmeric with phosphatidylcholine and every morning I wake up wondering if the spell has been broken.  But it hasn’t.  I even weed whip for hours and although I’m sore the next day, my hands aren’t locked and they are fully usable.  Turmeric isn’t a miracle herb as such; there is no such thing.  I still take a minute to loosen up my ankles and back when I get up in the morning, and heaven knows my memory makes conversations with other middle-aged people an exchange of “Um… you know… that thing…”; often more like charades than a dialogue. I still have to be careful and pace myself because the arthritis is still there.  However I’m functioning far better than I was a year ago.  My hands work!

    I’ve recommended turmeric to lots of people, and I’ve had a couple of them tell me that they’ve found improvement since taking it.  As I said, I was skeptical when I started and the relief I’ve had is frankly wondrous to me.  It is not a cure-all, but as an anti-inflammatory it really worked for me.

    I do not have anything to do with the company whose brand I buy; I simply bought what was available locally and it worked  so I  haven’t tried others.  I’ve since begun buying it on the Internet because the local store stopped carrying that brand due to a contract dispute or something (of course!), and I get it for much less cost that way.  Again, I receive  nothing for recommending the brand, but what I’ve been taking is Source Naturals Meriva Turmeric Complex.  Meriva is their trademark name for the phosphatidylcholine. I buy it from AmazonSmile.com (where you can designate a charity to receive a very small donation with every purchase), and found a deal for two bottles for a great price.

    Anyway, since this really worked for me, I’m passing on my experiences in hope that maybe it can help you, too.  Be sure to research turmeric for yourself to make sure that it doesn’t have any interference with problems you may have, and see what the health practitioners in India have to say about it.

    And may all your weeds jump out of the ground at your feet!

    UPDATE: It is March, 2017, and I’m still taking this turmeric with excellent results. If I over use my hands I’ll take two capsules in the morning. I switched to another brand that didn’t have the gel caps (I’m vegetarian), and it had a different mixture of turmeric, and within a week I was getting shooting pains in my fingers. I quickly switched back to this brand and the pains stopped. I don’t get anything from this company, I just know that this brand works for me. I use a gas weedwhip for hours, pull weeds, and recently bought a battery pole chainsaw which really taxed my hands and arms, and I’m not suffering from it, all due to the turmeric.