Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Culantro



I needed some relief for a very gray mindset today, and found rejuvenation among our little green things occupying Bucketville (our backyard filled with repurposed 5 gallon buckets).

The other day, a trip to Lowe's found us with a few herbal additions (funny how that works :)), and one that I found was the plant Culantro. I'd never heard of it till recently, but I'm glad I found it.

It can be used the same way cilantro/coriander is, but it is has a stronger flavor and long, broad leaves. It can thrive in places cilantro might not, and does well in the heat, and even better in partial shade.

In looking up its benefits, I was delighted to find that it is traditionally used in some cultures as a tea for flu, diabetes, and stomach ailments, and it is a primary ingredient used in the cooking base known as sofrito.

I'm also not familiar with sofrito, but in reading about it, something clicked and rang a very persistent bell in my head...it's a Caribbean/Latin mix of minced or sauteed vegetables that is the footprint for many dishes. Being able to adequately season such dishes as beans or rice (we don't eat a lot of rice, really) and such has eluded me since straying away from preservatives and mixes with MSG and chemicals in them. Most seasoning packets I once relied on for flavor in very basic foods have been bypassed now for some time, but aside from onions, garlic, and cumin, those other flavors I love in basic dishes such as savory bean and meat combination dishes have eluded my attempts to reproduce.

And in looking up culantro, I think I found the perfect traditional key to any number of meat and bean, as well as veggie meals...yay! I'm trying to incorporate more bean meals into our diets due to the likelihood we'll be falling back on them as a staple in days to come, as we try more and more to eat what we grow ourselves, and to buy less and less from the store.

Beans, in our climate, are a natural to grow. If you've followed this blog very long, you'll know about our decision to not plant out plants that will be harvested this year. The strain of waiting a full year...the prolonged suspense..is like having a winter with seed catalogs that stretches out for months and months...and months :) But we are potting some herbs, and caring for plants we'd already gotten. We're also acquiring medicinal herbs, too.

Back to the sofrito. Here are some articles I read, complete with recipes, for this signature staple. What basil is to pesto, culantro is to sofrito. For those who have no access to culantro, cilantro would be an acceptable substitute, but not as strong. Sofrito seems to be a wonderful marriage of garlic, culantro/cilantro, peppers, and any number of other ingredients that can be personalized and guarded by the cook, a prized "secret signature" mixture kept in the family as the base of so many dishes, as you'll see in some of these articles:

http://glasspetalsmoke.blogspot.com/2008/04/cooking-magic-perfume-of-sofrito.html
http://www.caribbeanseeds.com/sofrito.htm

http://www.apinchof.com/sofrito1109.htm

http://www.boston.com/ae/food/articles/2006/02/01/sofrito_gives_food_a_rich_latin_accent/

So, when those peppers and onions start becoming plentiful, you might try some making some sofrito in addition to those sauces and soups and chutneys and salsas and relishes! It can be whirred together easily in a food processor and frozen in ice cube trays for savor all throughout the year :)

We'll be trying it on beans...once my little baby plant grows up a little.

Till then, I'll pinch a leaf and enjoy the scent, and close my eyes and forget all anvils...

Little Conversations on the Prairie


Monday, April 28, 2008

Argggh, Told You I'm Forgetful...

Last blog of the blogroll (she says again)...and it never made it into the post (the previous blogroll post).

Gingko Schminko, my memory is just not what it used to be, no matter what herbs I take...lol!

Check out Brenda's Brenda Blog, a gentle walk through the garden...lotsa pictures, and charming dogs to boot :)

Venturing Into the Land of Curative Medicinal Herbs

I'm an herb geek at heart, but have not had the opportunity to put it to much practical use...yet. Other than teas and some basic spicing up of foods, my herb knowledge is lying fallow as far as practical application in my family's life.

That is one area we're trying to gradually change.

Some folks really don't consider medicinal herbs much more than snake oil remedies, while others see the term "herb" and assume anything "herbal" is safe to take for anything, in any quantity.

We've learned through a process of trial and error over the years that we still have much to learn. Many herbs' benefits have been enjoyed in their native habitats by populations indigenous to those locales, many of whom still practice time-honored remedies using the herbs at hand. In western society, change has come slowly..."progress" in "medicine" meant a societal replacement of traditional wisdom with the "modern" convention of man-made copycat pharmaceuticals.

It's our innate belief that anything man-made will never be as suitable for the human body as its natural counterpart, if that can be discovered...or recovered.

We have some physical health conditions that warrant a closer look at natural solutions for things we now take pharmaceuticals for.

Let me briefly interrupt this to say that I am NOT one of those folks who advocates that people with precarious or fragile health conditions throw caution to the wind and dump their pills down the toilet. I'm also not the sort that believes that all pharmaceuticals are mind-altering and that if we just have faith in God we can believe ourselves into better health, do or die. As much as I believe we can restore our immune systems so that they can withstand the stresses of today, I'm also grateful for the discovery of penicillin and the polio vaccine. As cautious as I am about the use of widespread vaccinations of our children, I also see the benefits and understand the difficulty of making viable choices for ourselves and our families.

We have to use wisdom and a lot of attention to detail, and it's nice that the internet can open doors of inquiry into many of the plants, seeds, roots, leaves, bark, etc that are in the natural world that can be used to support, mend, and heal our maladies.

I like actually handling things that are mild, work over a longer period of time, and are usually gentler, (most herbs fall into this category) and applying my own problem -solving to our health problems and our future as we age. The medical community cringes when they hear individuals trying to come up with their own remedies. There is some foundation for this, as we shouldn't consume or practice health-related things with ignorance of our bodies and a diagnosis. But ultimately, WE care about ourselves differently than a doctor or health practitioner does...we simply live with ourselves daily and can become intuitive about certain things long before a physical is done in an office.

We are dealing with hypertension, diabetes, and needing to lose weight. We are working toward implementing foods that are more anti-fungal and that lend support to our "inner world" of digestion and healthy bacteria...things such as certain fermented foods and nutrient-rich foods such as "live-bacteria" yogurt and kefir (to name only a few) that will build up our immune systems and reduce our susceptibility to allergies and asthma. Raw milk products are touted to be a positive contributor to this sort of recovery, and we're trying real milk-related things and testing it out as we go.

We've had a very very positive response to the Caspian Sea Yogurt. Our bodies feel lighter, and better...it's hard to describe, but it's very real. We've lost much of our cravings for breads and sugars, except the occasional dense whole grain food and fruits. We've almost completely eliminated processed foods, especially anything with preservatives and food coloring. Getting off of processed flours and sugars continues to be a goal.

In searching for plants AND in searching for gentle herbal support for some of our health concerns, we've found some that overlap. Our gardening goals have expanded to include a wider number of herbs and medicinal plants, and we've found that many of the plants we have on our gardening list for foods, nectar, or forage also have mutiple uses in salads, teas, fertilizers, or medicines. Incorporating these things, and growing them ourselves are current goals.

So we are searching out specific plants for medicines, and in doing so have begun compiling a list...one that is growing longer and longer. I'm amazed at how many plants are available in herbal pill form but are not grown here in the States. Many of them are widely grown in Asia or India, the African continent, or South and Central America...but not here. So the search cuts a worldwide swath.

We experienced this sort of fun when beginning a search for natural home-friendly soaping plants (saponins), many of which have been used by native populations in different geographical situations all over the globe. Indigenous to the U.S. was the soapberry tree, and I'm happy to report that our little soapberry twigs that looked so dead are now leafing out with a vengeance, loving the heat that's already bearing down on us here in Florida. Soapnuts (from the Ritha tree) were another experiment, and are very slow growing, and reputedly hard to germinate, but we're trying, just for fun...the little seeds get daily moisture and warmth outside in a protected area. No signs of life so far, but we'll keep waiting. The soapnuts themselves, the sort used for washing clothes with, can be bought retail...we were just searching for the source so we can grow our own. That search took us all the way to India, as did a more recent search for plants used to help with diabetes-related concerns.

Yesterday, we found mention of the plant Gymnema Sylvestre, described here, which has been used by some populations for many generations to assist diabetics. It's available as a supplement through herbal suppliers, and we're in the process of seeking a source from which to purchase the plants or seeds.

