Archive for the ‘diy’ Category


It's not the end of the world

There is plenty that you can do.

There is some talk about food shortages because of the very hard winter in Mexico and the Southwest where much of our produce comes from. I talked with the produce manager at our local grocery store and he confirmed that the shortage is a reality and is in the works as we speak. He gave an example of box of tomatoes going from $16 a box to $50 a box within a matter of two weeks.  It is just a supply and demand thing.  Only the produce is going to be affected at this point in time and it should only last for 3-4 months or until the next growing season comes around.

In the meantime growing your own produce such as lettuce, peas, green beans, and spinach, all fast growers, will keep you in greens.  Also, buying local at farmers markets and co-ops is always a good thing to do.  And when you are buying seeds to plant in your garden buy an extra pack or two now and put them in your freezer to store for future use. You never know about availability of seeds with all this crazy weather. If you have seeds then you always have the ability to grow your own food if need be.  This is just insurance. Here is a great blog that explains seed saving. http://terroirseeds.net/113/seed-saving-and-storage/

Don’t forget those dandelions greens either.

The most basic and readily available wildcrafting plant you will ever find. They are just dying to be part of your tossed green salad. Dandelion tea from the flowers packs a real punch too. All parts of the dandelion, flower, leaves and roots, contain minerals and vitamins: A, C, D, E, & B complex, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper, choline, and boron, etc. when infused in hot water or eaten fresh. Here’s a little piece I did on dandelions you might find useful.


Sprouts sport

Also, a quick easy way to get very nutritious greens is from sprouts you grow in your window.  It takes 72 hours. Another reason not to panic. Again, get your sprouts seeds from a co-op and then buy some extra that you put in the freezer. I use mason jars to store my seeds. Glass is better than any plastic wraps, no residues. Also, if the electricity goes out and you have to use things in your freezer right away because they will spoil, not so with the seeds. You have just extended their life by a year once they defrost. Now you are also working on a long-term survival kit and you didn’t even know it.

This is just to get you started on getting prepared. Next week I am going to show you how to grow sprouts as easy as 1-2-3. I use a large glass french press coffee maker to grow my sprouts in and it works great, better than the sprouting jars that didn’t always get enough air flow and the sprouts fermented before they sprouted.  I got the french press at the Goodwill store for $3.


seed sprouter

So, keep your eyes open for a good sprouting container, get your seeds, some mason jars, or save all your glass jars, meet me back here next week and we will get started sprouting with some surprises.

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This is a Cattail

A Cattail is regarded as one of the Fantastic 4.  One of 4 plants that could save your life. Know what the other three are? Here are the parts of the Cattail that we are going to be talking about starting with the roots and rhizomes. Rhizomes are underground stems. They turn into the shoots, stalks, seed heads with Male and Female parts and are all edible. There can be little corms at the base of the rhizome which are just young shoots. These are particularly tasty and can be eaten raw or cooked after the outer peel is removed.

From the rhizomes you get flour, starch, and sugar syrup. Edible anytime of the year, needs to be cooked or roasted and tough outer layer  removed to get to the soft, inner core.

A simple way to eat cattail rhizome in the field is to bury it for about five minutes in a bed of hot coals and then chew the sticky starch out of the outer rhizome and the strings that run through the center.

Next, the young stalks can be eaten raw or cooked after the outer leaf blades are peeled off like a leek. Here is where the rule of thumb saying came from. To get to the soft inner core you push on the stalk with your thumb and it separates the core from the stalk. Very nutritious. Taste like asparagus. Tends to be a little dry when cooked.  Butter or olive oil will fix that right up. The shoots provide beta carotene, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamin C.

Everybody knows what a cattail looks like.  There is hardly a marsh, wetlands, or body of water, brackish or fresh, that does not play host to this hotdog-on-a-stick-looking plant.

If you only know Cattails from leafing through House Beautiful showing Cattail arrangements to grace a mantle or come eye to eye with them

confounding an ancient looking urn juggernauted on an endcap at Bed, Bath and Beyond

♪ Da DA ♪
♪ Da DA ♪

then I am going to tell you things about this plant you never knew and it may just blow your mind.

First, the bleeding obvious

Cattails, Typha latifolia, is a grass from the Gramineae family chiefly herbaceous but some woody plants including  bamboo; reeds, tules, bulrushes, sugar cane and cereals like wheat, oat, barley, rice, & rye. Difference here is that every part of the cattail, not just the seeds heads,  is usable.  Plant boasts eight food products, three medicinals, and at least 12 other functional uses.

Cattails are a 4 season plant which means you don’t have to wait for the right time of year to harvest it. It is always ready with something that is useful. So, lets start with spring Cattails and work through all the seasons. Easiest way to find Cattails is to go where you see last years stalks standing.  If you are starting from scratch then remember the look-a-like rule?   Cattails have 2

Look-A-Likes, oh my

One is an Iris which is poison and the other is the Calamus which is not. Let’s talk Iris first. Spring is the only time of year when there can be some confusion and for a very short period. Everything is green in spring and about the same size starting out. Iris and members of the Iris family only reach about 2 feet in height. Cattail’s get up to 8 feet and will tower over the Iris in very short order.  Just to be safe know your look-a-likes.


