4/23/2011

On yogi tea

I first made this yogi tea for the first time last week and have been making it a nightly ritual since--mostly because it fulfills my sweet tooth + it warms me up and it's relaxing.  I was surprised at how mild-tasting and delicious it was given the combination of strong spices.  It tastes a lot like a warm, spicy chai.


Here's the recipe:

For each 8oz. cup, start with 10 oz. of water.  For convenience, make at least 4 cups at one time.


For each cup of boiling water, add:
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 4 whole green cardamom pods
  • 6 whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon
  • Optional: 1 slice of fresh ginger root
Boil for 20-30 minutes, then add 1/4 tsp. any black tea. Let sit for one or two minutes and then add 1/2 cup milk and reheat. Strain and serve with honey to taste.

Black pepper is a blood purifier, cardamom is for the colon (gas), cloves are for the nervous system and cinnamon for the bones.  Ginger is helpful when suffering from a cold, recovering from the flu or for general physical weakness.  The milk aids in the easy assimilation of the spices and avoids irritation to the colon.  The black tea creates a synergy for all of the ingredients.

(Original recipe by Yogi Bhajan via Culinary Herbalism)

4/13/2011

On nettle *juice*

I realize I write too much about stinging nettle (Urtica dioica).  Nettle this, nettle that.  I really can't help the fact that nettle grows in abundance here--it's actually an invasive weed at Amy's Farm.  Most of the folks there, I think, take its existence for granted and see it much more as an invasive pest to be rid of than an herbal plant for healing or culinary purposes (but that's just from my observations... who knows what they may have used nettle for in the past).  I have yet to muster enough energy after farming to go out and harvest them (I'm usually exhausted after and just want to get my ass home so I forgo picking any medicinal/culinary herbs which I later regret).  Anyways, that was a long aside.


What this post was initially meant for was nettle liquid fertilizer which James gave me a couple of weeks ago. James, by the way, is a guy I met at the farm who is well informed on sustainability matters like integrated pest management, permaculture, organic farming methods, etc.  The list goes on.  I think I learn something new from him every time we talk.  He is an avid fermenter and so gave me the nettle liquid fertilizer as a product of his fermenting nettle -- for which he likes to use mainly on his citrus trees.  So, of course, likewise, I used the nettle fertilizer on my calamansi citrus tree as well (as I like to follow sound advice).  The fermented nettle enriches the soil by adding minerals such as magnesium, iron, calcium, phosphorus, nitrogen (as pictured above).  It's actually pretty simple to make too--fill a bucket half way with nettle bits then cover with water and some mesh (allowing oxygen to get to the mixture is key so that the bacteria can do its thing), stir the mixture everyday for two weeks and voila! After fermentation, it's diluted 1:10-1:20 with water to decrease the high concentration which can burn sensitive plants.

The result: A few weeks after I soaked the soil with it, fruit yield has increased... probably the biggest fruits I've harvested yet!  It makes me so happy to see my citrus tree, which as been producing weak fruit-lings year to year, finally being able to produce big, juicy mature fruits. Calamansi-ade?  I think yes.




P.S.  Comfrey herbal oil almost ready...

P.P.S. I just got the negatives back from the roll of film I used when I traveled to Nevada City last winter.  They all look pretty good... I realize I'm getting rusty with my photography - technicality wise.  I think I've completely forgotten about exposure reciprocity.  Anyways, will post 'em on my photo blog later or maybe here. 

4/02/2011

On the possibility of farming in SoCal

Photo credit

I have such romantic notions of living in northern California.... Perhaps it's best to not focus all my energy and attention towards that goal in the event that (unfavorable or unforeseen) circumstances occur.  I'll be clear-headed and rational.  I have these grand schemes of how my life will turn out after university... I hope that I will be doing something related to sustainable agriculture (whether it be farming, herbalism, being an educator, etc.) ... in NorCal.

