Simple. Fresh. Local

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." JRR Tolken

Month: July, 2009

Raw Deal

Raw food.

This is the post I’ve been the most excited and apprehensive to post. I’ve been excited because I have been eating incredible foods and feeling ridiculously great…but apprehensive because apparently eating this way isn’t “normal”. I mean I haven’t eaten normal my whole life if you consider the Standard American Diet (SAD) normal. But eating raw seems to make even the healthiest eaters think twice and look at you with scrutiny in their eyes. “But how do you get your protein? How can you be an athlete eating like that? Haven’t you lost a ton of weight? Are you getting enough nutrition”. To answer these questions I figure my story into raw must be told.

We all eat raw foods. In the forms of uncooked fruits and vegetables. At this point it seems to be an undisputed fact that eating more fresh fruit and veggies is incredible, and necessary, for your health. Yet when you tell people you are going to get nearly ALL of your calories from fresh fruit and veggies they worry about all of the different nutrients we’ve been told we can only get from certain foods. (Protein only from meat! Calcium only from milk!)

For a long time I have eaten the majority of my calories from fresh fruit and vegetables. At the end of the school year I started eating at VOD, a raw food restaurant in Reno. I think one week at the end of the year I went there four days in a row for lunch bringing different people with me each time. I always left feeling satisfied, but not overly full. Still, even though I felt great after, I always said I could never go raw. Well…leave it to a transformational trip to northern Quebec to change my mind. There Andrew Jones (raw foodist, permaculturist, teacher, role model) taught us about raw food and we ate raw breakfast and lunches for several days. I felt really energized and well….light and clear headed. I really don’t like telling people how to eat at all so just take this as my personal experience, speaking only for myself here. Anyways after we ate raw for a few meals and I felt good, Andrew had to leave and we went back to eating the available cooked foods. It tasted fine, but I was feeling really anxious and excited to learn more about eating raw.

When I returned home I decided I would learn more about raw food. I didn’t set any parameters, or say I would never eat something ever again—or in other words I REFUSED to define myself as a raw foodist, vegan, vegetarian, lacto vegetarian, pectoarian, dinotarian or whatever the hell else type of eating definitions are out there now. Simply stated I was planning one day or one week at a time and doing inordinate amounts of reading and research. And let me tell you there is reading to be done. EVERYONE seems to have a theory about the right way to eat. There is so much information, crazy advice, demonization and radical views. Sifting through all of the bull shit I did find some very informative, inspiring and useful advice, but my most important realization was that I have to listen to my body and eat accordingly.

The one way I do not mind being defined by what I chose to eat is as a compassionate eater. I make the choice to buy food that builds soil, is sustainable, supports life on earth, and I am sick and tired of this being a strange way to eat. I believe in growing food in a way that does not destroy the planet, other humans and animals, and myself. To me this is simple, straight forward and obvious.

So apart from my strong beliefs about compassionate food choices and eating here is some of the information we learned about raw food:

  • Enzymes (most) are destroyed when you heat foods above 120°F.
  • Cooked foods cause leukocytosis, or an immunity response in our bodies.
  • Cooked food is dehydrated, losing most of its original pure water content.
  • Protein coagulates, causing up to 50% of the protein to be lost when you cook foods.
  • Somewhere around 80% of the vitamins are destroyed when foods are cooked.
  • Free radicals increase in our foods when we cook them, making them less stable in our bodies.

This list could probably fill a couple thousand pages…but I’ll move on to what I learned about blood pH.

  • The blood has a narrow range of acceptable pH—between 7.35 and 7.4
  • The acidity of our blood depends on our diets, a long term SAD diet drops our net pH
  • When our blood is overly acidic the blood draws calcium and other minerals from our bones to bring us back into balance (osteoporosis and SAD diet correlation)
  • Some foods are acid promoting and other alkaline. Most cooked foods are acid forming in the body, and most fresh foods (especially leafy greens) are alkaline forming in body; meaning that when you eat mostly alkaline foods your body does not have to take calcium from your bones to stay in balance
  • list of acid/alkaline foods

So the above is a lot of information. The best thing about Andrew was the way he taught us. He did not have any kind of superiority complex about the way he lives and eats; he basically said  here are some of the things I do, try it if you like. No one likes being told what to do, or feeling imposed upon, especially when it comes to food. I  read somewhere that people will change their religion before they change the way they eat. With this in mind he recommended that we incorporated more raw foods into our existing diet.

