'Today' by Mary Oliver

Feline Meditation Blanket

Today I'm flying low and I'm
not saying a word.
I'm letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I'm taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I'm travelling
a terrific distance.

Stillness.  One of the doors
into the temple.


Millet Polenta/Porridge

Millet is considered the most easily digested grain, the one least likely to cause allergy issues, and is inexpensive when bought in bulk, so it's a great one to add to your kitchen repertoire.

Polenta is usually made with corn, and while it tastes great, corn can be an allergen for some and if it isn't for you, well, this is another flavor option - good too for those who are gluten-free.

Also, most corn (if not organic or certified non-GMO) is genetically modified in this country -
and who wants THAT

Usually when cooking millet, you use about 2 - 21/4 c. of water per cup of grain and about a tablespoon of fat (like ghee or olive oil) so it doesn't stick together, but for making polenta with millet, you use about 
3 1/3 cups of water and no fat.

Usually you don't stir it, but cook it with a lid like rice, but for polenta you want to stir every few minutes,  just like you would with regular polenta or a creamy grain porridge.

Optional:  before beginning to cook the polenta, you can toast it in a dry skillet to bring out the nutty flavor.

Be careful not to burn it like I did here.  I have multi-tasker's dis-ease.

I like to use a large cast-iron skillet for this.  I doubled the recipe, using 2 cups of millet and a 12" skillet. 

Add the polenta and water together with salt to taste (a large pinch), bring to a boil, and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, basically until the water is mostly cooked out.

I find that this does not stick together in slabs when you slice it like corn polenta, so I just let it fall apart.

Here I have mixed it with some of the summer garden's bounty, avocado, and hemp seeds.
Love the texture of the Millet Polenta; it's soft but still has substance.

Voila!  This can be served with anything, sweet or savory, such as ghee and maple syrup or a mix of nuts, seeds, and grilled onions, etc.  Or add a sauce or use as a simple side dish.


The Beauty of Brown

Mantis on Zinnia, an annual that attracts Butterflies.

These are some pictures I took in early October in a landscape client's garden.  When you garden/landscape organically you support so much life, even in the brown of Fall.  I was collecting seeds in her annual cutting garden for sowing the following year and spotted these beauties, little did I know at the time I would still see butterflies for another month.  We had a late frost here in northern Virginia.

You talkin' to me?

Even though it was Fall, both of these creatures seem like they may be pregnant to me, ready to give birth.  We may be going into the dark of Winter, but the eggs and seeds of Spring are already upon us.

Skipper Butterfly on Cosmos, an annual that attracts Butterflies

Perennial Butterfly Plants for Sun

Armeria, Sea Pink
Asclepias, Milkweed*
Baptisia, Indigo
Borago, Borage
Centranthus, Red Valerian
Centaurea, Bachelor's Button
Dianthus, Pinks
Echinops, Globe Thistle
Eupatorium, hardy Ageratum
Gaillardia, Blanket flower
hardy Geraniums
Iberis, Candytuft
Salvias, ornamental, hardy Sages
Symphytum, Comfrey

*Milkweeds are of utmost importance to support the Monarchs


Heroes - Wendell Berry

I am going to start blogging my heroes:  people who inspire me, people who give me faith in the human race, people who do the right thing no matter, people we should all be acquainted with...

To begin, Wendell Berry, a spectacular man whose words are inimitable, rich and masterful,
yet humble and simple at the same time, words that can be a grace to our days, our life.

Here are some of those wonderful words...and a great interview with Bill Moyers.

'The Peace of Wild Things'

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

If you aren't familiar with Wendell Berry, please become so, and if you already are,
refresh yourself again with the magic touch of his words...

To the Unseeable Animal

My Daughter: "I hope there's an animal
Somewhere that nobody has ever seen.
And I hope nobody ever sees it."
Being, whose flesh dissolves
at our glance, knower
of the secret sums and measures,
you are always here,
dwelling in the oldest sycamores,
visiting the faithful springs
when they are dark and the foxes
have crept to their edges.
I have come upon pools
in streams, places overgrown
with the woods' shadow,
where I knew you had rested,
watching the little fish
hang still in the flow;
as I approached they seemed
particles of your clear mind
disappearing among the rocks.
I have waked deep in the woods
in the early morning, sure
that while I slept
your gaze passed over me.
That we do not know you
is your perfection
and our hope. The darkness
keeps us near you.

Are you free?


Easy Krispy Kale

A healthy delicious snack for you!

