Spring Beekeeping Workshop

Spring Beekeeping Workshop
Demonstration Hive

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Chanukah Recipes

Because tonight is the first night of Chanukah, here is my recipe for potato latkes, English style:


Take out of your root cellar ONE LARGE ONION and TWO MEDIUM POTATOES (red-skinned is best but any will do).

Peel and cut the onion into large pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor.  Using the metal cutting blade, pulse the processor to chop the onion into pieces that resemble cooked rice, or slightly larger.  Be careful not to overprocess because you don't want to have a wet mush.  Scrape all the onion into a glass mixing bowl.

Scrub the potatoes and peel off any blemished skin.  Leave the remainder of the skin on and cut the potatoes into eighths.  Place in the food processor bowl and pulse as for onions, again being careful not to overprocess.  Mix with the onions in the glass bowl.

The onion and potato should be in small dryish pieces like rice.

Sprinkle the mixture with one teaspoon of GROUND SEA SALT and a few grinds of BLACK PEPPER, to taste.

Beat ONE EGG and add to the mixture.

Add one half cup of MATZO MEAL and mix well.

Refrigerate for an hour.

Heat CANOLA OIL in the bottom of a heavy frying pan.  With moistened hands, form patties, no more than one half inch thick, with the latke mixture and fry gently in the hot oil, turning to brown both sides.  Cook slowly to make sure the insides of the latkes are cooked.  Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

In true English style, serve latkes with MALT VINEGAR and SALT.  Don't worry about your blood pressure - it's just once a year!  The vinegar is a great antidote to the grease and is why we Brits use it with our fish and chips (chips are fries, btw - not those thin things that come in puffy bags, we call those crisps).

Latkes are MUCH better this way than sweet with sour cream and applesauce.  But you can have them that way, if you insist! 


Here's my recipe for a wonderful Pumpkin Bisque I make at this time of year:

Olive Oil
1 small pumpkin, quartered and cooked in the microwave, 2 pieces at a time for about 6 minutes until tender.
1 large Onion, chopped
1 medium to large potato, scrubbed and diced
l large carrot scrubbed and sliced or chopped
l celery stalk and leaves if you have them, chopped
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
1 tablespoon of dried oregano

          (I always have these vegetables and herbs in my winter storage that I've grown.  If you are        
           buying them, please look for organic produce whenever possible)
4 cups water
28 oz can of diced tomatoes (I usually have frozen roasted tomatoes from the summer garden but purchased cans are ok if they are organic)
one half cup Braggs Amino Acids
cumin seeds
turmeric
paprika
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot and saute the onion, potato, carrot, celery and garlic for about 5 minutes until the onion is translucent.  Sprinkle the herbs and spices over vegetable mixture and stir well.  Continue to cook and stir for a few more minutes to release the flavor of the seasonings.

Add the water, tomatoes, and the Braggs Amino Acids (available in natural food stores). Bring to a boil and add the pumpkin that has been scooped out of the skin.  Add about one quarter cup of the pumpkin seeds to the pot, as well.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes over a low heat, stirring.

In the meantime, put the remaining pumpkin seeds in an oven-proof baking dish and roast at 350 degrees until they are completely dry and golden brown.  Use a metal spatula to loosen from the bottom of the dish and when cool, break apart with your hands and store in a glass jar.

Allow to cool and then puree in batches in a blender.  An immersion blender does not work well for this because the seeds do not get pureed unless processed in a conventional blender.

Reheat and serve piping hot with a few roasted seeds on the top as a garnish.


I WOULD LOVE TO KNOW HOW YOU LIKE THESE RECIPES!




Monday, November 26, 2012

NOFA Winter Gathering


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cynthia to speak at Annual Gathering of CT-NOFA, Dec. 5, 2012

The Connecticut Chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association is holding its Annual Gathering of Organic Land Care Professionals on December 5, 2012.  There is an outstanding lineup of speakers at this event and Cynthia is honored to be included on the program to deliver a presentation on Permaculture and its relevance in Organic Land Care.

Cynthia will teach about the fundamentals of permaculture, and some of the specific practices that have application to Organic Land Care.

Please visit the CT-NOFA website for more information and to register for this exciting event that features key speakers from all over the Northeast.

Here is a link to that web page:  http://www.organiclandcare.net/education/annual-gathering

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What we are facing now

"No generation has ever faced a more daunting agenda than those who will become adults in this decade and the next.  They will have to do what we, the present generation, have been unable or unwilling to do: stabilize world population, reduce the emission of greenhouse gases that threaten to change the climate-perhaps disastrously, protect biological diversity now declining at an estimated 100-200 species per day, reverse the destruction of rainforests (both tropical and temperate), and conserve soils being eroded at a fast rate.  They must learn how to use energy and materials efficiently.  They must learn how to use solar energy.  They must rebuild the economy in order to eliminate waste and pollution.  They must learn how to conserve resources for the long-term.  They must begin the great work of repairing, as much as possible the damage done to the earth in the past 200 years of industrialization.  And they must do all of this while reducing poverty and egregious social inequities.  No generation has ever faced a more daunting challenge."
                                                                  Dr. David Orr and Dr. John Todd
                                           Vision Statement from their paper on Ecological Design Arts


"A new era in human development is not going to arise because government decreed it, or because a few companies change their strategies.  It will happen because a diffuse and diverse critical mass of people and organizations decide to live and act differently as parents, as professionals, and as leaders, as suppliers and as customers, as citizens and as entrepreneurs, as friends and as colleagues, as teachers and as students.
                                                                   Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Stove Workshop Rescheduled

Because of storm "Sandy", we have re-scheduled the following workshop:

"Building Outdoor Cookstoves & Grills with an Intro to Earth Ovens" will not be held on Sunday, December 2, 2012, from 10:00am to 3:00pm.  The fee for this class is $65.00.  Bring a packed lunch.

During this workshop, we will demonstrate how to build an outdoor rocket stove from easily found, inexpensive materials.  Also, we will be building an outdoor wood/charcoal grill.  You will also see our Cobb constructed earth oven and learn how to build one yourself. 

THIS IS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN THESE SIMPLE TECHNIQUES THAT ALLOW YOU TO BE MORE INDEPENDENT AND RESILIENT.  IF YOU LOST POWER LAST WEEK, THEN YOU KNOW HOW HANDY IT WOULD BE TO BE ABLE TO COOK YOUR MEALS.  ALSO, YOU COULD COOK THE FOOD IN YOUR FREEZER IF IT STARTS TO DEFROST, EXTENDING THE LIFE OF THE FOOD AND ELIMINATING WASTE!

Please visit www.connsoil.com and click on Register Now to download a registration form.  Mail the form to PO Box 365, Bethlehem, CT 06751.

