Time and energy saving cooking.

I love using a slow cooker. It makes creating tasty delicious meals super easy for those who are busy yet who want to eat real food. I have no idea how much energy the crock pot I have uses though.  Today I came across this wonderful idea that allows one to slow cook while also using far less energy. Double win!

 

http://www.organicauthority.com/slow-cooking-with-a-purpose-meet-the-wonderbag/

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Yet another reason to ditch the drive thru

American fast food is POISONOUS. Food is in fact a misnomer when applied to anything coming from McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Arby, KFC, et al. They all use GMO ingredients, which are being banned left right and center globally because they are hazardous to human health and increase the use of toxic agricultural chemicals. They all use various other toxic ingredients as well (see the book Fast Food Nation for more info). One of those toxic ingredients is silly putty. Yes, that silly putty…

 

Remember, it is false economy to feed yourself or your kids at a fast food place.

 

Thanks to Food Babe for the research:

 

http://foodbabe.com/2013/10/22/sillyputty/

Homemade granola

Granola is great for a quick, hearty breakfast and it is super easy to make. The basic recipe that follows came from my wife’s mom. I often modify it with different oils or flavorings.

 

4 cups Organic rolled oats

1/3 Cup organic oil (I like to use raw organic coconut oil the most)

1 cup nuts or seeds

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/3 cup Organic maple syrup

Mix all the ingredients in a mixing bowl thoroughly and then put in a baking pan.

Place pan in a preheated 250 degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove stir and replace into oven for 45 minutes.

Simple!

Once the granola cools I often add raisins or other dried berries.  Shredded coconut is also a good addition.

To ensure complete avoidance of genetically modified ingredients only use organic ingredients.

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Mix it well.

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I like using the glass pyrex dish to bake it in.

 

 

 

 

Autumnal Opportunities

I love this time of the year. While growing up in North Texas fall always signaled the blessed relief from the oppressive summer heat and extended romps through the woods or fishing in the ponds that were finally starting to fill up again. Here in New England fall is glorious too and of course the trees put on a show too. The smell of fallen leaves wafted into my olfactory awareness for the first time this year a couple of weeks ago early one morning after a rain shower the previous night. I love that smell and the sounds the crisp brown leaves make when walking on them in the woods.

This natural cycle of deciduous trees losing there leaves gives us the perfect opportunity to learn from observing nature. In a woodland ecosystem of deciduous trees one can find some of the most luxurious, rich black soil to be found anywhere that is created as a result of the decomposition of the leaves, fallen trunks or branches, and decaying rootlets that die off naturally (as above so below). In a well balanced system the decomposition is handled by insects, worms, microorganisms, and fungi to name a few of the major players. To paraphrase David Attenborough, the renowned naturalist and documentary film maker, we owe so much to the life being lived in the undergrowth.

If we take that model of natural recycling into our home yards and gardens then we can create soil without using chemical inputs that ultimately harm the ecosystems around us. One approach is to spread the leaves out somewhat evenly on the ground and wet them down thoroughly to prevent them blowing away. Like in the film Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come”. All of those leaves will attract earthworms to the buffet who will then take care of aerating and fertilizing your the lawn for free. No Chem-Lawn service needed! Next spring the lawn area of your yard will look great and you’ll have a great start on that vegetable garden!

Alternately, the leaves can be piled up in a corner somewhere (preferably close to your garden for easy access later) and then covered up until spring. Left to their own devices the pile will break down into rich humus of its own accord with no further action from you. Easy peasy.

Fungi play a vital role in woodland ecosystems. Here the fungal fruits have emerged from the log after sufficient rainfall. The mycelium courses through the log breaking it down slowly.

 

Leaf and soil

This leaf has lost its nitrogen content and is already starting to break down. Notice the varying sizes of the soil particles next to the leaf.

 

wood debris

This is all that is left after the fungus has broken down most of this old log. Eventually all of this too will be black rich humus.

 

The type of rich soil that is created when natural processes are fostered and allowed to continue. I picked this handful up on my walk in the woods last week.

 

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Autumnal envoys.

 

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Just doin’ my job folks…

Life in the Undergrowth (2005)

I highly recommend this series to give people are real appreciation for the marvelous diversity of life to be found at our feet.

 

Ban RoundUp now.

There is no reason to have RoundUp in your home. None. It is an ecological disaster that needs to be outlawed immediately.  Write your LOCAL (county, state, municipal) civic leaders and demand that they ban RoundUp for sale or use in your community.  See the link below for more info on why this is important.

 

http://wakeup-world.com/2013/06/24/glyphosate-roundup-carcinogenic-in-the-parts-per-trillion-range/

Kitchen lessons

As a permaculturist and homemaker I am always learning even as I am winging it either in the garden or the kitchen. Growing up and in the Marines I learned PLENTY about cleaning the space where I live. Knowledge of cooking and some of the other kitchen skills useful for a homemaker/homesteader though are coming along more slowly. What I lack in knowledge and experience I often make up for with intuition. However sometimes there is no replacement for knowledge!

