Archive for the ‘sustainable lifestyle’ Category

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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Wildcrafting #1: Starter guide


Wildcrafting is the ancient art of taking care of yourself by taking care of Mother Nature.  A tried and true method of not only survival and sustainability, but also a way of promoting abundance, diversity and showing gratitude to dear old MOM who is always looking to shower us with blessings. It is a way of collecting  seeds, nuts, plants, roots, flowers from the wild. Before there was processed food and drive thru, before refrigerators or farms or agri business, before the neanderthal or the missing link there was wildcrafting.   Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it ( Cole Porter lyrics ) Let’s do it… Let’s wildcraft.

For starters understand the principal. Mother Nature provides us with everything we need to survive. There is quite an etiquette that goes with wildcrafting.  A whole bunch of rules that are spelled out for people who have lost all touch and connection with their roots. What once was obvious natural behavior practiced by indigenous people whose life depended on knowing the rules has become a lost art.  Here are the rules. http://home.klis.com/~chebogue/p.conWild.html Read them and understand them before you head out into the wild blue yonder.

For now just apply good common sense.

  • Positive ID of the plant a must.
  • Stay away from roadside plants that are contaminated with pollutants, polluted water and industrial areas.
  • Leave a place better than you found it best if there is no trace of your ever being there.
  • Always leave something so the next generation can produce and multiply.
  • Always thank Mother Nature and the plant for their gift.
  • Only take what you need.

When you have graduated to the next step you will need to check with local authorities and see what plants require a picking permit. Some herbs like the fiddle fern and Echinacea are protected. Some areas are protected. Check to make sure. You don’t want to be picking protected plants in restricted areas.   In the mean time, Trust me. Mom has a lot of goodies up her sleeve and there usually is an abundance of what you need and can use within arms reach.  So let’s get started in our own backyard and neighborhood.

Clean pickings is important. No pesticides, herbicides, snail, or rat poison, or roundup around. If you don’t know, leave it alone.  Getting a positive ID is critical. Know your plants. Mother Nature has a wonderful way of mimicking herself.  This is especially true in the mushroom department. So we are not going to do mushrooms here. You need an expert in this area. One mushroom with an ever so slight variation hardly visible to the human eye can be the deadly mimic to the edible variety.

An entire group of Maidu Indians died from collecting mushrooms from their usual foraging spot. The mushrooms had been contaminated with a wild spore that they had no way of knowing had settled on the mushrooms.  This put me off of  hunting mushrooms on my own.

Wild carrots, fennel and  poisonous hemlock have exactly the same flower arrangement the only difference is hemlock has a spotted hollow stem. We are going to start you off wildcrafting in familiar surroundings. This will teach you how to look for plants, see plants, and learn about their secret life.

Here is a picture of my front yard.

5’x10′ garden

It is 5‘x10’ and has over 100 wild herbs. spices, domestic and foreign. Can you find the yarrow, spearmint, ginger, horseradish, mustard, burdock, motherwort, vervain, ephedrine, fennel, wild radish, red clover, wooly mullein, scarlet pimpernel, dandelion, mugwort, violets, sage, comfrey, jasamine, rose hips, lavender, rosemary, honeysuckle, aloe, millet, onions, nasturtiums, plantain, borage, thyme, yellow sulfur plant, knot weed, curly dock, geraniums, apple, lemon, apricots, guava, cherry, bamboo, cattail and I still have not found a good use for crab grass but it’s there. I can promise you this wildcrafting can become an obsession.

I will do three plants per blog. Lets start with the common scarlet pimpernel. This is a little darling. So many uses. Find it.

ID it.

Know it.


Next. Salsify.

When I first saw this in the wild I thought I had found a new source of gold. This huge over sized dandelion looking seed pod shimmered like spun gold in the sunlight.  The wildflower book describes the color as brown but I am telling you it is gold. It grows wild. Brought some seeds home and it grew. The root looks like a carrot and taste like  an oyster.  Leaves are eatable. Taste best if harvested before it flowers.  Find it.

ID it.

Know it

Here is how you pronounce it and more. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlUVTPokwh4


And lastly

Plantain (not the banana) Another one of those hidden treasures with secret powers.  There is broad leaf and English plantain. Picture is English variety. The parallel venation is a dead give away. The Indians chewed a leaf (saliva is the secret ingredient) mixed it with sap from the pine tree applied to splinters, etc. foreign objects needing to be removed, and within 24 hours the object was drawn out. Find it.