Hope to see you.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Introduction to Permaculture

Workshop scheduled for Wednesday, October 17, 2012, from 7pm-9pm:  Introduction to Permaculture.

Lecture and discussion at the Center for Sustainability.

Follow this link for more information and registration form:

http://www.hgconnsoil.com/Pages/Register.aspx

Deep Observation of the World Around You: Part 1

When working with your backyard garden, a whole farm or forest, or whatever size parcel you may be dealing with, the first step to creating something wonderful is to first understand what is there to begin with.

Step one begins with knowing where you are starting from, in as complete a way as possible.  With an open mind, I begin with observing what is.  I don't impose my wants and desires onto the landscape at this stage, I simply let the land and its ecology "speak" to me.  This is not a "woo woo" activity any more than Thoreau's deep immersion in his Walden landscape was, or Aldo Leopold's lengthy observation of Sand County, either.

As humans, it is natural, common even, for us to become excited about projects we want to start and we plunge in without planning.  Often, these ideas come from books or magazine articles of beautiful landscapes or gardens that others have created and that may represent the latest in fashion about what is cool to have to enhance the value of your home or property.  We may rush to duplicate these ideas before examining what our property has to say to us, what special niches, attributes, or detractions, our immediate environment has.

I've heard that visual artists, like sculptors or woodworkers, allow the nature of their medium to reveal itself as they create their art.  I suppose, since everything in our universe is energy, everything has a true nature.  Eckart Tolle and Deepak Chopra, among others, tell us we have a true nature that we could experience, if only we could sit still long enough in silence and wordlessness.  I believe the environment around us, including the land, also has a true nature which will be revealed to us over time with careful and deep observation.

My property

This might involve looking closely at trees to observe details easily missed when rushing by on energetic walks.  Subtle changes in the bark of trees, or the growth of lichens, mosses, or mushrooms, can inform us about the health of the trees and the whole forest growing near us.

Client's land in Southington, CT.

Digging down into the soil with a shovel or, better yet, a soil auger, can reveal many things about the type of soils we are dealing with. 


Checking the color of the soil against a Munsell Soil Color chart is a highly informative piece of information.

 

Also, standing and looking at where things are: where is water, drainage ways, hills, swales, forest, open land, special features, microclimates, sun or shade?

When we slow down and open our senses to see what is in front of us, and all around us, over many days, months, or in some cases, even years, we will start to really understand the true nature of the land and the ecosystem we are working with.  Of course, I am not suggesting we wait years before creating gardens or farms.  However, deep observation should certainly be done patiently and thoroughly before we plunge into any new endeavor. 

When designing with Permaculture principles, we may design separate zones of activity.  The first zone would be physically closest to our living spaces and these areas are easiest and quickest to observe and assess.  As we move out from these zones to those areas further away from our homes and into wilder less manipulated areas of land, we can take more time to get to know the ecology of those zones and understand the forces of nature at work there.

 
 
I'd like to hear from any reader who has gone through this process of trying to deeply observe their own environment, or a place you have worked with as a conservationist or designer, or just a place in nature that you like to go to.  What have you learned by observing and how has the knowledge changed your ideas, or not, as the case may be?  Please post a comment to share your experiences.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My Generation

I was thrilled to be featured on a PBS special called "My Generation".  Here is the link.  There are 3 segments - all good - and I'm the second one

 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nV5ZV0mnr4I

Monday, October 1, 2012

Today, I have decided to share some of my poetry with you.  Yes, I do try to write poems.  Some are not so good and I won't be sharing those!  Some are ok-ish, at least I like them, so I'll share them with you just for fun.  Here's one I wrote after reading Hayden Carruth's beautiful poem, "Naming For Love",

NAMING ROCKS

            (After Hayden Carruth “Naming For Love”)

 

There are bedrock dips and strikes.

There are upthrusts and troughs

where deep loam forms,

given time, wuthering, heat, water.

 

There are weathered rocks

that crumble and flake, or,

changed by heat and pressure,

rock that is brittle and dense.

 

There are grey somber rocks.

pink rocks, white or greenish rocks.

translucent rocks.

There are opaque rocks.

 

There are cinder cones, lava cones,

and composite cones.

 

There are folded rocks

and fissured rocks.

Those are only two of the flexures in rocks.

 

Wherever you are, you can bet

there are rocks, some like Gibralter,

and those too deep to see, smoothed,

cushioned over with hills of sand and gravel and soil.

 

There are hoodoos and xenoliths,

turbidite and welded tuff,

all kinds of stuff to stand on.

But there are faults and sinks you have to watch out for.

 

 Here is another fun one that I like.  It's about a heron that comes and fishes at our tiny little pond near our house.  It's a real pond, not a lined garden pond, and it has all kinds of fascinating creatures in it,
 
GREAT BLUE
 
A ballerina-legged bird
often stands near our pond,
sheltered by black pussy willows.
 
Her body puffs out
like a fringed tutu
and plumes of stringy
hair-like feathers
 
fan from head and neck
with a rakish air.
A fleshless, skeletal leg
raises elegantly,
 
bending at the knee
as the heron steals along
stalking frogs
or fish.
 
Statuesque among
the pickerelweed,
she sees us
and glares with disdain
 
down the slender supercilious beak.
With a deep squat she unfolds
uncanny long wings and
emits a throaty, guttural
 
Thwack! thwack! during lift-off.
Circling over our house,
she glides through
the trees towards
 
the shallow water beaver pond
and a new fishing place.
 
 
 
I would love to hear what you think about my poems and if you'd like to read more of them in this space.
 
 
 
 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Workshops next week

Next week I will be teaching Edible Wild Plants on Wednesday, October 3, from 2pm-5pm. 

Also coming up soon, my husband, Stuart, who is a professional photographer, is offering a 3 class series on Introduction to Photography.  You may wonder why photography is taught at a Center for Sustainable Living - simple!  Permaculture is all about deep observation, so being able to record your findings and your creative efforts on the land, is an important tool in designing sustainable living environments.  Stuart will teach you the basics of handling a camera and getting the most out of this tool.  These classes are scheduled for Oct. 9, 15, and 20.

On October 10, I will be giving a lecture on how organic food helps us have a healthy planet and restore the threatened planetary life support systems.

Edible Wild Plants is offered again on October 13.

Following these are:

Introduction to Permaculture on October 17, Mushroom Logs and Hay Bales on Octobe 28, Outdoor Cookstoves on November 4, Constructing Cold Frames on December 2, and Constructing Hoop Greenhouses on December 8.