Blue Flag (Iris versicolor) and Yellow Flag (Iris pseudoacorus) and other members of the iris family all possess the cattail-like leaves. All members of the Iris family are poisonous.  Upon close inspection however, there is a very obvious difference. If you follow the  leaves which are flat and smooth with no ribbing to the flat fan arrangement at the base of the plant you have an iris. Cattails leaves have a midrib which form around a stalk and  they do not fan out. Iris’ are not edible but the roots are used as a fixative in dyeing materials.

The other look-alike which is not poisonous, but whose leaves look more like cattail than iris is the Sweet Flag or Calamus. (Acorus calumus).

Sweet Flag-Spring Cattail look-a-like.

Sweet Flag- Cattail look-a-like.

The leaves on a Sweet Flag are wavy and have parallel venation with a midrib. It has a seed pod growing out of the side of the stock.  Cattail seed pods are ALWAYS at the top of the stem. Sometimes the margins on the Sweet Flag are red. Cattail leaf margins are never red or wavy. The legendary Japanese sword Kusanagi got its name from the Calamus.  In some east Indian and Chinese cultures the roots of the Sweet Flag have many medicinal uses. Our American Indians used it quite extensively. So, if you find a Calamus make a note you may want to go back later.  If you are in doubt if the plant is a Cattail or a Calamus just bruise the leaf.  If it  has the sweet, spicy aroma it is a Sweet Flag. Cattails, if anything, smells like grass.

Second, a little less obvious

So, now you have a positive Cattail ID. It’s Spring. Now what? Make sure the water where the Cattails are growing is safe. No runoff, factories around, dumping, or contaminants in the water. Cattails are a super filtering systems. They will take up the pollutants, heavy metals, chemicals, and clean up the water.  However, all those chemicals and pollutants are now concentrated in the plant. If you eat from a plant in a polluted area you will be getting all the contaminates that plant took out of the water. So make sure your Cattails have a good clean water source.

In the spring the first thing you can harvest is the new shoots sometime called Cossack asparagus. You harvest it by running  your hands down the stalk to the base and pull. It pops off the rhizome and doesn’t hurt the plant at all. Peel all the outer leaves off until you get to the core

Peeled Cattail shoot
Peeled Cattail shoot

Cut the top tough part off. That is just immature leaf formation and the leaves are actually the only part you don’t eat. Leaves are used to make mats, shoes, hats, baskets very sturdy stuff if you know how to do it.  And if you burn the leaves and make an ash and apply it to cuts it will stop the bleeding. There is a mucilaginous gel between the leaf layers. Save this gel if you can.  It is used as a thickener in soups or spread it all over your body. It is an antiseptic.

A little later in the season but before the summer solstice the stalks will start to bulge out in spots. This is the seed head forming in the stalk. It’s edible.

Peel the covering away. The green flower heads can be steamed and eaten like corn-on-the-cob. Dip in butter. There is a core just like corn don’t eat that.

a steamed cattails

a steamed cattails

By mid-summer the yellow pollen will be falling from the spike atop the flower heads, and can be shaken into a paper bag to use in thickening soups or even mixed with flour for making bread or cattail pancakes.

The “fluff” of the mature flower heads was once used to stuff life jackets, and is still perfect as an emergency insulation. If you are lost and without sufficient clothing, you can fill your jacket with it. Use it to make a warm mattress as well with very tight weaved material so the fluff does not escape. Stuff it in your shoes to keep your feet warm. Keep the fluff contained.

Cattail flower head fluff is also very flammable. Break open a mature flower head (available almost any time of the year) and make a pile of it. Then strike a match to it, or even a good spark, and it will burst into flame. The tight heads are often dry inside even after a heavy rain, making this a great survival tinder.

Cattail Down
Cattail Down

There you have it. The Cats out of the bag now.  A real lifesaver in more ways than one.  My Hero.

Part 1 Wildcrafting: A Beginner’s Guild

Part 2 Wildcrafting: Mugwort, Wormwood, Yarrow, and Red Clover

Part 3 Wildcrafting Dandelions, Curly dock, Jewelweed & Making flower essences

Part 4: Wildcrafting: The CAT’S MEOW A  REAL LIFESAVER

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Find it-MUGWORT-ID it

Mugwort-Artemisia vulgaris

Know it


I have to tell you Mugwort and Wormwood are very close. They are related and they are both good herbs to wildcraft. So here is a pic and description of Wormwood. Two for the price of one.

Find it-WORMWOOD-ID it

Wormwood-Artemisia absinthium

Know it


The leaves on the wormwood are more deeply lobed and more of a silvery color than the mugwort. Wormwood is a great find and has quite a history. It is one of those biblical herbs as is fennel and yarrow.