We know better than to just go crazy popping any sort of medication, herbal or not, without a lot of discrimination and care as to amounts, but I'm going to try (slowly, carefully) the bottled pills of this herb in hopes of easing my body off its dependency on the higher doses of synthetic medicines, while working to lose weight, eat the right things, etc. There were several herbs we found mention of that actually seem to provide pancreatic support, even some that encourage regeneration of healthy pancreas tissue, so it's definatly worth a look...and some deliberate tracking and care as to the results. This is a longer-term project, and is only one of the ways we're trying to become less dependent on "things elsewhere." Medicine can be a drain on our resources, as can doctor visits. I still have not given up hope that my Type 2 diabetes can be reversed with weight loss, eating right, exercise, and other supports. It just has to be gentle and gradual, because the ol' blood sugar goes crazy with any sudden changes :)

I'm in the process of compiling a list of the medicines we want to grow. These are as simple as white willow, the bark of which is the source of aspirin, and can be make into a tea drunk rather than taking an aspirin...and willow twigs soaked in water a few days are said to be an excellent root stimulator for starting garden and tree cuttings, too. We'll see! Jack is trimming some willows this week and we want to see if we can start some Moringa trees from cuttings.

As much as we'll devote our time and energies to cultivate open-pollinated organically-grown heirloom vegetables, indigenous trees and plants, and seek to satisfy our food needs ourselves this way, we'll also be paying attention to plants that are good at keeping ourselves and our animals and plants in top health. Everything from nectar-rich plants for bees, native grasses/seeds/forbs for grazing health, diversity in field and hedgerown plants, and collecting traditional (and sometimes "exotic-to-us") seeds, fruits, and plants...those PLUS educating ourselves about how to use plants as healthy nutritional and medicinal support are VERY much becoming our passions :)

As we have some successes, they'll be reported here, as will the flops. We look forward to years to follow in which we have surpluses of seeds and cuttings to share for free for anyone else who might want to add them to their homesteads, too!

It's so fun...it seems the plants to be discovered are endless...

Blogroll Leads to More Blogroll

I recently updated the blogroll here with enumerable fascinating, educational, and enjoyable blogs, and today I added the new folks to the sidebar. Now it's so replete with fascinating blogs, I think I can hear it listing to the right and wonder if my monitor might start leaning sideways any day now...

They're just THAT good :)

So good, in fact, that in perusing them inevitably it will lead to (sigh...) discovering MORE addictive blogs, such as these three. I'm including them here now because if I don't, knowing me, it'll be 6 months before I quit procrastinating, so better to strike while the iron's hot and all that.

Here is Rubbish Free Year, which is the journey of one family to live without producing ANY GARBAGE...you have to see this site!

And there's Planting Milkwood blog's wonderful journal of their adventures in permaculture.

And then there's the heartwarming Have Pinny, Will Cook blog with all things warm and wonderful for foodies...

So, in addition to the other recent glut of awesome blog additions, you can now round everything out with no rubbish, incorporating permaculture, and even more new recipes to add 14 1/2 pounds to your hips just in time to store up fatty cells for any further food shortages...

;-)


Enjoy!

Little Conversations on the Prairie


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Stop the Press!

...Toby and Maria have built their first top bar bee hive! Check out the great pictures and post here. Plus you'll love looking at their cordwood house that just got its C.O....

too good not to share...go there, if you haven't been already...you're sure to enjoy!

More Great Blogs

You're likely familiar with these, but in case you're not, I think you'll find these blogs original, inviting, appealing, and refreshing.

Each has its own personality, flavor, and focus.

Enjoy the buffet!

1. Justice Desserts
2. Sandra's Garden
3. Life in the Lost World
4. A Distinctly Different Homestead
5. A Foothill Home Companion
6. Country Magpies
7. From My Homestead
8. Front Porch Indiana
7. Grand Life
8. Twinville/Laughing Orca Ranch
9. Bureka Boy
10. Razor Family Farm
11. SouleMama
12. The Spotted Apron
12 1/2. The Barber Bunch

(Sorry, Carolyn...just didn't want to end the list with 13...who wants to be #13 anyway?? :))

There are the links, but it'll take me a day or two to get them all on the sidebar. Of course, I have probably left some really important blogs out by accident...it IS 4:38 in the morning, and I feel myself aging by the second. Time for some beauty survival sleep...

Enjoy!

Tropical Fruit: Mamey Sapote

Jack had told me about growing up eating mamey (pronounced Mah-MAY) in his childhood. When we've considered getting some fruit tree starts, Mamey has been among those at the top of the list. Even though it's native to our tropical clime, we rarely see it in the stores, or even grown here locally. Perhaps it's not prone to a lengthy shelf-life? Or maybe public tastebuds don't consider it a trendy enough exotic fruit?

I don't know, but I do know that a couple days ago, we spied two among the few other tropical fruits in the local grocery store, and purchased them. I've never tasted mamey, and it's been years since Jack has.

Here's what one looks like...



It's quite a bit smaller than Jack remembers having in his youth, and the color is pale in comparison with homegrown ones that are nearly ruby, or a deep rich orange flesh inside. Here is what it looked like when sliced open. It is ripe when a bit softened, sort of like an avocado or cantaloupe, and has much the same texture of either of those, or like a papaya.



We don't know if the seed will easily germinate, and whether or not the resulting seedling would grow into a fruit-bearing tree, or a sterile one. Even if not sterile, some mamey trees bear inferior-tasting fruit, and it's sort of the luck of the draw on that score. Still, Jack's proven to have a truly green thumb with finicky seeds, as our (now four!) mangoes have proven. He's wanting to try out the mamey seeds...just to see :) You can see in this picture that the seed easily separates from the flesh of the fruit.



The fruit slices easily, as easily as an avocado, and the skin is easy to remove. It's not as flavorful as Jack remembers homegrown fruit being, but he still greatly enjoyed it. To me, it had an initial impression of cantaloupe flavor, with a hint of papaya, but mostly tasted like a juicy peach. Hard to explain, but I liked it much more than a papaya...I still haven't quite acquired a taste for those yet. So far, my favorite "exotic" fruit is a mango or a blood orange. But these, if they grew in my yard, would definately get eaten. I'm guessing they'd be quite delicious in about anything a mango would, and would make a great salsa and smoothies to boot.



The seed's soaking, and this is a picture of the last of the mamey, before they were scarfed down and moaned over for a few moments by my appreciative husband. Kind of like me with an heirloom tomato...

Little Conversations on the Prairie


For the Record...

...my husband, Jack, does not really do a singing belly-button trick.

I know, I know you were wondering.

Honey, if you're reading this, I volunteered your talents in a favorite blog's comments. I know you could learn how to do it...the singing belly-button thing...after all, you're so good at trying new things and mastering new skills. I know, this could be your big break, something you could moonlight doing on the side, a second career and all....but you'll probably decide to pass it up...you know, the fifteen minutes of fame and all that... (sigh)

Sidenote: He's going to get even with me after he reads this...heh heh

Ok, Danni...this one's for you. I dedicate this song (whistled, not sung) to your new chicken coop. No, it's not Jack, it's just some person from Youtube. But hey, it's close enough!




I know, I know...it's a homesteading blog. Sometimes I just get a little sidetracked...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Little Conversations On The Prairie


We Don't Know What We're Missing

When I moved down here to join my husband four years ago, there had just been back-to-back hurricanes that decimated the area. As you might imagine, housing of any sort at that time was at a premium, since there were so many displaced families whose homes had been damaged beyond the point of live-ability. At that point, you had to pay expensive rents for the most basic four walls and a roof, and our first rental was a good example of that.

You see, I'd had the cutest of small cottages for a house in Tennessee, with walls painted in warm ochres and buttermilk shades, large vintage poster prints, bookcases with books everywhere, and open cabinets in the kitchen with neat stacks of dishware, a comfy armchair, fireplace, and a tiny dooryard garden brimming with perennials and regular hummingbird visitors. A red front door and trailing vines up the brick walls...an elderberry bush entwined with a white lilac were right outside the dining room picture window just next to the birdfeeder and its flat platform tray that had a constant entourage of mourning doves pecking for seed.