Please check my website for class descriptions and registration form:

http://www.hgconnsoil.com/Pages/Register.aspx

Friday, September 14, 2012

Just give me the "Moon and Stars"



  When I was a little girl, my Mum used to sing a song to me about wanting the moon and stars to play with or the sun to run away with.  Little did I know that this variety of watermelon, called "Moon and Stars" would be the first type of watermelon to grow to maturity in my Connecticut garden.  I have planted several different types over the years but none matured to harvest size and taste in our growing season here.  Until the last few years, our average first frost came on September 15, but recently the seasons have been much longer.  In 2011 our first frost didn't arrive until mid-October.  No frost or cold weather this year yet.

We opened the first of 2 mature watermelons, weighing in at 27 lbs, last night and were amazed and joyful at the pink color and sweet, sweet taste of our very own watermelon.  We have harvested several honeydew melons this year that were nice but not super-sweet, so we were especially thrilled to have this choice melon.  Funny thing is we planted it in crummy soil off to the side of our field where it became overgrown with weeds and forgotten.  It wasn't watered at all during this exceptionally hot and dry season we had.  I almost fell over the melons, not realizing they were even there!
"Moon and Stars" Watermelon, an heirloom Amish variety from Missouri

 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Edible Wild Plant - Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

Purslane (also known in some places as Pusley) is a common weed of gardens.  Easy to identify, the plant grows sprawling over the ground with prostrate, somewhat fleshy, stems.  There is variation between plants growing in different regions, however, mine have reddish suculent stems that are filled with a clear juicy sap.  The leaves grow in a rosette and are small and also somewhat fleshy, or leathery.



As you can see in this photo taken in my garden, the leaves are less than one inch wide and vary in length up to about one and half inches.

There is quite a bit of information about the nutritional value of this plant on the internet.  Authors, Thomas S. Elias and Peter A. Dykeman state that purslane is "One of the best wild shoots cooked or in salad" and that it is "high in iron" (Edible Wild Plants:A North American Field Guide To Over 200 Natural Foods, Sterling, 1982).

Both stems and leaves are gathered for food preparation.  The more mature stems are usually cooked, or preserved by pickling.  Tender leaves and stems may be eaten raw.  Seeds are collected, dried, winnowed and ground for use as an addition to baked goods.  All parts of the plant may be blanched and frozen for keeping through the year.

I have only used the leaves and stems fresh, so far.  Here is a simple salad that I make using purslane and also the tight, immature flower buds of garlic chives:

Harvest and clean the purslane stems and flowers.  Break the stems into small pieces.  Make sure to examine the leaf rosettes carefully for little insects that may be hiding inside the leaf rosettes.  To be sure to clean properly, immerse the plant parts in a salt water bath for a few minutes.  Insects will be killed and usually rise to the surface of the water.  I still recommend examining the plants carefully to remove any foreign matter.  Rinse twice in cold water.

Place all the leaves and stems in a salad bowl and toss in a handful of garlic chive flower buds.



You may also add any other mild-tasting salad vegetable you desire.  Cucumber is a good choice, also cooked kohlrabi or anything else that is mild.  The purslane is quite strong tasting and acidic (somewhat lemony) and the garlic chive flowers are strong also with - guess what? a garlicky taste!  So, cucumer is a good base for those flavors.

I make a dressing of one third olive oil, two thirds apple cider vinegar, with salt and pepper. Whisk together briefly to make an emulsion and toss into the salad.  It's a very simple and fresh tasting salad for a summer evening.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Edible Wild Plants - Lindera benzoin

At a recent class here at the Center for Sustainable Living, participants tasted drinks and foods made from wild plants that are growing prolifically around this region, are easy to find and identify, and are not easily confused with anything that will make you sick.

One of my favorite wild shrubs is the Spicebush (Lindera benzoin).  A medium sized shrub that grows profusely in shaded wetlands and moist shady woods, Spicebush has an irregular shape, in other words not a uniform or neat shape, but spreads out or up in different ways, usually under taller trees which, I think, contribute to its growth habits.  It grows into the spaces left by the bigger trees.  The bark of the main stem and twigs is rough and has raised whitish dots called lenticels that are noticeable to the naked eye.  At this time of year (August), bright green, pointed berries about 1cm long, are growing along the stems.

All parts of this plant are strongly aromatic.  A spicy, citrusy smell is immediately evident when the leaves are rubbed, the twigs or berries are scratched or broken.  This useful, edible plant makes a delicious, slightly sweet, slightly astringent infusion which I've been drinking liberally during the extremely hot, humid days we've been experiencing recently.  The leaves are a bit tough at this time of year to be eaten as a raw salad green, but probably can when young and delicate in the spring.  They also could be shredded and steamed and added to a mix of other cooked green leaves.  The berries are useful as a spicing agent.  I suggest drying them first in either a low oven, out in the sun, or in a food dehydrator.  When thoroughly dry, grind them in a spice or coffee grinder and store in glass jars.  Use as you would allspice or other pungent, sharp-tasting seasoning.

To make the tea, gather an armful of stems with leaves, any time from spring to fall.  Make sure toWASH all plant parts carefully, inspecting the leaf surfaces and especially the lower sides where plant eating insects like to hide.  I usually double, or triple wash all plant material whether from the garden or the wild.  Pour the water around plants instead of wasting it down the drain.

When clean, break the twigs, ripping the bark as you snap them to expose more of the aromatic interior.  Tear the leaves roughly.  Throw it all into a large pot of  boiling water.  Bring back to the boil.  Turn off the burner.  Using tongs or wooden spoon, dunk the spicebush under the water.  Cover the pot and leave it to sit for at least 2 hours.  The longer the infusion, the better the taste.

Strain the leaves and twigs through a colander, catching the liquid of course.  Allow to cool and decant into glass jars or insulated thermos.  Refrigerate and drink over ice.

The "tea" is fine just as it is, but you may choose to sweeten it a little with your favorite sweetener - agave, honey, stevia, or plain sugar.  If you do choose to sweeten it, add the sweetener when the tea is still hot. The flavor is delicate, but not bland.  I would love to hear how you like this unusual beverage.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Wendell Berry's Rule #17

As always, with thanks to visionary writer, Wendell Berry who wrote these provocative "Rules for a Sustainable Community" that are presented here as excerpted from the poster of the "Rules" published by Yes! Magazine:

"A sustainable rural economy will be dependent on urban consumers loyal to local products.  Therefore, we are talking about an economy that will always be more cooperative than competitive."

So, we come to the end of the 17 rules.  With this last one, I see that Mr. Berry is stressing the connection between different communities and different people in a region.  It is the rare person or family that can make it completely on their own.  I, for one, wouldn't want to.  I like people (usually!) and I like the idea of an economy that is based on things that can be grown, raised or made in rural areas supporting people in cities and suburbs while those people engage in activities that create value-added enhancements to the rural lifestyle.  Regional micro-financing of small businesses, will depend, in the future, on everyone re-investing in their own communities and not so much on the global mega-corporations.