Here’s the bible references


Find it-Yarrow-ID it

Yarrow-Achillea millefolium

Know it


Yarrow comes in pink, white and yellow.  A reader was nice enough to point out that the white yarrow and not the yellow as I had originally posted, is the native.  Good to be able to set the record straight.  Thanks Judith.

Native yarrow is very prolific and reseeds itself almost desperately which is good because there is so much you can do with it. I just learned you can take one leaf, chop it up and put it on your compost pile to speed up decomposition. Works so well with other herbs too.

Find it-Red Clover-ID it

Red Clover-Trifolium pratense

Know it


You can find red clover everywhere. Red is really pink and there is a white clover but the medicinal properties are different. It also reseeds itself and is, as is with all clovers, great for the soil. All the herbs I have mentioned here that are so beneficial and part of the wildcrafting art are regarded as weeds by the makers and producers of lawns. Ortho and Scotts have weed killers to protect the precious over pampered, waste of space we call lawns from the likes of Mother Nature.

How to use:

Dose may vary from person to person, but general guidelines are as follows:

  • Dried herb (used for tea): 1 – 2 tsp dried flowers or flowering tops steeped in 8 oz. hot water for 1/2 hour; drink 2 – 3 cups daily
  • Powdered herb (available in capsules): 40 – 160 mg per day, or 28 – 85 mg of red clover isoflavones
  • Tincture (1:5, 30% alcohol): 60 – 100 drops (3 – 5 mL) three times per day; may add to hot water as a tea
  • Fluid Extract (1:1): 1 mL three times per day; may add to hot water as a tea
  • Standardized red clover isoflavone extracts: directions on product labels should be carefully followed
  • Topical treatment (such as for psoriasis or eczema): an infusion, liquid extract, or ointment containing 10 – 15% flowerheads; apply as needed unless irritation develops. Do not apply to an open wound without a doctor’s supervision.


As you might guess I am not a fan of lawns. I am sorry. They are nice to look at when they are all green and manicured. As a kid I hand mowed about a quarter of an acre of lawn every week which I actually enjoyed doing.  I don’t like lawns because I think today they are a colossal waste of time, money, water and effort.  Josh, #2 son, sent this to me about a year ago knowing how I feel about lawns. This is right on and what we call garden humor. Enjoy.


GOD: Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.

ST. FRANCIS: It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers “weeds” and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

GOD: Grass? But it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It’s temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week.

GOD: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

ST. FRANCIS: No Sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

GOD: Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

ST. FRANCIS: Yes, Sir.

GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

ST. FRANCIS: You aren’t going to believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It’s a natural circle of life.

ST. FRANCIS: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

GOD: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

GOD: And where do they get this mulch?

ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD: Enough. I don’t want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have they scheduled for us tonight?”

ST. CATHERINE: “Dumb and Dumber”, Lord. It’s a really stupid movie about…..

GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

See you next week. Will be doing dandelions and two others.

Happy Crafting.

Wildcrafting part 1   Starter Guide

Wildcrafting part 2 Mugwort (bonus plant Wormwood) Yarrow, chickweed, and red clover

Wildcrafting part 3 dandelions and making flower essences

Wildcrafting part 4 The Cat’s Meow-A Real Lifesaver

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I smell gas

I have been smelling gas in the house.  Not all the time just occasionally and just faintly.  No it’s not Major. Or the cabbage. I was not really worried but it was annoying.  I decided to call the gas company and have them check for leaks. I needed the telephone number to call.  I thought it would be on the bill. Couldn’t find the bill just had the receipt marked paid. The receipt did not have the telephone number on it. All the utilities are in Cassie’s name. I just give her some money and then she pays them usually online. We don’t have contact information anywhere for stuff she pays online. Just so happens though we pay the gas bill in person because it is local.

I found a bill that said PG&E.  Pacific Gas and Electric. Cassie said that’s not the gas bill. Really? What is it?  That’s the electric bill. Of course it is, how silly of me. O.k. I said what is the gas company called? We had to find the receipt to found out that the  name of the gas company is The Gas Company.  Brilliant.  I think that’s weird but still looking for a telephone number.  Got the phone book out. Looked in the business section for Gas Company. Nothing. Looked under county and city of San Luis for Gas Company. Nothing. Looked in the yellow pages under utilities. Nothing. What the hell?  Why can’t I find the telephone for the Gas Company? And there you have it.  It was listed under T for The not under G for Gas.

O.K. that is just wrong. You always dropped the The and the A in a company’s name when you listed it in the phone book. Oh well, I will just let them know when I get in touch with them that there number was hard to find and should be listed under  G not T in the phone book and  the part you keep for your records, not the part you throw away should have the contact numbers on it.

Anyway, called and went through a 20 question and answer menu before I talked to a real person to explain it was not an emergency but did need to make an appointment to have the gas checked for leaks. It was 3pm. The appointment was made for between 3 and 8pm that day. Would I be home?  Sure. I waited until 7pm and Major had to go for a run.  It was misting lightly outside so I put my raincoat on got his leash on him and knock, knock the gas (wo)man is here. I wish I would  have done that 2 hours ago.