Learning about food usually puts me, and it seems most other people, on information overload. The bottom line for me is if I feel good and am having fun then its worth it. I’ve been eating pretty much 100% raw since I’ve been home (about a month) and feel really good especially during workouts and have been having so much fun playing with the dehydrator, juicer, and vita mix. I haven’t made any claims that I’ll never eat certain foods again or anything like that; I just feel like I’ve discovered a whole new food medium that I love and for now I’m sticking to it.

So, because I don’t like telling people how to eat or the attention that comes with the food choices I make I just want to move on past all of my talk, provide some raw food resources and show some of the deliciousness I’ve been eating.

Preparing Spicy Thai Wraps

Preparing Spicy Thai Wraps

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soooo delicious!
Deydrated tomatoes from the farmers market, my favorite

Dehydrated tomatoes from the farmers market, my favorite

Raw taco

Raw taco

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Sprouted quinoa tabouleh

Sprouted quinoa tabouleh

raw chocolate macaroons

raw chocolate macaroons

The majority of the foods we have made do not make it to the picture stage because they are being eaten. Some of them include: kale chips, sweet potato chips, grawnola, buckwheat crispies, strawberry/blackberry jams,  kale salad, apple crisp, many different raw cacao concoctions including tortes, ganache, puddings and smoothies, many many many salads, green shakes, fruit smoothies, crackers, pesto and on and on and on wherever our creativity and imagination take us. Right now I have dough for pizza dehydrating along with tomatoes and homemade pesto. For the most part though, despite the creations, the majority of my diet consists of fresh fruit and leafy greens.

Needless to say I have been enjoying myself and feeling great eating this way. Here are some resources, remember when you read things to take them in with a grain of salt, you don’t have to believe everything people say, just take the stuff that works for you.

A few websites…of the hundreds:

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Perspective

“If a group of aliens came to this planet and said they would bring us all sorts of goodies like jet skis, tomatoes in January, computers, and so on (or at least they would bring them to the richest of us), on the multiple conditions that we offer up to them a yearly sacrifice of a half-million human lives, change our planet’s climate, individually spend increasing amounts of time serving them, and socially devote an ever-increasing amount of land and other resources to their service, we would rebel in a flash. Or at least I hope we would.” – Jan Lundberg, Anti-Road activist making analogy to car culture

 


You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring

Sometimes I am surprised with myself because I forget to share some of the things that have changed and influenced my life the most.

For example the book Ishmael. I am reading this book again for the 3rd time. After I read it the first time a few years back I think I sourced it in as many papers, labs, and assignments as I could get away with. I always describe this book to people as one that says what I want to say….in superior language, I guess Gorillas are talented that way.

Daniel Quinn’s latest book  If They Give You Lined Paper Write Sideways is also so incredible. I plan on owning everyone of his books rather soon.

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There are many environmental journalist I am inspired by and at the forefront of that inspiration right now is Paul Hawken. We read his commencement address while I was in Canada and my heart started beating with excitement and positive energy. Just read his amazing, elaborate, beautifully written and inspiring speech:

Paul Hawken’s Commencement Address to the Class of 2009

University of Portland, May 3rd, 2009

by Paul Hawken

When I was invited to give this speech, I was asked if I could give a simple short talk that was “direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling, and graceful.” No pressure there.

Let’s begin with the startling part. Class of 2009: you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation… but not one peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement. Basically, civilization needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.

This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil, or air, don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seatbelts, lots of room in coach, and really good food-but all that is changing.

There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring. The earth couldn’t afford to send recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint.

And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.

When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.

The poet Adrienne Rich wrote, “So much has been destroyed I have cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.” There could be no better description. Humanity is coalescing. It is reconstituting the world, and the action is taking place in schoolrooms, farms, jungles, villages, campuses, companies, refuge camps, deserts, fisheries, and slums.

You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and organizations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights, and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power. Like Mercy Corps, it works behind the scenes and gets the job done. Large as it is, no one knows the true size of this movement. It provides hope, support, and meaning to billions of people in the world. Its clout resides in idea, not in force. It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, businesspeople, rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers, fisherfolk, engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street musicians, the President of the United States of America, and as the writer David James Duncan would say, the Creator, the One who loves us all in such a huge way.