Explore sustainable investing through mutual funds such as credit unions like the Permaculture Credit Union (www.pcuonline.org) which will provide capital for small projects such as solar systems, energy efficiency upgrades or rainwater catchment systems.  Or check out Green Century Funds, a mutual fund which considers the actions and ethics of companies selected for the fund.

PLEASE NOTE, I am not a financial planner and cannot specifically recommend any particular fund or credit union.  My objective here is to raise the IDEA of sustainable financing and investment and NOT to give a financial recommendation.

In this final Rule #17, we see that a sustainable community cannot operate in a vacuum.  A sustainable economy must be one where we are interdependent on one another, our neighbors and our neighboring communities, first, before become dependent on other parts of the world.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Wendell Berry's Rule #16


As always, with thanks to visionary writer, Wendell Berry who wrote these provocative "Rules for a Sustainable Community" that are presented here as excerpted from the poster of the "Rules" published by Yes! Magazine:

"A rural community should always be acquainted with, and complexly connected with, community-minded people in nearby towns and cities."

Just as it won't be worthwhile if our own households are the only sustainable ones in our community (after all, if our neighbors are hurting, suffering, struggling, how will we in good conscience live happily in our sustainable homesteads?), we must reach out to neighboring communities and work together to create large oases of sustainability that are resilient to whatever comes from climate change, oil shortages, general natural resource shortages, weird weather, whatever.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Wendell Berry's Rule #15


As always, with thanks to visionary writer, Wendell Berry who wrote these provocative "Rules for a Sustainable Community" that are presented here as excerpted from the poster of the "Rules" published by Yes! Magazine:

"Always be aware of the economic value of neighborly acts.  In our time the costs of living are greatly increased by the loss of neighborhood, leaving people to face their calamities alone."

I believe people in my little town would say we are doing pretty well on this matter.  However, I think it is an important topic to raise especially with more frequent and more severe storms happening.   Wouldn't it be a good idea to know exactly who is living alone, may have mobility or other health issues and could be very isolated in a crisis.  In a small town like mine, there are many people already thinking about these issues - the volunteer fire and ambulance crews, for example, and church members, the senior committee members and others working in various capacities at town hall.

But, perhaps, a simple neighborly act is all that is needed, sometimes, to help a lonely or confused neighbor out of a tough spot.  It's what extended families always do for each other, but nowadays, many people live far from their families and friends and neighbors become their support system.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Wendell Berry's Rule #14

As always, with thanks to visionary writer, Wendell Berry who wrote these provocative "Rules for a Sustainable Community" that are presented here as excerpted from the poster of the "Rules" published by Yes! Magazine:

"Look into the possible uses of local currency, community-funded loan programs, systems of barter, and the like."

Wouldn't it be great if you could exchange your product or service for what you needed, from someone in your own community, without using regular money?  Well, the idea is springing up all over the place.  The nearest example to me is in the Bershires of western Massachusetts.  Go to this website below for lots of information on what people are doing and how it all works.

http://www.berkshares.org/

Also, here's a good book reference on the subject:

"Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity," by Michael Shuman (Chelsea Green). 

It's not so much about direct barter as about looking for sustainable and local ways to invest.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Wendell Berry's Rule #13


As always, with thanks to visionary writer, Wendell Berry who wrote these provocative "Rules for a Sustainable Community" that are presented here as excerpted from the poster of the "Rules" published by Yes! Magazine:

Account for costs now conventionally hidden or "externalized."  Whenever possible, these costs must be debited against monetary income.

What does this mean? How are costs hidden in an economic sense?

The easiest way to think of this is to think of a manufactured product that comes from raw materials that are shipped, probably from one country to another, to a manufacturing plant.  In accountancy, the cost to the environment of the planet of extracting the raw materials, is not taken into consideration.  So, for example, the effects on the land, the air, the water and ultimately to the people in nearby communities and the world at large, of clear cutting forests or strip mining or mountaintop mining, which are extreme examples of negatives effects of materials acquisition, are not figured into the cost of production.

This means that, although there is a huge cost in terms of health, safety and welfare of all living beings on the planet by these actions, the monetary cost to repair (if that's even possible) is put off to some indeterminate time in the future to be borne by future generations.

Eating wild harvested fish that are being caught in vast numbers that boggle the mind, contributes to the profit of fishing corporations or even individual fishing families, but the crash of fish species populations in the oceans lead to devastating disruptions of the oceanic ecosystem with far reaching results for ocean health and therefore climate and biological health of the planet.

None of these types of costs are shown on the debit side of a corporations bookkeeping ledgers. What Rule 13 is asking is to have these costs clearly shown and the profits of a corporation should reflect these costs in an honest way so that profits made from the product should be reduced accordingly to repair the damage created by the companies activities.

By buying locally produced goods and foods we can more easily see the results of the businesses actions and choose whether the products meets our needs of living sustainably and in harmony with our belief that the human race must choose options that do not harm the planet so that we all may live (the human race in concert with other creatures).

Friday, June 8, 2012

Wendell Berry's Rule #12

As always, with thanks to visionary writer, Wendell Berry who wrote these provocative "Rules for a Sustainable Community" that are presented here as excerpted from the poster of the "Rules" published by Yes! Magazine:


"See that the old and the young take of one another.  The young must learn from the old, not necessarily and not always in school.  There must be no institutionalized "child care" and "homes for the aged."  The community knows and remembers itself by the association of old and young."

This "rule" is quite thought provoking and not immediately, to me at any rate, obvious in its application. 

As for "no institutionalized homes for the aged" I have some doubts about that.  I think every situation is different.  I just returned from visiting my Mom in England.  She is 94 and Dad passed away last year after a very long number of years declining.  Mom took care of him at home.  With a large family of children and grandchildren nearby, she was never alone, for very long.  Visitors came and went.

After Dad died, Mom was naturally lonely.  She WANTED to go into assisted living and she would not have wanted to move in with one of my sisters.  She absolutely loves where she is living, and I must say, it's like at 5 star hotel. She does not need nursing care, just not to have to clean, cook, laundry etc.  She is very happy, says she is, often.  Loves her room, says all the staff are lovely and take good care of her and she has friends and entertainment.  The extended family are only minutes away from the facility and come and see her every day.

Surely, that is a good arrangement.  But I do agree, that "sticking" our old people somewhere against their will is a frightening thing.  In England, the National Health Service emphasises keeping people in their homes with professional care, if needed, rather than nursing homes.  And it is actually more economical to do so. 