And my dog, Shadow. The best dog I ever had...ever. The most intuitive and loving and gentle part-black lab mix Heinz 57 dog, whom I still miss to THIS DAY. He would ring the string of camel bells that hung from the inside doorknob of the front door when he needed to go outside. He would sleep in the hall between my bedroom and my daughter's bedroom doors at night, our protectors. I miss Shadow!!

Shadow was one of the hardest parts of the move, the other being leaving the one place I'd lived the longest...for 14 years. After the hurricane, the ONLY place we could find to rent did not allow any animals. We appealed to the landlords for an exception, but they wouldn't budge. And the shelters in Florida were so overburdened with animals at that point that finding a temporary adoptive family for a Tennessee dog was impossible in our situation. I had to leave my dog to an adoptive family in my Tennessee town. I won't even go on further about that...it was a hard decision, and I'm still sad.

I'm not sad I joined my husband here...where he is is my home. The rental unit we found was the most run-down place I'd ever lived, but Jack did a lot to get it in order before the big move...you should have seen it before. It was a tiny, squat square of concrete blocks, painted over some decade past but not since, and the exterior looked like someone had sneezed on it...it was dingy greyish-white with huge smears of pinkish and greyish mold streaking the sides, especially anywhere the roof water ran down. The interior was not much better. The roof and fascia were infested with termites. The front windows and door were those moveable strips of glass that open outwards, but couldnt because the hardware was stripped, but still managed to leak any cool interior air right to the outside. They were a safety hazard, too...very easy to break into. The back door was a few strides from the front door, and was an ill-fitting sliding glass door, again, with broken track and easy-to-break-into latch. The kitchen cabinets and bathroom were indescribable, except to say that the only thing I've seen worse so far were the outhouses in Romanian campgrounds in 1985. These at least flushed :)

Well, Jack got in there and bleached everything, and painted many coats of fresh white paint. He repaired doors simply so they'd close, or the holes someone had put their fist through would now be filled and sanded flat and then painted. The fronts of the kitchen cabinets were so rotted, the laminate was blistered loose and hanging in strips. The insides of the cabinets were murky, sticky, filthy, and rotting. The stove had one eye that worked and the oven was burned out and had loose wiring hanging from the inside. There was a tiny sink, just enough room to put our table and sit 2 or 3 people if you didnt scoot your chair out too much, and two tiny bedrooms.

We did do the best we knew how to with it. Off came the cabinet door laminate, everything got a coat of white paint (or two or three), including all the interiors of the cabinets, and everything was fumigated. The police were out every night to the neighbor across the street who aired her romantic grievances publicly with a loud and repetitive vocabulary usually starting with the letter F, standing in her driveway throwing out the latest boyfriend. There was a pit bull chained in an empty lot directly across from us. Our front door had no doorknob and had to be pulled shut and locked each time with a key just to keep it closed.

This was our honeymoon suite :) heehee

We knew it would be temporary, and we lived there about a year.

During that time, we opted for no TV...after all, where would we put it?? The only few square feet where equipment would fit housed our computer and the paperwork for our small home business.

Living there was good for us. It taught us a lot about scaling down our possessions, and using what is most necessary. It also taught me how much I adore having a place to do laundry in my own house...now. And having a stove that works, and an oven that works, and trees to look at from the windows that DO close and a door that DOES have a doorknob :)

All that to say that an unexpected thing happened related to the TV. We kept our TV because we enjoy watching movies. But during that first year, we had no TV service because we kept thinking of that place as temporary and didn't want to get cable service hooked up until we moved elsewhere. And we couldnt get reception without cable service. Then we moved a year later to a much nicer, very clean and spacious rental (yay!), and we had become used to going without any TV reception. We opted to forgo it a bit longer, and kept using the TV just for a monitor to watch DVDs and videos now and then. That lasted a year.

Then we moved here and again, the same thing...we just don't like seeing ourselves being nickled and dimed in so many areas of our budget, and TV was one of those nickle and dime parts of our budget. So we've been without TV reception for four years now, and have seen no programs on either standard TV or cable at ALL. We have found we can check out DVDs for free from the library and get a lot of the awesome PBS documentaries and dramas as well as every sort of movie, how-to video, or musical production that way. They even have some television series...some are old re-runs and some are contemporary...all without commercials.

We haven't tried Netflix yet, simply because we haven't exhausted all the good stuff we can check out for free at the library here. We are not non-TV watchers, if you count the TV as a monitor only rather than getting regular reception. But when we want to watch something, it's deliberate...we put something in when we want to watch that specific thing.

What I didn't realize was that I'm not being brainwashed to buy products, to think of myself as "deserving" of this and that consumer retail item, to eat fast food or restaurant food, to compare my body to those of airbrushed supermodels, to buy certain brands of trendy toys/foods/healthcare items/gadgets, and I don't have any idea what the cutting edge is in fashion or home decor.

When we want the news, we listen to radio and look for ourselves at any newspaper in the world on the internet.

We miss the constant barrage of these things...though I'd never have thought of them as such:
1. fear-mongering
2. manipulation of the news facts
3. vulnerability to trends...be it economic, fashion, healthcare, travel, consuming
4. being told to buy buy buy certain products
5. being told we're deprived if we don't buy those things

The constant stimulation to buy things came SO often through the TV! And now that it's missing, I marvel that I'm so much more resistant when I do hear the advertisements...after all, it's so constant on things such as the TV that we often tune them out but don't recognize how automatically those repetitious product-hawkers replay in our heads...the catchy jingles and slogas and visual images DO effectively advertise....EVERYTHING.

I'm very very sobered by what's happening in the world. We are taking action in small ways, and sometimes bigger ways, for our own family in response to those. But there's a big BIG difference in now and THEN

I realize that the constant barrage we used to have, mostly through the TV but also from other places, produces a REACTION rather than a thoughtful responsive action. There is a difference.

It just dawned on me today that we don't know what we're missing, and that's why we don't feel like simplifying, reducing, becoming wiser in the ways we work or spend or buy or create or interact or recreate...any of these things...are something extraordinarily "abnormal." We turned off the noise. Now we can think. Even if we don't think MORE than we used to, we're not distracted by all the "noise" of advertising, of suggestion. We have underestimated just how effective that noise was. When it was turned off, we didnt lose our ability to unwind by snuggling up on the couch with a good movie...we lost the voices telling us we were discontent and needed something better or something more, or told us WHAT something we should consider.

I think the constant barrage of all that noise, not only from advertisers on TV but also the frenetic pace of the corporate world and its set up of disconnects, is an overload. When in any area it is quieted for a length of time, things sort of settle into a peacefulness (not complacency) that comes as a sense of relief. Even with all the other demands and deadlines, removing one or two major contributors of that constant advertising or other "urgency" can bring some balance.

I realized today I have no idea what the trendy toys are...you know, the ones everyone HAS to have for holidays or birthdays or because the updated one just came out. I have NO idea what is even on TV! I can't really be an informed small-talker in conversation when it comes to these things...I never saw a single episode (or sometimes even HEARD of) most of the TV programs that are on now. For example, I Googled favorite TV programs, and here's the list of the ones they consider the most popular:

One Tree Hill Don't know this one.
America's Next Top Model Never seen, but surely it's self-explanatory.
Dancing with the Stars Same here.
Gossip Girl Never heard of. Went through enough dramas like this when my daughter was in junior high...no appeal to me now, ha!
Big Brother 9 George Orwell? Haven't heard of this one.
American Idol This was around before we went no-TV-reception. I sometimes watch youtube clips.
Biggest Loser I'm aware of what this one is. Wish I could be on it! Not sure I'd want a million people watching me get on a scale at ANY weight, though :)
Grey's Anatomy Never seen. Have heard of.
High School Musical 2 Never heard of, never seen.
Rock of Love This one has me mystified. Alcatraz has built some honeymoon cabins? A fundraiser concert for third world hunger?
NCIS No idea what this is.
House A lot of folks I know like this. I still don't know what it is.
Lost Saw the pilot a few years back. Then I moved to Florida and any further recollection of this show is...lost :)
Hannah Montana I have no idea. Is this the 2000's answer to the "Blossom" of the 90s?
Smallville The opposite of Megalopolis? Never seen.