Pour a couple tblspns of olive oil on a baking sheet 
and spread it around using the leafy side of each piece of Kale.

Once oil is all over the sheet and the leafy sides of your Kale, 
place all the Kale stem-side-down on the sheet.

Top with Herbamare and garlic powder, if you don't have Herbamare, you can use salt, 
cook about 15 min. until browned.
I use the low broil setting and place the sheet on the bottom oven rack.

Try not to overlap the Kale, but squeeze it in side by side so all of the leafy parts are exposed to the heat.

Can be eaten hot or cold; it's most crispy when hot, but works well in lunches or on sandwiches.

Try different spices as a topping to change the flavor, 
such as nutritional yeast (after baking), curry, italian seasoning, etc.


The Media and Body Image - this is a blog for EVERYONE, ie: YOU, to peruse...

"Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked female." - Diana Vreeland

This may seem a little off-topic from this blog's usual, but because it's such an important topic these links and videos need to be shared.  This is a major issue in our society today that many aren't fully informed about, so check it out...All the below red words are relevant links.

Sex, Lies, and Photoshop

Beware letting advertising dictate your desires...

"...the musings of the designers who decide what the perfect female body should look like..."

" Everyone talks about the fact that so many images of women are “perfected” with the help of technology, but do we really understand how serious this issue is?"

 "There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion." - Edgar Allan Poe

A Photo Journal of a new type of globalization 
More globalization 

“There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart...pursue those.”
 - Michael Nolan
and in case you haven't seen this excellent video - Dove Evolution 

"Beauty that breaks the rules is the purest because it has no boundaries."  - Unknown

Please share similar resources and your thoughts in the comments.  :)


Power Balls!

Let's call these power balls because they are loaded with energy.  Their handy carrying and eating size make them great for on the go:  hiking, snacking or lunch at work - and as an appetizer or party food.

1. Mix 1 c. ea. of Dates (about 8-9 dates) - make sure to pit them!
                           Your choice of nuts (a single type or mixed, roasted or raw)
                           Your choice of dried fruit (again a single type or mixed)

2. Blend together in food processor until desired consistency is reached.  This will vary depending on your choice of ingredients.  Also, you can choose to leave it chunky or make it more smooth.  The dates are what help to hold it all together.  Just make sure it is a consistency that will hold together when rolled into a ball.  I have never needed to, but if you feel you need to, feel free to add nut butters or coconut oil to them to moisten them - though not too much else they won't hold together.

3. Roll into balls about 1" - 1 1/2" in diameter.  Makes about 15-25 balls depending on size.

4. Dip in your choice of coating: ground nuts, Cocoa, Cinnamon, Coconut, Cacao nibs, etc.  Just use something in small pieces or powdered.   Optional:  to this you can add powdered herbs such as Ashwaganda, Eleuthro, Cardamom, ...  Use about 2 tspn. of herbs per batch in about 2-3 Tbspn. of coating.  You will need less coating if it is all powder, more if it is a bit chunkier like Coconut.
***If you do add herbs you want to limit your daily consumption to half a batch.***

Rule #1 in Kitchen Alchemy:  Experiment!

Today I am making two types:  Cashew Cranberry Date rolled in Coconut and powdered Gardenia fruit
                                                Walnut Raisin Date rolled in Cocoa and powdered Astragalus root

I chose Gardenia because it is cooling and we will be taking these hiking on an 80 something degree day.
I chose Astragalus to boost our immune systems.  (You don't want to take Astragalus if you have an acute    infection as it can boost the pathogen).  There's more to these herbs than this; if you want to know more, click on the links.

Any leftover powder can be saved and used in oatmeal, or pancakes, or...

Rule #2 in Kitchen Alchemy:  Never waste food.  Always find a use for leftovers.

5. Keep refrigerated (or frozen for longer storage), but it's best for digestion to eat these at room temperature.  If you freeze them they will carry well on a hot day (in a back pack for instance).

As you can see some of those rolled in Coconut on the right are lighter than others; this is because I noticed part of the way through that I was going to run out of coating, so I added more Coconut to the Gardenia powder, making for a lighter coating.  Play with this recipe; there are not hard and fast rules here.  

Rule #3 in Kitchen Alchemy:  Be ready to improvise at all times.  Cooking and Baking are improvisational acts.

I saved the empty bags and containers the nuts and dried fruit came in to store the balls in - along with the wax paper used to lay them out and cool them.

Now!  Time to enjoy.  Share with us your favorite combinations... 

Rule #4 in Kitchen Alchemy:  Enjoy the fruits of your labor.  Sit quietly without distractions and BE with your food.


