On thoughts...

Photo by MAV

My package from Mountain Rose Herbs came today and I have all equipment at hand now to make my salve.  However, it's been gloomy this past week and probably will continue to be for the majority of this week.  Hoping it'll get sunny soon so I can use the sun's solar rays to make my infused herbal oil.  I've decided to use comfrey leaves for the infused oil.

I haven't been to the farm in two weeks now.  It's sad but there is nothing I can do right now but focus on school and find a balance between school, work, and doing projects that keep me grounded.  I've finally found the motivation to cook whole foods again.  I've been subsisting on basics such as legumes and eggs or "healthy" processed foods because I've been pressed for time or I'm too exhausted by the day's end to cook.  It's nice to finally create a meal with more than two ingredients!  It eases my mind and allows my body to slow down, work with my hands, use my senses and savor the moment... and eat wholesome, healthy food to boot.

I ordered seed catalogs eons ago and they all just came in at the same time at my doorstep.  Overwhelming considering I haven't even set up a proper garden plot yet, much less contacted the head of the community garden where I plan on growing veggies.  I hope I'll have time to set this all up in about two weeks after my midterms.  I plan on waking up super early on weekdays (ha!) or on my free time on weekends to survey soil fertility and set-up needed irrigation (which, I think, is already set up?).

I drank a yarrow herbal infusion two nights ago and I have to say it tastes absolutely disgusting.  Albeit very bitter, I drank it straight (with much will power) knowing it would be more beneficial than with added sweetener.  The taste is akin to fermented, floral-y alcohol.  Its benefits, however, outweighs its disgustingly bitter taste.  Here are some of the benefits as quoted:

Yarrow is often put in the category of "bitter herbs" because of the powerful, volatile oil it contains. This oil, called Achillein, together with tannin (tannic acid), gives a stimulating, astringent, and bitter edge to the flavor and action. These properties, along with many others, act on the liver to strengthen its efficiency and stimulate bile production. Yarrow also functions as a strong antiseptic and viral inhibitor. Yarrow's action as an astringent means that it firms and tones tissues, including the tissues of internal organs that might have become flaccid, inefficient, or tired out by abuse from unhealthy habits and/or a toxic environment. While Yarrow tones the tissues, its stimulating property also rehabilitates the body's systems into renewed alertness and immunity. As an antiseptic and antiviral agent, Yarrow kills many harmful microorganisms upon contact. Its volatile oil collects and absorbs many impurities (I think of it as gathering the toxins into little packets) and then, somewhat like a detergent, breaks down these "corralled" toxins into forms much easier for the body to eliminate without the usual illness symptoms. In many ways, Yarrow's inhibiting action is similar to an oil spill cleanup job. (Source) 

It's true.  After drinking yarrow tea before bed, I woke up the next morning unlike my normally sluggish self and felt alert and ready to conquer the day!  I'll have to see if this works again (perhaps it was mentally driven or I don't know).  But I'm very trustworthy of the efficacy of herbal healing, so I'm leaning more on the tea itself as the result of my mental alertness than on my psychology.

I have many more updates yet to post in the coming days  so stay tuned!

Okay, off to bed now with my bitter tea~

p.s. thoughts to add

  • thinking of doing a detox (know of any good ones?) my detox limit is 3 weeks. last years detox (using the clean program) only lasted 2 weeks but hoping to go all the way this time. 
  • discovered the joys of natural building and cob houses
  • WWOOF'ing in North Carolina at a farming collective this summer.  Anyone want to join me?  I have a friend who might accompany me temporarily, but I'm still in search for a WWOOF'ing buddy.  I'm thinking a one month stay but that is all yet to be determined.
  • my agriculture photo project will soon be under way.  spring is the perfect season for this project!  


Vegan lemon vanilla cookies with raspberries

I made these cookies the other day with success.  The recipe yielded about 25 small cookies and they were gobbled up immediately.  I'm pretty sure I ate about half of these cookies in the first day.  The key ingredient in this recipe was definitely the lemon zest; without it, they definitely wouldn't taste as good.  It has also been gloomy these past few days and I've been feeling under the weather.  Eating these cookies with warm tea or coffee for breakfast and as a light snack have made days a bit brighter.