What a dirty trick.  Major was all primed and ready to go and holding it since noon and now it’s a no go. He is not happy.

Tied him up to a tree

so if he had to pee he could and then I headed inside.  He barked just to let me know he was getting a little wet, he wanted his run and I was now on his shit list.

Inside the little meter they use to detect a gas leak is going a mile a minute. Yikes. Maybe it was worst then I thought. I was thinking brain damage from escaped gas.  She assured me it was not that bad. It was beeping in the whole area behind the stove where all the connections are. Had to pull it away from the wall.  It would take both of us to pull it out.

I was giving her a hand pulling it when there was a rapid loud knock on the door. Who could that be?  Went over to see and just caught a glimpse of my crazy neighbor shutting and locking her door.  I can only guess that Major’s occasional bark was ticking her off so this was her way of getting even. Bang on my door. What a fruitcake. There was enough time for Major to pee if he was desperate so I brought him inside, more for safety from the crazy neighbor then anything else.

A lot of gas had concentrated behind the stove and this made zeroing in on the leak a little harder.  One connection that was enclosed in a screwed on box on the back needed an allen wrench to check it out.  Lucky, I had an allen wrench. Doesn’t every one?  When she put the detector on the connection the lights were going off as well as beeps.  She turned off the gas to the stove. She loosened the nut that was leaking put some oil on it and tighten it down.  I learned that you put oil on fitted pipes and tape on unfitted pipes. The reason is the oil allows a little extra purchase area on the threads so you can tighten it down more and that seals it off.  Tape would not have done anything. Good to know. I love learning stuff.

Retrieved a nutmeg grate and a pair of tongs that had fallen behind the stove before we pushed it back. Major only had to wait about an hour for his run and boy did he have to go.

Now the moral of this little story is if it was an emergency gas leak call 911.  Second I dare you to find your contact number on your bill right now. When you find it post it on the frig or wherever you keep important info. I put the number in my cell phone under G. Your gas company is listed under Y in the telephone book.

Then after you find the number I want you to go outside and find the shut off valve on the gas meter. You really need to know were this is in case there is an earthquake or something shakes the pipes or connections lose and you have a BIG gas leak.  You need to know how to shut the gas off at the source. In a major catastrophe 911 will not be able to help everyone at the same time. Take a vice grip or an adjustable wrench with you and leave it there.  Attach it to the meter with a string or something so it doesn’t get lost.

Find the valve and give it a quarter turn to the right. That shuts off the gas flow.

Gas turn off valve.

Here is a cool site that explains everything you need to know. http://tinyurl.com/2b2nrm9
Red Cross course in emergency preparedness advises you to only turn the gas off if there is a strong gas smell or sound of gas escaping.

My meter is over behind the crazy neighbor’s house so I am not leaving my wrench there. Instead I have it sitting in a toolbox right outside the back door.  Also, when I see the two new neighbor kids that live in back I am going to show them how to turn the gas off.  It’s a good thing to know and that means pass it on.

1)    So, today you found and posted the contact number for your gas company.

2)   Found your gas meter and attached a wench or vice grips to it.

3)   Learned I have a fruitcake neighbor and a dog that has great bladder control.

Ah life is good .

I have more crazy neighbor stories.

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Ring-a-ling, Ring-a- ling, Hello?

Just Pick up the phone and dial the number. Send that email. Just do it.  The rest will  happen. Had my 3-way conference call Friday with Shannon Biggs co-author of Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grass Roots. Shannon Biggs directs the Local Economy project at Global Exchange. As a former senior staffer at the International Forum on Globalization (IFG) she wrote for and edited IFG publications, and was a lecturer on International Relations at San Francisco State University. She holds a Masters degree from the London School of Economics in economics, empire and post-colonialism.

Building the Green Economy shows how community groups, families, and individual citizens have taken action to protect their food and water, clean up their neighborhoods, and strengthen their local economies. Their unlikely victories—over polluters, unresponsive bureaucracies, and unexamined routines—dramatize the opportunities and challenges facing the local green economy movement.

Drawing on their extensive experience at Global Exchange and elsewhere, the authors also:

* Lay out strategies for a more successful green movement

Describe how communities have protected their victories from legal and political challenges

Provide key resources for local activists

Ben Price, Projects Director for Community Environmental Defense Fund.  Ben leads organizing across Pennsylvania where over 100 communities have adopted Legal Defense Fund-drafted laws. Mission Statement:

“Building sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.”

“We believe that we are in the midst of an escalating ecological crisis, and that the crisis is the result of decisions made by a relatively few people who run corporations and government. We believe that sustainability will never be achieved by leaving those decisions in the hands of a few – both because of their belief in limitless economic production and because their decisions are made at a distance from the communities experiencing the impact of those decisions. Therefore, we believe that to attain sustainability, a right to local self-government must be asserted that places decisions affecting communities in the hands of those closest to the impacts. That right to local self-government must enable communities to reject unsustainable economic and environmental policies set by state and federal governments, and must enable communities to construct legal frameworks for charting a future towards sustainable energy production, sustainable land development, and sustainable water use, among others. In doing so, communities must challenge and overturn legal doctrines that have been concocted to eliminate their right to self-government, including the doctrines of corporate constitutional rights, preemption, and limitations on local legislative authority. Inseparable from the right to local self-government – and its sole limitation – are the rights of human and natural communities; they are the implicit and enumerated premises on which local self-government must be built.”