Holy Kale

While picking some Kale from the garden for dinner last night, thoughts came once again about the holes in the leaves and what they mean.  For one, it means we garden organically here at our house.  While there are organic means to control bugs, for this we didn't use any; we just let it be.  And here's the thing: Does having these holes in the leaves mean the leaves are more nutritious for you?  Many of the beneficial compounds in plants (phytochemicals) are there for the plant's defense.

Since a plant cannot get up and walk, or run, away, or talk, or scream, they have evolved other defenses: chemical defenses.  Many of these chemicals are beneficial to us, having antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and other actions in the human body.  For instance, when a deer begins eating one plant out of a whole patch, that plant changes and begins to emit a chemical messenger, either through the air or via their interlinked root systems, alerting the other plants in that patch.  This leads to the entire patch of plants changing their chemical makeup to, for instance, become more bitter so that the deer will stop eating them.  This allows the deer to get some food without destroying the entire patch.  I am thinking this bitterness is often a beneficial phytochemical for us.  The same type of thing would happen with bugs/pests eating the leaves.

Though one thing to point out is that an unhealthy plant will often signal to and draw in pests.  Keeping our plants healthy goes a long way to preventing pests.  Growing a plant non-organically actually increases the likelihood of pests since non-organic growing methods only seek to supply the plants with 3 main nutrientsPotassium, Nitrogen, and Phosphorus (the ones that affect how a plant looks, the size it gets, and other things good for selling), and hence the plant is not as healthy.  Organic gardening supplies a plant with much more, which is one reason why organic tastes so much better.  These principals would apply to herbs too.

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates

So!  I am thinking that Holy Kale is even better for you than perfect looking Kale.  This applies not just in the garden; but also when I am wild-harvesting food, I don't just go for the perfect looking parts, I also pick the bug-eaten parts thinking I am getting extra beneficial compounds.

Now if only this could translate to what is acceptable in the grocery stores so we didn't live under the falsehood that a perfect piece of fruit or vegetable is in fact perfect when it may very well be lacking.  Perfect is artificial.  If you go out into nature you will see that all living things have "blemishes."  It is these imperfections that do indeed make them perfect.  Same goes for people and photoshopping - but that's a whole 'nother blog...

Guess that means the freshest food is not even picked yet!

Many of these beneficial compounds are destroyed through processing or poor storage, so fresh is best.  Cooking is good as it breaks down or begins digesting many of these compounds making them more bioavailable.

How to perceive the natural world more directly. Click here. 

Yes, that is duct tape on my glasses.  I see no reason to put something in the landfill when it can be fixed.                               Duct tape is our friend.  :)

~ ~ ~

"If people let the government decide what foods they eat and
 what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as
 sorry a state as the souls who live under tyranny."
 - Thomas Jefferson

"He who does not know food, how can he understand the diseases of man?"
 - Hippocrates

"The Lord hath created medicines out of the earth;
 and he that is wise will not abhor them."
 - Ecclesiasticus 38:4


Rapture and Priorities

"A room without books is like a body without a soul." - Cicero

"Sit in a room and read - and read and read. 
And read the right books by the right people. 
Your mind is brought onto that level, 
and you have a nice, mild, 
slow-burning rapture all the time." 
      - Joseph Campbell from The Power of Myth

In these pictures are some of the books in my house, which has twice as many books as it does square footage.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. . .The People cannot be safe without information. When the press is free, and every man is able to read, all is safe."
 - Thomas Jefferson

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read." - Mark Twain

    "I think we ought to read 
      only the kind of books 
      that wound and stab us."
           - Franz Kafka

"If we could read the secret history of our enemies, 
we would find in each man's life sorrow and suffering 
enough to disarm all hostilities." - Longfellow

Kitchen books - books in every room of the house.

This is the only poem
I can read
I am the only one
can write it
I didn't kill myself
when things went wrong
I didn't turn
to drugs or teaching
I tried to sleep
but when I couldn't sleep
I learned to write
I learned to write
what might be read
on nights like this
by one like me
~ Leonard Cohen

“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” 
- Thomas Jefferson
How-to Books
Art Books
"Proverbs often contradict one another, as any reader soon discovers. 
The sagacity that advises us to look before we leap promptly warns us that if we hesitate we are lost; 
that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but out of sight, out of mind."  
                                                                   - Leo Rosten

                         What are YOU Reading?
 “Let us read and let us dance - two amusements that will never do any harm to the world.” - Voltaire

 “You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”  Ray Bradbury

"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." - Cicero


Making Bone Stock

Lovely isn't it?  This is after cooking, during straining.