There is a rabbinical teaching that says if the world is ending and the Messiah arrives, first plant a tree, and then see if the story is true. Inspiration is not garnered from the litanies of what may befall us; it resides in humanity’s willingness to restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, reimagine, and reconsider. “One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice,” is Mary Oliver’s description of moving away from the profane toward a deep sense of connectedness to the living world.

Millions of people are working on behalf of strangers, even if the evening news is usually about the death of strangers. This kindness of strangers has religious, even mythic origins, and very specific eighteenth-century roots. Abolitionists were the first people to create a national and global movement to defend the rights of those they did not know. Until that time, no group had filed a grievance except on behalf of itself. The founders of this movement were largely unknown – Granville Clark, Thomas Clarkson, Josiah Wedgwood – and their goal was ridiculous on the face of it: at that time three out of four people in the world were enslaved. Enslaving each other was what human beings had done for ages. And the abolitionist movement was greeted with incredulity.

Conservative spokesmen ridiculed the abolitionists as liberals, progressives, do-gooders, meddlers,and activists. They were told they would ruin the economy and drive England into poverty. But forthe first time in history a group of people organized themselves to help people they would never know, from whom they would never receive direct or indirect benefit. And today tens of millions of people do this every day. It is called the world of non-profits, civil society, schools, social entrepreneurship, non-governmental organizations, and companies who place social and environmental justice at the top of their strategic goals. The scope and scale of this effort is unparalleled in history.

The living world is not “out there” somewhere, but in your heart. What do we know about life? In the words of biologist Janine Benyus, life creates the conditions that are conducive to life. I can think of no better motto for a future economy. We have tens of thousands of abandoned homes without people and tens of thousands of abandoned people without homes. We have failed bankers advising failed regulators on how to save failed assets. We are the only species on the planet without full employment. Brilliant. We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time rather than renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.

The first living cell came into being nearly 40 million centuries ago, and its direct descendants are in all of our bloodstreams. Literally you are breathing molecules this very second that were inhaled by Moses, Mother Teresa, and Bono. We are vastly interconnected. Our fates are inseparable. We are here because the dream of every cell is to become two cells. And dreams come true. In each of you are one quadrillion cells, 90 percent of which are not human cells. Your body is a community, and without those other microorganisms you would perish in hours. Each human cell has 400 billion molecules conducting millions of processes between trillions of atoms. The total cellular activity in one human body is staggering: one septillion actions at any one moment, a one with twenty-four zeros after it. In a millisecond, our body has undergone ten times more processes than there are stars in the universe, which is exactly what Charles Darwin foretold when he said science would discover that each living creature was a “little universe, formed of a host of self-propagating organisms, inconceivably minute and as numerous as the stars of heaven.”

So I have two questions for you all: First, can you feel your body? Stop for a moment. Feel your body. One septillion activities going on simultaneously, and your body does this so well you are free to ignore it, and wonder instead when this speech will end. You can feel it. It is called life. This is who you are. Second question: who is in charge of your body? Who is managing those molecules? Hopefully not a political party. Life is creating the conditions that are conducive to life inside you, just as in all of nature. Our innate nature is to create the conditions that are conducive to life. What I want you to imagine is that collectively humanity is evincing a deep innate wisdom in coming together to heal the wounds and insults of the past.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would create new religions overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night and we watch television.

This extraordinary time when we are globally aware of each other and the multiple dangers that threaten civilization has never happened, not in a thousand years, not in ten thousand years. Each of us is as complex and beautiful as all the stars in the universe. We have done great things and we have gone way off course in terms of honoring creation. You are graduating to the most amazing, stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation. The generations before you failed. They didn’t stay up all night. They got distracted and lost sight of the fact that life is a miracle every moment of your existence. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss.

The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hope only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it

Paul Hawkens Natural Capitalism, Blessed Unrest, and other books here.


Mulching Rotating Pesting

Lupines: amazing nitrogen fixers!

Lupines: amazing nitrogen fixers!