We all know that an honest conversation is needed in this country about health care in general and care of the aging, in particular.  The conversation we are having is not an honest one because it is dominated by the needs of insurance companies and other segments of the capitalist economy.  Within our own communities, perhaps this conversation could be had at the local level and creative ideas come out.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wendell Berry's Rule #11


As always, with thanks to visionary writer, Wendell Berry who wrote these provocative "Rules for a Sustainable Community" that are presented here as excerpted from the poster of the "Rules" published by Yes! Magazine:


"Make the community able to invest in itself by maintaining its properties, keeping itself clean (without dirtying some other place), caring for its old people, teaching its children."

Should we be looking more deeply at our how we "clean" ourselves?  There is more to this than we might think at first glance.  This could relate to personal hygiene and the products we use and their effect on local water.  It could relate to how we clean our clothes and homes, with similar concerns.

Also, as a community, how do we clean our roads, public buildings and dispose of waste?  Should we assess the waste stream leaving our town or neighborhood and develop better ways of re-using the discarded materials in local manufacturing or soil building? 

As an example, every week my husband and I bring home as much discarded cardboard, and sometimes thick wads of discarded newspaper, as we can handle from the local "dump" (actually a waste transfer station).  We strip off the plastic packing tape or staples and use the cardboard or newspaper as mulch to smother areas of ground we want to convert to fertile food growing areas.  Over the cardboard we spread leaves, hay, grass clippings or other organic material which hides the cardboard and speeds up the soil building process at the same time.  Since we are farming on shallow soils over bedrock with lots of loose rocks and stones, this process allows us to easily and cheaply develop fertile soils in which we grow most of our fruits and vegetables, all of our flowers and herbs, and now mushrooms too, for the whole year.

Even where the soil is naturally good, it needs to be replenished with rotted organic matter in order to maintain fertility and avoid erosion.  A regular compost pile is a good thing to do as well, but most households cannot make the quantity of compost needed to produce large amounts of edibles on a regular basis.

Mulching the soil has other benefits too.  Mulch keeps the soil moist, maintains a more even temperature and smothers weeds.

If everyone in our community would do this one thing - using the waste cardboard and newspaper, our community would be cleaner, require fewer truckloads of waste to be transported "somewhere else" and would be on the path to future food security by building healthy soils.  Teaching our children these basic skills; growing surplus food to feed older citizens who may not have access to fresh grown produce of their own, fulfills other aspects of Mr. Berry's Rule #11.  I am sure there are many other examples that people can think of.

If readers of this blog can think of other ideas, please share them in the comments area of my blog.  This is a challenge to all of you out there!  Go for it.

This is just one example of a cleaner community.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wendell Berry's Rule #10

As always, with thanks to visionary writer, Wendell Berry who wrote these provocative "Rules for a Sustainable Community" that are presented here as excerpted from the poster of the "Rules" published by Yes! Magazine:

"Make sure that money paid into the local economy circulates within the community for as long as possible before it is paid out."

Supporting your friends and neighbors in the community where you live, by doing business with them instead of the big box stores or on the internet, keeps the money in the community longer.  This allows the local economy to be more resilient and less susceptible to the ups and downs of the wider economy. 

This concept works even better when the materials for locally produced goods are also produced locally. 

These days, it is hard to do all your business locally, but starting small and finding out about local producers of things you need, is the first step.

In my town, our Transition Initiating Committee, aka the Celebrate Bethlehem Committee, is developing a master list of all business people in our town to include producers of primary products such as locally grown food, to producers of secondary products, e.g. yogurt or cheese from local dairy, and non food things as well, such as woodworkers who produce craftsman products from locally harvested wood; service people who provide a service from medical, dental, legal, housecleaning, pet sitting, etc.  The list is a first step in a plan to promote buying local within our own community.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Wendell Berry's Rule #9

As always, this comes from Wendell Berry, insightful, honest and truthful writer who has inspired many Americans to work for a fairer society and thoughtful agricultural policies: "Strive to increase earnings (in whatever form) within the community and decrease expenditures outside the community".

Nowhere is it more evident how far society has moved away from a rich, thriving and interdependent community of people, than in an international airport.  I am writing this at Boston's Logan Airport while waiting for my flight to England, which has been delayed 5 hours!  If I could, I would stop flying altogether because of the carbon footprint, the need to eat, at least some, awful food produced who-knows how and who knows where, and being surrounded by harried, cross people and shops selling trashy stuff made not in my community or even, mostly, in my country.  But, in my case, having most of my family living in other countries, it would be a painful decision not to travel sometimes.  Should I not travel to visit my 94 year-old mother, at least a couple of times a year?  We don't think about these things when we are in our younger years, getting ourselves established in careers and families of our own.  Then, it is too late and we are stuck.  I hope that younger people now might think about this when striking out on their lives.  There is value in staying closer to home, working to build and improve the communities we already live in and helping to make them vibrant, economically resilient places to live where people can work to make a living and not a killing, while fostering relationships and protecting the natural systems we depend on.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Wendell Berry Rule #8

Wendell Berry's Rule #8 (taken from a poster published by Yes! Magazine www.yesmagazine.org):
"Strive to produce as much of the community's own energy as possible".

All Mr. Berry's "Rules" are so eminently sensible, why aren't we already doing these things?  Could it be that we have allowed ourselves to be entrapped by the advertizing industry that persuades us we need to let go of the old, sustainable ways in favor of buying things from big corporations?  Now, I'm not against corporations, I'm only unhappy with how some corporations do their business and what they are selling us.  We do not need, for example, processed cereals in boxes "fortified" with nutrients that were removed from the original grain during processing! Much of the western world is now addicted to these boxed cereals.  Even the box and paper bag the product is wrapped in makes no sense!  A waste of resources.

We can save money and be healthier and affect the planet in better ways by not buying these things. Why can't we start with the grain itself, cook it, soak it, grind it and then prepare delicious foods that are much better for us and have a lighter impact on the planet?

So, in this way, I think we all are aware how addicted we have become to lots of ingenious products that companies have devised, advertized to draw us in .  "Packaged energy" i.e. energy, or fuel, delivered to our homes automatically through municipal pipelines that we don't even see or think about, or delivered like liquid propane to tanks near our homes, or gasoline into our car tanks, perpetuate the illusion that energy is sort of free for the taking, harmless, in fact.

Well, most of us know now that this way of heating and moving ourselves is hugely expensive.  I'm not talking money here.  I'm talking the overall cost to the planet of even using these fuels.  Fossil fuels.

Mr. Berry's Rule #8 is admonishing us to develop fuel sources in our own communities and we can do this to a great extent.  Geographical, climatalogical, geological and hydrological characteristics of our region play a part in what mix of renewable energy sources we can use.  Solar energy is available all over the planet.  When the sun is gone, we are gone anyway. 