Before you feel sorry for me and write me off as a culturally-deficient freak (which I may be! :)), remember...
I haven't known what I'm missing!

The only reason I know what tapas is is because I sometimes read foodie blogs. But because I haven't been TOLD what I should think is the latest and greatest thing to read/drink/eat/watch/listen to/buy/believe I also have an interest in learning to cook some dishes that are Moroccan, Mexican, Native American, fermented, Middle Eastern, Indian, raw, juiced, local, heirloom and open pollinated, unprocessed, and without packaging. I want to learn to cook flatbreads and grind my own grain for bread I knead myself. And to make my own butter.

And these are some of the things on my Wish List...which I may or may not get someday, but if I do it'll be because they're something that'll be thought out and be a nice "fit" for our family over the longer-term, and not end up in a yard sale six months later, or thrown away.....

1. Chickens
2. A few hand garden tools
3. Tons and tons of poop ...for tons and tons of compost!
4. A worm bin and worms
5. A top bar beehive
6. A whole ginormous plot of heirloom tomatoes
7. Red clover sown everywhere nothing else is growing
8. Bee plants, tucked in everywhere
9. A canner and pressure canner
10. Sheep
11. A Welsh cob
12. A farm dog or dogs
13. Herbs for our health
14. Homemade soap
15. A clothesline of clean laundry
16. Some canvas and paints, to get back into painting
17. Lots of visits from friends to cook for and enjoy!
18. Two milk cows
19. Some beef cattle
20. Did I mention chickens?? :) :)

oh and

21. LAND, any amount small or large, that allows us to have chickens, cow, and bees.

and possibly, if miracles ever occurred

22. have children with this husband I adore; yes, even at this age :)

(That's up to God. I havent been able to have any more children since my daughter was born two decades ago)

Anyway, we've gained by not being told what we're missing.

What we NOW think we're missing has changed to what better represents our own individuality, need, and contents us best. We desire skills, time together, and the lasso tightening to draw all our efforts home rather than dispersing us.

Maybe be not being told what we're missing, we now know that what we have is sufficient, and we are happy keeping it that simple. Sufficiency is a vital and living thing...not deprivation or poverty mentality. Change is constant, and we need to change many things. Now we can think more clearly about what those should continue being, without the distraction and constant interruption. We can be a vital community member, connected to each other in many ways, and still nurture a quietness of mind a little bit freer of marketing/advertising overload. Things become clearer, and we can ponder solutions and not be so wearied by the frenetic. And we can think for ourselves, because we should. We don't have to rely on a steady diet of being told statistics of how everyone else thinks, buys, and lives.

OK, this has run long...too long!

I am missing a couple hours of sleep on this, my day off...so I'm off to collect 'em while I can! There's a whole To Do list for the busy, busy afternoon...

I have really been enjoying reading so many of your blog posts recently...SO enjoyable! I appreciate the other bloggers and readers "out here" so much...thank you!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Raw Milk Update Excerpts

from the Weston A. Price Foundation:


CRITICAL COURT DATE TOMORROW
Today is the eve of a most important event in A Campaign for Real Milk. Tomorrow, Friday, April 25, all eyes will be on California, at the preliminary injunction hearing against enforcement of AB1735, a "sneak attack" bill that mandates standards so stringent, it would be impossible for raw milk producers to stay in business.

Gary Cox, the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund General Counsel, is on his way to California to argue for a Permanent Restraining Order against further coliform testing of raw milk products in California. What happens tomorrow will have far-reaching effects on the availability of raw milk everywhere. Other states are watching what happens in California to see whether they will attempt similar legislation.

The research has been completed; the experts interviewed and testimonials collected; the depositions are done. He is READY!...


...If you can attend the hearing, please do so. It will be held at 10:00 am at the Hollister Superior Court, Judge Tobias presiding. The address is:

Superior Court of California County of San Benito
440 Fifth Street
Hollister, California 95023

Your attendance sends a message that raw milk matters. Support Gary Cox by packing the courtroom with quiet but passionate onlookers.


CALIFORNIA SENATE HEARING ON RAW MILK

The Senate hearing held April 15 in Sacramento was well attended and provided California lawmakers with the scientific information they need to craft a better bill regulating raw milk.

A big thank you to the many raw milk supporters who showed up-many drove long distances. Even though the hearing started two hours late and lasted until almost midnight, many stayed right until the end.

For a full report on the hearing, visit http://organicpastures.com/e_letter_12_post.html.



FOOD NETWORKING SERIES SEEKS RAW MILK DRINKERS

Has your health improved from drinking raw milk? Are you an advocate for raw milk? Do you feel that your health has benefited from drinking raw milk?

The Food Network wants to hear your story!

The Food Network is casting individuals whose health has improved from drinking raw milk for a new series airing on the Food Network this fall. Casting is underway, so Email a brief description of your story with your contact information and picture of yourself ASAP to aisha@alroker.com.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Little Conversations on the Prairie

Excellent Earth Day Post at Urban Hennery

I loved how Laura at the Urban Hennery blog worded her post about Earth Day!


A couple of quotes from it:

"Changing the way we interact with our planet isn’t just about thinking about the environment for one day. It isn’t just about buying the “green” version of something instead...

...We need to understand that sometimes it’s about not having the thing at all. That it’s about choosing a simpler way of life not because it’s moral or just, but because it is an opportunity to move beyond the “things we want” to the things that make us truly happy."



I hope you have time to stop in there and read the entire post! :)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Jack's Green Fling: or How We Celebrated Earth Day

No, we really didn't go out to eat (see prior post). We've been so tired from work that we've been daily hacking away at the ginormous meatloaf I cooked a few days back like we're gold prospectors and it's the Mother Lode.

We're on different time schedules, too. This means that our sleeping time is precious, since one of our goals is time together, and it doesn't seem right if at the end of the day, or at SOME point in the day, our sleeping times don't overlap. And that major nightly comfort, (or daily, depending on the work shift) is hard to adjusting to being WITHOUT. We're major snugglers, and too many sleeps minus our loved one is just...well, lonely.

Taint fittin'.

When we were first married, we decided the bedroom would be a quiet zone for us -- a place for resting without noise and distractions. A place of clean sheets and plenty of pillows. Therefore, we haven't put a TV or TV monitor in there, or any stereo or computer equipment. We even have no phone in there, unless a cell phone is recharging...on "off." We even keep serious conversations to other rooms-- discussions about such things as finances, the next day's To Do list, or any other important topic needing our full attention.

The only things we really ever talk about in the bedroom are sweet somethings and who needs to give the other person a bit more of their share of the blanket. If we've not seen each other ALL day, and the other finally gets to come to bed as the first person's already sleeping, we exchange quietly-voiced hellos kept very short and factual, such as:

(Me, slipping under the covers, exhausted, in the middles of Jack's sleep) "Hey, sweetie...long day...can't wait to get some sleep."

(Jack) "Mmmmmppph, good, come to bed....mmmpppphhh."

(Me) "Did you set your alarm? I won't be awake to get you up"

(Jack) "MmmmHmmm, come to bed...mmmppppphhh."

(Me) "Ok, good...'night, honey...I love you"

(Jack, holding up one corner of the blanket and wrapping me up like a burrito with it) "I love you, too." (Then he says a quick thank you that's a thanks to God for bringing me home safely...SO cool, huh? then...) "go to sleep....mmmpppphhhzzzzzz"

And it's all over. Yes, we really cover a lot of important topics in those conversations...


Well, sometimes our sleep schedules don't coincide very gracefully. Such as the past few nights. His schedule is a few hours off my schedule, so it's hard to MAKE ourselves sleep when either we're not sleepy, or daylight is hitting one of us square in the head, fooling our body into believing that we're 18 again and can function on less than 5 hours of sleep. For me this week, 3 AM has been my T minus number. I have to get ready for work at 3 AM, so I count backwards from that number during the evening before, watching the numbers of my possible full night's sleep trickle away quickly the longer I stay up. It's just hard for me to GO to bed at 7 PM or so.