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I could dedicate this whole blog to gardening. But honestly I am ready to wrap it up with organic gardening and move onto some of the things I learned that moved me the most. I have been holding out on talking about permaculture and raw food mostly because I have wanted to learn more…there is so much information out there on the web at some point you just have to pick out the things that make sense to you and work for you and disregard 90% of what you hear, learn and read. But it has been an amazing couple of weeks since I have been home and I have some great photos and recipes of the some of the food we’ve been eating..

I mean just check out some of the foods I get to work with during the summer months:

farmers market glory

farmers market bounty

So this is the gardening wrap up blog, for now, I am sure I’ll have more information to share down the road.

Weed control: mulched pathways

Weed control: mulched pathways

Mulch mulch mulch: Mulch is a ground cover preferably sourced locally. Depending on where you are, straw, seaweed, composted leaves, wood chips, cardboard, burlap sacks, newspaper or whatever else you can find that works can serve as mulch.

Mulch serves as:

  • Weed control
  • Adds organic matter to the soil as it breaks down
  • Retains moisture, captures the dew in the morning cutting down water use
  • Keeps soil temperature consistent
  • Reduces/prevents soil erosion—water erosion break up soil aggregates, so mulch helps retain soil structure by diminishes water damage

Information and how to:

  • Straw is generally the best mulch. Make sure you use STRAW not hay. Hay is cut after the weed seeds have formed and straw is cut before the weed seeds have formed. Keeping weed seeds out of your garden mulch will save you a lot of trouble.
  • Annual crops: mulch around the plants leaving a 4 inch  circumference around the stem, making sure no mulch touches the stem. The straw should be about 3-6 inches deep. It is hard to over mulch your garden, always go for more rather than less, you should not be able to see dirt through your mulch layer; the goal is to keep the sun from penetrating and offering life to unwanted weeds.
  • Perennials: You can use straw or other mulch here too, but composted leaves work well as they add nitrogen and promote different fungi (these are goooood!!). Mulch about 2-3 inches deep, again leaving a 4 inch circumference around the stem of the plant.
  • Too much mulch can suffocate the soil. This is pretty hard to accomplish, unless you are piling mulch a few feet high, just be aware of this risk.
  • Wood chips work better for perennials. They take longer to break down and therefore better for plants that will be there for years.
  • Some mulch is acidic, such as oak leaves and pine straw. These leaves work well for plants that love acidity (blueberries, strawberries) but just be aware of which plants prefer more or less acidic soil before applying this mulch.
  • If you live close to the ocean seaweed is an incredible mulch. Talk to local gardeners and people at the farmers market for more information. Plants absorbing elements and minerals from the seaweed will be incredibly nutritious, I’ve even heard of people growing sprouts with 20:1 water to ocean water just to get these elements.
  • In the pathways we can use more aggressive mulch like cardboard, newspaper and burlap sacks. In the children’s garden we dug out pathways and laid down cardboard. On top of the cardboard we placed large heaping piles of wood chips. The idea is to create a weed barrier that will last, so do not skimp on any of the steps or you’ll have more labor in the future!
  • Wait until the soil heats up before you mulch. Plants like to grow in warm soil and you must allow the temperature to increase to a comfortable growing condition for the plants you plan on growing.
Resting rows

Resting rows

Crop Rotation:It is important to rotate crops if possible in the garden. This confuses pests, allows the soil to rest and/or regain nutrients and promotes more diversity.

  • Essential on large scale gardens
  • Three categories of plants: heavy feeders, light feeders, and heavy givers. These relate to amount of nutrients taken or given from the soil.
  • Do not plant heavy feeders in the same place year after year.
  • Have a 3-4 year plan for your garden. Rest parts of the garden every few years, plant heavy givers during rest years such as: clover, alfalfa, field peas, hairy vetch, fava beans, winter rye, oats, or any other plants that fix nitrogen in the soil.
  • Crop rotation breaks pest and weed cycles

Being an observer in your garden is essential. There are endless resources where you can learn about gardening, but none written with your specific plot, space, acreage or otherwise in mind. Learn and grow with your plants over the years and you will have a better sense of what works.