Communities are getting together to make plans for the energy descent that is very likely coming in this century.  That is, the fossil fuel energy most of us rely on.  Without it, where will our food come from?  Where will our heat come from?  Where will our transportation come from?  There are ways to address this but it won't work if we wait till the last minute.  In America, it seems to me, as a society we are in a rush and trying to get ahead and not making plans but reaping short term benefits instead.  Some communities like Bloomington, Indiana, for example, has made a well-thought out and comprehensive plan to prepare for the day when large amounts of inexpensive fossil fuel is no longer available.

Even if this day doesn't come in our own lifetimes, it will come because fossil fuel is finite.  Isn't it better to have a plan in place and know what to do?  Future generations will thank us for this.

To see what Bloomington, Indiana has done check out www.bloomington.in.gov/media/media and for other examples and help on this subject:  http://transitionwestmarin.wordpress.com/projects/energy-descent-plan/

I would love to know what other communities are doing or have done to prepare for the change and hope that any readers who know of towns, cities, neighborhoods or co-housing groups, addressing this issue, will let me know I can feature their progress on this blog.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wendell Berry Rule #7

Wendell Berry's Rule #7 (taken from Yes! Magazine www.yesmagazine.org)

"Develop small-scale industries and businesses to support the local farm and/or forest economy".

What does this mean, exactly?  Gather a group of neighbors, friends, and other interested people to brainstorm small commercial ventures that could use products that are locally obtainable.  Wood products, wool, other plant based fibers, food crops etc.  The businesses don't have to be on the scale of a Ben and Jerry's, but could be viable ventures, and provide sustainable comfortable livings for one or more families.

What it doesn't mean is exploiting the forests - clear cutting, or otherwise ruining them, - or industrial agriculture that creates soil compaction and erosion, contaminates water resources and creates persistent weed and pest problems.  It means using our natural resources, our forests and agricultural areas responsibly so that the products can be harvested FOR EVER!  This is what is meant by SUSTAINABLE!

I will be exploring examples of these types of businesses, in the future.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wendell Berry Rule #6

With thanks to Yes! Magazine for publishing Wendell Berry's Rules for Sustainable Communities:

"Develop properly scaled value-adding industries for local products to ensure that the community does not become merely a colony of the national or global economy".

Blue Heron

While we were eating breakfast on the deck this morning, a Great Blue Heron flew in and landed at the back of our small pond and carefully made its way along the back shoreline, under overhanging trees.  This has happened before.  In honor of the event, I am sharing a poem a wrote a few years ago entitled Great Blue:


GREAT BLUE



A ballerina-legged bird

often stands near our pond,

sheltered by black pussy willows.



Her body puffs out

like a fringed tutu

and plumes of stringy

hair-like feathers



fan from head and neck

with a rakish air.

A fleshless, skeletal leg

raises elegantly,



bending at the knee

as the heron steals along

stalking frogs

or fish.



Statuesque among

the pickerelweed,

she sees us

and glares with disdain



down the slender supercilious beak.

With a deep squat she unfolds

uncanny long wings and

emits a throaty, guttural



Thwack! thwack! during lift-off.

Circling over our house,

she glides through

the trees towards



the shallow water beaver pond

and a new fishing place.








Tuesday, May 22, 2012

WINECAP MUSHROOMS ARE GROWING!

Last fall I wrote about our first attempt at spreading mushroom spores and growing Winecap mushrooms and Shiitake mushrooms.  Well, I'm thrilled to say that our very first Winecaps sprouted today, May 22, 2012, after a couple of days of heavy rain and warm temperatures.  The photographs are in the sidebar. 

Winecaps are officially known as Stropharia rugosa annulata and are a very pretty mushroom, especially when young.  They feature a white stalk with a port wine colored cap and are grown at ground level outdoors on woody layers of plant material such as wood chips, hay, or straw.  Because of this, there is a possibility that other species of mushroom may appear where the Winecaps have been seeded. After all, there are a gazillion fungal species out there, just waiting for the right habitat. 

We obtained our mushroom spores from Field and Forest Products, (www.fieldforest.net) and on their website is an excellent instructional video to enable accurate identification of the Winecap so as not to accidentally harvest and eat a wild invader that may not be edible. 

These mushrooms are exceptionally easy to grow, pretty in appearance and have a delicious and delicate flavor.  This being our first harvest ever, we cooked them simply- sauteed in olive oil with sliced garlic, and topped with a little salt and pepper.  Next time I plan to try them sautted in butter. 

How thrilling it is to harvest one's own MUSHROOMS!  As a long time fruit and vegetable grower, I'm not new to eating my own harvest, but tonight, there was a real sense of accomplishment in eating these lovely little Winecaps.  The rest of the dinner consisted of a sweet potato and a mixture of fresh harvested greens - Red Russian Kale, Rapini and Cima di Rapa.  As soon as the garlic and mushrooms were done and removed from the pan, I tossed in the greens and sauteed them down to a wilted state, sprinkled a little salt and black pepper over and, voila, a wonderful home grown meal that was picked only minutes before cooking.

We're waiting for our shiitakes now but don't expect them to emerge until late summer/early fall.

Wendell Berry Rule #5

Wendell Berry's Rule #5 tells us to "Understand the unsoundness of the industrial doctrine of "labor saving" if that implies poor work, unemployment, or any kind of pollution or contamination".

 (Excerpted from the essay "Conserving Communities, " from "Another Turn of the Crank," by Wendell Berry 1995 and taken from the 17 Rules poster published by Yes! Magazine)

Here is a wonderful short video introducting Permaculture to the world with founder, Bill Mollisson playing himself.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_LUpWflNtk  If you can't reach the video from this link, the film is called "In Grave Danger of Falling Food" and is easily reached by googling that title.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Wendell Berry Rule #4

"Always supply local needs first.  (And only then think of exporting their products, first to nearby cities, and then to others.)"

In our Transition Town initiating group, we are discussing ways to enhance our community's resilience and self-reliance.  By community, we mean our town, and then our neighbors in the surrounding towns.  What good is shipping products made here, to places far away and then shipping foreign items in?  The Transition model invites communities to explore exactly what is needed for a self-reliant community in the areas of water, food production, energy, transportation, fiber and building materials, and other necessaries.  Then, making a master plan for the community would take all producers and available resources into consideration.  Any shortfall could be enhanced by careful planning and perhaps sharing or exchanging resources with other nearby communities.  Then, if there is excess, that could be shared with the world at large.  This type of master plan is often referred to as an "Energy Descent Plant" with the expectation that the world is entering an era of less plentiful fossil fuel and that our basic life supports - food, water, fiber etc. - may have to be produced much closer to where they will be used.

