Monday, May 28, 2012

Late May Update

Several things are going on these days at the homeplace.

Who will win?  The Bermuda or the pumpkin??  Midday droop in the heat, at night they perk up again.

1.  First, I totally messed up my blog one night
when I was gingerly pressing buttons on the new options section of Blogger.  It completely ate my old blog format, and I couldn't get it back!  Talk about a mini-stroke, whew.  It's not that I wasn't ready for a change -- in fact I thought the blog was long overdue for a facelift (it's sort of the same urge I get periodically to rearrange the furniture).  I somewhat saved things by opting for a basic template, and it moved things to the page you see now, but it won't let me post a title picture that lines up with the title text, and so on.  And I just don't have time to sweat it, so there it is for now... (le sigh) :)

Purple tree kale starts, needing to be tranplanted to a permanent location

2.  I started herb school!
(you can probably tell from my past post).  I have saved for over a year to enroll in a program that would ultimately school me in herbalism and let me practice as a professional herbalist.  There are actually a lot of programs and schools out here in the internet/distance learning world to choose from, and there are also a lot for those who are fortunate enough to live in a location near a school for hands-on classes.  I'm not near such at this point, so my options pointed me in the direction of distance learning, which is also the best fit for my work schedule.  After feeling quite torn, I did finally make a selection and chose the East West School of Herbology.  It was neither the least expensive program out there, nor the most expensive.  I love the fact it combines the teachings of western traditional herbalism with that of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and also Ayurveda (from India).  Those latter two herbal traditions date back literally thousands of years, and though it's been a challenge to get my head around the basic theory, it's been nothing but enjoyable and interesting so far!

Gopher tortoise burrow now actively what, we know not!  Could be the tortoise, or a snake, or small animal...

3.  Time management.  Whew,
this has always been one of my lesser virtues, but thankfully I carved time for school out BEFORE starting.  Even so, I find it a challenge to juggle time well (it's just my personality), so this will remain a weekly exercise for me.  I want to give enough time to my husband, to my spiritual life, to my daughter, to keeping up my house/household, be upbeat and engaging to my clients, help my clients problem-solve, and make good progress with the herbal school.

Moringa, resprouted from winter stumps, in need of a good cutting to feed the neighbor's chickens!

3 1/2.  Yard neglect.  
Why are we not better at being Type A??  We are soooo not Type A, I think we're so much further down the alphabet we're one step above having a pulse, ha!  The in-ground plants still thrive on benign neglect, or they bite the dust.  The plants we have that do survive are pure champions.  Any pics you see are of plants that have the endurance for Florida's fickle climate...and us!   And we continue to love them and learn from them.  And yet sometimes neglect them.  Oh for The Farm so we can have them as our main job  (dreamdreamdream!)  It WILL include raised beds.  Bermuda weeding is for the birds.  (and I have to say, the birds don't do a very good job at it)

Mulberry bounced back, fruited, and now has blotchy leaves.  Hmmm... house needs powerwashing and weedeating.  Blah blah blah...spring chores becoming summer chores!

4.  The fat girl has remained fat.  UGH.  
I am not unenlightened, I am uninspired, when it comes right down to it, at least inspired long enough to make the right habits ACTUAL habits for the longterm.  Don't get me wrong...I have practiced many of the changes I've learned and written about, especially the simplicity ones.  But the ones that remain are ones I have not yet solved.  It boils right back down to the garden.  Because we are not growing enough of our own food (yet), I buy it at the store.  We need to eat more produce daily and I can only buy organic produce (with the exception of carrots) an hour from here.  Budgeting has not been the problem it once was...I've learned how to do that, got it down pat.  But fatigue plus going into the kitchen without organic veggies there to greet me as I make dinner, well let's face it, it's the missing ingredient as to why our eating is out of balance, and it's more my fault than anyone's since I'm the main cook around here.  Thankfully for the herbal training, diet HAS to be the main healing factor or nothing else counts.  So it's time to put the issue of what's on the table back on the table.  Again.  Again again again.  Here's a video whose concepts of nutrition are what Jack and I agree we should aim towards.  (see below) We both have chronic health conditions that are stubborn, and losing weight remains our greatest challenge. Of all the challenges we have met in our married life and in our "homesteading learning curve," most of the things we tested we either fully adopted as permanent changes, adapted to what we did and didn't find practical, or enjoyed experimenting with until we found what did and didn't work for us. But our health, especially our weight, remains a constant, and an unavoidable issue if we're to have each other for many more years.  

5.  The land search continues.
Mutter mutter mutter.  Ah, Florida and its never-ending challenges.  Oh, how much we've learned.  Long back story which shall be told, someday.  Mutter mutter mutter :)

6.  Oh yeah, there's a sister blog,
Herbin Living . I made it mainly for jotting notes about the herbal training or things that go on and on about mostly that subject.  I didn't want to overwhelm the main blog here with only herb things, so there we go.  The link's on the sidebar at the top.  Not much there, yet, as I'm only on the second lesson and there's been a ton of reading.  I love reading!  As yet, there's much more of the reading than writing...