Well, anyway, when I finally do lie down in my sleep-deprived state, I'm out. Trying to get Jack to join me anytime before our usual 10 PM or so is a challenge. If he goes to sleep with me really early in the evening, oftentimes his body wakes him up halfway through a good night's sleep and he only gets a very few hours of sleep himself...basically just a nap. That doesnt work for long.

It was just this sort of situation during the past few nights. We'd shoot for some together snooze time mid-evening, but about four hours later, Jack would still be pretty much awake and would decide to go ahead and get up and be productive...or just relax awake.

Halfway through my "night" I'd awake to find my husband elsewhere. Then I'd wonder if I'd missed my alarm clock. Then the water I'd drunk four hours earlier would kick in, etc etc. "Jack, you there?" I'd call into the other room. "Yes, I'm on the computer," I'd hear him reply. "Can't sleep!"

Then I'd go back to bed and not see him again until about 30 minutes until my alarm was about to go off...and he'd be coming to bed for HIS night's sleep, just as I had to wake up. Arrrrggghh.

Oh well, we do TRY to time it better. So here's the running joke...when he is on the computer, he's "with his girlfriend."

He climbs back into bed at 2:30 AM, just before the dreaded alarm is about to wake me up. I'm not in a good humor 30 minutes before Alarm Time.

"Are you JUST now getting back to bed?" I grumble, as he climbs back under the covers.

"I found some great stuff on biodiesel," he says.

"Stop, stop, don't get all romantic on me NOW," I say, still grouchy.

"Seriously, I've been looking up Algae."

"ANGIE? Angie who??"

"Not Angie, Algae."

"Mmmmppphhh"

He continues, "Did you know that algae LOVES to eat carbon dioxide, and that it can be used as a really cheap source for biodiesel so that the world's food supply would not be strained to capacity like it currently is, and there are so many fascinating ways to utilize algae to mmwwahhh mwwaaahhh blllaaaahhhblaaahblaaahblaahh....(fade to incoherence as Robbyn falls back asleep while Jack enthusiastically continues on and on and on about the fascinating topic of algae)

(The soliloquy ends)

"I want to hear about it when I'm awake," say I, stuffing my head under my pillow.

"Go back to sleep," he says.

"I'm trying, I'm trying" I mumble. "I wish you could have come to bed sooner, instead of being on the computer with your new girlfriend. You know...Angie."

"Algae!" he says, laughing.

"Whatever, I don't want to hear about her right now. She's pond scum."



He's so into his online searches about algae being a possible world solution for biofuel that it's been his focus whenever he gets free time. He quotes statistics and sites and I'm sure when we have our next few hours together AWAKE, we'll have a great time discussing his finds. We feed off each other's momentum that way.

But till then, I refer to his time online (some of the time when I'm sleeping my weird hours) as "his time with Angie."

So, for Earth Day, my husband spent time with his little fling, Angie, while I patrolled rich gated communities in my work vehicle for the county, writing up water violations (it's officially a drought here) for citizens whose emerald front yards collectively spurt more water from their sprinkler systems than the arching spumes of a mass migration of endangered whales.

Jack strives to protect the food supply and bring Angie, er Algae, to the forefront as a likely and economical biodiesel source, while I strive to enforce a protected water table. And we get about 30 minutes of sleeping time together as a result. (At least for a couple more days till the schedules change)

As offensive as this may sound, we see our daily steps toward sustainability and responsibility as the most important "day." Celebration is a good thing, and we're happy about days such as Earth Day being used to bring the public's attention to the vast array of issues that cannot be avoided as a community and personally. We're glad for the collective voices urging awareness and stewardship...and problem-solving. We hope we're part of that collective voice!

There is an innate distrust inside of both of us for anything more "religious" about what's referred to as the Green Movement, and the use of the term "green" seems to be conveniently bandied about in so many ways, it's hard to tell just what anyone means by it. One thing we're NOT into is the loss of our freedoms and autonomy, and we are not in support of globalization of the loss of freedom to make our own choices. We agree that we're against the machine of corporate and conglomerate greed. We are suspicious of any initiative whose answer lies in heavier taxes, restrictive legislation, more regulation. We are in support of changing the current legislation, the better use of current taxes, and the protection of basic human rights...and the inclusion of our right to our own food choices and demanding equal accountability from entitities such as corporations who currently seem to be "above the laws."

Strangely, all our changes are truly "green." But we don't want to be part of a movement for the sake of being part of a movement, because movements end. The changes needed are those of a permanently-changed mindset, internally driven rather than solely externally-enforced. We look at it as a return to the simplicity of divesting ourselves of the things that have vied for the position that personal stewardship should have had all along. It affects our health, our economy, our community, our future, our present, and our freedoms. We don't want to further lose our freedoms or involve government as the primary force through which change must occur. We see the crisis that is happening now as a wake-up call, and a time of reckoning. Returning to simplicity is just plain weird to an out-of-control consumer culture, and as far as embracing that simplicity, out path is about as "green" as they come. We're not "there" yet, as far as having fully arrived at our ultimate goals...that's what this blog's about, the journey. Our society is far from being "there," and there is much to do. I'm not a pessimist...I believe we change society as we change our own life a day at a time.

Yay, for Earth Day and the awareness it hopefully brings. I hope the everyday is Earth Day, though...not a time just to appreciate the Earth, but to get down to the basics of living better each day in a way where we can all inhabit it, enrich it, and protect it responsibly.

Words That Bother Me

Spouse. Sounds like louse. Not a great association in conjunction with your beloved.

Segue. Sounds like Seg plus Way. I got tired of this word in 3.2 seconds after it came into vogue. Dislike it for much the same reasons as the next word, which is

Foyer. It's a nice enough word when it's Foy-uhr, but when a real estate agent is showing a house and suddenly the entrance upgrades from being a Foy-uhr to a FWAH-yayy, it's just too too affected-sounding. And speaking of real estate agents, that reminds me of

Realtor. Should be REAL plus TER. But I declare that 99.876% of the time, it gets pronounced REAL-UH-Terrr. (Notice how nicely the last word Seque-ed to this one...??)

I have other pet peeve words, but none that's been such a long-standing one (or two, in this case) as

Penal Farm. Hopefully, I don't have to explain why.

So there they are. There are plenty more, and I'll add em as I think of them.

What are your pet peeve words? Your favorites??



There are also words I love...

Words like:

Rapacious
Dither
Prevalent
Sortie
Prevaricate
Sanguine
Barmbrack


to name a few...


And now I have to go. We're going out to dinner tonight, and my spouse is waiting for me in the FWAH-yay...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Do I Really Need a Cell Phone?

Here we go...decisions decisons.

What are our NEEDS and what do we have because culturally we've been conditioned to depend on certain things? Reminder to Self: Need = Food, Clothing, Shelter


Jack got me a cell phone for safety's sake. Safety, to him, is a need.


But how necessary is it, really?


So far, it's broken once, and at 9:30 this morning, it was stolen outright in a restroom as I was washing my hands.


To replace it? A lot of money!


We're re-examining everything, and I'm trying to be bold and brassy enough to question what REALLY is a need to me.


I don't judge others' decisions of what's necessary for themselves, that's not what this is about. But I am challenging myself...is a cell phone a necessity? Or a telephone at all?


I gain pleasure in remaining in contact with many friends across the miles by phone. Nevertheless, at this point I have (well, HAD) the home phone and the cell phone AND the computer.


Which brings me back to what's a NEED...


or in a different vernacular...WWTIFD?



(What Would the Ingalls Family Do?)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Perfect Passover

...is the sort that doesn't have to be perfect.

Late work schedules meant that Jack slept through most of the afternoon. Rachel slept, in, too. It had been quite a grueling week for all, and shabbat's all about resting.

We'd normally have gone to our friends' house (an hour away) early, to have time to visit, study together, sing and eat. There are friends who are more family, many times, than our actual relatives, and we seldom see them these days. We were delighted to be able to travel there later in the afternoon to relax and pool resources for the Passover Seder.