Me: I am just an ordinary person in an ordinary community that has for the past 10 years or so been fostering a growing disdain and dislike for GMO’s and their intrusive, invasive, insidious presence in our food chain. As far as I know I am the only person who feels this way. All that is about to change.

I have spearheaded petition drives, writing and calling campaigns, to our State and Federal government to get GMO’s labeled. These were national campaigns. Zero results. Apparently, State and Fed officials have their own agenda. Imagine my surprise. Lesson learned.

Time for a change. After 10 years I get it.

I want results. My son was reading Growing a Green Economy. “Read this.” He said. O.K. I said. Couldn’t put it down. This is a story about changing the way you do things and getting results. It is empowering. It hit a nerve.

Once our Supreme court decided to give Monsanto, AT&T, Blackwater, Walmart, Chevron, Freddie Mac, Wall Street and other such corporations personhood status I got a little worried.

That’s when I contacted Ben and he contacted Shannon and here we are having this three-way conversation.   Shannon asked me questions. Are there GMO’s grown in your community? What do the local farmers think of GMO’s? What does the community think about GMO’s?  Heck, I don’t know the answer to any of those questions.

So. “Let’s have a meet’ng” with the local farmers, and community members that have a vested  interest in a green economy and community and find out what they think and what they need.  O.k. I said. O.k. Shannon said, Ben said, fine.

Shannon said she will come and speak to the group.  Cover her gas money and a place to stay and she will come and talk.  Wow. That’s generous. And that was that. I said I will work on getting the group together and keep in touch by email.  She is off to Bolivia  this week I believe working on a rice project.

So, that is how the conversation went. I knew nothing going in and learned a lot. Maybe labeling GMO’s is not the way to go. Maybe, banning the production of GMO’s in this community is something we need to look at. I really am not sure where all this is going but I do know the worst of it is over.  Getting started is the hardest part.

I have a list of people I am going to contact to get feedback and organizational help from. I am going to contact Melanie Blankenship of Nature’s Touch, Bob Banner of Hope Dance, Elizabeth Johnson of our little seed exchange group, Farmer Bill of Windrose Farms, Hunter Francis, Eric V. pres of a new group of local farmers called CCAN, Kevin Stephen of Huasna Valley Farm and Linnaea and Peter of STEYNBERG gallery.

I am in very good company here.   I just contacted Melanie and asked her advise on the idea. We met once. I don’t know if she even really knows who I am. She does a local talk radio show every Saturday.   I will wait for an answer. This is how things get started. We are off and running.   Thank you both, Shannon and Ben,  for your time. Bye for now.

This is good.  Made the call, got started and nobody died.

p.s.  This just in 04/15/10

Bayer admits GMO contamination is out of Control. ( and yes this is the same company that makes the baby aspirin.)



Mainstream Scientists Finally Admit that GMOs are Environmentally Destructive

By Keith Good, ed.
FarmPolicy.com, April 14, 2010
Straight to the Source


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My last 6 blogs were about GMO’s.   It was a very one sided point of view, mine and about 200 million other people who view GMO’s as a man-made scourge upon the earth not unlike the biblical plague of locust described in Exodus.

I didn’t realize until I looked up the biblical reference to locust how similar the plagues of the bible correspond to the our modern day ‘curses.’ The biblical  locust “descended upon the land and ate every living plant and tree.” Humm. Terminator seeds, Frankentrees and Roundup Ready crops created by Monsanto does the same thing. Kills everything it comes in contact with.  Geez who needs gods to cast plagues upon the earth when we have man-made curses like Monsanto to do it for us?  So, where is our modern day Moses to get us out of this mess?  I wish I knew. I am not a particularly religious person but this has me wondering.  All this plague stuff has to do with nature and living organisms.

The plagues as they appear in the Bible are:[4]

  1. (exodus 7:14–25˄) water turned to blood killing all fish and other water life. (Dam)
  2. (exodus 8:1–8:15˄) frogs (Tsifardeah)
  3. (exodus 8:16–19˄) lice or gnats (Kinim)
  4. (exodus 8:20–30˄) beasts or flies[5] (Arov)
  5. (exodus 9:1–7˄) disease on livestock (Dever)  Mad cow?
  6. (exodus 9:8–12˄) unhealable boils (Shkhin)
  7. (exodus 9:13–35˄) hail mixed with fire (Barad)
  8. (exodus 10:1–20˄) locusts (Arbeh)
  9. (exodus 10:21–29˄) darkness (Choshech)
  10. (exodus 11˄,12˄) death of the first-born of all Egyptian families. (Makat b’chorot)

These references are from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagues_of_Egypt

It just seems to me the key here is nature.  If you want to get someone’s attention just threaten and change the natural order of things.  GMO’s have changed the natural order of things.  The Egyptian pharaoh was a pretty hard nut to crack.  He didn’t ‘get it’ until after the all the fishes in the Nile died all the cows, donkeys and horses died and  the scourge of flies, frogs, locust, lice and unhealable boils happened.  Not until the death of his own first born did he finally get it.