  •     1 1/2 cups + 2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour 
  •     1 teaspoon baking soda
  •     1/4 teaspoon salt
  •     1 cup sugar or vanilla sugar
  •     1/2 cup canola oil
  •     1/4 cup liquid sweetener (agave or maple syrup is best)
  •     1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •     1 1/2 teaspoons lemon extract 
  •     3 tablespoons nondairy milk 
  •     1 medium lemon, zested 
  •     1/4 teaspoon turmeric, for color
  •     1/4 to 1/3 cup raspberry preserves

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and line baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a medium to large bowl, combine all the flour, baking soda and salt.  Whisk to get everything incorporated nicely. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil and sugar until thoroughly mixed.  Stir in liquid sweetener, vanilla and lemon extracts, nondairy milk, lemon zest, and turmeric. 
  2. Mix these ingredients together, then slowly shift/stir in the dry ingredients.  Use your hands to get a dough to form.  Avoid overworking the dough.  Next take small portions of the dough and roll into walnut sized balls.  You can make them bigger if you so choose, but this size usually yields about 20 cookies. 
  3. Gently press cookie between your palms and fingers to form little disks.  Push a small dimple in the center and add 1/2 teaspoon or so of raspberry or blueberry preserves.
  4. Place on prepared cookie sheets and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the edges turn a faint golden brown.  For a softer cookie with a chewy edge, bake for about 10 minutes.  Allow a few minutes for cookies to cool before removing from sheet pan, then transfer to wire cooling rack and allow to completely cool.
(Recipe Source)

P.S.  I'm not vegan and these cookies really tastes like regular non-vegan cookies! So don't let the word "vegan" deter you from making these ;-)


Spring is here...

chard, carrots, lettuce in foreground


The vegetables are flourishing at the farm... flowers are coming into bloom... spring is here.  

Avery generously offered this big carrot to me -- a rare find!

Chompin' while workin' on pulling out bolted veggies
P.S.  Links to share:
  •  A Growing Culturea web based community where farmers and sustainable agriculture advocates can come together for education, networking, idea exchange, ethical debate and inspiration


12 Unsustainable Things...

Twelve unsustainable things that will soon come to a disastrous end on our planet:
  1. Debt-based banking and economic systems
  2. Conventional agriculture and "rape the planet" farming
  3. Mass-consumption economies based on buy-it-and-trash-it behavior
  4. The accelerating loss of farming soils
  5. The mass poisoning of the oceans and aggressive over-fishing
  6. Mass genetic pollution of the planet through GMOs
  7. The drugs-and-surgery conventional medical system
  8. Widespread pharmaceutical contamination of the human population and the environment
  9. Runaway human population growth
  10. Fossil fuel consumption for agriculture
  11. Fossil fuel consumption 
  12. The widespread destruction of animal habitat

This is from an article on NaturalNews.com which you can read in length here.


some thoughts...

  • last night, i thought about getting certified in permaculture (a thought that never occurred to me until then).  it's a prospect that excites me and something i can put on my resume... and obviously, it would be enriching personally
  • i decided my next herbalism project would be salves.  i'm in the process of creating an infused oil (the herb is yet to be determined... comfrey?) that is required to make the salve.  this process takes about a month so i will post an update as the time nears.
  • i've been reducing my use of plastic after watching the BAG IT documentary.  i'd like to eventually completely eliminate it from my daily life.  plastic is so pervasive in our lives and we are so mindless about it.  after watching the documentary, my brain is completely re-wired to think otherwise.
  • day dreaming about esalen institute in big sur

Enslaved by our possessions/money

This is a clip from Dance With Destiny Documentary:

We can detach ourselves from this economic system (er, slavery) from which we've built our lives upon. Let's break free from our dependence on money and go back to living simply (less is more) where wealth is acquired from nature's bounty. Let's create use from what nature already provides us for free -- the soil/land, food, water, etc. -- the things that which truly sustains our lives.

This reinforces agrarian principles:

~Economic dependence v. economic independence & sustainability

*You can view the entire Dance with Destiny Documentary on YouTube.

Education & career vs. Lifestyle & passions

I'm feeling rushed as I've just come home from a full day's worth of classes.  Feeling too rushed so I'm going to have to miss the first day of meditation + yoga; I would rather stay home and create my own personal stillness without someone having to tell me to... oh, and it's free.  I feel the need to release the thoughts that's been plaguing my mind for the last couple of days:

I'm in a fruitless and now hopeless search for a summer farm internship.  It seems it would've been wise to start my search earlier months before April (which is usually when summer farm internships start).  It has also been difficult to find a farm that is willing to accept interns who can't stay for the whole growing season (April - mid October/November); I would only be able to stay until September because that's when fall semester starts.  At this point, I'm cursing education and questioning my purpose in following this path to higher learning.  This begs the question(s)...

Do I need to go to university in order to pursue an agrarian lifestyle?  Do I need this Environmental Studies B.A. degree?  What benefit would it give me in pursuing a career in agriculture, specifically farming?  (Do farmers even need degrees?)  Am I on this path to higher learning so I can be in alignment with what is expected out of me in society?  In truth, as of today, I view a B.A. degree as something I can fall back on if farming doesn't work out.  The thought of having to spend thousands on education and ultimately pay back loans (and be in debt in the process) for a piece of paper that "I can fall back on" is something that increasingly raises concern.  I view this whole farming/living sustainably/growing food as something that is a lifestyle, not a career with the intention of making money.  Why, then, am I on this path to acquire a piece of paper that will, in essence, just be a validation of my self-worth as an "educated" human-being?  As one can see, this whole thought process is a cyclical... having no answer to my questions... can someone give me some insight?  What have your experiences been in terms of education and pursuing your passions?  Where are you on your path?