Our hostess had made everything ready, and we'd all pitched in the money required for the preparations. But there's no price you can put on the love with which she made everything comfortable and clean, and all the preparations. Everyone contributed a food dish as well...everyone meaning friends who, like us, over the past few years have come to gather at our host and hostess's home for Saturday time together, usually to study the Torah portion, visit together, sing together, and later to have Havdalah, the small informal ceremony that marks the end of shabbat and the beginning of the new week. The folks who've come together over the years have been a few from here and a few from there, and are lively, intelligent, opinionated, genuinely interested in studying together, and have grown to become a part of each other's lives.
All of "the gang" have made it through some illnesses, crises, celebrations, gains, losses...and it's so nice to see a group this diverse enjoy knowing each other as much as we enjoy debating ideas and finds when the Torah study raises questions and issues. There's just no other group we've had this much fun with, digging into real questions, looking for real answers, arriving at an array of convictions and opinions, and then good-naturedly all crying Uncle and eating together and catching up with the latest happenings in our weekly lives. It's how I think of family at its best :)

We just haven't been able to get together with these friends in...well, seems like FOREVER.

So Passover for us was a reunion!

We did make it there in time for some down time, to hang out at their house and sit around catching up with everyone we've missed seeing for so long. Here are a few of "the gang"...the others are lounging around elsewhere in the house, talking, dozing, or playing with the babies!



Havdalah was at the dining room table, and then we went "downstairs" to the larger room for the Seder, for the rest of the evening. "Downstairs" is what used to be a garage, and now is a multi-purpose room adjoining a small kitchenette with a pass-through for food. Here's some more of "the gang" during the "eatin'" portion of the evening. No, we're not in any of the pictures :)



Above the room is a small apartment that is rented to a wonderful couple who lost their condo in one of the hurricanes. All of this is out in the country...pretty much in the middle of (nearly) swampland, and very quiet and peaceful.

Passover was rejuvenating, relaxing...wonderful. No telephone call can quite take the place of sitting around on sofas or at the tables with undivided "catching up" sessions, laughter, and seeing the ones you love eye-to-eye, and hug-to-hug.

The Seder had traditional elements, but also was personalized and flexed to the moment. There were the readings from the Haggadah, one put together personally by our hosts from different sources. There were the questions, the washings before blessings, and the retelling of the Exodus story.



There were the symbols on the seder plate, and the traditional foods eaten for specific reminders.



There was the fabulous rush of horseradish fumes up the nose (a yearly high! ha), and the children's hunt for the afikomen.



There were the four cups drunk together throughout, with specific meanings. There was delicious food and sober remembrance...and laughter :)

I really really REALLY needed this time with our friends, to be family and to enjoy the comfort of having this in common together. Our hosts are talented musicians, and we all sang...and sang, and gosh, how I miss that, too! It's not the sort of worship that has to be starched and stiff, but it's also not a "driven" sort that strives to be emotionally charged. No, it's NORMAL...or at least what I think of as the best normal can be...natural, not forced...and not (well, how to say???)....WEIRD.

But then again my "normal" is probably "weird" to other people, lol...so I'll move right along...

Summary: It was great to be with family!! To be ourselves with all our imperfections, to care about each other, to love God together, to get back in touch with those we've really missed...and to share a celebration we look forward to every year (I think it was designed for that purpose :)) Well, YAY...

And as we say every year after all the fun, when saying our goodbyes and are rather sad it's all ended and won't be back for another 12 months...

"Next Year In Jerusalem!!!!!"

Naughty Naughty Matzoh Crunch



Here's the recipe...or you can find it almost anywhere on the web, from folks who've nibbled on a piece, likely at Passover, and found they had a sudden sassy compulsion to tuck away a few more...you know...far far from the madding crowd..."just in case."

Even if you're not eating for two, doing extreme sports with your blood sugar levels, or trying to invent the first edible chocolate mortarboard for graduation, you'll enjoy trying this, truly! It's just so easy to make.

A little TOO easy...

Here's the site where I nabbed the recipe, which was sequentially nabbed prior to that by millions who decided Marcy Goldman was onto a great thing. David Lebovitz tweaked it with the addition of vanilla and a pinch of sea salt...other than that, it's pretty much the real McCoy.




Here 'tis:

Matzoh Crunch



4 to 6 sheets of matzoh
2 sticks butter
1 cup (firmly-packed) light brown sugar (I used dark because that's what I had)
optional: pinch of coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup sliced almonds or other nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Line a 11" x 17" baking sheet completely with foil (cover the sides) and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then line with parchment paper over the foil...it'll help everything be easy to remove.

Line the bottom of the sheet completely with matzoh, breaking extra pieces as necessary to fill in any spaces.

In a medium-sized heavy duty saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar and cook over medium heat until the butter begins to boil.



Boil for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and pour over matzoh, spreading with a heatproof utensil.
Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the syrup darkens and gets thick. (While it's baking, make sure it's not burning. If so, reduce the heat to 325 degrees.) I just set the oven right on 335 degrees, a good compromise.

Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips or chunks. Let stand 5 minutes, then spread smooth with a spatula and sprinkle with nuts or desired topping.

Cooling can be expedited by placing in fridge in single layers till set, or briefly in freezer. Break into pieces and store in sealed containers. Will keep for up to a week. (As if they'll last that long...!)



Sounds pretty straightforward. I do have to give credit where credit is due, since this recipe survived my every attempt to thwart its success. And I do have a few suggestions to make...

First, when toasting the chopped nuts, you MIGHT want to not get lost in a pleasant reverie, humming to yourself (as they sit in the pan roasting), sentimental about how your kitchen is smelling nostalgically like pan-popped popcorn...remember the days when you made it in a pot on the stove??



Yes, mmmm, that smell takes you back...and back...and then you start to also remember that some of those popcorns in days of yore DID scorch now and then. Hmmm. Yes, and they smelled a bit like...like...(jolt back to the present), well DRAT. Yes, they smelled exactly like that nice little pile of chopped nuts that's now charred into a lump of coal in the bottom of your pan.

Grrrrr....

Secondly, when measuring ingredients, you MIGHT want to actually READ the measurement amounts on the utensils instead of PRESUMING that anything in the miscellaneous junk drawer utensil drawer is going to be a standard measure amount. That way, you'd avoid assuming the measuring cup hold a cupful, after all, instead of 2/3 of a cup. Theoretically...

Thirdly, you might (and this is only a suggestion) NOT want to procrastinate making 6batches of a recipe you've never tried, with a cooking deadline of only 4 hours till quittin' time. 'Cause when shabbat gets here, it's quittin' time! and you MIGHT not want to be left with multiple layers of Matzoh Crunch cooling in your fridge just then, especially when you notice there's a strata of nut, chocolate, and cracker crumbs layering all your countertops and every crevice of your floor...you might need to excavate before your husband walks across it all and bestows baking compost throughout the house. Except for the bits that are STUCK onto the floor and wont come off without scrubbing, of course.

All this before dinner...you DON'T want to leave EVERYTHING for the last minute, do you, huh, huh?? (bit o' sarcasm at my failed lack of planning in that department and its habit of repeating itself now and then...) :)

And of course, fourthly, you might want to set your timer for the CORRECT times to cook this and that, instead of panicking about 10 minutes into a step and wondering just HOW long that thing was SUPPOSED to boil?? My timer is shaped like a chicken, and is slightly deformed due to an unfortunate past misjudgement in stovetop-proximity ( a fact I try to subtly mask by taking blurry, overexposed pictures of it)



In moments of cooking duress, such as when I find I never SET the chicken timer, I confess all to the chicken timer. The chicken timer is myfriend. The chicken timer knows MUCH. Or maybe it's a rooster? Even if he's androgenous, he hears my most dire kitchen confessions, and he never tells. (But he sits a little uneasily the closer I move him to the hot stovetop these days...)

Before this gets any more disturbing, back to the food...

This treat is basically a sort of brickle or toffee in its hot liquid form before being poured over the matzah crackers and finished in the oven. The chocolate layer spread over it can be very thin. Here's a pic of the chocolate chips getting melty before being spread. They're going through that awkward teenager phase, sort of like chickens do between chickhood and adulthood. Not. So. Pretty.

Never fear...It looks like a mess while you're making it, but it finishes off nicely!






And thankfully, it's hard to mess up....even when you TRY :)

The only downside is the 42 pounds you can amass on your hips in a single night if over-indulging in this dessert. Don't even try to hide them...(remember, the chicken timer KNOWS...)