Colorado Potato Beetle super pest

Colorado Potato Beetle super pest

IPM→Integrative pest managment:

  • Pest managment style
  • Pest control starts with preventative measures. Most importantly, start with healthy soil. Overcrowded, not enough light, too much water and stress attract pests.
  • Companion planting helps strengthen natural resistance
  • When you discover a pest do not panic! First identify the pest using a book, or internet resource, what is the pest? What eats this pest? Some pests are best hand picked in a small garden. Often people will chose to spray a plant to eliminate a pest when, if they had been patient, the equilibrium of their gardens ecosystem would have been realized shortly as predators and beneficial insects moved in to eliminate the problem without harsh chemicals.
  • Plant pathogens include: bacteria, some fungi, and viruses
  • Healthy soil is the key to prevention
  • Compost compost compost! This builds the health of your soil incredibly!
  • Clean up your garden at the end of the year, disposing of diseased plants
  • Talk to other farmers and growers about common diseases and solutions
  • Diseases are easily spread by water, avoid working with plants while they are wet. Clean your garden tools with a bleach solution (in a spray bottle)
  • White floating row cover helps reduce invasive animals, disease and pests
  • Mulch helps prevent plants from getting splashed by soil, keeping disease off of the plants
  • Drip irrigation is best as the leaves of the plants are not soaked and made vulnerable

As always find resources that work for you, the best resources are usually farmers and growers at your local farmers market, if there is a common pest they will definitely know it!

Planting potatoes in the new fields

Planting potatoes in the new fields

Garden crew with Amy the amazing master gardener

Garden crew with Amy the amazing master gardener

Garden crew with Miriama, Amy's apprentice for the summer

Garden crew with Miriama, Amy's apprentice for the summer

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Seeding and Transplanting

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Depending on the plant and your growing season there are some seeds you will want to start indoors.

Until you are ready to plant your seeds keep them in a cool dry place. We do this because seeds are alive but remain dormant until they are exposed to proper growing conditions. Seeds come in all different shapes and sizes and it is important to read the seed package! Seeds have different requirments: soil temperatue, prefered soil types, length to maturity, etc, but in general all need water and warmth. Sunshine is not actually required during seed germination. All of the nutrients a seed needs for its first stage of growth are packed into its outer coating.

Starting seeds indoors ensures warmth and safety for sprouting plants. So how do we begin?

  • Read the back of the seed package, how long does this variety take to mature? What temperature does it prefer? You can also ask people at the farmers markets what plants they recommend starting indoors.
  • Make your own or buy organic potting soil. Organic potting soil generally contains a mixture of compost, peat moss, and pearl lite.
  • Put your potting soil in a big plastic box or wheel barrow and test its moisture content. It should feel like a well wrung out sponge. If it is too dry add more water, if it is too wet, add more soil.
  • Get trays to plant your seedlings in. Fill the trays with potting soil. Do not pack the soil down just spread it on top of the trays.
  • Make holes using your pointer and middle finger, the general rule is to plant the seeds twice as deep as the diameter of the seeds.
  • Place your seeds in the holes. If you accidentally drop a couple in a hole do not worry, you can thin the trays later when they start to sprout.
  • Gently spread potting soil over the seeds.

Now you have seeds planted in trays, comfortably starting their growing process warm and safe indoors. The most common mistake people make is OVERWATERING. The soil should be moist, but definitely not soaked; put water in a spraying can to water your seeds. If you start to see green mold on the top of the soil you have overwatered the seedlings. Keep the trays where they will receive the most sunlight.

When the plants first pop up they will form a set of leaves. These leaves are called the first leaves or cotyledons. After the cotyledons,  “true leaves” will appear and these resemble the specific plan. In general most plants are ready for transplant to the outdoors or a larger pot when their first true leaves apper. But before transplant we want to put our seeds through a process called “hardening off”. Hardening off takes about a week and the purpose is to prepare the plants for the outdoors. Generally we start by putting the trays outside in the sunlight for a few hours each day, gradually increasing their time outdoors so that by the end of the week they are spending the night outside.

When the time comes to transplant a cloudy day is preferable. Roots do not like to see sunlight, and some start to die within ten seconds of exposure. That being said make sure you know your spacing, have the holes dug, the soil moist, and be prepared to quickly transplant the seedlings. Gently pinch the plants out of their trays from the bottom, and place them in the holes, most like to be planted the same depth they were growing in the trays. Firmly, but gently, pack the soil around the roots.

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transplanting Kale!

transplanting Kale

happy planters

happy planters

You may want to build a simple cold frame for your plants. These protect the plants from frost and pests. Click the picture below for more instruction or search: cold frames and row covers for more information.

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