ID it

Know it


(Note: I endorse these links because I like them. They are not advertisements, and I get no kickbacks. That’s nice huh?)

More next week

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 LIFESAVING PLANT

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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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They saved me $9. Or made me $9 worth of organic compost.  That’s what this 5 pound bucket of organic compost would cost me at Home Depot.  I just harvested this in less than an hour.  It cost me nothing to make.  Labor was free.  The earthworms did it for nothing.

I didn’t do anything except put clippings from the garden on a pile and the occasional kitchen scraps.

The paper is from the bottom of the birdcage.   This is my version of ‘add manure’. I used a loosely applied facsimile of the lasagna method to compost. The lasagna method is a layer of green stuff, grass clippings, lettuce, kitchen scrapes, then a layer of brown stuff, dried leaves, coffee grounds, parakeet droppings and one time one pound of earth worms.  I hadn’t done anything to it for about 3 years. I mean I never turned it or tossed it. I just piled stuff on it.

This is all the doings of hungry little earthworms. They work for scrapes. Earthworms are different from the red wigglers, Eisenia fetida that we use in our worm bin a.k.a. red worm, manure worm or fish worm. Red wigglers love being confined. Earthworms on the other hand, cousins to red wigglers, Lumbricus (genus) terrestris (species), nicknamed Lumber Jacks, would rather live outdoors footloose and fancy free in your garden or compost pile. Earth Worms: Have the power to move stones that weigh 50 times their own weight. They also ingest soil and organic matter equal to the amount of their body weight each day.

A friend of mine recently broke her ankle hiking and was not able to get to her usual spring time chores. So she put out an APB to anyone that could lend a hand in the garden until she got back on her feet.  I volunteered and my first assignment was to sift and turn her compost pile(s). Something I had never done before.  I could compost piles like a champ but what is this sifting thing all about?

She has 4 huge compost bins about 5 feet by 5 feet in varying stages of decomposition.

“First, Sift this pile into the bucket,” she said.” Right”, I said and got to sifting. I lifted up the little door and started pulling compost out and onto the sifter that sat on top of a 5 gallon bucket.

After about an hour of this we had a bucket full of compost. Nice beautiful rich and sweet smelling compost.

“Next,” she said  “we are going to put all the stuff from this compost bin,” she pointed to the next bin in line,

into the compost bin you just emptied.” “Right” I said and started shoveling all the semi-composted stuff into the last stage composter.  There were twigs and cut up tree trunks, and avocado seeds.  It was all brown and all decomposing. This bin was different. It was open. I had to lift from the top. Using a different set of muscles here.

“Next,” she said, O.k. by now I am thinking this is a lot of dang work. What do you mean next? Does Mother Nature really go through all this? I don’ t think so.  Anyway, next meant layering all the green stuff just collected which was about half a ton of nasturtiums from her river bank, with all the left over sifted parts from the first bin. I needed a pitchfork for this job.  And oh yes she had the pitchfork so I got to work. Green stuff is lighter so this only took about 30 minutes. Now, it was layered and it was beautiful.

This is the layered look and what we were going for.  Not quite pretty as a picture but close enough. Composting is not rocket science. However, it is a science and the University of Illinois Extension can tell you all about it. http://tinyurl.com/268ub52

There is something for everyone when it comes to composting. Die hard scientific types that have nothing but time and money to spend on composting. Then there are those like Donna who have the science down but tweak it to make it work for them. Then there are people like me who just more or less let nature take its course. I play around and learn some things just by accident.

1)   A cup of java or at least a cup or two of the coffee grounds added to the compost every now and then and  those little worms will work their little hoofies to the quick. Now, don’t be reporting me to the humane society. It is not really the caffeine. It is the organic makeup of a coffee bean that they love to munch on. It’s dessert. It keeps them happy and regular.

2)   The PH in coffee grounds is around 7.0, that’s neutral and all the caffeine was pressed out the first go around. Starbucks or most coffee shops give away their coffee grounds. Just ask. While you are at it give your roses a shot too. Mulch with it and it will keep the snails at bay.

3)   Comfrey leaves and stinging nettle can do things to the compost pile no other plants can. Check it out.

Donna finally announced that we were done for now.  “Right,” I said only slightly wondering how long ‘for now’ was.  Donna confessed,   “Jeanne,” she said, “I am a really lazy composter.” Lazy? I queried. “Yup, I don’t do half the stuff the books tell you to do.” Yikes. If Donna considers herself lazy then I must be catatonic.