Homemade soups, still a weekly staple...and no complaints :)

7.  The future of this blog, well.  
My writing here's been spotty at best.  It's not that there's nothing to write about, but sometimes the living of life necessitates stepping back from the extras, and being on the computer is actually not a daily occurence for me at this point.  It's a shared computer, my outside work has picked up, my energy has NOT picked up, and...well blah blah blah.  But I like having the blog as a touchpoint and a reset button where I can back up and contemplate just where we're still headed and if we're on or off track.  Or just to let off steam, post something fun or interesting, or decompress emotionally.  So neglected or not, for now it will remain.  Any ideas you have about any portion of the blog whatsoever are always appreciated!

Another shot of the moringas taking off.  They're twice this height today, and ready for cutting.  They make great nurse plants in this 90s and above Florida heat.

8.  Outside work...
Yes, last year I began work as a CNA (nursing assistant).  My setting is in home health working with seniors, and each assignment is different, some lasting only one visit and others working out to be regular visits over the long term.  It's been both challenging and rewarding.  It's also something I'm not sure I want to do the rest of my life, but it's something I'm glad I CAN do.  I've learned so very much in this last year and this is my second year at this now.  Oh, the perspective I've gained from my elderly clients!  This economy looks very different when viewed through the eyes of someone who already lived through the Great Depression, WW2, and many of life's big ups and downs.  That in itself could be several books.  As could the personalities of our elders who have survived this many years..their quirks, humor, ways of dealing with change, their fascinating personalities.  Boy, do I appreciate our seniors, and boy does our society NEED their input and to appreciate this rich treasure we have but seldom engage!  As far as my longer-term goals, I still want to do some writing, have our own farm that in some or many ways incorporates the alternative food plants and herbs, and be an herbalist.  I'm also fascinated with psychology and Judaism.  And a lot of other things.  Where this will all end up, I'm not sure, but I feel for the first time in a long time my path has more direction.  And whatever the path includes, it's whatever God wants that I care about none of it happens without prayer.  And it must include my Jack because I can't imagine any of it without him...he's holds my heart, and any goals are partnered with him.  We have different projects and abilities but the same path.  I love that man!

OK, gotta head back to the books...that's the update.

I'd LOVE to know what's going on your world!  Please forgive me for the long lapses in which I no longer get to leisurely peruse other blogs out here as much as I once did.  It's not for the lack of caring or interest!  Please say hi if too much time has gone by and I've missed something important in your life!

9.  Oh yeah, and lastly, this site is copyrighted.
Someone stole years of my blog writing and I could never get Blogger to intelligently deal with the issue.  So the text is still out there, as well as my photos.  So love it or hate it, please don't take my text or photos...or you'll get put in the same Cussing Box as the VA, politicians, and people who think their way is the only way!

:-D  Robbyn

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mystery Weed

What weed is this?

It is found growing beneath trees in my area, and along disturbed roadsides.  The yellow colors in the picture are not flowers or part of the plant color, it's just the backlit sunlight.

If anyone knows this plant's identification, I'd love to know!  At this time, they are just under two feet tall in height and seem to grow together in groups.  Our location is southwest Florida.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Professional Herbalist Program

Cracking open the new my "herbal study corner"

The New Arrivals!  East West School of Herbology Books Are Here!!

A big announcement in our world is that over a year of saving, dreaming, delightful internet searching, praying (and friends praying, too!), and slowly collecting relevant books has resulted in AT LAST being able to enroll in the East West School of Planetary Herbology.  Thank you, God...I am SO grateful!!  

There are really good herbal distance-learning programs available online for folks like me who have no schools to access locally.  It was hard narrowing down the choices to just one, but in the end I really liked the books I had read by the East West school's founders Micahel and Lesley Tierra, who have combined the best of western herbalism with both traditional chinese medicinal herbalism and ayurveda.  The merging of the three major herbal "paths" allows for tailoring herbs very specifically to the approach both empirical and intuitive.

The coursework is said to take up to two years to complete, give or take, and it is fascinating and challenging.  Much guidance is provided in various venues so that a student can learn within the framework of a richly diverse community and excellent sources.  As the coursework progresses, there are written assignments to complete as well as hands-on projects with (what else??) the herbs themselves (FUN!!!).  I've created a sister blog Herbin Living in which I'll chronicle this process specifically.

The course I've enrolled in is the Professional Herbalist course, and I don't know where exactly this road will take me, but I do know it's on the right path.  It seems like most of my life my studies and career choices were so often derailed from where my natural inclinations lay because of various reasons...raising a child, waiting for a husband to finish schooling, financial necessity, lack of resources or transportation, life crises, and so on.  So many jobs I have had in the past couple decades have been necessary but far afield from what I recognize as being "me."  The longer I continue in such, the less energy I seem to have to devote to the things that I'm actually good at, am energized in doing, and feel a real sense of purpose in.  Being able to go to herbalism school is truly a dream realized, because it helps me remember who I am, aligns me with a strong sense of purpose, helps me develop skills and knowledge I believe is truly necessary for myself and others, and brings me great JOY!!