In the United States, the most comprehensive "energy descent plan" of which I'm aware was prepared by the City of Bloomington, Indiana.  Try this link to access it:  http://bloomington.in.gov/media

Also, to read about other energy descent plans visit this:  http://transitionwestmarin.wordpress.com/projects/energy-descent-plan/  and above all - HAVE FUN!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Wendell Berry Rule #3

"Always ask how local needs might be supplied from local sources, including the mutual help of neighbors." (Wendell Berry).

To write as Wendell Berry does must take all his dedication and most of his time because I have realized, after 60 years, that creativity - writing, music, painting, any form of creative work, involves a kind of retreat from life as it goes on around us.

There's a constant choice to be made for anyone interested, as I am, in life and the marvellous activities one can fill it with.  I haven't figured out how to make these choices yet.  I am still learning.

Busy-work is so easy to do and leaves you with a sense of being important, somehow - you've probably had many instances of the "sorry, gotta go, I've got so-o-o much to do today" syndrome.  Cleanliness is next to godliness, we are told and what a bear-pit of a trap that idea is!  Keeping busy by cleaning and tending our domicile is looked upon with approval by the society we live in and, in truth, I like to live in a clean (ish), well-ordered home, even if the cost in achieving it is great.

One thinks of Buddhist and Catholic monks and nuns obediently doing their chores and being in the present moment.  I get close to this present moment thing when hanging wet laundry on the washing line that stretches from the back northeast corner of my house, across the deck and to a tree at the edge of the woods.  It is the kind of line you can pull along as you hang the clothes.  With my head tilted up to clip the clothes pegs over the washed clothes, I can see up through strong, heavy branches of the sugar maple growing straight and very sturdy next to the house.  If I'm lucky, a pair of chatting geese will honk their way up the nearby ravine, the top of which is near where I'm standing.  Or, a large sharp-shinned hawk will glide silently from a tree, swooping over the ravine to see what breakfast might be. 

This is the same territory where the barred owl caused an uproar among the smaller songbirds two evenings ago at dusk.  The ensuing fracas brought us running out to see what was happening and to see the owl, on one of those sturdy maple branches, swivelling her head to spot incoming small birds dive-bombing her, intent on driving her awy.  For a few precious seconds she rested her perfectly round, perfectly black, bottomless eyes on us in a moment of wild connection.  Species to species.  Then she flew off for a less congested neighborhood with fewer nesting songbirds intent on protecting their nests from the predator.

But, I digress from choices that must be made on a daily basis, and that, is just my point.  I can hang my laundry and do my garden and be surrounded by infinitely fascinating nature that is nothing short of thrilling.  But when other apparently necessary tasks intervene in the name of keeping a modern life, they are sometimes a burden and a distraction from achieving anything that is meaningful.

Creating something, a garden, a poem, a meal, or a handicraft, in any way that resembles art, needs my full concentration and is my life, really.  Set aside to be done in snatches of time between dealing with clients, paying bills, exercising, going to work, driving here and there, keeping up with people who mostly don't share my desire to not have to know what the daily scandal is on the network news, and what Chinese manufactured things are on sale at Target or Walmart - all these take me away from peace and serenity and the energy to create something different.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Wendell Berry's Rule #2

Rule #2:  Always include local nature - the land, the water, the air, the native creatures-within the membership of the community.

So often, we take action thinking only as far as the legal boundaries of our site of activity.  In Connecticut, where town rule is the legal entity and not county wide rule, we limit our thinking to the municipal boundaries.  Limiting our minds this way leads to actions that may adversely impact natural resources beyond those borders.  A leaking septic system may not affect our own well, but certainly will affect water quality downstream from the problem.

Also, pesticides applied to our own lawns affect the water and soil far beyond our own borders.  Likewise in agriculture, poor soil management practices and  long-term usage of huge amounts of pesticides have created a monstrous loss of topsoil from our whole continent. 

To see the results of this narrow thinking, look at satellite photos of the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico.  By googling this you will find many photographs that show the result of not including nature, local or otherwise, in our thinking.

On our own properties and in our own lives, we have many opportunities every day to consider the results and affects of our actions on our immediate environment, and ultimately the planet.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Upcoming Workshops

The Center for Sustainable Living announces the following upcoming workshops where you can learn skills to become more self-sufficient and less dependent on industrial food and chemical landscape methods:


Organic Lawn Care, 16 June 2012, 1pm-3pm,  Fee $20

Building and Using Rocket Stoves, 23 June 2012, 1pm-3pm,                      Fee $20 

Composting and Soil Health (Compost, Compost Tea, Soil Food Web)
 7 July 2012, 1pm-4pm,             Fee $25

Putting Up the Harvest (Canning, Drying, Freezing), 29 July 2012, 1pm-3pm,   Fee $20

 Edible Forest Gardens and Perennial Edibles, 4 August 2012, 1pm-4pm, Fee $25

 Edible Wild Plants, 11 August 2012, 1pm-3pm   Fee $20

Building and Using Cold Frames, 8 September 2012, 1pm-4pm,
Fee $25

Pre-registration is required for all programs.  Deadline is one week before the class.  Please visit www.connsoil.com to print out a registration form.  Please answer all questions on the form and use one form for each separate registrant.  Contact information and e.mail address can be found at the website if you wish to ask any questions about the classes.  Directions to the Center for Sustainable Living will be e.mailed during the week prior to the class.

Edible Wild Plants you can pick in Connecticut now

Many plants that are considered weeds and generally unwanted, undesirable, aggressive, invasive, alien and otherwise greatly annoy us for their ubiquitous nature and tendancy to pop up where we don't want them, ARE EDIBLE AND VERY NUTRITIOUS!

The four shown here are very much in evidence now where I live in Connecticut, and I suspect other northeast states and beyond.  According to "Edible Wild Plants" by Thomas S. Elias and Peter A. Dykeman, there are no poisonous look-alikes.

GARLIC MUSTARD (Alliaria officinalis or petiolata) is seen growing pretty much everywhere in partially shaded or shaded areas.  It is considered an invasive species in Connecticut and, indeed, does tend to take over and crowd out native wildflowers.  Pulling it out whenever you can, is probably a good idea.  It is hard to eradicate it though, so you might as well enjoy the taste and nutrition while you are trying!  To identify this plant is easy as it is one of the earliest plants to grow tall in the early spring and the leaves are very distinctive.  The stems emerge with early leaves that are rounded and scallop-edged.  As the stems grow taller and older, the leaves become distinctly heart shaped and even more triangular.  Flowers are white with four 1/4" long petals.  The leaves, when crushed, have a distinctive garlicky aroma and taste and can be eaten raw in salads, or cooked with other foods as a flavoring herb. 