I feel, perhaps, that this will eventually work itself out... I know there are many opportunities yet to be presented and forks on my path that I can take :-)

For now, I am fantasizing of living a nomadic life, dreaming of babies in the woods (my womanly baby urges are kicking in), and being connected to the land up north.


Nettle herbal infusion

Well, I finally made my herbal infusion last night.  For those who are not familiar, herbal infusions are basically herbal teas, also known as tisanes.  Herbal teas are not to be confused with commonplace non-herbal teas such as green tea or black tea which are made from the leaves of tea plants.  What distinguishes herbal teas from non-herbal teas is that they can be made from the roots, leaves, flowers, seeds or berries from a plant.  Herbal teas also have medicinal properties and do not contain any caffeine.

I chose stinging nettle for my herb of choice because it is easily accessible at my local farm.  Other herbs which I've been wanting to use such as comfrey or yarrow, I'd most likely have to go out and forage for.  I learned that there are health benefits to stinging nettle; it is high in vitamins A, C, K, calcium, potassium, and iron.  Also, herbalists recommend dried nettle or nettle extract as a nourishing tonic during pregnancy.  Anyways, on to the process of making it...

After learning my lesson the first time after unsuccessfully drying them because of unwanted dirt in the roots, I re-picked the nettle cutting only the tops.  I then dried them for about a week on a piece of wire mesh.  (It is ideal to dry them in a way that gets air to both sides of the plant, hence the wire mesh.  Or you can just hang it upside down.)

Drying nettle

After drying, I cut off some long stems that hadn't dried and then proceeded to crush the leaves with my fingers.  An herb grinder would've been ideal, but who needs to pay for that when you can just use your hands.

Dried nettle leaves

To make an herbal infusion (in bulk) you'll need: 
  • 1 oz. dried herb to 1 liter (4.2 cups) boiling water
  • a large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid

Directions are simple:  Boil kettle full of water.  Add 1 oz. dried herb to glass jar and fill jar with 1 liter boiling water.  Put tight-fitting lid on and let steep for a minimum of 4 hours.  After steeping for allotted time, strain out the nettle from the water.  Store the tea in fridge to prevent spoilage.  Herbalist, Susan Weed, recommends using the leftover tea you don't drink as water for house plants or you can use it to wash your hair as a final rinse.  Note: To get the most medicinal value out of an herbal infusion, drink a cup 2-3 times a day.

Also, if you'd like to use the dried herbs per cup instead of making it all at once in bulk, simply use 1-2 teaspoons dried herb for each cup of water. Let steep for ~10 minutes and then strain and drink! 

I let mine steeps for 7 hours.  I completed this process before going to work and when I came back I had fresh tea waiting for me!  It tastes a lot like yerba mate when mixed with my favorite coconut creamer, but that's just me.  


Living Without Money

Ran into this German documentary on a simple living forum and thought I'd share.

"Living Without Money" is a portrait of Heidemarie Schwermer, a German woman who has been living without money for 14 years. How is that possible? Heidemarie lives a life based on exchanging favors and in the film we follow her in her daily life where she is constantly on the move, meeting new people and helping others find a path to a simpler and more harmonic life. Through her story we can consider money's influence on our way of thinking, living and acting and the impact this has on our own lives, health and the environment.

Pledge $$$ to help pay for production costs at the film's kickstarter campaign.


some thoughts

My schedule is now filled up with spring classes and I've been thinking about how I'll complete my projects and general things I've been looking forward to doing.  Some thoughts as I don't really have any solid updates:

  • finished drying and crunching up nettle leaves.  i'll most likely make my long-awaited herbal infusion this weekend.  (next herbalism project will be tinctures)
  • looks like i won't be able to farm much this spring semester.  i will have to try and fit it in on the weekends or on minor holidays. 
  • i'm excited to make some nettle recipes (fritatta, soup, pesto).  i also found a recipe for dolma made out of mallow leaves!  (if you don't know me, i love dolma.)  there is mallow growing as an (unwanted) cover crop at the farm right now and is being currently dug up.  what a good way to put some of it to use.
  • i wish persimmon season lasted all year.  i want my persimmons back.  i also miss persimmon bread (kinda like banana bread).
  • looking forward to making this meyer lemon curd recipe. (so many meyer lemons at the farm)
  • looking forward to starting up my plot at the community garden