I ask God to bless this effort for His glory, since He is the one who allowed this time to come about and brought this amazing opportunity to fruition.  I hope anything I learn is not for my benefit alone, but for the benefit of many, to return to a wiser design of natural health and healing and to regain knowledge and thereby regain independence from some of the mainstream "advancements" that have derailed sound traditional practices.  I do not want to be caught up in any arrogance of a "one true way" in the study of healing and plants, but to acknowledge the wealth of human experience that preceded our generation, and to give it its due respect, and to learn from it.  We have lost in large part the wise elders at whose feet we could sit and listen, and their stories and experiences disappear if there is no one left to value them and apply their lessons to our own day and age.

As in so many other areas of my life, Jeremiah 6:16 continues to ring true:

Thus says the LORD, "Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls..."

I am delighted that God does not leave us directionless when we come to the highway and have many routes  from which to choose.  I treasure seeking and asking for the ancient paths and treasure the fact there IS a good way and that it does bring contentment.  

YHVH, please bless this effort!

I'm delighted that this day has come...thank you for sharing in the joy of a dream realized, and a new "old" path begun!!

:-D   Robbyn

Saturday, May 12, 2012

It's Kefir Time

Making Homemade Kefir : It couldn't be easier
Newly-cultured kefir is poured through a fine mesh strainer to separate the "grains" from the liquid. kefir.  The kefir  can then be drunk, refrigerated for later use, or bottled and covered at room temp for additional time and further fermentation.
For the last three months or so, we've been enjoying homemade kefir, a yogurt-like probiotic-rich cultured milk drink. Thanks to my dear friend, Deb of Kultured Karaite, I was able to begin with some of her robust live kefir starter "grains," which got us off quickly to a great start.

"Grains" are a mother culture with a lumpy gelatinous appearance and clean tart yeasty fragrance, not truly grains.  You only need one tablespoon per quart of fresh milk.  They quickly grow until there are plenty to pass along to friends!

The process is really simple, and the end result is a fermented product that can rejuvenate depleted digestive systems by rebuilding the "gut," the intestinal flora and healthy bacteria (the necessary ones which combat pathogens). It works its wonders without any fuss at room temperature when fresh milk of any description (the less processed the better) is poured into a clean glass container, live kefir "grains" are added, and a permeable piece of natural fabric or coffee filter is secured over the top to keep unwanted pests out but allow for air contact.
The kefir "grains" look almost like large-curd cottage cheese.  Here is some kefir already separated from the "grains," and the picture shows the grains being placed into clean jars waiting for fresh milk to be poured over...for more kefir.  The cycle is easy, and the end results are delicious!  Kefir has a tart, smooth taste and consistency, and the more it ferments the tarter it becomes.  Refrigerating the finished product halts the fermentation, and it's delicious by itself, sweetened with stevia, fruit, or other sweetener, or used in many other ways.  Jack loves it with stevia and vanilla extract.
We leave the fermenting kefir at room temperature for 24-48 hours, then stir it gently, pour and strain it (separating the "grains" from the liquid"), and pour up the finished kefir. The finished kefir is kept in glass jars in the fridge, and the "grains" are added to another quart of fresh milk and left (covered with coffee filter rubber-banded across the top)on the kitchen counter to ferment. And this process is repeated over and over as we drink the kefir and the grains ferment each time. It's truly EASY. I tend to make a mess, but so few things are needed, anyone can do this: I use a rubber spatula for stirring and easing the liquid through the strainer, a fine plastic mesh strainer, a glass Pyrex measuring bowl (any glass bowl will do), and wide mouth canning jars for the finished kefir and for the fermenting milk.

I don't tolerate most milk products well, yet the homemade kefir has not upset my digestion like regular milk does. We will experiment with reducing to organic skim milk, but at the moment are using whole pasteurized milk. The kefir grains LOVE being fermented in cream :) They will work with not only dairy but with nut milks, and there is a way to culture sweetened waters, juices, and things such as coconut water. At the moment we're keeping things simple...a daily straining of the grains, setting aside the newly-made kefir, and pouring up fresh milk over the "grains" to ferment again...a very easy and repeatable system, and healthy. There are many claims to the benefits of drinking kefir due to its high content of multiple probiotics. The evidence of its restorative actions in the digestive/intestinal tracts were enough for use to begin making and using it daily. We'll report back here as we note positive changes from its use. Kefir is very satisfying, filling, and has not caused us any digestive problems. Do you make kefir, do you drink it, and what benefits have you noticed as a result? I'd love to hear about your own experiences with it! .