I had a realization tonight.  I think it is profound.  I realized that (with my aversion to the urban southern California setting put aside) I could potentially start a farm here in Los Angeles County.  Perhaps even close to where I live now.  It seems like such a crazy idea, but I know that it's an idea with much potential to come into fruition.  I'm already in contact with fellow farmers and I think with some dedication and planning, this could potentially happen if the right opportunity presented itself. Organic farming is about creating a sense of community while promoting environmental sustainability.  Well, why not create that where I currently live?  Instead of traveling hundreds of miles to fulfill a life of farming in a romantic, woodsy area where, in all likelihood, there is already a network of organic farms established, why not create a sustainable system of farming in my local community--an area scarce in farmland and with no real network of organic farms.  As Gandhi said, "Be the positive change you want to see in the world."  I can be the catalyst for that change.  And that change can happen here, in my local community.

Photo credit

However, there are some problems that need to be addressed before that can actually happen.  Here, any farm land that exists today is seen as devoid of any value.  Urban developers want to transform any farm land that is left and add value to it by creating an urban space where people can spend money and contribute to the economic system. What value would the urbanization of these farm lands create besides contributing to short-term profits?  (Anyone who is informed knows the current economic/monetary system is imbalanced and unsustainable.)  Why not, instead, preserve the integrity of the land by farming it and providing food to local communities?  It would create long-term sustainability rather than short-term profitability.  In addition, the economic activities that would ensue from the transformation of farm land to urban space would ultimately lead to the degradation of the surrounding environment.  And what is truly valuable about that?  Absolutely nothing.  The real value of the land lies in the soil.  There is much potential to create food security for local communities by farming the land, enriching the soil, etc.  It's obvious Los Angeles County is a food desert.  Would L.A. County even be able to sustain itself with local food were a natural disaster to happen and imports and/or interstate commerce were to be cut off?  In reality, "food security" is probably the last thing on these developers' minds.

I believe these issues about farmland can be resolved by influencing legislation concerning land policies.  In addition, establishing a network that would provide foundation for farming/sustainable agriculture (outside of universities and targeted towards the community) in collaboration with like-minded individuals would be a giant step towards shifting these outdated paradigms in agriculture here in L.A.

Well, writing this just reaffirms my reason in wanting to leave southern California.  1) The environment here is just not conducive to work in sustainable agriculture.  2) The urban landscape here is also uninspiring. 3) I want to live near nature... NorCal has that. SoCal doesn't.

But perhaps instead of abandoning this place, I could contribute to positive change here and create a local food economy that can foster community and get other (young) folks excited about sustainable agriculture.

4/01/2011

On home-made laundry detergent

In my attempt to "green" my home space and also after learning in my ecology class the environmental effects that phospate-based laundry detergents have on our water supply--toxic run-off causes unnatural eutrophication of fresh waters (which you can read more about on this TreeHugger article)--I decided to make my own natural and biodegradable laundry detergent.  Also, the fact that most laundry detergents don't list their ingredients, aside from stating that it contains "surfactants," bothered me and made me question what sort of chemicals were being used to wash my clothes (they obviously don't want you to know).  My Downey fabric softener doesn't even mention any ingredients at all!

After all, it's important to question this because your clothes come in direct contact with your skin which is permeable to toxic chemicals.  (Studies estimate that 60% of what you put on your skin is absorbed into your bloodstream.)  So, by making my own laundry detergent I know exactly what is going in it; I can choose ingredients that are not toxic to my health and do not affect the integrity of our water supply.

So, on to the process...

This home-made laundry detergent is actually very simple to make and most materials needed are inexpensive and commonplace in grocery stores.

Took this picture after I grated castile soap so let's pretend there's soap
in this picture...
Hand-grated castile soap

For washing powder, you'll need:
  • 6 cups Borax
  • 8 cups baking soda
  • 4 cups grated castile soap such as Dr. Bronner's castile soaps (I used lavender). You can find this in your natural health food store. I've also spotted them at Target and Trader Joe's.
  • 1 tablespoon of pure essential oil (I recommend lemongrass or lavender for their anti-bacterial properties)
Combine the first three ingredients together in a large bowl and mix until nicely incorporated.  Add essential oil and mix with wire whisk.  Store in a large container with a tight-fitting lid.  Use 1 tablespoon for normal loads and 2 tablespoons for large loads. This batch of detergent will last you about 6 months.
(Source)

Finished product!
For dryer sheets:
  • Infuse a washcloth with 30 drops of your choice of essential oil and throw it into your drying load.
OR another option would be to hang dry your clothes (provided your neighborhood allows it).  Check out the non-profit organization, Project Laundry List.  They advocate line drying as a positive approach to change. [Why line dry?]