I don’t know what you call what I am doing, maybe just slave driving cause the worms were doing all the work.

I bought potting soil last fall to repot my bamboo. Now it’s spring and time for another round of planting. I looked at my compost pile and decided it’s time to get the dirt out.

I borrowed Donna’s sifter and finally worked my pile. There were a lot of Lumber Jack earthworms in there doing their thing.  Good sign that they like the accommodations. Not only do the worms like it  every seed I throw in there was sprouting. I had Avocado seeds, apricot, bamboo, comfrey, and a cherry forest growing in the compost pile. I had created a breeding ground. Good temp for sprouting but not hot enough to cook the pile down. I potted everything up that was sprouting.

Forest of cherry trees

Apricot and cherry tree

This time around I put in an oven thermometer I picked up at Goodwill for a buck, gave everything a big drink of worm tea to start the microorganisms working and covered it with some black plastic to warm it up.

The Kahala Hilton Worm resort

Some like it hot

If it gets too hot for the worms they can just mosey on over to a cooler area. They will be back when the microbes are done doing their hot number.

A compost pile that is really cooking should get to about 135-160 degrees. Maybe it will get hot and maybe it won’t. Either way hot or not I am fine with it. I get dirt no matter what I do. And I do as little as possible and that works for me.

Dirt cheap and loving it.

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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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We’ve finally managed to get all the boxes (mostly) unpacked and I can tell you it feels VERY nice to be settled. The furnished apartment was pleasant, but it wasn’t home. Now those things that make a home what it is are in their proper places and I feel like I can breathe deeply…

…and get to work on transforming this place into sustainable central. First, the worm bin. We picked one up for free on Craigslist. And I found a red wriggler supplier in Marilyn, the owner of Zippy’s Java Lounge. (I’ve heard she has the best in Everett. It’s good stuff). I plan on stopping by this weekend and picking up a pound or two. Then we’ll start converting our table scraps into brown gold. The worms will love us, especially when we start giving them the leftovers from our gorgeous new stainless steel Juicelady that Denette picked up at Goodwill for $20. Have you ever had fresh carrot juice? It’s the nectar of the gods. Seriously. You have to try it.

Next, the garden…and beyond. I’m going to go a bit more Permaculture up here—create an edible environment throughout the yard. And speaking of yard, I talked with one of the landlords and he said we had creative free rein. He might not have said that if he was aware of my knack for yard transformation. We have a beautiful section of south-facing lawn that—once leveled—will make a perfect spot for some raised beds. No tomatoes, though. I’ve been told by a couple of old salts that it’s just not hot enough for them. Of course, that sounds like a challenge to me, so I’ll have to find a solution. I like my fresh tomatoes too much to give up without a fight!

Speaking of transformation: Denette transformed an empty house with little furniture into a fully-furnished home in three weeks. And virtually for free. We now have a couch, a guest bed, an entertainment center, two chairs, and an end table, all acquired through craigslist/freecycle. Now when I get home from work I can collapse on the nice comfy couch instead of the hard wood floor.

I can’t tell you how nice it is to be four blocks from my place of employ. I walk down in the chill of the morning and arrive with lungs full of fresh air and my heart pumping. People at work think I’m irritatingly chipper at 7:30 AM. I just smile and nod. Even better is the return home, when the kids come racing down the hill on their scooters to meet me. Then we go for a walk. Well, I walk, they ride their scooters or their bikes. I have to take my bike in for repairs (Kaia has grounded me because of my lack of brakes), but once I do I plan to use it as my primary means of transportation to both hospital campuses and around town on the weekends. The city center in Everett is perfect for biking.

Not only am I four blocks from work, the kids are four blocks from the home school facility. I know, it sounds a little oxymoronic, but the home school program up in WA is an extension of the public school system, though they have considerable autonomy. They offer structured classes for those who want them. It’s really kind of like college for primary-age kids. Logan is loving his classes in math, science, social studies, and tae kwon do. He spends an hour a week in class, the rest of the work he does independently. Kaia should be in the program as well, but she just missed the cutoff date for kindergarten, so the goal is to get her tested into 1st grade next year. When one of the teachers at the home school facility saw her reading, she thought Kaia was already in 1st grade.