Our government is a pretty hard nut to crack too.  They don’t get it. I mean we are the only country that has not labeled these cursed GMO’S.   We have made it a law to Not label GMO’s.  That is just crazy talk.  I mean really. What is it going to take to get things turned around before someone or something ends up dead?  I think having 80% of all our food contaminated with GMO’s is enough of an indicator of where things are going.  Cracking the nut in this case is just not worth the effort.  By all indications the nut is rotten anyway so why even bother trying to crack it?  Our government has had numerous opportunities to do the right thing by at least labeling GMO’s and has ignored every request to do so.  So, I think now it’s  time to ignore the rotten nuts and get on with picking something better.

Better Nuts worth Cracking

Rather than try to take on the rotten State or Federal government I am going to start this nut cracking business in my own backyard.   I can do that by getting an ordinance written here in SLO that requires all GMO’s to be identified on the signage with a red dot at the Point of Purchase.  I have talked about the organization Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund who helps people write ordinances.  I also told you I would keep you posted as to the process.  So far we are off to a bit of a bumpy start.  I have been in contact with Ben Price and Shannon Biggs.  Ben is working out of headquarters in Pennsylvania and Shannon is the Rep for California.

We have made our introductions.   I have made my intentions known and the offer to have a 3 way phone conversation was extended by Ben.  That was 3 weeks ago.  I have since sent a follow-up email last week to Ben and Shannon indicating I am ready to get started.  I am still waiting for a response.   In the mean time I have learned we are a charter city, which is a good thing. Also am lining up local organizations I belong to as well as networking with farm organizations I think would be so inclined to back this ordinance.

Community involvement is key to this effort. The more the merrier. I am approaching this as a one for all all for one flash movement.  If we could All join forces for just one big push or effort our chances of success are greatly increased.

After we  succeed in passing this ordinance as a community we disband and go back to our regularly scheduled events.  We can each be doing our own thing but when the need arises we can ban together as One in a Flash. Get the job done and then go back to what we were doing. One thing that really impressed me about CELDF was how they were able to organize at the local level.  This local level stuff is very powerful.  In fact, in many  cases as they have proven, local laws and ordinances trump State and Federal laws .

Maine Town Passes Ordinance Asserting Local Self-Governance and Stripping Corporate Personhood | Press Release

“We do not recognize corporate personhood.”  That trumps the Supreme Court ruling.  Cities have successfully done this thereby disarming corporate mercenaries and rendering them helpless. Oh Yea that’s the ticket.

There are a lot of issues right now.  Had to pick my battles.  Getting GMO’s labeled is one. Growing timber bamboo in San Luis Obispo on the Dalidio property another and learning to edit iMovie the last one.  I just told you about how I am working on the first one. Timber Bamboo is in the works. Learning to edit is well, it is a learning process.  Want to see what I have learned so far?  It will leave you laughing…..  (so hard for me to post. It is so not perfect.  But if I didn’t get it posted today on the full worm moon it was never going to get done.)

Precursor to viewing the video:  Please apply the Japanese principle of Wabi-sabi. (?) The Japanese characters are for you Samson just for fun.

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Getting the yard and the house set up with Christmas lights is a great time to think about winterizing the garden. You can put a string of Christmas lights around sensitive plants like the aloes and citrus.  When there is a frost warning I take a cotton sheet (with a Hawaiian print) and cover the plants.  The little bit of heat from the lights and the cotton cover creates a nice, cozy environment for the tender ones. Sometimes I have my Christmas lights up through January  because it is a long cold winter but I can live with that.  No plastic covering on plants.  Plastic conducts cold.

I re-potted my black bamboo and other plants that go dormant. This is what my potted bamboo looked like. Yikes.

I had to take a hammer to the roots to separate them.  It was nasty.  I should have done this 3 years ago.  But I got about 25 new black bamboo plants.  They are sitting in dirt in a plastic bag for the time being. I need more pots and dirt. Repotting is good to do also before a nice rain to give the roots a reassuring boost and encourage them to set up housekeeping in their new home.  I gave them all a hot toddy (a drink of worm tea) in case they were experiencing post uprooting shock.  This was not a fertilizing treatment.  It is never good to fertilizer in the winter. It encourages growth and they are putting out shoots in the dead of winter. Ouch.  So, no fertilizing just yet. If you are having a dry fall and winter make sure and check your watering schedule. If the roots of any plant or tree dries out it will die.  Pay close attention to potted plants.  North winds are particularly brutal, they seem to suck every ounce of moisture out of the air.  So, check your plants after a windy day.