DANDELION (Taraxacum officinale) is a very common plant that everyone knows for it's bright yellow flower that dots lawns.  Why anyone wants to spray poisons on their lawn to get rid of them, is a mystery to me.  Personally, I prefer to go out and dig them or pick the leaves and flowers to eat.  The leaves can be used raw like any leafy green salad ingredient.  Flower buds may be sauteed in butter or olive oil and seasoned with any herb or spice you prefer.  Flowers may be dried and added to tea mixes or dipped in batter and fried as a side dish.  A traditional soda drink was made in the British Isles from about the 13 Century onwards.  This drink, known as Dandelion and Burdock, was still very popular when I was growing up there.  Recipes may still be found on various websites.  The Burdock component is a common plant - Arctium minus - but is not the same as the dock species I describe below. For these sarsaparilla-like drinks, it is the roots of both the dandelion and burdock that are used.

 BEDSTRAW (Galium aparine) a common garden "weed" that might as well be enjoyed while you are getting it out of the garden. I find it growing in a variety of habitats, both sunny and shady, in my gardens. This plant is not overly aggressive and has weak stems often leaning on other nearby plants, or trailing along the ground.  Although I do make an attempt to weed it out of gardens where it interferes with my main annual vegetable crops, I tend to let it do it's thing in the wilder parts of my property. Leaves are narrow and pointy and arranged in groups around the stems, usually 8 together in what is known botanically as a "whorl". Cut the young stems and leaves and steam them just long enough for them to become tender and wilted.  These wilted leaves and stem combine well with the next plant, nettles.

NETTLES (Urtica dioica) this is one of several nettle species which are all edible.  These plants are widespread and especially like moist ferile soils in disturbed areas along the edges of woods and near trails, stream banks, roadsides and vacant lots.  I have it growing near my garden mixed in with the blackberries and near the edge of the woods near the barn.

 Most people know this plant from having encountered its nasty stinging hairs which leave a temporary dermatitis which can be painful but short-lived (unlike poison ivy which goes on for weeks on my skin). The stinging substance is formic acid.  If you do encounter the stinging hairs, grab the large leaves of the dock plant (Rumex spp.) described below, and rub the leaves vigorously over the stinging skin.  As kids, my friends and I knew this home-remedy and relieved the painful stinging many times when playing outside around the neighborhood.

Wearing  gloves to harvest the stems, I usually cut them and bring them into the kitchen where I use scissors to snip off the leaves right into a colander.  After washing the leaves, there are various uses for them from cooking delicious soups, steamed greens, teas, nettle pesto, and quiches, etc. to making useful products like hair rinses and tinctures.

I attended a workshop on nettles given by Mira Nussbaum at the 2011 Annual Summer NOFA Conference.  Mira had several delicious concoctions for us to taste including tea and quiche.  She also recommended nettles for salad dressing with other herbs.  She brought, also, a hair rinse she had made using apple cider vinegar as a base.  To this she adds nettle roots, sage leaves, rosemary and dock root.  These should be completely submerged in the vinegar and left to infuse for 24 hours or longer.  After straining out the plant parts, she then mixes the infusion 50/50 with water.  It is a lovely, natural hair rinse that leaves your hair clean and shiny.  For her salad dressing, she uses the exact same mixture except adds olive oil instead of water.

Mira also makes a tincture by filling a container with nettle root and pouring a grain alcohol such as vodka over the roots to submerge them.  The mixture should sit for 6 to 8 weeks.  When finished, a dropperful may be taken 2-3 times a day as a supplement. 

To make nettle tea, use dried nettle leaves.  Boil for 10-15 minutes and then let sit overnight in the refrigerator before straining.

Another interesting use for nettles is cordage.  Native peoples have used the stems of many plants to create fiber which is then used for many purposes.  Mira demonstrated how to remove the long fibers from the stems of the nettle and twist them together in her fingers to create a string, or cord.  I have never tried this and am not sure I could actually do it.  If I ever do, you all will be the first to know!

DOCK (Rumex crispus), known as sour dock, curly dock or yellow dock, these plants are common in disturbed soils and so are often found along roadsides or vacant lots.  They are large plants with large curly-edged leaves.  Young leaves are best as older ones may be too bitter.  Some people may have a sensitivity and experience a stomach upset if too much of this plant is eaten at one time.

HERE IS A RECIPE for a delicious spring salad made from Garlic Mustard, Nettles, and Dock:

Combine the leaves of the three spring greens.  Wearing rubber gloves to protect from the nettles, wash the leaves thoroughly and rub the nettle leaves to remove the stinging hairs. Drain and spin in a salad spinner and place the leaves in a large salad bowl.

To make a delicious dressing, saute a thinly sliced red onion in 1/2 cup of olive oil until just tender.  Add 6 slices of vegetarian bacon substitute, cut into small pieces, and continue to saute and stir the onion and vegetarian bacon until the onions are soft and starting to change color, about 5 minutes.  Add half a pound of crumbled tofu to the pan and stir to coat the tofu with the oil.  Remove this mixture to a bowl and add 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons of honey, salt and pepper to taste.  Mix this all together gently and pour over the leafy greens.  Toss the salad gently and top with crumbled Stilton or other blue cheese.

REFERENCES:  "Invasive Plant Identification," The Nature Conservancy, Connecticut Chapter and USDA, NRCS; "Edible Wild Plants," Thomas S. Elias and Peter A. Dykeman (www.sterlingpublishing.com); Mira Nussbaum, project_dirt@hotmail.com.

Wendell Berry, Poet, Essayist, Visionary

Wendell Berry's large body of writing is hard to read.  Hard, because he tells the truth and it can be gut wrenching.  I recently had to put down an essay because my eyes were blurred with tears.  Wendell Berry writes with personal knowledge of land and agriculture and what we, the humans of the 20th and 21st centuries, have done.  Ever since studying agriculture at the University of Connecticut in the 1970's and waking up, myself, to the destruction caused by industrial based agriculture, and corporate control of the planet's resources, I have been on a mission to change things.  All I've really accomplished has been in my own life and to influence a few friends and people who have listened to me. Even most in my own family don't really listen.  Wendell Berry has a superior gift to write and affect a large number of people.  I think people are waking up.  It's slow, but I know we are reaching a tipping point.  But is it too late for the planet?

Here is #1 of seventeen rules given by Wendell Berry, entitled "Seventeen Rules for a Sustainable Community"

Rule #1:  Always ask of any proposed change or innovation:  What will this do to our community?  How will this affect our common wealth?


Wendell Berry wrote this poem for The Progressive Magazine. Food for thought:

1. How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.

2. For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.

3. What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy.

4. In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.

5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security,
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.