Final topic for this post: when we moved up here I set a goal of creating a home gym for free. When we were still in Cali, we had canceled our gym membership and I had created a pretty nice setup with cinder blocks, a couple of iron bars, and some free weights. I wanted a bit more up here, but I was determined not to pay for it. I knew of there were lots of people who had bought a treadmill, used it for a week, and then were desperate to get rid of it to assuage their guilt for letting it gather dust. Well, I’m proud to say that we accomplished my goal within the first two weeks! We now have a Nordictrack, an elliptical, a multi-use home gym (pulldown, bench/flye, leg extension/curl, low row, and stair stepper), a flat/incline bench with a preacher curl connector, a barbell, and two dumbbells with about 190 lbs in plates. This incredible haul was due mostly to Denette’s amazing craigslisting/freecycling skills. She would find it, I would call on it, and we would go and pick it up. I’m totally inspired. In fact, I think I’m going to have to get a quick ski in right now.

With that, I raise one well-muscled arm to you in farewell. Until next time!

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Picture by Cassie

Busy as a bee

Samson was scheduled to do this week’s blog but he is up to his eyeballs in moving and getting settled.  So, this is kind of an intermission.   The intermission is a trailer for the award winning documentary Food, Inc.  This comes with a warning.  If you can’t stand the truth or you are not ready for the truth then do not watch this. “You will never look at your dinner in the same way again.”

I wondered about the old adage, “The truth hurts” and asked myself what does that mean?  How can the truth be a bad thing? I pretty much decided that facts are about as close to the truth as you are going to get. Or perhaps the certainty of numbers are very close to an indisputable truth.  I mean 1+1 for all intent and purposes is always going to = 2.  So, who is hurt by the truth?  I think honest persons can not be hurt by the truth.

Tell an honest person the truth and they will appreciate knowing it. However, tell a  person who knows the truth and covers it up with an intent to deceive and you have someone who would be exposed for lying about the truth and that would hurt.

What is the truth?  The truth is. What is a lie?   A lie is a cover-up of the truth.  The truth be told would expose a lie.  So, only a liar could be hurt by the truth.  And if that is the case then the old adage should really say, “The truth only hurts liars and that’s a good thing.”

I don’t have any idea of where all that came from. All I know is, that is what you get when someone says, We need something up and we need it up quick.  So there’s quick.

Watch the trailer and tell me who you think is telling the truth and who you think is lying?  And why.


Also if you want the latest GMO news this is it.


The Good News


Even better news. How to Fight the Good Fight and win.



http://www.soyinfo.com/haz/gehaz.shtml great resource page for groups, blogs, organizations, political action groups

P.S. Added Feb. 10,2010:  Huffington Post publishes the 12 most unethical companies in the WORLD.  The worst of the worst.  Too delicious.  I am not an I told you so type person but I TOLD YOU SO!!!!!!


P.S.S. Studies link GMOs with toxins, allergies, infertility, infant mortality, immune dysfunction, stunted growth, accelerated aging, and death. Whistleblowers were fired, threatened, and gagged. Warnings by FDA scientists were ignored. Expert Jeffrey M. Smith, author of the #1 GMO bestseller Seeds of Deception, and Genetic Roulette, presents SHOCKING evidence why these gene-spliced crops may lead to health and environmental catastrophes. Learn how to protect yourself and discover the Campaign for Healthier Eating in America—a brilliant plan to quickly end the genetic engineering of our food supply.

Gotta see it.


We will continue our regularly scheduled blog next week.  Ciao for now.

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A plant cell is different from an animal cell. Different because the genes in  a plant cell are programmed to make roots, stems and leaves

not bones, tissues, organs.  KISs.

Keeping it Simple simon.  Simply,  plant cells will separate just like the animal cells. That’s the organism part, but with very different results because of the genetic makeup.

What is the difference and Who cares?

The plant cells are coded differently than animal cells.

Plant cells have a cell wall for support and protection, and an animal cell does not.  Plants make their own food by turning sunlight into energy.  Don’t we wish we could do that?  As it is animals, birds, people, lizards, snakes and fish consume food made by plants then break it down into usable parts in the body.  Without plants we can’t make energy.  Without energy we die.

There is not one single gene in a plant cell that would or could produce a nose, a molar or pinkie toe.  There was genius in this creation. Mom, The Master Scientist, had a very good reason for keeping these two living organisms separate and distinct.

Can animals have sex with plants?

Co-mingling of kingdoms would be catastrophic of atomic proportions.

Remember how all this got started in the first place.  Lots of atoms flying all over the place until they found their soul mates and stayed put.