Weed. And put the weeds in a bag not on the compost pile or come spring you will have a weed pile for a compost pile. Everything else that will not reseed itself put on the compost pile. I did a major cut back on deciduous plants like the pear, apple, roses, jasmine, honeysuckle, wisteria, purple basil, and ginger. I learned from the California Rare Fruit Growers just recently that the best time to cut back fruit trees is in the summer. Less chance of diseases setting in and wintering over.  Just have to be careful that you do not cut back next years fruit bearing branches.  Will do a section on pruning which is a whole thing into itself.

Munching is always good especially when it starts to get cold. It protects the roots and discourages weed seeds from germinating by blocking out the light when the ground starts to warm up in the spring. Try to put at least 2″ of mulch in the garden and move it away from the tree trunks and stems of plants. You don’t want anything that is going to harbor constant wet and moist conditions touching your trunk and stems. That kind of environment just invites the nasties like mold, fungus and diseases. www.bgky.org/tree/mulch.php

If you have bare spots in your yard  where flowers once grew plant a winter garden. So easy to throw some lettuce seeds, carrots, spinach maybe a radish or two in that spot. Plant continuously every two weeks  so you never run out.  Also check with your local nurseries for winter garden plants.  They will carry starts of whatever grows well in your area and time of year.  Fresh greens in the winter is a real treat.  My parsley is re-seeding itself and has taken over the pot. The purple basil which is a perennial is still blooming and no matter how much I cut it back it just keeps growing.  I also took all the pieces I cut off and stuck them in a pot and now they are all growing.  We have a lot of great fixings for spaghetti.


Which reminds me. This is a great time to plant bulbs like garlic. Put your garlic in a perennial garden or permanent pot somewhere in the sun.  If you don’t harvest it all the first year it just keeps growing and multiplying. It also likes parsley and you can put it anywhere in your garden as a bug deterrent. Just make sure it has good drainage.  You can buy any organic garlic and it will grow. Break a clove off a bulb and plant the fat side down and leave a little of the tip showing and that is all there is to it.  Mother Nature does the rest.

If you have empty pots around make sure and turn them over so they will not collect water.  Mosquitos love to lay their eggs in standing water.

Don’t forget the birds. Take the hummingbird feeder down when the temperature starts to get cold at night.  Most hummingbirds are migratory.  They need to get out-of-town and winter in warm places and the feeder keeps them around perhaps a little longer than they should stay.  Check your local area for birds that home and feed accordingly.

This is the first year I am hosting a couple of worm bins. I know they don’t like it too cold either so will cover them up when there is frost in the air. They are going to stay outdoors and  I am looking forward to the worm tea I will get from the rain water.

Get all your tools out of the weather and clean them off good.  A shot of WD 40 will keep them from rusting.

O.K. Kids that about wraps it up for now.  Got any questions or suggestions feel free and chime right in.

Staying warm

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One for the Money

One for the Money

To most people Bamboo is a nuisance at best, a scourge at its worst. Horror stories of running bamboo taking over yards or neighborhoods is a long-standing urban myth. Unlike the Kudzu, http://www.herbreference.com/kudzu.html

Now this could be a nightmare

Now,this could be a nightmare

that has taken over entire southern states bamboo enjoys limited exposure as a ‘Lucky’ plant grown in an 8oz container, or the main food source for the cute and cuddly panda in zoos, or safely observed from afar in bonsai exhibits at garden shows.

In China and Japan bamboo is a mainstay. Japan says its country is held together by bamboo and china builds bridges with it. Bamboo shoots are a food source, a feedstock, and of course timber bamboo has the tensile strength of steel, hence bridges and houses that last hundreds of years. I would not be surprised if author David Blume,  “Alcohol Can Be a Gas” could not brew up a batch of alcohol fuel from this sweet grass.    http://www.permaculture.com/

The running bamboo gallops in zones 4-10, hence the term running as opposed to clumping.  And if we were not so intent on killing or confining it, that running factor alone is a real asset.

How it gets up and goes

How it gets up and goes

Like crab grass it sends underground shoots in all directions and comes up with a new shoot the first chance it gets. This new shoot is a new plant that will send out more runners with more shoots to make more plants and on and on and on.

Crab grass is not a food source at least not to humans, nor can you build houses, flooring,

Pretty smooth stuff

Pretty smooth stuff

and tiles, make paper, clothes, musical instruments like flutes and reeds, window shades or bridges with it. You can’t reroute rivers or keep a denuded mountainside intact.  So, I can see the reasoning behind discouraging crab grass from running wild but, I do not understand why one would discourage, no, try to obliterate and eradicate a plant with the potential to reverse the current downward economics and raising CO2 trends. Growing bamboo for timber has all the earmarks of an industry that lends itself very nicely to the triple bottom line philosophy.  A win-win-win business philosophy that puts corporate greed in its place by practicing in unison the 3 P’s, planet, people, profit, thus the triple bottom line. “Building a Green Economy, by Kevin Danaber.” http://tinyurl.com/yauw8he