But if you're looking to store up some heat reserves in case winter really DOES last well into July this year, this is the recipe for you!

Enjoy!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Meet Jack

Jack is the name of my husband.

My husband's name is Jack.


It was a recent comment from blogger Rhonda at one of our favorite blogs (down-to-earth)-- see sidebar-- that made Jack squirm with obvious discomfort opened Jack's eyes to the fact that referring to him always as "J" leaves him in the uncomfortable and undefined category as Anonymous Spouse who might as well be greeted as "Mr Robbyn." Somehow that "Mr. Robbyn" jolted JACK out of his anonymity rut and he told me in no uncertain terms suggested I start putting his real name on the blog from now on.

Which is kind of funny because Jack is his nickname, and I'm not sure nicknames qualify as real names. But it's what I call him and he calls himself. It's just not what he signs on the back of his paychecks. But then again, Rasputin isn't that common a name. No no JUST KIDDING...his real name is not Rasputin!

(Or is it...? I know you're wondering now...)

Seriously I'd never admit it if it were it's really not.

All that to say that Jack wanted a basic introduction, and here it is. He is happy for you to know his name.

Feel free to say "Hi, Jack!" at any point now.



Except out loud at the airport...






Have a Beautiful Passover!


For those of you celebrating Passover, I hope it is full of the very best of family, friends, and remembrance. A sampling of the goodies shown above will help lend a sweet finish to our celebration this evening.
Chag Pesach Sameach to all! I'll return next time with recipes and full of the joy of this season!

Friday, April 18, 2008

What's Growing On

Here's the Yerba Buena, or Jhibbaweena, depending on how well tuned your ear is. When your husband has warm, rich accent with overtones of Antonio Banderas (or is it Antonio Banderas has an accent with overtones of my husband?), and the new word itself is unfamiliar, the ear can play tricks on you.

"I bought a great new herb...it's like a mint! It tastes great and we can make some tea from it."

"Really, what is it?"

"Jhibbaweena."

"Jhibbaweena? Are you sure that's what it's called?"

"Yes, two words. Jhyieer-bah. Buen-ah. Jhibbaweena." Or at least that how it sounded to my Romance-language-deficient ear. You have to hear this said with a sultry accent...it's just not the same otherwise. It may be Yerba Buena to some, but to me now, it'll always be Jhibbaweena...



It sounds like a type of dance.

It turns out Yerba Buena is a mint indigeneous to North America, and is mild and refreshing. Here is a pic of our Jhibbaweena plant.



Remember the little dead-looking sticks we ordered...the Western Soapberry tree starts, which are also indigenous to North American, and whose fruits we one day hope to use for soap, much like the fruits of the Soap-nut tree/Ritha? The stick are alive! Here's how they're leafing out...


And another of our exotic-to-us tree experiments, the one we got from Top Tropicals after researching trees with multiple uses. Our Moringa is quite tall (about four feet now, and has branch clusters (I'm sure there's a botanical name for it that I don't know yet) up and down the slim little trunk. It's doing quite nicely! Here's the bottom-most cluster...



And this is a surprise to us...we saved some mango seeds from store-bought mangoes and had stuck them down into some potting soil just to see if they might sprout. The nurseryman we spoke with was dubious about mango seeds sprouting...he'd never had success. Looks like ours liked the soil and warmth enough to sprout! We don't know whether they'll ever bear fruit, since they most likely were from hybrid trees. I don't know enough about that area of botany yet, but we'll hold on to these to see if there's a chance they might fruit someday. If they do, undoubtedly mangoes fresh from the tree will have an entirely different taste appeal than those in the stores picked prematurely for long-distance transport. Here are the three little seedlings, hidden under the wire. Wild animals sometimes like to experiment with the moist soil in those pots outside, and we've had a few things dislodged when a raccoon or other animal gets to digging for treasure. We've had better success in plant survival since J secures wire cages over the tops of the smaller plants long enough for them to get some size. In theory, we're hoping it might deter any curious deer from expanding their salad repertoire by nicking the new growth, too.




And here is Antonio dancing the Jhibbaweena.





Photo from http://www.pleasedancewithme.com/ClipArtLeadBanderasDimitrieMelamed.gif

Thursday, April 17, 2008

No, Mr. President, You Are Wrong

"In a democracy, I realize you don't need to talk to the top leader to know how the country feels. When I go to a dictatorship, I only have to talk to one person and that's the dictator, because he speaks for all the people."

Jimmy Carter, to journalist when questioned about controversy about his meeting with Hamas



No, Mr. President,

This is what some Americans don't grasp.
Dictators DICTATE.
They did not acquire their power and position by logical reasoning and equitable representation. There is a path of dead bodies that represents their preference of power vs. public representation.
They produce change by external motivation, and their people do NOT have the right to free speech, gatherings, representation, or to defend themselves against an aggressor.

Let's please get this straight once and for all...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Gearing Up for Passover


I always wait till the last minute to clean out the yeast for Passover. Yes, it has happened again.

The good news is that I'm about to make a foray to the store aisles for some celebratory supplies. We're having the Seder with friends this year, and they actually do the cooking and we chip in for the expenses. There'll be singing, celebration, Torah reading, and of course the personalized version of the Seder dinner.
Passover is a special time of year for us, my favorite! I was actually born on Passover Day on the Jewish calendar the year I was born...the modern secular calendar rarely corresponds with it yearly. There are so many things I find significant in the Passover account in the biblical text, and one of those is that God remembers His promises of deliverance. A really neat significance was that He championed the cause of His people when they became enslaved, and not only brought out the Hebrews, but a vast mixed multitude from all the peoples of Egypt. It was this mixed multitude that stood before the mountain from which God spoke in the hearing of everyone and gave His covenant...to the entire group who'd been brought out safely.
I love that picture! It's one of the most compelling accounts in all of scripture to me, and on Passover, we fulfill the command to "Remember."
For fun, here is a tune to a song sung at Passover...the words in Hebrew transliterate into this sentence "Mikimi mei'ofor dol" which means "He raises me from the lowly dust."
But to make things more celebratory for the entire weekend, I'm going to make a big pot of Matzah Ball Soup (BIG pot!) and will be trying out some new unleavened recipes during the following week of unleavened bread.

I was perusing blogs on my day off (imagine that? :)) and found some really great Passover eats at epicurious.com. I'm going to try their matzah spinach pie one and the one for Matzah "Crack"...a sweet that seems to be making the rounds at Seders and has been a bit hit.

It looks like a variation on making homemade toffee, and is incredibly easy! Here's another blog's article on it


Well...I'm off to shop and cook! I'm working nights this week and I'd best make the most of my days :)

I'll post pics of the soup and chocolate matzahs. The soup's a frequently-requested favorite by friends, and it's easy. I will say it's one of the few things I "cheat" on by incorporating some kosher boxed ingredients. It's one of those half 'n half recipes that personalizes what might otherwise be a straight-from-the box meal. One day I'll experiment with it enough to get the same flavor with only homegrown ingredients, or at least that's my goal!

Have a great day, all! I'll be busy for the next couple of days, but hope to get some pics and recipes here to show :)

French Documentary About Monsanto

I'm reposting this, since for some reason the first time I posted it, after reading Path to Freedom's journal entry linking there.

This issue is a bundle of issues, but they affect us all.

One of the things I see at the heart of this is that it is unethical at any level to patent life forms. Monsanto is one of many companies riding the surge of opportunities that opened up when the U.S. ruled that life forms can be patented.

See article here: http://www.actionbioscience.org/genomic/crg.html#primer
DNA Patents Create Monopolies on Living Organisms

We need to have that overturned. Simply stated, those who own life forms can control life. It doesn't take a genius to understand that no one, no entity, should be able to patent genetic material and manipulate its availability to the world. Those who DO that control the food supply. They control medicine. They control healthcare. They control the ownership of body tissues, parts of the human genome, and ultimately humans.

If this sounds like science fiction, it is...or was until it was passed into law.

This HAS to be reversed NOW.