Plants and animals have two separate and distinct operating systems that produce 2 separate and distinct kingdoms here on earth. Mom gave each kingdom their own room on Planet Earth.  The Plant Kingdom in one room and the Animal Kingdom in another room. There are several serfdoms within the 2 kingdoms. They are mosses, bacteria, protista and mushrooms. They are living so they are organisms. Their reproduction is a little more complicated so we are not going to get into that here. GMO’s are all about the sex lives of plants and animals so we are sticking with these two for now.

The 2 kingdoms lived in harmony with each under the same roof and never once in a hundred, never in a million, never in a billion years did those little bundles of plant and animal genes ever sleep together.

I mean they never ever had sex where the genes from the plant family mated with the genes from the animal family. Because of their genetic makeup  mating would be impossible anyway.  That was the whole idea. They were never even attracted to each other. No chemistry going on here between the plant and animals genes.

Ever notice how close the words organism and orgasm are?

This is what plants genes do when they start carrying on with one another. They pollinate. Reproduce.  Plant genes make trees, bushes, flowers, pine trees, and grasses.

This is what animal cells do when they procreate. They make jellyfish, starfish, sharks, whales, snakes, birds,  cats, dogs and people.

So, in Her wonderfully whimsical fashion Mom patented these genes right at the atomic level where the cell difference between the 2 kingdoms occurred. This allowed each kingdom to evolve into many diverse and different families, genus, and species.

When we eat broccoli we are not eating broccoli genes.  We are eating the sum and substance of the finished product after all the genes have finished the job.

When we eat pork chops we are not eating pork genes.  We are eating the muscles and tissue of the pig after the genes have turned it into pig parts.  A gene is an embryo.

The whole purpose plants turn into plants and animals turn into animals is to get to a point where reproduction can take place. Growing roots, leaves and stems is all about getting to the reproduction parts that is the seed  to insure survival of the species. Monsanto has created a terminator seed. The plant makes a seed that can’t reproduce. What is the point here?  This is not what nature intended.

The same holds true in the animal kingdom.  We are all about making seeds for procreation. Then when you get to my age it is all about going to seed. But lets not go there just yet.

I don’t have room here to talk about all the sex and pollinating that goes on in plant kingdom. Just know this they self-pollinate, cross-pollinate, hybridize,lure and tease insects and animals like the bees, butterflies, and birds into transporting their sperm and depositing it within the clutches of some horny little females plants.  Plants clump and run to stay alive as in bamboo and crabgrass. They go underground and come with potatoes, yams, daffodils and onions. Coconuts, dates and rose hips are all seeds.  Plants are dead set on surviving.  We are now at a very critical point in this story.  It is key to understanding the difference between a man made  GMO/GE/GM and Mom’s hybridizing and cross-breeding.

hybridizing – (genetics) the act of mixing different plant species or different animals species thus to produce hybrids.  A grapefruit is a hybrid. It is a cross between a Jamaican sweet orange (Citrus sinensis);and the Indonesian pomelo (Citrus maxima).  A cockapoo is a hybrid. It is a cross between a cocker spaniel and a poodle. Where the heck did a poodle come from?  All dogs belong to the Canine Family. Chart upper left explains the order of things.  Pay attention there will be a test.

Hybridizing is a matter of breeding.  Dogs breed, horses breed, but not with each other.   Hybridizing is a survival thing and Mother Nature has been doing it for eons. This is a very important fact to remember.  Breeding and hybridizing are a natural thing. Breeding and hybridizing is not the same as modifing. Modifing genes is a man-made thing.  Not natural.

The animal kingdom is the largest kingdom on earth. I think it is the largest because of those damn ants.

Animals adapted and evolved for exactly the same reasons the plants did, survival. This relationship between Mom and her kids has worked very well for the last 100 billion years or so.

Enter Man. Not just any man a Fictitious man.  Fictitious man means;  like a person but not really a person.  Are Fictitious persons alive?   Oh, these F-Men are something all together different and they changed Mom’s Master plan.

The F-Men created an F’en Kingdom

Mom is pissed.  And we know when Mom ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy.

part 4 of the GMO story Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.

Part 1 of the GMO Story: Do trees Sneeze?


Part 2 of the GMO Story: The Big Bang.


Part 3 of the  GMO Story- They Kingdom Come Thy will be Done


Part 4 of the GMO Story: Attack of the Killer Tomato


Part 5 of the GMO Story: End of the Line for GMO’s


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