As a renewable, sustainable, pure green, job creating, out-and-out cash crop, bamboo is unbeatable.  It is a gift from Good Old Mother Nature like gold, sliver, diamonds, oil, air and water. The big plus side of Bamboo is that you don’t have to wait a million and half years to harvest this bounty.  Unlike Mom’s buried treasures that require deveining Her arteries, beheading Her mountaintops

or denuding Her ancient mantle for the treasured nonrenewables, bamboo is right there in your face, ready, willing and able to grow and multiply.  It screams, “Here I am. Come and get me.” Not using Bamboo as a natural resource is about as stupid as not using Hemp with all its natural renewable resources. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy.  http://www.hemp.org/

Lets look at some hard cold facts about Bamboo as a Big green, sustainable, life producing manufacturing plant.  This plant can create wealth right here and right now. “Bamboos are the fastest growing woody plants in the world. Their growth rate (up to 60 centimeters (24 in.)/day) is due to a unique rhizome-dependent system, but is highly dependent on local soil and climate conditions.  Timber bamboo grows in zones 4-10.  Here is a zone map http://tinyurl.com/yep5hf3.  San Luis Obispo is Zone 9.

They are of economic and high cultural significance in East Asia and South East Asia where they are used extensively in gardens, as a building material, and as a food source.” We know it works and is sustainable.

Why not?

Grows .00002 mph


Compare This: Timber bamboo takes 5-7 years to grow to the point it can be harvested.

With a 10-30% annual increase in biomass versus 2-5% for trees, bamboo creates greater yields of raw material for use. One clump can produce 200 poles in the five years it takes one tree to reach maturity.

In Costa Rica, 1000 homes are built every year with all of the building material coming from the same 150-acre plantation.

Bamboo homes can withstand 173 mph hurricane winds and 7.3 earthquakes.

Not to shabby

Not to shabby

Bamboo grows anywhere, from the equator to the Himalayas. There is Bamboo as a ground cover that you can mow once a year, or some timber Bamboo that grows to 100 feet in the first year.  It eats carbon dioxide. http://tinyurl.com/yemx3w8

One hundred and fifty acres of timber bamboo can produce 1250 board feet of timber in one year’s time compared to using native species, which takes  30-50 years to produce the same amount.  We get most of our Bamboo products from China and Japan. China and Japan get most of their lumber from our old forest. That does not seem like a fair trade. Bamboo grows anywhere. All you need is some dirt and sunshine.

As a commercial enterprise, the processing and impact on the environment in terms of chemicals, waste, toxic byproduct used is minimal compared to processing lumber for paper or pulp,  if it is done right.

Fun to watch

Fun to watch

For backyard gardens I grow bamboo in pots for fun and profit. I grow Black bamboo for the sheer beauty and grace. Green and yellow bamboo again for its beauty and it makes great all natural, no BHA, straws because there is at least 12” between nodes.  I also use the variegated variety for stakes in the garden or make fencing and criss crossing traps to keep critters out of the garden.  I keep cutting it and it keeps growing.

I am lucky.  I live in a town that is looking for a growth industry that is user and planet friendly.  We have the land, the climate, and the will to live a sustainable lifestyle.  There are two independent lumber yards that might be interested in a grow-your-own-economy that bamboo could provide.  Bamboo is amazing.  Working with Bamboo is working with  Mother Nature at the Grassroots.  Here are a few sites to get  you started http://waynesword.palomar.edu/ecoph39.htm .  There is a lot of information here.    http://www.bamboos.com/timber%20bamboo.html Also, locally we have Bamboo Batu.  This is a  local business with more facts and bamboo products.  Check it out.  http://www.bambu-batu.com/24-0-factoids.html. We get no kickbacks from any of these sites.  We are doing it for the love.

The Big Picture

The Big Picture

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Okay, this is what invention looks like when you decide not to buy a new dryer and use a clothesline exclusively. And it’s raining outside. And you need clean clothes.

Fun for hide and seek!

The kids love it. I’m glad Denette and I are flexible, because we do a LOT of ducking from the kitchen to the living room.

Um...anyone seen my family?

Yes, I’m STILL working on a solution. I’m thinking we should just wear less clothing. Problem solved.

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First, I rent. Second, my landlord is awesome. Third, he’s also very much into order and neatness.

So, a few months ago he was was doing his usual landscaping check and he noticed some weeds growing up between the cracks of the stones on the back porch.

“I’ll take care of those next week,” he said.

What I heard: I’m going to soak your back porch with glyphosphate.

He’s an awesome guy, but not so much into the organic thing. Expediency and efficiency drive his decisions. So I talked him into letting me take care of it.

Now I had to take care of it. First stop, Google. I read up on natural herbicides. What could I use that would be nearly as effective as a glyphosphate-based weed killer? The bulk of articles favored straight white vinegar applied with a pump sprayer. So I went to Home  Depot and bought a sprayer for about $10. Then off to the local grocery store for several gallons of white vinegar. Finally, I soaked all the weeds in the back and stood back to see the results.

They were amazing.

Below are a series of photos showing the application process and the results over a five day period. Bottom line: this is totally the best way to go. Added bonus: Kaia gets to help.

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