To help me get some of that knowledge, I’ve been using the book entitled Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon since I received it as a holiday gift this past year. More than just a cookbook, it gives the reader a great deal of compelling evidence for the benefits of eating a diet rich in a variety of proteins, fats, and fermented foods along with many recipes for making everything from basic stocks to fermented meat dishes. It is a really handy resource and one that I am slowly digging deeper into. For now, I am trying to master the art of making whey.

Whey is the key ingredient in lacto-fermentation and is used to start the fermentation process. Fermenting foods makes the nutrients more readily available to the body and increases the level of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. Americans could really benefit from eating fermented foods. The standard American diet of processed foods and simple carbohydrates depletes the digestive system of helpful microorganisms and at a minimum causes people to have poor digestion with the gas, bloating, and malodorous smells that go along with it.  Poor digestion and the resultant poor absorption of nutrients leads to a host of health problems, many of which  I experienced for years when I ate an atrocious diet heavy on fast “food”, soda, and processed grocery store items containing MSG. These days my diet is as organic as I can afford it to be (which is fortunately most of the foods I buy) and I include home made fermented vegetables and a bottle of store bought kombucha now and then too. I feel better at 41 than I did at 31 by a long way!

Making whey is pretty straight forward. I only use raw whole milk to do it. Despite it’s apparent simplicity, I have made some mistakes and I still have yet to master the art of getting all of the cream out the first time once it intitially separates. Recently, to start the process I  allowed the milk to sit on the counter at room temp to separate the cream (this is the normal procedure). When the separation was finished I put the whey/cream mixture back in the fridge thinking, “I’ll get to that later”. Well that that turned into a lot later as I eventually forgot about it. An unwelcome experiment developed in the back of the fridge. I ended up with what looked like a big glop of cheese on top of some very murky looking, chunky whey. The moral of the story, follow through to completion without procrastinating! I have a suspicion that the big glop of cheese may have been edible but I had no one to ask so I poured it all on to my compost heap knowing at least some microbes made the trip.

Separating the cream from the now much thinner liquid also seems simple-just pour it through a clean cloth and leave to drain into a new container and there you have it, whey and cream neatly separated. Alas, I am inelegant when I make my attempts, though I am sure I will get better in future. Perhaps a different type of cloth or towel is all that is needed. This week, I actually managed to get most of the cream out after to attempts to separate it, the first of which was very messy and resulted in a total loss of the cream. Fortunately more cream was left in the whey and I got it separated fairly well. The cream is so delicious when it’s done just right. I like to eat it with raw honey. Yuuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmm.

Pouring the whey through.

Pouring the whey through.

The mess aside, making whey is very worthwhile. I’ll be making some sauerkraut soon with it. This kind of kraut is absolutely delicious and to me is so much better than the kind pickled with vinegar. Drinking a little in water is also a great way to aid the digestion. There are many recipes featuring whey in the aforementioned book and on the internet. Give it a go!

Household tips for a safer home

Get rid of all those air fresheners like Febreze, Lysol, or Glade. Somehow people have been duped into thinking those chemical soups smell nice. They smell like chemicals. I replace them with incense. Bathroom stink? Light a stick of incense for a few minutes. Malodorous trash can? Incense! There are many varieties available, one that will surely meet people’s olfactory needs far better than a can of toxic soup. Do you just feel the need to clear the air or energy?  Incense is used in rituals and services for a variety of spiritual practices including Christianity, Buddhism, as well as Earth based and New Age spirituality. It is truly a multipurpose air freshener! I like Nag Champa. It is easy to find at health food stores or other retail establishments.

http://nagchampa.com/

Essential oils are also a good alternative to chemical based air fresheners which also come in a wide variety of scents. I use an essential oil in lieu of deodorant.

For more helpful tips on household cleaners and to find out which products to absolutely avoid I use the following Environmental Working Group website:

http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners

 

Taking time to create

For many people being creative is like breathing, they simply seem to ‘have’ to create something artistic.  I tend to go with the flow and sometimes that flow gets pretty intense as I work on a project. I don’t have “one” creative thing that I do. Rather, I dabble a bit, sometimes drawing, sometimes writing, sometimes sculpting with wood. Recently, I got my carving tools out and started to work on a relief sculpture on a chunk of wood that my friend gave me from his workshop collection of miscellaneous left over pieces. I think it was a piece of mahogany though I cannot be sure.  I think of this as perma-sculpture because I took a piece of wood that might otherwise get tossed or if ‘lucky’ burned and turn into art instead thus prolonging its ‘life’.

I’ve been doodling strange organic shapes for years and decided I would try to do a carved representation of one of them. Something about the shapes draws me (even though I am the one doing the drawing).  They’re very organic and often similar, in the way snowflakes are, but there is no real pattern to them. Basically, I like that way that they look and feel like this carving turned out nice. This is my first attempt at one like this.

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The starting block, though this is no race.

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There is so much cutting to do at the outset.

 

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The roughing out process takes some time. The carving for me takes on a life of its own with each session. I start with an idea and then the wood dictates how to proceed with that vision.

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The shape is further defined. At this point I still don’t “see” a finished carving. It’s still nebulous.

 

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This is how it looked on the day before I completed it. All the carving was done at this point and just sanding and oiling with linseed oil remained.

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The completed carving. It is entitled, ‘Organic’.