Why would you do this?  Because...

1.  It saves money; have you looked at the price of organic stock lately?  Mighty expensive when you can make it with just a little time on the stovetop.  Plus home-made stock tastes better and is more nutritious (less processed, less water).  Get nutrients in an assimilable form, cheaper than buying supplements!)

2. It'super nutritious:  Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus and other trace minerals; Glucosamine and Chondroitin and Gelatin- good for your bones, joints, hair, nails, skin, heart, and on and on...

3. I re-uses what would otherwise be a waste product.

This is what it looks like after cooking and straining.

1. Collect bones as you get them in a ziploc bag in the freezer.  I mix all types of bones, literally from pork to chicken to fish (all humanely raised or sustainably wild-harvested, a prerequisite for me as factory farms are a true atrocity and serious ethical issue, on top of that, who wants to eat sick, tortured animals?  It matters.  We are what we eat.)

2.  Once you have a gallon bag full or so, use a hammer to break open any solid bones to expose the marrow and cover all the bones in a large stove pot (or crock pot) with water, add a couple tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar (this helps to leach out the minerals), and cook (bring to a boil, then simmer with lid) at least 24 hours, but as many as 72.  The longer you cook, the more nutrients you will get out of the bones.  72 hours makes the bones like mush.

3.  Strain and use.  You can fridge for up to a week, or freeze for longer storage.  Freeze in individual size portions, or use an ice cube tray.  You can use the stock for braising other meats, wilting vegetables, flavoring grains or legumes, making soup, reheating leftovers, etc.  I find a use for it almost daily.
Often I just make a huge pot of soup with it right after straining:

This is a soup to which I added right to the bone broth:  soaked and strained Aduki beans, Buckwheat Groats, Olive oil, Shitake, Kelp, Bay leaf, Thyme, Turmeric and Mizuna greens.

Mizuna, an Asian green from the coldframe

Greens Coldframe - with wild greens growing all around!

Easy soup recipe guidelines (all measurements are approximate):
Add to gallon of bone stock:

- 1/4- 1/2 c. olive, coconut, sesame oil or saved oil from cooking fatty meats

- Kelp, small handful - I add this to all soups for it's salt, iodine, and other trace minerals.  Kelp helps to remove heavy metals from the body, so it's detoxing.

- 1 c. grains (cook in stock until done, different for each grain, can soak first overnight to initiate sprouting and improve nutrition)

- 2 c. dry legumes (**soak, strain, and cook them separately first.  There are so many beans and lentils
to choose from - lots of colors and flavors!  Soak  legumes 1-3 days before cooking with a rinse daily; this helps you to digest the beans, getting much more protein out of them, getting rid of the anti-nutrients that coat the beans so that you get more nutrition from the beans)
You can't go wrong with sauteed onions. 

- Greens of some sort:  bok choy, spinach, collards, etc.

- other vegetables and flavoring agents

- a dash of a couple spices (mix and match, experiment!)  I almost always add Turmeric for its anti-inflammatory effect.

Eat as soon as the ingredients are cooked, but simmer as long as you like.  Sometimes I leave this on the stove all day.  Then cool and put some in the fridge for sooner and some in the freezer for later.

These soups are so nourishing you can feel it; they make you feel good.

Another option is to mix vegetable scraps into the bone stock for making vegetable stock, or just use vegetables alone.  Vegetables only need an all-day or overnight (24 hour max) cooking time, so if I am mixing, I will usually cook the bone stock for a day or two first, then add the vegetable scraps.  By vegetable scraps I mean the peelings from carrots, the skin on the broccoli stem, the fibrous ends of the asparagus, onion skins, leaves off cauliflower, etc. - the parts that you usually compost, but are technically edible.  I save all this in a separate ziploc in the freezer.  I just keep re-using the bags, always keeping them in the freezer whether full or not.  Simple.  Keep in mind not to use tomato, pepper, or potato green parts as they are toxic.

Jujube dates
Another option is to mix herbs into your stock at the end of cooking time for their therapeutic effects.  Some possibilities include:
Astragalus, Jujube, Goji berries, Dong Quai, Codonopsis, Poria, Burdock root, Reishi, Dioscorea, He Shou Wu, Orange peel,
Lotus seed, and Lily bulb.
Go light at first so as to not overpower the flavor, and up the amount slowly. 

Soup-making:  a weekly ritual.  Warms the belly and the soul.