Monsanto is a case study on how out of hand this can get in our present history. It's not a far reach to imagine how this would be wielded in the hands of another Hitler. If you think it's that far of a stretch, just count back the years. The Nazis had their scientists, and their opportunities, too...and they did their jobs very very well. It' s not enough to tolerate the abuse of science, of scientists who breach the ethical simply BECAUSE THEY CAN. Anything can be touted as an impetus to "further research."

Let's NOT buy into the assumption that the end justifies the means.

I do not buy into the recent noise about the curing of our modern health plagues by use of mad science. We're simply trying to cure the symptoms and the consequences of what "modern science" thought as an improvement over the "old ways of doing things." When mass production and "modernization" sold the public the mindset that anything new was better, thousands of years of time-tested wisdom was summarily dismissed as antiquated and behind the times, and substituted with the tools of mass production and industrialization. It was progress! It was innovation! It was a revolution! It's produced a way of life that is anything but sustainable. It substituted chemically-altered substances for natural foods. It used food as a tool to manipulate the economy, crops that can be regulated for political purposes here and worldwide. It helped feed a push to get the entire family into the workplace in order to afford all the modern "conveniences" once thought to be luxuries, but now thought to be essentials. It created a disconnect of the public from any basic awareness of their food sources, and it is this ignorance upon which today's large corporations such as Monsanto are cashing in.

Just read the news articles on a basic Google search of the word Monsanto. Did you know Monsanto in the past has blatantly forged documents, repeatedly?? If they didn't have the evidence to support a "case," they made up the document and forged the signatures!

From this article http://www.nelsonfarm.net/issue.htm
Monsanto didn't have what it needed to take its case to court-- a document stating that he knew better than to save the seeds. So, company agents forged his signature -- even misspelling his name in the process -- on a technology agreement. The agents later admitted to forging (long prior to the lawsuit) his and many other farmers' signatures, Osman says.

In response to this document, which remains in the court record, Monsanto attorneys argue that there was an implied contract, he says. In other words, they say that it's common knowledge that Monsanto doesn’t allow growers to save its seeds. To prove this claim, they produced a grower redemption form stating that Stratemeyer had received free pesticide spraying on 50 acres. Problem was, it too was forged.


They have made face-to-face threats to small farmers and business owners accused of some breach of Monsanto SEED CONTROL. They trespass privately-owned lands to "gather evidence"...of what?? Of nature itself...doesn't ANYONE know that bees and other pollinators actually POLLINATE crops, which means the crossing of fence boundaries. Monsanto has the unmitigated gall of attacking farmers and accusing them of stealing PATENTED MATERIAL...i.e. Roundup-Ready "Monsanto seeds" because some bees cross-pollinated nearby crops.

WHY is this just a sideline issue in our news?? Why is it not on every front page?? Why is THIS not considered terrorism? This sort of an attack on the U.S. food supply is not considered some degree of "national security"???

I'm not minimizing what's going on in the world regarding terrorists who target human victims with blow-em-up weapons. I support sovereign nations' ability to defend themselves against attack.

Why, then, are we not fighting the forces INSIDE our country who would attack our food supply, our freedom to GROW A GARDEN, or to even have a free voice to protest such attacks. Did you know Monsanto has been strong-arming dairy farmers who advertized milk as being Bovine Growth Hormone-free?? They are still fighting to neutralize the verbage, demanding their share of "fair labeling." Monsanto is the creator of the Bovine Growth Hormone, and they are the drug pushers to our nation's cattle industry.

From the article at http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080413/BUSINESS03/804130318/-1/LIFE04
One-third of the nation's dairy cattle continue to be in herds treated with the hormone, which goes by the trade name Posilac, according to Monsanto.

In another article entitlted: Don't Ask, Don't Tell: The Story We Weren't Allowed to Air, by Jane Akre http://www.purefood.org/rbgh/akrepart1.cfm#Don't%20Ask This article summarizes two journalists' firing by Fox News for reporting on this issue.

The truth is, only Monsanto really knows how many U.S. farmers are presently
using their recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH). The company
persistently refuses to release sales figures but claims it has now become
the largest-selling dairy animal drug in America. The chemical giant's
secretive operations were part of what made the story of rBGH such a
compelling one for me to explore as an investigative reporter.

There are many other issues besides the Bovine Growth Hormone and Genetically altered seed control...issues such as anti-trust violations, Agent Orange VA benefit denials, false reporting of public health risks and suppression of accurate information, and those are just to name a few.

My purpose in including these on this site is not to slander a business, but to raise awareness about what I believe to be issues that impact ALL U.S. consumers. At risk is our current generation, and our children.

It's not hard to start reading about any of these...they're as close as a basic Google search!

Here is a link for more information about Monsanto-related concerns. And here is their page where you can send a fax to Monsanto itself protesting specific unethical practices.

Ok, here's a reposting of the French documentary. If it successfully loads, it's about an hour and a half long, and worth every minute of watching. It may take a few minutes to load, but if you have any problem viewing it, you can go to their page to view it here

Monday, April 14, 2008

More About Monsanto

Inspired by the great folks at Path to Freedom's recent article, I'm really really worried and am now looking online for news about Monsanto. There is an awful lot. I'm going to be putting clips here as I educate myself on these issues, to share as my eyes are opened.

These are HUGE issues that CANNOT be ignored. These stories tell like a crime novel...but they are documented.

And these are the people suing small farmers and bullying anyone who investigates or demands accountability.

Breakfast With "Culture"

Wow, I slept soundly for 9 hours!!

With the work schedule hours changing weekly from nights to days and then back again, I have NO Circadian rhythms going on...arggghhh. That makes it really difficult for me to sleep more than 3 or 4 hours before my body wakes up because daylight is streaming through the cracks in the miniblinds, birds are singing, or in the dark waking up wondering if I missed setting my alarm clock...ha! I NEEDED that sleep :)

Both R and J worked late nights/early morning, so I'm the only one up.

This was the first day I had enough homemade Kefir to try making a smoothie.

Some folks have asked me where I got my starter cultures, so here's the link to http://www.happyherbalist.com/

We found them on a web search, and they've been very helpful to us via their 800 number as we got things started here with their cultures. We'll be using them again when we venture into the world of Kombucha, unless someone has a better personal recommendation.

Back to breakfast... I got out the stick blender, fished a few frozen black cherries from a bag in the freezer, added a drizzle of honey, and blended the whole thing up for an easy breakfast. I was wondering what the consistency would be, since I haven't tried it before with the homemade stuff, only with the storebought. Ah, just me and the alien fermenty yeasty living milky culture thingies. I still think fermentation is mad science of the best sort. That's why I didn't brush my hair yet before making it...to get that whole Einstein scary hair vibe working.

It was light and very pleasant...(the smoothie, not the scary hair)




But then...



Awwww...

Ok, it was delicious. Let's hear it for the fer-men-tay-shee-yone!


And yeah, I did try the same little number with the Caspian Sea Yogurt...you know, the yogurt that requires NOTHING but starter plus milk, all in a covered glass jar, set out overnight and then it's ready? Remember, J has been eating/drinking that stuff like there's no tomorrow.

My still-fickle taste sensibilities have not yet fully adjusted to some of the fermentation-ish textures, and the Caspian Sea Yogurt, unadorned, has something about its texture (very slick) that makes its "mouth feel" strange to me as is.

SOOOOO, I did the little fruit and honey number, and blended up some. I still didnt get it right, though. I think the batch I pulled from the fridge got a little snazzy with the fermentation and was a bit over-fermented...the only difference being that ideally it should have a mild flavor, and this had a slightly yeasty flavor. But it was drinkable. The texture was MUCH improved by blending!

So, lesson to self with the CSY, make sure it's not over-fermented, and experiment using it in more blended things, such as making some homemade Ranch dressing (no chemicals), or a blended vanilla "sauce" to pour over fruit. I'm still trying to get the hang of it, while my husband chugs the stuff like a Mongol and declares it the elixir of the steppes...lol!

Biggest Plus with the Caspian Sea Yogurt: Health improvement is VERY noticeable, and it's EASY to make, and it's EASY to make large quantities after the first week of getting the starter going.

Well, as much as I'd love to continue writing about yeasty fermenty things, my attempts to CLAP and summon my dishwashing genie have failed, so I'd better get to it!